Have you ever wished you could have Disneyland or Disney California Adventure mostly to yourself, hopping from ride to ride without any waits or crowds to navigate? Do you love dressing up as your favorite Disney character or creating an outfit based on a certain theme? Do you jump up and down at the chance to meet a rare character who never usually visits the parks (or even your favorite characters in new outfits)? Do you love dance parties? Then, a Disneyland After Dark event may be just the event for you! The Disneyland After Dark events are separately ticketed parties that are held after the park closes to the public. We've been attending Disneyland After Dark events the past few years and are frogcited about what's coming in 2022!
Leap and I celebrated a special night at Sweethearts' Nite in February! Oh, can you feel the love tonight? We certainly did, but we have to note that post-pandemic party differed slightly from past parties. The Disney couples had to stay physically distant from each other and from guests, which made the interactions, dancing and photos a little less intimate to keep everyone safe. But nevertheless, we had a good time! Now that hugs and meet and greets are back, we expect future parties to feel like normal.
The 2020 postponed events return in the first half of 2022 with even more dates! Sweethearts' Nite is back with more than double the number of dates as before and both Villain's Nite and Star Wars Nite return with more nights of fun, as well. Now for the bad news — they're already sold out. Womp, womp. But it's good to make a future note that you have to act quickly!
Tickets went on sale for 2022 events on varying dates but now there's a new event in summer:
- Sweethearts' Nite - Went on sale on Dec. 9, 2021
- Villains Nite - Went on sale Jan. 11, 2022
- Star Wars Nite - Went on sale Jan. 11, 2022
- Grad Nite Reunion - on sale April 28, 2022
Demand is much higher for Disneyland events these days than in the past, so you should always plan to purchase early (if you're looking ahead to next year). No theme park reservation is required for party tickets.
Each four-hour party has a different theme and offers unique entertainment. The parties can be a lot of fun with music, special character meet-and-greets, photo-ops, themed dance parties and sometimes even special fireworks shows or other themed entertainment. The special parties are toadally fun, but there are a few things you should be aware of before purchasing tickets. We assembled our Frog Squad, donned our capes and leaped to Disneyland After Dark: Heroes Assemble to accomplish our mission of shedding light on the Disneyland After Dark parties in 2019. Then, we found our scrunchies, leg warmers, jean jackets and neon tracksuits for 80s Nite! Last holiday season, we dressed in our merry best for Disney Merriest Nites in 2021. Most recently, Leap and I painted the town red for Sweethearts' Nite in 2022.
We also attend the Disneyland Halloween Party — Oogie Boogie Bash — every year, but we cover that huge and recurring event in its own post. This year, we took on Sweethearts' Nite and Star Wars Nite!
Hop along as we share what to expect at one of these special events so you can determine if these separately ticketed events are worth it to you. Let's hop to it! We cover the Disneyland After Dark events for 2022 and take a look back at past events, as well, in case they return.
2022 Disneyland After Dark Events and Dates
All of the 2022 events are either returning popular events or rescheduled events from 2020 that did not hoppen. But they're finally here with additional dates!
Sweethearts' Nite at Disneyland - Feb 1, 3, 8, 10 and 14, 2022
The popular Sweehearts' Nite returns from 2019 and 2020, making Disneyland the most romantic place on Earth for five unfrogettable nights. Disney fans and their sweeties can make a date at Disneyland. Partygoers gain access to the park as of 5 p.m. The party kicks off at 8 p.m. and ends at 12 a.m.
Here's what's included:
- A special themed fireworks show
- Projection effects on Sleeping Beauty Castle and Main Street, U.S.A.
- A jazz ensemble aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat
- Live entertainment, including a Royal Ball and a dance party with a DJ
- Disney couples
- Fun photo opportunities featuring romantic scenes from iconic Disney films
- Lovely décor including projections along Main Street, U.S.A., the castle and "it's a small world"
- Food and beverage offerings for sale around the park
- Early admission to Disneyland park starting at 5 p.m., with no theme park reservation required (there is an in-park check-in at Starcade in Tomorrowland if you have a park reservation and want to get an early start in the park)
- Unlimited PhotoPass downloads
Sweethearts' Nite includes dancing, dining and double dating with Disney couples. You can swing your partner around the dance floors at a glitzy royal ball (near "it's a small world"), but it is advisable to wear comfortable shoes that don't slip off. (That's a tip from Cinderella!) You could also boogie at a DJ dance party in Tomorrowland. Guests can dance (from a safe distance) at the ball with Cinderella, Prince Charming, Jasmine, Aladdin, Ariel and Eric.
