Disney Extra Hours: How Extended Evening Hours & Early Entry Work

Nasreen Stump Avatar

frozen ever after ride scene of anna and elsa holding hands with olaf in the foreground

If you’re heading to Orlando Florida’s Walt Disney World you may be looking to squeeze every minute possible in the theme parks. Well, some on property resort guests can stay after park closing on select nights for Disney Extended Evening Hours. Early Entry hours are also available for some hotel guests. During the busy Disney World 50th Anniversary this can be a great way to maximize your park time. We go through who is eligible, what you should consider when booking your hotel, and how “extra magic hours” have changed.

disney statue and castle at magic kingdom
Make your vacation even more magical by getting into an empty Magic Kingdom before it opens! Photo credit: Disney Photopass

How Do I Get Access to Extra Time at Disney (formerly Extra Magic Hours)?

Disney is currently offering two different types of extra hours in the parks. The kicker? They aren’t both open to all resort guests. Both require valid theme park admission, park reservations, and resort ID. Here’s what you need to know about who is eligible.

Early Theme Park Entry at Disney

The early theme park entry benefit is for guests of Disney resorts. This perk has changed slightly from its original Extra Magic Hours form but as far as Disney news goes this one wasn’t horrible. Early theme park entry gives a 30 minute “jump on your day”, allowing guests to enjoy any of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks 30 minutes prior to its posted opening time. In the past certain parks were assigned earlier opening park hours so everyone headed to that park. This spreads the crowds out a bit.

Basically if Magic Kingdom opens at 9am, you should get there at 8am. They’ll start letting folks into the park and the traditional rope drop at the entrance to each land will take place at 8:30am, 30 minutes before the parks open. If you wait until 8:30am to get to the front park entrance your leg up won’t really be a leg up. To participate in Early Theme Park Entry you MUST be staying in one of the following hotels. This list does include some Good Neighbor off-site hotels.

  • All-Star Movies, Music, and Sports Resorts
  • Art of Animation Resort
  • Pop Century Resort
  • Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Coronado Springs Resort
  • Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter and Riverside
  • Wilderness Lodge including Boulder Ridge Villas and Copper Creek Villas & Cabins
  • The Campsites and Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas- Jambo House and Kidani Village
  • Beach Club Resort and Villas
  • BoardWalk Inn and Villas
  • Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower
  • Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Villas
  • Polynesian Village Resort and Villas & Bungalows
  • Yacht Club Resort
  • Old Key West Resort
  • Riviera Resort
  • Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
  • Walt Disney World Swan Hotel and Swan Reserve
  • Shades of Green®
  • B Resort & Spa Lake Buena Vista
  • DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando
  • Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
  • Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
  • Holiday Inn Orlando
  • Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista
  • Wyndham Lake Buena Vista
  • Four Seasons Resort Orlando
  • Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
  • Waldorf Astoria Orlando
Disney extended evening schedule 2022
Be sure to check the schedule before your trip to plan your park days. Disney’s Hollywood Studios Extended Evening Hours start on April 13, 2022! Photo Credit: Screenshot- taken 1/31/2022

Disney Extended Evening Theme Park Hours

Disney Extended Evening Hours (you’ll also see them called Extra Magic Hours- old habits die hard) aren’t for everyone. They’re a special perk for people who stay at Walt Disney World Deluxe Resorts, Deluxe Villa Resorts and other select hotels. We cover the difference between Disney resort hotel levels here. To participate in Extended Evening Hours you MUST be staying in one of the following hotels. This is a change from prior Extra Magic Hours which were not restricted by the level of hotel. These happen on specific days of the week so be sure to check the Disney calendar when planning them.

  • Grand Floridian Resort and Spa including the Villas
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge including Kidani Village and Jambo House
  • BoardWalk Inn including the Villas
  • Beach Club Resort including the Villas
  • Wilderness Lodge including Copper Creek Villas and Cabins and Boulder Ridge Villas
  • Yacht Club Resort
  • Contemporary Resort including Bay Lake Towers
  • Polynesian Village Resort including the Villas and Bungalows
  • Riviera Resort
  • Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa
  • Old Key West Resort
  • Walt Disney World Swan Hotel and Swan Reserve
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
  • Shades of Green®

Super Important Thing to Remember for Disney Extended Evening Hours

This is really, really important. If you are a deluxe resort guest who does NOT have park hopper tickets you must make your park reservation on that day for the park with extended evening hours. So if the extra hours are at EPCOT and you go to Animal Kingdom without a park hopper you will not be admitted to the extra hours at EPCOT. And it would stink to miss out on that perk. It’s two extra hours so plan wisely. Also, things can change. Disney just swapped the day of the week for extended evening hours in early February and I’m sure it threw a wrench in some folks planning. Check back to make sure nothing has changed ahead of your trip!

