Best Time to Visit Walt Disney World in 2021

Walt Disney World crowd calendar

So you want to plan a trip to Walt Disney World? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Inside the Magic has got you covered with our 2021 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar, a guide to the best times to go to Disney World in 2021. Our Crowd Calendar is full of tips and tricks for planning your 2021 Disney World vacation, from beating the crowds to saving the most money while on your trip.

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Credit: Disney

As our world is still in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, it’s no surprise that many Disney fans are concerned with crowds now more than ever before. There are plenty of hopeful travelers who want to book a trip to the theme parks in 2021 but are not sure how to avoid crowds, when is the best time to visit, or how to plan a trip in the middle of the pandemic. That’s why we’re here to help you plan the vacation of your dreams in 2021.

Our crowd calendar is a super helpful tool when planning a trip to Walt Disney World, but there’s truly nothing like enlisting the help of an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. While you can use our Disney World Crowd Calendar to help you decide when to book your trip, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner at Academy Travel can help you with so much more. They can help determine when you should visit Walt Disney World based on your interests, schedule, budget, and more. And best of all — their services come at no extra cost to you! Click here for a free, no-obligation vacation quote from Academy Travel. 

Now let’s jump into the Disney World Crowd Calendar: What is it, and how can you use it to your advantage?

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What is the Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar?

Walt Disney World is massive! With four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom), two water parks (Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park), Disney Springs, mini-golf, dozens of resort hotels, and so much more — it can feel overwhelming to plan a trip! When is the best time to go? When is the least crowded time to go? When is the cheapest time to go? We’ll answer all those questions and more!

The Inside the Magic Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar is a calendar that shows the low, moderate, and high crowd levels at the Walt Disney World Resort throughout the year. It allows anyone the ability to take a look at the predicted crowd levels at the Disney Parks in order to help determine which time of year to visit. While we always say that there’s never a wrong time to take a Disney vacation, often a crowd calendar can help you narrow down your travel dates.

Related: Should you take your baby to Disney? The pros and cons of bringing a baby to the Disney Parks

Our crowd calendar is organized by green, yellow, and red colors: green indicates the lowest crowds, yellow indicates moderate crowds, and red indicates the highest crowds. Keep in mind that while we adjust our crowd calendar throughout the year to make our predictions as accurate as possible, there is no crowd calendar that is 100% correct, as they are all meant to be helpful predictions of crowd levels.

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Credit: Disney

How can crowds affect your Disney vacation?

Because a majority of Guests visiting Walt Disney World are not locals or Annual Passholders, but instead are vacationers, the crowdedness of the theme parks can depend highly on the seasonal events and school schedule.

Visitors who are only able to vacation at Walt Disney World once a year (or perhaps once in a lifetime) often highly prioritize booking the must-do attractions and must-eat restaurants, like Frozen Ever After, Flight of Passage, Be Our Guest Restaurant, and Cinderella’s Royal Table. When available, this can make reserving FastPass+ and dining difficult, and it can increase the queues at most of the rides and restaurants in the theme parks. Visiting Walt Disney World during busy seasons can add stress to your vacation because you may not be able to accomplish everything you want to.

Related: Disney with large groups: How to take a stress-free Disney vacation with your family

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All Images Credit Disney

During a low season, Guests will likely find shorter queues (and lower wait times), decreased park hours, and overall less crowded and easier to navigate parks. During a busy season, queues and wait times are typically much longer, the parks are more difficult to navigate, the parks are often open longer, there are often more entertainment showtimes available. During a moderate season, the theme parks feel somewhat in the middle, and you don’t really know what you could get on any given park day.

Walt Disney World Resort crowd levels are often dependent upon the school schedule, groups visiting for national competitions (like dance and cheerleading), special events and festivals, and holidays. Knowing that the busy seasons lead to less available dining reservations, longer ride wait times, and often difficult-to-navigate theme parks, you may be inclined to research the times of year that attract the lowest crowds at Walt Disney World.

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Credit: Disney

What to consider when planning a 2021 Walt Disney World vacation?

2021 will bring plenty of new experiences, attractions, and more to the Walt Disney World Resort, but it will also mark the return of old favorites we know and love from years past. And — because of the ongoing pandemic — there is a lot that has changed at Disney World recently, which you may not be used to if you haven’t visited since the parks reopened after their temporary closure in 2020.

If you are booking a trip for 2021, you should consider all of the new health and safety measures Disney World has in place. Face coverings are required for all Guests ages two and up, social distancing measures are in place, and the parks are limiting capacity. For the most up-to-date information on these changes (as well as information about the risks of traveling to Disney World during the pandemic), you can visit the official Disney World webpage for Experience Updates here. 

