By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



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The Disney After Hours Event: Spontaneity Strikes Back



By Dave Shute

Disney After Hours Report and Review from yourfirstvisit.netThe Disney After Hours event gives you exclusive, almost no-wait access to almost all of the Magic Kingdom’s attractions for a three hour period after park close for five remaining nights this spring

  • April 28
  • May 5
  • May 8
  • May 12
  • May 19

The event begins at park close—10p some nights, 11p others. Those who purchase tickets for it–$150 each for the general public, and $75 for annual passholders and DVC owners—can enter as early as 4p.

It’s hard to communicate how low the crowds and waits are—even with twice as many in the park who came, they still would have averaged zero. So I’ll place various shots throughout this post to illuminate the lines at various points.

Let’s start with the same area of Fantasyland, during the day…

Fantasyland

…and during the After Hours event.

Fantasyland Disney After Hours from yourfirstvisit.net

I tested the After Hours event on April 21st, and had a ball. Between 6.30p and 2a I saw 29 attractions and shows, including every single headliner and almost every FastPass+ ride.

If you want to see a lot of Magic Kingdom rides with low or no waits, it is well worth it. The challenge is fitting it into your already existing plans, as the late start—especially for the events that start at 11p—really blows up the next day.

Space Mountain at the After Hours Party

Space Mountain at the After Hours Event

Since most careful Disney World visitors have their plans and their budgets set months ahead, and this event arrived with short notice, it has been really hard for many to fit it into their wallet and put it into their schedules.

If it becomes an ongoing part of Disney World offerings—now is too soon to tell, despite the fact that many have already written it off from lower than hoped-for sales—the ability to plan for it in advance will be a key prerequisite.

I can see it being very successful during many stretches from September through January on days Magic Kingdom closes at 10p or earlier, so long as people have sufficient advance notice to put it into their budgets and plans. Without the ability to plan and budget for it in advance, though, I doubt it will fly.

Peter Pan at the After Hours Party

Peter Pan at the After Hours Event

Like most things at Disney World, a successful visit to the event comes from careful planning.

My basic strategy was to do what Josh and I call in our book “Anytime Rides” (that is, rides that typically have low waits) until near the time of the event, “First or Last Hour Rides” (that is, rides that typically have low waits at the beginning and end of the day, but high waits in between) just before the event, and rides that are typically high-wait during the event itself.

Pirates of The Caribbean at the After Hours Party

Pirates of The Caribbean at the After Hours Event

Moreover, during the event itself, I targeted the west side of the park first, then Tomorrowland, then Fantasyland. I targeted this way for a couple of reasons

  • I figured most people’s first targets would be Tomorrowland or Fantasyland, so thought I’d see lower crowds by starting in Adventureland, Frontierland and Liberty Square
  • The only ride where other people are essential is the Jungle Cruise, giving another reason to put Adventureland early
  • I figured that whatever small children were at the event would be sinking as the night grew later, so put Fantasyland last
Jungle Cruise Disney After Hours from yourfirstvisit.net

Jungle Cruise at the After Hours Event

In general this worked out great, although I did get trapped by the 11p parade away from Adventureland, so ended up doing Tomorrowland earlier and the Jungle Cruise later than I had planned to.

Tinkerbelle Disney After Hours from yourfirstvisit.net

I arrived at 6.30, and here’s the sequence of my visit, with some rough timing:

  1. Tinkerbell meet & greet 6.30p
  2. Enchanted Tiki Birds
  3. Liberty Belle steamboat 7.30p
  4. Country Bears
  5. Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse
  6. Hall of Presidents 8.30p
  7. Evening Parade 9p
  8. Carousel of Progress
  9. Wishes 10p
  10. Mickey’s Philharmagic
  11. Tomorrowland Speedway
  12. Peoplemover
  13. Astro Orbiter 11p (Actual event start)
  14. Buzz Lightyear
  15. Space Mountain 11.40p
  16. Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  17. Jungle Cruise
  18. Pirates of the Caribbean 12MN
  19. Splash Mountain
  20. Big Thunder Mountain
  21. Haunted Mansion 12.30a
  22. Peter Pan
  23. Winnie the Pooh 1a
  24. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  25. Mad Tea Party
  26. Dumbo
  27. Barnstormer
  28. Under the Sea 1.30a
  29. it’s a small world

Of what was offered during the event, I missed Meet Mickey Mouse, Princess Fairytale Hall–Anna and Elsa, Princess Fairytale Hall–Cinderella and Rapunzel, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, and Stitch’s Great Escape.

it's a small world at the After Hours Party

it’s a small world at the After Hours Event

Of what’s offered at Magic Kingdom but not during the event, I missed Enchanted Tales with Belle, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, the Afternoon Parade, Meet Ariel in Ariel’s Grotto, Walt Disney World Railroad, Pete’s Silly Sideshow: Goofy and Donald, Pete’s Silly Sideshow: Minnie and Daisy, and Celebrate the Magic.

