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How to Make the Most Out of Disney After Hours Events

by Tad on May 30, 2019 Orlando

'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.

Disney After Hours events turn Disney World parks into a whole new world. Sometimes, an After Hours event will even showcase a special theme, such as Disney Villains. 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. 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.

Overview and Dates | Arriving at After Hours | Rides and Entertainment | Character Meet-and-Greets | Food, Drinks and Merchandise | Villains After Dark | After Hours Tips and Strategies | Is After Hours Worth It?

Disney After Hours Events Overview

Disney After Hours - Pamphlet

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.

Disney After Hours are separately ticketed events starting at $125 and currently taking place at Magic Kingdom, Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios until the end of September 2019.

They may have a similar name, but it’s important to point out that Disney After Hours events are NOT the same as Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours is an additional no-cost perk for Disney Resort hotel guests and some non-Disney hotel guests that allows them to enter a park one hour early or stay in a park two hours later than normal park hours. Disney After Hours events are open to anyone, but require a separate ticket.

Disney After Hours Dates & Tickets

Disney’s Animal Kingdom (9 p.m. to midnight)

  • Tuesday, May 21, 2019
  • Tuesday, June 4, 2019
  • Tuesday, June 11, 2019
  • Tuesday, June 18, 2019
  • Tuesday, July 2, 2019
  • Monday, July 8, 2019
  • Monday, July 15, 2019
  • Monday, July 22, 2019
  • Monday, July 29, 2019
  • Monday, Aug. 5, 2019
  • Monday, Aug. 12, 2019
  • Monday, Aug. 19, 2019
  • Monday, Aug. 26, 2019
  • Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019
  • Monday, Sept. 9, 2019
  • Monday, Sept. 16, 2019
  • Monday, Sept. 23, 2019

Disney’s Hollywood Studios (9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.)

  • Friday, May 24, 2019
  • Friday, May 31, 2019
  • Friday, June 14, 2019
  • Friday, June 21, 2019
  • Friday, June 28, 2019
  • Friday, July 5, 2019
  • Friday, July 12, 2019
  • Friday, July 19, 2019
  • Friday, July 26, 2019

Disney’s Magic Kingdom (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.)

  • Thursday, May 23, 2019
  • Thursday, May 30, 2019
  • Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019
  • Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019
  • Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019
  • Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019
  • Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019
  • Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019

Disney Villains After Hours at Magic Kingdom (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.)

  • Thursday, June 6, 2019
  • Thursday, June 13, 2019
  • Thursday, June 20, 2019
  • Thursday, June 27, 2019
  • Monday, July 1, 2019
  • Thursday, July 11, 2019
  • Thursday, July 18, 2019
  • Thursday, July 25, 2019
  • Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019
  • Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019

Tickets are limited for each date and can sell out, so you’ll want to plan ahead and buy them in advance. Prices start at $125 for both adults and tadpoles (3-9), while special, themed After Hours events (such as Disney Villains) cost $139 per guest. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members can take advantage of discounted tickets as low as $95 per guest. Same-day tickets, if available, would add on a few more bucks. Hoppin' good news! You can get After Hours tickets for any of the parks — Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios — from your favorite theme park frogs!

Arriving at Disney After Hours Events

Disney After Hours - Park Entrance

Even though Disney After Hours officially starts sometime between 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. (depending on the event), event guests will be 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

Disney After Hours Events - Rivers of Light

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 are offered at each park’s After Hours event (subject to change without notice):

Magic Kingdom

  • Astro Orbiter
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • 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

Animal Kingdom

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  • DINOSAUR
  • TriceraTop Spin
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • Rivers of Light
  • Tree of Life Awakenings
  • Pandora Drummers - Swotu Wayä

Hollywood Studios

  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Toy Story Mania!
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
  • Star Tours - The Adventures Continue
  • Star Wars Launch Bay

Disney After Hours Events - Flight of Passage

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

Disney After Hours Events - Mickey and Minnie

Character meet-and-greets are also available at every After Hours event. However, depending on the event, character greeting locations may be limited. 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.

Here’s a full list of character greetings at each park’s After Hours event (subject to change without notice):

Magic Kingdom

  • Disney Princesses at Princess Fairytale Hall

Animal Kingdom

  • Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse at Adventurers Outpost

Hollywood Studios

  • Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse
  • BB-8, Chewbacca, Kylo Ren
  • Olaf
  • Toy Story pals

For Disney Villains After Hours, there will be an all-new show starring your favorite villains, but they will not be available for meet-and-greets.

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.

Special limited-edition merchandise is generally available only for the themed After Hours events, such as Disney Villains.

Disney Villains After Hours

Disney is introducing a wicked twist to this themed After Hours event. For select nights from June 6 to Aug. 8, 2019 at Magic Kingdom, malevolent music and frightful lighting take over the park … it’s time for Disney Villains to shine! Like any other After Hours event, guests have exclusive three-hour access to over 20 attractions after the park closes. But during this themed event, new villain-inspired surprises could give you a fright at Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain.

Be sure to catch Villains Unite the Night, a brand-new, 20-minute stage show that stars Hades, Meg, The Queen, Maleficent, Jafar and more at Cinderella Castle. While these characters will be entertaining guests during this performance, Disney Villains will NOT be participating in character greetings. However, keep an eye out for Maleficent in her dragon form as she breathes fire and creeps through the park at night for the first time!

Special event-themed merchandise and additional villain-inspired food and beverages will be available for purchase. Unlimited complimentary snacks and select drinks are still included.

Tips and Strategies for Disney After Hours Events

Disney After Hours Events - Pandora

  • 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.
  • 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 Primeval Whirl and 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're a huge fan of Toy Story or Star Wars (Hollywood Studios), Avatar (Animal Kingdom) or Disney Villains.
  • 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.

If you're looking for the most ride options, we recommend Magic Kingdom After Hours. If you want to spend extra quality time with characters, we suggest Hollywood Studios After Hours. If you're hoping for a more unique experience, go with a specially-themed event, such as Disney Villains.

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!

Related: All the Glimmering Details of Disney H2O Glow Nights

Stay cool!

Keep hopping, Tad!
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