How Often Do Disney World Park Hours Change?

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TouringPlans logoPark hours are one of the many things that factor into our Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar calculations. We have found over the years that park hours are decent indicators of crowd size (although they are far from the only indicators). The reasoning is simple: Disney has longer operating days when they think they’ll be busy and shorter when they don’t.

I have personally been collecting Walt Disney World park hours for 4 years now, since July 1, 2011 and I have compiled some overall statistics that I find interesting, and therefore think you may find interesting as well. Be warned, there are a lot of numbers in this post so geek out everyone!

If you are unfamiliar with how Disney releases their Disney World park hours, I wrote a blog post about the process several years ago and most of that info holds up. The main difference between now and then is that Disney doesn’t always release hours to Travel Agents first anymore, but that doesn’t really change anything about the process. If you don’t want to go back and read that, here are the Cliff’s Notes:

1. The initial park hours are released about 6 months in advance. For instance, the December 2015 hours were just released on May 12, 2015.

2. At some point Disney may change these hours (almost always extending them). This change used to happen regularly around mid-month, but now may happen anywhere between 6 months and 1 week prior to the month in question.

As you can see, this flexible scheduling method can make planning a bit tricky. Sure, for most people, whether the Magic Kingdom closes at 10 P.M. or midnight is not a big deal, but it can be for some. And for the serious planner (like us here at TouringPlans), just not knowing is a bit of an unscratchable itch.

With all of that in mind, how likely are the Disney World park hours to change? When you look at those December 2015 hours today, will they end up being what’s posted now? If you are planning a trip for 5 months from now, will all the closing times be different when you finally get there? Let’s answer these questions.

I’m going to go park-by-park from least to most changes so the numbers are a little easier to absorb. Remember that I’m only speaking of changes between the park hours’ original assignments (about 6 months in advance) versus their final, day-of hours. None of this analysis speaks of the actual length of a park day, just the changes.

Epcot

Epcot is the easiest park to predict when it comes to park hours — they almost never change. The closing time only changes from that initial assignment 0.3% of the time. That means that if you see a closing time of 9:00 PM (by far the most common time), it will stay at 9:00 PM 99.7% of the time. So lock those Epcot times in.

Epcot is also the outlier here in that its opening time is more likely to change than its closing time, even though it’s highly unlikely to change. Epcot’s opening time will only be adjusted from its initial assignment 2.1% of the time. In the case of that 2.1%, every single change was from 9:00 AM to 8:00 AM. So, if you see an opening time of 9:00 AM, it will stay there 97.9% of the time, but if it changes it will change to 8:00 AM.

Hollywood Studios

Hopefully you’ve absorbed some of the lingo from Epcot, because it’s going to start getting more involved here. Disney’s Hollywood Studios changes its hours more than Epcot, but still less than the other two parks. Its opening time will only change 6.6% of the time, with all of those changes being from 9:00 AM to 8:00 AM.

The closing time for Hollywood Studios changes 20% of the time. In this case, the changes are easier to explain in a table, so here comes one:

ParkHourAnalyticsDHS

So here’s how to read that thing: The times in the left hand column (actually second from left) are the originally assigned closing times, the ones that are published 6 months out. The percentage to their left is the percentage that each time is used (so 7:30 PM is the most commonly assigned, 32.3% of the time).

Across the top are the Final Closing Times, or the times as they end up on the actual park day. Across the bottom is the percentage that each time happens (so 10:00 PM is the most common at 38.1%). All the percentages in the middle represent the matrix of changes, with the red numbers being times that do not change. For example, to see how often the Hollywood Studios closing time changes from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM, find 8:00 PM on the left, and follow that row until you hit the column where 9:00 PM is the header: the answer is 18.8%.

The far-right column is the frequency of changes (so 100 minus the red number). So to see the total percentage of 7:00 PM closings that change, follow the 7:00 PM row all the way to the right, where you will see that it changes 43.7% of the time.

Phew!

Okay, so what do we get from all that? Well, 8:30 PM closing times will change many more times than not (82%) and the time they are most likely to end up at is 10:00 PM, with 80% of those 8:30 PM times becoming 10:00 PM. In fact, the only times that are unlikely to change are those odd 4:00 PM times (used for special events) and the times like 9:30 PM and later. Although both 7:00 PM and 8:00 PM closings change less than 50% of the time, they are infrequently used (assigned 0.2% and 3.1% respectively).

Animal Kingdom

This isn’t going to get less complicated here. Disney’s Animal Kingdom actually changes its times more often than Hollywood Studios does, although it doesn’t feel like it. While the opening time doesn’t change a lot, it still changes 10.4% of the time, once again always from 9:00 AM to 8:00 AM. The closing time is where a lot of the changes come…so here comes another table:

ParkHourAnalyticsAK

As you can see in the bottom-right, the closing time for Animal Kingdom changes almost half the time (47.3% to be exact). Also, much like Hollywood Studios, the only times that infrequently change are those that are infrequently assigned initially: 5:00 PM, 6:00 PM, and 7:00 PM closing times will change about half of the time.

