If you’ve ever been to Disney World you can understand being awestruck at the sight of the castle as you come down Main Street, the joy of watching the Happily Ever After fireworks show at night and of course… the hatred of the crowds. The crowds is the least appealing aspect of Disney but let’s be honest, Disney World is a popular place so it comes with the territory. Well, what if there was a way for you to experience Disney World with fewer crowds where it feels like the park is all to yourself almost? Well, you can by attending a Disney After Hours event. Below we will explain what the Disney After Hours event is, all the details about it and our review of the one we attended at Magic Kingdom.
If You Would Rather Listen To This
If you would rather listen to our Disney After Hours Review you can do that directly below as we did an episode on this topic on our podcast, Capture The Magic podcast.
What Is Disney After Hours?
It’s a hard ticket event for a specific theme park where you have access to certain attractions in that park for several hours after it has closed to its regular guests. For example, in Magic Kingdom the park stays open for an additional three hours after park closing. During this special event, almost all of the attractions are open, with a few exceptions. Basically, this is a hard ticket event where you can experience fewer crowds and lower wait times.
Until recently, Disney After Hours was originally only available at Magic Kingdom, but Disney has now started holding Disney After Hours events at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom as well. Our guess is that eventually, they will also offer this at Epcot, but it won’t be until after all the planned renovations are completed in the next few years at that park.
With your Disney After Hours event ticket, you not only get access to the parks after they’re closed, but you also get all you can eat snacks (popcorn, ice cream sandwiches, ice cream bars, and a few other frozen treats) and drinks (bottled water & soda).
Another great thing about After Hours is there are plenty of Photopass photographers available to take pictures along Main Street and the Hub. This is a great opportunity to get castle pictures with a practically empty background. We’ll talk about the best time to get those pictures done a little later.
The question many people ask is, “Do you need a normal park day ticket on top of the After Hours ticket to attend?” This can get confusing because with Disney’s Early Morning Magic (this is early park access before the park opens), you DO need a normal park day ticket plus an Early Morning Magic ticket. However, you DO NOT need a normal park day ticket to attend an After Hours event. Plus, you can get into the park as early as 7:00 PM (much like you can with the Halloween and Christmas parties) and enjoy the rest of the park before the event begins.
Another question many people ask is about cost. Tickets range anywhere between $95.00 up to $129.00, depending on when you buy them and if you can get a discount. For example, a regular, no discount ticket bought in advance may cost $125.00, whereas a ticket bought the day of may cost $129.00. Since we’re annual passholders, we took advantage of our passholder discount and paid roughly $95.00 per ticket.
What Are The Attractions That Are NOT Open?
As we mentioned earlier, most of the attractions were open at Magic Kingdom during After Hours with the exception of the following:
- Tom Sawyer Island
- Carousel of Progress
- Monsters Inc, Laugh Floor
- Hall of Presidents
- Enchanted Tales with Belle
- Most of the meet and greets ( the ones that are still open are Fairy Princess, Fairytale Hall, Town Square Theater and Ariel’s Grotto)
What Food & Drink Options Are Available?
Basically, your only food options are the food carts selling popcorn, ice cream treats and bottle drinks, which are all included in the price of your ticket. Maybe the Starbucks on Main Street was open, but we’re not really sure. And the food carts were spread out all over the park, so there were plenty of opportunities to get snacks. Our advice is to eat dinner before you go because if you’re expecting to go to the event and get a cheeseburger and French fries, you’ll be out of luck!
Our Disney After Hours Review
The After Hours event we attended the hours were 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM. Hours will vary depending on what time the park closes – if the park closes at 9:00 PM, then the event lasts until 12:00 AM, but the latest one they offer closes at 1:00 AM. As we said earlier, we attended the Magic Kingdom After Hours event.
We got to Magic Kingdom around 9:45 PM and the fireworks were set to go off around 10 and our plan was to bypass the fireworks and start riding the rides early as we had already seen Happily Ever After and wanted to get the most out of the event.
10:00 PM – 11:00 PM
For the first ride of the night, we headed over to Winnie the Pooh. There was a little bit of a line still as this there were still regular park goers in the park at this point as it wasn’t 10:00 PM yet. We didn’t mind but it’s just something to keep in mind for the early part of the After Hours event. Ultimately, we waited for about 20 minutes.
Then we got in line for Peter Pan’s Flight, and that only had about a 5 to 10 minute wait. After we rode Peter Pan’s Flight, we stopped for our first ice cream bar of the night. The night of our event it was cold but who can pass up free ice cream and drinks? From here we rode Haunted Mansion, got some popcorn (even though we just had some ice cream 30 minutes before).
Then we made our way to Frontierland and it was around this time we started to notice that there were much fewer people walking around the park. In fact, we looked back and saw two, maybe three people behind us and nobody in front of us. It was pretty incredible! (We did do a vlog of this event, so check that out on our Youtube Channel, Capture the Magic!) We headed to Big Thunder Mountain and when I say we I mean me (Jared) rode it as Jamie being pregnant at the time, roller coasters were on the “no-no” list. On Big Thunder, I was able to walk right on the ride with no wait. Originally we had planned on timing how long the lines were, but we quickly realized after Winnie the Pooh, there was no need as everything else was either a five-minute wait or less.
After Big Thunder, we headed to Adventureland and rode the first ride we saw, Pirates of the Caribbean. Walked right on to it and then went down and rode Jungle Cruise. We walked right up to the boat as there was no line but we actually had to wait a little for the boat to fill up a before we could take off. Jungle Cruise is a longer ride in general so all in all, it took about 20 minutes to ride it.
