You're probably planning to come to Orlando to join the crowds at the theme parks, but when is the best time to do that? And what else is happening in Orlando itself, a city of lovely tree-lined neighborhoods with a rich performing arts scene? From high season to low, here's a monthly guide to what you can expect through the year in Orlando, including the best events at the theme parks and in the city.
Editor's note: during COVID-19 there may be additional travel restrictions. Check the latest guidance in Florida before planning a trip, and always follow local government health advice. All events are subject to change.
High season: March to April and June to August
Best time for festival-goers
March to April is peak tourism season thanks to spring breakers. The summer is also one of Orlando's busiest times, full of holiday crowds, and lots of festivals. It's hot and humid, with temperatures often above 90°F (32°C).
Shoulder season: May, September to November
Best time for fewer crowds
Crowds thin and prices drop in May after the spring break. The masses also diminish after Labor Day (first Monday in September), except for Halloween festivities. Lodging prices plummet, but the summer sizzle fades.
Low season: December to February
Best time for budget travelers
Christmas through early January draws massive theme-park crowds. Otherwise, this is low-season, with plenty of accommodation bargains. Temperatures can dip below freezing, although this is rare.
Crowds still flock to the theme parks in early January, but beyond that, it's fairly quiet. Temperatures are cooler, with a high of around 72ºF (22ºC). Accommodations are usually cheaper mid-January onwards, although it's always worth booking ahead, no matter what time of year you visit.
Key events: Martin Luther King, Jr Day, Walt Disney World Marathon, Zora Festival.
Theme parks are less crowded, and temperatures are pleasant, reaching 75ºF (24ºC). Head north to Blue Spring State Park where manatees may be spotted in the winter months and into the early spring. Whether it falls in late February or early March, Fat Tuesday inspires parties statewide.
Key events: Presidents Day, Mardi Gras, Seaworld Seven Seas Food Festival, Super Block Party.
Throughout March to mid-April, American colleges release students for one-week spring breaks. While they are mainly drawn to the beaches, Orlando and the theme parks will also start to fill up with visitors. Modest temps and dry weather make for an ideal time to hike and camp.
Key events: St Patrick's Day Street Party, Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, Orlando Whiskey Festival.
Expect the sky to be blue and the sun to be shining. Spring break crowds are still hitting the theme parks until around mid-April, but the rest of Orlando and around may not be all that busy. The Florida Film Festival held in Winter Park celebrates independent films and is fast becoming one of the largest festivals in the southeast.
Key events: Florida Film Festival, Fiesta in the Park.
There are fewer crowds, but it's starting to get hot in May, and you can expect highs of 88ºF (31ºC) with the occasional brief rain shower. Look out for Cinco de Mayo street parties in downtown.
Key events: Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, International Fringe Festival, Caribbean Food and Music Festival.
Summer holiday crowds are here! Get in early at the theme parks, and try to stay cool in the heat. Starting on the first Saturday of June and going for a week, around 170,000 people – especially members of the LGBTIQ+ community – descend on the Magic Kingdom and other Orlando theme parks, hotels and clubs. Bite30, Orlando's "restaurant week" starts in June and runs for two months.
Key events: Gay Days, Bite30.
Schools are out, the theme parks are packed with people, and the weather is hot and humid. There will be fireworks and laser shows at the parks to mark July 4.
Key events: Independence Day.
Floridians do nothing but crank the A/C inside while foolish tourists swelter and burn at the theme parks – and run from afternoon thundershowers.
Key events: Megacon Orlando, Electric Ocean at SeaWorld.
Weather becomes just a little milder and it's quieter at the theme parks; look for shoulder season deals in many resorts. Theme parks are starting to run Halloween events this month. This is also the peak of hurricane season, which runs June through November. Travelers should take all hurricane alerts, warnings and evacuation orders seriously
Key events: Labor Day, Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
October marks the end of the hurricane season. Halloween events are in full swing at the theme parks, often continuing into early November. Look out for goblins, monsters and mummies all around.
Key events: Columbus Day, Orlando Come out with Pride, Winter Park Autumn Arts Festival, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.
Tourism hits a spike for a week around Thanksgiving, and temperatures are better for hiking and camping. This is also the start of the region's manatee season (November to March) when they migrate into the warmer waters of Florida's freshwater estuaries, rivers and springs. Some Christmas events start running at the theme parks.
Key events: Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Orlando Chili Cook-off.
The few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas mark a quiet period at the theme parks, but there are still plenty of special Christmas-themed events on the go. The temperatures are more manageable, around 75ºF (24ºC).
Key events: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, Christmas Day.
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