Walt Disney World has released more of the calendar for October 2021, added hours during the start of the 50th Anniversary at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom, and released the schedule of “Extended Evening Theme Park Hours.” In this post, we’ll share the refreshed calendar, new hours, and the Extended Evening Hours for the start of the World’s Most Magical Celebration.
Let’s get the most inconsequential part of this out of the way first. Like clockwork every Friday, all four theme parks have had hours for another week added to the DisneyWorld.com park hours calendar. These hours now run through October 16, 2021. Here are the hours for most dates within that week:
- Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 9 pm*
- EPCOT: 11 am to 9 pm
- Hollywood Studios: 9 am to 9 pm
- Animal Kingdom: 8 am to 7 pm
- Blizzard Beach: 11 am to 6 pm
- Disney Springs: 10 am to 11 pm (11:30 pm on Fridays & Saturdays)
*Magic Kingdom closes at 8:30 pm on Disney After Hours Boo Bash nights that are after September 5. That event runs from 9:30 pm to 12:30 am up until that date, and from 9 pm until midnight after that date.
We also have extended hours for a scattering of dates in each of the parks. On August 15, Magic Kingdom bumps its closing time to 10:00 pm. It was previously scheduled to close at 9:00 pm.
Over at Epcot, the park will now be closing at 10 pm from October 1 through 9. This was an inevitability, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see all but one of these dates (see below) have their extended until 11 pm and opening moved forward to 10 am or (hopefully) 9 am.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open until 9:00 pm, rather than the previously-scheduled 8:00 pm on September 15, 2021. This puts it in line with all other September dates (minus the 29th), so not exactly bombshell news–it was probably accidentally omitted when other hours were extended.
Animal Kingdom also sees its closing time extended to 8 pm on August 15 and 21. Again, nothing earth-shattering there. Unless there are a ton of cancellations due to dual blows of the rising case numbers and reinstated indoor face mask rule, we should get another round of more significant hours extensions for fall fairly soon.
Finally, the news that likely has most of you reading this. Beginning in October 2021, guests staying at Deluxe Resorts, Deluxe Villas (Disney Vacation Club units), or other select hotels can enjoy extended evening hours. Guests staying at Value or Moderate Resorts are not eligible.
The Extended Evening Theme Park Hours perk will allow eligible guests to experience select attractions, shops, and dining after regular park hours—in select theme parks on select nights.
As a reminder, this is different from Early Theme Park Entry. That perk allows on-site resort guests and those staying at select third party hotels (that are also all on-site) to enjoy 30-minute early entry to any Walt Disney World theme park, every day before normal operating hours begin.
See our List of Early Theme Park Entry Eligible Hotels at Walt Disney World for more details and participating resorts for the morning pre-park opening perk.
For Extended Evening Theme Park Hours, you’ll need a valid Resort ID, valid admission and a theme park reservation for the same park on the same day. (Or Annual Pass or ticket with the Park Hopper option, provided you entered the park where you made your reservation earlier in the day.)
Current Schedule for Extended Evening Theme Park Hours*
|Date||Theme Park||Extended Hours|
|Monday, October 4, 2021||Epcot||10:00 PM – Midnight|
|Wednesday, October 6, 2021||Magic Kingdom||9:00 PM – 11:00 PM|
|Monday, October 11, 2021||Epcot||10:00 PM – Midnight|
|Wednesday, October 13, 2021||Magic Kingdom||9:00 PM – 11:00 PM|
*Check back as more dates are added. Schedule subject to change.
In terms of commentary, this is exactly what I expected based on the announcement made earlier this month that offered details of Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Hours Coming to Walt Disney World. The nighttime offering is essentially a 1:1 replacement for Evening Extra Magic Hours, but with more limited eligibility and different branding presumably so repeat visitors don’t assume Value and Moderate Resorts are eligible.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom are not participating, but that’s not a huge surprise since neither were staples of Evening EMH in recent years. Personally, I’d be fine with Animal Kingdom being skipped.
