March 2012: Orlando has busy seasons (Christmas, Easter, and mid-June to August), but that doesn’t mean the theme park crowds are thinner at other times. There is no rule of thumb for “the best time to visit Orlando.” Many times, convention crowds can fill theme parks even during traditionally slow times.
To avoid heavy convention crowds and busy seasons, consider a trip in mid-December, early January, late May, or early September. If planning a non-busy visit at other times, make sure a huge convention (or conventions) aren’t meeting at the same time, spilling thousands of people into the attractions.
The busy convention season in Orlando rums from mid-September until mid-November, and from mid-January to mid-May. Since a three-day meeting can start and end at any time, the parks could be empty on Friday and busting at the seams on Monday.
If you’ve picked a slow time to visit Orlando but want to double check, consider this:
- Check the Orange County Convention Center’s website for upcoming crowds. Click on the name of a convention to see the expected visitor count – many are small. The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) and its 2.1 million square feet of meeting space are the second largest facility of its kind in the U.S.
- Check with your hotel. While no hotel can match the OCCC in total space, many have massive facilities. If you’re staying in one – or near one – the crowds can get thick in nearby restaurants and swimming pools. The Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center and the Marriott Orlando World Center, for example, have colossal convention facilities.
- If staying on International Drive, also check nearby hotels. The OCCC is located on south International Drive, not far from SeaWorld. Hotels close to OCCC also have their own convention facilities, including the Rosen Centre Hotel, the Peabody Orlando Resort, and Hilton (though Orlando has more than one Hilton). However, any major convention at OCCC draws guests who want to stay “as close as possible,” which means even the less expensive International Drive hotels could be booked solid, and the nearby restaurants could have waiting lines out the door.
- Check with Disney hotels. A number of onsite hotels have convention facilities, and if they’re all filled to capacity, it can add crowds to the parks. If staying at The Contemporary, for example, ask about any conventions in the town over your visit – but also ask if Disney has any big conventions planned resort-wide. Universal Studios has three hotels onsite too, and all can host conventions.
- While number-of-people should be the primary convention consideration, also check the type of people. This usually isn’t a problem, but the noise level at an accountants’ convention isn’t usually quite as distracting as, say, the American cheerleader competition finals.