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Extra Magic Hours - When to Use & When to Avoid

by Mommy Frog on April 30, 2015

If you think Extra Magic Hours strictly apply to Disney Resort guests, you are only partially correct. They are only available to Disney Resort guests, but Extra Magic Hours affect everyone. Here's a helpful guide to understanding what they are, how they impact crowd levels and when you should avoid the park that has them.

When to Use Extra Magic Hours - Magic Kingdom

What are Extra Magic Hours?

Extra Magic Hours (EMH) are extended theme park hours available to Disney resort guests and some non Disney-owned hotels. On certain days of the week, guests can enter a park one hour earlier or stay in a park up to two hours later than normal park operating hours. The Extra Magic Hours are listed with regular park hours on our Crowd Calendar, so you can easily find them.

Which hotels offer Extra Magic Hours?

All of Disney World's resorts and villas offer Extra Magic Hours. Additionally, the following non-Disney hotels offer Extra Magic Hours:

  • Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel
  • Hilton Orlando at Lake Buena Vista
  • Shades of Green on Walt Disney World Resort

Guests staying at one of the above off-site hotels will need to present a valid Resort ID, while Disney resort guests will simply tap their MagicBand/RFID ticket at ride entrances to verify that they are staying on-site. During evening Extra Magic Hours, non-resort guests can remain in the park but will not be able to go on any rides. Regular theme park admission is required.

How Extra Magic Hours Affect Crowds

When to Use Extra Magic Hours - crowds

Quite simply, Extra Magic Hours strongly affect crowd levels. Think of it this way ... there are about 30,000 Disney Resort hotel rooms. That total doesn't even include non-Disney owned hotels that offer the Extra Magic Hours benefit. Since most people don't travel alone, that's A LOT of people. And while resort guests don't have to head to the park with Extra Magic Hours, many of them do. What's more, many of those resort guests going to the park with Extra Magic Hours don't actually take advantage of the extra hours, making the park more congested during regular park hours. In parks with fewer rides such as Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios, the effect is even more pronounced. That said, you can do a lot within that morning Extra Magic Hour if you ride the most popular rides with the shortest durations, because it is the least busy hour of the day!

When Resort Guests Should Use Extra Magic Hours

When to Use Extra Magic Hours - Disney's Hollywood Studios

ONLY if you intend to visit during Extra Magic Hours. There is no benefit for showing up to a park with Extra Magic Hours if you don't go during either the extra morning hour or the extra evening hours. And we hate to be so picky about it, but if you don't think you'll arrive early enough to be in the park when the Extra Magic Hour starts, it's probably best to head to another park.

If you are Park Hopping. In this situation, you can go to the park with EMH during those hours and spend the other part of the day at a less crowded park. Example: Epcot® has evening EMH from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m. Disney’s Hollywood Studios® is a recommended park that day. Go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios® during normal park hours, then hop to Epcot® that evening during the EMH.

When to Use Extra Magic Hours - Space Mountain

If you have a Magic Your Way ticket and the overall crowd level is low.

Example: The overall resort crowd level is a 3. Magic Kingdom has morning EMH from 8 - 9 a.m. You can take advantage of the extra hour that morning for popular rides such as Peter Pan's FlightSpace Mountain and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Be sure to use FastPass+ for any other must-do attractions that you don't think you'll get to in the morning such as meeting Elsa and Anna and Splash Mountain.

When to Avoid the Park with Extra Magic Hours

There are certain circumstances when you should avoid the park with Extra Magic Hours. Here are those times ...

If you are not staying at a Disney Resort. Since you won't be able to go on any rides during Extra Magic Hours, we recommend avoiding the park that has them. Sometimes you may want to visit a park with Extra Magic Hours because it's the only day you'll be able to see a special show or parade, and sometimes during peak season, it's impossible to avoid Extra Magic Hours. For example, during the week of Christmas and New Year's Day, there are typically EMHs every day at the Magic Kingdom. During these times, it's especially good to have a solid Touring Plan and use your FastPass+ selections wisely.

If you are staying at a Disney Resort, you have a Magic Your Way ticket and the overall crowd level is high. In our opinion, the extra hour isn't worth dealing with the bigger crowds brought on by Extra Magic Hours. Unless you have Advanced Dining Reservations at the park with Extra Magic Hours, we recommend choosing another park to visit that day.

Want more advice about using Extra Magic Hours? Share your questions below! And for those of you who are park regulars, do you take advantage of Extra Magic Hours or avoid the park that has them?

Happy Planning!

Mommy Frog

Comments
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Suzi Bishop May 15, 2012 at 5:28 p.m.

We are about to put this to the test in July. With crowds and heat very high, (and adults only this time around) we plan to hit the AM EMHs most mornings then take a break during the day and head back to whichever park has PM EMH. We have Hopper passes so this will be doable. Just need the energy to stay up late and get up early :)

Reply
FrogBlog May 16, 2012 at 11:02 a.m.

