When is the Best Time to Visit Walt Disney World?

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Features, Park Wise, Walt Disney World

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Published on August 15, 2013 at 1:00 am with 41 Comments

With 365 days, 52 weeks, 12 months and four seasons to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow down the best time to visit the Most Magical Place on Earth.  Best, of course, is a very subjective term, so we’ll just discuss the pros and cons of the distinct seasons at Walt Disney World, and you can decide for yourself which you think is best (let us know your favorite in the comments below).

Summer

This is the obvious choice for a lot of people.  Kids are out of school and the education population tends to have more leeway with vacation time from June to September.  However, that also makes this one of the busiest times to visit (aside from Christmas week, but we’ll attack that beast a little later).  In addition to the crowds, you have the heat.  The summer heat and humidity in central Florida is no joke.  Add to that thousands of your closest friends all clamoring to get on the same rides or into the same theatres, and you can almost guarantee some grumpy tourists.

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Take time during the day to cool down.

It’s not all bad, though.  Since the summer is such a popular time, more attractions are operating, parks are open later and the weather is perfect for enjoying those fantastic resort pools and the two great water parks!  Disney has even begun offering discounted rates and promotions through the summer, which is a nice way to save a few bucks if you intend to stay on property.

Get Park Wise: Keeping cool is essential when visiting Walt Disney World in the summer months.  Be sure to stop for shade and/or some air conditioning as often as possible, and stay hydrated!!  Whether you’re toting your own bottled water or stopping in for a free cup of ice water at counter service restaurants, it’s important to chug all day.

Cool off by visiting Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach.

Cool off by visiting Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach.

Spring

With lots of schools districts offering a week-long spring break, this is another popular time for tourists to head to the Sunshine State.  We’ve enjoyed a spring break or two at Walt Disney World, and while it is more crowded than our usual choice of seasons, it’s not nearly as busy as summer vacation time.  The only caveat to that is if your vacation happens to coincide with Easter.  This is a pretty slammed holiday at the World, so know what you’re getting into if you choose this time to visit.

The weather during the spring is milder than in the summer, but you can still get some steamy days.  We had a few very cool mornings and evenings this past March, so when packing for a spring vacation, throw in a light jacket just in case.  The spring also brings a fun special event in Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival.  Featuring beautiful topiaries throughout the park along with celebrity seminars, demonstrations, new mini food marketplaces and the Flower Power Concert Series, this festival can definitely add some variety to your vacation.

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Get Park Wise: Although not as busy as summer, rope drop arrivals and FastPasses are still important in the spring if you want to get as much into your day as possible.  The headliners are busy by noon, so make use of the great weather and lower crowds on those spring mornings.

Winter

This season covers two completely different aspects as far as crowds, pricing and planning.  Let’s dive right into the craziest week of them all…Christmas!  If you’re taking advantage of this week off work and school, be aware that tens of thousands, if not more, of other people are, too.  And I commend you all.  You’re much braver than me.  Lines are long, parks are packed and “holiday pricing” is in full effect.  However, I can only imagine how magical it must be to wake up in Walt Disney World on Christmas morning.  Don’t know if we’ll ever know personally, but I’m sure it’s wonderful.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa features a life-size gingerbread house and huge Christmas tree.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa features a life-size gingerbread house and huge Christmas tree.

Get Park Wise: If you’re headed to a park on Christmas or New Year’s Eve (Magic Kingdom and Epcot in particular), get there early and put down roots.  These parks often close to capacity and/or are extremely crowded on these major days and nothing will get you back into the park once it’s at a stage four closing.

If you’re traveling in mid-late winter, though, you’re in for the total opposite.  January and February often boast lower crowds (save MLK and President’s Day weekends), lower prices and room and package discounts.  You will, however, be faced with refurbishments of rides (Splash Mountain almost always sees downtime in January) and a water park, as well as decreased park hours.  You may not need those later evenings, though, as you can probably take advantage of lower crowds during the day.

