Walt Disney World is usually packed with magic, but does the enchantment ever come to an unexpected halt?
The answer is yes. While rare, sometimes Disney World cannot open or has to stop operations suddenly. The entire resort has been forced to close several times in recent history due to hurricanes, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 9/11 attacks. Despite these extenuating circumstances, Disney World remains open most of the year.
This article covers why Disney World has closed in the past, if the parks are open on holidays, the areas of the property with scheduled closures, and if Disney World still has after-hours.
Why Has Disney World Closed in the Past?
While Walt Disney World strives to maintain its regular operating hours, several historical events have challenged this goal.
Disney World has been forced to close due to threatening weather during hurricane seasons, health concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and safety measures following the 2001 September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
Should any other events occur that put Disney World’s guests at risk, it is safe to say that the parks will close to ensure visitor safety remains a top priority.
Hurricanes Near Disney World
Even though the Disney World property is nestled in an area of Florida deemed safe from hurricanes, the resort has taken on the mantra “it’s better safe than sorry.”
The notable hurricanes that have caused Disney World to close include:
- Hurricane Floyd in 1999
- Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Frances, and Hurricane Jeanne in 2004
- Hurricane Matthew in 2016
- Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The Global COVID-19 Pandemic
The whole world felt (and continues to feel) the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – and Disney World is no exception.
Despite attempts to install various safety measures to keep the magic flowing, Disney World ultimately had to shut its doors to the public in March 2020.
The parks didn’t reopen until July of the same year, resulting in the longest closure in Disney World’s history, approximately 116 days.
The 9/11 Attacks
On September 11, 2001, roughly half an hour after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Disney World evacuated its guests from the resort.
The parks remained closed for the rest of the day as the government was worried the parks were a potential target.
Disney World reopened the following day on September 12, 2001.
This catastrophic event in American history caused Disney World to change its front-gate security procedures for years.
After the attacks, Disney implemented thorough bag searches and security measures that still exist in different forms today.
Is Disney World Open on Holidays?
Disney World doesn’t take any holidays off – quite the opposite, in fact.
Since most people get time off during major holidays, Disney World keeps its doors open to welcome guests for seasonal celebrations.
Because these dates are some of the busiest times of the year, Disney World wholeheartedly embraces the opportunity to inject a little Disney magic into the festivities.
Some of the holiday celebrations at Disney World include the charming Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the cultural EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, and the kid-friendly Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
These events are separately ticketed and run seasonally.
Do Disney World’s Water Parks Close in the Winter?
Winter in Orlando is typically mild, and Florida is a popular vacation destination in the winter months.
January tends to have the lowest temperatures, with average highs of 72ºF (22ºC) and lows of around 52ºF (11ºC).
Additionally, to keep parkgoers comfortable, all the water in the pools and attractions is heated to 82ºF (27.8ºC).
That said, Disney World will close its water parks if daytime temperatures drop too low, reportedly at or below 60ºF (15.5ºF).
Additionally, the water parks are also refurbished annually.
This seasonal maintenance often occurs in the winter but is alternated between the parks so that at least one remains open to guests.
Parkgoers can confirm operating hours for the water parks on the official Disney World website or the My Disney Experience app.
What Parts of Disney World Have Closing Times?
Although the entire property rarely closes, some sections of Disney World close either daily or more often for maintenance, repairs, or general upkeep.
Visitors can find closing times for the theme parks and certain attractions through the Disney World website or via the app.
Disney World Theme Parks
Each theme park runs on its own daily schedule, and hours are subject to change without notice.
Guests can refer to the official Disney World calendar to stay updated on when each park opens and closes.
Disney World Attractions
The rides, shops, and dining experiences throughout the parks also have routine closing times.
Standard hours of operation are posted on the app and online so that guests don’t have to wait until they’re on the property to figure them out.
Besides daily closing times, rides can also be closed for routine maintenance or repairs, which are vital for the safety and improvement of the attractions.
To ensure everyone is in the loop, Disney World also notifies guests when these refurbishments will occur.
Does Walt Disney World Still Have After Hours?
Disney After Hours are separately ticketed events that take place after Disney World theme parks close to the public.
During these events, guests can explore the participating parks for an extra three hours and enjoy exclusive festivities, treats, and shorter wait times for beloved attractions.
After Hours events occur periodically, and parkgoers can grab tickets on the My Disney app or the official website.
Disney World remains open 365 days a year unless extenuating circumstances threaten the safety of its visitors.
In the past, rare occurrences like hurricanes, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 9/11 attacks have forced Disney World to reluctantly tamp down the magic and close its gates to guests.
Otherwise, Disney World is open for all major US holidays, and Florida’s mild winters allow the two water parks to operate almost all year round.
Outside of significant weather or world events, sections of Disney World, such as select attractions or entire parks, may close daily or seasonally for scheduled maintenance, repairs, or renovations.
However, the Disney experience can be extended past closing for guests participating in Disney After Hours events.
Table of Contents
- Why Has Disney World Closed in the Past?
- Is Disney World Open on Holidays?
- Do Disney World’s Water Parks Close in the Winter?
- What Parts of Disney World Have Closing Times?
- Does Walt Disney World Still Have After Hours?