Suzi, Your plan is almost exactly how we schedule our Disney vacation days. And yes, Park Hoppers are a must! Hope you have a great time on your trip! Tell us all about it when you get back. -Mommy Frog

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Reply
MC Doyle May 28, 2013 at 7:27 p.m.

Was wondering if the colors are adjusted on your calendar? Like if the whole week is green, and the day is green but a park is red....is it really red? Or is that just in comparison to the total expected visitors to WDW? Can we expect the spring break wait times when a park is highlighted in red in September? Or is it just going to be more crowded than the other parks in a relatively uncrowded time?

Thanks!!!!

Reply
FrogBlog May 28, 2013 at 8:22 p.m.

Hey MC,

The park colors are independent of the daily crowd recommendations. Thus, Magic Kingdom may be red (not recommended in comparison to the other parks that day), but the overall daily rating may be green.

The better predictor of crowd levels is the number given on a particular day (between 1 and 10).

Here is more information:

http://blog.undercovertourist.com/2011/12/leaps-crowd-calendar-helpful-tips-by-leap/

-- Leap

Reply
Kristin Vigil Jul 26, 2013 at 3:21 p.m.

We use EMH as described in the article. I like having the flexibility of a hopper pass. And when the crowds get large we like to leave and do the pool or other things. My kids do much better when the lines are shorter during extra magic hours. The best always seems to be when we can get in to Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning! We always see lots of Animals that way.

Reply
April Dec 2, 2013 at 5:32 p.m.

I am a relative rookie to WDW and am trying to understand EMHs. Does your *note mean that anyone who has a paying ticket can enter the park during EMHs however not ride the rides? If that is the case, wouldn't it benefit to enter during those hours simply to be in the park and near your ride when EMHs end? It is my sons 6th bday the 1st day we are going (we have 3day park hopper) and I was thinking I could use that time to take him to get his birthday pin at guest relations & take pictures? Thank you for your advice!!!

Reply
FrogBlog Dec 2, 2013 at 7:14 p.m.

Hi April,

Unfortunately to enter the park during EMHs, you will need to show proof you are staying at the resort. One possible way around this is if you had a dining reservation before the park opened.

Hope this helps!

-- Mommy Frog

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Reply
EMB Jun 25, 2014 at 3:35 p.m.

...what forms of proof do they see that you are staying on property?...is that your magic band?

Reply
FrogBlog Jul 14, 2014 at 2:50 p.m.

Hi EMB,

Yes, they would use your MagicBand as proof.

Best,

Leap

Reply
melissa Nov 12, 2014 at 12:12 p.m.

Hi, trying to fit everything in to our first trip to disneyland, we have a 3 day pass, still not sure whether to do a hopper pass or early morning ticket, as we dont get in on our first day to lunch time second day we have a full day and night and third day we will leave before 4. We are planning on staying at the disneyland hotel. Do you think I should pay the difference for hopper pass and get early entry or just 3 day pass and whatever the hotel offers. Thanks mel :)

Reply
FrogBlog Nov 12, 2014 at 10:55 a.m.

Hi Melissa,

You have to decide whether it is worth the cost for you. I would look at the park hours for your first day and which park you are headed to. For example, if you are headed to Disney California Adventure on that first day, but it closes early, then it might make sense to get the park hoppers. Also, do you want to experience Fantasmic? Since the show is not held nightly some times of the year, you might want the hoppers to make sure you get to see it on one of the nights while you are there.

Best,

Leap

Reply
jmic May 3, 2015 at 12:23 p.m.

We will be at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista from Thursday to Sunday and the one reason I selected the hotel is for its extended hours at the park, but I am torn with going to Magic Kingdom on a Friday that has a yellow indicator and Saturday which has a red indicator (high traffic) because of the extended hours in that park that day. (the entire reason for picking the hotel) We could essentially be very satisfied with our day on Friday and not need extra hours and not be over crowded. Just need a push in the right direction. Should I brave the crowds for 2 extra hours at night?

Reply
FrogBlog May 8, 2015 at 9:25 a.m.

Hi there,

When are you visiting and do you have Park Hoppers? This would help your best course of action.

Mommy Frog

Reply
G May 6, 2015 at 4:21 p.m.

I will be visiting Disney in August. What proof will Disney require that we are staying on resort in order to utilize extra magic hours? We are staying on a Disney resort for the 1st half and then will be off site in the 2nd half. If we use magic bands for our tickets, they will probably automatically know we're not staying on resort if we try to come the 2nd half, right? If that is the case, can we keep the tickets separate? Would that even help?

Reply
FrogBlog May 11, 2015 at 7:13 a.m.

Hi G,

Purchasing extra tickets will not help as Disney will use your MagicBands as proof.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
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