You’ve booked your Walt Disney World vacation and now you have to figure out this thing called Extra Magic Hours. Also Extra Extra Magic Hours (yes it’s really a thing). We’re here to help. Let’s walk through what Extra Magic Hours (EMH) are, how they can be good, how they can be bad and our tips for making the most of that extra time in the parks.
How Do I Get Access to Extra Magic Hours (EMH)?
Extra Magic Hours aren’t for everyone. They’re a special perk for people who stay at Walt Disney World Resort properties and a few selected partner hotels. By staying “on property” in a resort hotel or in an approved hotel you’ll be able to get into selected theme parks early or stay late on specific days. How will you know the days? Disney has a whole calendar devoted to theme park hours and it lists the Extra Magic Hours by park.
Hotels that participate in the EMH program are:
- Walt Disney World Resort hotels
- Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotels (While they offer Extra Magic Hours perks you may want to read this before booking. The Swan and Dolphin do not offer Magical Express bus service. )
- Shades of Green Resort
- Four Seasons Resort Orlando
- Waldorf Astoria Orlando
- Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
- Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels (this may change at the end of 2019 so be sure to double check when making your hotel reservations)
Types of Extra Magic Hours
There are two types of EMH:
- Morning Extra Magic Hours
- Evening Extra Magic Hours
There is no additional charge for Extra Magic Hours. However, some special events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party are ticketed evening events that require an additional purchase in addition to your theme park ticket.
Morning EMH will get you in for park opening before the general public. Evening EMH will allow WDW resort guests to stay in the park after its scheduled closing. While many folks take advantage of the early access, few take advantage of the late ones. It is absolutely worth a shake up in scheduling to go.
How Will Disney Know Who Can Be In the Park During Extra Magic Hours?
This question always comes up. People think “hmm, how will they know? Maybe I’ll just stay in the parks and ride Space Mountain nonstop.” Spoiler Alert: Disney knows all and sees all. Cast members will scan your MagicBand or ask to see your resort ID before allowing you on any rides.
Will Everything Be Open?
During EMH, only select attractions are open. Never fear! Fan favorites like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Avatar: Flight of Passage are usually open. Before you go, you can check the list on Disney’s web site to find out which rides and attractions will be open. If you’re already in the park, just ask a cast member.
What is Extra, Extra Magic Hours?
Wait, what? EMH gets even better? Yup, Disney has recently added Extra, Extra Magic Hours (EEMH). What does this mean for you? It means the operating hours for participating hotel guests are even more epic. From August 29-November 2, 2019 there will be 5 extra hours daily (some of these hours overlap) in Disney theme parks.
Extra Extra Magic Hours will be available at:
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom- 7a-8a daily
- Magic Kingdom- 7a-8a daily
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios- 6a-9a daily
These extra hours of pixie dust coincide with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Let’s just talk about how amazing this is. First of all, September is usually a low season on the crowd calendar. And now? Those crowds will be spread out early among multiple parks!
Can I use Fastpass+ During Extra Magic Hours?
Nope, unfortunately not. However, lines are typically shorter and crowds lighter during EMH. To learn more about how Fastpass+ works during operating hours check out Everything You Need to Know About Fastpass+ at Disney World.
Extra Magic Hour Strategy
I’ve given you a lot of information. Now comes the strategy part. As with anything Disney, a lot depends on your family and what your interests are. Here are a few tips for deciding where to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours.
Bundle Your Rides
Think of rides in groups and bundle them together to maximize your EMH. During morning EMH, you’ll have about an hour before everyone else gets into the park. You’re only competing for line space with a couple thousand folks and those people have 3 park options to hit with Extra, Extra Magic Hours. If you bundle hig- wait-time rides together, you can cross several off your list before the park opens for regular operating hours. Remember: There are no Fastpasses.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Tips
Ride groups to consider are Tower of Terror and Rock’n’ Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios. Knock these two off first. Then head to Toy Story Land for Slinky Dog Dash and schedule a Fastpass+ for Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run for the first half hour the park is open. Alternatively, you can hustle straight to Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run, make it onto that ride and then hit Tower of Terror and Rock’n’ Roller Coaster.
