Magic Kingdom is the most popular park to visit at Walt Disney World. In fact, did you know it’s the most visited theme park in the entire world? Yep. 20 million people a year. And we wonder why it’s so crowded when the fireworks over.
So a big part of most people’s vacation to Disney World is spending some time at Magic Kingdom. Many families spend more time at Magic Kingdom than any other park. So understanding the best times to visit for lower crowds is important in planning a great trip.
The Party Season at Magic Kingdom
More than four months out of every year Magic Kingdom has Holiday parties that drastically effect its schedule and crowd flow.
That’s a huge chunk of time! Starting in mid-August thru early November for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP), and then immediately after that in November and December with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP).
2019 dates for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom (my guide here)
- August – 16, 20, 23, 27 and 30
- September – 2, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 20, 22, 24, 27 and 29
- October – 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 21, 24, 25, 27, 29 and 31
- November 1
MNSSHP (much easier to use the abbreviation!) is typically twice a week the last few weeks of August (yes we start Halloween season in August at Walt Disney World!) then 3 times each week during September. Once we get to October they will add in another night making it four nights per week.
2019 dates for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom (guide here).
- November 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24
- December 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22
MVMCP is typically three nights a week once it begins November 8th, and adds a 4th night for December.
So more than a third of every year is changed by these parties; August – December. And knowing how they affect crowds and entertainment schedules is very important if you’re planning a trip to Disney during any of those months.
Why the Party Schedule Matters
I can’t tell you how many times I hear from people who plan to spend the evening at Magic Kingdom and see the fireworks that night, only to find out the day they are visiting not only won’t have the Happily Ever After fireworks show but will be closing early and they’ll have to leave the park. So knowing which dates will be a standard park night with normal hours and no parties are very important to your planning.
But that’s not the only reason party nights matter. They also really affect crowd levels.
Because the nights you can experience a typical Magic Kingdom night; like staying late, seeing the Happily Ever After fireworks, and so forth are only a few times a week. That means those days (a “normal” day when there is no party scheduled) are crowded. Especially Saturday nights. Everyone who would typically want an evening at Magic Kingdom are all funneled into only three or four nights. This includes all the locals and passholders as well. And since a lot of people plan their park day based on where they want to be that night, it makes the park busier the entire day.
But the reverse is also true: On the days when there IS a Magic Kingdom party that night, the crowds are very low during the day.
You can use this.
If you have a park hopper ticket or any kind of park pass that lets you move from park-to-park during the same day, then here’s what you need to do. You need to plan to go to MK during the day when there’s a party scheduled and then leave for another park for the evening. (Crowds for parties won’t start to trickle in until after 4 pm)
When there isn’t a party, only go to MK after dark to see the evening entertainment. This way you get to spend the bulk of your day in a less busy park. This strategy will make a huge difference in your visits to the parks. It affects more than just your MK visits because when one park is busy, the other parks are less so, and vice versa.
How long can you stay in the park on Party Nights if you aren’t attending the party? Official closing time will list 6 pm. But you don’t have to officially clear the park until 7 pm. You are allowed to stay in the castle and Main Street area until 7 pm. They will begin checking wristbands when entering attractions at that point.
This is important once the castle lighting starts each night for the holidays. This little show where Elsa freezes the castle is what officially turns the castle dream lights on. It’s held at 6:15 each night after November 8th.
You are allowed to stay for this show, even if you aren’t going to the Christmas party. As long as you clear out of the park by 7 pm you’re fine.
So to sum up:
If it IS a party night: Go to MK during the day and another park for the evening.
If it’s NOT a party night: Go to another park during the day and MK at night only. (It will still be crowded but it’s worth it to see the nighttime shows at least once.)
Hopefully, this will help you plan your visit to Walt Disney World and you’ll get the most out of your time here.
If you’ll be visiting Walt Disney World during the Halloween season, and attending the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party, or if you’re trying to decide if it’s worth it, make sure you check out my detailed article: Ultimate Guide to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom.
And if you’re planning to visit Disney World during the holiday season in November and December there’s so much to know as every park and resort has special decor and activities for Christmas and New Years. I keep everything compiled and up to date in this article: Visting Disney World During the Holidays.