Planning a trip to Walt Disney World in 2020? The first question that many Disney guests in the planning stages ask is when is the best time to go. Considerations like crowd levels, special events, ride openings, and even the weather can make for very different vacation experiences at different times of year.
As Disney gears up for its big 50th anniversary in 2021, there is a lot under construction but also a lot coming in 2020. If you are planning a trip in 2020, here are the things you may want to consider as you pick a vacation date.
New Attractions at Disney World in 2020
Some Disney guests want to make sure the plan their visit to see a new attraction right after it opens. Others want to take advantage of the calm before the storm and squeeze in a trip before a new attraction brings major crowds. No matter what group you fall into, it’s helpful to know what’s coming in any given year as you plan a Disney vacation.
Unfortunately, Disney doesn’t release exact dates for attraction openings until a few months (or even a few weeks) beforehand. We still know very few firm dates for the major “coming soon” attractions in 2020. But here is what we do know (note: several of these dates were announced after this podcast episode was recorded)
- Epcot entertainment openings (Awesome Planet in the Land, Canada Far and Wide Circle-Vision movie, and the Beauty and the Beast Sing-a-long in France): January 17, 2020
- Space 220 Restaurant (Epcot): January/February 2020 (since we recorded this episode, rumors are suggesting that this opening has slipped until February)
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (Hollywood Studios): March 4, 2020 (date was released after this episode was recorded)
- New Cirque du Soleil show (Disney Springs): March 20, 2020 (previews), April 17, 2020 (grand opening)
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (Epcot, France Pavilion): Summer 2020
Just keep in mind that these dates may still change. This was the case with Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway which was originally slated for a summer 2019 opening!
Special Events at Disney World in 2020
Many guests like to come to Disney World to enjoy one of the many special events that happen in the parks.
The event dates to keep in mind in 2020 – as well as major US holidays in parentheses – are:
- Marathon Weekend: January 9-12, 2020
- Epcot’s Festival of the Arts: January 17-February 24, 2020
- (Martin Luther King Day: January 20, 2020)
- Princess Half Marathon weekend: February 21-23, 2020
- (Presidents Day: February 17, 2020)
- Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival: March 4-June 1, 2020
- (Easter: April 12, 2020)
- Star Wars Rival Run Weekend: April 17-19, 2019
- (Memorial Day: May 25, 2020)
- (Independence Day: July 4, 2020)
- (Labor Day: September 7, 2020)
- Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival: Fall TBD
- (Columbus Day: October 12, 2020)
- (Veterans Day: November 11, 2020)
- (Thanksgiving: November 26, 2020)
Disney World Crowds in 2020 Month-by-Month
So, let’s put all those dates together to see how they affect attendance. Here is a cheat sheet on a month-by-month basis.
January: With most kids not returning to school until January 6, early January will remain crowded. Smaller new offerings in Epcot mid-month and crowds still wanting to experience the novelty of Rise of the Resistance (opening December 5, 2019) – but not during the crush of the holidays – may make the month busier than in years past. We don’t expect crowds to abate until the end of the month – after Marathon weekend and MLK weekends are complete.
February: Presidents Day weekend is traditionally busy, and crowds will likely be high all week as many schools now schedule an entire week’s vacation. The rest of the month, however, will likely be a sweet spot as has been the case in many years past.
March: Early March is usually a good bet for lower crowd levels, but the March 4 opening of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway may make Hollywood Studios busy all month. Mid-March is when spring break season and the usual crowds start with full force everywhere at the resort.
April: With Easter falling later this year (April 12), higher crowds will continue through at least the middle of the month.
May: The month of May looks like pretty smooth sailing. Starting with Memorial Day, the summer crowds start to return.
June: Summer used to be peak season at Walt Disney World, but it hasn’t been quite as crowded the last few years. Many guests have spread their vacations out at other times. Of course, even if crowds are reasonable, the heat isn’t. Look out for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure’s, as that could cause a spike in crowds around its opening date.
July: The week of July 4 is definitely peak summer season, but other weeks offer more moderate crowds (and accompanying oppressive Orlando heat of course).
