While I promised a look back at 2007, this week I thought I’d put on my Vacation Planning Hat, and take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of touring Walt Disney World during the off-season. Let’s take a look at the negatives first…
Attractions Are Down for Maintenance
With the end of the holiday season there is a sudden drop in attendance at Walt Disney World. As families return home so the kids can go back to school and parents can go back to work, the parks are ripe for a little tender loving care. And that is what they get in the off-season. Refurbishments, remodeling, retheming, and rethinking attractions are all the rage in WDW.
If you set your sights on visiting Walt Disney World during the off-season, be forewarned that a few attractions that you religiously visit may be down for refurbishment. Here is an example of what I mean…
Disney-MGM Studios (at least until January 7, 2008)
There may be a good chance that your favorite attraction might not be running during off-season. Something that might leave a bitter taste in your mouth throughout your stay.
Shorter Park Hours
With less crowds to cater to, the parks close significantly earlier during the off-season. A good example is theMagic Kingdom. For example, tonight, New Year’s Eve, the Magic Kingdom is open from 8 am to 1 am. OnWednesday, January 9, 2008, the Magic Kingdom is only open from 9 am to 7 pm. With shorter park hours, guests have less time to enjoy the attractions, shows, parades, and fireworks. Some guests might feel as if the bang for their buck is significantly less than busier times of the year, when the parks can be open for 12 or more hours.
Pulling Kids from School
Because the off-season occurs while schools across the country are in session, the decision to pull your children from school can be a difficult one to make. And while I write this, I have to be very careful because I have friends that are teachers and would be very offended if I were to advocate pulling kids from school. The answer is, like most answers in life, it really depends. If it were me (and if I had kids) I would pull them from school to go to the Walt Disney World. But before you hog tie me, let me explain.
Pulling your kids from school is something each family will have to examine themselves. According to Steve Russo, guest columnist at AllEars.net, the factors to be considered would include your child's age and grade level, how they're doing in class, their school's policy or philosophy, the time of year and their teachers' willingness to accommodate.
Knowing the teachers that I do, your child’s teacher could respond in one of two ways: first, the teacher is supportive and provides outlines of the work your child will miss. On the other hand, a teacher may not be open-minded about this and may chastise you for even bringing the subject up. One way to avoid the latter situation is to tell your child’s teacher way ahead in advance – giving him/her plenty of notice may just be enough to get them on your side.
Ultimately, every family needs to really make an informed decision about pulling their child from school. However, do remember that it is YOUR decision to make – an aggressive teacher should not prevent you from treating your family to a much deserved vacation. Believe me, it will not be the end of the world (I’m a product of being pulled out of school to go to Walt Disney World, and hey, I’m writing a snazzy column…it must not be all that bad).
Okay, let’s look at the glass half-full and list some of the reasons to attend during the off-season:
The most obvious reason to go during the off-season is that there are less people in the parks. Will you have the parks to yourself? Of course not – but, it is unlikely that at peak times during the day that you will have to wait 100 minutes to ride Soarin’. Less crowds means less waiting in lines. And I don’t know about you, but that sounds great to me.
One of my biggest pet peeves about touring the parks during the busy season is the “salmon swimming upstream” feeling that I get when I want to go to see MuppetVision 3D, but everyone and their grandmother is headed to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (because they didn’t do it first thing in the morning like they were supposed to…shame on them). It’s an ongoing game of strategy, trying to figure out what person should I dodge or what is the quickest route – it’s pure insanity.
A lot of that can be avoided if you plan your visit during the off-season.
Attending Events Not Offered During Busier Times
In order to attract more people to the parks during off-season, Disney has touted its special events to lure people in. For example, March 19-June 1 (not technically the off-season, but not as heavily attended during summer and the holidays) Epcot will host the Flower and Garden Festival. Last year, Epcot there were “70 topiaries -- plus 30 million blooms, artfully designed floral beds, expertly crafted bonsai trees and lush rose gardens gracing the 300 acres of Future World and World Showcase.” Also, gardening aficionados will cheer as Epcot presents celebrity guest speakers, hands-on seminars and innovative planting demonstrations and exhibits. And finally, for that flower child in all of us, each evening, Flower Power concerts with live entertainment from top acts of the 1960s and '70s such as The Turtles and Marcia Brady’s heart-throb Davy Jones!
Events such as the Flower & Garden festival and the Food & Wine Festival in the fall – offer guests other things to do that aren’t offered during the busier times of the year. Something to consider, especially if you enjoy these pass times.
I’ve said it before – going to Walt Disney World during the summer time is like braving the surface of the sun. It is horrendous – with 100% humidity and crippling heat. Not exactly the kind of temperature you want to walk miles and miles in. A clear advantage of going to the parks during the off-season, especially in the winter months – is that the temperature is just right for touring.
Well those are only some of the pros and cons about touring the World during the off-season. It is definitely a choice you and your family have to consider before nailing down a date for your vacation. While it has its drawbacks – off-season touring could make your WDW vacation even better.
On a personal note – This week marks a year for writing for the site. Matt has been patient with me throughout my brief stint as a columnist, and his guidance, suggestions, and praise have really made all the difference. I also want to thank those of you who have provided feedback to me as well. I am constantly trying to improve the quality of my column and your comments and suggestions have helped immensely. Here’s to another year at Studioscentral.com…if Matt doesn’t fire me first.
Until next time!