Extra Magic Hours (EMH) is a perk for families staying at Walt Disney World resort hotels, including Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green, and the independent hotels of the Disney Springs Resort Area (confirmed for all of 2018 but not, as of yet, for 2019). On selected days of the week, Disney resort guests will be able to enter a Disney theme park 1 hour earlier or stay in a selected theme park 2 hours later than the official park operating hours. Theme park visitors not staying at a Disney resort may stay in the park for Extra Magic Hour evenings, but they can’t experience any rides, attractions, or shows. In other words, they can shop and eat. The water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, rarely offer EMHs. If they do, it’s usually during the summer.
A valid admission ticket or MagicBand wristband is required to enter the park, and you must show your Disney resort ID or have your MagicBand scanned when entering. For evening Extra Magic Hours, you may be asked to show your Disney resort ID or MagicBand to experience rides or attractions.
When are Extra Magic Hours Offered?
You can check the Crowd Calendar at TouringPlans.com for the dates of your visit, check the parks calendar at disneyworld.com, or call Walt Disney World Information at 407-824-4321 or 407-939-6244.
It is common for Epcot to have evening Extra Magic Hours on Wednesdays or Thursdays in September and October, and for the Animal Kingdom to have morning Extra Magic Hours on any day except Tuesday and Thursday later in the year.
What do Extra Magic Hours Mean to You?
Disney seems to use EMH in two ways: (1) to provide Disney resort guests some extra park time on days when those parks are traditionally crowded and (2) as an incentive to visit one park on days when another park is typically more crowded.
Not many families have the stamina to take advantage of morning and evening EMH on consecutive days. If you have to choose between morning or evening sessions, consider first whether your family functions better getting up early or staying up late. Also, consider the time at which the parks close to day guests. Evening EMH are most useful when the crowds are low and the parks close relatively early to the general public, so your family doesn’t have to stay up past midnight to take advantage of the perk.
How Early Entry Affects Attendance at the Theme Parks
Morning Extra Magic Hours strongly affect attendance at all parks, especially during busier times of year. Crowds are usually larger than average. If you’re staying at a Disney resort, remember these three things about EMH:
- The Magic Kingdom has more attractions open for morning EMH than any other park. Coupled with a good touring plan, we think the Magic Kingdom’s morning session is the most worthwhile of any EMH at any park.
- Early entry is useful at Disney’s Animal Kingdom because it’s the most time-effective strategy for seeing the mega attractions in Pandora—The World of Avatar.
- If you think it’s unlikely that you’ll be at the park that’s offering morning EMH 30 minutes before it opens, visit another park instead.
During holidays and summer, when Disney hotels are full, getting in early makes a tremendous difference in crowds at the designated park. The program funnels so many people into the early-entry park that it fills by about 10 a.m. and is practically gridlocked by noon.
Note that during holidays, the Magic Kingdom opens to regular guests at 8 a.m. Early-morning entry begins at 7 a.m., so you’ll need to be at the Magic Kingdom entrance at around 6:30 a.m. You won’t be alone, but relatively few people are willing to get up that early for a theme park, and your first hour in the parks will be (pardon us) magical.
An alternative strategy for Disney resort guests is to take advantage of morning EMH, but only until the designated park gets crowded. At that time, move to another park. If you have Fastpass+ opportunities, schedule them for the park you’re visiting second. This works particularly well at the Magic Kingdom for families with young children who love the attractions in Fantasyland. However, it will take you about an hour to commute to the second park of the day. If, for example, you depart the Magic Kingdom for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 11 a.m., you’ll find the Studios pretty crowded when you arrive at about noon.
Keeping these and other considerations in mind, here are some tips:
Use the morning EMH park-hopping strategy during the less busy times of year when the parks close early. You’ll get a jump on the general public and add an hour to what, in the off-season, is an already short touring day.
- Use the morning EMH park-hopping strategy to complete touring a second park that you’ve already visited on a previous day, or specifically to see live entertainment in the second park.
- Kilimanjaro Safaris and the new Pandora land offer nighttime effects. Many guests make return or special trips back to the park after dark. Also, it may not be a good idea to hop to the Studios, as so many attractions here are closed for construction that crowds often build very quickly.
- On any day except its EMH days, hopping to Epcot is usually good. Epcot is equipped to handle large crowds better than any other Disney park, minimizing the effects of a midday arrival. Also, World Showcase has a large selection of interesting dining options, making it a good choice for evening touring.
- Don’t hop to the park with morning EMH. The idea is to avoid crowds, not join them. Finally, limit your hopping to two parks per day. Hopping to a third park in one day would result in more time spent commuting than saved by avoiding crowds.
Evening Extra Magic Hours
The program lets Disney resort guests enjoy a different theme park on specified nights for 2 hours after it closes to the general public. Guests pay no additional charge to participate but must scan their MagicBands at each ride or attraction they wish to experience. You can also show up at the turnstiles at any point after evening EMH have started. Note that if you’ve been in another park that day, you’ll need the Park Hopper feature on your admission ticket to enter. Evening EMH are offered at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but not (yet) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Evening sessions are usually more crowded at the Magic Kingdom and the Studios than at Epcot. Those evening EMH crowds can be just as large as those throughout the day. During summer, when the Magic Kingdom’s evening EMH session runs until midnight, lines at headliner attractions can still be long at midnight.
For all there is to do when visiting the theme parks, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for our newsletter here.