This is probably one of the most asked questions from people who are planning a trip to Florida. The answer is a really hard one! Orlando is a great place to visit whatever time of the year and there’s plenty to do whatever season you’re there.
Many of you are tied to the school holidays when you visit and obviously during these times it will be a bit busier than term time but with fast passes available for all the parks you can somewhat avoid some of the queues.
Crowding aside what are the other deciding factors in choosing when you visit? For me I like to go when some of the seasonal events are on. Some of these you will be well aware of and some you might not be. So, here’s a little guide to what annual events are on this year. And a little info on what sort of weather you’re likely to have .Hopefully this will help you decide when you visit or give you some other things to experience on your trip.
MARCH : Going this month there is loads to do!! Weather wise March is one of my favourite times to go. It’s hot but not too hot and I’ve never had any issues with storms or bad weather. You might need a light jacket if you’re out in the evenings but you can go to waterparks and the beach and not be cold and get a tan.
HOURS OF SUN IN MARCH – AVERAGE 9 HOURS PER DAY
Disney has the annual Flower and Garden festival which has all sorts of topiaries all over Epcot of many different Disney characters. It’s included in your park admission and this year they also have loads of live music. Called ‘Garden Rocks’ throughout March and into May you can find some well known names in music playing free shows in the America Gardens Theatre. This month you can see Pointer Sisters, Simple Plan (my favourite band I’m so upset I’m not going), Plain White T’s, Night Ranger and The Little River Band. A full list of times can be found here.
Universal also has some live music as part of their annual Mardi Gras event in Citywalk. Again this is included with park admission and this runs through March. Acts playing this month are UB40, Toby Keith, Jason Derulo, Earth, Wind and Fire and the All American Rejects.
Seaworld has a food festival on and you can see live music there as well. All included in your standard park admission. Discover loads of new cuisines from all over the world in the ‘Seven Seas Food Festival’. Live music every weekend until mid May and this month you can see ZZ Top and Phillip Phillips (whoever that is!)
For something a little different. Crayola Experience at Florida Mall is having Cirque month with La Nouba themed crafts. Some of the make up artists will be there to paint your faces like the performers in La Nouba and some of the costumes and props will be on display.
There’s golf on at the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Club from 13th – 19th, Winter Park Sidewalk Arts Festival is also on this month, and the Lakeridge Winery has a wine and Seafood Festival.
It’s always worth checking out Hard Rock Live, House of Blues and Velvet Sessions. You never know who will be playing when you’re there.
March is a great time to visit if you’re a music fan!!
APRIL – Weather wise April is pretty similar to March, although it can get slightly hotter towards the end of the month. It is Easter holidays so you’ll find the parks are fairly busy.
HOURS OF SUN IN APRIL – AVERAGE OF 10 PER DAY
Epcot still has the Flower and Garden festival and during ‘Garden Rocks’ this month you can see Blood, Sweat and Tears, Gin Blossoms, The Orchestra (feat members of ELO), Expose and Berlin.
Hollywood Studios has the Star Wars Galactic night from 13-16th as well. These are evening separate ticketed events and will include stars of the films doing talks and a scavenger hunt through the park amoungst other things. Tickets are $129 and need to be booked in advance it’s something that’s likely to sell out.
Seaworld’s Seven Seas food Festival is still on and this month you can see Jack Hanna, Village People, Commadores and more.
There’s a big Star Wars convention on during April the Star Wars Celebration. Conventions in the US are crazy so if you’re a Star Wars fan this would be well worth a visit.
April is also Wrestlemania month at the Camping World Stadium on 2nd. This is a huge thing in the wrestling calendar and a really fun night out. If you like football then the soccer season starts so you may be able to catch Orlando City Soccer
MAY – Getting into May the weather is starting to get a little hotter. More humid and a lot warmer in the evenings.
HOURS OF SUN IN MAY – AVERAGE OF 10 PER DAY
Epcots Flower and Garden festival finishes this month so it’s your last chance to see the Park with all the awesome Disney themed flowers. Last few shows at America Gardens Theatre are Starship, Hermans Hermits and The Spinners.
Seaworlds food festival also finishes this month so be sure to check it out.
Legoland has Lego Star Wars days throughout May showing some of the most famous scenes from the movies made of Lego and opportunities to build your own as well as a Star Wars themed costume parade. This is included in standard park admission.
