A few years ago when Disney Parks first announced they had a new special event called Disney After Hours, I was one of those skeptics. Why would I pay $100 for what essentially was Extra Magic Hours?
Boy, was I wrong!
A week after we returned home from our quick trip to Disney to celebrate the 7 year old turning 8 (a week early due to camp) I found myself glued to Instagram. It was Media Night for the first 2018 Summer Disney After Hours event. By the end of the night I was looking at dates around our already scheduled trip in August (to celebrate the little one turing 3) and trying to figure out what I needed to say to my crew to sell them on it. I decided to approach the now 8 year old and see what she thought. Her birthday party (H2O Glow Nights) was less than perfect since it rained most of the night. She was bummed since she opted for that instead of a party at home with her friends. I just needed to get her thinking we should do a different party for our soon to be 3 year old as her ‘birthday party’. And of course, something she would want to do to. I knew my husband would be a harder sell. It would come down to the cost of the tickets. I picked my words carefully.
LOW WAIT TIMES FOR RIDES and FREE POPCORN/ ICE CREAM!
That’s all it took. Because before I knew it I had modified our resort reservation from Old Key West to Pop Century, added another night, and purchased tickets to this event. All for $100 more than we originally budgeted for the trip.
We decided to take a chance on this event. After attending several extra ticketed events at Disney over the years, we were excited and curious about this one. How would it compare to events that we love and do every year like the Halloween or Christmas parties? What was the appeal to the event compared to those events (and others like H2O Glow Nights or Galactic Nights) that have specialty entertainment, event specific character/ photo opportunities, or specialty food? And just simply… would we regret paying all that money to go when we could easily stay at the park late another night for free?
I am so glad we did take a chance on Disney After Hours. I can honestly say it was hands down our favorite event of the summer.
So what is Disney After hours?
Disney After Hours is a special ticketed event at the Magic Kingdom, taking place select Saturdays (10pm-1am) and Thursdays (9pm-12am) this summer till September 20th. It is limited to a small number of guests. We overheard only 3,000 tickets were sold each night. Which means there is little to no wait for the 25 attractions and character encounters available throughout the park. The Disney After Hours ticket gives you park entry starting at 7pm. Even though our annual passes (AP) were valid we didn’t hit the park until that time. Those 3 hours were a perfect amount of time for us to get a few rides done, have a bite to eat, and see the fireworks before our evening began. (Also letting the really bad thunder storm pass. Like lighting struck .4 miles away from Liberty Square really bad. I had never seen Liberty Square clear so fast.)
There are still dates available for this summer’s session including tonight, August 30th and September 20th. Times for both nights are from 9pm to 12am. Ticket prices are the same for children and adults: $119 plus tax (advanced purchase), $124 plus tax (day-of purchase), and there is an AP/ DVC (Disney Vacation Club) discount of $89.
Included in the cost of admission, guest can have all they care to enjoy ice cream novelties (typical selections often found at ice cream stands throughout the park), popcorn, and bottled beverages. These are available at carts stationed throughout the park.
We checked into Pop Century around 1pm, grabbed lunch at Everything Pop, and took a nap. Around 5:30pm we started to head out to the Magic Kingdom. I found these really cute shirts at Target with Popcorn boxes on them for the girls. I put on my ‘Best Day Ever’ shirt that I bought last year and our newly acquired Mickey Bar Ears and we were out the door. We were going snack themed. We finally arrived at the Magic Kingdom at 6:40pm. We entered where they had the Disney After Hours sign, received our lanyard, and off we went. * Please note we did not take or have a stroller with us. Our soon to be 3 year old walked the entire night. As she has done at the parks since February of this year. Our pace was definitely one of a little kid walking through the parks.
- 7pm – We made our way to our first Fast Pass, Pirates of the Caribbean. (A storm starting rolling in which closed all the outdoor rides and caused a delay in our fast passes for Splash Mountain. Hence the lightning comment above. So we just killed time till our Haunted Mansion at 8:30pm.)
- 8pm – Churro Ice Cream Sandwich at Sleepy Hallow Refreshments.
- 8:20pm – Prince Charming Regal Carousel
- 8:30pm – Haunted Mansion (2nd Fast Pass)
- 9pm – Splash Mountain reopens (Kevin and Ainsley – 3rd Fast Pass) / The Magic Carpets of Aladdin 3x while watching Happily Ever After fireworks (Madigan and Arianne) * We often split up when we ride rides our little one can’t ride yet. This allows her and the adult with her to ride a ride as well instead of just waiting. Call it Theme Park multi tasking.
- 9:30 – Jungle Cruise
Event Officially Starts
- 10pm – It’s a Small World
- 10:15pm – Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid
- 10:36pm – The Barnstormer
- 10:43pm – Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- 10:51pm – Mad Tea Party
- 10:55pm – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- 11pm – 1st Snack stop. [2 Mickey Bars, 2 Mickey Sandwiches, and 2 waters] * Because our little one chose ice cream we sat down and ate instead of walking and eating.
- 11:30pm – Space Mountain (Kevin and Ainsley)/ 2nd Snack Stop [2 Popcorns, a Coke, and a Sprite] (Arianne and Madigan).
- Space Mountain (Arianne and Ainsley)/ Eat Popcorn (Kevin and Madigan)
- 12am – 3rd Snack Stop [Popcorn, Coke, and Strawberry bar], Photo in front of castle, Big Thunder Mountain (Arianne and Ainsley)/ Peter Pan’s Flight, 3rd Snack Stop [frozen banana, Mickey sandwich, water] (Kevin and Madigan).
