As you hop deeper and deeper into your Walt Disney World vacation planning, you may see the phrase Extra Magic Hours, or EMH, pop up. This is just one of many Disney terms that is hopful to learn about. Extra Magic Hours are especially important because they have a big impact on park guests.
If you think Extra Magic Hours strictly apply to Disney Resort guests, you are only partially correct. They are only available to Disney Resort hotel guests, but Extra Magic Hours affect all park-goers. This post lays out what they are, how they impact crowd levels, when we recommend using them and when you should avoid the park that has them.
What Are Extra Magic Hours?
Extra Magic Hours are extended theme park hours available to Disney World Resort hotel guests and some non-Disney hotel guests. 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 the regular Disney park hours on our Orlando Crowd Calendar so you can easily find them. It's worth mentioning that during peak times (and sometimes with the opening of new rides and lands), Disney will add additional Extra Magic Hours to the schedule.
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 Resort Hotel
- Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort Hotel
- Shades of Green on Walt Disney World Resort
- B Resort Located in the Walt Disney World Resort
- Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort
- DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando
- Four Seasons Resort Orlando
- Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
- Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
- Holiday Inn Orlando
- Waldorf Astoria Orlando
- Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs
- Wyndham Lake Buena Vista
Guests staying at one of the above off-site hotels will need to present a valid resort ID (often your hotel key) when entering the EMH park, while Disney Resort guests will simply tap their MagicBand/RFID ticket at the park entrance to verify that they are staying on-site. Regular theme park admission is required.
By the way, we offer discounts on hotel rooms at all of these Orlando hotels and more, so you can get a hop on the savings!
How Extra Magic Hours Affect Crowds
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 hotels that offer Extra Magic Hours. 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 think that is where they are supposed to go, even if they don't actually visit during the EMH period! This makes the park more congested during regular Disney park hours. This is why, for most park visitors, we think it's best to avoid the park with Extra Magic Hours, but we hop through all of the scenarios below!
When Resort Guests Should Use Extra Magic Hours
• ONLY if you intend to visit during EMH. There is no benefit for showing up to a park with EMH if you don't actually attend during Extra Magic Hours. And don't froget, it takes time to get to the parks, especially Magic Kingdom. Allow enough time to get to the park, whether you are using Disney transportation or driving and parking at the Transportation & Ticket Center. Keep in mind that evening Extra Magic Hours, especially those earlier in the evening (say, 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. vs. midnight to 2 a.m.), tend to attract more crowds than morning Extra Magic Hours.
• 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 Extra Magic Hours 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 EMH.
• If you have a Disney Theme Park Base Ticket and the overall crowd level is low. Example: The overall resort crowd level is a 4. Magic Kingdom has morning EMH from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. You can take advantage of the extra hour that morning for popular rides such as Peter Pan's Flight, Space 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 Splash Mountain.
• If you are visiting during (or within the first couple of months after) a major ride or land opening and there are special EMH. During the opening of Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios, there were additional Extra Magic Hours for resort guests. These were the best way to experience all of the new rides in these lands without waiting several hours. (Because of the tier system in these examples, even if you were able to get FastPass+, it would have only been for one of the new rides.)
When to Avoid the Park with Extra Magic Hours
• If you are not staying at a Disney Resort or hotel offering EMH. Since you won't be able to go on any rides during Extra Magic Hours, we recommend avoiding the park that has them. There are a few exceptions, which we'll discuss below.
• If you are staying at a Disney Resort or EMH hotel, you have a Disney Theme Park Base 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.
When Off-Site Hotel Guests Should Visit a Park with Extra Magic Hours
• There are Extra Magic Hours on every day of your visit. As mentioned above, during the busiest times of the year, even more Extra Magic Hours are added to the parks as a perk for on-site guests. 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 Magic Kingdom.
During these times, it's especially good to have a solid park plan and use your FastPass+ selections wisely. Your best bet is to be at the park entrance before it opens, when crowd levels are still at their lowest. If you have park hoppers, this is less of a problem. Spend the morning at Magic Kingdom and then hop to another park that doesn't have evening Extra Magic Hours in the afternoon.
• There is special entertainment at a park with EMH. This happens most frequently during the least busy times of year and often affects Magic Kingdom. This is not currently a factor since there is not currently an evening parade at Magic Kingdom, but in the past, there were days when the Magic Kingdom evening parade would sometimes only be scheduled on days with Extra Magic Hours. In this case, your plan of attack should again be arriving when the park opens if you have Disney Theme Park Base tickets. If you have park hoppers, you can spend your day in another park and hop over for the nighttime entertainment an hour or so before it starts.
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? For more tips, check out our What to Do in Orlando page inside the Orlando Planning Timeline!
Related: Disney FastPass+ FAQs and Strategies