Making the Most of Extra Magic Hours at Disney World

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Park Wise

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Published on April 24, 2014 at 1:00 am with 13 Comments

Often touted as one of the biggest perks of staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, extra magic hours can be a blessing or a curse depending on which side of the magic you’re staying.  Read on for how to make the most of (or avoid!) extra magic hours.

What Are Extra Magic Hours

Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests have the opportunity to take advantage of extra magic hours (EMH) during their stay.  Each day one park will host EMH either in the morning or the evening allowing on-site guests to enter the park an hour before it’s open to off-site guests or hang out for a couple of hours after the park’s official closing time.  Your resort documents or lobby concierge can provide a list of EMH hours and dates.  Park-goers do need to provide proof that they are on-site guests in order to enter the park in the morning or access open attractions after the park has closed at the end of the day.

Morning EMH vs Evening EMH

I tend to think those who set out for the morning (AM) EMH get the most out of it.  A decent portion of Walt Disney World vacationers are exactly that.  Vacationing.  They’re not convinced they want to hit rope drop (park opening), so they sure aren’t going to be waking up an hour earlier for EMH.  I’m hoping that with the ability to plan your FastPass times in advance, AM EMH may be more lucrative because you may now not have to contend with those guests who were up early just for the run for FastPasses.  With all those resort guests sleeping in, you can get a lot done in that hour!  If you choose to hit AM EMH, try your best to be at the park before the gates open so you can take advantage of every minute.

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Get Park Wise: If you’re not planning to take advantage of AM EMH or are an off-site guest, I suggest avoiding that park for the day, as there are an hour’s worth of guests who have a jump on you and have already started filling the queues while you’re still waiting to get in the park.

Evening (PM) EMH is much more variable.  Depending on which park you’re in, they can be amazing or amazingly crowded.  People are already awake, so you don’t have the edge anymore on those who sleep in on vacation.  You do lose a few families whose little ones are too tired to keep going, but sometimes (like my crew), the kids get sent back with one or two adults while the rest are going strong until EMH is over for the night.

Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney World’s original park is one location where we’ve gotten a lot out of both AM and PM EMH.  In the morning, like I mentioned earlier, the crowds are generally lower, as people can’t pull themselves out of bed.  Magic Kingdom’s open attractions are also more plentiful and spread out, so the crowd is thinned by that fact alone.

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PM EMH can be crowded towards the beginning but tend to taper off pretty quickly.  Magic Kingdom is where most of the very young set spend their days, so those are the families that may be headed back to the resort sooner to avoid cranky babies (and grown-ups!).  If you’re visiting in the summer when Magic Kingdom is open late, EMH can be great because the young’uns are headed to bed before the park has even closed to the general public.

Epcot

Epcot tends to have the fewest attractions operating during AM EMH, but it’s still worth it if you can get there at EMH opening.  Those attractions are mostly your headliners, so you can get a ride or two in before the standby lines get too long.

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PM EMH doesn’t hold too much of an appeal for us at Epcot simply because it doesn’t seem to be all that different from a typical Epcot evening.  A good amount of guests will end their day at Epcot, even hopping over from other parks, because of the great dinner (and drink!) options, so the park always seems pretty full at the end of the day and EMH crowds are pretty similar, especially during Food and Wine Fest.

Hollywood Studios

Again, far less attractions are open here than Magic Kingdom, but they are the headliners, so it’s definitely nice to enjoy the shorter wait times.

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If crowds aren’t your thing, avoid PM EMH at the Studios like the plague!  Offering Walt Disney World’s most thrilling rides, Hollywood Studios attracts the crowd that doesn’t mind (and maybe even relishes) staying up late and squeezing every last drop out of their day.  I’d even go so far as to say that occasional PM EMH here can be more crowded than normal operating hours.

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is the only park offering just AM EMH, as PM EMH was discontinued a few years ago.  AM EMH at Animal Kingdom is another go for us!  Although few attractions are available during EMH, if you’re a fan of Kilimanjaro Safari, it won’t matter.  The Jungle Cruise animals are pretty much as active during the evening as they are in the mornings, but the earlier you can climb aboard your safari vehicle in Harambe, the better!  Mornings are milder, the animals are well-rested, and they’re more active during the earliest part of the day.  Other open attractions, as usual, are headliners, so you can get a head start on those poor souls waiting outside the turnstiles.

