There's no question the holidays are a busy time for the theme parks, those in Orlando especially. Christmas, New Year's Eve, Easter and the 4th of July are among the most crowded days at Disney World, and it's not uncommon for some of the parks to reach capacity. Magic Kingdom is usually the only park to close. As the largest park, Epcot rarely fills to capacity and is a great place to visit during the holidays as it feels less claustrophobic than the other parks despite the number of people inside.
Disney often extends its park operating hours, available on our Crowd Calendar, in anticipation of higher crowds on the days and weeks leading up to holidays. It also adds additional Extra Magic Hours for guests who will be staying at the resort. For example, for this holiday season, Disney has Extra Magic Hours every day for Magic Kingdom on Dec. 22 through Dec. 31. (If you are visiting during this time, be sure to read our ultimate guide to managing the holiday crowds.)
It's important to remember during the holidays that even if parks do not reach capacities and initiate closing procedures, getting to, from and into the parks is just a little bit more hectic than the rest of the year—although we frogs are always amazed at just how efficient Disney can be! Do keep in mind that you will want to allow extra time for transportation, especially parking. Guests may have to park in other locations or take special transportation to get to and from the parks and resorts. Pay attention to posted signs and parking attendant cast members. Follow directions, give yourself extra travel time and be patient. Guests should also expect to spend extra time going through bag check and security.
Disney World Closing Procedures
Disney World does not release official closing procedures, and they are subject to change at any time. The resort has used a phased approach that gradually diminishes the number of guests allowed to enter the park while it is at or near capacity. These closures do not generally last all day. As guests leave the park, more guests will be able to enter.
The first guests to be blocked are those with one-day tickets and cast members. In some phases, having FastPass+ reservations is enough to guarantee admission. Minus a complete park closure, Disney World resort hotel guests; Annual, Premier, Platinum and Platinum Plus Annual Passholders*; and guests with dining or Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Harmony Barbershop or The Pirates League reservations are always allowed to enter.
*Annual Passholders should consult their pass for block out dates and other information related to their passholder privileges.
Tips for Visiting on Holidays & Days When Disney World Closures Are Likely
If you really want to be in Magic Kingdom during the peak week between Christmas and New Year, arrive early in the morning before the park is scheduled to open. The parking lot and the park itself fill very quickly during this time, but you can still enjoy fewer crowds in the early hours. Disney's Hollywood Studios is the smallest park and can feel very crowded even if it has not yet reached capacity. Epcot is the best park to visit on the most crowded days (Christmas Day and the days leading up to and including New Year’s Eve). Disney's Animal Kingdom is another good choice during the holidays since there is less holiday entertainment to bring in more crowds.
Tips for Guests Entering the Parks When Closings Are Likely
Here are some tips to ease the process if you plan to enter a park during the holiday season when Disney World closing procedures are likely to occur:
- Keep your information in order. It is a good idea to print copies of your dining, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Harmony Barber Shop or The Pirates League reservations in the park and have screengrabs or printouts of your FastPass+ reservations. Having your documents readily available to show cast members upon request will make your life and theirs much easier.
- Enter your park of choice early and stay there.
- If you arrive to a closure, be prepared to wait it out or visit another park.
- Download our wait times app before you hit the parks. Lines are inevitable at Disney World, and there will be lines for everything during the holiday season, from using the restroom to crossing the street.
- Arrive early for shows.
- Bring your own snacks and refillable water bottle to avoid spending time in line.
- Remember to bring sunglasses or a hat, and reapply sunscreen throughout the day no matter what time of year.
- Pack your patience. There will be crowds, long lines and unpredictable weather, but you will also be able to enjoy the most magical season at Disney World with stunning decorations, special food and merchandise, and limited time, holiday themed events, shows, and attractions.
Much of this same advice goes for Universal Orlando since both of its parks get very crowded during the holidays too. In fact, on Dec. 29, 2014, Universal Orlando Resort closed due to reaching guest capacity in both Universal Studios and Universal's Islands of Adventure for the first time since the resort opening in 1990.
Disney World Closing Procedures at Easter and 4th of July
Although Christmas and New Year’s are typically the busiest days of the year, many guests choose to visit the parks during Easter and the 4th of July as well. Procedures are the same during this time as parks reach capacity, but generally Magic Kingdom is the only park that is likely to close. Once again, Epcot is the best choice to visit on the holiday, saving Magic Kingdom for a few days after, or visiting a few days before Easter Sunday.
If you are planning a visit to Disney World during the holiday season, make sure to visit our Crowd Calendar, which shows daily crowd levels, specific park recommendation and park operating hours.
Have you visited Disney World during one of these peak holidays or during a temporary closure? Share your experience in comments below!
Related: Best Time to Visit Disney World