Extra Magic Hours

by Mike Scopa, contributing writer
Walt Disney World Resort guests receive perks ranging from free parking at all theme parks to such conveniences as charging purchases to their room and having them delivered back to your room. One of the more attractive perks and one that is geared especially with the attention of “putting heads in the beds” is Extra Magic Hours (EMH).

For many, that particular perk is right at the top of the list. But should it be? In this session, let's try to answer that question.

What are Extra Magic Hours?

Simply put, Extra Magic Hours provide Walt Disney World Resort guests special access privileges to the four major theme parks on specific days. Actually these “hours” are sometimes for mornings and sometimes for evenings.

An Extra Magic Hour morning offers Walt Disney World Resort guests access to a designated theme park one hour before the park is open to non-resort guests, and access to attractions three hours beyond the normal operating hours for that park. There are also times during the year in which Extra Magic Hours are also offered for Walt Disney World water parks.

What's Open?

Here is the latest info on what's open during Extra Magic Hours:

Magic Kingdom mornings:

  • Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
  • Cinderella's Golden Carrousel
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • "it's a small world"
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Mickey's PhilharMagic
  • Peter Pan's Flight
  • Space Mountain
  • Stitch's Great Escape
  • Tomorrowland Indy Speedway

Magic Kingdom evenings:

  • All Extra Magic Hours morning attractions
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • The Haunted Mansion
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Splash Mountain

Epcot Extra Magic Hours mornings

  • Mission: Space
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Living with the Land
  • Soarin'
  • Test Track

Epcot Extra Magic Hours evenings

  • All Extra Magic Hours morning attractions
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Audience
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • El Rio del Tiempo
  • Maelstrom
  • The American Adventure

Disney-MGM Studios Extra Magic Hours mornings

  • Muppet Vision 3-D
  • Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
  • Star Tours
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Disney-MGM Studios

  • All Extra Magic Hours morning attractions
  • The Great Movie Ride
  • Voyage of The Little Mermaid

Animal Kingdom mornings

  • Discovery Island Trails (mornings only)
  • It's Tough to be a Bug!
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Pangani Forest Exploration Trail (mornings only)

Animal Kingdom evenings

  • Extra Magic Hours morning attractions
  • The Boneyard
  • Dinosaur
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Primeval Whirl
  • Tarzan Rocks!
  • TriceraTop Spin

Blizzard Beach

  • All attractions

Typhoon Lagoon Extra Magic Hours evenings

  • All attractions except Crush 'n' Gusher

As always, this information is subject to change but at least it gives you an idea as to what is open and what is not open.

Extra Magic Hours Predecessors

Before we had ever heard the term “Extra Magic Hours,” we were already experiencing them. Back in the 1990s, we had heard of such things as Surprise Mornings. These were special days in which resort guests were allowed to enter the park one hour before the general public. What a great deal.

Those surprise mornings were the grandfathers to today's Extra Magic Morning hours. Then came along a very favorite perk, e-Ride night, at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom theme park.

Although it is a predecessor to Extra Magic Hours evening hours, E-Ride night had some differences. For example, E-Ride night took place only in the Magic Kingdom theme park, whereas Extra Magic Hour evenings rotate from theme park to theme park. E-Ride night was a separate ticket event. I don't recall the cost but it was reasonable. Extra Magic Hours are perks (free) for onsite guests.

E-ride night offered only about eight or nine attractions, while Extra Magic Hours evenings, depending upon the theme park, has more attractions open for business. E-ride night was limited to about 5,000 guests but Extra Magic Hours Evening hours has no limit other than possibly theme park capacity.

Extra Magic Hours Mornings: Pros and Cons

I've always observed that getting into a theme park one hour early than the general public does not really get you anything unless you are focused on riding an attraction that you would otherwise not ride because of the wait times. If you used your one hour wisely, you may be able to enjoy several attractions before the crowd hits. However, that first hour is more like 90 minutes for Magic Kingdom because it takes a while for the crowd to disperse from the Main Street USA area.

Keep in mind that not all attractions will be up and running for that Extra Magic Hours morning. Magic Kingdom will usually have both Tomorrowland and Fantasyland attractions going, but it's anyone's guess as to the attractions in Frontierland, Adventureland, and Liberty Square.

There is no doubt that you will save more time at a Magic Kingdom Extra Magic Hours morning than at any other theme park simply because it is a popular theme park and the lines are usually longer than those in other theme parks. However, keep in mind that at 11 a.m. or so you will find that an Extra Magic Hours morning at Magic Kingdom is quite different than a non-Extra Magic Hours morning. It's crowded. That's right.

When you think of how many extra guests are drawn to the park due to Extra Magic Hours, and you add the normal non-resort guest attendance, you soon realize that the park is much more crowded than mid-day than usual. I would guess that you would find waiting times to actually increase 15-20 minutes per average by mid-day on Extra Magic Hours hours at this park.

I don't think Extra Magic Hours mornings at Animal Kingdom are worth it unless you really want to use them to go on the Kilimanjaro Safari as your first attraction. Animal Kingdom Extra Magic Hours mornings may actually produce longer lines. because it has fewer attractions open for that Extra Magic hour.

Epcot's Extra Magic Hours mornings will probably save you as much as 30 minutes of waiting time for such attractions as Mission: Space, Test Track, and Soarin'.

You should make use of the Disney-MGM Studios Extra Magic Hours if you are a fan of Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.

Keep in mind that 30 minutes after the park's normal operating hours begin you will begin to see some high crowd levels.

Extra Magic Hours Evenings: Pros and Cons

You really don't gain much, if anything, from going to Extra Magic Hours evenings. Let's face it: there are more people who are likely to stay out late than go out early in the morning, so you are bound to see more guests in the parks during Extra Magic Hours evenings than mornings.

The first 90 minutes of any Extra Magic Hours evening is really crowded and the lines may be as long as you would experience at mid-day. If, however, you stay for the entire Extra Magic Hours time, you may find the lines dwindled a bit during the last hour.

Keep in mind that you probably won't be seeing any Fastpass distribution boxes open for business.

One positive aspect for Extra Magic Hours evenings at Epcot is that the World Showcase restaurants are open an hour or so longer.

All in all, I'm not a big fan of evening Extra Magic Hours and would like to see an attendance cap be used so that access to the attractions really is worthwhile. I'm in favor of charging guests a nominal fee for the Extra Magic Hours evenings.

Mike's Advice

Before I start with my “words of wisdom,” let me point out that there is a new Extra Magic Hours schedule coming out for 2006.

Starting January 1, 2006 the schedule is:

* Magic Kingdom – Thursday mornings and Sunday evenings

* Epcot – Tuesday mornings and Friday evenings

* Disney-MGM Studios – Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings

* Disney's Animal Kingdom – Monday mornings and Wednesday evenings

These changes reflect historical crowd habits and on-site guests are obviously being rewarded for staying at a Disney resort by being allowed to access theme parks one hour earlier in the morning on the day of the week that theme park usually sees its biggest crowds.

I don't believe there is any significance to the change in the evening hours although there is some evidence to suggest that the new Extra Magic Hours evening hours are being held on traditionally light evenings for the respective theme parks.

So are the Extra Magic Hours worth it? Possibly. The Extra Magic Hours mornings are worth it if you have special attractions in mind and if you plan on park hopping that day. For instance, it may be worth going to a Magic Kingdom Extra Magic Hours morning as long as you plan to leave the park in the late morning. The park will see much higher crowd levels by that time on Extra Magic Hours mornings.

You will accomplish more by park hopping from an Extra Magic Hours morning park to a non-Extra Magic Hours morning park than if you just stay in the one park. If you plan on staying all day in an Extra Magic Hours morning park, good luck! By mid to late morning, you may experience significant waiting for your favorite attraction.

The first 60 to 90 minutes of any Extra Magic Hours morning is where you realizes the added value of this perk. Once the general public hits the turnstiles, the crowd levels rise quite a bit.

Extra Magic Hour evenings are almost the complete opposite of Extra Magic Hour mornings, because you consistently find more guests in the parks at night than in the early morning hours.

So there you have it. Think about your theme park touring habits, check out what's open during Extra Magic Hours times and decide if it's for you and if Extra Magic Hours is part of the formula that will help you...

...Remember the Magic!

Next Time

It's Mousefest time again. That means time for a preview and time for some Mousefest Do's and Don'ts.