Disney After Hours – Is It Worth the Money?

by on April 25, 2016 36 Comments

Filed under: Magic Kingdom, Money Matters, Special events, Walt Disney World (FL)

Disney After Hours Event Guide

Disney After Hours Lanyard Front and Back

Update – April 27, 2016 – Disney has announced that Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members may now purchase Disney After Hours tickets for $75, half price.

Last month when Disney announced its late night event at Magic Kingdom, Disney After Hours, I was pretty happy. It coincided with a trip I’d already planned (thanks for nothing, Rivers of Light), so I figured – what the heck? If you haven’t heard about Disney After Hours, and given ticket sales, that may be a near certainty – more on that later, here’s the lowdown: Disney After Hours is a hard ticketed ($150 per person) event at Magic Kingdom in April and May. As of today, April 22, two of the parties have already happened with five yet to come. After Hours is three hours in Magic Kingdom for guests after park close with much shorter lines, most attractions open, and complimentary bottle drinks and ice cream novelties. Sound like Extra Magic Hours, but ticketed? Yeah, kinda.

Ticket purchased, I looked forward to a fun night at the park. Until reports of the first night started coming in with tales of tickets being given away, cast members outnumbering guests, and empty Main Street vehicles, that is. I was already doing this alone (solo trip) – was I going to be walking through a deserted park with desperate cast members forcing Mickey bars on me until I couldn’t eat any more? I tried bribing someone to come down to Florida just for the night to keep me company (thanks for nothing, Len). I watched social media to see if anyone I knew was going (or would admit to buying a ticket). No dice. News started coming in that Disney was giving away more tickets for that night too. I imagined myself in the narrative of Kingdom Keepers. Well, I’d be alone, but maybe I’ll save the park from Maleficent. But I’m a pro and wanted to see how the night unfolded.

Guests with event tickets were admitted to Magic Kingdom that day starting at 4:00 PM. I know because I had met a friend in the park earlier that day and was leaving the park around that time. This is the same procedure Disney follows for the hard-ticket parties likes Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Very Merry Christmas party. Me, I was headed back to my hotel room (Pop Century) for a nap. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that an event that begins after my usual bedtime is going to go much smoother for me with some sleep. I knew I wanted to see the transition from regular park day to ticketed event, so I was back at Magic Kingdom at 9:00 PM, just as the Main Street Electrical Parade was starting from Town Square.

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Elliott the Dragon

I filled the time with seeing Wishes and Celebrate the Magic, and trying to find something to eat after 9:00 at Magic Kingdom. Then it was time to watch. I really wanted to see what would happen with day guests in the standby lines as event time approached. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was where I decided to see how the process went. For the last hour the park was open to all guests, the posted standby time at Mine Train was 40 minutes. Now, it wasn’t really 40 minutes, but this is standard procedure at Walt Disney World to help close the park – discourage guests from getting in line right before close. Guests were allowed to enter the queue right until 11:00 (park close). Around 10:50, people with event lanyards started showing up from seemingly nowhere at the entrance of the attraction. It was like cockroaches when the lights go out. In this case, there were maybe 20 cockroaches in groups of 2 to 5. Boy, did I feel like the biggest loser in the Place Where Dreams Come True. The event-goers were held in the FastPass+ return queue until 11:00 when they were let in, and presumably went straight through to the attraction. Given the capacity of one train, it’s doubtful anyone waited more than 2 cycles to board (one cycle for the people from standby and one for the event people). With that out of the way, it was time to start having some fun.

My first stop was Haunted Mansion. After that I planned to move counter clockwise through the park with the idea that this would leave time for the standby lines to clear at Space Mountain and Mine Train. My plan worked perfectly. Every attraction was a walk-on and at attractions where the load and unload are in the same place, cast members offered anyone who wanted to stay on the opportunity.

Here’s something you never see at Space Mountain:

An empty queue!

An empty queue!

Here are the 15 attractions I did in the three hours of the event:

  • Haunted Mansion
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Splash Mountain
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Space Mountain
  • Astro-Orbiter
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • it’s a small world
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • The Barnstormer
  • Dumbo

And my final attraction of the evening, Mad Tea Party, which I had all to myself.

