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How to Make the Most Out of Disney After Hours Events

by Tad on November 17, 2021 30 Orlando

Disney After Hours event guide – PinterestA 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.

Overview and Dates | Arriving at After Hours | Rides and Entertainment | Character Meet-and-Greets | Food, Drinks and Merchandise | Themed Events | 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.

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

Disney After Hours - Park Entrance

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:

Disney After Hours Events - Magic Kingdom Wait Times

Magic Kingdom

  • 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

Animal Kingdom

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • DJ Dance Party
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  • DINOSAUR
  • 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

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, 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

Disney After Hours Boo Bash – Nightmare Before Christmas Cavalcade

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

Disney After Hours - Very Merriest stage show

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 After Hours Events - Villains Unite the Night

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

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 (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!

Related: All the Glimmering Details of Disney H2O Glow Nights

Stay cool!

Keep hopping, Tad!
View Comments
<<  Newer Posts | Older Posts  >>
Aug 5, 2021 at 10:02 p.m. Steven Says...

Me and my brother are a bit confused about the wording of "Disney After Hours events are open to anyone, but require a separate ticket". Does this mean that we would need a standard theme park ticket and event ticket to attend After Hours or can you just buy the event ticket and come at 7 pm (the earliest).

Reply
Aug 6, 2021 at 7:28 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Steven!

To attend just an After Hours event, you would only need the After Hours ticket (no theme park ticket is necessary unless you're hoping to explore Magic Kingdom or another park earlier in the day). Hope this helps!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Mar 5, 2020 at 11:51 a.m. Kelley Murray Says...

Will they still provide transportation (busses and such) back to your Disney resort or will you have to pay to use a Lyft/Uber.

Reply
Mar 6, 2020 at 7:23 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Kelley!

Buses will still be running after the event.

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Feb 19, 2020 at 8:50 p.m. tam1MI Says...

For those of us unlucky souls who do NOT have an After Hours wristband, will we be allowed to see the fireworks before we have to leave the park?

Reply
Feb 19, 2020 at 3:15 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi there!

Yes, even without a wristband, you can stay for the regularly scheduled fireworks, "Happily Ever After," before Magic Kingdom closes :) It's only the event-specific shows, such as the stage show at Villains After Hours, that are limited to event guests only once the park closes to the general public.

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Feb 12, 2020 at 8:11 a.m. Linda Says...

Are merchandise shops open during after hours?

Reply
Feb 13, 2020 at 3:55 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Linda!

Yes, but only select gift shops remain open during the parties. If there's something you have your eye on, we recommend shopping before the park officially closes for the evening and tucking it away into a backpack or bag for safekeeping :)

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Feb 6, 2020 at 6:35 a.m. Brittany Says...

Hi! My family is really wanted to attend the party on March 23rd at magic kingdom! We heard it will be pretty busy so we were thinking it would be a good idea to get tickets to have the park much calmer! We are pretty energetic and quick walkers and want to get a lot done! I planned on making a list for us to start at with rides and where to go to next and so on to try and help us avoid running back and forth. What land do you think would be the best to start at and what would be the best finish at?

Reply
Feb 6, 2020 at 4:29 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Brittany!

We are so excited for you - we really love these events! We'd suggest planning a few FastPass reservations (if it's for some of the bigger rides) before the party officially starts to maximize time before the event. We'd also plan to tackle any rides that won't be open during the event first. You can continue to check wait times on the app as the night progresses, and wait times will drop off as the night goes on, so we'd suggest saving some of the bigger rides for later in the evening if you can wait that long. Keep in mind that, just like on normal nights, the castle will be closed off for fireworks, so you'll want to plan your route accordingly so you don't have to get rerouted (we made that mistake and had to try to make our way past fireworks crowds into Tomorrowland!) if you aren't watching them. We started at Casey's Corner for a hot dog dinner, then made our way to Adventureland and around to Frontierland, before Fantasyland and Tomorrowland - then back to Big Thunder and Pirates for another ride :) We essentially worked counter-clockwise, but it's toadally up to you and your family's priorities! You can also check general wait times when you enter the park to see which land seems to be the best overall and work your way around that way to avoid trekking back and forth. Have a great time!

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Feb 3, 2020 at 11:34 p.m. R M Says...

Can you enter the park early for after hours event if you have a dining reservation? Say a 615 reservation for BR Guest with only after hours ticket?

Reply
Feb 4, 2020 at 7:52 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi R M!

No, unfortunately the ticketed early entry time (7 p.m., for example) is the earliest After Hours guests can enter without regular park admission.

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Jan 20, 2020 at 6:12 a.m. Bea Says...

