It seems like there’s always something special happening at Disney World!
But even though some three-day weekends and holidays tend to bring heavier crowds to Disney World, you really need to know about these more unique events if you’re trying to avoid lots of people!
We’re going to take you through a full year of Disney World and tell you what the crowds are like! Of course, we’ll be mentioning some holidays you already have circled on your calendar, but we bet there are plenty you DON’T know about!
And remember: right now, Disney World is planning to reopen with limited capacity. That means that even though you won’t see wall-to-wall people like you did during holiday weeks and weekends in previous years, it may mean that getting a reservation to get into Walt Disney World this year and potentially next year may be more difficult during these timeframes we’re about to highlight for you.
So while you won’t see CROWDS, it may be harder to get in. So time to plan ahead, my friends, and grab those park reservations ASAP for these much more popular times!
New Years Day (and the week or two around it)
Ah, New Years Day — when anything and EVERYTHING is possible! We’re not sure about you guys, but we ALWAYS try to make a resolution with our future selves to visit Walt Disney World in the new year! 😉
And as much as 2020 had other plans for us this year, things at least started off on the right foot! Holiday crowds tend to stick around until well after New Years Day, so if you’re looking to head to Disney World in January, you might want to avoid that first week of the year!
Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
runDisney events are also a big draw at Disney World with the biggest race of the year happening in January.
The 2021 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is scheduled for January 6th through January 10th and is typically held around the same time each year. You can expect the parks and hotels to be packed with runners while some roads may be closed off in the early morning hours (meaning Disney transportation and car traffic can be slowed to a snail’s pace). This full weekend of runs is a HUGE draw for many enthusiasts and the parks can get pretty busy with all the guests.
We hope you got your tickets already because the 2021 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend sold out in RECORD time!
Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts
While the dates for the 2021 Epcot International Festival of the Arts haven’t been released yet, the celebration in 2020 ran from January 17 through February 24, 2020.
You can typically expect this festival to begin a few weeks after the New Year begins. It doesn’t necessarily mean more crowds overall, but can result in Epcot being much more popular.
Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend
Usually the third weekend in January, crowds briefly resurface due to many schools and businesses being closed for the long weekend. This can be enticing for families planning trips, so expect the parks to be more popular the weeks surrounding the holiday.
Cheerleading and Youth Sports Season
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex hosts many juvenile championships annually. While a few of them happen throughout the year, the largest concentration of events takes place in Disney World from January to May.
While thousands of cheerleaders and athletes (along with their entourages) show up to compete, they usually don’t hit the theme parks until their teams are eliminated. Guests staying at Value or Moderate resorts (which are a popular option for these crews) will likely notice this the most — the teams tend to practice in the open areas of the resorts and can be quite loud. You’ll definitely notice it too when you’re going to jump in line for a ride and suddenly 50 cheerleaders file in front of you!
In 2021, the Super Bowl is scheduled for February 7th, and it’s happening at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, not too far from Disney World, so brace for folks trying to make a longer trip out of their visit!
The Super Bowl usually falls around the first week of February. While we don’t know what the crowds will be like in 2021 for A LOT of reasons, the Super Bowl generally tends to draw quite a lot of people. Don’t forget — the MVP of the winning team historically shouts out the famous line of “I’m going to Disney World!” then flies to Disney World the very next day for a special celebration! This can mean BIG crowds looking to catch a glimpse of the MVP!
Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend
Another runDisney event takes place in February bringing runners right back to Disney World!
This race typically falls mid-February. For 2021, the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend is set for February 18th through February 21st! You can expect a similar situation as the previous month’s race — some closed roads early in the morning and slower transportation with LOTS of folks flocking to the parks afterward with their medals proudly displayed!
President’s Day Weekend
The third weekend in February is the perfect time to stop by the Hall of Presidents. You’ll see attendance level spike in the weeks around this long weekend due to many schools being out.
