Special theme park access for Disney resort hotel guests!
Extra Magic Hours (EMHs) is a perk for families staying at a Walt Disney World resort, including the Swan, Dolphin, and Shades of Green, and the Hilton in the Downtown Disney Resort Area. On selected days of the week, Disney resort guests will be able to enter a Disney theme park 1 hour earlier or stay in a selected theme park about 2 hours later than the official park-operating hours. Theme park visitors not staying at a Disney resort may stay in the park for Extra Magic Hour evenings, but they can’t experience any rides, attractions, or shows. In other words, they can shop and eat. The swimming theme parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, rarely offer EMHs. If they do, it’s usually during the summer.
What's required for Extra Magic Hours?
What’s required? A valid admission ticket or MagicBand wristband is required to enter the park, and you must show your Disney resort ID or have your MagicBand scanned when entering. For evening EMHs, you may be asked to show your Disney resort ID or MagicBand to experience rides or attractions.
When are Extra Magic Hours offered?
You can check the Crowd Calendar for the dates of your visit, check the parks calendar at disneyworld.com, or call Walt Disney World Information at 407- 824-4321 or 407-939-6244 (press 0 for a live representative).
Extra Magic Hours changes for Summer 2015 through January 2016
In Summer 2015, Disney made changes to the Walt Disney World Extra Magic Hours schedules for August 2015 through January 2016. Our Disney World Crowd Calendar takes all of these changes into account.
- Magic Kingdom Morning Extra Magic Hours move to Monday through 2015. Evening Extra Magic Hours are on Saturday through September 2015, then switch to Wednesdays
- Epcot Morning EMHs are on Tuesday through 2015 and switch to Thursday in 2016. Evening EMHs are on Friday until Food & Wine starts in mid-September, switch to Thursday for the rest of 2015, and move to Tuesday in 2016.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios Morning EMHs are on Saturday. DHS’ Evening EMHs are on Monday through September 2015, go to Sunday through mid-December 2015, then to Friday in 2016.
- For the remainder of 2015, one Animal Kingdom Morning EMH session is on Wednesday. The other morning session is on Sunday (through September 2015) or Friday (through December 2015). In 2016, Animal Kingdom’s morning sessions are on Monday and Saturday. The Animal Kingdom does not yet have Evening EMHs.
What do Extra Magic Hours mean to you?
Disney seems to use EMHs in two ways: to provide Disney resort guests some extra park time on days when those parks are traditionally crowded, and as an incentive to visit one park on days when another park is typically more crowded.
If you're going to get up early for one morning Extra Magic Hour session during your vacation, make sure it's for the Magic Kingdom.
Crowds typically range from slightly below average to average at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom on days when those parks host Extra Magic Hours. Crowds are higher than average at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and slightly higher at Epcot, on days when they have EMHs.
Not many families have the stamina to take advantage of morning and evening EMHs on consecutive days. If you have to choose between morning or evening Extra Magic Hour sessions, consider first whether your family functions better getting up early or staying up late. Also, consider the time at which the parks close to day guests. Evening EMHs are most useful when the crowds are low and the parks close relatively early to the general public, so your family doesn’t have to stay up past midnight to take advantage of the perk.
Morning Extra Magic Hours (a.k.a Early Entry)
Morning Extra Magic Hours are offered at all four theme parks throughout the year, and rarely (during summer) at Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon water parks. Several days of the week, Disney resort guests are invited to enter a designated theme park 1 hour before the general public. During this hour, guests can enjoy selected attractions opened early just for them.
How Early Entry affects attendance at the theme parks
Morning Extra Magic Hours strongly affect attendance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, especially during busier times of year. Crowds at those parks are usually larger than average, as a Winston-Salem, North Carolina, mom discovered:
Disney Hollywood Studios was a MADHOUSE. Do NOT go on Extra Magic Hours days. After spending about 3 hours to ride three rides, I just wanted to trample the people stampeding to the exit.
Magic Kingdom crowds are about average when it has morning EMHs (usually Thursday). Because Disney’s Animal Kingdom typically has two morning EMHs but no evening EMHs, crowds are spread out, resulting in lower-than-average waits on both days. Disney’s decision to drop Animal Kingdom’s single evening session in favor of two morning sessions seems like it was the correct thing to do.
If you’re staying at a Disney resort, remember these three things about Extra Magic Hours:
- The Magic Kingdom has more attractions open for morning EMHs than any other park. Coupled with a good touring plan, we think the Magic Kingdom’s morning session is the most worthwhile of any EMHs at any park.
- Morning EMHs are least useful at Disney’s Animal Kingdom because it has fewer rides overall. There’s simply not as much benefit for the lost sleep.