The Secret to Getting a Deluxe Resort for Less Money

Look it really is a bummer that this perk is now only open to some guests. Realistically it prices some guests out of being able to ever take advantage of Disney extended evening hours. There is one secret to getting into a deluxe villa or hotel room for less. Did you know you can rent DVC points and that all DVC properties are deluxe resorts? We’ve got a whole post on how to rent DVC points and another on why deluxe resorts are a great choice for Disney vacations. Other discounts are extended to annual pass holders at certain times of the year.

How Will They Know Who Can Be In the Park During Disney Extended Evening 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 deluxe hotel resort ID before allowing you on any rides.

seven dwarf mine train entrance disney open during early entry and extended evening hours
Selected rides are open during Extended Evening Hours but they include some of the most popular, like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

Will Everything Be Open?

During both Early Theme Park Entry and Disney Extended Evening Hours, 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 for both Extended Evening and Early Theme Park Entry to find out which rides and attractions will be open. If you’re already in the park, just ask a cast member.

Can I use Genie+ During Extra Disney Hours?

Nope, unfortunately not. Genie+ and Lightning Lanes only function during regular park hours. However, lines are typically shorter and crowds lighter during Extended Hours. To learn more about how Genie+ works during operating hours check out Disney Genie Service: How Genie+ Works.

Disney Extended 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 extra Disney hours. During morning early entry hours, you’ll have only 30 minute before everyone else gets into the park. That’s also only if you are there even earlier to get to the interior entrance for rope drop.  If you bundle high wait-time rides together, you can cross one off your list before the park opens for regular operating hours and be in line for a second. Choose wisely.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios Tips

Personally I think that Hollywood Studios is the trickiest park to plan early entry for. That’s because there are so many “big” thrill rides there that get pretty extensive lines. It boils down to what’s important to your family, did you purchase Genie+, will you pay for Lightning Lanes and how much of your day do you plan to spend there.

The big question here is how important is Star Wars to your family? The lines for Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Rise of the Resistance can be the longest in the park. In addition, ROR has breakdowns that can slow the line down even more. If these are must do’s for you run to the back of the park first. The good news is that Disney recently added ROR to Early Theme Park Entry open attractions. I’d head straight for ROR and then jump in the Smugglers Run line as soon as you’re done. Watch for cast members holding signs signifying the end of the line.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Both Slinky Dog Dash and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance have sold out of Individual Lightning Lane times early each morning. Be sure to book early if you plan to use LL otherwise make sure to hit those lines in the morning.

The Non-Star Wars Track

If Star Wars isn’t that important to you or you’re going to use Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane purchases to ride those rides, consider starting at Tower of Terror and Rock’n’ Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios. They’re close to the front of the park. They also tend to get longer lines at opening because they’re the closest.

The other wild card ride is Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Genie+ isn’t available for this ride but it is available for Early Entry. One strategy is to book it to this ride and wait in line during Early Entry when there aren’t as many people in the park.

Personally, I would do Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster first because they’re closer. Then I’d check the Lightning Lane price and times. It’s been around $8 for Runaway Railway and you can usually book within 2-3 hours of when you look. If you’re okay with paying I’d book it for later and head to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Otherwise, it’s grab a Starbucks coffee at Trolley Car Cafe and head off to wait in line.

epcot world showcase at night- taking photos during extended evening hours will result in great photos
Disney Extended evening Extra Magic hours can be a great time to wander through the World Showcase to take pictures. Photo credit: Disney PhotoPass

EPCOT Early Theme Park Entry Tips

In the morning at EPCOT we highly recommend picking the right entrance for what you’d like to do. For Test Track you’ll want to come in the front monorail entrance. Frozen Ever After is pretty much equidistant from both entrances. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is very close to the World Showcase entrance. If you’ll be arriving on the Skyliner from your resort or you’re staying in one of the Disney deluxe resorts in the BoardWalk area Remy’s is your best bet. You’ll realistically be able to hit one ride during the early entry time. I’d recommend Frozen Ever After or Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Both only have the Individual Lightning Lane option not Genie+ so it would cost to skip the line there during the rest of the day.