The attractions I didn’t do were ones where the potential of being alone on them were too creepy to contemplate (Jungle Cruise) or that I simply have no interest in (Stitch’s Great Escape, Tomorrowland Speedway).

So was it worth it? Absolutely. Did I feel foolish having purchased a ticket when so many were given away for free? Definitely. But someone had to do it, right? Here are the times when I think buying a ticket to Disney After Hours makes sense:

When you’re on a very limited time schedule and the event will replace a day’s admission on your park tickets. $150 is no small sum, and that’s per person. But if you enter the park as early as possible (4:00), you’re setting yourself to do everything you’d want to do and then some with one visit to Magic Kingdom.

When your arrival day starts at a late hour or you’re coming from the West Coast. If your flight doesn’t get into Orlando until 5:00, this is a good way to get in some park time (though you’ll be sleeping late the next day). Or if your head is still 3 hours earlier because you’re on Pacific time, you’re going to be wide awake anyway – why not stay up late.

If you’re given a ticket for free. For the first event on the 14th, we were told that DVC members staying on property were told the day before the event that they could have complimentary tickets as “part of the DVC 25 year celebration.” For the event on the 21st, we heard tickets were given out at the bus stops at Deluxe and Moderate resorts and to Cast Members.

Tips for attending Disney After Hours

It is impossible to do every attraction open in three hours (if that’s what you want to do). Knock out the shows (Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, Mickey’s Philharmagic before the event actually starts. After that, starting in Liberty Square and going counter clockwise worked really well for me.

Do not come hungry if you’re arriving after 9:00. I ended up at Cosmic Ray’s because none of my favorites were open and the lines for food are surprisingly long at 9. Don’t be me eating a veggie burger at 9:30 because you’re famished and have already looped the park looking for something to eat.

Bring a camera. You’re never going to get a better, unobstructed view of anything in Magic Kingdom. If you’re really serious, bring a tripod for that perfect shot of the Castle or the Main Street Electrical parade, which had an unexpected performance that night. It’s not announced as part of the event, but was already to Frontierland when I exited Haunted Mansion around 10:30.

More Main Street Electrical Parade!

More Main Street Electrical Parade!

Enjoy the beverages and ice cream. There were plenty of carts offering the free food throughout the park. If dairy’s not your thing, fruit bars are available.

Princess Fairytale Hall and Town Square Mickey are both open during the event. Dress up for your close up and get lots of character photos. Speaking of photos, there were plenty of PhotoPass photographers on Main Street and in front of the castle. People even got photos of themselves lying in the middle of Main Street.

Stay until the end. You’re potentially paying $50/hour for this. Make the most of it.

Enjoy the ambiance. I can’t adequately describe how quiet the park was during the event. It was refreshing. I heard parts of Splash Mountain that I’d never heard before because there was no noise to block it out. You have no idea how much you can hear when there’s no one around talking.

So, all in all, I’d do this again. Even if I had to pay for another ticket. I sincerely hope Disney turns this into a successful event so they will continue it.

Here’s my final photo of the evening:

Good night, Walt! Good night, Mickey!

Good night, Walt! Good night, Mickey!

Posted on April 25, 2016

36 Responses to “Disney After Hours – Is It Worth the Money?”

  • Interesting experience, during busy seasons I can see it being really useful.

    During a Mid December Visit to MK, EMHs were till 3am and we had the same experience minus the free treats!

  • One big correction for you, event guests can enter at 7pm, not 4pm as you state. Can check it here https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/magic-kingdom/disney-after-hours/

    It still means event guests can arrive early enough to see MSEParade and Wishes though. Overall you get 6-7 hours in the park.

  • Thanks for the thorough review. But I have to respectfully disagree with the hope that Disney will continue this. Personally, I hope this fails spectacularly. I don’t like the upcharge-crazy era at WDW, and I don’t like the way these Extra Money Hours events impact “regular” park guests, starting with fewer evening EMHs compared to previous years.

  • Just curious about the tripod statement. Last fall, when the whole selfie stick thing became an issue, we were not allowed to bring in a tripod, not even one that clearly followed the guidelines on the website. Has that changed? Can you bring an actual tripod in the parks?

    • by Tyler Boban on April 26, 2016, at 9:20 am EDT

      I spent a week there in early April and was able to bring my tripod to all 4 parks with no problems.