The Orlando International Fringe festival is on this month which is modeled on the famous one in Edinburgh as well as another convention. The MegaCon is a huge comic/movie/gaming convention and has some incredible guests including Stan Lee and Tim Curry.
Football season is in full swing so now is a good time to get to a game.
JUNE/JULY/AUGUST – Orlando starts to get really hot during June, when you’re looking at high temperatures in the 90s. It’s really important to keep yourself hydrated during the summer months but all the inside buildings are air conditioned and are great places to cool off during the hottest times of the day. These are the busiest months to visit due to the summer holidays over here and during August you may experience some storms and heavy rain. The weather forecasts in Orlando are incredibly accurate and they can predict the times of showers pretty much to the minute. They’re usually over as quick as they start and don’t ruin your holiday at all. Standing out in the rain is quite nice, it’s like a hot shower.
AVERAGE HOURS OF SUN – JUNE 11, JULY 10, AUGUST 9
By the summer the 2 BIG new theme park openings should be well ironed out and hopefully should be less busy the further into the summer you get. Obviously I’m talking about Universals Volcano Bay and Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, both of these are scheduled to open towards the end of May and both look AMAZING!
It’s always worth checking out places like the Amway center in Orlando during the summer. There’s usually some really good touring music festivals.
SEPTEMBER – My other favourite time of the year to visit. September in Orlando weather wise is similar to March. Although it is classed as hurricane season so you are likely to get a bit of rain.
HOURS OF SUN IN SEPTEMBER – 9 HOURS PER DAY
September means HALLOWEEN!! I know it’s not strictly until October but they do like to drag it out!! Both Disney and Universal start their Halloween festivities in September.
Disney – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! One of my favourite things I have ever done and great for adults and children alike. Magic Kingdom is decorated for Halloween and there are themed parades and show, appearances from rare characters (including most of the Villains) and the best bit is the Treat or Treating around the parks. You can get so much candy!! It’s the only time adults are allowed to dress up in the park as well. It’s not included in your ticket price and is a separate ticketed event but it’s well worth it. Dates for this year haven’t been announced yet but they usually start around the second week of the month. Prices are around $90 and can only be purchased from Disney directly. This is an evening event only.
Universal – Halloween Horror Nights, this is a lot more grown up than the Disney one and puts you inside some of the most popular horror movies and TV Shows. They have a series of ‘houses’ all with different themes. Each one has live actors in them transporting you into the film or TV show it’s based on. It’s not for the faint hearted!! Dates for this have been announced and are on selected evenings from 15th September. Past themes have been American Horror Story, Poltergeist, The Walking Dead and Friday the 13th. You can also dine with the scare actors and they have shows and special events as well. Again this isn’t included as part of your ticket price and you do need to purchase separate tickets for it. You can do this in advance from most of the UK resellers, it’s worth getting a Frequent Fear Pass which will allow unlimited access to selected dates during your stay. Prices are around £90 for these. This is also an evening event.
September is also Magical Dining Month. This is a fab event that lots of restaurants in the area participate in with loads of food offers. Nearly 100 places took part last year offering 3 course meals for $33 with money from each one going to charity. A lot of the best and most expensive places in Orlando take part in this so it’s a really good way to get to eat in some of those places for a portion of the price. September is a great month to visit if you’re a foodie!!
Epcot has it’s annual food and wine festival as well running until mid November. With loads of food carts from all different parts of the world there’s even more choice of things to eat in Epcot during this festival, as well as concerts, celebrity chefs and other food themed events. I for one cannot wait to get to this!
OCTOBER – October starts to get a little cooler – although not by our standards – it’s still in the high 80s during the day.
HOURS OF SUN ON AVERAGE – 8 HOURS PER DAY
Both the Disney and Universal Halloween events run all through October.
Seaworld has it’s ‘Halloween Spooktacular’ which runs on weekends only throughout October and is included in your park admission. It’s aimed at children and there are not so scary live shows and trick or treating for candy throughout the park. It runs during park hours as well.
Busch Gardens has ‘Howl O Scream’ from the tail end of September through October. Running on weekends only. It looks pretty similar to the Universal Horror Nights with scare actors and haunted houses and shows. It seems as though all the rides are open in the park which isn’t the case with Universal. It’s a separate ticketed event and you’re not allowed to wear costumes.
