Disney After Hours

You may have noticed that Walt Disney World has been experimenting over the past few years with various “add-on” events. Whether it’s a dessert party that comes with fireworks viewing, or a dinner package for a nighttime event, or realizing that they can close down a park early and re-open it for a separate ticket and people will love it, Disney has been pretty successful with this. But are these extra additions, like Disney After Hours, worth the price? We’ll discuss that below and let you decide. But first, a little backstory…

It’s no secret that Walt Disney World Resort is more crowded than ever and it’s not slowing down any time soon. It wasn’t too long ago that there were blissful “slow times” at WDW. Those were the times that locals waited for, and during which smart planners booked their vacations. Times when the lines were down, the weather was better, and it made all the difference. Disney noticed these times too, and thought “Hey, we should make a reason for people to come down and visit when our numbers are down….maybe a….festival or something? And the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival was born.

Way back in 1994, Epcot would create fun springtime topiaries, and thought turning it into a festival was a natural answer to the slower time between Mother’s Day and the start of summer. The next year, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival began, during the usually slow time in the early Fall when school was back up but before the holidays started.

Over many successful years, these festivals filled in the gap of less crowds, leaving only one major time when the park had noticeably less guests. A new experiment, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts filled in that gap. This festival was born of the former “Festival of the Masters” that took place at Downtown Disney, before it was rejuvenated as Disney Springs. Now, I cannot even fathom having a festival at Disney Springs on a weekend, the crowds would make it impossible to even move. The festival takes place in the weeks between January and February before February vacation and then Spring Break begin. It is the favorite time for many a local. The weather is usually cold, or at least cooler and not humid (though nothing is a guarantee in central Florida), and because of the time period, less families are taking off and going on vacation. It is glorious. Or it was. 

Nowadays, there aren’t many times when you can find a Disney park or Disney Springs “less crowded.” There are events, either festivals or races or seasonal parties filling in pretty much every day of the year. Sure, going during the week, when school is in session will be slightly more manageable, but long gone are the days when you didn’t have to plan ahead and could just roll up, expect to walk on a ride or walk in to a table service restaurant and expect to be seated. It is a different time, one of FastPasses, ADR’s (neither of which guarantee a quick wait) and constant crowds. But I’m not here to comment on the changing times and yell at you kids to get off my lawn. I’m just giving some background as to how these events have been creeping up over time. What once was a display of flowers and topiaries has turned into a mini food and wine festival itself. What was once a festival to try some new international dishes, sample some wines and beers and see demonstrations from chefs around the world, has turned into Drinking Around the World with t-shirts to match (that’s another post on its own from me :P) And the latest addition to these free (minus attendance and cost of food/drinks of course) events, has been dessert parties and the like. 

Don’t want to worry about where to stand for the perfect fireworks or parade view? There’s an add-on package for you. Getting “free” candy or cookies and treats during the already separate ticketed event of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party not enough? There’s a dessert party add-on for you too! But the truth is, in the last few years, the hard-ticketed parties are more crowded than they’ve ever been, and while yes, wait times are reduced compared to a typical day, there are still a LOT of guests there, especially during the fireworks and parade times. So what’s the answer for those that want to enjoy a bit of the old reduced-crowd Disney parks experience? The answer is – Disney After Hours

Yes, this event is very limited to specific dates over the course of the year, and yes, it is $129 per person – adult or child. BUT – it IS worth it – in most cases. Let’s figure out why. 

First, I understand that many people reading this may not be locals or passholders, but guests who plan for years and need accommodations and park hopper passes and a host of other items locals don’t normally have to worry about. So while it may seem flippant for me to say “it’s worth the extra $130!” I promise, I am taking vacationers into account. 

What I am suggesting is that, if you are able to work an After Hours event into your existing vacation dates, that you could perhaps do it on a day where you visited a water park or Disney Springs during the day, enjoy a dinner there, at a resort, or even off-property, saving a day of your Park Hoppers. Then return to the After Hours park and enjoy multiple (and I do mean multiple) rides on the available attractions of your choice, which are traditionally either impossible to get FastPasses for or easily have over 100 minute waits daily, no matter the time of year. In addition, you get unlimited ice cream novelties and select bottled beverages during the event! Other locations are open during the event to purchase food and drink items (and merchandise) too. It would also make planning the rest of your days easier. If you know you’ll be able to ride your favorites After Hours, you could take the time to enjoy attractions or places that you put off seeing during a normal visit when everything is action-packed and scheduled to the minute. 

I have now experienced two parks at After Hours events, the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom and I was truly worried I would not think it was worth it. But the lack of stress while in a Disney park; no worrying about waiting in line, having time to see it all, making sure everyone gets to ride their favorites, is quite simply, heavenly. It reminded me of a time gone by, when you could stroll the parks and drink in all the details and still enjoy attractions as well. The fact that it’s at night and everything looks extra magical and lit up is just a bonus in my opinion. 

