There’s a spot on northbound I-75, above Lake City, somewhere near the intersection with I-10 where arrival in Georgia becomes inevitable.
You’ve gone that far. Most of paradise is in the rearview mirror. North to the land of grey skies and cold rain and real life is inescapable.
When I was younger, before kids and before career and mortgage and obligations, I used to be able to get away to Florida in the winter to visit family.
And after a few trips, I noticed a meteorological phenomenon. The skies above Orlando or Tampa or Homosassa or even Gainesville could be bright blue, dotted with puffy clouds. It could be a summer sky even in the middle of January or February.
But as you drove north right there at the state line, right above Valdosta, would be the edge of a front, a solid line of grey clouds stretching north as far as the eye could see. An omen that says nothing but cold, miserable winter awaits.
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Why don’t I live here? I could wear flip-flops year-round and get a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off my neck.
However, I never did. I did have a moment of serious contemplation at the Pilot Travel Center near Jasper, but I always drove north.
Today when our vacation time is limited to a couple of weeks a year, it’s harder to move forward on a Florida winter vacation. If you take the family to Florida, they want the beach and the pool and they don’t want to have to pack a jacket.
But I still like the idea of Florida – and Disney World – in winter.
Is January a good time to visit Disney World?
I think any time is a good time for visiting Disney World, although I will say there are some inherent risks in planning a mid-January Walt Disney World vacation. Even though it is Florida, it can get cold.
You might save some money going in January, and you might avoid some crowds. But you’re rolling the dice that you won’t get caught in a rare Florida cold snap. You don’t want to spend all that money on a Disney vacation and it is too cold to enjoy your favorite attractions.
Now, in fairness, with hurricane season pretty much running from late spring through September, you’re almost always running the risk of some meteorological interference.
You may also deal with a few more rides being down for refurbishment during the “off-season.” For example, the Disney Skyliner will be down from Jan. 22 to Jan. 29 in 2023.
Is it too cold for Disney World in January?
On average, no. In January, average temperatures at the Walt Disney World Resort are a high of 72 and a low of 51. In February, it’s 75 and 54 and in March it’s a balmy 79 and 57. December is 74 and 54, if you’re wondering.
But – and this is important – those are average temperatures. It can get pretty cold in Florida, occasionally, dropping below 32 degrees and freaking out all the citrus growers.
Now you can still do Disney when the temperatures are near freezing but believe you me, when it gets that cold the breeze on Expedition Everest can be biting. Star Wars Galaxy Edge, however, is magnificent at any temperature.
Is it crowded at Disney World in January?
This paradigm is changing. At this point – in the post-lockdown world especially – Disney is always going to be crowded.
Theme park tickets will be available. Admission won’t be a problem – it’s not going to sell out in January – except on New Year’s Day.
You’ll be able to get dining reservations and see entertainment. But until further notice, Disney is always going to be crowded.
What is the least crowded month to go to Disney World?
The consensus seems to be that September is the best month to avoid crowds. But again, things are changing.
The old rules were to find a time that’s not a holiday and when most of the country has kids in school. When Sofia was little – 10 years ago now – a cast member told us we were there at the best time, the last full week of May. The northern schools hadn’t let out. The crowds were manageable.
On the contrary, the last time we tried that same trick it was as crowded as we’ve ever seen. We’ve also been in late April, which was decent. It’s after the spring breaks but before anyone is let out of school.
January and February are generally less crowded times. But there’s no real way for a guest to avoid crowds. A lot of sites offer their own version of a Disney World crowd calendar. I can’t recommend any of them, personally.
Is it warm enough to swim in Orlando in January?
It depends on your tolerance levels, I suppose. The pools at Disney are all heated to 82 degrees, so as long as you’re in the water, you’re warm. However, walking out of the water to your towels can get a little harrowing.
For example, we were at my uncle’s house near Orlando last winter and the boy child was bound and determined to swim. The temperatures hovered right around 70 and so one early afternoon when it had been particularly sunny, we took a chance.
I would say if you’re at Disney for a week in January, it’s likely you could get a little swimming in … but you’re going to have to want it. I wouldn’t plan on the water parks being open.
If we go to Disney in January, will it still be Christmas themed?
Not unless you go in early January. The general rule of thumb is the first Monday after New Year’s, the Christmas decorations come down.
Will Disney shorten the park hours in the winter?
If they do as they have done in the past, yes. At the time of this writing, Jan. 14, 2023 is the latest published hours for the theme parks. That date has regular park hours:
- Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 10 pm
- Animal Kingdom: 8 am to 8 pm
- EPCOT: 9 am to 9 pm
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 8:30 am to 9 pm
In the past, during the off-season, those hours have been reduced. That means you’re getting a little less bang for the buck with your park ticket.
Is there anything special to do at Disney in the winter?
Well, for the purposes of this question, we’re talking about post-Christmas time. The EPCOT International Festival of the Arts celebrates art and cuisine from Jan. 13 through Feb. 20.
The event celebrates performing arts, visual arts and culinary arts and offers cool artistic activities the whole family can enjoy.
Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is from Jan. 4 through Jan. 8 this year, but everything from the 5K to the half marathon to the full marathon is sold out. The events allow competitors to trek their way through the Disney theme parks.
Have you visited Disney World in January? Did you enjoy the visit? Let us know in the comments!