What to know about traffic and crowds during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

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Planning to visit Walt Disney World this week, either as a day guest or during a multiday vacation? You probably already know this week is Marathon Weekend — the largest runDisney event of the year — at the resort. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid the theme parks, however, if you aren’t participating.

Here’s what you need to know before you step foot on Disney property, though.

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend takes place Wednesday, Jan. 7, through Sunday, Jun. 11. The aspect that most affects visitors is not the crowds but rather the vehicular traffic around the various parks. 

First, know that all races except the kid races start and finish at Epcot. Because the 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon kick off so early — 6:15 a.m. for the 5K and 5:30 a.m. for the others, the starts typically do not affect many guests unless they are heading to an early breakfast reservation.

The 5K course is set only through Epcot, while the 10K course begins on roads surrounding the park before traveling through the park and extending through the Epcot resort areas. Both the 5K and the 10K start from the Explore parking lot on Thursday and Friday, respectively, and finish at the Wonder parking lot, which is returned to normal use at 9 a.m. when Epcot’s Future World opens for the day. So if you are heading to Epcot for rope drop on Thursday and Friday, give yourself extra time. Once you are inside the park, however, the races should be finished and the crowds are not expected to be excessive.

The half marathon and marathon begin and finish in the same place at Epcot, though the courses are longer, of course. The half marathon goes through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot on Saturday. The full marathon leads runners through Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, ESPN Wide World of Sports and Hollywood Studios (in that order) on Sunday. These courses definitely require additional road closures, so be prepared for traffic delays or to find alternate routes into the afternoon hours. Also, for these two races, guests are likely to see runners on marked courses inside the theme parks through mid-afternoon while guests are there. This really shouldn’t impede guests’ experiences, although they are asked not to step in front of runners.

Epcot also hosts a Pasta in the Park Party on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at World Showplace, the facility located in World Showcase. This event also includes reserved viewing for the IllumiNations fireworks but not general admission into the park so it should not affect crowd levels.

On Sunday, a post-race Cool Down Party is scheduled for 2 to 8 p.m. at Downtown Disney Marketplace, which already is difficult for drivers to navigate because of the ongoing construction. It’s probably advisable to avoid the area during that time unless you really have an overwhelming need to be there.

All these Marathon Weekend activities will affect Walt Disney World transportation. Although early buses are scheduled for participants, runners and their groups also will be using the regular routes later in the day and night, so allow extra time if you need to reach your destination by a certain time.


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