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Fall

This is probably my favorite time of year to visit Walt Disney World!  Crowds are decent, weather is improving by the day, discounts abound and there are so many special events from October to December that there is always something fun happening above and beyond the typical Walt Disney World day.  Fall brings us the much anticipated free Disney Dining Plan promotion, as well as Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom and great holiday decor and experiences in the parks and resorts from November on into winter.

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When traveling during this season, though, as the days get shorter, so do the park hours.  Additionally, if you’re not attending one of the hard ticket events at Magic Kingdom, it can be difficult to find a full day at the park, and when you do, it does tend to be more crowded since others had the same idea.  All of the extra activities during this time can also encourage tourists to spend more money in the parks on special event merchandise, marketplaces at the Food and Wine Festival, etc.  If budgeting for souvenirs is an issue for you, be sure to take this into account.

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Get Park Wise: Dining reservations can be hard to come by during the fall because of the popularity of the free Disney Dining Plan promotion.  Be sure to make dining reservations as early as possible.  If you’re unable to secure a desired reservation, continue to check as the credit card guarantee and cancellation fees do encourage guests to cancel reservations they will not be attending.

When is your favorite time to visit Walt Disney World?   Any season you choose to avoid?

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

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  • cblanc

    Our favourite time of year to go is the end of April / beginning of May. The crowds are almost as light as in Sept / Oct, but the weather has been much better each time, with barely any rain in the 8 odd weeks we’ve been there then.
    The only downside to this time that I can see is that when new stuff opens, it doesn’t tend to open until June, so a few times we’ve missed the opening of several attractions by a couple of weeks.

    Still, gives us an excuse to come back.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      I say we pull the “excuse to come back” all year round! ;)

    • Haven

      Yes, Mid-April, early May seems to be my most successful time to visit (a West Coaster here). Last time I went (2010) was in the second week of October for my birthday and although the weather was dry and warm, the crowds were insane. This was around Columbus weekend, and who celebrates that anymore? No one on the West Coast! SO crowded we had to give up on MK after two hours! After that, I am committed to my April/May timeline again.

  • TheAmazingPlatypus

    I always go in the middle of January because that is one of the slowest times of the year.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      We haven’t made a January trip yet. I’m afraid I would be bummed out that we just missed all of the great holiday fun. We may have to try it one of these days, though.

  • clewandowski

    We love may, Feb, and September! We did the slow part of December in 2010 and were unfortunately there for their extreme cold week. However I cought MK open on night until 3am, and the temp was honest to god 35 degrees out. Being from buffalo I was prepared and the park was SO empty it was almost creepy. Needless to say I had such an AWESOME time. I went there alone, and hit up the CoP to warm up when needed! Disney is great no matter what!

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      We were there in December 2010, too! It was wild!! luckily we came in from Oklahoma (where it was already freezing) and had cold weather clothes on during our arrival day! All of our pictures have us bundled up in coats and blankets. We were even freezing in Animal Kingdom!

  • gboiler1

    I love December and have enjoyed Disney at that time on 3 occasions. Of course the decorations are great and the temps are too. We stayed during Christmas week in 2002 and it was busy but manageable because we spent 10 days in the World.
    Spring break is great if you plan well. Use touring plans, park hop, fast pass, etc. and the temps aren’t awful yet.
    No way I’d ever go in the summer due to the heat and humidity. However, I will do Disneyland in the summer because it’s not as unbearable.
    Maybe when my daughter is out of school I’ll try the Jan/Feb time frame. This year we are doing mid October and MNSSHP for the first time and skipping school for 3 days and I’m looking forward to nice temps and lesser crowds.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      We have a fall break in our school district that allows us to visit in in October without missing too much school. We definitely try to use that to our advantage. You guys will have a great time!!

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    We take most of our WDW trips during Food and Wine festival in late Sept or October. It’s a great time of year for weather and the crowds aren’t too bad.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Food and Wine is a great reason to head to WDW! Next time I’ll have to plan accordingly. ;)

      • DobbysCloset

        Dobby the Chihuahua, says that if we go for the Food event, he won’t whine! Seriously, do the parks stay open later for that? I refuse to wake up to an alarm clock when I’m on “vacation,” especially since being retired means no longer doing so when I’m at home!

      • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

        You can take advantage of evening EMHs for Food and Wine, but the park doesn’t stay open later specifically for the festival. However, unlike some of the other parks, it doesn’t close earlier in the fall, either, so you got that going for ya. I wouldn’t wake up any earlier to hit Food and Wine. We usually do the morning in Future World then start hitting the marketplaces for lunch. If you’re just going for the yummies, you’d be fine coming in later.

  • SpectroMan

    In my 9 or 10 trips thus far, I think November offers the best overall weather package. February is also nice, but a jacket can be a necessity on some nights. Going next month and not looking forward to the heat!

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      September is pretty warm, and a friend even describes it as “surface of the sun” hot, but we did a couple September trips, and it wasn’t horrible or even really bad. As long as you duck into some A/C during the day, you’ll be good. Have fun!

      • DobbysCloset

        That settles it for my family — when we finally get to visit WDW we’ll go in late September…The Chihuahua says “surface of the sun” temperatures and extra special food offerings are his idea of a grand adventure!

      • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

        It’s a fun time to go! Enjoy!

  • fnord

    My favorite time to visit WDW will be when Universal opens wizarding world 2,
    when I will spend one of my days away from Universal at magic kingdom, if the
    darn snow white ride is finally open. Yes, the mine train.
    The other Disney parks don’t engage my imagination like magic kingdom and
    Wizarding world.

    • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

      Yes, but what time of year is your favorite? That’s what this article is about.

      • fnord

        I live in south texas, I can get to ca as easy as fl, so why would I ever go to
        WDW, instead of DL resort? Because of universal. I never cared for the orlando studio park, but I loved IOA. After springfield and wizarding world 2
        opens, I will definitely be visiting. Probably in October or so.
        And when I do I will spend a day at the magic kingdom. Reason:
        The last time I spent a day at MK, I felt like a kid again. Even with the pink birthday castle.
        The year nemo subs opened at dland, my wife and I spent three consecutive days there, but neither of us experienced the customary childlike feelings we’ve loved since childhood that disneyland was designed to evoke.
        This is the only reason I would visit magic kingdom on my universal excursion.
        I can’t believe they didn’t wait to finish the mine train before they axed the classic snow white darkride!

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Then my column must be terribly boring for you! ;) The kids aren’t into Harry Potter (and my only experience is about 20 minutes of one of the movies), so we haven’t done Universal with them yet. I haven’t been since performing there in high school.
      I’m pretty pumped for the mine train, though!

      • DobbysCloset

        Dobby, named after a character in the Harry Potter books, wonders why…

      • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

        It just never piqued our interests. Not sure why. The boy is getting more into reading, so he might find his way to that corner of the library this year, but I’m not pushing anything since I don’t really have much interest. I’m just glad he’s finally reading for fun not homework. ;)

  • poohmeg

    I think you might have a typo in the Christmas section – Magic Kingdom will hit capacity regularly during that time, but in 30+ years, you could probably count on one hand the number of times Epcot has reached capacity – it’s huge! Maybe you meant the Studios? That fills up more often at busy times.

    I personally like to go at least crowded time possible – we’ve gone in September the past few years, but the heat and humidity have gotten to be too much for us (and it seems like even the first Halloween parties have been more and more crowded lately). The week after Thanksgiving is usually nice, as long as there’s not a big promotion going on that draws huge crowds they’re not staffed for. Love the flower and garden festival – went in May a few years ago and had a great time, but would love to go at the very beginning in March when it’s cooler some year when Easter is late – spring break is the worst time to go for those of us without kids!

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Definitely not a typo, just my POV. While it’s true that Epcot really hasn’t gone above a stage two in the last decade (and change), my correspondents tell me it’s a NIGHTMARE on NYE. We FaceTimed the fireworks and countdown a couple of years, and it looked like a mad house. I’d definitely want to be there early enough to try to find a somewhat secluded spot (if there is such a thing) for the big event. Don’t know that I’ll ever brave it, though.

      Pop Warner kids seem to start creeping in after Thanksgiving up until their week, but the week after turkey day and the first week of December are favorites of ours, too.

