The city of Orlando tends to sit in the shadow of Cinderella’s castle and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, but there is more to offer outside of the hype and legitimate magical sparks of Disney and Universal. Orlando and all of Florida offer a great eating scene, spectacular museums, and an exciting history that extends through its sprawling Everglades to glorious beaches, and the Space Coast, which is the home to Kennedy Space Center, before docking at the tip of the state where you will find more splendors in quirky Key West.
There is so much to see, but the weather can be tricky, and the seasons are very different from a tourist’s point of view. We have pulled together all we know about Florida weather, its tourist seasons, how to stay safe, and when it is best to go, which depends on your personality and budget to bring you our Orlando Weather Guide! so What is the Weather Like in Orlando, Florida?
Basic Weather Conditions in Orlando
Florida is nicknamed the Sunshine State, so don’t get mad when you arrive to receive a serious blast of the hot, hot sun. International travellers might be surprised to see endless days of sunshine in Florida. While United States cities, as a whole, see an average of 205 sunny days each year, Orlando has 233, and most of them occur from June to September. and most of the non-sunny days still have a large amount of sun and warm weather, just some rain will occur at some point.
While there is zero snowfall in Florida, there is still plenty of humidity. A shirt-drenching 90% is common, as it is a tropical landscape surrounded by the sea with rapidly occurring thunderstorms during the summer. These sea-breeze fronts originate over the ocean and have just enough punch to launch patches of rain for short-lived storms when they hover above solid ground. Unlike the Dry Desert heat in L.A and Las Vegas, the Florida heat is pretty uncomfortable. High humidity disrupts you bodies cooling system and you get hot, sticky and grouchy!
In all, Orlando has 75 days each year with measurable precipitation, falling way behind other well-known cities in the United States like Buffalo, New York, which gets 167 days a year, and Portland Oregon, which sees 164 days of rain a year. Although, three of the top six cities in the United States for the most amount of rainfall are in Florida. Miami is ranked second, Jacksonville is ranked fifth, and Orlando is sixth with 50.7 inches a year. However, yearly hurricanes and tropical storms skew these numbers greatly.
From June to September, tourists are hit with a scorching sun and BRIEF bouts of torrential rain. We say brief because they come and go quickly, and are hardly ever enough to ruin your day. In other words, when you are checking your weather app, you might see rain for the day, or every day for an entire week, but the rainfall might only last 10 minutes and hardly ever extends more than an hour. Half of Orlando’s precipitation falls in these three months. We are constantly asked by worried travellers, and Travel Forums filled with posts about “Weather forecasts are for rain all week while we are there…HELP!!!”
These intermittent blasts of precipitation usually occur around Mid-afternoon on most days. When these brief deluges occur, lightning arrives as well, as Central Florida experiences more lightning strikes than any other area in the United States. So, bring a light poncho, and don’t worry too much because the rain will move along quickly along with the clouds and lightning. Soon enough, you will be back to a savage sun and temperatures that are 90 degrees and higher. This not unique to Florida but all areas within the Caribbean tropical climate. Infrequent torrential Afternoon Rain is the norm in this climate.
IT WILL NOT RUIN YOUR TRIP!
If lightning is observed near the parks, which can be seen roughly 10 miles out, even if there is no rain, many Outdoor rides and attractions are closed for safety. So what happens and what should you do when you are on park grounds and lightning and rain arrive? The following is the protocol:
- All outdoor rides close during lightening and rain, and parades and fireworks displays are cancelled. However, most indoor attractions remain open. The My Disney Experience App tells you exactly which rides are open or closed during the day.
- When lightning is in the area or rain occurs, the park’s staff snaps into action. If you are waiting in a queue, Cast members will shut down the attraction, but in most cases, you can wait out the storm in your current spot. Therefore, you can stay and hope the ride will reopen soon or leave. A typical wait is one hour long.
- Our suggestion is to head indoors to another attraction, or shop and eat. While staying close to your favourite outdoor rides. Lots of people leave as soon as the park takes a brief weather hiatus, not understanding that it is only temporary, so the park thins out, leaving shorter queues when the rides reopen.
Hurricanes in Florida that Impact Vacationers and Tourism
Florida’s hurricane season begins on June 1 and lasts through November 1, which is half the year. Big storms that rage from the sea and drop down upon the 11th largest peninsula in the world occur frequently in August in September. Since the Sunshine State dips into the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Straits of Florida, it is unprotected from direct hits. The Peninsular is especially vulnerable to the Cape Verde Hurricanes. These storms start off as small thunderstorms that form off the coast of Africa.
Large groups of thunderstorms organize themselves into a large storm that begins to rotate and move across the ocean towards the Caribbean. The warm water powers the cell and due to the large expanse of warm water that is the Atlantic the Storms can grow to huge proportions and have incredible wind speeds. Florida is in the direct path for most of these systems! Fortunately, most of them take a northward turn just before slamming into the peninsular but not all!
