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Touring in the off season

Since the calendar now says it’s September, many of you are likely looking forward to trips to Walt Disney World in the fall and much of the fall season encompasses what we like to call the “off season” at Walt Disney World.  There are varying degrees of off season, from the weeks leading up to Halloween that can be kind of busy to most of September that is downright empty but the crowds you will see from now until Thanksgiving are among the lowest of the year and no where near the crowds one can expect to find in June through August.  With these lower crowds come different considerations for how to tackle the parks and especially Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Let’s set up some basic “ground rules” of off season touring.  Typically, while crowds will be much lower during the off season, park hours will also be scaled back since clearly there isn’t as many people who are going to be in the parks.  This typically means the Studios will close sometime between 7pm and 9pm, depending on the evening, with most evenings closing between 7 and 8pm.  With these lower hours, comes the need to ensure you are at the Studios for park opening more than ever.  If the park will be open less than 11 or 10 hours, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to “see it all” so maximize your time by arriving early and being on hand for park opening.

With shorter park hours come limited show times.  One of the major obstacles of ideal Studios touring is working in all of the shows in the Studios.  With less hours, the shows will be performed less often which makes it harder to work it all in in one day.  Ideally (regardless of season), you could devote at least two days to the Studios to work everything in easily but if you can’t, you’ll need to pay extra special attention to the show times available and work in the shows and make them a priority since waits at rides ought to be manageable throughout the day thanks to the lower crowds of off season touring.

While not always the case, Disney likes to schedule lengthy closures of attractions for rehabs during the off season so they can ensure they are open during peak season when the large crowds arrive.  In recent years this strategy has somewhat changed but expect to find more closed during the off season than if you were visiting on July 4th.  There isn’t anything currently scheduled for a lengthy rehab for this fall, but that doesn’t mean something can’t wind up on the rehab list later this month or next month so that it can be ready to go when the Thanksgiving and Christmas crowds show up later this year.

A benefit of off season touring is that crowds will be lower and easier for you to experience rides much more easily and even allowing for multiple re-rides if you so choose.  While I still think a good touring plan is a smart way to go, lower crowds may leave you feeling like you have a lot more flexibility in terms of waits.  You can certainly take advantage of the lower crowds and re-ride a favorite attraction a few times, but you will want to keep in mind the first point of lower park hours if you do in fact want to “see it all”.

While lower crowds and park hours are an issue to weigh for some, others simply like to come in the off season for the fabulous fall weather where you can expect to find temperatures throughout much of the day conducive to pool swimming and wearing of shorts even if it’s too chilly back home to do so.  Certainly touring the park with favorable weather makes it much easier to enjoy your time outdoors and without the oppressive heat and humidity of summer, you can find the stamina of your touring group to be longer than during other times of the year so take advantage of this by taking less of an afternoon break (or maybe even no break) at your resort.

The bottom line is the off season at Walt Disney World is a great time of the year and if you have a trip planned for this fall, be sure to take advantage of it by doing more than you otherwise might thanks to lower crowds.

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About this column

A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, September 03, 2008 by