  • $150 for 1 person or even $300 for two might be doable. $600 for a family of four, no way.

  • what about transportation? do they keep running the buses during that late event?

    • by Laurel Stewart on April 25, 2016, at 7:50 pm EDT

      Yes, buses ran late. My bus to Pop was shared with Art of Animation, but there was no wait for it when I arrived at the stop right after the end of the event.

  • I see this becoming a topic for the “Remember when Disney did this??” discussion. There is no way it will last. It is WAY too expensive. I think they were trying to replace free EMH with this.

  • Aside from the free desserts, nothing here sounds all that different from 12-2a EMH. Probably slightly less crowded, but not remarkably so. That’s the biggest issue I take with it–the price is not commensurate with the quality of the experience. Disney always has had premium pricing, but normally there was a corresponding premium product. This is a half-baked idea coupled with luxury pricing.

    For once, Disney’s shortsightedness will be a good thing, I think. If given the time and properly marketed to guests of the Four Seasons, Waldorf Astoria, etc., I could see this gaining traction and being a “success.”

    I doubt that will occur. I suspect this was devised as a new profit center to increase the bottom line for the immediate quarter(s), and from that perspective, it has failed big. I’d be shocked if the first two parties haven’t lost money, in fact.

    I think that’s great. The majority of these upcharge experiences–this included–come at the expense of regular guests. While this particular event did not cut into park hours, it’s an inevitability that it would in the future (“we’ve listened to our guest feedback, and will now start ‘Disney After Hours’ two hours earlier!”), just as dessert parties and other upcharge events have.

    A few colossal failures like this might scare management–eager to further stratify the guest experience by carving new profit centers out of the guest experience–into thinking about the quality of what they’re offering before putting an insane price tag on it.

    • by Laurel Stewart on April 25, 2016, at 7:53 pm EDT

      Starting at 11:00, the park was as sparsely crowded as of I’ve ever seen it. I think Disney needs to plus this somehow to get people’s attention. A dessert party, extra character greetings, something.

  • COME ON PEOPLE!!!! This is a great event! There is a market for this, and I would love to see it succeed! Everyone here keeps telling me how lame it is, because it’s the same as EMH. You seem to forget EMH is only for… PEOPLE STAYING ON THE RESORT! There is a HUGE upcharge for staying on-site. If I don’t stay on the resort, I can now buy EMH with this ticket! I don’t have to pay an extra $1,000 bucks for a week and stay in a smaller room so that I can enjoy an EMH evening at MK. I can fork over the $150 to get my EMH while I have the pleasure of spending much less on a larger off-site hotel.

    • I could not have said this better myself.

      I think it will be interesting to see if they offer this in late August and September, starting when they begin to cut park hours. We usually go in August and have mostly stayed off site in the past. Assuming they don’t up the ticket limit so that it becomes oversold and overcrowded, I’d be very interested in being able to show up at 4 PM when it has cooled off some and getting in a “full day in the park” in a way that we usually can’t because of the August heat.

  • by Ruth Woodhouse on April 25, 2016, at 2:08 pm EDT

    I would so love to be given free tickets for this event. By the time we get there I am guessing either they are not doing the events any more or tickets are selling really well. Anyone know if tripods can be taken into the parks – I know selfie sticks (mono pods) are banned! I did ask this question on another blog on another web site but didn’t get an answer. Does anyone have an answer? I would hate to have lugged my tripod all the way to the parks to be told it is banned. Thank you

    • by Lee & Robin on April 25, 2016, at 2:21 pm EDT

      The official park rules (at https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/park-rules/ ) say that “large tripods” are banned. I see no guidance on what they call a “large tripod”…

    • We had a tripod taken from us at bag check on our last visit. It was small (approx. 6″ folded, roughly about the size of a pocket umbrella, for reference), and when we asked the security manager why, we were told that anything that telescopes will be confiscated and held until you’re leaving the park. It clearly had 3 legs, so it was not a selfie stick. So I guess my point is this-even if you follow the rules, it’s ultimately up to the judgement of the bag checker. So good luck with that. Hopefully this has changed in the last few months.