U.K. Spring Break
Our friends from across the pond love to spend their time off at Disney World!
If you find yourself in Disney World towards the end of February, sometimes your trip will coincide with the U.K.’s Spring Half Term — the equivalent of our American schools’ spring break! With international travelers accounting for 20% of guest attendance, many of which are from the U.K., this can result in a boost in park popularity!
U.S. Spring Break
Speaking of spring break, while it seems the kids just went back to school, many spring breaks around the United States kick off around mid-March with some schools starting well into April.
Spring break crowds can be absolutely INSANE and aren’t for the faint of heart! If you’re looking for a casual family trip to Disney World and thinking of visiting at this time of year, consider THIS your warning! Spring Break is totally doable, but you may have to adjust your expectations due to the number of folks who want to join you.
Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival
There’s definitely a BIG draw to coming to Disney World in March. This is when Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival normally kicks off!
This event typically begins in the first week of March. While the 2021 dates haven’t been announced, this year’s fest started on March 4th (and was supposed to run until June 1st!). Note that some of the Flower and Garden offerings will appear in the modified Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival this year. Like other Epcot festivals, this isn’t enough to necessarily raise crowds across the board, but expect more people in Epcot, especially around weekends when locals tend to visit.
St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is always celebrated on March 17th each year.
Since guests don’t typically get this date off from school or work, the holiday isn’t known for attracting crowds. And while there usually isn’t too much happening throughout the parks, you’ll find a rollicking good time happening at Raglan Road Irish Pub in Disney Springs! Their Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival usually kicks off the weekend near St. Paddy’s day and includes a menu of special Irish offerings as well as music and dancing! So on St. Patrick’s Day proper, you may see quite a lot of people at Disney Springs — and some may have indulged a bit.
Hip hip hooray! It’s the Easter parade! Easter can fall anywhere from March 22-April 25th, depending on the year. We’re sticking it under April since, in more cases than not, that’s when you can expect it. In 2021, Easter falls on April 4th.
Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny come out of their rabbit hole to meet with guests about a week before Easter Sunday. Then on the big day, there’s a special Easter parade in Magic Kingdom!
Epcot’s World Showcase also holds an Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt which lasts throughout the spring! Keep in mind that crowds can still be pretty high when Easter hits due to Spring Break weeks across the country.
Star Wars Rival Run Weekend
Get ready to make the jump to lightspeed! The next big runDisney race of the year typically falls in mid-April. Although the Star Wars Rival Run Weekend was scheduled for April 17th through April 19th this year, it was canceled due to the temporary closure.
While the dates haven’t been posted for 2021’s races yet, we can most likely expect the Star Wars Rival Weekend to take place sometime in April! Same drill as other runDisney weekends — expect higher than usual crowds around this weekend visiting for the races!
Spring Dapper Day
Dapper Day is a celebration that started over in Disneyland. Folks like to get all dressed up in their best vintage attire and head to the parks for a day of stylish refinement! It’s a veritable sea of pompadours and petticoats!
This typically takes place the last weekend of April or the first weekend of May. You might feel a little out of place standing in line with your Crocs and tank top next to so many fancy-dressed people, but it’s a fun experience seeing so many Disney fans getting dolled up! This event takes place twice a year, with the other Dapper Day scheduled in the fall. Expect slightly higher crowds in Magic Kingdom that weekend.
Earth Day falls on April 22nd each year. It isn’t typically a super-crowded day at the parks, but Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been known to offer some special treats and entertainment in celebration of Mother Earth!
Earth Day just so happens to be Animal Kingdom’s birthday! If you want in on the festivities, expect higher crowds in Animal Kingdom on that day. The other parks should be at their typical crowd levels.
Memorial Day Weekend
Leaving spring behind, Memorial Day weekend is the official beginning of one of Disney World’s busiest season- SUMMER! The parks are PACKED, the days are LONG, and HOT!
