So, you’ve decided to plan a trip to Walt Disney World or Universal Studios in Florida, but you don’t know when you should go? Look no further, because this post is going to break down the best (and worst) times to visit the parks. Speaking specifically in terms of crowds, heat, and wait times, spring break, the summer, and the holidays are the best times to avoid the parks. The off season is less crowded and it’s easier to do and see more.
So, when exactly should you go?
- The off season is scattered throughout the year, and the best months to go are January, February, April, early May, late August, and September.
- Try to avoid mid- to late March, May through early August, and October through December. Spring break, summer vacation, and the holidays bring in the crowds, leading to hours-long wait time, the parks hitting capacity and turning guests away, and difficulty moving through the crowds in the parks.
- The summer is also a good time to avoid Florida because of the heat and humidity. Temperatures often hit 80 and above, with the humidity often making it feel like it’s well over 100 degrees.
Now, if the crowds and heat aren’t deterring you, then there are a variety of times you can visit the parks. Disney especially has a bunch of festivals and parties throughout the year, and Universal has quite a few things as well.
Most fun times to visit Disney World
- Epcot has three festivals throughout the year: Festival of the Arts from January through February, Flower and Garden Festival from late February through May, and Food and Wine from August through November. Each festival brings free concerts, a variety of food choices from around the world, festival specific merchandise, and other interesting events throughout the festivals.
- The Magic Kingdom has holiday parties from September through December. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party usually runs from September through October, on specific days and after the park closes to daytime guests around 7pm. Giant Mickey-shaped pumpkins, villainous meet and greets, the spooky “Boo To You” parade, the Hocus Pocus Spelltacular show (featuring the Sanderson sisters and other Disney villains), and the fantastic “Hallowishes” fireworks show are all staples of this fun event. The best part? All guests of all ages are allowed to wear costumes into the park, and everyone is allowed to trick or treat throughout the park!
- Also at the Magic Kingdom is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which usually runs from November through December, and is also on specific days and after the park closes to daytime guests. The park is transformed into a winter wonderland featuring special character meet and greets (including Santa!), the magical “Once Upon a Christmastime” parade, “Holiday Wishes” fireworks show, free hot chocolate and cookies around the park, and—maybe the most magical event of all—nightly snowfall on Main Street.
- Although Epcot’s festivals are included in the regular park admission price, the Halloween and Christmas parties at the Magic Kingdom are a special ticketed event and do require a separate purchased ticket to attend.
Best times to visit Universal Orlando
- Mardi Gras! Universal’s Mardi Gras event brings the New Orleans party to Orlando from February to April. A nightly parade with massive floats and hundreds of beads, weekend concerts featuring some pretty big names (2018 had the Beach Boys, Macklemore, and Fifth Harmony, just to name a few), New Orleans style food like gumbo and beignets are sold throughout the park, and jazz style street performers can all be seen every day during Mardi Gras. All the offerings of Mardi Gras at Universal are included in a regular daytime ticket and do not require a separate purchase.
- Halloween Horror Nights is quite possibly Universal’s most well-known event during the year. Running from September to early November, Halloween Horror Nights is a special event featuring several themed haunted houses scattered throughout the park, special “scare zones” set up as you walk through certain areas, various live shows, and tons of merchandise. Previous haunted houses included The Exorcist, Halloween, American Horror Story, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and many others. Similar to the parties at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, this is a special ticketed event that begins after the park closes for daytime guests and does require a separate ticket purchase.
- Last but not least, Universal also has a Christmas event that it celebrates with a Macy’s parade around the park with Santa and many other characters, decorations, special shows, a Grinch “Who-liday” spectacular and character breakfast, and much more! Fortunately, the Christmas celebrations at Universal are included in regular park admission, so you don’t need a special ticket to enjoy the magic during this time of year.
Whether you’re trying to figure out how to beat the heat and the crowds, or you want to enjoy some of the amazing offerings at the parks during some of the busier times of the year, there’s many reasons to visit during any time of the year. There’s always plenty to do and see, and there’s always a way to make the most out of your visit. If you’re trying to avoid crowds, definitely come during the off season months. If you’d rather check out the fun holiday events or plan a fantastic summer vacation, then definitely take advantage of all the offerings during the peak season. Either way, you’re sure to have the trip of a lifetime and make tons of fun memories that you’ll never forget!