We love January at Walt Disney World. It starts off with some of the year's heaviest crowds but finishes with low crowds and cool temps (2 of our favorite things to have when visiting!).
Here's what you need to know:
How our Crowd Calendars Work
Ready to dive in? Jump down to the January Crowd Calendar
1. For each day of the month, we tell you on a scale of 1-10 how busy the entire Walt Disney World Resort is when compared to other days of the year.
2. Then, for each park you'll see the park hours and any special events that are planned.
3. We also track refurbishments and closings (which you can toggle on and off).
4. We have a handy feature that allows you to automatically add your Advanced Dining Reservation date to your calendar.
5. And, one of the most useful features is the ability to be able to print the calendar so that you can have a paper copy for planning (or to just use as a backup).
What order should you visit the parks?
Depending on the length of your trip, here's how many days we recommend for each park:
When it comes time to decide which days are best for each park, here are some general things to keep in mind:
- Hollywood Studios is consistently the first park to reach capacity. If you are interested in riding Rise of the Resistance, you might want to consider putting it at the beginning of your trip in case you need to try a couple of times to get a Boarding Group.
- Magic Kingdom is the most popular park overall. It is also the park most first-time visitors think of when they think "Disney World". Saturdays are the busiest, with mid-week typically the least busy.
- Epcot hosts nearly year-round festivals, and those festivals are popular with both out-of-state visitors as well as with locals. And, since a lot of what the festivals are famous for are alcohol and food, the areas around the Festival Booths can be a lot busier (and a bit rowdier) than what you'd find during the daytime hours on the weekdays. If that isn't the vibe you are looking for, you may want to skip Epcot during the nighttime on Friday and Saturdays.
- Even with the new Park Pass system, Animal Kingdom remains one of the "easiest" parks to fit into a trip. You should be able to plug it in wherever it makes the most sense for you.
We go into a lot more detail in our guide on The Best Days to Visit Each Park.
Planning for Disney World in January
Disney publishes its park hours about 75 days in advance, but those hours can (and very often do) change.
Note: This used to be about 180 days in advance, but since the reopening, they have transitioned to a roughly 75-day window.
As the dates get closer, it isn't unusual for Disney to tweak either the opening or closing times. And during especially busy times of the year, they may change both.
That means to avoid having your plans sidetracked, you'll definitely want to keep checking the park hours - including while on your trip.
When it comes to park hours - in general - the heavier the crowds, the longer the parks will be open during the day. Of course, that also means that the parks will be open fewer hours of the day during less busy times of the years.
In January, that means that you'll typically find the parks open longer at the beginning of the year and around the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
- Guide to Magic Kingdom Park Hours
- Guide to Epcot Park Hours
- Guide to Hollywood Studios Park Hours
- Guide to Animal Kingdom Park Hours
PRICES AND DISCOUNTS
If you are looking for a good deal, January is typically a prime time to snag one.
Tickets over the busy New Year's Holiday and Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend are pricey. But if you can avoid traveling over those dates, you'll find some of the lowest prices of the year.
Also, January has seen discounts of some sort for at least the past 6 years (which is as long as we've been tracking them).
Holiday decorations (resort-wide)
While not really a "special event", if you are traveling during the first few days of January, you'll likely get to see many of the holiday decorations still up across the parks.
Decorations typically begin coming down on the first Monday after New Year's.
This process takes a while, though. And, with so many resorts and parks, it usually takes a couple of weeks for all traces of the holidays to be removed.
Walt Disney World Marathon (resort-wide)
The most popular of all the runDisney races is the Walt Disney World Marathon, which typically takes place the first weekend after New Year's Day.
Note: due to safety concerns, many runDisney races in 2021 have been canceled. Be sure to check the official runDisney website for the most up-to-date information.
This multi-day event includes the full and half-marathons, plus a 5k and 10k race and thousands and thousands of guests descend on the Walt Disney World Resort over Race Weekend to run one (or more) race.
Festival of the Arts
The newest festival at Epcot is called Festival of the Arts, and it is one of our favorites.
Taking place in January and February, this festival covers all things "art". This includes visual, culinary, and performing arts.
50th Anniversary Celebration
Walt Disney World is celebrating 50 years!
Extending all the way from October 1, 2021 until April 1, 2023, this celebration will offer guests the opportunities for new experiences, entertainment, and of course merchandise and treats.
If you prefer cooler temperatures and low humidity, January is the month for you.
But even though the temps range from lows in the 50s to highs in the 70s, remember those are just averages.
It isn't unusual to see those lows dip into the 30s and the highs to climb into the 80s.
Layers are a necessity during this time of the year. Even the characters wear long sleeves and jackets in January.
In addition to cool temps, January also sees some of the least amounts of rain, with an average of fewer than 3 inches per month.
That combination (cool temps, low humidity, and minimal rain) helps make January a pleasant time to visit.
CAN YOU SWIM IN JANUARY?
Yes, you can!
The good news is that the pools across the resort are heated. And, in fact, one of Disney's 2 water parks is also typically open in January.
But, just because you can swim doesn't mean it won't be chilly.
We generally hear from people that if you are from a cold climate, swimming during January isn't bad.
However, if you are from a typically warm climate, then jumping in a pool when it is 70 degrees out might be a bit too chilly.
And, in our experience, while many kids seem oblivious to the coolness of swimming in January, the adults might find it rough.
If swimming is a must-do, your best bet is to give it a go during the middle of the day when the air temperatures are the highest.
Note: during especially cold stretches, Disney will close the pools and water parks.
WHAT TO WEAR
When packing for Disney World in January, layers are going to be key.
The mornings and evenings are likely to be chilly, but you may find that short sleeves will work just fine during the middle of the day.
That's why having things you can easily take off and put back on is essential.
Again, what climate you come from will likely determine just how heavy your layers are. In general, if traveling in January, we recommend everyone have a heavy jacket or coat.
Sweatshirts and hoodies are also good options for milder days.
In addition, we've had several trips where we found ourselves purchasing gloves in the parks, so we now are sure to pack those with us when we head to Walt Disney World in January.
REFURBISHMENTS AND CLOSURES
Disney tends to save major refurbishments for times of the year when the crowds are the lowest, typically after the busy holiday season but before summer.
That means January will typically see many refurbishments.
We keep track of those on the calendar below.
To see what will be closed on your trip, toggle the "attraction closings" on the calendar menu.
During the colder months, Disney also typically closes Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon (one at a time) for refurbishment.
These scheduled closings typically take place between the end of October and mid-March.
Make sure you check the calendar below to see what park will be open during your visit.
At this time, no major new attraction, restaurant, or show is scheduled to open in January.
TIPS FOR DISNEY WORLD IN JANUARY
- Layers, layers, layers. The weather can fluctuate greatly, so make sure you pack things you can take off and put on easily.
- Keep checking for discounts. January is a popular month for them. And if you are flexible in your resort choice, you may be able to save a nice amount of money.
- Be prepared for some closures. It is pretty typical for attractions like Splash Mountain to be down for routine maintenance in January.
- New Year's and the Martin Luther King, Jr. holidays are both historically busy times of the year at Walt Disney World. Avoid them if you can.