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What are your best tips for taking advantage of extra magic hours?  Or do you avoid them?

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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  • Nodak

    The early mornings in DL are a MUST! There have been countless times where we ride 5-10 rides back to back in California! We would also get fast passes then too. My sister even got to ride Gadget’s go coaster with 4-5 characters, just like the commercials!!!

    • Cory Gross

      Once we noticed that everyone made a beeline to Peter Pan for extra magic hours in Fantasyland one morning, we decided to head to the back and had It’s a Small World entirely to ourselves. And then things like Dumbo, the Teacups, Alice, etc. with virtually no wait.

  • bkeyes19

    We have had mixed results with EMH. We had a great night at MK a couple of years back with no lines and very small crowds. We had an awful experience at DHS where it was crowded and most of not all restaurants were already closed and we were starving.

  • amyuilani

    I agree that EMH are important for the biggest rides, especially at DCA for Radiator Springs. People don’t realize that the fastpass for RSR is like a Black Friday doorbuster, and they’re usually out for the entire day by 10am, so you stand in the 2-hr line, or you go single rider. EMH allows you to get at least 1 ride in, and you have time to get a fastpass for a later ride. If you have your family’s tickets, you can get theirs too.

  • pinkertonfloyd

    At WDW My experience has been to avoid the park with EMH, as that becomes the park that the crowd goes to (like a bug to a light at night), and that park will be the most “packed” for the day. The Extra crowds offsets the extra time…. The only time it REALLY works is if you go for the EMH, and then switch around to another park once the crows show, but usually you’ll end up missing the golden opening/closing hours at these parks.

  • waymire01

    My general approach is to avoid the park with AM EMH and park hop to the PM EMH an hour or two before they start. Has worked well for me in the past. The only way to get ahead of everyone in the AM is to be one of the first at the gate.. which means showing up at least an hour earlier, maybe more.. and standing in line until the gates open then rushing to whatever is first on your list. No thank you. I’ve only done it during the off season and it was hellish.. I can’t imagine how bad it is during the summer. For the record I don’t shop on Black Friday either.. just not worth the stress for me.. so if you like that sort of thing more power to you. I’ve never had a problem with crowds in the PM. The AM EMH parks are always packed for the rest of the day as well.. either by the initial crush or those who intended to be there but ran late. Like another commenter said it’s like “bugs to a light”. The same concept applies to anything you do.. don’t try to eat lunch at noon or dinner at six.. either leave a bit early or wander about for a little while after the park closes to avoid the pile up at the buses.. just try to avoid a “normal” schedule.

  • disneydempster

    I’m from Calif so getting up early for the AM EMH at WDW is a bit of a gamble, especially with kids, their body clock doesn’t reset so quickly. In my experience the EMH attracts so many guests that I generally avoid the parks on AM EMH days. I’ve had good experience with PM EMH even at DHS. I love the lights at night and lines have been shorter – not everything is open but the ones that are tend to be the attractions I wanted to do anyway. DLR is usually not bad in the morning the first hour EMH or not is a great way to blast through 5-6 attractions.

  • Barbaraann

    I have only done late EMH hours once at Magic Kingdom, and I did not like that at all. The park was super crowded, and I was too tired to enjoy myself.

    However, I love the extra hour in the morning. I guess I am a morning person, and I am always able to ride plenty of stuff in the morning in that first hour.

  • WorldLover71

    I’ve had great experiences with EMH in both the mornings (at WDW and DL) and evenings. You can really fit in a lot in a very short time. A few years ago I had a 3-hour evening EMH and I fit in everything in Fantasyland including a M&G with Donald with no waits! Once the kiddies have gone to bed, the park is wide open.

    There are rumors EMH may go away now that FP+ is here but this would eliminate one of the major perks of staying onsite.

  • Jabroniville

    Nice article! As someone currently in a queue at Magic Kingdom it’s quite useful. A combination of getting up early and staying late really pays off!

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