How Busy is Disney World in January?

Discover How Busy is Disney World in January So You Can Enjoy the Parks!
This photo was taken by Michael from Countdown to Magic

Do you know how busy is Disney World in January?  Well, if you’re thinking about a trip to Disney during the first month of the year, it’s an important question to answer.  So in this article, we’re going to examine the crowd levels of Disney World in January and help you pinpoint the best days to visit—and the days you should try to most avoid.

How Busy is Disney World in January

This photo was taken by Michael from Countdown to Magic

Now the first few days of January, from New Year’s Day until about January 4th, will usually have large crowds. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are two of the most crowded park days of the entire year, especially in the Magic Kingdom. These are the last few days of school Christmas break for many, so the parks will still be filled with families who are celebrating the New Year. 

The holiday decorations are still up during this first week of the month, so that attracts many local day-trippers who want to see the decorations before they’re taken down. If you don’t mind the crowds, this can be a fun time to visit the parks! The special holiday entertainment won’t be happening, but you’ll have a chance to see most of the decorations and you’ll be surrounded by happy Disney fans ringing in the new year.

The first week of January is also usually when the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend occurs. While the event is very popular with Disney fans who enjoy running, the effects on crowd size are minimal. The race events occur in the very early morning hours, before the parks open to the general public. The parks may be a little crowded in the early part of the day, but by noon the race participants usually head back to their rooms for some well-earned rest and relaxation. 

Assessing Disney Crowd Levels in January

Even though the Disney parks never release actual attendance numbers, historically January is somewhat mixed when it comes to how many people are there. During the first few days of the month, there will typically be large crowds between people who are still on Christmas break and who are there for the Marathon Weekend. The weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (the third Monday in January) can be extremely busy. Many people come to the parks for a long weekend, but attendance usually drops right after that weekend. 

The crowd levels in January will typically be smaller during the second and third full weeks of the month. The holiday decorations will be gone, and there usually aren’t any after-hours ticketed events during this time. The possibility of cold weather will keep some visitors away.  The Festival Of The Arts at Epcot begins in mid to late January. While the opening day or week of the event might mean an increase in crowd size at Epcot, typically that means the other Disney parks will have slightly lower crowds at that time.

Walt Disney World Special Events in January

There are many special events in the months leading up to January, but after New Year’s Day, the Walt Disney World parks are more “quiet” and the crowd numbers will be somewhat less. There are a couple of popular events that happen in January, though.

The first major special event in January is the Disney Marathon Weekend. This fun weekend is very popular, and registration tends to sell out fast! The weekend features a variety of races, from a 5K to a full marathon, that wind through the Disney parks in the early morning hours. There are fun activities during the races, such as Disney character sightings and entertainment. 

Some spectators are allowed along with all of the race participants. Since the races begin very early (typically around 5:00 AM) and are usually completely finished by the time the parks open for regular visitors, the parks will be most crowded early on race days. However, most of the race participants leave the parks early in the afternoon to go get some rest after their busy morning. 

While the marathon weekend doesn’t have a huge impact on how busy the parks will be, it does have a significant impact on traffic in and around the Walt Disney World resort area. If you’re driving into the parks in the early mornings during the marathon weekend, be prepared for traffic delays. On some of the roads around the parks, vehicle traffic is rerouted because the race routes take up part of the highways. These detours mean slowdowns and longer routes to reach the parking areas for nearby parks.

The other major special event that begins in January is the Epcot International Festival Of The Arts. This is a very popular event that begins in mid-January and goes through the middle of February. The festival doesn’t require a separate paid ticket other than the regular admission and reservation to visit Epcot. During this event, there will be live music concerts, and exhibits celebrating culinary arts, visual arts, and performing arts. 

Special event merchandise, food, displays, and interactive activities will be located throughout Epcot. The opening day and first week of the festival tend to be busy at Epcot, but attendance at the other Walt Disney World parks will be lower on these days. 

Does Weather Affect Walt Disney World Crowds in January?

Based on historical weather averages, January is the coldest month for the Orlando, Florida area. However, “cold” in Florida is a relative term, especially in comparison to the January temperatures in many parts of the Northern United States. The average high temperature in January is 68.5°F (20.3°C) and the average low temperature is 51.6°F (10.9°C). Of course, those are average temperatures and it’s always a good idea to check a local weather forecast online when planning a trip to Walt Disney World. The chances of rain are relatively low in January.

While these weather conditions are relatively mild for Winter, especially compared to other parts of the United States, they can make an impact on crowd size. Many visitors to Walt Disney World look forward to the beautiful Florida sunshine and side visits to warm sandy beaches. If a trip to the coast, or lounging poolside was a priority in your Florida vacation plans, January might not be the optimal time to visit. The cooler temperatures and reduced daylight hours (averaging only 6 to 7 hours of daylight in January) aren’t appealing to some; so park attendance does go down during this time of year.

Packing for a trip to Walt Disney World in January means bringing clothes that can be worn in layers. A jacket or lightweight coat, gloves, and warm socks will help keep you comfortable in the early morning and evening hours. Being able to shed some clothing layers in the afternoon means you won’t feel too warm during the day.

Water Parks, Resorts and More

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon” by Chad Sparkes licensed under CC BY 2.0

There are a few other things you should consider before booking a Walt Disney World vacation in January. While these might not have a huge impact on crowd size, they can make a difference in your overall vacation experience. While there is really no “off-season” at Walt Disney World, there are times when attendance is low enough that your vacation experience can be impacted in a number of ways. 

January is usually when the refurbishments and maintenance of some areas will occur. One of the two Disney water parks typically closes in January for maintenance. If there are remodeling projects at any of the resort hotels, they’re likely to be happening in January and February. When you make your reservations, you can always call and ask if there will be any work going on during your stay.

The price of hotel rooms on the Disney property can vary at different times of the year. Historically, after the first week in January, the rates of many Disney hotels will lower to be at some of their most affordable. Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel during your vacation has many advantages. Guests who stay on the Disney property are able to enter the parks earlier than other guests, and perhaps the best perk of staying onsite is the complimentary transportation to the Walt Disney World theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs areas.

January often sees tour groups from South American countries (especially Brazil) visiting Walt Disney World. The Summer months in South America are December through February, and kids will be off for their Summer break. Typically, you’ll notice large tour groups consisting of mostly teenagers and the group chaperones. The tour sizes vary, but they are usually groups of 30 to 50 people. 

While this really doesn’t make the parks extra crowded, being around a large group of excited teenagers can feel like you’re in the middle of a big crowd! On days when you see large tour groups in the parks, consider eating your meals at “off” times to avoid extra long lines. Take advantage of Disney’s Genie+ app whenever you can to shorten the wait times on your favorite rides, too!  The teens on these tours are excited and are having an incredibly fun vacation! They’re usually pretty friendly, and if you enjoy meeting people from other countries, don’t be shy about saying hello if you find yourself in line near them. 


At the outset of this article, I asked you if you knew how busy is Disney World in January?  Hopefully, after reading this article, you have a better sense of not only what to expect in terms of crowd levels, but how to avoid the days that are likely to have larger crowds in January at the parks.

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