- If you think it unlikely that you’ll be at the park offering morning Extra Magic Hours 30 minutes before it opens, visit another park instead.
During holiday periods and summer, when Disney hotels are full, getting in early makes a tremendous difference in crowds at the designated park. The program funnels so many people into the EMH park that it fills by about 10 a.m. and is practically gridlocked by noon. A mother of three from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, writes:
Our first full day at WDW, we went to the Magic Kingdom on an early-entry day for resort guests. We were there at 7:30 a.m. and were able to walk onto all the rides in Fantasyland with no wait. At 8:45 a.m. we positioned ourselves at the Adventureland rope and ran toward Splash Mountain when the rope dropped. We were able to ride Splash Mountain with no wait and then Big Thunder with about a 15-minute wait. We then went straight to the Jungle Cruise and the wait was already 30 minutes, so we skipped it. The park became incredibly crowded as the day progressed, and we were all exhausted from getting up so early. We left the park around noon. After that day, I resolved to avoid early-entry days and instead be at a non-early-entry park about a half-hour before official opening time.
Note that during holidays, the Magic Kingdom opens to regular guests at 8 a.m. Morning EMHs begin at 7 a.m., so you’ll need to be at the Magic Kingdom entrance at around 6:30 a.m. You won’t be alone, but relatively few people are willing to get up that early for a theme park, and your first hour in the parks will be (you’ll pardon us) magical.
This note from a North Bend, Washington, dad emphasizes the importance of arriving at the beginning of the early-entry period.
We only used early entry once—to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We got there 20 minutes after early entry opened, and the wait for Tower of Terror was 1.5 hours long without FastPass+. We skipped it.
Morning Extra Magic Hours and park-hopping
An alternative strategy for Disney resort guests is to take advantage of morning Extra Magic Hours, but only until the designated park gets crowded. At that time, move to another park.
A Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, mom has another tip:
If you have FastPass+ opportunities [see page 88], schedule them for the park you’re visiting second.
This works particularly well at the Magic Kingdom for families with young children who love the attractions in Fantasyland. However, it will take you about an hour to commute to the second park of the day. If, for example, you depart the Magic Kingdom for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 11 a.m., you’ll find the Studios pretty crowded when you arrive at about noon, as this Texas mom found:
We made the mistake of doing a morning at the Magic Kingdom and an afternoon at the Studios. Worst idea ever. By the time we got to the Studios, all the FastPasses were gone for Toy Story Mania!, the Tower of Terror, and Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster. And all three rides had at least 90-minute waits.
Keeping these and other considerations in mind, here are some guidelines:
- Use the morning-EMH–park-hopping strategy during the less busy times of year when the parks close early. You’ll get a jump on the general public and add an hour to what, in the off-season, is an already short touring day.
- Use the morning-EMH–park-hopping strategy to complete touring a second park that you’ve already visited on a previous day, or specifically to see live entertainment in the second park.
Don’t hop to Disney’s Animal Kingdom if it closes before 7 p.m. Crowds generally start leaving between 3 and 4 p.m. If the park closes at 5 or 6, you’ll have only 1–3 hours of touring with lower crowds. On any day except its EMH days, hopping to Epcot is usually good. Epcot is equipped to handle large crowds better than any other Disney park, minimizing the effects of a midday arrival. Also, World Showcase has a large selection of interesting dining options, making it a good choice for evening touring.
Don’t hop to the park with morning EMHs. The idea is to avoid crowds, not join them. Finally, limit your hopping to two parks per day. Hopping to a third park in one day would result in more time spent commuting than saved by avoiding crowds.
Evening Extra Magic Hours
The evening Extra Magic Hours program lets Disney resort guests enjoy a different theme park on specified nights for about 2 hours after it closes to the general public. Guests pay no additional charge to participate but must scan their MagicBands (see page 67) at each ride or attraction they wish to experience. You can also show up at the turnstiles at any point after evening Extra Magic Hours have started. Note that if you’ve been in another park that day, you’ll need the Park Hopper feature on your admission ticket to enter. Evening Extra Magic Hours are offered at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but not at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Evening sessions are usually more crowded at the Magic Kingdom and the Studios than at Epcot. Those evening EMH crowds can be just as large as those throughout the day. During summer, when the Magic Kingdom’s evening EMH session runs until 1 a.m., lines at headliner attractions can still be long at midnight. A mom from Fairhaven, Massachusetts, doesn’t mince words:
I say steer clear of a park that is open late. There are only a few attractions open and tons of people trying to get on them.
More attractions operate during evening EMHs than during morning EMHs. Certain fast-food and full-service restaurants remain open as well.
Finally, note that Disney maintains an official list of frequently asked questions about Extra Magic Hours.
Last updated by Laurel Stewart on August 17, 2015