      • poohmeg

        I agree that it is crowded at Epcot at New Years, but in the article you state that “These parks [Magic Kingdom and Epcot] often close to capacity on these major days and nothing will get you back into the park once it’s at a stage four closing.” The sentence implies that there is an equal likelihood of either park reaching reaching capacity, which is not true.

      • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

        There ya go, sweetness, edited just for you!

  • dlpostcardguy

    We went in early March two years ago and the crowds were unbearable. The weather was nice but will not do that again due to the crowds. Will probably choose early December or early May next time. For me lower crowd levels is #1 and weather is #2 in my priorities.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Early December is very nice if you can avoid Pop Warner. Even that’s not too bad if you’re staying deluxe, as most of them are headed to values with some overflow and moderates. Enjoy your next trip!

  • CaptainSmollett

    We visited in December, a week before Christmas, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Crowds were moderate and wait times were normal. I guess we got lucky.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      The week before Christmas isn’t bad. You’re starting to get some people in when school’s start letting out for the holidays. It’s the actual week of Christmas/New Year’s that’s a killer. Wise choice coming in before that!

  • GinaD

    We went for Passover 2007. If you’ll excuse me, the best time to visit the MK was the morning of Easter Sunday.

    We also visited Jan 2010, as our anniv is the 16th and my bday is the 19th. Even being MLK week, lines were bearable. However, as pointed out in the article, Kali river rapids was down, and I believe splash was also down.

    Best memory of the trip? EMH at AK. After dinner at Yak and Yeti, I rode exped Everest like half a dozen times in a row – no waiting, and it was a great bday gift for me!

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      They did have some adorable Easter photo ops this past year!

      Love Everest!! Especially that single rider line! We can get several rides in during a half hour while the kids are looking at the gift shop and hitting the nearby ice cream cart.

  • Asylim

    Just out of curiosity how many times has the resort had to shut down due to hurricane season? Or has it ever? Being a west coaster and having only spent a couple of times in New York City over the years I’m not sure about Hurricane season.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      I believe it’s shut down four or five times for weather. Not very often. Disney World does actually have a hurricane policy, but it doesn’t have to be enforced too often.

      • Asylim

        Good to know. We were thinking of going in January 2015 but have since but that tip off to wait for the kids to get older (2 hour flight south to Disneyland is manageable for a 5 hour plus flight would be a bit much at that point).

        We’re targeting 2018 now but I’m not sure I want to go in January. This will give us something to think about.

  • Gozer the Traveler

    My wife and I went for our honeymoon 15 years ago in early December for about a week. This year we went back for our anniversary and took our 8 year old son with us at the same time. Yes, we took him out of school, but they were ok with it and his teacher gave us work to have him do (by the way, if you do this, arrange for a home study pack with the school so they don’t lose money by having your kid be “absent” for so many days!). But the weather was wonderful (very little rain in December) and the holiday decor and parties were in full effect! Very little crowds as well!

    I can’t imagine going in the summer!

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      December is a great time to visit!!

  • Klutch

    Mrs. Klutch and I last visited WDW the first week of December. We got an amazing deal at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We even got a free upgrade to a savanna view room. Wos, was it great!

    The weather was cool, but not cold, and there was no rain. Crowds were mostly non-existent. The only time there were any crowds at all was at the “lighting” of the Osborne light show at DHS. Even that crowd was no big deal.

    Most, if not all, Christmas decorations were up. We had a picture taken in front of the Christmas tree at the Grand Floridian. I got a gingerbread shingle at the life-size gingerbread house. We had dinner at the California Grill and watched the MK fireworks from the roof. Oh, yeah!

    We have also visited in October. It was a nice trip, but there are a lot of British visitors and kids on Fall break in October which makes it somewhat crowded. I think the two weeks after Thanksgiving weekend is the best time to visit WDW.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      We did a lot of the same things the second week of December last year. Haha!! Including getting lost in the crowd at the Osborne Lights. It’s not so bad as the night goes on, but it’s a mad house when the flip the switch! We had to see that part once, though. Now we can go back to visiting the lights just before closing. Hahaha!!