A large fairytale castle at night with blue lights illuminating it

Disney After Hours: Is It Worth It?

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Day two of our Disney Global Tour was the first full day, and I mean full. We spent the morning and early afternoon at Typhoon Lagoon, headed to Disney Springs for The VOID in the late afternoon, and had dinner at the Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge.

After dinner, we walked down to the docks at the hotel to take the boat to the Magic Kingdom, where we had After Hours tickets for that evening. Disney After Hours is an event that’s only scheduled on select dates throughout the year. It allows a limited number of guests to enter the park a few hours before the official closing time and stay in the park a few hours after.

It’s a completely separate ticket from a day ticket to the park but costs about the same, $119. For our particular event, we could enter the park at 7:00pm and stay until 1:00am. That’s late! Especially when you’ve already had a full day.

A couple poses in front of an old-fashioned American building at a theme park
AJ and I are ready for Disney After Hours!

The Bonus Time

We ended up arriving at the park around 8:00pm. We took our time getting some photos, while Becky and Jason, AJ’s sister and brother-in-law, picked up celebratory buttons for their 15th wedding anniversary.

A couple poses in front of the entrance to the Magic Kingdom at Disney World - old fashioned American building
Becky and Jason before entering the park

After that, we staked out a spot in front of the castle to watch the fireworks show, Happily Ever After. AJ and I had already seen the fireworks part of it from our hotel room the night before (more about that in a future post), but the show is totally different when you can experience the projections and music that go along with it.

I love fireworks, and this show has some of the best I’ve seen. They had your standard super bright and explosive fireworks, chandelier-type fireworks, and specialty fireworks. For example, they had block-shaped ones for the Toy Story section of the show. How do they do that?! Sometimes it looks like the characters on the projection set off the firework, and then it’s timed seamlessly to shoot out of the side of the castle where the projection part of it ends. So cool!

A fairytale castle is lit up with pink projections and a large firework explodes behind it
Dazzling projections and fireworks during Happily Ever After

AJ pointed out that the animation on some of the projections was pretty bad. With all of the financial resources and talented animators that Disney has access to, we wondered how that happened. They must have been trying to cut corners for some reason.

Overall, we all really enjoyed the show, even with its animation flaws. It’s truly a spectacle, and no other Disney park in the world has anything that comes close.

After the show, we headed to Frontierland to get in line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, one of my favorites. The park was technically still open at that point, so we were in line with some people who didn’t have the special After Hours badge. By the time we got off the ride, it was after 10:00, and the park was closed to everyone but the special pass holders.

A theme park structure made to look like a hoodoo, lit up at night
Big Thunder Mountain in its nighttime glory

The Event

Around 25 attractions remained open, and you had to show your After Hours badge and wristband in order to get in. Compared to a regular day, the park was very quiet, but it wasn’t always quite as dead as what we had been lead to believe by various YouTube videos. There were still plenty of people there. It did start to wane a lot between midnight and 1:00am, though.

We think we may have been caught up in a wave of people making their way around the park at the same time. If we ever did this event again, we’d definitley try to avoid that. At one point, there was a 30-minute wait for Seven Dwarves Mine Train. We had expected that all of the rides would be walk-ons. When we weren’t a part of the wave, most of them were.

I’d estimate we rode about 15 rides, some of them twice, without rushing. We got done in the three hours what would be considered a very good number of rides for a full day at the Magic Kingdom. There were also plenty of character meet and greets we could have done, but we opted to stay focused on the rides.

Just like with regular park closing, the shops on Main Street stay open an hour past the event end time, which means they were open until 2:00am. This was lucky for me, as it turned out. My MagicBand fell off into the water on Splash Mountain. (Some sort of fastener like this would have been helpful.) I got a new one at Guest Services at about 1:30 in the morning – for free, since we were staying on property – and I was good to go for the next day.

Four large tickets with attached neck straps that read “After Hours”

The Treats

One amazing perk of this event is that several carts remain open around the park with free popcorn, premium ice cream treats, and bottled water and soda. Some of the longest lines we saw the whole evening were for those carts.

We each had at least two popcorns, treats, and waters. Some of us had three each. For us, that perk added a lot of value to our expensive ticket. You could easily have $30-40 worth of food and drinks throughout the evening – or more, if you’re ambitious.

I generally try to avoid dairy, and I was expecting that I wouldn’t be able to eat any of the frozen treats. Happily, I was wrong. They have more non-dairy treats than they have regular ice cream treats! I enjoyed a chocolate-covered frozen banana and a strawberry fruit bar. It was awesome.

A deserted nighttime scene at a theme park with a Western theme
The Magic Kingdom was very empty by the end of the night.

Should You Go?

I think all four of us were in agreement that the Disney After Hours event was fantastic. It’s obviously more suited to adults because of the late hour, although we did see a couple of kids.

It’s also probably best if you have someone in your party who is somewhat familiar with the layout of the park. A first-timer wouldn’t necessarily be able to go at a fast enough pace to take advantage of the three short hours of the event.

We purchased the tickets because we wanted the opportunity to make the most of our short week in Orlando. It allowed us to go at a slower pace on our other Magic Kingdom day and see some things we might otherwise have skipped. Other reasons you might want to consider this event would be:

  • You only have one day to spend in the Magic Kingdom and want to maximize your time.
  • You or someone in your party has anxiety and/or trouble dealing with crowds.
  • You want to enjoy the park without the sun beating down on you.
  • You want to get some pictures without tons of people in the background.
  • You love Disney but hate kids. You know who you are.

Have you gone to the After Hours event? Tell us about it in the comments below!

A fairytale castle illuminated by blue lights and its reflection in a pond

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