Memorial Day occurs the last Monday of May and, like other three day weekends we’ve seen, expect higher crowds bookending the weekend. With children getting out of school for the summer around this time, that means crowds won’t be dying down anytime soon following this date!
From June through August you can expect heavy crowds at Disney World since these months coincide with most schools’ summer breaks.
Crowds are just the name of the game if you’re in Disney World during the summer! 😉
Gay Days is a special pride celebration that is normally held around the first week of June each year.
Like Dapper Day, this is another big event that’s unofficially associated with Disney World. Disney gets in on the celebration by featuring rainbow merchandise, rainbow treats, and more. This celebration ISN’T relatively new either — it’s nearing its 30th anniversary! We don’t find crowds get that much heavier than normal during Gay Days (but keep in mind it IS still the middle of the summer, after all!).
When the Fourth of July rolls around, you can expect some of the parks to get SO crowded that they reach capacity!
While you’ll see red, white, and blue-themed snacks as well as decorations adorning the buildings during the daytime; and the nighttime brings Disney World’s Fourth of July fireworks to the Magic Kingdom! MANY guests have the same idea to try and catch of glimpse of these one-night-only fireworks so brace for extra heavy crowds this day.
Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival
The big-gun of the Epcot Festivals kicks off typically in late August and runs straight through to mid-November. This year though, Disney is introducing the modified version of this festival with A Taste of Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, running July 15th and into the fall.
Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival is a huge draw for out-of-towners and locals alike. Expect fairly consistently busy Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for the length of the festival. But over the past few years, we’ve seen the first week and the last week be quite busy, indeed!
Check out the festival booths, menus, and photos from last year’s Food and Wine Festival at Epcot here!
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
Did you think October was the start of the spooky season? Not in Disney World! Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Parties typically kick off in mid-August!
Usually, these parties run from August through November, and summer crowds are still usually in full swing when the first parties begin. In 2020 though, things may be a little different. Park capacities might limit the summer crowds and unfortunately, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has been CANCELED this year for guest safety.
Labor Day Weekend
Held the first Monday in September, Labor Day marks the unofficial “end of summer.” Even though most kids JUST went back to school, many schools and businesses have off for this long weekend. You can expect a boom in crowds around the Labor Day holiday.
St. Paddy’s Day is a VERY big deal at Raglan Road in March, but their September Great Irish Hooley Festival is an equally good toe-tappin’ time!
Look for this special event at Disney Springs during Labor Day weekend.
Even with Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween parties in usually in swing, October is relatively calm at Disney World (all things considered!).
Crowds are notably lighter than the bustling summer months and the temperatures are finally starting to dip from “sweating through two shirts a day” to just “kinda sweating through one shirt a day.” 😉 Keep in mind RIGHT around Halloween, crowds can pick up a good bit.
If you’re one of those folks who puts your Christmas decorations out right after Halloween, you’re in good company — Disney switches from spooky to merry practically overnight in the first days of November!
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parties usually begin in early November well before Thanksgiving! Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom also kick off the festive time of year early! Disney hasn’t said whether the global health crisis will affect Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this year.
If you time your visit right, you might even see Disney filming its Christmas specials in early November — many guests flock to the parks to see some of their favorite stars!
We LOVE Christmas at Disney World, so even though it’s still warm outside, we can never have too much holiday fun at Disney World.
Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend
We’re up to the next runDisney event on the calendar! This is running we can get behind though — running for FOOD! (Well, kinda.) The first weekend of November is typically when the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend takes place. This race is timed up to fall near the end of the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot.
That means you can eat and drink as much as you want since you’ll be burning off all those extra calories jogging, right? 😉 At least that’s our working theory! With this festival timed often so close to Halloween, it’s common to see the burst of crowds from Halloween hang out a bit longer to stay through for the Marathon weekend!
Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic
While many guests know about Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, there’s also a SECOND Food & Wine Festival happening at Disney World in November (or late October, depending on the year)!
