For savvy Disney guests, making the most of Extra Magic Hours (EMH) provide exclusive early morning or late evening park access to maximize time on rides.
Did you know that on average, wait times at popular Disney World rides can be nearly an hour shorter during Extra Magic Hours compared to regular park hours?
Understanding how to make the most of every magical EMH minute can take your Disney vacation to new heights!
Spending time at a Disney Park is a special experience, but with so much to see and do, it’s important to make the most of every moment.
That’s why Disney offers Extra Magic Hours – a perk for eligible guests to access certain theme parks before or after regular operating hours.
Whether you want shorter wait times for attractions, unique photo ops, or less crowded park experiences, planning around Extra Magic Hours is a great way to get the most magical bang for your buck!
This guide will walk through everything you need to know, from types of Extra Magic Hours and eligibility requirements to pro tips for maximizing the extra park time.
Read on to learn how Early Mornings and Late Nights at Cinderella’s Castle can take your Disney vacation from average to exceptional!
Understanding Extra Magic Hours
Extra Magic Hours (or EMH for short) are a special perk offered to guests staying at select Walt Disney World resort hotels. The purpose is to allow eligible guests some extra time in certain Disney Parks before or after the regular posted opening and closing times. This gives resort guests the chance to experience popular attractions with lower wait times, take unique photos, and enjoy a less crowded park.
B. There are two main types of Extra Magic Hours:
- Early Mornings (aka Morning EMHs): During these hours, typically lasting an hour or two, eligible guests can enter a specified Disney Park earlier than the general public. This allows resort guests to take advantage of lower crowds immediately at rope drop.
- Late Nights (aka Evening EMHs): For Late Night EMHs, eligible guests can remain in a designated Disney Park for up to three bonus hours after the park closes to day guests. This extends the park time late into the night for resort guests.
C. To access Extra Magic Hours at Walt Disney World, guests must be staying at a Disney Resort hotel during their visit. The following hotels are eligible:
- The Disney Resort Hotels
- Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels
- Swan and Dolphin Resorts
- Shades of Green
- Disney-owned and operated vacation club properties
Not all Disney resorts offer Extra Magic Hours every day or at every park. Be sure to check the schedule for your dates. Now that you know the basics, let’s talk benefits!
Benefits of Extra Magic Hours
The main draw of Extra Magic Hours is the lower crowd levels and shorter wait times compared to regular park hours.
Popular attractions that often have 60-90+ minute waits during peak times may only have 10-20 minute waits during EMHs. This allows you to experience more attractions in less time.
EMHs also provide exclusive access to sought-after rides and experiences that may be very difficult to enjoy during the normal operating day due to extreme crowds and long lines.
For example, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Flight of Passage are easier to ride multiple times with lighter crowds and walk-on access during Early Morning or Late Night EMHs.
In addition to rides, Extra Magic Hours provide unique photo opportunities throughout the parks.
Early mornings give beautiful empty park shots in front of Cinderella Castle or down Main Street USA.
And late nights allow for iconic lit-up castle photos when crowds disperse after fireworks. Fantastical Magic Kingdom shots are easier without masses of people in the background!
To truly capitalize on the extra time, having solid strategies is key. For Morning EMHs, arrive 30-60 minutes before the early opening time to take full advantage of the lowest crowds immediately at rope drop.
For Evening EMHs, stay until the very end instead of leaving after the night time shows.
Also use Genie+, mobile ordering, and other planning tools to maximize attractions, dining, etc. Read on for more excellent EMH tips!
Planning for Extra Magic Hours
The first step in maximizing Extra Magic Hours is checking the schedule. Disney posts EMH calendars showing which park(s) offer Early Morning or Late Night access on each date.
Make sure to check both the general Walt Disney World EMH calendar as well as your specific resort’s eligible dates. You can find these online or in the My Disney Experience app.
When choosing which park to visit on an EMH date, consider factors like:
- Which parks have the most coveted attractions you want to experience
- Building in time to revisit favorites during low crowds in EMHs
- Park hours – Early Morning vs Late Night based on regular opening/closing times
- Planning around your dining reservations or Genie+ selections
It’s important to adjust your overall Disney itinerary based around Extra Magic Hours as well. Key tips include:
- Schedule your most crowded park days for EMH dates to maximize lower waits
- Plan dining reservations to align with Late Night EMH parks
- Choose fastest-filling Genie+ Lightning Lanes for EMH parks to beat crowds
- Build in afternoon breaks on Early Morning days and late mornings after Late Nights
Aligning your trip plans fully around EMH parks and times allows you to optimize the benefits of exclusive morning and late night access!
Tips for Maximizing Extra Magic Hours
To fully capitalize on Early Morning EMHs, be sure to arrive 30-60 minutes prior to the special entry time.
