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?