Additionally, certain theme park experiences are currently suspended. You can read the most recent information here.

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Disney Park Pass

Perhaps one of the biggest things to keep in mind when visiting Disney World in 2021 is the Disney Park Pass system. Since reopening the theme parks amid the pandemic in summer 2020, Disney World has implemented a reservation system called Disney Park Pass. This requires all Guests to make a reservation advance in order to guarantee their entry into one of the four Disney World theme parks on a specific day. Park Hopping will be allowed beginning January 1, although there are some changes in place, which you can read about here.

To make a Disney Park Pass reservation yourself or to view the availability calendar, visit the official website here. Also, note that your Authorized Disney Vacation Planner can take care of all of your Disney Park Pass reservations for you if you book with a travel agent.

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Seasonal Events and New Attractions

No matter what time of year you visit Disney, you’ll get to experience the magic of the Disney theme parks, Extra Magic Hours if you’re staying on property at a Disney Resort hotel (or a Disney Springs Resort area hotel and other hotels that are considered Official Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, even if they’re not owned by Disney), the option to add amenities like the Disney Dining Plan (when available) or Memory Maker to your trip, fantastic dining experiences and tours you can add to your reservation, and so much more.

But, when you visit Disney during certain times of the year in 2021, you’ll also have the opportunity to experience new and returning events and attractions. Below we have included a list of some of the typical seasonal events at Disney World as well as new attractions, shows, and experiences coming this year.

Disney has announced a number of new character experiences for 2021 — click here to read more!

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All Images Credit Disney

Seasonal events in 2021 will include the following:

  • Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts: This seasonal festival at Epcot costs no extra money to attend and is included with your theme park admission. It is a celebration of art, entertainment, and food and is the newest of the Epcot festivals featuring artistic culinary offerings, performances, and hands-on experiences for all ages. The festival takes place from January 8 – February 22, 2021
  • Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival: If you’re familiar with the stunning florals and topiaries all throughout Epcot, those can only be seen during the Flower & Garden Festival, which takes place from March 3 – July 5 , 2021. The festival features gorgeous gardens, fun concerts, delicious food, and more.
  • EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival: The Food & Wine Festival returns every year in the fall and brings some of the most delicious food and beverages Walt Disney World has to offer, not to mention incredible entertainment! This is by far one of the most popular times to visit Walt Disney World, but for good reason. Details and dates for this event have not yet been announced, but we will update this page with more information when we receive it. 
  • EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays: Even though the holidays at Walt Disney World typically kick-off at the beginning of November, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays doesn’t start until the end of November, but it’s worth the wait. You can try holiday foods from different countries around the World Showcase and even watch the Candlelight Processional and other amazing holiday-themed performances. Details and dates for this event have not yet been announced, but we will update this page with more information when we receive it. 
  • Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom: This separately ticketed event occurs on select nights at Magic Kingdom throughout August, September, and October in celebration of Halloween. It allows Guests of all ages to get into the Halloween spirit by dressing up and enjoying unlimited trick or treating, stage and fireworks shows, a parade, attraction overlays, special seasonal treats, and so much more. The return of this event in 2021 as well as possible dates have not yet been announced, but we will update this page with more information when it is released.
  • Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom: This separately ticketed event occurs on select nights at Magic Kingdom throughout November and December in celebration of the Christmas season. It allows Guests of all ages to enjoy unlimited holiday cookies and beverages, stage and fireworks shows, a parade, attraction overlays, special seasonal treats, and so much more. The return of this event in 2021 as well as possible dates have not yet been announced, but we will update this page with more information when it is released.
Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
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New attractions, shows, and experiences in 2021 will include the following:

  • HarmonioUS, the all-new Epcot fireworks show, debuting sometime in 2021: We don’t know many new details about the new fireworks show that will debut after Epcot Forever ends its limited-time run, but we do know that it will be pretty amazing. Once the official debut date is revealed, we will include it in this post.
  • New restaurants opening up in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT: We are so excited for Roundup Rodeo BBQ to open up as the first table-service restaurant in Toy Story Land. Space 220 — the space-themed restaurant coming to EPCOT — is sure to be out of this world. When opening dates for these restaurants are revealed, we will share details.
  • New attractions: We are expecting some new rides to open at Disney World, including Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at the expanded France pavilion in EPCOT, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in EPCOT, and more. An opening date has not yet been revealed, but we will share more information when it is released.
  • Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary: The official date when the celebrations begin has not yet been announced, although it’s no secret that October 1, 2021, officially marks the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort. We will update our website as soon as Disney shares specific details of the experiences to come. Keep in mind, however, that although Disney has not shared exactly what we should expect and when we should expect it, hopeful Guests are already booking their trips and making Disney Park Pass reservations for October 1 and the surrounding dates. 