You can meet darling Disney couples, and the event guide has the locations so you know exactly where to find them! The 2022 couples include:
- Anna and Kristoff
- Hercules and Megara
- Milo and Kida
- Rapunzel and Flynn Rider
- Aurora and Phillip
- Snow White and the Prince
- Mary Poppins and Bert
- Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar
- Donald Duck and Daisy
- Mickey and Minnie
- Stitch and Angel
- Belle and the Beast
- Gaston (yes, by himself!)
- Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen
- Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde
- Bernard and Bianca
You can pose for romantic photo-ops, themed after sweet scenes from iconic Disney films. Offerings included "Lady and the Tramp," "Tangled" boat scene, Cinderella's carriage, "Aladdin," "Luca," Winnie the Pooh, a "Together Forever" tombstone and "The Little Mermaid." Around the park, you can find Valentine's-inspired décor, food designed for two, beverages and merchandise offerings. Guests could make advance reservations for prix fixe meals at Plaza Inn or Cafe Orleans.
Do you and your loved one still see fireworks? Well, you will for sure at Sweethearts' Nite! The pyrotechnical spectacle helps guests feel the love in the air. Leap and I are still seeing fireworks after all these years.
A few attractions are not available for this event, including:
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Critter Country
- Mickey’s Toontown
- "it's a small world"
- Sailing Ship Columbia
Sweethearts' Nite Tips:
- Arrive early to avoid long lines at parking and the park gate.
- Visit the Main Street characters right after fireworks for the shortest waits.
- If you meet either Daisy and Donald or Mickey and Minnie, hop back in line to meet the other couple when they swap.
- Mary Poppins and Bert or Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar do not have a line to meet them at the train station.
- Food service stops before the park closes to day guests at 7 p.m. but reopens pretty quickly with the After Dark menus. We suggest eating before party time.
- Dress for the weather. It gets cold at night!
- Identify your must-do photo-ops or must-see characters and get in line early before they lines close (come may close early).
- Don't miss the ball! When we hopped back after 11:30 p.m., it was over. Find late-night dancing with the Tomorrowland DJ.
- Make advance reservations at Plaza Inn or Cafe Orleans.
- Visit attractions that will be closed for the party between 5 and 7 p.m.
Villains Night at Disney California Adventure - March 8 and 10, 2022
Originally scheduled for April 30, 2020, Villains Nite is finally hoppening — twice! Unleash your inner scoundrel at this sinister soiree. You can enter the park as early as 5 p.m., and the wonderfully wicked party runs from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. It's time to cast a spell and start planning that perfect outfit inspired by your favorite Disney Villain. This party will host the following:
- The Bald Mountain Night Club in Paradise Gardens Park at 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30. Villains croon the night away in a live performance with villainous virtuosos, malevolent musicians and a few spellbinding surprises!
- Ursula’s Seaside Sing-a-long, where you can channel your inner Ariel ("now sing!") at Pacific Wharf.
- The Underworld Dance Party, hosted by Hades, which allows you to show off your baddest moves at a dastardly DJ dance party in the Hollywood Backlot
- Special photo backdrops inspired by favorite villains (better practice your scowl or sneer)
- Encounters with Disney’s famously nefarious fiends — or their henchmen — at special locations around the park
- Delightfully decadent food and beverage offerings
- Dastardly décor and merchandise
- Unlimited PhotoPass downloads
Star Wars Nite - May 3, 4 and 27, 2022
Grab your lightsaber and robes because Star Wars Nite is back! In 2022, we are treated to three dates in 2022 (including May the Fourth)!
Fans can celebrate at this exclusive after-hours event with access to the park beginning at 6 p.m. and the party running from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The party will kick off at Tomorrowland's Launch Bay (with merchandise) and then continues in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge for the Twin Moons eclipse Day celebration. The entertainment includes:
- A special "Star Wars"–themed fireworks spectacular
- A galactic dance party on Main Street U.S.A.
- Character encounters
- "Star Wars"-themed attractions such as Star Tours, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance* (however lines are longer than you'd expect at and After Dark party for just the Star Wars rides, with the exception of Star Tours).
- Themed foods and treats
- Enhanced decor and event collectible merchandise
- Unlimited PhotoPass downloads
- Mickey in an R2-D2 outfit
- A costume parade/lightsaber march down Main Street U.S.A.