August: Early August is much of the same as July, with crowd levels dropping even further mid-month. A lot of Southern school districts within driving distance of Orlando tend to start by the middle of August. If you want to attend a cheaper and less crowded (but really hot) Halloween Party, August also affords that opportunity!
September: September is traditionally a lower crowd month and a great time to go for anyone with a flexible schedule. No major ride openings are expected in September 2020 to spike crowds. Heat can continue to be a problem, of course, but Halloween parties aren’t as busy, so there are great tradeoffs!
October: October is busier due to the popularity of the Halloween offerings and the more reasonable weather. Crowds are often highest around Columbus Day in the middle of the month.
November: Early November should bring lower crowds. With Veterans Day falling mid-week on a Wednesday in 2020, it likely will not bring the crowds it usually does. Thanksgiving week is always a busy time, of course.
December: Early December is traditionally a good time to visit for reasonable crowds. Starting mid-month, the holiday crush begins, with the peak crowds descending on Orlando from Christmas Day to New Years. Good luck and God speed to those of you who brave these times!
When is the Ideal Time to Visit Walt Disney World?
No time is ever perfect for visit Disney World, but a few date windows have been consistently reliable choices year after year. For guests that aren’t tied to rigid work and school schedules and have ultimate flexibility, three times of year are pretty safe bet for giving you the best chance for lower crowds, better deals, and at least tolerable weather. Those include:
- Early February (before Presidents Day week): Moderate weather and lower crowds make February a great time to visit. The parks don’t stay open quite as late this time of year, so night owls should probably take that into consideration. There is some chance of rain, but not as significant as a few weeks earlier.
- Early & mid May: After the spring break crowds have left and before the summer crowds return is a great window to plan a trip. May can start getting hotter, but it’s not so oppressive yet!
- September (after Labor Day): September is probably the hottest of these three “best” choices, but still not as hot as the summer. Crowds were very reasonable in September 2019 even with a Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening, so that month in 2020 could be even better!
Tips for Picking the Best Time to Go to Disney World
- Don’t plan vacation dates around ride openings: In 2020, there are a few attractions opening, but their effect will not be as large as in years past. There are no major openings at the level of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or even Toy Story Land that will spike crowds to an unreasonable degree. We wouldn’t recommend you let those dates affect your overall vacation dates to any significant degree.
- But do plan your park-by-park daily strategy with ride openings in mind: Although you shouldn’t book or cancel a 2020 vacation because of a concern about a new ride’s crowds, you should develop a smart touring strategy if you happen to have a vacation during a ride opening. Plan carefully when you will go to the park that has the new attraction – if it isn’t essential to go on opening day, don’t! Wait a few days until crowds die down or go to that park before the ride’s opening day if it isn’t a must-see for you. Plan to book Fastpasses early or rope drop to dodge the worst effects of the ride opening at the park in question.
- Don’t wait for 2021: There is a lot of discussion about whether guests should skip 2020 and wait to go to Disney in 2021 for the big 50th anniversary. Unless Disney is a once in a lifetime vacation for you, we say no. Crowds will likely be higher in 2021 so 2020 may be the year for less stress. Plus, there are enough new ride openings to please in 2020. If you need to wait for anything, we’d recommend perhaps waiting until both Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Remy’s Ratatoille Adventure are open at least. A fall trip would be a good bet for that.
- Ultimately, what works in your family’s schedule is most important: Don’t try too hard to micromanage your family’s vacation dates to pick the perfect time to go to Disney World. If you do, chances are good you will fail. The weather could be unpredictable or Disney could change a planned opening date. It sets you up for disappointment. We therefore recommend picking a time that works for your family, first and foremost. Next, develop a strategy to minimize the inconveniences of crowds and weather within the dates you have chosen (hey, we might know a podcast that can help with that).
Best Disney World Crowd Calendars
Crowd calendars are a tool that many Disney goers rely on when picking a time to visit. Many were pretty unreliable in 2019 with all the strangeness surrounding the crowds (or lack thereof) at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. Nevertheless, crowd calendars are still the best method for guests with some flexibility to pick their dates. Ones we like and recommend include: