A note from Mommy Frog: Good news, frogs! Two holiday-themed after hours events debuted in 2021. Running on select nights Aug. 10-Oct. 31, 2021, Disney After Hours Boo Bash featured spooktacular character cavalcades, character sightings, performances by the Cadaver Dans, decor, treat stops and more. Enjoy festive fun at Disney Very Merriest After Hours from Nov. 8-Dec. 21, 2021 with special fireworks, parade, castle show, holiday treats and more.
'Sup! Tad here. We frogs are always excited to experience Disney World in different ways. So when Disney made it possible to attend late-night events at select parks, we leapt at the opportunity! It wasn't hard to convince me to try it out. Free, unlimited popcorn and ice cream plus staying up super late is basically my dream come true.
First appearing in 2016, Disney After Hours events turn Disney World parks into a whole new world. You get to see the parks come to life under the stars, and you don’t have to deal with large crowds or the mid-day Florida heat. It’s a win-win! On the other hand, Disney After Hours is a time-limited, separately ticketed event, so you also have to consider whether it’s right for your schedule and budget.
While the regular After Hours events have not returned since reopening, Disney did debut Halloween and Christmas themed events. We mention those more later (and even have separate guides for those new events). We've kept some of the details from the regular After Hours events in case they return. Whichever event you go to, we have some hopful tips to get the most of the night. In this guide, we cover everything you’d need to know, so you can decide if an After Hours event would be a good fit for your frog fam's vacation.
Disney After Hours Events Overview
Disney After Hours events allow guests to stick around the participating parks after normal park hours with limited crowds. Yipee! That means you’ll encounter little-to-no lines while you wait for rides, character meet-and-greets and other experiences at the parks. These three-hour nighttime events typically happen during non-peak periods, and batches of dates are released throughout the year.
In 2020, these separately ticketed events started at $129 and last took place at Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom. The events typically hoppened a few times a week. The 2020 event season was cut short due to the COVID-19 shutdown and the standard After Hours events have not returned since reopening. In 2021, Disney World did debut Disney After Hours Boo Bash and Disney Very Merriest After Hours as a hybrid between the standard events and the classic Halloween and Christmas parties.
They may have a similar name, but it’s important to point out that Disney After Hours events are NOT the same as Extended Evening Hours. The extended evening theme park hours is a new benefit for Disney Deluxe Resort hotel guests that allows them to stay in a park a few hours later than normal park hours. This offering is exclusive to deluxe resorts and does not require a a separate purchase beyond valid park admission.
Disney After Hours Dates & Tickets
There is no current dates set for the Disney After Hours events. Disney After Hours events in 2019 and 2020 were typically held twice a week for three hours at either Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom.
Tickets are limited for each date and can sell out, so you’ll want to plan ahead and buy them in advance. In 2020, tickets for After Hours events at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom could be purchased in advance for $129 per adult or child, plus tax, or on the day of the event for $139 per adult or child, plus tax. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members could take advantage of specially priced advance-purchase tickets for just $99 per adult or child, plus tax.
Arriving at Disney After Hours Events
Even though Disney After Hours officially starts sometime between 8 p.m. or 10 p.m. (depending on the event), event guests are able to enter the parks as early as 7 p.m. You’ll definitely want to take advantage of that extra time! If you'd like to enter before then, you’ll need regular park admission.
If you arrive at (or after) 7 p.m., a cast member will give you a special event wristband when you check in at the entrance. But if you have regular park admission and you’re already inside the park for the afternoon, you won’t have to go all the way to the entrance. There are stations inside the park. For example, when we went to Animal Kingdom’s After Hours, cast members were distributing wristbands at Ticket Corner outside Discovery Trading Company. Just be on the lookout for special event signs!
Once the park closes, guests without wristbands are directed toward the front to exit the park. Expect some overlap, especially near the front of the park as they are leaving at the beginning of the event, but the process happens fairly quickly.
Disney After Hours Rides and Entertainment
As one of the most significant perks of Disney After Hours, you’ll be able to hop right onto your favorite rides with no — or very short — lines. However, it’s important to note that while most rides will be available, not all attractions will be open during the event.
Here are all of the rides, shows and experiences that were offered at each park’s After Hours event in 2020:
- Astro Orbiter
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Disney Princess Greetings at Princess Fairytale Hall
- Haunted Mansion
- it’s a small world
- Jungle Cruise
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- DJ Dance Party
- Na’vi River Journey
- Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
- Mickey & Minnie Greeting at Adventurers Outpost
- TriceraTop Spin
- It’s Tough to be a Bug!
- Rivers of Light
- Tree of Life Awakenings
- Pandora Drummers - Swotu Wayä
As you can see, this list includes many of the most in-demand rides. When we went to Animal Kingdom’s After Hours, we were able to hit nearly everything on the list — only missing the Pandora Drummers. Our longest wait of the night was Avatar Flight of Passage (no surprise there), but we were in and out of the ride, including its pre-show and the ride itself, just a few minutes short of a half hour. We hopped right onto Expedition Everest and even had the back rows all to ourselves on our first ride. (You bet I conquered that mountain more than once!)
It’s toadally up to you if you want to attempt everything or just take on your favorites again and again!
Disney After Hours Characters
Character meet-and-greets are also available at every After Hours event. However, character greeting locations may be limited. At Magic Kingdom, you could meet the princesses at Princess Fairytale Hall and at Animal Kingdom you could meet Mickey and Minnie at Adventurers Outpost. While we loved being only second in line to meet Mickey and Minnie in their safari gear, we wish more friends had joined them at Animal Kingdom when we attended.
Disney After Hours Food, Drinks and Merchandise
While exploring the park after hours, you’ll definitely crave a late-night snack. Included in the cost of event admission, unlimited ice cream treats, popcorn and select beverages (bottled water, Sprite, Coke, Diet Coke) will be available at carts stationed throughout the park. Most table-service and quick-service restaurants will be closed, but some select locations may remain open.
Themed Disney After Hours Events
Disney After Hours Boo Bash
The first After Hours event to return after reopening was the new Disney After Hours Boo Bash! This Halloween-themed version took place select nights from Aug. 10 to Oct. 31, 2021, at Magic Kingdom Park. Foolish mortals of all ages could enjoy after-hours access to the park, as well as special entertainment, candy stops, character sightings and more, along with the regular benefits of After Hours! This event replaced Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for 2021.
Disney Very Merriest After Hours
Similar to Boo Bash, the all-new Disney Very Merriest After Hours event rang in the holiday season at Magic Kingdom. On select nights from Nov. 8 to Dec. 21, guests were able to enjoy Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, Minnie's Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, a new castle stage show, character sightings, castle projections, ride overlays and, of course, festive food! The event ran from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., with event tickets allowing early entry starting at 7 p.m. without daytime admission or a Disney Park Pass reservation. This event replaced Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party for 2021.
Disney Villains After Hours
Disney introduced a wicked twist to the After Hours events in summer 2019. At Magic Kingdom, malevolent music and frightful lighting took over the park as Disney Villains took centerstage! Like any other After Hours event, guests had exclusive three-hour access to over 20 attractions after the park closes, but the event also featured a special stage show, a character cavalcade, a live DJ and specially themed ride overlays. The spooky event returned in spring 2020 before ending early due to the COVID-19 shutdown. No word yet on if this themed event will return in the future.
Tips and Strategies for Disney After Hours Events
- Arrive at 7 p.m. for early access during normal park hours. You’ll want to maximize your time during the event, and this allows up to two or three extra hours that you can spend inside the park before the event officially begins (Remember that you can get in at 7 p.m. with just your After Hours ticket. If you want to get there any earlier, you'll need to have valid admission and a park pass reservation).
- If you arrive before After Hours officially begins, visit any attraction or show that is unavailable during event hours. For example, we made sure to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom during our extra pre-event time while they were still open!
- Eat dinner before you arrive. While snacks and drinks are provided, only select food locations remain open. You’ll probably want to spend more time in line for rides and character meet-and-greets anyway!
- Prioritize your options. We highly recommend figuring out which rides or experiences are must-dos, and tackling those as soon as you get there. Three hours pass by in the blink of an eye!
- Start with your #1 must-do experience and continue to move from one part of the park to the next. You don’t want to lose precious time hopping back and forth from opposite sides of the park.
- Don’t hesitate to take a short break. You might feel pressured to get everything done in the short amount of time, but don’t get so overwhelmed that you don’t enjoy the experience. (Plus, a break is the best time to eat a Mickey ice cream bar.)
Is Disney After Hours Worth It?
We’ve laid out all the details before you, and now it’s time for you to decide. Whether Disney After Hours is worth it truly comes down to whether it’s right for your family, schedule and budget. To sum it all up, these are the main pointers to consider.
After Hours could be a good fit if ...
- You are a huge Avatar fan and want to hop on those rides with minimal wait times.
- You want to avoid long lines, large crowds and the daytime heat as much as possible.
- You're only visiting Disney World for a short vacation and you just want to hit the highlights. This event can help squeeze in a park that you otherwise might miss due to your schedule's time constraints.
After Hours might not be a good fit if ...
- You want to experience everything that a park has to offer. Many shows stop performances after the daytime hours, and some rides are not available during After Hours events.
- You like to visit the animals at Animal Kingdom. Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition does not operate, trails are closed and the entire section of Africa is blocked off during the event.
- Your budget can't accommodate the extra ticket cost.
- You have tadpoles. My sister, Lily, did not come with me on this one, since she's little and heads to bed so early. Instead, my dad, Leap, and I headed in to take advantage of all of the thrills and ice cream we could handle.
Overall, you're bound to have a great time in a nearly empty park with unlimited snacks no matter which event you choose!
If you're ready for a fun night at the parks, be sure to get your Disney After Hours tickets before they sell out. Have any questions? Ask away in the comments below!