EDIT: I have now experienced all 3 parks Disney After Hours events (I don’t think Epcot could ever offer this because it’s just SO big, maybe if they did Future World only, but then there would only be 2 real attraction draws, although the same could be said for Animal Kingdom I suppose?). I worried at first that Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be more crowded because there are quite a few attractions that have a huge wait or are difficult to get FastPasses for. However, I was surprised to see that because the popular areas of the park are spread out, it wasn’t really an issue. We went to Slinky Dog Dash first, and the wait time was 10 minutes, and it truly was 10 minutes. But as the night went on, it was down even lower to the usual 5. And that’s for the newest attraction in any park. Rock ‘n Roller Coaster was a walk-on, as was Tower of Terror and every other open attraction.

I think Hollywood Studios was my favorite for this event, because it’s always been one of my favorite parks to just stroll and enjoy the details, but add Christmas decorations which DHS has really bumped up in the last 2 years, and the fact that the projections on Tower of Terror, now with snow and lasers were going on all night, and it was truly a magical experience. 

So is it worth it for everyone? Does the cost make sense for the value (amount of hours, attractions you can ride in those hours, free snacks)? Well, the answer may be different for every guest, depending on your vacation style or if you’re vacationing at all. I think for the price and experience, if you are a single or couple visitor, the benefits are a no-brainer. If you have many little kids that may not take advantage of the attractions available, it might be a great time to try out the on-site kids clubs. 😉 I think it was a great time and love the atmosphere and feeling like you truly have the parks to yourselves.  Click photos below to scroll through the gallery: 

Here are the Disney After Hours Facts: 

Admission to Disney After Hours can be purchased in advance for $125 per adult or child, plus tax—or purchased on the day of the event for $129 per adult or child, plus tax. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members can take advantage of specially priced tickets for just $95 per adult or child, plus tax. – So very similar to passholder rates for the seasonal parties. 

Magic Kingdom dates and info:

Guests with Disney After Hours tickets can enter the park at 7:00 PM every event night.

The event takes place from 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM:

  • Monday, November 26, 2018
  • Monday, December 3, 2018
  • Monday, December 10, 2018
  • Thursday, March 21, 2019
  • Thursday, March 28, 2019
  • Thursday, April 4, 2019
  • Thursday, April 11, 2019

And 9:00 PM to midnight:

  • Thursday, February 14, 2019
  • Thursday, February 21, 2019
  • Thursday, March 7, 2019

And 8:00 PM to 11:00PM:

  • Monday, January 7, 2019
  • Thursday, January 17, 2019
  • Thursday, January 24, 2019
  • Monday, January 28, 2019
  • Thursday, February 7, 2019
  • Thursday, February 28, 2019

Magic Kingdom Attractions: 

  • Astro Orbiter
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Disney Princess Greetings at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Haunted Mansion
  • “it’s a small world”
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Peter Pan’s Flight*
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • And much, much more!

  • *Please be aware that Peter Pan’s Flight will be closed on January 7, January 17 and January 24 in 2019.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios dates and info: 

The event takes place from 8:30 PM to 11:30 PM:

  • Saturday, December 8, 2018
  • Saturday, December 15, 2018
  • Saturday, December 22, 2018
  • Saturday, January 5, 2019
  • Saturday, January 12, 2019
  • Saturday, January 19, 2019
  • Saturday, February 2, 2019
  • Saturday, February 9, 2019
  • Saturday, February 16, 2019
  • Saturday, March 2, 2019
  • Saturday, March 9, 2019

And 9:00 PM to midnight:

  • Saturday, March 16, 2019
  • Saturday, March 23, 2019
  • Saturday, March 30, 2019
  • Saturday, April 6, 2019
  • Saturday, April 13, 2019

Studios Attractions:

  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Toy Story Mania!
  • Twilight Zone Tower of TerrorTM
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
  • Star Wars Launch Bay
  • Character Greetings with Toy Story Land Pals, Mickey, Minnie and Olaf

*All attractions and entertainment are subject to change without notice.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Dates and Info: 

The event takes place from 8:30 PM to 11:30 PM:

  • Tuesday, December 4, 2018
  • Wednesday, December 12, 2018
  • Tuesday, December 18, 2018
  • Tuesday, January 8, 2019
  • Wednesday, January 16, 2019
  • Tuesday, January 22, 2019
  • Thursday, January 31, 2019
  • Tuesday, February 5, 2019
  • Wednesday, February 6, 2019
  • Tuesday, February 12, 2019
  • Wednesday, February 13, 2019
  • Tuesday, February 19, 2019
  • Tuesday, February 26, 2019
  • Tuesday, March 5, 2019
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2019
  • Wednesday, March 27, 2019
  • Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Animal Kingdom Attractions:

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • Pandora Drummers – Swotu Wayä
  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  • Rivers of Light
  • Tree of Life Awakenings
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • TriceraTop Spin
  • And more!

Disclaimer: I was invited by Disney to experience Disney After Hours as a hosted guest. My opinions and thoughts are, as always, my own. 

I will be experiencing Disney After Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios tomorrow (12/8) and will add to this post any further notes. Be sure to follow along on my instagram story throughout the night to see what it’s like!

Are you planning to experience Disney After Hours? I’d love to know your thoughts below!