- 12:30pm – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Kevin and Ainsley)/ Carousel, Tea Cups, Winnie the Pooh (Arianne and Madigan)
- 12:55am – Tomorrowland Speedway
- 1:15am – 4th Snack Stop [2 waters], Photos on Main Street
Disney After Hours event totals
Ainsley – 11 Rides
Arianne – 12 Rides
Kevin – 10 Rides
Madigan – 11 Rides
Popcorn – 3
Ice Creams – 7
Drinks – 8
Why we loved this event
- Often our biggest complaint of the Halloween/ Christmas Party is that we focus on riding the rides (because its our only day at the MK that trip) and we miss out on the specialty entertainment. Or we just do the specialty entertainment and miss out on riding the rides. This event alleviated this issue all together. We just rode rides.
- It’s not like Extra Magic Hours! I know it might seem like it is, but it’s not. There were way less people there. In fact there were some times we were the only ones walking down a path. One of a few people on a ride. You are not fighting with everyone who stays at the resorts staying at the park for an extra hour or two.
- Wait times for rides were minimal. The longest line we waited in was for Seven Dwarfs (20 minutes) and popcorn. That’s right you heard me. Popcorn. In fact I got in line for popcorn and 5 minutes into waiting my husband suggested that he and our oldest go ride Space Mountain while I wait. So off they went. I kid you not, they rode the ride and were back faster than I got my popcorn. Every other ride we practically walked on.
- As a kid I had always heard stories about how Disney would open just for Michael Jackson. I always imagined how amazing that must have been to walk around the park like it was open just for you. I felt this way at this event. At points it was so private. No crowds to maneuver around. No large amounts of strollers to dodge. There were areas where no one was around. Rides with only a few people on them. Cast Members offering guests to stay on and ride again if you wanted to.
- Free Ice Cream, Popcorn, and Soda. All you care to eat. Ever wanted to try that frozen Banana treat but always stuck with the Mickey Bar? Well… that night we tried them all!
- Being able to enter at 7pm and get a few rides out of the way before the party started was huge. This allowed us to keep to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland and not waste large amounts of time walking (with a young one) from one side of the park to another.
Why we think you should attend
If you’re a night owl who loves to be there at the park long past the fireworks…
If this is your only trip to Walt Disney World and you want to see a lot of stuff in a short amount of time…
If you like ride rides with no one in your way…
If you dream of riding the same ride over and over and over and over and over again…
If you are an Annual Passholder and in black out…
If you are looking for a romantic night at the park…
If you or someone you love gets overwhelmed by the crowds and other sensory triggers common at the parks during the regular hours…
If you LOVE Mickey Bars, Mickey Ice Cream Sandwiches, and Popcorn…
THIS IS THE EVENT FOR YOU!
What we think would make the event better?
- Length – The 3 hours was a good time. But an extra 30 minutes would be nice because we were still maneuvering around stragglers and some of the big rides to completely empty out from the regular hours guests. Especially since the night we went all the out door attractions were closed for a good while and came back up about an hour before the park closed. Fast Pass lines were huge for the big rides that were hit right after the fireworks ended. For rides like Seven Dwarfs it took a good 45 minutes into the party to see that wait time to drop to a wait time less than 30 minutes.
- More popcorn/ ice cream stations – There were definitely more ice cream stands serving compared to the popcorn. And not every area of the park had a stand open (i.e. Storybook Circus, Fantasyland area over by Little Mermaid). We ended up waiting longer for this than anything. I’m not joking I waited in line for Popcorn near space Mountain longer than it was for my husband and daughter to ride Space Mountain. I also felt like they couldn’t make the pop corn fast enough. The location that seemed to move quickly was the popcorn stand on the right of the Partners Statue by the castle. We made a quick stop there on our way to Big Thunder Mountain and we were on our way in less than 3 minutes. What would have been useful was to have either a map or a listing of these snack locations on the back of our event lanyard.
- Disney Photo Pass – After attending multiple special events I was hoping to see photo frames or props specific to the event. Maybe even a few new ones like a Mickey Bar or box of popcorn. And if they did… I didn’t see them 😦 Also… We only saw photographers on Main Street and by the castle.
- The Lanyards – I wish they would have had more information on the cards than they did. Like locations to find snacks. Also… it would have been nice if the lanyard was like the ones we got for attending Galactic Nights. I have worn it in the park (and at work) since that party and I keep getting so many complements on it. People always asking me questions about it. To me it would be really cool to have that style with the party name on it instead of the generic black. And it’s a really cool marketing tool. Just a suggestion. 🙂
We had the best time at Disney After Hours. I’m so glad I was wrong and took a chance on this event. It was by far our favorite event (out of 3) that we attended this summer. The perfect way for us to celebrate a little someone special who loves to ride rides birthday. I hope they bring this event back in the future. It will definitely be one we will be looking forward to attending again. We didn’t move as quickly as some other families with older kids but I was still amazed at how much we were able to accomplish. And there were several moments during the night that I was thrown back into my childhood and I got a little emotional. My Dad and I would rush from Big Thunder Mountain to Space Mountain and hopefully back in the last hour before the park closed. All to get just one last ride in before the clock struck midnight. It’s an excitement my kids have yet to experience… until that night. And for the first time I got to experience it from my Dad’s perspective. It truly was a magical night.