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Early Theme Park Entry Replacing Extra Magic Hours at Disney World

Disney has just announced a new benefit for guests, “Early Theme Park Entry” which will allow early access to The Walt Disney World theme parks. Early Theme Park Entry replaces traditional Disney Extra Magic Hours.

Early Theme Park Entry Disney World

Ever since The Walt Disney World Resort reopened in July 2020, the theme parks have been without a way for guests to get into the parks early as Extra Magic Hours have been missing since March 2020.

(UPDATE) – Disney has revealed that Early Theme Park Entry will begin September 26, 2021, as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration. They have also released the full list of participating hotels.

This is a change as Early Theme Park Entry was supposed to begin October 1 with the 50th Anniversary, but Disney decided to have a soft opening a few days early. Read on for the details…

Who Can Use Early Theme Park Entry?

All Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests and guests of other select hotels will have access to the Early Theme Park Entry benefit.

Disney has stated that with this program, Disney World Resort guests will be the first ones to enjoy access to the attractions each day, giving them an advantage over guests not staying on Disney property.

Full List of Early Theme Park Entry Hotels

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Here is the full list of hotels that are offering the Early Theme Park Entry benefits. Most of them are on-site Walt Disney World Resort hotels, however, there are also a few non-Disney hotels that get the same perks.

Disney World Resort Hotels:

  • Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort & Gran Destino Tower
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Disney’s Beach Club Resort
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
  • Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Non-Disney Hotels:

  • B Resort & Spa Lake Buena Vista
  • DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando
  • Four Seasons Resort Orlando
  • Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
  • Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
  • Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
  • Holiday Inn Orlando
  • Shades of Green
  • Waldorf Astoria Orlando
  • Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista
  • Wyndham Lake Buena Vista

Suspiciously missing from the list are The Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotels. It may be that the list is not finalized yet, and we’ll let you know of any updates.

What Parks is it Good for and What Days?

Early Theme Park Entry can be used at ANY of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks on ANY day of the week.

That means there are no more schedules with early entry to the Magic Kingdom one day, EPCOT another day, and so on. Guests will have the freedom to choose which park they want to go early for on which day.

It’s important to note that guests will need a valid ticket or pass and a theme park reservation for the same park on the same date for early theme park entry.

How Early Can I Go to the Parks?

Early Theme Park Entry How Early

According to Disney, guests using the Early Theme Park Entry service will have access to the parks 30 minutes before the scheduled opening time.

This at least was the info in the first press release. In the latest one Disney didn’t mention how early the program starts each day, which does leave some doubt to the exact amount of time.

Some feel that 30 minutes is not early enough and doesn’t give guests that much of a head start over non-resort guests, and perhaps this means Disney is still leaving the door open to extend it as long as 60 minutes before the regular public.

We think that 60 minutes is a better deal, like the old Extra Magic Hours used to have. Although with Early Theme Park Entry available in all 4 parks each day, it may not be feasible from a cast member perspective.

Early Theme Park Entry Attractions

Early Theme Park Entry Attractions Big Thunder Mountain

While Early Theme Park Entry lets guests into the parks early, not all the attractions are running before normal park hours.

Here is a complete list of Early Theme Park Entry attractions at each Disney World theme park:

Magic Kingdom

  • “it’s a small world”
  • Astro Orbiter
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • The Barnstormer
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
  • Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

EPCOT

  • Beauty and The Beast Sing-Along
  • Frozen Ever After
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Test Track
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends

Hollywood Studios

Animal Kingdom

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • DINOSAUR
  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • TriceraTop Spin

Why the Change?

It goes without saying that the Early Theme Park Entry perk will benefit guests, giving them early access to the parks. Disney also says it will give better visitation across the four theme parks.

The obvious difference here between Extra Magic Hours and Early Theme Park Entry is the time difference and lack of evening hours.

When Disney was using the Extra Magic Hours program, the parks opened 1 hour early for guests who were able to use it. They also had Extra Magic Hours in the evening where the parks would stay open an extra 2 hours on select nights.

Disney likely opted to introduce this new program instead of Extra Magic Hours because it spreads around the crowds to all 4 parks, instead of one big mass of people converging on one park like before.

It’s clear that Early Theme Park Entry is an extremely watered-down version of Extra Magic Hours, and we wonder how beneficial it will actually be to guests.

Yes, we appreciate being able to get into the parks 30 minutes early, but all of the parks already open the gates 30-40 minutes before the scheduled park opening for that day. Is Disney going to now open the gates even earlier than that?

Count us skeptical. To us, it’s making official a situation that already occurs on a daily basis in the parks. Actually, it’s a disadvantage to guests who show up early to get in before the official time because now more people are going to know about it.

This isn’t the only change coming to Walt Disney World. Disney also recently announced they are discontinuing the Magical Express Bus service starting in 2022, and already in 2021, they’ve stopped giving out complimentary MagicBands to Disney World Resort guests.

Will Extra Magic Hours Ever Come Back?

Early Theme Park Entry Disney World

Right now it’s hard to tell if Disney will ever bring back the Extra Magic Hours perk, or if they will keep Early Theme Park Magic for good.

On Disney’s original press release on the Disney Parks Blog, the wording left some space for interpretation. For example, it said, “as we continue to manage attendance with health and safety top of mind, Extra Magic Hours will not return.”

Notice that does not say Extra Magic Hours will NEVER return, but implies it won’t during the health crisis. Previously we thought that eventually when the health crisis ends and things go back to “normal,” there was a good chance Extra Magic Hours would return, at least in some form.

However, now that the health crisis is winding down and Disney has eliminated many of their previous health and safety guidelines including getting rid of face masks in most situations, they are still going through with Early Theme Park Entry.

it's a small world tiger scene

They did however recently announce that starting in early October, extended evening hours will be available for Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort hotel guests on select nights. will also be able to enjoy extended evening hours on select nights in select theme parks.

We’ll wait to pass judgment until we see what these “extended evening hours” entail, but the Early Theme Park Entry is not connected and is sticking around.

Overall, we’re not so sure of the impact of these changes and we’ll have to see after a few weeks if they make a difference. Disney is running out of extra perks for on-site resort guests after all the recent changes, so at least they are attempting to do something to make Disney World Resort Hotel guests feel special once again.

Will it be enough? Time will tell…

This is a developing story and we’ll have more details and thoughts about it soon so stay tuned…

If you are going to Disney World soon, make sure to read our Disney World Planning Guide for all the tips and info you will need to cover everything! Also, check out our Disney World Crowd Calendar so you know when the best time to visit is!

Your Thoughts

I want to know what you think about the new Early Theme Park Entry…

  • Do you like this addition?
  • What changes would you make to it?

Let us know in the comments section below!

If you enjoyed this article, as always I appreciate it if you’d share it with others via social media.  I work hard at making this website into a useful resource for you and your family to plan your visit to the Disney Parks and I hope it can help you! Thanks 🙂

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