In the morning at Epcot you can hit Soarin’, Test Track Presented by Chevrolet, and Frozen Ever After fairly quickly. To be safe make a Fastpass+ reservation for the first slot available once the park opens to the public.
During evening Epcot EMH, be sure to ride Test Track! It’s a totally different experience when it’s dark out. It’s also a great time to hit some of the shows like Turtle Talk with Crush and Journey Into Imagination with Figment. If you love photography, strolling around the World Showcase in the evening will get you crowd-free photos of all the architectural details.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Tips
In Animal Kingdom, head for Avatar Flight of Passage or Expedition Everest. Animal Kingdom is probably the trickiest park for “bundling” rides. The park is large. Even if you power walk, it takes time to move from one area to another. Pick your priority and make Fastpass+ reservations for the rest. I like to be in line at Kilimanjaro Safaris when the attraction opens at 7:45am (EMH hours are a little different for that ride). In the morning the animals are more active.
If you don’t care about the safari, spend EMH in The World of AVATAR. You should be able to squeeze in two rides and take some low crowd images of the scenery.
Magic Kingdom Tips
In Magic Kingdom, my morning EMH go-tos are the big ones: Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Make your first Fastpass+ for Splash Mountain, which isn’t open during morning EMH. If you have little kiddos, I have an unconventional idea: Head to Fantasyland. Let your kids get their fill of Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Barnstormer, Prince Charming Regal Carousel and more. Why? Well, there are going to be a LOT of kids there later. Moods will swing. It will be loud. Get these out of the way before waiting in line for them becomes painful.
If you have kids (or have ever been around a kid) you probably know that the best laid plans can go awry. Lay out your plans ahead of time. We’re going to do this, this and this. Here’s where we need to walk. Don’t look at a map for the first time when you’re there. Also, if your kids are old enough, explain to them that this is a special time when there are shorter lines and you all have to work together to make the most of that opportunity. Set up a treat for the morning once you’ve gotten through the rides. Sometimes saying, “We’re going to run between three rides then we all get Dole Whips,” works wonders! Even adults benefit from a little bribery.
Don’t Force It
If your kids aren’t morning peoplem, consider not going to EMH at all. Yes, I’m telling you not to take advantage of a Disney perk. But everyone’s mental health is also important. You’re on vacation. Is dragging your kids out of bed going to backfire? Are they only going to remember being yelled at? Are you only going to remember whining? Maybe morning Extra Magic Hours aren’t for your family. If you’re late risers, consider a new ticket that Disney is offering through December 15, 2019. The Mid-Day Magic ticket gets you into Disney at noon and offers considerable savings.
It Doesn’t Have to Be About the Rides at All
During EMH, everyone is hustling for the ride lines. That means it also is a great time to just enjoy the park. Walk around and take some photos, eat some awesome snacks or just enjoy your time in the park while the crowd is still magically light.
Late Night Extra Magic Hours Are My Favorite
Are your kids night owls? Want to impress tweens and teens? Nothing says “fun mom” like hitting Magic Kingdom at 11pm and closing it down at 2am. They will carry this Extra Magic hours “magical” Disney vacation memory for years to come. If your family is like mine, you’ve got kids of varying ages. That’s great in real life. But at Disney, juggling kids who range in age from newborn to teenager is a logistical nightmare. The smaller kids are interested in some of the more juvenile-themed rides, the teen wants to do all the thrill rides. And the baby can’t go on any ride with a height restriction. We don’t always have two grownups on trips. So what is a solo parent to do?
Late night Extra Magic Hours for the win! We ride all the rides the little girls want to go on (and most are OK to bring the baby on). Then my teen son can race through the lines for the thrill rides with his 6-year-old sister. Since the crowds are so small and the lines are short, I feel like I can send them through solo. Then I hang back with the baby and the 4-year-old. They emerge excited (and in a speedy fashion) and are ready to tackle the next ride. A special treat? Bring the oldest back for some one-on-one fun. My son still talks about getting a soda at 2am as we walked back to the monorail. It happened when he was 8. He’s 15 now.
TravelingMom Tip: If you’re planning to visit Epcot on your trip, make it a late night too! Extra Magic Hours at Epcot are a great time to try the foods (and drinks) of the World Showcase without waiting in long lines.
Have you done Disney Extra Magic Hours? What was your best experience?