When is the best time to visit?
It’s a dream for many people, especially those of us with families, to visit the famous Mouse in his home in Orlando. Once you’ve decided that your next holiday
will be a vacation in Walt Disney World what’s the next step?
Probably the next factor most people consider is what time of year to go? Orlando, Florida, was chosen by Walt Disney as a location for the second Disney theme park, Disneyland was opened in California in 1955, in part for the mild weather which would allow guests to enjoy the park in all months of the year.
Let’s be clear, there isn’t a bad time to visit Disney World but there are some factors you might want to bear in mind when you are deciding.
Orlando is in the sunshine state of Florida. But it is also home to swamplands, thanks to its sub-tropical climate. What that means is that in the summer months, May to September, due to high humidity levels, it can feel much hotter than the average temperatures which are generally above 28°C. Rain can be frequent, sometimes accompanied by thunder and lightning storms. Florida can also be hit by hurricanes during the season which lasts from June to November. Let me just say, when it rains in Orlando it’s mainly heavy downpours, which are of short duration. If you are prepared, with a handy poncho, rain won’t ruin the day. Most people find that they can work around the rain and it doesn’t spoil the time they have in the parks.
Just bear in mind though that Disney close their resort swimming pools if there is a lightning storm.
Summer is the most popular time for UK families to travel to Disney World. Most UK visitors choose a 14 day stay due to the length of flight times getting there and because there is so much to do, in and around Orlando. This means when travelling with children the summer holidays are the main option. This is true of many American families too, so summer months in the parks are amongst the busiest. A bit of planning really pays off, in these peak times, and will probably provide a bigger payback.
For those who can travel later into the year September and early October provide lower crowd levels, temperatures are in the mid to high twenties centigrade and rainfall is lower.
In October and November special events are running in the parks. The Wine and Food Festival at Epcot and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) add to crowd levels and reduce the opening times for some of the parks, in particular the Magic Kingdom. But these special events also make it a great time to visit. The Wine and Food Festival at Epcot is great if you are on the dining plan, included as standard when staying at a Disney property. Keep in mind if you want to attend MNSSHP you’ll need to buy an event ticket in addition to your regular park tickets.
Christmas is a very special time to visit the parks, there are seasonal events and menu items, decorations and the resort hotels have Christmas trees. For this reason prices and crowd levels rise. Temperatures are pleasant, around the early twenties, though sunshine hours are shorter.
Spring is a great time to visit Orlando, both for lower crowd levels and clement weather, but bear in mind the dates of American Spring Break. Spring Break is a big deal in the States and corresponds to our Easter holidays so it’s worth factoring this in if planning a visit at this time.
The world of theme parks in Orlando is pretty competitive and even though Disney is the grandfather of them all they still invest heavily in new rides and attractions. Most of the time new rides are scheduled to open for the peak summer season so anyone going out for the summer school holidays will normally experience the new park additions.
This summer new rides introduced were Frozen Ever After and a character meet and greet with Elsa and Anna, relocated from Magic Kingdom to the Frozen Sommerhaus at Epcot.
Over at Animal Kingdom park opening times were extended and the shows Tree of Life: Awakening and Jungle Book: Alive with Magic were added. Following later in September will be Rivers of Light, a new evening show at Animal Kingdom similar to Illuminations at Epcot. This show was originally scheduled to preview earlier but for various reasons has been put back with an unconfirmed September 2016 opening schedule.
Animal Kingdom’s offer will be further expanded next year with the opening of the much-anticipated Avatar themed land featuring two new rides, Flight of Passage and Na’Vi River Journey.
Whilst Disney haven’t confirmed it thus far, we will probably have to wait until 2018 to see the new Toy Story Land opening at Hollywood Studios and an even longer wait to see Star Wars reimagined at the same park with a likely opening of 2020.
Over at Universal Studios new additions were also added this summer, 2016, with a brand new on site hotel, Sapphire Falls and a new ride, King Kong Skull Island, at Islands of Adventure.
Next year, 2017, we expect to see both Jimmy Fallon Race Through New York and Fast and Furious Supercharged opening at Universal. A brand new water park, Volcano Bay, will also be added for summer 2017.
Volcano Bay is being billed as an all new adventure themed water park like no other. With promises of no queuing, no carrying inflatable tubes and incorporating the latest technology and themed around a volcanic island it promises to be a great addition to the Universal experience.
My recommendation would be to go in October if you can. Lower crowd levels, great weather with less rain and additional activity, particularly MNSSHP, makes it my favourite time to visit.
For summer holiday timings go as early in July as you can or as late in August, schools in the US start back in mid to late August so the later you can time your visit the quieter it’s likely to be.
Whenever you choose to go a little pre-planning will mean, even with high crowd levels, you will get the most out of your time at the parks and have a great vacation.