Pro Tips for Extra Magic Hours on Your Disney Vacation
I always tell friends that they should stay at official Disney resorts. In fact, I just told somebody that within the last 15 minutes. One of the reasons why I’m emphatic about this choice is a unique amenity. I loooove Extra Magic Hours, and I want to explain why while also providing a few tips.
What Is Extra Magic Hours?
When you book a room at an official Disney resort, you receive the royal treatment. Disney rewards you in many ways. One of the best ones is Extra Magic Hours.
For at least one hour every day, a Walt Disney World theme park is available only to official Disney hotel guests. Either before the park opens to the public or immediately after it closes, Disney provides Extra Magic Hours to guests.
How big a deal is this amenity? I recently did a deep dive into Disney’s daily park numbers and discovered some interesting details. On an average day, the four Walt Disney World theme parks have attendance of 156,336. That’s 39,084 guests per park.
During Extra Magic Hours, you’ll face less than 10 percent of the crowds. Lines will be shorter for everything, giving you a much better chance of riding your favorite attractions.
The rotation of Extra Magic Hours ensures that when you stay for a week, you’ll get exclusive access to every park at some point. While the rule isn’t set in stone, the general guideline is that each park offers Extra Magic Hours one out of every four days.
On some lucky occasions, Extra Magic Hours are available at two different parks. In these situations, one park hosts morning Extra Magic Hours while another provides evening Extra Magic Hours.
I would recommend attending both and napping during the day. You’ll get so much done during Extra Magic Hours this way. You’ll feel more productive than if you visited the same parks from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Extra Magic Hours Strategy for Magic Kingdom
The first thing I’ll suggest is that you check Disney’s official calendar to know which park offers Extra Magic Hours on a given day. At the same time, please understand a quirk of human behavior.
Nighttime Extra Magic Hours offerings are generally more crowded than morning ones. The reason why is people over-sleep or run late or whatever. The same cause for your being a few minutes late to work or school explains why morning Extra Magic Hours are less popular. Stuff comes up, and life happens.
Keeping this in mind, I strongly encourage you to prioritize morning Extra Magic Hours at most parks. Yes, you’ll yawn a lot, but you’ll get more out of your extra hour. The only park where that’s not necessarily true is Magic Kingdom.
For whatever reason, Tomorrowland and Fantasyland usually are the only themed lands that are open during Extra Magic Hours. The limited number of attractions causes a rush at the most popular attractions, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, and Peter Pan’s Flight.
Still, when you arrive on time for Extra Magic Hours, you should get to ride at least two out of three. And that’s pretty good.
At night, however, the selection expands a bit. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion are all available. So, the choices are better and deeper. The only downside is that Disney will let anyone standing in line for an attraction before closing get on the ride. So, the lines can be much longer.
In the morning, your target is two of the top three attractions in terms of wait-time, the ones I just mentioned. At night, you’ll want to pick your favorites out of the big six…or go off the board and just stand in line for whatever you love at Magic Kingdom. Your options are open-ended during Extra Magic Hours.
Extra Magic Hours Strategy for Epcot
Like Magic Kingdom, Epcot opens more attractions during nighttime Extra Magic Hours than during the morning. However, the big three are available in the morning. So, you can ride your choice of Soarin’, Test Track, and Frozen Ever After before the park officially opens to the public.
I don’t need to tell you what a huge advantage this is. Under the current FastPass system, you can only book one of these rides on a given day. By staying onsite and attending Extra Magic Hours, you could feasibly ride all three before the park is even open.
Now, a lot must go right for that to happen. You’ll need to start at Test Track right as your one-hour window opens. The instant that you’re done, walk with purpose toward Soarin’. You may encounter a significant line here. Whether you do or not will determine if you can check Frozen Ever After off the list, too.
My advice is a bit different. I would suggest that you pick your favorite of Frozen Ever After or Soarin’. Rather than spending a lot of time walking from Future World to the World Showcase or vice versa, just ride the attraction of your choice multiple times. It’s a perfect way to start the day and will make you feel like you’ve accomplished a lot.
I excluded Test Track from this suggestion for a reason. Since it offers Single Rider, you’ll have an easier time waiting in line here during regular park hours. But the advice is the same in the morning or at night.
Extra Magic Hours Strategy for Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The next two parks are a bit more challenging in terms of strategy. Disney’s Hollywood Studios will host Extra, Extra Magic Hours for a while. It’s a way for Disney resort guests to experience Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in a more private setting. I’m going to ignore it for the purposes of this article but will update once Galaxy’s Edge is open.
For now, your options at Hollywood Studios are simple. You can go right or left. Well, left is actually straight. You’ll head straight through the park and then turn toward Toy Story Land…which is actually a right turn. I swear I’m not trying to be confusing here.
The point is that you can head toward Toy Story Land or take an early right turn down Sunset Boulevard. The latter path will lead you to the glorious combo of Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.
The lone caveat with that pairing is that it’s a lot for an early morning. In the short term, Hollywood Studios doesn’t even list Extra Magic Hours at night So, you’re committing to a massive burst of morning adrenaline that will feel like 10 ten cups of coffee at once with this strategy. I happen to like it, but this approach isn’t for everyone.
Instead, most people will walk straight to Toy Story Land, which is precisely why I suggest the opposite. But I understand that the majority opinion here is to check out Woody and Buzz.
By visiting Toy Story Land during Extra Magic Hours, you’re almost certain to ride Slinky Dog Dash and either Alien Swirling Saucers or Toy Story Mania!. That’s the best way possible to start your day at Hollywood Studios…excluding a visit to Batuu.
Extra Magic Hours Strategy for Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Like Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom doesn’t currently list Extra Magic Hours at night. In the morning, you can guess what everyone does.
Yes, guests rush to Pandora – The World of Avatar during Extra Magic Hours. Whether you join them or not is entirely up to you. The one thing I’ll say is that you’re choosing to spend your entire hour on one attraction. It’s challenging to double up on Na’Vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage.
The explanation is that the overwhelming majority of people rush Pandora the instant that they enter the park. Most of them choose Avatar Flight of Passage, causing it to half an extensive wait even before the park is technically open to the public.
You’ll know as you walk toward Avatar Land how much competition you’re facing. My advice is that you peel off to Na’Vi River Journey if you believe that you’re way behind the pack for Avatar Flight of Passage (AFoP). That way, you can ride it and still beat the regular crowd for AFoP.
However, my other suggestion is that you avoid Pandora. You can do a lot at Animal Kingdom while everyone else is exploring Avatar Land. For example, you could easily ride Expedition Everest a couple of times and still walk over to Kilimanjaro Safaris for a ride.
Since Kilimanjaro Safaris will take 25 minutes or so, you also might ignore it until 10 minutes before park opening. Instead, hit DINOSAUR first and then ride Expedition Everest. You should still have a chance to get in line for Kilimanjaro Safaris before everyone else. Best of all, animal behavior is different at this time of the morning. You’re enjoying a rare opportunity to watch unique behavioral patterns.
All of these tips should reinforce one underlying thought. Extra Magic Hours is a remarkable amenity. You’ll want to utilize it as much as possible. And the only way to get it is by staying at an official Disney resort.
You should contact our friends at MickeyTravels to book your hotel room. Their service is free to you, and they’ll have plenty more advice about the best ways to approach Extra Magic Hours.