One of the most popular benefits for Disney World Resort guests is seeing a major change. Extra Magic Hours is ending, to be replaced by Early Theme Park Entry. Disney World made the announcement earlier this week, though without a firm start date. While some Disney World fans are seeing red, I think this might actually turn into a positive. First, let’s recap the different systems.
Extra Magic Hours Going Away
Extra Magic Hours were extremely popular with the majority of Disney World guests prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Generally speaking, Extra Magic Hours rotated through the four theme parks. One park would either open an hour early or stay open a couple hours late for resort guests. Morning Extra Magic Hours were a great time to beat the big lines for popular rides, especially if you didn’t have a FastPass. If you could haul your family out of the hotel early, it was possible to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with virtually no wait. And, if you worked quickly, you could squeeze in a few more rides before things got crazy.
On the flip side, evening Extra Magic Hours were also rotated between the four theme parks. One park would be open two hours later than the others, and only to on-property guests. For adults or families with older children, this could be a great time to score multiple rides on top hits, like Space Mountain or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train without waiting an hour to ride every time.
Early Theme Park Entry Coming Soon
Replacing Extra Magic Hours in the near future is Early Theme Park Entry. Disney World says that all four theme parks will open 30 minutes early every day, but only for resort guests. This is similar to how rope drop works at most parks now. Generally speaking, when all Cast Members are in position, each of the four parks. There won’t be any nighttime offerings for resort guests, or at least none are on offer at this time.
Why Early Theme Park Entry May Be A Change For The Better
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. If you’re a night owl, or just don’t like early mornings, the lack of extra park access in the evenings can only be seen as a net loss. For families who usually get up early, this is likely a blessing. When our kids were younger, we would always tackle the parks early since the kids were already awake. They’d crash midday and we’d head back to our room for a nap or let them crash in the stroller while we shopped or grabbed a snack.
For us, Extra Magic Hours typically meant bigger crowds at the park that opened early that day. Anyone without Park Hopper tickets would plan to get to the Extra Magic Hour park early and hang there all day to get their money’s worth. If you had the ability to hop, your best bet was to hit Extra Magic Hours and then hop somewhere else. No Park Hopper? You were probably better off focusing on a different park that day.
With all four parks open early, this virtually guarantees a smaller crowd at the new rope drop. In the past, any resort guests who got up early would all head to the same park. Going forward, they will have four choices. And, since the early opening park won’t be on a rotation, it also means less need to rigidly schedule which park you go to (at least after Park Pass reservations are no longer required).
Where I think we’ll see the most significant difference will be Magic Kingdom. It’s the most popular park, though Hollywood Studios is really catching up in that department. Being able to get into Magic Kingdom early every day will definitely spread out the crowds. Following close behind will be guests wanting to crash the gates early at Hollywood Studios for anything other than Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Having a shot seven days a week to hit Slinky Dog Dash with no line is sure to please.
To a lesser degree, I’m actually looking forward to hitting EPCOT early. Everyone showing up early will hang a right to head for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. I think that will be a fabulous ride. However, you can find me jogging to Soarin or Test Track to catch a short line at one of these attractions with notoriously longer waits. Okay, who am I kidding? I’ll hit Ratatouille as well!
Wrapping Up The Magic
Some folks just never like change, and many Disney World mega fans fall into this category. I’m one of those people who still mourns the retirement of the Wishes nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom. But, I see a big silver lining for many folks with Early Theme Park Entry. If I’m being honest, it most likely won’t be us crashing the gates early very often. One of our kids has entered the teenage years and the other just doesn’t like getting up early. That being said, I do plan to use Early Theme Park Entry when I try to complete my next Parkeology challenge. While we won’t be frequent users of this new benefit, I think families will get much more value from Early Theme Park Entry, with even less planning.