More tropical or subtropical cyclones hit Florida than any other state. On average, one or two hurricanes make landfall on American property (specifically, a 1.75 average) each year, and 40 per cent of them hit Florida. Since 1951, Floridians have suffered through 37 direct hurricane hits. Prior to 2016, however, Florida went 11 years without a hurricane landing. But in 2016, Category-1 Hurricane Hermine hit in September, and the following month, Category-4 Hurricane Matthew road the Florida coastline, never riding inland, but still wreaking havoc as it battered coastal towns, leaving more than a million people without electricity, and resulting in several deaths.
In 2017, Hurricane Irma closed theme parks across Florida, as its eyewall first blasted Legoland in Winter Haven to the north of Orlando, before hitting Disney World, then SeaWorld, and finally Universal Orlando. All of the parks closed for three days, but the hotels continued to house thousands of visitors who rode out 100 mph winds during a 24-hour curfew. The resorts issued refunds to visitors who couldn’t make their scheduled arrival times because of the weather. We know first hand of the disruption caused by Irma as our flight was due to land the day the storm passed over Orlando Airport!
Hurricane Forecasting is very good nowadays and we knew a good few days in advance we would not be making that flight. We have booked with Virgin Atlantic who were very good and re-arranged the trip for a few weeks later. We lost a few non-refundable items (airport parking etc) and obviously lost our FastPass+ Reservations. But overall it was no big deal. The biggest impact on our trip was we needed to cancel out Florida Keys part of the trip, but still visited the Everglades, Miami and Sarasota days after the storm and there was little impact!
So, if you plan to head to Florida, you have very little to worry about because hurricanes are infrequent and never last long, but it does make sense ensure you have excellent travel insurance in place if you are visiting from August to October. Thereby, you will get a full refund if weather conditions cancel your plans. In addition, if possible, find hotels that provide a hurricane guarantee, which allows you to cancel a reservation or reschedule with no penalty if a hurricane is approaching or has arrived.
You may also find on Travel forums and discussion boards a lot of people will pipe up when queried and say they have been to Florida during the hurricane season. This can make it seem highly likely you will be affected. This is an exaggeration though. We are sure they are all telling the truth and honest, it’s just people who HAVE been affected tend to be more active and willing to pipe up on their now specialist subject. The people who didn’t tend to forget about it and move on with their lives!
When to Go to Orlando, Considering Crowds and Weather
When we planned our trip to Orlando, our main consideration was balancing good weather and smaller crowds at the theme parks. Large crowds reduce the amount of time you have to see as much of the parks as possible because the transportation is tied up and the lines are longer.
Any public holiday where kids are out of school results in massive tourist migration to the Disney parks. And if Disney’s lines are long, it carries over to the competing parks, hotels, and restaurants. The peak seasons for Magic Kingdom are the week after Christmas and during spring break. In fact, the turnstiles spin like helicopter propellers at Magic Kingdom in late December and the park frequently reaches capacity, resulting in SEALED GATES! Therefore, if you can, stay away during mid-spring, summer, and religious holidays. Of course, there is a reason the Holidays are So popular and that is Disney is a pretty magical place at Christmas time… If you can stomach the crowds.
Not only are the lines longer, but the hotels increase their rates during these peaks, and price gouging across Orlando is common. If you want to save cash and miss long lines, head to Orlando in early January, early May, late August, anytime in September (when kids start the school year), and the first half of December.
We always suggest Caution on September though. On paper, it is a very good month that seems quiet simply because the kids are back in school. The reality can be different. It is still very hot. And the hurricane risk is at it’s highest. Humidity is very high and this makes days in the parks very uncomfortable. The risk of Severe weather can also put pay to the thinning crowds. When we visited after Irma large numbers had re-arranged their trips meaning we had to battle peak season sized queues.
In addition, the busiest days of the week are Saturday and Sunday because not only are their tourists, but it is when the Orlando locals come out to play. After Fridays and Saturday, Tuesdays and Thursdays are the busiest at Magic Kingdom, Tuesdays and Fridays at Epcot, Wednesdays at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at Animal Kingdom. Finally, you might think that it is best to get to the park as early as possible to miss longer lines, but it isn’t the case; the crowds get thinner later in the evening. However getting to the park on the dot of opening can be the only way to bag a small queue for one of the more popular rides.
Snowbirds flock to Florida from Christmas holiday to mid-April to escape the cruel winters of the Northeast and Midwest U.S. There are also quite a few festivals in Florida during the first half of the year, so festival-seekers travel to Florida to avoid the state’s rainy season and soaring heat when the weather is nearly perfect.
The downside of visiting Orland outside of the peak seasons is that the theme parks reduce services and it is also when the parks do ride refurbishment and rehab. Check with the park you plan to visit and ask for a ride closure schedule, so you don’t miss out any rides that are important to you. Another consideration is that during the winter months, those fun water rides that are some of the best in the world are not “very fun” when you get soaked or partially wet, and the temperatures are low enough to make you uncomfortably chilly.
The following is a breakdown of weather and crowds in Florida during the high, shoulder, and low seasons:
- High Season: March-August is wet and hot with temperatures peaking at an average of 92 degrees in July and August, with lows in the mid-50s in March and the mid-70s in August. It is the peak season for Orlando theme parks, and crowds are large with long waits at every stop. The Panhandle and northern beaches peak in the summer, while South Florida beaches peak during spring break.
