Worst Time to Go to Disney World

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Walt Disney World is known as the Happiest Place on Earth -- except for those times when it's not.
Walt Disney World is known as the Happiest Place on Earth -- except for those times when it's not. (Image: Handout/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

The sprawling, 43-square-mile Walt Disney World Resort in Central Florida is one of the most sought-out vacation destinations on the planet. It contains four of the world’s most popular theme parks, water parks, entertainment complexes and more five-star hotels and restaurants that a fairy godmother could shake her magic wand at. With this sort of world-class appeal, it isn’t surprising that at times the parks get crowded. Most times, planning ahead and using time management techniques such as Fast Passes or visiting popular rides during mealtimes or parades will compensate for the sheer volume of people around you. But there are times when they won’t.

New Year's Eve Day

The most absolutely, undeniably, no-kidding worst day of the year to visit Walt Disney World is Dec. 31. Think crowds squared. It takes more than an hour just to get through the main gate; every Fast Pass to every attraction in every park is gone by 10 a.m.; reservations for restaurants are nonexistent unless you’ve made them six months in advance. The Magic Kingdom typically fills to capacity and closes its gates by 11, and wait times for everything -- even restrooms -- is gauged in hours. If the total Disney theme park experience is what you‘re after, this is not the day you‘ll find it.

The Fourth of July

The Fourth of July at Disney World is not only crowded, but the weather is typically in the high 80s to mid-90s Fahrenheit, with nearly 90 percent humidity -- and afternoon storms are common. Waits are long for everything, including restaurants and particularly transportation -- whether it's buses, boats or monorails -- to and from the other parks and resorts. The resort pools are filled to capacity and even the water parks are packed with so guests that you’d be hard pressed to find a spot on the artificial beach -- let alone a sun lounger -- to put your towel down.

Spring Break

All of the three-day weekend holidays, and particularly the week between Christmas and New Year's, are uncomfortably busy at Walt Disney World. But nothing is quite as crazy as the sustained crowds that descend on the resort from colleges and universities across the county during spring break. Since all of these schools don’t take off for spring break -- once known as Easter vacation -- at the same time, the resulting sustained crowds of spring breakers usually last from mid-March through April. Expect much longer than normal wait times for rides, restaurants and particularly resort transportation.

Summer

Spring and fall are beautiful times of year in Central Florida. Summertime, however, is not. From June to the end of September, the daytime weather can include daily afternoon thunderstorms lasting one to three hours. Central Florida is the lightning-strike capital of the United States, and many Walt Disney World attractions such as Splash Mountain, Test Track, Big Thunder Mountain, the Jungle Cruise, the Friendship Boats, the water parks and others shut down when lightning is 5 miles or closer to the Disney property. Since most people’s vacations fall during summer, crowds are generally swollen with hot, tired, grumpy people who didn’t expect any of this.

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