Hi friends! Summer is upon us and it’s so close I can almost taste the Mickey Mouse ice cream bars! For Orlando residents, it means leaving an hour earlier for work because I-4 will be as packed as Pandora on opening day and they’ll wish they had Harry’s broom to fly away on. Every year, millions of visitors pack Orlando’s many theme parks. 20 million at the Magic Kingdom alone according to 2015 records. This leads to angry tourist cursing at the heat, long lines, and lots crabby individuals who paid a lot to be there and aren’t having any fun. Now, I can’t do anything about ticket prices, but I can let you in on a little secret that all theme park employees know… DON’T GO IN THE SUMMER!
After working at Disney and Universal for over ten years I have discovered the best times to visit the parks. Get ready to be appalled when I tell you this, but take your kids out of school. Yes I know, “gasp”, the horror, but if you want a holiday that isn’t filled with people you don’t know rubbing their sweaty bodies against you or you want to actually ride the rides, see shows, and meet the characters, then playing hooky is what you need to do.
My favorite time of the year to visit Disney is the Fall. Specifically because of Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. It’s one of my favorite annual Orlando every year, and they’ve extended it for 2017! What use to be a short 6 week event, will now be a full 10 weeks! The Food and Wine Festival begins August 31 and ends November 13 and this year Epcot has added more concerts. Another reason why I suggest visiting in the fall is because there are fewer kids. Now don’t get me wrong, you will never come to Disney or Universal and NOT see children, but with the school year in full swing, most parents won’t take their little Einsteins out of class to go on a vacation to Orlando. If you plan on spending a day at the Food and Wine Festival, make sure you save some extra dough, because with it’s growing popularity, the prices have grown as well. I would set aside a couple hundred (no joke) if you plan on spending an entire day there.
Another great thing about going in fall is Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party. Hands down the best Disney ticketed event there is. Fireworks-on point! Trick-or-treating, they got it! Parade-Amazing! Then, there is the new castle show, “Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular.” This show will have all of us “old” millennials jumping up and down like a 5 year old on a sugar high to see our favorite Sanderson Sister take the stage! I love this event, but you will need to buy tickets early because they sell out quickly, Especially on Halloween. You and your kids will love dressing up and galavanting around Magic Kingdom with almost no lines. Parents be warned, Disney is cracking down on the masked and hooded costumes warn by adults.
Fall is also the time for Universals Halloween Horror Nights! Now, I don’t tend to like Halloween Horror Nights, because it’s scary as sh*t, but if thats more your style, then this event is for you. What Universal has done over the years is pretty epic. My friend and I were shocked and awed at a new show introduced last year on the main stage with BMX bikers, skaters, and extreme trickers! They have added new shows and kept their old staples like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Also, now that Diagon Alley is open for HHN, you can escape there if the outside muggle world is to much to handle. Their dates are September 15- November 4 and you can check out the website and ticket prices here.
Between the Holidays
I’ve had tourists come up to me and say, “well, we thought no one would want to come to Disney for Christmas and so thats why we booked our vacation now and it’s so crowded!” Yep, People think that everyone will be home with their families on Christmas and Thanksgiving morning. But other than July 4th, it’s Magic Kingdom’s biggest day of the year. Magic Kingdom almost always reaches capacity on Dec 25 and they stop letting people in around 10am. So if you want to be part of the Orlando Christmas spirit, and let me say, they do it pretty well, come in between the holidays and never the week of the holiday.
Disney starts their Christmas event on November 9th, but decorations start going up on November 2nd. If you want to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in one vacation, it’s doable. Click here for ticket prices and dates for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Universal’s Christmas begins the first week of December. If you want to experience the holiday events at both parks I would suggest planning your vacation for the first week of December. This year Universal will be rolling out a Hogwarts Christmas Party! My old stomping grounds are going to be turned into a truly magical holiday eye feast! This wizard can’t wait to see it! Click here for a sneak peak of this year’s festivities!
Between the Holidays and Spring Break
From January to Mid March there’s a break in the crowds. This, for us cast members is when we nestle in and take a well deserved break and/or vacation. I remember one year, right before Christmas, I worked 29 hours straight between Disney and Universal. However, this is also the time for marathon weekends. They aren’t every weekend, but when they happen, the crowds can be pretty big. So make sure you check your calendar before booking those dates. Also, thinking that presidents day, or another 3 day weekend holiday will be a good time to miss the crowds? It’s could be, but it’s mostly filled as well. Any 3 day weekend is still likely to be crowded, but less so than the summer months. I prefer the first week of March, or the first week of May if coming in Spring. Epcot started the Festival of the Arts this year, which pretty much goes straight into Epcot’s Garden Festival. Now, weather during this time isn’t always beach worthy, so be sure to keep that in mind. If you just HAVE to go to the beach on your Orlando vacation, but don’t want to be around the crowds, choose the first week of May. Less people, warmer weather.
During these times most hotel princes may dip a bit and you can find great deals around Orlando. September is Orlando’s Magical Dining month all around Orlando. You can find great selctions on higher priced restaurnants that you wouldn’t normally visit if on a tight budget. Those are my tips for how to avoid Peak Season (as we call it) and actually enjoy your visit to Orlando’s theme parks.
*all photos are property of Vaneppsphotography