Soarin’ Around the World and Test Track are other options many folks head to during Early Theme Park Entry but it backfired on my last trip. We waited in the line for Test Track through the whole extra 30 minutes and it never opened due to technical difficulties.

What Not to Do at EPCOT

I would not recommend wasting early entry on Mission: SPACE, Spaceship Earth or the Seas with Nemo and Friends. The wait times on those attractions usually aren’t bad and you can use Genie+ to snag them pretty close in time to when you open the app.

During Disney evening extended hours at EPCOT, be sure to ride Test Track! It’s a totally different experience after dark. 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.

elephant at disney kilimanjaro safari perfect during extended evening hours
If you can get on the first Kilimanjaro Safari departure of the day you have a shot at seeing the animals when they are most active! Early entry hours (formerly Extra Magic hours) are perfect for animal photos. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Tips

In Animal Kingdom, head for AVATAR Flight of Passage or Expedition Everest if you are adults or have older kids. Both of those rides have pay to ride Individual Lightning Lanes so you’ll save cash knocking one off first thing. Animal Kingdom is probably the trickiest park for “bundling” rides. It’s large. Even if you power walk, it takes time to move from one area to another. Pick your priority and make Genie+ or Lightning Lane reservations for the rest. Personally I’ve found the wait times at Expedition Everest to be manageable so I don’t waste extra time waiting there.

If you hit Flight of Passage first, spend early entry in The World of AVATAR. Being realistic 30 minutes isn’t a long time. It’s going to take you 30 minutes to bust your butt over to the ride and get through the small queue. You’ll be riding it as the park opens to everyone else. Then head over to Na’vi River Journey ride because everyone who just entered will be lining up for AVATAR.

With Little Kids

With smaller kids or animal lovers I highly recommend going to Kilimanjaro Safaris. I like to be in line at Kilimanjaro Safaris when the attraction opens. In the morning the animals are more active.

For Disney extended evening hours I’m a huge fan of Expedition Everest in the dark! With older kids you can use the single rider line to go through multiple times in a row.

Dumbo ride Magic Kingdom
If you have littles, riding some of the kiddie rides on repeat can be a great way to start your day with morning early entry extra magic hours. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

Magic Kingdom Early Entry Tips

In Magic Kingdom, my early entry go-tos are the big ones: Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Make your first Genie+ for Splash Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which aren’t open during early entry.

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.

Plan Ahead

If you have kids (or have ever been around a kid) you probably know that the best laid plans can go awry. Plan 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 or the MyDisneyExperience app 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 everyone has to work together to leverage 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 people, consider not going to early entry 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 early entry isn’t for your family.

It Doesn’t Have to Be About the Rides at All

During extended hours, 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.

Disney Extended Evening Hours Are My Favorite

Are your kids night owls? Want to impress tweens and teens? Nothing says “fun mom” like hitting Magic Kingdom until 11pm and EPCOT until midnight. They will carry this extended evening 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?

How to Please Everyone

Extended Evening 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 sister. Since he’s over 14 he can bring her through without me. Then I hang back with the littles. 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 after Extra Magic Hours. It happened when he was 8. He’s 17 now.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you’re planning to visit EPCOT on your trip, make it a late night too! Extended Evening 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?

Nasreen Stump Avatar
Nasreen’s adventures started out as business travel. Working as a territory sales manager she covered 21 states during her tenure, traveling 3-5 nights a week. As she visited new cities and states, she always worked in a quick stop at a unique or iconic site. A travel writing career was born. When her father-in-law’s cancer came back she started writing and consulting full-time around his chemotherapy schedule. Traveling with her firefighter/paramedic husband, kids, friends and solo allows her to cover a variety of situations and topics. Her four kids (19 year old boy, 13 year old girl, 11 year old girl and 7 year old boy) are professionals at the cross country road trip. After 10 years in Texas, their family is back in the Northeast exploring both familiar and new destinations. There she runs her own business providing go-to-market, sales strategy, podcast, and content marketing consulting for websites and B2B businesses. Whenever possible she writes for a variety of publications in the podcast, travel, and business space. Connect with her on LinkedIn to chat about travel, content, sales, and podcasts!
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One response

  1. I have a question, if we are staying at one of the above listed good neighborhood hotels and purchased our tickets ahead of time elsewhere, (through military) will we still get benefits of getting into the park early? If so, how? How do they verify that at the entrance?

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