For more information on what to expect at Disney World in 2021, read our guide here. 

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Credit: Disney

The following offerings are returning to Walt Disney World in 2021:

Related: A Complete Guide to 2021 EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival

What is the cheapest time to go to Disney World?

So, you want to save money on a Disney trip? We’ve got you covered! While there is no for-sure “cheapest” time to visit Disney, there are some factors that can help you save money when booking your vacation. Here are our tips.

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Credit: Disney

Keep in mind that the prices for Disney Resort hotels and Disney Park tickets fluctuate seasonally depending on whether it’s considered a peak, regular, or value season to travel to Disney World. In addition to the price of vacation packages varying season to season, month to month, or even week to week, you can get a fantastic deal on your Walt Disney World vacation if you pay attention to the special offers at Disney announces throughout the year. Depending on the time you book, you can often save big on your hotel (and, in the past, free Disney Dining Plans or even additional theme park tickets).

Read More: Cheapest Way to Book a Disney World Vacation

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Credit: Disney (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Related: How to fly to Disney World for free: Money-saving tips

There is no for-sure answer for the exact cheapest time to go to Walt Disney World, so we suggest finding the dates that work best for you and your family, putting down your $200 deposit for a vacation package, and then keeping your eyes peeled on the special offers section of the Disney World website for when Disney releases their travel deals. Booking with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner can help take this stress away since they will often get word of awesome vacation deals before the public and can save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

To give you an idea of some less expensive times to travel to Disney World, below are some examples of 2021 special offers. Remember: an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner can book your trip at the lowest price possible. Click here to learn more!

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Walt Disney World 2021 vacation special offers

There are also plenty of deals exclusive to Annual Passholders. You can read more here (as long as you are an AP and your pass is connected to your My Disney Experience account).

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What is the best overall time to go to Walt Disney World?

Overall, the best times to go to Walt Disney World in 2021 — considering crowd levels, seasonal events, new attractions and shows, and possible money-saving deals — are…

  • January 11-15, January 27-February 13: The beginning of the year marks a fresh start. No more holiday decorations throughout the parks and minimal crowd levels as school is back in session and most families won’t be traveling during this time. You will also get to experience the Epcot International Festival of the Arts between the end of January through February. Additionally, the beginning of the year tends to bring some amazing travel deals so you can save big on your Disney Resort hotel stay.
  • February 25-March 3: Late winter tends to bring that mild Florida weather that we all love. Soak up the parks in their low-crowd glory! Plus, the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival makes its 2021 debut during the first week of March.
2021 EPCOT Flower and Garden Guide featured image
Credit: Disney
  • The second half of August: The entire spring and early-mid summer season can feel intensely crowded at Walt Disney World lately, so if you’re not visiting at the beginning of 2021, opt for a second-half-of-August visit. Typically by the end of August, you’ll be able to catch the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival as well as the first nights of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
  • Most of September: Continue celebrating Halloween at Walt Disney World Resort after most kids are back in school for the fall. Also, Food and Wine is in full swing, and even though the weather can still be pretty hot, it’s not nearly as bad as in June or July. The fall also has a history of bringing even more travel deals, such as the option to save big on your hotel or get free dining. This is never a guarantee, but something to keep in mind for sure.
  • Weekdays in October: Even milder weather tends to greet October travelers, and as long as you’re hitting the parks on the weekdays, you shouldn’t have to brave heavy crowds.
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Credit: Disney
  • Weekdays in November (besides Thanksgiving week): Catch the end of the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival before it switches over to the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. Plus, holiday decorations begin popping up all throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney Springs, and Disney Resort hotels in November, and you can even visit for the first few nights of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom.
  • Weekdays in December (besides the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Eve): The weeks of Christmas and New Year’s are almost guaranteed to be crowded. This is the busiest, most magical time of the year, after all! But as long as you plan to hit the parks on the weekdays, you shouldn’t have much to stress about. It will still be crowded, but not nearly as bad as on the weekends. And isn’t Christmas cheer enough persuasion for traveling to Disney?
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Credit: Disney

Important Dates to Note

Below are some important dates to note if you are booking a Disney World trip in 2021:

  • Park Hopping returns on January 1, 2021. More information here.
  • Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park reopens on March 7, 2021. More information here. 
  • Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts runs from January 8 – February 22, 2021.  More information here. 
  • Taste of EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival runs from March 3 – July 5, 2021. More information here.
  • Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary is on October 1, 2021 (though celebration dates have not yet been announced).
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Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar

Here is our 2021 Disney World crowd calendar, although please keep in mind that this is subject to change and we expect to update our crowd calendar throughout the year as more information about Disney World operations is released. Again, if you want to know which dates are still available for theme park reservations, click here to view the Disney Park Pass availability calendar.

