How Many Times Has Disney World Closed?

by | Mar 27, 2024 | Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, WDW Blog

Did you know in its 50 years of history, Disney World has closed only a handful of times? We’re sharing every single time the parks have closed.

Disney World is open 365 days a year. No matter the holiday or circumstances, the parks have stayed open throughout its 50+ year history. Well, for the most part. In cases of extreme weather or global impact, Disney World has closed to guests. When the decision is made to close the parks, it is always in the best interest and safety of guests and Cast Members. Extreme safety measures like this have only been implemented a handful of times in the past 50 years.

All the Times Disney World Has Closed

We’ll be sharing all the times throughout history that Disney World has closed.

Hurricane Closures

Natural disasters have caused Disney World to close most often over time. Out of its closures, the majority have been due to hurricanes. Florida is prone to hurricanes, but Orlando is located inland, so, hurricanes often fizzle out before they make it to Disney World. If they do make it, the winds and rains have typically died down in comparison to a hurricane on a costal or island city.

However, this doesn’t mean hurricane weather will never cause safety concerns for the citizens and guests of Magic Kingdom. So, when the path of a hurricane is set to hit Orlando, Disney World takes precautions.

Here are the hurricanes that have forced Disney World to close*:

  • Hurricane Floyd: Early closure on September 14, 1999, partial day closure on September 15
  • Hurricane Charley: Early closure on August 13, 2004
  • Hurricane Frances: Closed on September 4-5, 2004
  • Hurricane Jeanne: Closed on September 26, 2004
  • Hurricane Matthew: Early closure on October 6, 2016, remained closed on October 7
  • Hurricane Irma: Early closure on September 9, 2017, remained closed on September 10-11
  • Hurricane Dorian: Early closure on September 3, 2019
  • Hurricane Ian: Closed September 28-29, 2022
  • Hurricane Nicole: Closed early November 9 through mid-day November 10, 2022

Certain reports say that specific parks (often Animal Kingdom and the water parks) have remained closed longer than the other parks. This is often due to having more debris to clean, especially on large areas such as the savanna of Kilimanjaro Safaris. Early closure times differ per hurricane and park. The great news here is this: Walt Disney World was built with hurricanes in mind. Disney took the required standards of building codes and went above and beyond.

September 11th Closure

On September 11th, 2001, Walt Disney World closed early in the morning in light of a national tragedy. Nearly 20 minutes before 9 AM, the hijacked United Flight 11 crashed into the first World Trade Center tower. Another plane would follow soon after, hitting the second tower.

Though Disney has never officially commented on their reaction to the tragedies of 9/11, the fear was that Disney World, with the amount of crowds gathered in one location, could be a target. Cast Members quickly began the closure process for the parks. According to Cast Members who were working that day, they began by closing all attractions, shops, and restaurants in order to push guests into the main pathways. They were instructed not to tell guests what had happened in order to avoid mass panic.

Then, Cast Members formed a human wall—they joined hands and began walking toward the exit of the parks, gently ushering guests out.

An announcement over the loudspeaker said,

“…Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Magic Kingdom is now closed. Please follow the direction of the nearest Cast Member.”

Guests were ushered out and, according to several reports, were given complimentary tickets as they exited. It took less than 30 minutes to empty guests from the parks.

COVID-19 Pandemic Closure

The longest closure in the history of Walt Disney World was due to the global pandemic in 2020. Walt Disney World Resort closed on March 15, 2020, reopening weeks to months later in phases. At the initial time of closure, a Disney spokesperson shared, “In an abundance of caution and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of our theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Paris Resort, beginning at the close of business on Sunday, March 15, through the end of the month.” That closure would end up lasting far longer than the month.

The reopening happened in phases. On May 19, 2020, Disney Springs began to partially reopen. They did so with reduced capacity and enhanced procedures in place. On May 27, 2020, Disney announced plans for the reopening of its theme parks and resorts.

  • June 22, 2020: Disney Vacation Club Resorts opened to members and guests, along with Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds
  • July 11, 2020: Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and select Disney World Resort hotels reopened
  • July 15, 2020: EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios reopened

While the parks reopened, they did so with enhanced cleaning measures, reduced capacity, and face mask rules in place. Many components of the parks wouldn’t return until years later. For example, parades, shows, and select rides wouldn’t open for months to years later, with services such as the Disney Dining Plan not returning until early 2024. Additionally, the reopening brought new changes that are still in place today. Park Pass Reservations were put into effect beginning with the initial reopening, something that Disney World is still using as of 2024.

This long closure had long-lasting effects on how the parks and resort at large are run, lasting far past the 100+ days the parks were closed.

Posts by Leah Sikes

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Leah Sikes is a graphic designer and contributing writer for WDW Magazine and Dad's Guide to WDW. When she's lucky enough to visit the Happiest Place on Earth, you catch her hanging out with the 999 Happy Haunts. She also loves running in the parks (when it's allowed at the marathons).
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Authored by
Leah Sikes

Leah Sikes is a graphic designer and contributing writer for WDW Magazine and Dad's Guide to WDW. When she's lucky enough to visit the Happiest Place on Earth, you catch her hanging out with the 999 Happy Haunts. She also loves running in the parks (when it's allowed at the marathons).
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