You’ll want to be at the front of the pack right at rope drop when crowds are lowest. Speed-walk to your one or two must-do attractions first before lines start building.
Prioritize the most popular, hardest-to-get-on rides that may still have extreme waits even during EMHs.
For Magic Kingdom, beelining straight for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train first thing in the morning is key.
At Animal Kingdom, fly to Flight of Passage right at rope drop. Plot your customized EMH attack plan beforehand.
Genie+ and Lightning Lanes are great additions to EMH strategies. Book your first Lightning Lane attraction early in the morning for late morning or afternoon when crowds pick up.
Use Genie+ for your second-tier priorities. Refresh the tip board constantly to scoop up close times.
Dining during EMHs also enhances the experience. Early breakfast before morning EMH jumpstarts the day.
Late night snacks or dinner extends evening EMH fun. Mobile order food for quicker bites without losing ride time.
Pop into lounges or bars only open during exclusive hours for unique off-the-beaten-path spots.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
While Extra Magic Hours offer excellent perks, it’s important not to overestimate the impact.
The lowest crowds and shortest waits still occur right at rope drop Early Mornings and in the last hour of Late Nights.
Arriving later into an EMH session, you may find waits building as more guests take advantage of the exclusive time. Manage expectations wisely.
Failing to check the park calendars and schedule for Extra Magic Hours dates is another rookie mistake.
Guests are often frustrated when they don’t learn their eligible EMH park until arriving at the front gates.
Always verify when EMHs are offered during your dates to build plans around Early Mornings or Late Nights.
Finally, some visitors focus exclusively on EMH strategies without considering other ways to maximize park time.
Excellent regular hours touring plans, Genie+ Lightning Lane usage, dining reservations, afternoon breaks and more still apply on EMH days.
Layer these strategies with your exclusive morning and late night hours for unbeatable experiences.
Reading about other people’s magical EMH moments can really highlight the exclusive perks they offer.
Here are some of my own favorite attractions and experiences that were only possible thanks to Extra Magic Hours:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom – This super popular family coaster always has atrocious 60-90+ minute waits. But during an Early Morning EMH, I could ride again and again with no line before the park opened. We rode 5 glorious times in a row in the first hour!
- Pandora at Night in Animal Kingdom – The bioluminescent world of Pandora is exponentially more breathtaking under the glow of hanging lanterns and neon plants. Being one of the last families in Animal Kingdom during a Late Night EMH, we felt like VIPs wandering through the Valley of Mo’ara. It was pure magic!
- Main Street USA Photos – Early Mornings before rope drop let me capture empty park shots that perfectly framed the stunning Cinderella Castle with not another soul around. Priceless memories for the photo album!
I’d love to hear your own most magical EMH moments as well! Please feel free to share your extra special experiences or attractions that EMH access allowed.
Future Changes and Updates
Walt Disney World frequently makes adjustments to their Extra Magic Hours program based on guest feedback and park operations.
Some recent changes have included increased EMH offerings to more parks and resorts. We may see continuing expansion as Disney gathers data on usage patterns and crowding.
There are also rumours of possible reductions to EMH duration or eligibility in the future if the exclusive perks greatly impact regular park attendance and revenue.
However, Disney has not made any formal announcements yet.
With possible changes down the road, it’s wise for guests to stay on top of the latest Extra Magic Hours information for their upcoming trips.
Be sure to check the Walt Disney World website and blogs for announcements of policy adjustments. Chat with your travel agent or Disney specialists about modifications.
Following Disney annual passholder Facebook groups or forums can also provide insider perspectives on EMH program tweaks.
Being an informed Disney park guest allows you to roll with any EMH changes and immediately modify vacation plans as needed.
An hour less early morning time or different closing times can impact touring strategies. Stay in the know!
To recap, Extra Magic Hours provide eligible Walt Disney World resort guests exclusive early morning and late night access to certain theme parks.
The key perks include lower crowds, shorter wait times, less competition for FastPasses, and unique after-hours experiences.
To maximize the benefits, guests should check the EMH calendar, arrive early, prioritize top attractions, leverage Genie+, and avoid common mistakes.
An Extra Magic Hour might not seem like much time. But even 60 minutes of lower crowds and walk-on access allows you to pack more magic into your day.
With savvy planning and preparation, Early Mornings and Late Nights can greatly boost every aspect of your Disney vacation.
From thrilling rides to Instagrammable shots, Extra Magic Hours offer the inside track to take your trip from average to exceptional!
I highly encourage you to take full advantage when planning Extra Magic Hours into your upcoming Disney escape. It’s the ultimate way to feel like a VIP and experience luxury park time at its very best!