While Disney World is a magical place, one of the biggest perks known to Disney World resort hotel guests has changed. The ever popular Walt Disney World Extra Magic Hours (EMH) program is a thing of the past. In its place stands “Disney World Early Theme Park Entry,” the runner up and distinctly different sister to EMH.
If you plan to stay at one of the hotels on the list of Disney World resorts, understanding how Disney World early theme park entry works is an important part of your vacation planning.
Table of contents
- What Was the Walt Disney World Extra Magic Hours Program?
- What is Disney World Early Theme Park Entry?
- Pros and Cons of Walt Disney World Extra Magic Hours
- Pros and Cons of Early Theme Park Entry
- Which Program is best?
- Are There Any Other Early Entry Programs Similar to Extra Magic Hours?
- Other Articles to Assist Your Disney World Planning
What Was the Walt Disney World Extra Magic Hours Program?
Extra Magic Hours (EMH) at Disney World began in 2005 and was a program that allowed resort guests to enjoy extra time in the park either before or after regular park hours. The hours would change and rotateby park so that not every park had Extra Magic Hours every day.
Extra Magic Hours was often one to two extra hours inside the park with fewer crowds. It could be in the evening, or allow resort guests entry into the park an hour or two prior to regular opening hours. Schedules were published and changed often, so guests needed to be on their toes if they didn’t want to miss any of the Disney World Extra Magic hours that took place during their trip.
What is Disney World Early Theme Park Entry?
Disney World Early Theme Park Entry is the Extra Magic Hours 2022 edition with a few changes. Contrary to days gone by, you will no longer have to look up the Extra Magic Hours schedule and plan park attendance accordingly. Istead, with the Disney World Early Theme Park Entry program, every day brings Extra Magic Hours. Let us explain.
While Extra Magic Hours set one theme park on any given day to open early or stay late, with Disney early entry, every park now allows admittance 30 minutes ahead of official park opening for guests of Disney World resorts. That’s every park, every day.
In other words, if you’re a guest at Port Orleans Riverside and the Magic Kingdom is scheduled to open at 9:00 am, you are entitled to enter the park at 8:30, but that’s not all. You could just as easily get in 30 minutes ahead of the regular park hours at EPCOT, Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, because every theme park opens a half hour before published openings for resort guests.
Based on what Walt Disney World has told us, this program will have no blackout dates and will run every single day in every one of the four main parks.
Pros and Cons of Walt Disney World Extra Magic Hours
The main pro of Walt Disney World Extra Magic Hours was the extended time in the park. Unlike the new program, you would get one to two extra hours to experience the attractions with only other resort guests in attendance. Another benefit was that some of these extra hours would happen in the evening. With evening hours, non-morning people could get more enjoyment out of Disney parks without waking up early.
EMH was not without its drawbacks though. For example, towards the end of the program, the park offering EMH would often have higher crowd counts all day. Many guests would flock to those parks on Extra Magic Hour days to get more park time over the parks without the EMH hours.
Another con of Extra Magic hours was that the Extra Magic Hours calendar fluctuated, making it hard to keep up. The schedule would be announced far in advance but did not often have rhyme or reason to it, making it hard to remember.
Pros and Cons of Early Theme Park Entry
The biggest pro to Early Theme Park Entry (ETPE) is that it will theoretically help spread early arriving crowds out to all four parks evenly. Instead of resort guests overcrowding the park(s) offering Extra Magic Hours, crowds will more uniformly be distributed across all the parks.
Another pro to Early Theme Park entry is the set schedule. Rather than a schedule that jumps around and changes, ETPE happens every day in every one of the main parks. This makes it reliable and easy to plan for.
Early Theme Park Entry has two main cons as far as I can tell: less extra time in the park, and the a.m. only schedule.
For those who prefer evenings to mornings, ETPE does not offer an extra time in the parks in the evening, meaning many early mornings if you want to take advantage of this perk. Depending on when regular park hours occur, Early Theme Park Entry could be as early as 7:30 am for some parks on some days.
The other glaring drawback to ETPE is the reduction in extra park time for resort guests. The Walt Disney World Extra Magic Hours program offered an extra hour or two. In contrast, Early Theme Park Entry’s 30 minute advance opening pales in comparison, and is frankly, a disappointment to what could be a great program for resort guests to enjoy.
ETPE is especially hard to swallow for those of us who have visited while Disney was controlling capacity in 2020. At this time, guests were being admitted as much as an hour before official park opening to better facilitate social distancing at the entry gates.
Which Program is best?
Unfortunately, Early Theme Park Entry does limit your time in the parks when compared to Extra Magic Hours. However, since ETPE has been effective at dispering crowds across the four theme parks, instead of congregating them at one, most guests have found ETPE to provide an extra boost to their day. It’s the chance to get in 2 to 5 more rides before the bulk of the crowds arrive. That means fewer lines and lower waits if you plan strategically.
Are There Any Other Early Entry Programs Similar to Extra Magic Hours?
At this time, the only option that Disney world is offering to extend time in the parks is a perk for guests of Disney World deluxe resorts. Guests paying the top dollar to stay at Disney’s upper tier of hotels are offered Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. With Extended Evening hours, guests of these deluxe hotels or villas are allowed to visit either EPCOT or Magic Kingdom after hours on one night during the week.
Historically, Extended Evening Theme Park Hours for EPCOT have been held on Monday evenings. Disney World’s extended hours for Magic Kingdom occur on Wednesday nights. Guests are permitted to stay in the parks 2 hours beyond the official closing time or to enter and enjoy attractions during this time.
To provide an example, EPCOT usually closes at 9:00 pm. On an evening when Extended Evening Theme Park Hours are offered, guests at any Disney World deluxe hotel or deluxe DVC villa will be able to enjoy a select slate of attractions until 11:00 pm. It’s a similar situation at Magic Kingdom.
For more information on staying at a deluxe resort, you’ll want to read our post on Disney World’s line up of deluxe hotels. You might also want to check out our more in-depth article on Extended Event Theme Park Hours.