      • We were just there for the Star Wars half-marathon and I had no problem taking my tripod into the parks. I know it went with me to MK, Epcot, and HS all in the same day for the HS fireworks that night. It’s about 11″ folded up and when it’s on my bag it’s hidden behind the flap that straps it in, so maybe they don’t consider it “big”. At two of the bag checks I remember saying “Yeah, it’s a tripod” when they got to checking that area of the bag and then I was good to go.

  • by Ashley Wilson on April 25, 2016, at 2:23 pm EDT

    Any word on how many tickets are going to be sold(/given away)? If it is a really tiny number of people, it might be worth it for a solo traveler who wants to bang out as many attractions as possible…I can also see it being an advantage in the hot summer months, having more night-time in the park…

  • So you paid $150 and rode 15 rides? That’s $10 per ride. If you had 7-8 ice cream treats/drinks, then it’s $20 for 2 rides and one drink/treat. JMHO, that’s not worth it.

    For our upcoming trip we paid less than $400 for 6 day hoppers. That’s less than $66 for a day of park admission. And in one day we usually enjoy about 20 experiences (rides/shows) not including 90 minutes for TS lunch. That’s $3.30 per attraction.

    Not seeing the value, unless the tickets are free.

    • by Laurel Stewart on April 26, 2016, at 7:20 am EDT

      That was 15 attractions in 3 hours, with zero lines. It’s not quite the same thing. But, yes, buying an event ticket is not the only way to experience lots of rides in your time in the park.

      I didn’t eat any ice cream – I don’t eat that late at night. So Disney won that one.

  • Everyone is missing a key point, Disney is not making money at these crowd levels, even if everyone was paying. So, sure it seems great when there are 1000 people there that is not the plan. Not only are they running the park, they are running resort wide transportation. I saw tweets of one person on a resort bus! I would think Disney needs at least 5000 paying customers and probably closer to 8000 to make it work financially. I don’t see that happening.

  • Thanks for the review. As an AP who frequently takes advantage of PM EMH especially at MK, I shook my head when this was announced. But, the more I considered it, I didn’t have a problem. Driving up this weekend. It will likely be a madhouse with all the different things going on and temps are supposed to be in the mid-90’s during the day. So, opted to buy tickets for Thursday night. Extravagant? Without a doubt. But have a feeling, I will love it. And with transportation back to resorts supposedly running for 2 hours after the event, I will take my time and SLR slowly sauntering down Main Street afterwards. Question: did you see them do Kiss Goodnight?

  • From the sounds of these after hours events, it is essentially as if you have the entire park to yourself. The cost of renting one space for a private event in the Magic Kingdom can cost tens of thousands of dollars and that’s without rides running. So, $150 to “rent” the park for three hours seems like a pretty good deal. That being said, I’m still too cheap to go for it!

  • Excellent detail, Laurel. Thanks for thorough research!
    I’m with those who would prefer the parks not be held hostage hours at a time to those willing to pay dearly for it. EMH is a perk; this is a cash grab, IMHO.

  • I was there the same night as Laurel and it was one of the best nights I have had at the MK in a long, long time. I’ve made countless visits to Disney and this felt like it did in the old days when you didn’t have to check your phone for FP+ and you could run from ride to ride like a kid. I was even able to ride big ticket attractions twice in a row without a wait. (Laurel’s pic of Space Mt sums it up!) I would pay $149 per person for a top name concert or ball game and those only last a few hours. The complimentary ice cream and water didn’t out weigh the cost but it sure felt good to be eating a Mickey Bar without a care in the world at 1am!

  • I still can’t justify it based on how I visit, but that’s not saying that it wouldn’t be ideal for some people. Last March a friend and I stayed in MK for EMH (I think it was 12-2 and this was during a spring break week) and were able to ride Big Thunder 8 times in the last 45 minutes, even not having to get off a couple of the times.

  • I was checking out the dates and we’ll be in MK on May 12 with dinner reservations for BoG at 7:50pm. We already have MYW tickets for the day. Can we still go to BoG without purchasing DAH tickets?

  • Are there any extra character greetings? Like perhaps the dwarves or some of the disney princes or some of the villains. as much as I would love a virtually private romp through the happiest place on Earth if its the same as a normal day I’d most likely pass. especially since i’d be solo venturing through it was well. Though if i somehow scored a free ticket in i certainly wouldn’t object.