When to Visit Walt Disney World: Seven Important Factors to Consider Before Setting the Date
Most Disney vacation veterans can tell you, in no uncertain terms, that some times are much better than others to visit the "World." Of course, you may have little choice as to when you visit Walt Disney World. Still, it can't hurt to know what to expect. There are many factors that may affect your decision. On your left is an overview of some of the most important: park operating schedules, attendance, lodging rates, and weather and climatic conditions. Just for fun we even tossed in a few links that will help you pick the perfect night for a moonlight stroll.
Park Operating Hours
Theme parks operating hours vary throughout the year, based on attendance levels, day of the week, special occasions and the hours of sunrise and sunset. The safest thing for us to do is point you towards Disney's official web site at
http://www.disneyworld.com for the schedule. Once there, select which park schedule(s) you wish to see, and which month you want to view. Each date on the calendar has a hyperlink to display the parades, fireworks and special events that will be occurring that day. Unfortunately, Disney doesn't post the detailed schedule more than a few months in advance, but their site still gives you a good idea of what to expect down the road.
As popular as Walt Disney World is, a chart of the fluctuations in crowd levels still looks like a roller coaster ride. The peaks and valleys are fairly predictable, though. The week from Christmas to New Years is by far the most popular. Easter break, July 4th, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving Day follow close on its heels. Crowds are at their lowest in January and early February; the weeks between Labor Day and Columbus Day; and in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Peak season for out-of-state vacationers runs between mid-February and mid-April, and the local Florida crowds are out in force during the traditional summer vacation months.
Rates at the Disney resort hotels follow a four season schedule. Peak Season, when the Snow Birds are flocking South, runs from mid-February until the third week in April. Although theme park attendance during Regular Season (end of April through Memorial Day for Moderate and Value resorts, end of April through the first week of July for Deluxe and Disney Vacation Club resorts) is comparable to that of Peak Season, the heat of summer chases the Snow Birds away, reducing the demand for resort rooms. Value Season runs from early August through the end of September for Value and Moderate resorts, and from the second week of July through the end of September for Disney Vacation Club resorts. All resorts return to Regular Season pricing for the month of October (a popular time for visitors from the UK and conventioneers), and rates take a brief, meteoric rise for Christmas/New Years Week (also known as Holiday Season, the most expensive week of the year).
The weather in Florida follows a very predictable curve--hot and rainy in summer, and progressively cooler and drier as you move towards the winter months. Summer rains tend to be brief and hard. Always carry raingear, but if you're at all patient the sun will start shining again, and the parks may be nearly empty of guests. Summer high temperatures are in the low 90's, with evening temperatures around 70. Winter highs are around 70, but be prepared for evening temperatures in the 40's or 50's, and when it does rain you can get chilled to the bone. Here's a link to the current weather in Orlando, Florida:
The Weather Channel provides a daily pollen and air quality forecast as part of its Health Center. You may also find their Heat Index Forecast of special interest (available seasonally). Check
In Florida? Say it ain't so! NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offers charts of the UV (ultraviolet) index for various cities. Here's the 1977 annual UV chart for Tampa Bay, which isn't all that far from Orlando. It's a fair representation of what you can expect. Check
Sunrise and Sunset
Just for fun -- if your Disney plans include fireworks, a romantic moonlight stroll or an early-morning trek to Animal Kingdom, you'll want the lowdown on sunrise, sunset, full moons and other heavenly objects. Check
Copyright Jennifer Marx, PassPorter Travel Press. All Rights Reserved.
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About the Author: Jennifer Marx is the author of over 40 print books, including the award-winning, best-selling PassPorter Walt Disney World guidebook [http://www.passporter.com/wdw/guidebook.htm]. She is married to author Dave Marx and mom to two kids who love Disney. Read more of Jennifer's articles on Disney and general travel at
http://www.passporter.com and in the popular
Disney discussion forums.