When you first start planning a Walt Disney World vacation, there are a lot of acronyms and lingo that get thrown around. ADRs, MDE, FP+, EMHs ... there are so many new terms to keep up with! And most of them are really hopping important. Today, we're talking about one of them — Extra Magic Hours, or EMHs. Our hopful guide will explain what they are, how they impact crowd levels and when you should avoid the park that has them.
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 Orlando Crowd Calendar, so you can easily find them. It's worth mentioning that during peak times, Disney will add additional Extra Magic Hours.
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.
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 Guest Suites in Walt Disney World
- Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
- Holiday Inn Lake Buena Vista
- Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs
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.
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
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 think that is where they are supposed to go. What's more, many of those resort guests heading 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 Disney's Hollywood Studios, the effect is 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
• 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 actually attend during the Extra Magic Hour. And don't forget, it takes time to get to the parks, especially Magic Kingdom. Allow enough time to park at Ticket & Transportation Center if you're driving or to arrive at the most magical place on Earth if you're taking Disney transportation. 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 be better attended 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 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.
• If you have a Magic Your Way ticket and the overall crowd level is low.
Example: The overall resort crowd level is a 4. 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 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 meeting Elsa and Anna and Splash Mountain.
When Off-Site Guests Should Use 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. You may not be able to avoid the park with EMH, especially at Magic Kingdom. Fortunately, there are more attractions here than at any of the other parks to better handle the crowds. 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 again 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 Magic Your Way 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.
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 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. 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 park plan and use your FastPass+ selections wisely.
• If you are staying at a Disney Resort or EMH hotel, 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? For more tips, check out our What to Do in Orlando page inside the Orlando Planning Timeline!