Disney has recently introduced a new benefit for guests, “Early Theme Park Entry” which allows early access to The Walt Disney World theme parks. In fact, Early Theme Park Entry now replaces traditional Disney Extra Magic Hours.
When the Walt Disney World Resort reopened in July 2020, the theme parks were without a way for guests to get into the parks early as Extra Magic Hours went missing in March 2020.
Early Theme Park Entry at Walt Disney World started on September 26, 2021, as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration and has been used in the theme parks ever since.
(UPDATE) – Disney has confirmed that the Early Theme Park Entry perk for Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests will continue throughout all of 2023. They have also updated the list of eligible hotels for Early Theme Park Entry.
That means if you are staying in one of the participating Disney Resort hotels, you can expect to have it available for at least the foreseeable future, and perhaps even beyond 2023. Read on for the details…
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Table of Contents
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 World Resort guests are 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
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
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
- Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
- Walt Disney World Swan Reserve
- B Resort & Spa Lake Buena Vista
- DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando
- Drury Plaza Hotel Orlando Lake Buena Vista
- Four Seasons Resort Orlando
- Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
- Signa by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
- Holiday Inn Orlando
- Shades of Green on Walt Disney World Resort
- Waldorf Astoria Orlando
- Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista
- Wyndham Lake Buena Vista
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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 have the freedom to choose which park they want early access to and 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?
According to Disney, guests using the Early Theme Park Entry service have access to the parks 30 minutes before the scheduled opening 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 Early Theme Park Entry is available in all 4 parks each day, it may not be feasible from the cast members’ perspective.
Early Theme Park Entry Attractions
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:
- “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
- Beauty and The Beast Sing-Along
- Frozen Ever After
- Mission: SPACE
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Spaceship Earth
- Test Track
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Toy Story Mania!
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- 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 it’s close as to which one gives guests more value. Genie+ selections are also not available during Early Theme Park Entry so you’ll have to do everything with the standby queue.
Yes, we appreciate being able to get into the parks 30 minutes early, just remember, all of the parks already open the gates 30-40 minutes before the scheduled park opening for that day. That means that when you show up for Early Theme Park Entry, Disney now opens the gate another 30 minutes before Early Entry actually starts.
In some ways, we now prefer Early Theme Park Entry over Extra Magic Hours. Yes, it’s only a 30-minute advantage in the morning as compared to 1 hour for Extra Magic Hours, but the crowds are more spread out evenly between the 4 parks instead of everyone showing up at the 1 park per day that would open early.
This isn’t the only change that has come to Walt Disney World in recent years. Disney also discontinued the Magical Express Bus service starting in 2022, and they also already stopped giving out complimentary MagicBands to Disney World Resort guests.
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Will Extra Magic Hours Ever Come Back?
Right now it’s not looking very likely that Disney will ever bring back the Extra Magic Hours perk, and it seems like 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.
In fact, in its most recent statement, Disney confirmed that the Early Theme Park Entry perk for Disney World Hotel guests will continue for all of 2023. So even if it eventually goes away, it is sticking around for the foreseeable future.
They also however introduced, extended evening hours which is available for Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort hotel guests on select nights. This is a better solution for guests who are not early-risers and like to stay in the park late at night.
After more than a year now of using “extended evening hours” we absolutely love it and the parks feel almost empty on most nights that it’s running. Most of the attractions have wait times between 5 and 20 minutes, even the most popular rides in the parks such as Flight of Passage.
We can say that the additions of both Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Hours have made a positive impact for guests, as long as they qualify for them. 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…
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!
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!
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My name is Ziggy and I love Disney, everything Disney! I grew up on Disney and it has and continues to be a huge part of my life. I started young when my parents took me to Disney World when I was 18 months old. Little did they know that would be the first of an uncountable number of trips we would take. I have so many amazing memories going to Disney with my family and friends and it has been interwoven into my DNA.