When we booked our January Disney trip almost a year in advance we were excited about two things (other than the obvious excitement of going to Disney World). Firstly, we were excited that we would be there during Epcot’s Festival fo the Arts. Secondly, we were really hoping that Disney would released an After Hours date during our trip, and thankfully they did! I say thankfully because we were really banking on this. Our previous trip in August we missed an After Hours event by only a few days and we have been wanting to experience this event ever since Disney started offering it.
Tickets are not cheap, they are $125 USD for everyone (adults and children), and $95 USD for Annual Passholders and DVC Members. We were able to get the Passholder price and saved ourselves quite a few dollars, but even with the discount they’re still a higher priced event, especially for a family of 4 or more.
But what we’re left with is the all-important question…is the After Hours event at Magic Kingdom worth it? Our answer? Absolutely! We highly recommend the event and we would absolutely do it again given the opportunity. Not convinced? Here’s our experience:
Our Great, Bad Weather Day
We visited Magic Kingdom the day before the event and it was a miserable day (as miserable as a day can be at Magic Kingdom). It was cold, windy and it rained all day long. But we always travel with ponchos so we bundled up, put the ponchos on and did the Early Morning Magic Hours, staying until after fireworks. It really didn’t stop raining at all that day, which meant the park was pretty empty. We practically walked on to every attraction and even waited less than 30 minutes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
We had this moment of ‘oh no, did we just waste our money buying tickets for the After Hours event?’. Plus, we were slightly concerned that the After Hours event could also be rainy. If that was the case, we would do what we always do – toss on ponchos and walk onto rides. Luckily, we had no need for concern.
Our After Hours Day
It was a little chilly, but it was clear with no rain so we were already ahead on that front. We spent the day at Animal Kingdom and then took the bus over to Magic Kingdom for about 7:30pm. The After Hours ticket gives you access to the park an hour before closing, so technically, we could have entered the park at 7pm.
The event itself started at 8pm and so did Happily Ever After, which meant we were definitely catching the fireworks. In a break from tradition, we decided to watch the fireworks from Fantasyland, behind Cinderella Castle. This was partly because we had never experienced it before, and partly because we didn’t want to get stuck in the massive crowd exiting the park afterward.
*Side note: If you ever want to enjoy the fireworks minus the crowds and don’t mind missing the castle projections or seeing Tinker Bell fly, then watching from behind the castle is such a great experience.
We wandered around Fantasyland with very few guests along the walkways and got to take in the biggest fireworks I’ve ever seen. It was thoroughly enjoyable!
All The Snacks!
I had heard the longest lines during this event was for the all-you-care-to-enjoy Mickey Bars and popcorn. I happened to spot a Cast Member serving the frozen treats with no line yet since the fireworks were on and I grabbed us a couple of Mickey Ice Cream Bars. The Cast Member did ask to see my wristband to ensure I qualified for the free treats. We also had pop and popcorn later on and while the line looked a little longer the Cast Members were so efficient that the line was always moving quickly.
The only food available to purchase during the event was at the Main Street Confectionery or Casey’s Corner. We opted for snacks as opposed to a meal, since we wanted to spend most of our time on attractions.
We really did walk right on to everything all night long. We were fairly strategic, starting in Fantasyland, working our way through Tomorrowland and then across the park into Adventureland, Frontierland and then back to Fantasyland. Every attraction we came across, we walked on…and in some cases, we were able to re-ride right away.
The only exception to the walk ons was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which we waited about 15 minutes for at the end of the night. Anyone who has visited the park on a normal day, knows that a 15 minute wait is pretty minimal, considering that it usually sits between a 1-2 hour wait most days.
Oh, and did we mention characters?
Throughout the night, Ariel, Tinker Bell, Mickey and Minnie and the Princesses at Princess Fairytale Hall were available to meet. Since we started in Fantasyland, we met Ariel with no wait! Since we met Mickey and Minnie earlier in our trip, we opted to skip a second photo and focus on all the attractions we wanted.
One of the highlights of the evening for us was riding Space Mountain a couple times and being able to ask for a re-ride. Yes, we still had to exit the ride vehicle, but Cast Members directed us up a (secret, not-so-secret) passage way which brought us right up to the loading area again, avoiding the long exit and entrance queues. At Space Mountain, we had our choice of whether we wanted to ride the Alpha or Omega side (we did both, of course!). We half expected them to only be loading from one side, but it was great to see this attraction, and others, operating at full capacity.
The fact that each attraction was running at its peak capacity greatly attributed to the non-existent wait times throughout the night. This combined with the low number of tickets sold for this event are what make After Hours such an incredible event. We even rode Astro Oribter, which we never ride because the line is always long and slow moving!
Also scattered around the park are a bunch of PhotoPass Photographers. They’re in their usual spots near the Partners Statue and along Main Street, but they have a few other magic shot locations set up as well. The photographers we saw were incredible! We had two interactions that stand out in my mind, because they were clearly having fun, and taking their time with guests.
These Cast Members really added to the overall experience of the evening for us. It would be easy to understand that some Cast Members would be less than enthused to be working a late shift for so few guests and many standing outside in the cold – but so many of the Cast Members were giving off a really positive energy that made the event feel truly special.
The best part of the After Hours event is that it allows guests to experience the park in a way that just doesn’t seem possible anymore. Magic Kingdom is practically empty for the night. The park feels like it’s there for only you on this evening. It really was like a Disney dream come true and that’s why we felt it was completely worth the price of admission.
We did the majority of the attractions in the park in 3-hours (plus snacks, plus photos). Almost everything that was open and available during the event, we found a way to get there (except Splash Mountain because it was a cold night). We also skipped the shows because we knew we could do them with minimal wait times on our other Magic Kingdom days.
We highly recommend this event, but I don’t know if I would recommend it as the only day you visit Magic Kingdom, especially if it’s your first visit. There is a great deal that you can’t experience during the event that you can experience on a regular day at Magic Kingdom like all the snacks and dining locations, the Festival of Fantasy parade, and all the character meet and greets.
The After Hours event allows guests to experience all the attractions that typically have long waits. It gives them the ability to walk around the park without the crowds, and that is such an amazing part of the event it really can’t be understated. Imagine walking around Magic Kingdom without people randomly stopping in front of you. Or that bottleneck between Peter Pan’s Flight and it’s a small world being a breeze to waltz through.
If you can’t tell, we loved the After Hours event and we hope to do it again. But what we really hope is that Disney continues to run the After Hours event as it is now. We’ve seen the maximum number of tickets go up and up for special events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, making some party dates as crowded as a normal day in peak season.
It would be a shame for the After Hours to have the same future. We are cautiously optimistic that it won’t be the case since the After Hours events are based purely on short wait times due to low crowds. The holiday parties have other offerings like special parades, fireworks and character meet and greets. But if the number of tickets were to increase for the After Hours event we would have to seriously reconsider spending upwards of $100 USD to go.
We aren’t always fans of the added expenses for experiences that Disney World offers, but they have an absolute winner here with the After Hours event at Magic Kingdom.