Magic Kingdom

Here’s the big one with the most changes and the latest hours, the Magic Kingdom.

Like all the other parks, the opening time for the Magic Kingdom rarely changes. In fact, it only changes 17.3% of the time, and almost always from 9:00 AM to 8:00 AM, just like the rest. The only exceptions to this are when the opening is changed to 6:00 AM, which only happens once per year.

And here we go with the closing time chart:

ParkHourAnalyticsMK-2

The initial closing time changes more than half the time, with a somewhat surprising 56.6% change rate, and that includes all those 7:00 PM times that almost never change (those are the hard-ticket parties). Are you looking at a day in the future with a closing of 10:00 PM? Don’t get used to it! There’s an 80.9% chance it will change, most likely to either 11:00 PM or midnight. In fact, if we except the party days and their 7:00 PM closings, 11:00 PM is the only closing time that is below a 50% change rate (and just barely).

Recent Trends

As I mentioned above, all of these stats are over the past 4 years. I also looked at just the past year (July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015) to see how these numbers were moving, and what I found was that they are indeed moving.

Most regular visitors to Walt Disney World agree that the parks are busier now than they were in the past few years, and the park hour trends indicate that as well. Here are some of the highlights (Note: Epcot is the same):

Hollywood Studios

  • Opening times changed 11.5% in the past year (up 4.9%)
  • Closing times changed 35.6% in the past year (up 15.6%)
  • 8:30 PM closings changed even more, up to 91.4%, and every single one of them changed to 10:00 PM
  • 9:00 PM was not once used as an initial closing time in the past year and only occurred 8% of the time as a final closing time
  • 9:30 PM was instituted as a closing time and was used on 17.9% of days. 10:00 PM was used about 9% less often and 7:00 PM and 8:00 PM closings went down about 5% each.

Animal Kingdom

  • Opening times changed 12.6% in the past year (up 2.4%)
  • Closing times changed 53.3% in the past year (up 6%)
  • 5:00 PM closings changed much more, up to 65.7% (from 48.5%), with 21% of those jumping all the way to 8:00 PM
  • Overall in the past year, 5:00 PM closings were less common, as were 9:00 PM times, but both 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM closings were more common

Magic Kingdom

  • Closing times changed a whopping 79.3% in the past year (up 22.7%)
  • There have been 27 days in the last year that started out with a closing time of 11:00 PM. All 27 of them ultimately changed to 1:00 AM
  • 11:00 PM was still a common final closing time at 28.1% (up 1.8%), although 12:00 AM has been the most common at 36.8% (up 17.7%). 1:00 AM closings also rose 6.4% last year to 20.1% and all other times predictably fell off.

What all of these numbers say to me is that the hours are changing more and that closing times are getting later, especially at Magic Kingdom. In the past year, 80% of Magic Kingdom park days end at 11:00 PM or later, up from 59.1% when looking at the past four years combined. In short, if you see a closing time on a park…don’t get used to it.

Please ask any questions because I know this is complicated. Thanks for reading!

Brian McNichols

In addition to blogging, I also do some analyzin' here at Touring Plans. I am a travel nut, planning nut, Disney nut, wall nut. Husband of 1, father of 2. Hilariously funny in my own mind. Find me on Twitter @YesThatBrian if you like really dumb jokes.

24 thoughts on “How Often Do Disney World Park Hours Change?

  • May 19, 2015 at 11:22 am
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    I recognize that it may be difficult to spot trends with only four years of data. Are some times of year more vulnerable to time changes than others?

    My December trip just got a lot more complicated. It used to be all 2/10 and 3/10. Now it is mostly 5/10 and 6/10 (and one 8/10!?!).

    • May 19, 2015 at 12:22 pm
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      Ditto here for my January trip, though I must say I’m suspicious of any day where MK is 3 and HS is 8 outside of Star Wars Weekends.

    • May 19, 2015 at 2:54 pm
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      Same with my mid-November trip. Except I have already locked in all my reservations and bought some tours, plus BMG and La Nouba tickets, so changing around days would be probably impossible! I saw some 2s and 3s become 5s and 6s…

    • May 19, 2015 at 3:20 pm
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      You are correct in thinking that busy times change more: Spring Break/Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, summer, and weekends (any time of year) are the most common times of change.

      Something I should have noted in the article is that our Crowd Calendar does not normally change with the park hours. We work very hard to project what the final hours will be to avoid affecting people’s touring. That said, sometimes updates are necessary.

      • May 19, 2015 at 3:27 pm
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        Thinking a little more about this, I suppose it is a bit like shooting the messenger. TouringPlans isn’t responsible for the crowds and can only predict based on real world data and new input to the system (changing hours and other outside factors), so are stuck guessing to a small degree like the rest of us do.

