The Best of Times
Most Disney veterans can tell you, in no uncertain terms, that some times are much better than others to visit the "World." Of course, you may have little choice as to when you visit Walt Disney World. Still, it can't hurt to know what to expect, and if you're fortunate enough to make your own schedule, here's a little help for making up your mind.
There are many factors that may affect your decision. On your left is an overview of some of the most important: park operating schedules, attendance, lodging rates, and weather and climatic conditions. Just for fun we even tossed in a few links that will help you pick the perfect night for a moonlight stroll.
|Park Operating Hours Theme
parks operating hours vary throughout the year, based on attendance levels, day of the
week, special occasions and the hours of sunrise and sunset. The safest thing for us to do
is point you towards Disney's official web site for the schedule. Once there, select which park schedule(s) you wish to see,
and which month you want to view. Each date on the calendar has a hyperlink to display the
parades, fireworks and special events that will be occurring that day. Unfortunately,
Disney doesn't post the detailed schedule more than a few months in advance, but their
site still gives you a good idea of what to expect down the road.
Crowds As popular as Walt Disney World is, a chart of the fluctuations in crowd levels still looks like a roller coaster ride. The peaks and valleys are fairly predictable, though. The week from Christmas to New Years is by far the most popular. Easter break, July 4th, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving Day follow close on its heels. Crowds are at their lowest in January and early February; the weeks between Labor Day and Columbus Day; and in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Peak season for out-of-state vacationers runs between mid-February and mid-April, and the local Florida crowds are out in force during the traditional summer vacation months.
Cost Rates at the Disney resort hotels follow a four season schedule. Peak Season, when the Snow Birds are flocking South, runs from mid-February until the last week in April. Although theme park attendance during Regular Season (end of April through Labor Day for Moderate and Value resorts, end of April through July 4 for Deluxe and Home Away From Home resorts) is comparable to that of Peak Season, the heat of summer chases the Snow Birds away, reducing the demand for resort rooms. Value Season runs from Labor Day through mid-February for Value and Moderate resorts, and from July 4 through mid-February for Home Away From Home resorts. All resorts return to Regular Season pricing for the month of October (a popular time for visitors from the UK and conventioneers), and rates take a brief, meteoric rise for Christmas/New Years Week (also known as Holiday Season, the most expensive week of the year).
Weather The weather in Florida follows a very predictable curve--hot and rainy in summer, and progressively cooler and drier as you move towards the winter months. Summer rains tend to be brief and hard. Always carry raingear, but if you're at all patient the sun will start shining again, and the parks may be nearly empty of guests. Summer high temperatures are in the low 90's, with evening temperatures around 70. Winter highs are around 70, but be prepared for evening temperatures in the 40's or 50's, and when it does rain you can get chilled to the bone.
Here are some weather and climate resources you may find useful as you make your plans and just before you head towards Orlando:
Current Weather in Orlando, courtesy of the Weather Underground
Long-Range Forecast from Intellicast
Very Long-Range Weather Forecast from the Old Farmer's Almanac
Historical Weather Conditions in Orlando, courtesy of the Weather Underground. Select a specific date, and get the lowdown.
Monthly Average Temperature and Rainfall, courtesy of The Weather Channel
Sunburn? In Florida? Say it ain't so! NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offers charts of the UV (ultraviolet) index for various cities. Here's the 1977 annual UV chart for Tampa Bay, which isn't all that far from Orlando. It's a fair representation of what you can expect.
If your Disney plans include fireworks, a romantic moonlight stroll or an early-morning trek to Animal Kingdom, you'll want the lowdown on sunrise, sunset, full moons and other heavenly objects. (Our thanks to Jean Fuentes for passing along these links.)
Sun and Moon Data for One Day, courtesy of the U.S. Naval Observatory, computed for the location of your choice (including Lake Buena Vista, Florida) View the times for morning and evening twilight, sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, the phase of the moon and the date of the next full moon all on one easy-to-read form.
Sun or Moon Rise/Set Tables for One Year, computed for the location of your choice. These tables show the whole year at a glance, but they're a bit hard to read and are not adjusted for Daylight Savings time. Select the year, and the kind of table (sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset, civil twilight, nautical twilight, or astronomical twilight.) Civil twilight gives you enough light to see by, while astronomical twilight is nearly dark.
US Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Data Services If you love watching the skies, try this page. It includes the two previous sun and moon resources, plus lots more on moon illumination, eclipses, the position of the sun, major solar system bodies and bright stars (is that Venus rising behind Cinderella Castle?), and a good bit more.