When to visit Walt Disney World is an age old question. Each month of the year has its own advantages and disadvantages. To help you out here is a breakdown of the events which take place each month. This will to help you decide the best months to visit Walt Disney World when planning your own *MAGICAL* Disney vacation.
The first week or so of January is the continuation of the Christmas holiday. You can expect some pretty savage crowds which will start to subside the first weekend of the new year as most people depart on Saturdays and Sundays.
This drop in crowds is short-lived as the participants start to converge on Disney the second weekend of January for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. Don’t worry, it won’t be as bad as the holiday week but there will be a noticeable uptick in crowds. You will also need to be mindful of road closures on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning. When it comes to the park crowds, the runners typically head back to their rooms after their race and don’t emerge until the afternoon. You will be able to tell who they are by the beaming smile of accomplishment on their faces and a large medal around their necks. Make sure to congratulate all those folks you see. They worked hard for that hunk of hardware.
Another event which takes place in January is the beginning of the EPCOT Festival of the Arts. What started in 2017 as a weekend only event, expanded in 2018 to daily. However, you can expect the weekends at Epcot to be a little more crowded as the locals will visit when they are off work.
The last two weeks of January is one of the lightest crowd times of the year. If you aren’t dead set of visiting for a certain event, it’s a great time to visit. Just beware, Disney knows this is a low time too. They sometimes use this time to refurbish attractions and shows. Check out any online refurbishment list for current and upcoming closures.
Similar to January, February features an EPCOT event and a runDisney event. The beginning of February you will be able to attend the EPCOT Festival of the Arts which wraps up at the end of the month then EPCOT takes a quick break to turn the park around for the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival beginning in March.
Also in February is another runDisney event. Princess Half Marathon Weekend takes place the third weekend of the month. The weekend features only three races on Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning. Again, there will be a slight surge in park attendance and keep an eye out for road closures throughout the weekend.
Something to beware of in February is the east coast February vacations which typically take place the week of President’s Day. As you can imagine, when a good quarter of the country is out of school park attendance will soar.
The EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival goes into full swing at the beginning of March with culinary, horticultural and musical events throughout the month. The Garden Rocks Concert Series taking place at the American Garden Pavilion during the Festival features some of our favorite acts from the past. Previous performers have included Night Ranger, Little River Band, Lonestar, Rick Springfield, Survivor, Smash Mouth and the Village People.
Again, school breaks start to come into play as the rest of the country joins the fun with their spring breaks typically falling the last week of March or the first week of April.
Spring breakers will be clogging the parks the first week of April.
Scheduled around the second weekend of April is runDisney’s spring race. Similar to the Princess Half Marathon Weekend, there will be events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday prompting road closures those mornings.
In EPCOT, the Flower & Garden Festival continues with more of your favorite rockers from the past gracing the stage. Like all other Epcot events, expect the weekends to see slightly higher crowd levels as locals descend on the parks.
As April wanes, the East coast is at it again, this time with their April vacations the third week-ish of April. You can definitely expect an uptick in crowds but not like February vacation or the Spring Break weeks at the beginning of April.
The Easter holiday doesn’t cause too much of a draw as there really aren’t many in-park festivities surrounding the holiday.
The EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival continues through May the with Garden Rocks series.
One event to be on the lookout for if visiting the first week of May is “May the Fourth”. This is a pilgrimage for Star Wars fans who descend on Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Park Passes for May 4 are typically scooped up months in advance.
The end of May, starting Memorial Day weekend, sees the crowds start their summer swell as the school year ends across the country. Summer recesses start as early as the week before Memorial Day through mid-June.
It goes without saying that when school is out, the parks will be full and by mid-month every school in the country will be on recess. Yes, it’s hot… very hot… but that doesn’t stop the family vacationers.
In years past June was the only month of the year without a major event. However, that is now changes as EPCOT’s Flower & Garden Festival extends through the month. As always, crowds increase for this event on that weekend due to local attendance.
I am going to sound like a broken record here but schools out… guess what that means, yup – big crowds. Make sure to make your Advanced Dining Reservation, consider purchasing Disney Genie+ and pack your patience.
By far the biggest crowds of the summer will surround the Fourth of July holiday. This is especially true for Magic Kingdom Park and EPCOT which have spectacular nighttime fireworks displays with special holiday enhancements.
EPCOT festivals continue to grow and evolve. In 2022, the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival extended through July 6 while the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival kicked off July 14.
Finally! The kiddos will begin heading back to school starting in mid-August. This translates to lower and lower crowd levels as the month goes on.
By far EPCOT’s biggest event of the year, the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, continues through August as it winds its way through September and October to culminate in mid-November. This event draws large crowds especially on weekends.
In the early years, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party started early in September but in recent years the first parties have crept into mid-August. (The 2022 party season began on August 12.) You can an early indication of when the parties will be by looking at the park hours. When Magic Kingdom Park is posting a 6:00pm closing time that is always a great sign of party nights.
Once Labor Day weekend is over, almost all schools will be back in session. Yippy Skippy you will have the parks to yourself… just kidding! That’s not going to happen. Crowds will go down but not as much as you would think. In the past few years fall crowds have been increasing partly because the great weather and partly because of the popularity of the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Parties which continues through the month.
Just like September, the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Parties will be held all month long. However, as it gets closer to Halloween the Magic Kingdom parties will sell-out so get your tickets early if you are planning on attending during Halloween week.
The first weekend of November features the last runDisney’s race of the year, the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend. It goes without saying… but I will say it anyway… keep an eye out for road closures and crowd upticks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday that weekend.
The second week of November features the debut of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom Park. There is really no rhyme or reason, but these parties will sell out throughout the season not just those parties closer to the Christmas holiday. Get your tickets as soon as you have solidified your plans.
The third week of November is historically one of the busiest weeks of the year and it’s no wonder why that is. With Thanksgiving on a Thursday most businesses and schools have Friday off so many families like visiting this week as they will only miss three days of work and school.
As the Epcot Food & Wine Festival winds down in mid-November, things heat back up a week or so later when the Candlelight Processional takes over the American Garden Pavilion with celebrity narrators re-telling the story of Jesus’ birth. The Processional can be very crowded so to have a guaranteed seat make sure to reserve a Candlelight Processional Dinner Package. It doesn’t cost extra, and you have to eat anyway so you might as well have a guaranteed seat for the show.
Something that doesn’t have a specific start date is the decorations for the holidays at Walt Disney World. If you happen to be visiting around the second week of November will you begin to notice the holidays come alive bit-by-bit throughout the resort hotels and theme parks. While Magic Kingdom Park will be completely deck out by the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the decorations should be on full display around Thanksgiving week.
The holiday events of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the Candlelight Processional and the celebration of the holidays at Walt Disney World continue through the month. However, when it comes to crowd levels, December is a study in contrasts. The month begins with some of the lowest crowd levels of the year then ramps up to the highest levels the week of Christmas. Reiterating the other busy weeks of the year (New Year’s Week, Spring Break Weeks, Fourth of July week and Thanksgiving Week) make your Advanced Dining Reservations, purchase Disney Genie+ and you will be way ahead of the rest.
So what does this all mean? The answer to that depends on what you are looking for in a Disney vacation:
- If you are looking for a relaxing time with the lowest crowds possible then check out the last few weeks of January, first week of February, the first two weeks of May, most of September and the first two weeks of December. They will be exactly what the doctor ordered.
- If you are looking for varying experiences during your trip, check out the Halloween week. This week features Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival and, if you can hang on an extra day or two, you might even get to experience the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
- If you have to work around school vacations, start by taking a look your school calendar. Most schools fall in one of two categories. The first group starts school the Tuesday after Labor Day but doesn’t get out until mid-June. The second start in mid-August and gets out within a day or two of Memorial Day (depending on Snow Days). If your school starts after Labor Day plan your vacation at the end of August. In all likelihood you will see lighter (not low) crowds and you might even get to experience Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival. If your school starts early, you might want to look at visiting the first week or so of June and experience the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival.
So what is your favorite month to visit Walt Disney World? Comment below and let us know.
Here are some other posts from Team Mom 365 you might enjoy:
Ultimate Disney Planning Timeline
Best Walt Disney World Smartphone Apps
Complete List of Disney Vacation Budget Items
Quiz: Which Disney Resort Should I Stay At?
Sue Nowicki is an alumna of the 2014/15 Disney Parks Moms Panel. She is a team mom extraordinaire who has filled her time serving as secretary, navigator, head cheerleader, treasurer, athletic trainer and team psychologist for her daughter’s travel sports team for over 15 years before becoming a team owner. You can follow her on Twitter at @TeamMom365.