- Shoulder Season: February and September have great weather and medium-sized crowds at theme parks, northern beaches, and South Florida. February has nearly perfect dry weather with days reaching the mid-70s and nights falling to 50 degrees. September is still very hot with average highs reaching 90 degrees and afternoon precipitation is normal most days, but the crowds have diminished because school is in session. In these two months, hotel prices drop 20%-30%. But thee Hurricane Risk is greatest.
- Low Season: October-December is a mix of low and peak season. Outside of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday weeks, which offer an array of magnificent seasonal festivities, Florida theme parks and beaches are pretty quiet. While the holidays spike with peak rates, hotel prices drop by as much as 50% in these three months. The weather during this period is wonderful with less than half the rain from March-August, with temperatures from 65 degrees to 85 degrees in October, 57 to 78 in November, and 51 to 73 in December.
There are many Crowd Calculators out there with most Disney blogs having their own. However, most are fairly inaccurate and really on pretty iffy Data. Disney itself does not Provide Crowd Calculator information. We feel the best way for us to convey they necessary crowd info is to point you in the direction of the industries best. Rather than cobble together our own probably inaccurate data. The Guys over at Undercover Tourist have what we feel is the most accurate crowd data and display it in the best way to give you a great idea of what the crowd might be like. Still, don’t take too much stock in it. It is based on historical data, what happened in previous years. This gives an idea not a definite. There is no way to know in advance how busy somewhere will be. An example was our 2017 trip where UT showed low crowds but we were met with peak level crowds. This was due to Hurricane Irma cause people to reschedule. There is no way any predictor could have predicted this!
Staying “Weather-Safe” at Orlando Theme Parks
The hot and humid weather can be a danger. It causes sunburns, dehydration, and can make a family a bit “moody.” Here are some tips for staying safe even on the hottest days, and remember:
- Visit outdoor attractions early and late in the day: Focus your mornings and evenings on rides that queue outdoors, when it is not super hot. Consider that crowds are worst between noon and 4 p.m., and the hottest part of the day is noon to 3 p.m. Therefore, avoid waiting in 45-minute lines for outdoor activities from noon to five. Take a nap and stay out later in the evening, or swim in your hotel pool to cool off and rest for the remainder of the day.
- Eat at a table-service restaurant: When it is uncomfortably hot, eat at a table-service restaurant or enjoy a character meal during the day instead of at night. This kills a good portion of the hottest part of the day, while you leisurely dine in air conditioning and plan the rest of your outing.
- Watch shows: Plan to visit one of the many entertaining and amazing shows like Monsters Inc Laugh Floor, Mickey’s Philharmagic, and The Enchanted Tiki Room. Since the shows only last around 15-20 minutes, you will need to find several of them in a row to keep you occupied during the hottest part of the day. All shows and indoor areas are airconditioned.
- Stay hydrated: You will find that Orlando tap water has a distinct mineral taste, and that is all over Florida, so it has nothing to do with any specific hotel, restaurant, or park. From the water fountains to complimentary cups of ice water, the taste isn’t that great. Basically, Orlando is an island. Yeah! It floats on a cushion of water, and the city’s lakes began as sinkholes. Most of Florida’s tap water is drawn from the aquifer, which gives the state’s water a distinct flavour and odour that is very different and not for everyone. However, the tap water is safe to drink, so refill your water bottles on the daily, add a flavour packet if needed, and drink a bunch of it as you wander around Central Florida. The theme parks give complimentary cups of water at any counter-service restaurant, and there are also frozen treats like floats, smoothies, and the classic Mickey Premium Bar that can cool you off and help with hydration.
Tip – Starbucks is a great place to order a large cup of Ice water!
- Wear appropriate gear and SunScreen: Protect your eyes with sunglasses, wear a hat that shields your face, neck and ears from the sun, and wear SPF 30, or higher, sunscreen on all exposed skin. After 20 minutes in the sun, your skin begins to burn, and a bad burn will ruin the rest of your time in Orlando. The advice from experts is to Re-apply regularly but this can be problematic at Disney. We use P-30 which is effective and lasts all day. Remeber use time in Queues to top up you lotion when it’s really hot. Also, wear clothes and that breathe and are loose upon your skin.
No doubt, Orlando has BEAUTIFUL weather, and it is why Walt Disney chose Central Florida to builds his themed paradise, and it is also the reason why the region one of the number one travel destinations in the United States. Nevertheless, Florida afternoons in the summer can be rough for tourists unaccustomed to 90-degree weather, and short thunderstorms can dampen moods, while hurricane season can be downright scary. Plan accordingly and have a contingency plan in place, so you are not scrambling at the last minute to figure out what to do when harsh weather strikes.
Have Your Say?
Let s know if you have anything to say about Florida’s incredible Weather! What time of Year did you Visit? Did it rain? How long for? Have you witnessed a Hurricane? Or had your plans disrupted by one? Let us know in the comments below or drop us a question if you have any queries or want to know if your planned trip is a good time to Visit Orlando?