Last week I got the opportunity to attend the After Hours event at Magic Kingdom. At $150 a pop, the event is pricey, but there is something to be said for paying for exclusivity.
As an Annual Passholder to Walt Disney World, I can’t say I was very keen on the idea of paying more to enter Magic Kingdom for a set amount of hours for just one night. However, my sister was visiting from out of town and wouldn’t be getting in until about 8pm, giving us a perfect storm of events that set into motion our late night at the Happiest Place on Earth.
With your Disney After Hours ticket, you get access to Magic Kingdom for three hours after the park closes (until 1am or 2am depending on the night you go). While this is only three hours of “exclusive” time, all participants can start entering the park at 7pm without the need for a day ticket to the park. From 7pm-park closing, you have free reign of everything and anything the park offers, just like a normal day. We managed to get into the park around 9pm and see both showings of the Electrical Parade, Wishes, and the tail end of Celebrate The Magic after we rode the PeopleMover (which was not in operation during After Hours).
On our chosen night, the park itself closed at 11pm. We left Casey’s Corner around 11:10 and the park was almost deserted already. We took this opportunity to head over to the Jungle Cruise and walk straight onto a boat by ourselves. The Skippers were very aware of how awkward this could be and kept us entertained while we waited for the rest of our boat (three other adventurers in total). While I like riding the Jungle Cruise at night, the intimate nature of having five people with one Skipper made the experience even better. Our Skipper even asked us if he could try out some jokes that may have been off-color for regular guests, which we all agreed to, making for a more unique cruise than usual.
We continued our round of the park as the night went on; walking on Pirates (after waiting for a boat change), speeding through the Big Thunder Mountain line, ignoring all the interactive elements in the Haunted Mansion queue, and almost walking right on to our own ship on Peter Pan. By midnight, we were finishing riding Seven Dwarves Mine train (the wait was unbelievable), and preparing to head through to Tomorrowland for our longest wait of the night at the Tomorrowland Speedway. Tomorrowland, while usually gorgeous at night, is so much better when you are some of the only souls wandering the futuristic, neon-clad streets.
Since we had time, we jumped on Space Mountain, scored 999,999 points on Buzz Lightyear (and, in fact, were the only Space Cadets the Cast Members seem to have seen in an hour or so), and hopped on the Astro Orbiter because, why not? To wrap up the night, we went back to ride Mine Train again before meeting all four princesses at the Fairytale Hall, and then saw the final show of Mickey’s PhillarMagic at 2am. We walked out of the theater at 2:13 am to an utterly deserted Fantasyland, only to be herded out through Cinderella’s Castle which was promptly shut behind us.
As we filtered out through the park, we managed to get some amazing pictures of Main Street, Cinderella Castle, and the Hub without fighting through crowds of people at every turn. We ended up leaving the park around 2:30 and got back to our car (in a wonderfully empty parking lot) around 2:45, making for one of the latest nights I’ve ever had at Magic Kingdom.
Some highlights from the night:
- Getting a slightly R-rated version of the Jungle Cruise.
- Experiencing Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain without stopping once throughout the ride; I can’t tell you the last time I was able to do that.
- Choosing any seat we felt like on Big Thunder Mountain.
- Watching a woman in a motorized wheelchair drive in huge circles behind Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel while whooping and hollering with joy.
- Witnessing 20 grown adults all singing (and whistling) along with “Heigh Ho” as loud as we possibly could while going up the main lift on Seven Dwarves Mine Train.
- Driving the entire Speedway track without another car in sight.
- Watching the Buzz Lightyear cast members riding the moving handrail in the station out of boredom until they realized they finally had guests coming in.
- Becoming a Galactic Hero for the first time.
- Telling Anna we would take her to space and having her try and leave the meet and greet area with us.
- Watching the Cast Members scramble to prepare Cinderella and Rapunzel for our arrival before we got to the room to meet them.
- Being the only two guests in Fantasyland.
- Spending 30 minutes or so after the park finally closed taking pictures in and around the Castle, Hub, and Main Street with maybe 30 other people in total.
The event isn’t without problems, though. First on everyone’s mind would have to be the price. The After Hours event costs $150 for, at most, 6-7 hours in the park (only three of which are exclusive) depending on the day that you go. This price, in addition to a day ticket or Annual Pass can definitely be too much for most people to stomach.
Secondly, not much was open outside of the attractions listed on the back of our lanyard. No restaurants were open besides Casey’s Corner and Starbucks on Main Street making them the only places to get food and drink beyond the scattered food carts handing out ice cream and bottled drinks. While I understand not staffing all the restaurants and quick service places for the event, most stores weren’t open either. All the shops attached to attractions were open, but if you wanted to buy any souvenirs or waste a little time (not that there was much to waste, see my next paragraph), you had very very few options to do so.
Finally, the event seemed to be just too short to get the most out of your night. The exclusive, and thus not busy, time in the park is only three hours which makes you feel like you have to rush to get everything done. With a lot of rides taking 7-10 minutes or more to complete and varying times to get between attractions, you will find your time eaten up quite quickly. While I managed to get basically everything I wanted done in my time there, just one more hour would have made a world of difference and allowed us to do some of those extra things we wanted to do as well.
Did I have fun at After Hours? Absolutely. Would I do it again? I don’t really know; it was pretty expensive and still not all that long of an event. Is it something I’d recommend to other people? Yes. But also no. If you are in the area and really want to visit just Magic Kingdom but don’t want to spend all day with the crowds, go for it. If you want to splurge for a ‘full day experience’ at Magic Kingdom without all the people, waits, and hours in the park, definitely do it. If you are a local, an Annual Passholder, a family on vacation, or anyone balking at the idea of the extra cost, I’d say skip the event and deal with the daytime crowds.
I fully understand that I am not in the target market for this event, but I still loved my time at Disney After Hours. This event is not aimed towards everyone and, honestly, it shouldn’t be because that would ruin the atmosphere of having a park almost entirely to yourself. If you know what you’re getting into with the price for After Hours (and realize it is only offered on Thursday or Sunday nights), you can have an unforgettable experience. Just be warned, you’ll won’t be able to visit Magic Kingdom quite the same way for the foreseeable future.
I took a few hyper lapse videos during the event that are posted on my Instagram page, feel free to go check those out!