Entry Disney After Hours from yourfirstvisit.net

With a 4p arrival, I could easily have added to my visit several of the meet and greets, and many of the Carrousel, Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, Stitch, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Celebrate the Magic.

Party Survey

In other words, if I’d arrived at 4p, I would have rides left only for a short afternoon either the same or another day to see the Afternoon Parade and a few other rides–three with FastPass+–and would have seen all of the Magic Kingdom over the course of the event and an afternoon.

(A 10p park close cuts an hour out of the time available to you between 4p and park close. You could shift this hour to the “extra” afternoon, or save an hour by skipping some of your lower priority rides–e.g. skipping the Hall of Presidents and the Liberty Belle would give you back that hour.  However, with this year’s primaries, the Hall of Presidents is approaching thrill ride status…)

Contrast this with the typical approach to the Magic Kingdom, which allocates either two days with rope drops or 3+ days, some with rope drops. Instead of spending two consecutive full days at Magic Kingdom, building an itinerary around the After Hours event can give you back at least a day—e.g. the morning of the event day, and the afternoon and evening of the next day.

Depending on how you value your time and money and design your visit, that will either save a hotel night and day of eating (if you are at a deluxe, that itself will pay the extra cost of full price tickets), give you an extra day at another park, or give you an extra day off.

However, this requires advance planning, which most have been unable to do for the April and May events.

The After Hours event, besides requiring advance planning and budgeting, is also not for the faint of heart.

Unless the park closes early (which it is not in April and May), you will be up really late—at the park til 1 or 2a, and add another hour to hour and a half to get back to your hotel, settle in, and fall asleep.

Parking Lot Disney After Hours from yourfirstvisit.net

Magic Kingdom Parking Lot 2.15a at the After Hours Event

(Finding your car and getting out of the parking lot will not be an issue.)

Taking full advantage of the minuscule waits requires the ability to stay up late, a good plan, sound knowledge of Magic Kingdom, and brisk movement.

For these reasons I can’t recommend it to first timers.

But if it is continued in the fall, with sufficient advance notice that you can plan around it and budget for it, then the After Hours event can be a very good idea for returning visitors who know the Magic Kingdom well and want to grab an extra day out of their trip.

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12 comments

1 Kelly B - Destinations In Florida { 04.27.16 at 8:22 am }

Wow – While I\’m a morning person, this might be totally worth the money. But then again, I\’m a people person, and I love to watch the other guests. To see them spot a character for the first time, or watch a parent and child interact. Thanks for all the pictures.

2 KE { 04.27.16 at 8:48 pm }

Was waiting to see your entire post/review. We’re headed in June with the kiddos so this is a no go (even if it were to become available), but it would be a great way to get an MK day in when we come for a quick visit in November for our anniversary…Definitely something to think about if they keep this around…:)

3 Julia { 04.27.16 at 10:38 pm }

Dave,
The DisneyWorld site says you can enter as early as 7PM. Were you allowed in early as a blogger, or did they change the hours?

4 Dave { 04.28.16 at 11:10 am }

You get to see other guests for hours if you come at 4p…Honestly, by the time Wishes is over, I’m glad to see them all leave LOL.

5 Dave { 04.28.16 at 11:22 am }

Oh Julia they have no idea who I am, nor do they care. Just like the Halloween and Xmas parties, while the posted start is 7p, they have been letting people in beginning at 4p. This is always subject to change, but I doubt it will.

6 Kathleen { 04.28.16 at 6:23 pm }

Thanks for the review Dave,
are any places to eat, like quick service, open during the after hours?

7 Steve From MilitaryDisneyTips.com - YourFirstVisit.net Military Moderator { 04.29.16 at 10:24 am }

WDW first introduced these paid after hours nights around 2000 and at the time called them E Nights, as in E Tickets. Although they were priced much more palatably at $20 per person. They only lasted a couple of years though.

My family did 2 E Nights on our summer 2000 trip and the experience was very similar to yours Dave.

Nice they them have brought them back, at least for the short term, but sad they are so expensive!

8 Dave { 04.29.16 at 10:31 am }

Kathleen, Casey’s Corner and the Bakery are open. Free ice cream and pop/water is also available from many carts.

9 Amanda S { 04.29.16 at 1:53 pm }

I noticed the email says pass holders can buy 4 $75 tickets. Can a passholder bring someone else who doesn’t have a pass using one of these tickets?

10 Dave { 04.30.16 at 10:51 am }

Yes, Amanda!

11 Amanda S { 05.01.16 at 8:19 pm }

Thx for the response! I’m wondering if the passholder could pick them up and give them to someone who didn’t have a pass? Or would they have to be present when their guests entered the park?

12 Dave { 05.02.16 at 8:51 am }

Amanda, I’m not sure.

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