Not DHS, though–those rare Evening Extra Magic Hours nights (post-Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge) there were fantastic. I can’t explain why, but the crowd situation during Evening EMH was always better at DHS.
In any case, having the Extended Evening Theme Park Hours will be most valuable at Epcot and Magic Kingdom at the outset of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. If the program goes well, I hope it’s expanded to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and maybe Animal Kingdom.
Based on comments here and from social media, I’m guessing this is not what a lot of Walt Disney World fans expected. Much of the outrage seemed like it conflated Early Entry and Extended Hours, which is understable. Even though Disney indicated the Extended Evening Theme Park Hours would only be for “select parks on select dates,” a lot of fans seemed to be operating under the assumption this perk would also be a daily thing at all of the parks.
Many people were upset that they “would never be able to stay late” or would be “kicked out early” so the “rich people could have the parks to themselves at night.” Now that we know that’s not the case, and these hours will be incredibly easily to plan around, I wonder if this changes anything in terms of fan response. (That’s not rhetorical, I’m not sure and would love some feedback.)
Beyond that, my assessment of Extended Evening Theme Park Hours is pretty much unchanged. From a practical perspective, limiting the pool of guests eligible for nighttime extended hours is necessary to make it a worthwhile benefit for anyone. Evening Extra Magic Hours were a nightmare in their last few years due to the larger pool of eligible guests.
As a result of Walt Disney World expanding and building new resorts while also adding to the list of participating on-site hotels, crowds had become pretty bad. (As much as I love them for the exceptional value they offer, it was a mistake to include the Disney Springs resorts.) It got to the point that not only did we recommend avoiding Evening EMH, but also the park hosting that hour during the day. People are much more likely to be night owls than early risers on vacation.
What remains an open question is whether restricting eligibility for Extended Evening Theme Park Hours sufficiently limits the pool to lessen the crowds. We already know that the “other select hotels” means the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin, Swan Reserve, and Shades of Green.
When the hotel lineup is finalized, I’m betting the Four Seasons Orlando will also end up being eligible, but not any of the Disney Springs area hotels or Bonnet Creek resorts. That’s just a guess, but it’s probably an accurate one–or at least close to it.
If my rough math is correct, this means that approximately 46% of all on-site resort rooms will be eligible for Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. Even if I’m off on which “other select hotels” will end up being eligible, that doesn’t change the percentage in a meaningful way–none of those hotels have a large number of rooms. It’ll still be under 50%.
That’s a calculation based on rooms, not guests. The larger size of some Disney Vacation Club villas is conducive to higher per room guest counts, but I’m guessing the difference is negligible. There are also a lot of older DVC couples and those guests often underutilize the parks. I’d bet that all nets out, and the pool of on-site guests eligible for Extended Evening Theme Park Hours is just under 50%.
Based upon our anecdotal observations of Evening Extra Magic Hours during the busiest times of year when occupancy rates are highest (which is what October through December 2021 will be), the Extended Evening Theme Park Hours needed to cut the guest cut approximately in half in order to be a high-quality perk. This does that. Unless the attraction roster dramatically decreases, Extended Evening Theme Park Hours should be a nice experience for eligible guests.
As suggested above, Extended Evening Theme Park Hours will also be easy for Value, Moderate, and off-site guests to plan around. Obviously, no one likes losing access to a perk, but a “benefit” that had lost all actual utility is one in name only. It’s also not exactly “elitist” (or whatever) given that the Swan & Dolphin are often less expensive–and superior–options to even the Value Resorts. (For those who must have a Disney-owned hotel, renting DVC points is another cheaper alternative, and way to gain access.) Maybe I’m just being overly optimistic this, but I’m feeling pretty good about Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. I’m sure you all will give me a “reality check” in short order if I’m being unreasonable. 😉
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What do you think of Extended Evening Theme Park Hours? Think this is fair and reasonable? Did you attend Evening Extra Magic Hours during busy seasons in the last couple of years? What was your experience with crowds and wait times? Looking forward to Extended Evening Hours? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!