I’ve noticed there is now an hour gap between regular park closing and the extra hours opening.

What happens in this time especially if you can enter the park at 7

Reply
Jan 21, 2020 at 4:29 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Bea!

Likely this gap is just to allow cast members some extra time to filter out anyone without a wristband for the party; expect that rides, shows, etc. will continue on as normal, but you may need to show your wristband before you're permitted to hop on a ride.

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Jan 17, 2020 at 12:27 a.m. Pam Says...

Do you have to wait for the official event start time to take advantage of the snacks? Thanks!

Reply
Jan 17, 2020 at 8:10 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Pam,

Yes, the stations with the free snacks don't open up until the event starts. (But once they do, get all the Mickey ice cream bars your froggy heart desires.) Have fun!

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Jan 12, 2020 at 10:43 a.m. Ron Hunt Says...

Hi,

Can you tell me if Fastpass is available during After Hours events? I thought I read somewhere that you could not enter the parks until the event actually starts at 9:00pm - unlike Not so Scary when you are allowed to enter at 4:00pm so that's good news. Thank you.

Reply
Jan 13, 2020 at 8:57 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Ron!

No, FastPass is not available during the After Hours events since lines are so short (but just during official party hours). You will, however, be able to enter the park early (be sure to check the fine print on your ticket, as the entry time varies!), and FastPass will be available from the early entry time until the official event starting time. Hope this makes sense!

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Jan 7, 2020 at 5:01 p.m. Sheri Says...

Are you able to start riding rides once you are let in at 7:00 pm or do you have to wait until the start time of the event?

Reply
Jan 7, 2020 at 11:05 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Sheri!

You can start riding right away! Event-specific activities and decor won't be active until party time, but your access to the rides is good as soon as you're able to enter the park.

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Aug 25, 2019 at 3:02 p.m. Jeannie Says...

Hello,

can you tell me which quick service/ table service restaurants at Animal Kingdom after dark are still open?

In the very first picture it looks like they are listed on the paper guide, but it's hard to see from the picture. I'm especially interested if the Pandora quick service is open.

thanks!

Reply
Aug 26, 2019 at 11:28 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jeannie,

The following locations offer additional food and beverage items for purchase at Animal Kingdom's After Hours events: Pongu Pongu in Pandora, Snack Cart near Tiffins Restaurant, Thirsty River Bar in Asia and Dino Diner in Dinoland U.S.A.

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Jul 25, 2019 at 11:02 a.m. Jason Says...

What happens if you have after hours tickets, the park closes at 10pm for traditional guests, and at 10pm there is still a 90 min wait for a ride? If I am after hours, do I have to wait in that line or does after hours get to use a fast pass line?

Reply
Jul 25, 2019 at 8:37 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jason!

If you were in a line at 10 p.m. as the park closes, you'd still need to wait in the regular line. Our strategy (when lines have been long) have been to hit the most in-demand rides later in the evening after park closing when lines are shorter and instead hit the lines with the shorter rides early to maximize our time.

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Jul 21, 2019 at 12:56 a.m. Mandy Says...

Do you recommend eating in the Magic Kingdom, say at 720pm or so. Then watching the fireworks- or would you think it would be a wiser use of time to eat before the after hours event and just do some rides and character meets before the fireworks? We are going to the last villians after hours and it is our first after hours experience!

Reply
Jul 22, 2019 at 8:29 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Mandy!

We would definitely suggest eating prior to the event and planning on taking advantage of some villainous treats during the party itself. Then, you can catch the fireworks and start riding (and/or meeting!) One other tip: take a peek at the rides that will be open during the event (and there's a lot of them, so you're in luck!) If there are any NOT listed, you'll want to ride those before official park closing. Have fun!

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Jun 20, 2019 at 5:46 p.m. Alexandra Valdez Says...

What if you are staying at a Disney Resort and get the Extra Magic Hours after the park closes. Can you still enjoy the Disney After Hours Event? Or will you need to buy a separate ticket for the event?

Reply
Jun 21, 2019 at 9:13 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Alexandra,

Good question! Extra Magic Hours and After Hours events do not happen at the same park on the same day. You will need a separate ticket for an After Hours event.

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
Jun 18, 2019 at 3:19 a.m. Frank Thomas Says...

Will After Hours dates be set for the rest of the year? My family will be visiting WDW in mid-November.

Thanks.

Reply
Jun 19, 2019 at 1:14 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Frank!

Right now, After Hours dates have only been announced up until September at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. But from what we've seen, Disney seems to release new batches of dates throughout the year, so keep an eye out for any November dates. We'll update here!

Stay cool!

Tad

Reply
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