Walt Disney World is on many a vacation bucket list, and for good reason — they don’t call it “The Most Magical Place on Earth” for nothing.
But if you’ve ever been, you probably know there are times that are good times to visit Walt Disney World and terrible (see: expensive, hot/humid, rainy, and crowded) times.
Not to toot my own horn, but I — an Orlando resident and Walt Disney World frequenter — have some great tips on the best times to visit the parks. And if you want further reading, you can even hop on over to Undercover Tourist, which is a great source for any and everything theme-park-crowd related.
1Late January/Early February
You think January and you think “Oh the holidays are over, bye crowds!” Not so fast. The second weekend in January is always Marathon Weekend, which is a ginormous event — WDW’s biggest race weekend, as it hosts four different races that if you’re a total machine and have beaucoup money you can run and get five medals.
The weekends in January that aren’t New Year’s, Marathon, and MLK weekend (so like…one or two weekends, depending on the year) are generally slower — as is most of February aside from the last weekend, which is when Princess Half Marathon Weekend takes place. And really, in my opinion, those two months are the most pleasant, weather-wise, to go. January and February are the coolest months in Orlando. (Bonus: You can make a romantic Valentine’s Day reservation at Be Our Guest!)
(Disclaimer: The Epcot International Festival of the Arts launched this past January, so that will undoubtedly make January/February a bit more crowded, but definitely still not as bad as summer.)
March and April kick off two huge crowd-gatherers: spring break and the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. There’s also a new Star Wars half marathon in late April, so honestly, those two months are pretty darn busy.
But May, especially early May, is a great time to go. The initial F&G Festival crowds have thinned out, spring break is definitely over, summer break hasn’t started for most people…and while it’s definitely hot by this time, it’s not melt-in-your-shoes-like-the-Wicked-Witch-of-the-West hot. Yet.
Notice we went ahead and skipped June and July and half of August, because sorry guys, summer is the absolute worst time to visit WDW. It’s sweltering hot and humid, and the crowds are completely insane. You couldn’t pay us to set foot inside Magic Kingdom over the Fourth of July Weekend.
But if a summer trip is a must for you for some godforsaken reason, mid-to-late August is great. School has started up for most students, and you don’t have the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival crowds piling in quite yet.
4Early to mid-September
The aforementioned Food & Wine Fest starts earlier and earlier each year because of how much it has swelled in popularity — it actually starts Aug. 31 this year, which is pretty nuts. September was always the slowest month to go, but that looks like it might change. We see you, Disney execs trying to close crowd gaps. We don’t like it. And by we, I mean people who know the crowd-dodging secrets.
That being said, if you do want to check out the Food & Wine Fest and not have to wait in crazy lines at each booth, early September is a good time. As mentioned before, the kiddos are mostly back in school, and most folks will flock down again when the weather starts cooling off a bit. You can be the guinea pig/taste tester for the best noms. (Be warned, though — late August/early September is probably the hottest time of the year.)
5Weekdays in October
October is a really awesome time to visit WDW. The weather has started to cool off a liiiittle bit (see: highs of 85 instead of 101), and the over-the-top fall decorations go up to mark the celebration of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. This event is a ton of fun — and as you can probably guess, it’s best to go as early in the season as possible, and on a weekday. Grab all the candy you can, and don’t miss the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular!
6November: minus the first weekend and Thanksgiving week
The first weekend in November is always Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend. I know I know, so many races, and this one isn’t even that great anymore since they started doing it during the day instead of at night and nixed the Osborne Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but I digress.
Pretty much right after Halloween, the holiday decorations go up. So if you want to get into the holiday spirit at WDW but want to do it as minimally suffocatingly (it’s a word) as possible, the second and third week(ends) in November are generally decent. Whatever you do, do not subject yourself to Thanksgiving week(end). You will thank us.
7After Thanksgiving weekend
If pre-Thanksgiving is too early for you to get in the Christmas spirit (understandable) and you have to go during the holiday season, do it the weekend directly following Thanksgiving weekend if you can. The Turkey Day crowds will have peaced out and the Christmas ones will just be starting to trickle in. This writer highly recommends Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party — the earlier in the month, the better, and a Sunday or weekday is going to be much less elbow-to-elbow than a Friday.