I’ve heard it said that it takes a special kind of crazy to visit Walt Disney World for the 4th of July, and I have to agree. The week of 4th of July is the second most crowded week of the entire year at Disney (the week of Christmas is the most crowded, in case you were wondering). In addition, it’s also one of the hottest times of year in central Florida. That being said, 4th of July is also my favorite time of year to visit Walt Disney World. The majority of my visits to Walt Disney World have been during 4th of July week. Overt the years, I’ve learned how to make the most of the July heat and crowds to make sure your vacation is extra magical. Here are 7 of my best tips so you can turn the second most crowded week at Disney into the most magical vacation your family has ever taken!
View Magic Kingdom Fireworks On July 3rd
In celebration of America’s independence, the Magic Kingdom will host a special fireworks show called Disney’s Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky on both July 3rd and 4th. This special nighttime spectacular will feature dazzling fireworks choreographed to patriotic music. Because the Magic Kingdom will be the most crowded park on July 4th, I highly recommend watching Disney’s Celebrate America! on July 3rd. You’ll get the same special experience but with a slightly smaller crowd.
Epcot will also celebrate Independence Day with a special fireworks show. IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth will conclude with a patriotic laser light finale. I recommend visiting Epcot on July 4th. There is something extra special about being at The American Adventure pavilion, seeing Colonial characters, and reliving our nation’s history through The American Adventure show on Independence Day!
Arrive Early & Don’t Park Hop
In the summer, especially at the 4th of July, it’s not uncommon for some of the Walt Disney World parks to close at some point throughout the day due to reaching capacity. They do implement different levels of closures due to capacity; however, you’ll definitely want to make sure to arrive early to ensure you are admitted into the park. I also highly recommend staying in one park all day and not park hopping on the 4th of July. Returning to your resort in the afternoon or leaving one park to head to another could result in no admittance if a park is closed due to capacity when you arrive.
Visit Popular Attractions First
No matter which park you visit on the 4th of July, it is going to be crowded. This means long wait times for many attractions, especially the “E-ticket” attractions. If you want to get a ride in on those big attractions without having a Fastpass, I highly recommend heading straight to the popular attractions as soon as you arrive in the park.
If you arrive within an hour or two of park opening, the lines for the big attractions will be greatly reduced. If you get there early enough, you might be able to ride a few of the “E-ticket” rides, such as Frozen Ever After or Space Mountain, with wait times as short as 15 – 30 minutes. This tip also applies to the Fantasyland dark rides. Waits for these 1 – 2 minute long attractions can easily reach over 90 minutes throughout the day. By arriving at these attractions first, you’ll avoid the long wait and maybe even get in a few extra rides.
One of the most important tips for visiting Disney on the 4th is utilize the Fastpass+ system. This free service allows all guests the opportunity to experience a greatly reduced wait time on several attractions throughout the day. When you select your first three Fastpasses, be sure to pick times earlier in the day.
Once you use your first three Fastpasses, you will be able to use the My Disney Experience app to book additional Fastpasses. You can also select these additional Fastpasses at kiosks located throughout the parks. When selecting Fastpasses, keep in mind that Disney no longer permits late admittance for Fastpasses. Once your selected time frame has passed, your Fastpass will not be honored. So be sure to pick a time that works with anything else you have scheduled such as ADRs or parades.
You’ll also want to be strategic in which attractions you select for your Fastpasses. Rather than selecting shows such as Finding Nemo – The Musical or Illuminations, I suggest selecting Fastpasses for attractions known to have longer wait times such as Na’vi River Journey or Soarin’. The wait times for most of the shows at Disney don’t get longer than about 30 minutes, so those are not the most beneficial uses of a Fastpass. What’s a 30 minute wait when you’re avoiding a 1.5 – 2 hour wait by having a Fastpass to one of the “E-ticket” attractions? There are also plenty of spaces to get a great view for the fireworks without using a Fastpass.
Make ADRs for Unusual Times
With so many guests visiting the Disney parks on Independence Day, you can bet the restaurants in the parks will also be crowded, especially during typical meal times. To avoid the long waits of both the lunch and dinner rushes, you may want to consider dining at an unusual time.
On our Disney vacations, my family will typically eat breakfast at the resort before heading to the parks. Being fans of Mickey waffles for breakfast, we usually don’t get hungry for lunch until 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Since this is after the lunch rush, most of the quick service and table service restaurants are starting to clear out.
Perhaps you’ve considered booking an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) at a table service restaurant in order to avoid the long waits during peak dining hours. Even with ADRs, guests will often have to wait a little while before their table is ready. The week of July 4th can prove to be a difficult one for getting some of the more popular ADRs. If you’re having trouble getting the ADR you want, try searching for a time a little earlier or later than the typical meal time.
Due to the large portion size for many of the meals at Disney, it’s possible you may not be hungry for dinner after eating a late lunch. My family often skips dinner and instead opts for a snack, such as my personal favorite – Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar. If you do want to have dinner in the parks, I also recommend eating this meal a little late as well.
Hydrate & Wear Sunscreen
When you’re having so much fun celebrating America’s independence at Walt Disney World, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. The Florida sun is so hot in July and can wear down your body before you know it. It is so important to remember to stay hydrated throughout the day. You can get a free cup of ice water at any of the quick service restaurants and even at some of the snack stands throughout the park. Be sure to take advantage of this to avoid dehydration. If you get too hot, stop in one of the many air-conditioned stores or take in an air-conditioned show.
In addition to staying hydrated, be sure to apply sunscreen before arriving in the parks, even if it’s a cloudy day. Some of the worst sunburns can happen on cloudy days. You may also want to take some sunscreen into the park with you to re-apply throughout the day, especially if you burn easily like me.
Claim Your Fireworks Viewing Spot Early
No matter which park you visit for the 4th of July, you’re sure to be watching the fireworks with tens of thousands of your closest friends. This means you must claim your fireworks viewing spot early if you want a good view. I recommend finding your spot at least one hour prior to showtime. You may find some guests begin claiming their spot even earlier than an hour before the fireworks.
When selecting a viewing location, be sure to pick a spot far enough back so your view of the fireworks will not be blocked by Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom or by the stage at Hollywood Studios. There are plenty of great viewing locations around World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot. If you arrive early, you may be able to claim a spot by the rail near the water for a spectacular view of the celebration.
With these 7 essential tips, you’ll be prepared to have a magical 4th of July at Walt Disney World. Though this is one of the most crowded times to visit, it is also a truly special time to vacation at Disney! Have you visited Walt Disney World for July 4th? If so, let us know some of your best tips in the comments below.