Friday, October 1, 2010

Extra Magic Hours at Walt Disney World

Kris Bravate

If you're looking for some extra value for your Disney vacation, then look no further! Extra Magic Hours is a program offered only to guests staying at Walt Disney Resort hotels, and also at four other hotels: the Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green, and Downtown Disney Hilton.
Each week, each of Walt Disney World’s theme parks offers at least one morning Extra Magic Hours program, and at least one evening program.
During morning Extra Magic Hours, a theme park opens one hour earlier to these guests than it opens to the general public. During evening Extra Magic Hours, a theme park remains open for these guests for three hours later than it is open to the general public.
Not all rides and attractions operate during these hours. However, most of the most popular ones are open in the morning hours, and even more are open in the evening hours. The effect of these hours is to increase the operating hours of the theme parks for Walt Disney World resort guests—and for the guests of the four additional hotels listed above. These are not, however, necessarily less crowded periods. There are some seasoned travelers who avoid Extra Magic Hours in order to be at the park where the least guests are drawn that day.


Don’t assume that the parks will be less crowded during Extra Magic Hours.

In general, the parks will be less crowded at the beginning of morning Extra Magic Hours, but by an hour after the park has opened to the general public, the park will be more crowded than usual. Evening Extra Magic hours can be a zoo, particularly on nights when the park closes to the general public early enough that the Evening Extra Magic Hours fall during a period when many people are comfortable attending theme parks (like when school is out, or during holidays).
For example, in the off-season, it’s not unusual for evening Extra Magic Hours to begin at 5pm at the Animal Kingdom, 7pm at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom, and 8pm at Epcot. These times are not a barrier to attendance…they are an invitation!
On the other hand, during busier periods, it’s not unusual for the normal closing time of the Magic Kingdom to be 11pm or midnight. Extra Magic Hours can keep the Magic Kingdom open until 2 or 3am! I can assure you that the Magic Kingdom will be quite empty at 2am.

Do try to see fireworks shows during evenings that the respective park has evening Extra Magic Hours.

Walt Disney World’s fireworks shows Wishes at the Magic Kingdom, Illuminations at Epcot, and Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are among its best loved attractions.
Commonly—and almost always at Epcot—these shows end at the same time the park closes. The result is a mass of people exiting the park at once, that has to be seen to be believed.
By seeing these shows on Extra Magic Hours evenings, you will have more reason to stay after they happen, and more to do during that period. This lets you avoid the jams exiting after the shows.
Tricks and tips

Morning and evening Extra Magic hours pay off particularly well at Disney’s Animal Kingdom during the low season. In this period, the Animal Kingdom’s normal hours are from 9-5, and that just isn’t quite enough time to fully enjoy the park. You should begin your morning Extra Magic Hours at the Animal Kingdom with seeing the Kilimanjaro Safaris, as the animals are much more active early in the morning than they are later in the day. You should think of evening Extra Magic Hours at the Animal Kingdom as a way to see a few shows and to enjoy the environment of the Animal Kingdom in the dark—an experience that is almost never available other than during evening Extra Magic Hours. The rides themselves will be mobbed.
Because Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are a 20 minute walk from each other (they are the only Walt Disney World theme parks you can walk between), you can make the opening of both if either has morning Extra Magic Hours (and if you have the park hopper option on your ticket.) For example, during a period when normal opening hours are 9am, and a day that Epcot has morning Extra Magic Hours, you could get to Epcot in time for its 8am Extra Magic Hours opening, FASTPASS Soarin, walk from there to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and be there in time for its opening at 9am.
(There are also boats, and often buses between these two parks. Neither is on a frequent enough schedule, nor fast enough, to beat walking.)
Extra Magic Hours are open only to guests staying at Walt Disney Resort hotels, and also at four other hotels: the Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green, and Downtown Disney Hilton. During morning Extra Magic Hours, your family will be admitted by showing both your room key (one for each member!) and your theme park admission. In the evening Extra Magic Hours, once you are already in the theme park, your family will be allowed on the rides by each member showing a room key. (You can use your key the day you check out–that is, you are welcome to Extra Magic Hours in the morning or the evening of the day you check out of your hotel.) Almost every day, at least one park will offer hours in the program. Keep in mind that Fastpasses aren't distributed during Extra Magic Hours. One nice benefit, if you're in Epcot, is that the restaurants are open much longer.
A great way to use Extra Magic Hours (EMH) is to visit the park holding morning EMH, then hop to the park that held evening EMH the night before. Chances are, everyone was at that EMH and won't be visiting the same park the next morning! This way, you get to take advantage of morning EMH without being hindered by the resulting crowd that stays in that park for the rest of the day, and you get to take advantage of the low crowds in the park that held EMH the night before. It might not always work, but it's a pretty good system to try!
I Hope this has helped anyone considering staying on property for this perk. It is well worth it, as long as it's used wisely. If you're interested in many more tips and tricks for touring without hassles- please contact me at

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