  • May 19, 2015 at 11:35 am
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    We had a trip a few years ago in January where I’d swear they changed the close time for Magic Kingdom every single day we were there, on the fly — we’d hear when we walked back into the park around dinner that they were extending the hours. That period after the original close time was like gold — it’s as if people didn’t plan for it and didn’t bother to stick around for it. Loved it!

  • May 19, 2015 at 1:40 pm
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    You mention that Disney’s December park hours were released on May 12th, but according to their dates calendar (https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/calendars/), they are not yet available. Is there another place that I should be looking for official hours?

    • May 19, 2015 at 1:48 pm
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      We get the hours when Disney releases them to travel agents (a lot of sites do this). This is often before they’re released to the public site.

      • May 19, 2015 at 1:56 pm
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        I did change the month name. It doesn’t matter if I am logged in to my Disney account or not, the dates for December are not posted. But the information being released earlier to travel agents does make sense though.

  • May 19, 2015 at 2:22 pm
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    I laughed at the 17.3% change statistic for MK morning. Because our June trip had a 3.17% chance of being affected and it did. So I think hillgiant has hit on something for sure – times are more likely to change during certain times of the year. Though that’s probably rather intuitive because they’re changing to accommodate larger crowds and summers are busier times. yadda yadda yadda.

    Anyway, extending opening times is more irritating because restaurants don’t change with them. So much for those ADR’s before park opening.

    Looking forward to your statistics on park hours by day of year…in ten years.

    • May 19, 2015 at 3:22 pm
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      Your instincts are correct, busier times means more changes (and times keep getting busier). I agree, it messes with ADRs, which ticks me off a little. I am currently holding a now less valuable Crystal Palace 8:05 ADR for June on a day where the park opens at 8…oh well.

      • May 19, 2015 at 6:54 pm
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        Soooo, are you keeping your ADR? I’m wondering if you guys have any articles that talk about how crowd levels throughout the day are affected by 8am opens that aren’t EMH. Should we just shift our touring plans an hour earlier? Are wait times improved with earlier openings? SO MANY QUESTIONS!

        • May 19, 2015 at 6:59 pm
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          I am keeping this particular ADR, but sometimes I will change up. With these early opens, sometimes it works out better to do a 10:30 or 11am reservation and get a few hours of touring in first.

          We’ve found that when the park opens at 8, the crowds still don’t really arrive until 10 or 11, but they are often heavier when they do arrive. The tour early, rest, tour late mantra becomes even more useful during these long-hour days.

          • May 19, 2015 at 7:04 pm
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            Ours are for BoG so changing to a later time is not as much of an option – we’re having lunch at the castle. But I’ll hold on to them for now. There are other websites (not that I read them, that’s just what I’m told) that imply that wasting early touring hours on an ADR is one of the seven deadly sins.

            Thanks for your feedback and a great article.

        • May 19, 2015 at 7:06 pm
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          We also recommend not using those precious early hours eating (other sites are right sometime too 🙂 ), but when you make one 6 months out only to have the goalposts move on you there’s not a lot you can do.

  • May 19, 2015 at 3:17 pm
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    Thank you so much Brian.
    A truly informative and interesting article. I’m a big fan of statistics and I look forward to this being an annual article, as more and more information is collected.

    • May 19, 2015 at 3:23 pm
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      Thank you very much, I will do my best to get one out annually.

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  • May 20, 2015 at 10:10 am
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    One interesting thing that I have noted is that the TouringPlans park hour predictions tend to be closer to the actual final park hours than the initial calendars released by WDW. Or at least for the dates I have been tracking over the years.

    I would be interested in seeing a fuller analysis of this to see if my observations are correct. If your predictions have indeed been reasonably accurate, maybe it might be useful for you so show for each day what the current WDW posted hours are and what you think they might be on the actual day.

    • May 21, 2015 at 12:23 am
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      “maybe it might be useful for you so show for each day what the current WDW posted hours are and what you think they might be on the actual day.”

      I like this idea!

  • June 1, 2015 at 11:56 am
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    Brian, great job on this.

    Here’s an odd request:
    Have a “current park hours/expected park hours” listing on the crowd calendar.

    Why?
    Because here’s what often seems to happen:

    1. You post “estimated” park hours far in advance.
    2. Disney’s actual hours get released & you change your crowd calendar hours to reflect the real hours… which are now often shorter hours than what will actually be.
    3. Later Disney extends their hours, and you extend the crowd calendar hours, which are often closer to what your original “estimated” park hours were before.

    Does that make sense?
    Perhaps your “estimates” can remain in place as a temporary “future alternate-but-likely reality”.

    Of course, I’m not sure how you could elegantly list such hours in your crowd calendar. Make the estimated hours a different color?

    Monday MK: 9am-10pm/12pm (where 12pm is estimated & 10pm is the current state of things according to WDW.)

    Does this sound feasible, or does this just make things more complicated?

    Thanks again.

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