The 2020 Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic was scheduled for November 6th through November 7th this year and was to be held in the causeway between the two hotels, but it’s been canceled for the year.
Typically in the first week of November the state of New Jersey has a couple days off for a fall break. Days off school means LOTS of Jersey families plan ahead to visit Disney World during this otherwise relatively slow time of year.
Crowds will swell a bit during this timeframe, but since November isn’t a hugely popular month for Disney World, you won’t notice it that much. But if you’re in New Jersey, this may be the perfect time to plan your trip!
Veteran’s Day Weekend
Another busy, BUSY weekend! Veteran’s Day is on November 11th, but the holiday is typically observed on the Monday or Friday closest to the date (which makes for a nice, long weekend!).
Crowds will be higher due to guests capitalizing on the extra day off, but you will see some lovely tributes to our war heroes including a special Flag Ceremony at Magic Kingdom along with the Dapper Dans dressed in their red, white, and blue barbershop best!
Dapper Day returns in mid to late November (the dates vary each year so be sure to check when it’s planned if you’re planning to visit!). Just like in the spring, you’ll have a chance to see guests in their Disney best! This takes place over a weekend and typically doesn’t result in that big of a crowd increase. Put on some red lipstick or whip out your best Fedora and strut your stuff!
Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year, which means Disney World offers special menus for folks who want to dine on traditional American fare!
Crowds tend to spike around Thanksgiving due to kids being off school. Many families travel to Disney World to celebrate the holiday! Expect the whole week to be a mini-preview of what the Christmas crowds will be like!
Pass the stuffing! Check out some of the Thanksgiving menus Disney World’s restaurants offered last year!
Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays
Typically in the last week in November we see the start of Epcot’s last festival of the year — the International Festival of the Holidays!
Guests can stroll around Epcot enjoying holiday specialties from around the world, learning about other cultures’ holiday celebrations, or catching one of the first performances of the Candlelight Processional for the season. This performance features a celebrity narrator telling the story of Christmas accompanied by a huge choir — and it’s a BIG draw for guests!
With so much Christmas excitement already happening, it’s hard to imagine we haven’t even made it to December until JUST NOW! But while you’ll find lots of holiday treats and good cheer, you’ll also find lots of cheerleaders!
The Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer and Dance Championships is a major youth football and cheerleading event that’s held annually at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. This event typically takes place the first or second week of December.
This event is HUGE and draws lots of crowds. Expect higher crowds than normal during this time (the first half of December is otherwise relatively calm!). This may also be a bad week to consider staying at a Value Resort due to the participants staying predominantly in these resorts.
Christmas (and the weeks around it)
It’s Christmas! Well, at least it is in our MINDS! The parks get so crowded in the weeks surrounding Christmas that sometimes that they actually have to turn guests away!
But to see all the beautiful Christmas decorations, fireworks, and Stitch in a Santa costume, it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make!
New Year’s Eve
And back to where it all began, we’ve truly come full circle in our year of Disney “holidays”! All four of the Disney World theme parks celebrate New Year’s Eve with their own unique countdown!
New Year’s Eve is one of the BUSIEST days in Disney World. Magic Kingdom and Epcot historically have been known to hit maximum capacity on these dates. The parks stay open late to do their own countdowns and have extra celebrations in many locations! We can’t think of a more fitting way to ring in the New Year!
We hope we’ve shed some light on Disney World’s more mysterious events to help you plan your next trip to the parks a little better. Disney World can be enjoyable ANY time you choose to visit, even on the busiest days. If you’d prefer to know what’s coming so you can plan around the crowds, we’ve got you covered! If visiting with lower crowds means we get to go on Space Mountain and Pirates one more time, we’re all about dodging those busier park days!
And remember, even though this year might be a little bit different, the popularity of the parks will likely follow these general patterns.
Have you. ever been to Disney World on an unexpectedly busy day? Tell us what your experience was like in the comments below!