2021 disney world crowd calendar

Walt Disney World Trip Planning FAQs

How can I avoid crowds at Disney World?

When it comes to planning a trip to Disney, one thing that pretty much every first-timer wants to know is how to avoid crowds. There are some seasons that are less crowded and some that are more crowded, as we’ve shared above, but if you can only visit during peak seasons like the middle of summer or Christmas vacation, here are some tips for avoiding crowds as much as possible.

Moonlight Magic at Disney's Hollywood Studios
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Related: Visiting Disney parks on a crowded week? Use these tips on your vacation!

First, we highly recommend using the My Disney Experience app. This will allow you to check park hours, wait times, and even order food straight from your phone. It’s available in the app store for your iPhone or Android device and it will be a lifesaver while on vacation. We, of course, recommend downloading the app before you arrive at Disney property.

Secondly, when available, we recommend taking advantage of amenities like Extra Magic Hours and FastPass+. These luxuries are free for Disney Resort hotel Guests and will help you not only stay organized and have a plan for your trip but also avoid crowds and waiting in long lines. Note, however, that Extra Magic Hours and FastPass+ are currently suspended at Disney World and Disney has not yet announced when they will come back.

For more tips on Disney World crowds, take a look at our guide here. 

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What are Extra Magic Hours?

Extra Magic Hours are currently suspended at Walt Disney World Resort. However, if you want to read more about this feature, below is some information on EMH and why it was beneficial, as well as more information on Early Theme Park Entry, Disney’s new offering coming in 2021 as a replacement of Extra Magic Hours.

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Previously, Extra Magic Hours were extra hours offered for Disney Resort hotel Guests — those staying in Disney-owned hotels or those staying in Disney-affiliated hotels. During the magic hours, Guests had the opportunity to visit a Disney theme park either in the morning before the park opens to the public or in the evening after the park closes to the public, depending on when the magic hours were offered. Extra Magic Hours were free of charge, but now, they will no longer be offered at Walt Disney World.

However, as mentioned above, Disney announced that Early Theme Park Entry will be replacing Extra Magic Hours. Like Extra Magic Hours, Early Theme Park Entry is a free perk for all Guests staying at a Disney-owned hotel (or a hotel affiliated with Walt Disney World Resort). Early Theme Park Entry allows Guests to enter any theme park 30 minutes before the park opens for the day.

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Disney shared the following:

We know how much guests enjoy extra park time, so coming later this year as part of our 50th anniversary celebration, Disney Resort hotel guests and guests of other select hotels will be able to enjoy more fun with 30-minute early entry to ANY theme park, EVERY day. It’ll be a great way to get a jump start on your Disney day, no matter the day!

These extra 30 minutes can help you avoid crowds because it is a time when the theme parks are only open to Disney hotel Guests and not to the public, so anyone just taking a day trip to Disney or staying off-property cannot enter the park during Early Theme Park Entry. This means the park is much less crowded than it would be in the middle of the day, for example.

Our tip for utilizing Early Theme Park Entry (which begins 30 minutes before park opening at any of the four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disneyls Animal Kingdom) is to arrive at the theme park even earlier than the Early Theme Park Entry begins. Then, take advantage of all of the open attractions and experiences during that time. Continue to hang around the park after the park opens to the public, but then either go back to your resort for a mid-day break or park hop to another Disney theme park. You can read all about Disney’s latest Park Hopping policies for 2021 here. 

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What is FastPass+?

FastPass+ is currently suspended at Disney World. However, here is some helpful information about this Guest Service so you know more about it ahead of its return.

FastPass+ is a game-changer when it comes to crowds because it allows you to avoid waiting in long lines. Seasoned Disney World visitors hardly ever wait in lines longer than 20 minutes, and it’s because of FastPass+. If you are staying in a Disney-owned hotel or a hotel affiliated with Disney, you get to reserve three FastPasses per person, per day, up to 60 days in advance. So if you book your FastPasses 60 days in advance right when you’re able to, you can often snag those hard-to-book attractions like Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Frozen Ever After at Epcot, Peter Pan’s Flight at Magic Kingdom, and more.

FastPass+ will allow you to head to an attraction during a designated one-hour window and wait in a much shorter line (or no line at all!). You can also continue to book more FastPasses after you have used the ones you booked in advance. You can read our first-timer’s guide to FastPass+ here, or chat with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, who can book your FastPass+ reservations, dining reservations, and so much more.

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Have more questions about avoiding crowds at Walt Disney World? Comment below!