Take Advantage of Extra Magic Hours/Rope Drop
It’s no secret – Christmas is the most crowded time of the year at Disney. Your favorite rides will see astronomical wait times, some areas of the parks will be difficult to navigate, and seeing your favorite parades and shows will mean lining up an hour or more in advance.
For on-site guests, taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours is pivotal. Disney admits resorts guests into the parks up to one hour before opening to the general public, and will stay open up to three hours after it closes. If you’re an early bird, arrive to the park for the start of the morning EMH. Magic Kingdom is scheduled to open every morning at 7am. There’s something truly special about entering the park before the masses arrive, especially in December. The sun is usually rising, revealing a beautiful, picturesque castle. On Christmas Day, my family arrives for the last half hour of the morning EMH. We’re able to ride Space Mountain (~15 min. wait) and then Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin as the park is opening. By the time the park opens, we’ve already been on two of the most popular rides.
Disney recently added some evening EMHs at each of the parks. In past years, our “must-do” was the late, late EMHs at Magic Kingdom. One night during our trip, usually the first Friday after Christmas, Magic Kingdom would stay open from 1am to 3am. Right now, that EMH is slotted for December 30th, following the NYE “dress rehearsal”. I still think they’ll add one on December 26th or 27th. Keep an eye on the schedule as the date draws closer.
Evening EMHs are my favorite. Nothing beats roaming Magic Kingdom at 2am. In Frontierland, you can walk 10 minutes without seeing anyone. It’s such a refreshing feeling, especially after battling the crowds a mere 12 hours earlier. It also presents an awesome photo opportunity. Many Disney fans will tell you to book rope drop breakfast reservations or to rush out to the parks for the morning EMH. It’s a nice opportunity to grab some photos of an empty Main Street and find a good spot to frame the perfect picture of the castle. The same goes for the evening. People will leave right after the final Wishes or parade showing. People will continue to file out as it gets later and the park will become less and less crowded. Main Street will be empty – giving you a great opportunity to get a photo of the castle and tree. The rides also have a significantly lower wait time. It’s perfect for night owls or people from the west coast!
The park doesn’t get too crowded until 10am. I always say the crowds come in “waves”. It’s definitely more crowded than you’re used to during the morning EMH, but it still presents a solid opportunity to go on rides at a lower wait time. When the park opens to the general public, you definitely notice the crowds file in. Many people flock to the Main Street Bakery for their morning coffee, while others participate in a foot race to the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train or Anna & Elsa meet-and-greet. I remember my first few trips thinking “this isn’t so bad – what was everyone complaining about the crowds for?” Then it happened. Around 10am or 11am, an even larger “wave” entered the park and I noticed just how crowded the park had become. A line for Small World went on forever – reaching the Haunted Mansion. Popular attractions, such as Space Mountain, reached a wait time of 120 minutes. The park was the most crowded I had ever seen it. My word of advice to off-site guest: get there for rope drop. Even though some rides will have longer wait times than you’re accustomed to, you’ll have a two hour window to see and do as much as possible. Then, use your FP+’s later in the day.