Summer in Walt Disney World is never a pleasant time. Florida residents know full well how miserable it can get with the heat and humidity. However, this summer is pushing the limits for even the most seasoned and hardened Disney park veterans.
On Saturday, August 12th, Orlando broke a record set in 1938 with an official temperature of 100 degrees. That was added to a heat index of about 112, topping several weeks of above-average temperatures in Florida. This has played a part in WDW attendance being lower than usual.
This leads to a key question many Disney World park goers have had to ask themselves: How hot is too hot for a Disney park?
This isn’t just for Florida, as California has its share of sweltering days, although this year has oddly been a bit cooler than average. However, Florida can feel worse thanks to the humidity, thus hampering a parkgoer's visit.
Obviously, it’s essential to keep cool as much as possible. Wear light clothing, try to limit the time in the parks — especially in mid-day — and keep hydrated. That includes just taking a break from the parks to hit the hotel pool or the water parks, or just take a break and rest at the hotel. But is it possible it can be too hot to just not do Disney at all?
I have experience with this as I visited Disney World in late August 1999, in what felt like the hottest time I’ve ever had in Florida (and that includes the four years I lived in Jacksonville). The temperature was in the upper 90s, with humidity adding to it. I still remember sitting at a bus stop when a flash rainstorm hit, and literally an inch of steam rose up from the pavement. That’s how hot it was.
So yes, it felt miserable with a shirt soaked by noon, downing water and other drinks to try and stay hydrated, and popping into air conditioning whenever possible. Yet, oddly, that’s also one of my all-time favorite Disney World trips, thanks to the scores of new attractions opening that summer (Test Track, Rock n Roller Coaster, Winnie the Pooh, etc). It could be a mess walking about, but it could fade when enjoying one of those rides. Some people can feel that same sensation, while others let the heat dominate the entire vacation.
The worst parks for the heat
It's never been scientifically confirmed, but it often feels like the Animal Kingdom can be the worst of the parks in terms of heat. It really can feel like Africa or Asia with the temperatures and savannah area adding to marching about. It's one way Disney fans would rather not be in the illusion of a distant hot land.
The Magic Kingdom is right behind it, thanks to its huge size and open spaces. Epcot and the Hollywood Studios can feel cooler and are generally easier to duck into a pavilion or another ride/shop to rest up fast before going back into the heat. It also helps to hit the "misting zones" each park has, especially for the kids. Just how frequently those breaks are needed is the bigger question.
Heat can provide an opportunity
Indeed, some visitors may look at this as a huge opportunity. The less crowded the parks are, the easier it is to get on some of the hotter (no pun intended) attractions. For some guests, being able to get on Ride of the Resistance in less than half an hour and save a bundle on Lighting Lane is worth hiking in the heat.
It varies depending on the person, as people who live in warm states like Texas or Arizona can likely handle Florida's heat better. Midwest residents know it can get hot there too. Yet even they have to be wary of how exhausting it is hiking around the parks normally, let alone when a few steps feel like you’re running in a sauna. Maybe you can luck out with a rainstorm cooling things down, but other days can be dry and hotter. The hotter it gets, the more tempers can flare and make an already rough day even worse, ruining the Disney experience.
That’s not to mention having kids along, as they can feel the exhaustion even worse. Taking an infant in these conditions is a very bad idea, and the economics can be tricky as you have to spend more on water and other cooling-down treats to handle this.
It’s vital to head indoors when you can, if not a ride then at least a gift shop or restaurant to cool down rather than keep plowing ahead in the high heat. Even being in the shade can’t always help when it’s topping a hundred degrees out.
While some people can feel they can handle this, the human body isn’t meant to be going through such strenuous exercise in massive heat. A Disney trip may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience but not at the risk of your health. So while some guests may be willing to put up with the considerable heat for a vacation, it’s advisable to give the parks a break on the hotter days.
With summers seeming to get hotter and muggier in Florida, the possibility of hitting Disney World on an extremely hot day increases, and so do the dangers. It’s really up to some guests how much heat they can endure, but others may decide no ride is worth being outside in heat that makes the Amazon feel like the Jungle Cruise in December.