11:00 – Midnight
At this point in the night, we really started to enjoy the park being essentially empty. Just walking around and really feeling like Magic Kingdom was all to yourself. Ok, back to what we did. So we decided to walk back over to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Now you might be thinking – wait, you did Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan’s Flight at the beginning of After Hours, why didn’t you just hit up Mine Train while you were over there?
That’s because that would have been the number one rookie mistake you could make during Magic Kingdom After Hours! Why you may ask? First off, there are still people waiting in line who are regular park goers and if they get in line 5 minutes even before park close, they get to ride. That alone will make the line longer but that can be coupled with the fact you have people who are part of the After Hours event and they think they need to ride this ride right off the bat. With all that the wait time could easily become close to an hour, maybe even longer. Instead, go ride the lesser popular rides, let the crowd thin out and go back at a later time to ride it with much less wait.
On the way to Mine Train, we got some more snacks and drinks and I was able to walk right onto Mine Train, maybe waited five minutes. I asked the Cast Member if I could just ride it again, but I did have to go out through the exit and back through the queue again, but still, it was only like a five-minute wait again.
At this point, we ran into some podcast listeners and talked with them for 20 minutes or so which ended up taking us a little past midnight.
Midnight – 1:00 AM
At this point, we had ridden pretty much all the stuff we wanted to ride as we really weren’t in a huge rush to try and ride everything multiple times, we were just enjoying a nice date night. Given Jamie couldn’t ride a bunch of the rides and she was starting to get a little tired walking around, I went back and rode Mine Train one more time, and by that point, we were both pretty tired.
The last thing we wanted to do was get our picture taken in front of the castle in the Hub and get that iconic picture in front of the castle with no one else behind us. This is where we made a slight mistake in our timing for pictures in The Hub. Apparently waiting until almost the end of the night to take pictures of a nearly empty Main Street is the same idea everyone else had… needless to say at around 12:30 the Hub and Main Street were not empty.
Our advice if you’re wanting to take some pictures with way fewer people during After Hours then we recommend taking pictures during the middle part of the event, maybe around 11 or 11:15 PM. There is much less of a chance that people will be congregating in that area at that time as most people will be riding rides.
So we went ahead and got our picture taken in front of the castle and it came out great with almost nobody in the picture behind us. The nice thing is that even with other people around, it was still way emptier than it would be at any other time unless you’ve got a pre-park breakfast reservation.
By now it was a little before 1:00 AM and Jamie was ready to go so our After Hours ended around 12:35 AM.
So What Did We Think?
I expected it to be busier than it was just based on my previous experience from the After Hours I had attended at the beginning of the year. Plus, there were numerous people saying that they were still having to wait 30 minutes just to ride Mine Train on other nights. But our experience was fantastic and the park was far less crowded that we were expecting. We should note, we don’t know if the weather had anything to do with it as maybe it was too cold for some people and it discouraged people from buying same day tickets perhaps. We did talk to a few other people that did After Hours around the same time we did (but when it wasn’t so cold) and they all said that the crowd levels were lower than they expected as well.
It’s also a possibility that Disney may have adjusted the number of tickets sold per night. Comparing it to the last After Hours event I did, during that one Mine Train was a wait of 45 to 50 minutes the whole night. At this event we attended, I rode Mine Train three times and never had to wait longer than five minutes to ride it. Plus, walking around you could see that there were far fewer people in the park compared to the previous one I had attended early in the year. There were much fewer people and I can say I’ve never been to Magic Kingdom when I can turn around 360 and not see another person.
For the couples out there, the After Hours is a great date night. It had been a while since Jamie and I had been to do have a date night, let alone at Disney. It was pretty great just not having to push a stroller or chase after a toddler (even as awesome as she is).
All in all, it was a great time. It was just the two of us enjoying the night and we got to really take our time. We rode a bunch of rides, we stopped many times for snacks, drinks and to take pictures and there was really no rush with anything. If Jamie had been feeling better, we might have tried to do more rides more times in a row, but we still rode around nine rides multiples times on top of everything else so we got a lot done in three hours.
Now, other people, their goal may be to ride as many rides as they can in those three hours, and you could have certainly ridden more than what we did. And that’s the beauty of After Hours – it can be whatever you want it to be depending on how you want to plan your night.
Would We Recommend After Hours?
Based on our experience we can highly recommend Magic Kingdom After Hours for most people to do at least once. It is pretty pricey as just for just the two of us, it was a little less than $200. If you have a family of four then it’s going to cost you around $400 so depending on your budget that may or may not be something that is worth it for your family.
On a scale of 1 to 10, both Jamie and I would give Magic Kingdom After Hours a solid 9 from each of us. Between the free food, the photopass photographers, and the little to no wait times, it’s just an ideal situation to be in. Our only criticism would be that it would have been nice to have more snack options – warmer snack options. During the warmer months, yeah, ice cream and cold drinks are great, but maybe during the colder months maybe offer hot chocolate and like nachos or something.
Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are now also offering After Hours everts. We recently did a Trip Tales podcast where the guest we had on talked about the Animal Kingdom After Hours event as they went to it but we can’t personally speak to either of those events as we have only done the Magic Kingdom one .
So that’s it. We both were pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed our time at Magic Kingdom After Hours. Iit was definitely one of the highlights of our whole trip. If you’re thinking about doing After Hours at Magic Kingdom and you’re on the fence about it, we really feel like you should go for it. We felt like we got our money’s worth and we highly recommend it.
If you enjoyed this article, you should check out some of our other articles like our Disney Packing List that will help you get ready for your next Disney trip.