One very important part of the planning process of your Disney World vacation is to be aware of special events that take place on an annual basis at the Disney World Resort. For two reasons it is important to be aware of these events. First, you may be planning a trip where you will experience one of these events and you need to be aware the best way to handle it as well as any details on the event such as the best crowd level days to visit. Second, you may be traveling during a special event and want to avoid it due to the crowds that may travel to be a part of the event. Our list below will give just a brief introduction of each event and let you know what the times are each year that this event takes place.
January and February
- New Years Day – Celebrate the New Year in many places on property. There are not many things happening specific to the holiday, but it is important to be aware of the large crowds that will be in the parks on this day, especially the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
- WDW Marathon Weekend – Usually held the first full weekend of January after the holidays. This annual tradition for thousands of runners will make the entire crowd level of Walt Disney World feel very high, although it doesn’t necessarily translate to much higher wait times at the theme parks as the people here for the marathon don’t spend a ton of time riding rides. An important note is to check with your resort for any updated transportation notices as road closing may cause transportation routes or times to be changed to accommodate the race. For more information on the race itself visit www.rundisney.com.
- Princess Half Marathon Weekend – This runDisney event is held annually in mid-February. This race is not quite as large as the WDW Marathon in January, but it still draws thousands of runners. An important note is to check with your resort for any updated transportation notices as road closing may cause transportation routes or times to be changed to accommodate the race. For more information on the race itself visit www.rundisney.com.
- Atlanta Braves Spring Training – This annual event begins in the month of February and takes place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Go to www.espnwwos.com for more info.
March, April, and May
- Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival – This annual event takes place throughout the entire Epcot theme park during the months of March, April, and May. In 2015 the days were March 4 through May 17. During this event Epcot is transformed with millions of flowers and plants, butterfly exhibits, as well as outdoor food venues to help celebrate the festival. In addition to these special offerings they also hold the Garden Rocks Concert Series on select dates during the festival. Visit www.disneyworld.com/flower for more information.
- Easter Holiday – There are not many things happening specific to the holiday, but it is important to be aware of the large crowds that will be in the parks on this day, especially the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The only thing specific to the holiday that has happened in the past is a an Easter Bunny Meet and Greet in the Town Square at Magic Kingdom as well as some Easter Egg Hunts at Epcot. These events were not publicized early and cannot be counted on each year, but could provide a nice surprise if traveling over this holiday.
- Expedition Everest Challenge – This annual 5k race set in and around Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is held at the beginning of May. This annual race also offers an after party inside of the Animal Kingdom park. Visit www.rundisney.com for more information.
June, July, and August
- Gay Days – Gay Days is a “Non-Disney” sponsored event that takes place the first week of June each year. Visit www.gaydays.com for more information and to confirm dates.
- Sounds Like Summer Concert Series – Sounds Like Summer is a concert series that takes place at the American Gardens Theater in Epcot’s World Showcase each summer. The dates for concerts in usually run the first week in June to the last week in July.
- Car Masters Weekend – This event, held at Disney Springs annually, happens during a weekend in June. In 2015 the dates are June 13-14, although there has been some speculation this event may not take place again until the Downtown Disney/Disney Springs transformation is completed. During this event award winning exotic cars, historical cars, and muscle cars make an appearance as well as some of the stars of Disney/Pixar’s hit movies Cars and Cars 2.
- Independence Day Holiday – This holiday at Disney World draws large crowds, especially at the Magic Kingdom. There will be special fireworks, usually on both July 3 and July 4 at the Magic Kingdom. Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios also show special July 4th fireworks shows. This will be one of the most crowded days of the year and Magic Kingdom will probably close the front gates due to capacity at some point during the middle part of the day, so if you want to make sure you are in this park today arrive early. Epcot is often a better choice as you get a great 4th of July day tag to the regular IllumiNations making for a long and great show, but Epcot is often pretty crowded as well. Hollywood Studios does a fireworks show as well that is most of the time a little better option as the heaviest crowds are at the two more popular parks.
September and October
- Night of Joy – This annual event brings in some of the top Christian music artists of the year to perform at the Magic Kingdom. In 2015 the dates are September 11-12. Click Here for more information and to purchase tickets.
- Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – The Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom is a hard ticket event that runs on select nights from the middle of September through Halloween. This party doesn’t only include extra time in the Magic Kingdom where rides usually have shorter than normal wait times, but it also includes trick or treating, a special Halloween parade, and the HalloWishes fireworks show. It is quite a pricy hard ticket event, but there are some nice features that many people think are worth it, plus it is less expensive than a one day ticket to the theme parks. The party begins at 7 PM and goes to midnight, but with a party ticket you can enter the park as early as 4 PM. Click Here to purchase tickets.
- Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – The Food & Wine Festival is an annual event in Epcot’s World Showcase and has become extremely popular in recent years. The event runs from the middle of September to the middle of November. This event is one of the most popular in all of Disney World and probably as popular with locals as any event. During this period guests can sample food and drink from over 25 international locations set around World Showcase Lagoon. In addition the park offers many select special events that have a separate ticket for entry. Another part of the festival is the Eat to the Beat concert series that takes place at the American Gardens Theater. These concerts take place every day of the festival at 5:30, 6:45, and 8:00. Click Here for more information on the Food and Wine Festival as well as those special events that take place, including a list of concert performers as soon as it is announced. As far as the crowd levels go we do recommend avoiding the weekends, especially if you have kids, unless you are into a party like atmosphere. It is one of the few times at Disney World that you may want to avoid something if you have your kids along. It is not out of control by any means, but it is extremely crowded and the beverages are flowing, but we’ll leave it at that!
November and December
- Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – Each year, near the end of the Food and Wine Festival, runDisney hosts the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. In 2015 the race and events take place on November 6-7. This multi-race weekend features distances from a kids race to a 5k to the half marathon that finishes at Epcot during the Food and Wine Festival. Visit www.rundisney.com for more information.
- Festival of the Masters – This event, for award winning artists, takes place in November of each year at Disney Springs. In 2015 the event is happening on the weekend of November 7-9.
- Christmas Holiday Season – The Christmas season at Disney World usually officially begins around the first week of November as decorations will be put up in the theme parks, specifically the Magic Kingdom. The lights on Cinderella Castle were illuminated for the first time on November 5 in 2014, although Disney does not necessarily release a specific date they will be ready. The decorations at the resorts and other theme parks will slowly be added between that time and the end of Thanksgiving week. Also, make sure and put some time in the schedule to visit the different deluxe resorts to view their large edible holiday displays such as the gingerbread Christmas tree at the Contemporary Resort or the gingerbread carousel at the Beach Club.
- Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – The Christmas party at the Magic Kingdom is a hard ticket event that runs on select nights from the beginning of November until about 5-7 days before Christmas. This party doesn’t only include extra time in the Magic Kingdom where rides usually have shorter than normal wait times, but it also includes free milk and cookies, the special Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime parade, and the Holiday Wishes fireworks show. It is quite a pricy hard ticket event, but there are some nice features that many people think are worth it, plus it is less expensive than a one day ticket to the theme parks. The party begins at 7 PM and goes to midnight, but with a party ticket you can enter the park as early as 4 PM. Click Here to purchase tickets.
- Festival of the Seasons – Disney Springs does it’s own Christmas celebration each year with Festival of the Seasons. This event runs from November 14 to December 29 in 2015. With this special event you can also meet Santa or Goofy as Santa each day from noon to 9:30 PM.
- Thanksgiving Holiday – There are not many things happening specific to the holiday, but it is important to be aware of the large crowds that will be in the parks on this day, especially the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. There are some special meals at certain restaurants, but those are usually not announced all that far in advance.
- Epcot Holidays Around the World – The World Showcase at Epcot is a fantastic place to be during this season as they present Holiday’s Around the World. In 2015 the event will run from November 28 through December 30. During this week storytellers in the countries of the World Showcase tell guests the Christmas Story from their country. It is a great experience to see how traditions and culture change throughout the world during this time of year.
- Candlelight Processional – This annual event is a major draw at Epcot during the holiday season. The event runs from just after Thanksgiving to the end of December. This event is home to Disney’s telling of the biblical Christmas story through the voice of a celebrity narrator, with the help of large choir and orchestra. The event takes place at 5:00, 6:45, and 8:15 PM each evening. We do highly recommend the dining package for this event as it gets you seating to one of the specific show times and that reserved seating is important as this show is extremely popular and seating is limited. Click Here for booking information.
- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – There are many special events that make the holidays a special time at Disney World. Make sure you are prepared for the crowds during this time period though as they will be huge. If you want to stay away from the biggest crowds don’t attend the Magic Kingdom on these two days as they will have the largest crowds. Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios would be much better options. If a holiday meal is what you like many restaurants will have those, just check with your restaurant of choice to see if they offer that experience.
- New Years Eve – The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios will all stay open past midnight and present New Years Eve Fireworks. Just like the 4th of July we think Hollywood Studios tends to be the best option of the three, although all will be extremely crowded. It is often helpful to see if the New Years Eve fireworks are being offered the night before or after as well as those nights will be less crowded than the actual New Years Eve.
Let us know by commenting below if you have any questions about special events that we didn’t answer above and we’ll be happy to help you out.