If you want a ‘real’ Halloween experience and you just so happen to be in Orlando on Halloween itself it’s worth a little trip to Celebration. It’s a Disney owned community and most residents will decorate for Halloween and Christmas so it’s a bit of a spectacle to see.
Halloween is a BIG thing in the US and I’m sure nearer the time most of the attractions will have some kind of event on for it.
NOVEMBER – Temperatures in November are in the 70s so much more bearable than the summer months but still hot enough for water parks and beaches.
HOURS OF SUN – AVERAGE 8 HOURS A DAY
It’s classed as low season for some of the behind the scenes tours at Seaworld and Busch Gardens so now is a good time to do those.
As soon as Halloween is over Christmas begins! Going to Disney end of Oct/start of November is great as you’ll get to experience both Holidays!
Disney Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party starts early November and like the Halloween one is a separate ticketed event. It follows the same idea as Halloween just all Christmas themed. Different parades, characters in festive costumes and a chance to meet Santa. You also get free milk and cookies and it will snow on main street.
Orlando has a great theatre that has some of the best touring musicals so if you fancy seeing a bit of Broadway in Florida check out the Dr Phillips Center for Performing Arts and see if there’s anything on that takes your fancy.
DECEMBER – Although it is a lot cooler in December, mid 70s it’s still hot!
HOURS OF SUN – AVERAGE 7 HOURS A DAY
December is a great time to go to Discovery Cove as it’s classed as low season so likely to be a little cheaper.
Disneys Christmas Festivities will still be going and this is also when Universal start theirs. Not only that Epcot is a great place to visit throughout the Christmas season as each country in the world showcase will be decorated as they are at home and you can find out all about different Christmas traditions and food as you walk round the park. Not to mention the famous Candlelight Processional.
Universal has a really good festive event included in your park admission called ‘Grinchmas’. Housed in Islands of Adventure, You’re able to meet the Grinch and some of the other ‘whos’ in WhoVille. Cindy-Lou reads the story of The Grinch and there is music and festive things to do all day. Universal Studios also has the Macys Day Parade.
Seaworld has its Christmas Celebration. You can meet Rudolph and friends, try some festive food and do some Christmas shopping. Ice Shows and more. All included in park admission. In past years they had the Polar Express Experience so hopefully they’ll have something equally as special this year.
Busch Gardens changes itself into Christmas Town. They have over 2 million Christmas lights and a whole host of Christmas shows and music. As well as a Christmas market and Santa’s House. All included with Park Admission.
Legoland has a Christmas ‘Bricktacular’ has a HUGE Lego Christmas tree and other festive friends around the parks as well as fireworks, meet n greet with Lego Santa and themed building events. All with your park admission.
During Christmas Day parks can be unusually busy and Magic Kingdom has been known to hit capacity so plan well and if you want to go to Magic Kingdom get there extra early!!
Again as with Halloween, Celebration is a great place to visit over Christmas to see the decorations and the SNOW!
JANUARY/FEBRUARY – Weather in Jan/Feb are the coolest months in Orlando and again most things are classed as low season so a good time to do extras like Behind the Scenes tours.
HOURS OF SUN – JANUARY AVERAGE 7 PER DAY – FEBRUARY 8 HOURS
New Years Eve is a really popular time to go to the parks and all will have special events on with fireworks etc. Parks can be really busy though so be prepared for that especially into the evening.
Epcot is a great place to be on New Years with all the different festivities around the world and dance parties from 7pm.
January with the exception of New Years Eve and Day is a pretty quiet time to go to Florida.
February is of course Valentines Day, I couldn’t see any special things in any of the parks for this but being in Orlando for it is romantic enough surely!! There are plenty of romantic things to do though. I’ve found a great list of things within Walt Disney World here
Don’t forget to check out places like Old Town and Celebration who have regular fun family events on that are worth having a look at.
Hopefully this should have given an idea of what sort of things to expect at different times of year.
There’s probably a load more things going on that I don’t know about. Check out the Visit Orlando website for up to date info on what’s going on. There’s loads of sports events as well NFL, Basketball, Ice Hockey, Soccer, Golf… some ticket resellers in the UK sell sporting tickets but it’s worth checking Visit Orlando for dates of when they’re on.
If there’s anything you know about that I haven’t mentioned then please let me know