- A Lightsaber group photo at the Millennium Falcon
- March of the First Order in Tomorrowland
- Lightsaber training in front of "it's a small world"
- Projection on the castle, Main Street and "it's a small world"
*Access to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is subject to availability, which may vary throughout the night and is not guaranteed.
Rise closes at 11 p.m. Certain attractions and offerings will not be available during the event, including:
- Critter Country (Meet Ewoks here)
- Mickey’s Toontown
- Splash Mountain (It was open on May 3)
- "it's a small world" (This too was open May 3)
- Sailing Ship Columbia
We visited Star Wars Nite in May 2022. The Force was strong that night with many guests in costume and with their light sabers. The line to enter Dok Ondar's for special merchandise can be crazy long, but guests looking for a quick light saber can purchase one from a cart for $43 after tax in the tunnel near Frontierland. The park closes to day guests at 8 p.m. and the party starts at 9 p.m. You can use that hour to start enjoying special foods. Just select Mobile Order windows that begin at 8 p.m. or later to access the special menu items.
Grad Nite Reunion at Disney California Adventure - June 23, 28 and 30, 2022
What a surprise it was to hear of a new summer After Dark party announced. Calling all people who wished they had gotten to go Grad Nite at Disneyland (yeah we toadally hear you, classes of 2020 and 2021 especially), here's your chance! Even if you graduated a long time ago, you can party like it's 1999 or whatever year you graduated high school. It's a throwback high school Grad Nite celebrating the past six decades. Party attire is encouraged as long as you follow the costume guidelines for parties.
The party takes place at Disney California Adventure for three separate Tuesday or Thursday nights in June. It's from 8 p.m. until midnight, but party guests can mix in with daytime guests starting at 5 p.m. The party costs $150 per person (parking not included). Tickets go on sale April 28, 2022, no earlier than 12 p.m. PST. Guests may purchase up to eight tickets.
Here's what is included:
- Live music
- Dance parties
- A march-along pep rally with Disney friends
- Character experiences (some with caps and gowns)
- Retro photo backdrops
- Nostalgic eats themed for cafeteria food (additional cost)
- After-hours access to most attractions
- Unlimited PhotoPass downloads
Past Disneyland After Dark Events and Themes
A few other past Disneyland After Dark themes have included Throwback Nite (taking guests back to the 1950s and 1960s), '90s Nite, '80s Nite, Pixar Nite (at Disney California Adventure) and Heroes Assemble (at Disney California Adventure). Each of them offered unique types of entertainment, food and opportunities for fun. Most of the parties have taken place inside Disneyland Park but a few cross over to Disney California Adventure. One of our favorite recurring seasonal after-hours events at Disney California Adventure is the Oogie Boogie Bash during Halloween Time.
Here's a look at some of the more recent events!
Disney Merriest Nites in 2021
This was the first Disneyland Holiday Time after-hours event. Disney Merriest Nites occurred on five nights in November and December 2021. This event took place in Disneyland Park from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. (with guests gaining entrance as of 5 p.m.). Most events are one-time events, or they take place one or two nights every once in a while, but this event was more seasonal with five nights of partying. That's still pretty limited compared to the Disneyland Halloween Party, the Oogie Boogie Bash, which usually takes place three to four nights a week throughout most of Halloween time.
What we love about after-hours parties is seeing rare characters and new entertainment while getting to dress up in costumes. This party did not disappoint with Mickey's Christmas Carol characters played by Mickey, Minnie, Scrooge McDuck and Goofy (as the Ghost of Jacob Marley). Character interactions were still somewhat distanced, but the most unique experience of them all was seeing the Muppets travel down Main Street, U.S.A. singing carols. Guests received a light-up Christmas light lanyard, which helped light up the night.
Disney Merriest Nites had six different themed holiday parties hoppening across different lands. The parties included live bands or DJ dance parties. A Disney or Pixar character hosted each party:
- Mickey Mouse was the host of a Victorian party on Main Street, U.S.A. He was joined by the Muppets singing Christmas carols from a special traveling coach. Seeing the Muppets at Disneyland was enough for me! I heard that news and did not hesitate to buy a ticket to see this sight.
- Lilo and Stitch hosted a tropical party in Adventureland.
- On the other end of the thermometer, Queen Elsa from "Frozen" took over Fantasyland with an icy cheer that warmed our hearts.
- Buzz Lightyear from "Toy Story" hosted an out-of-this-world party with a DJ in Tomorrowland.
- Princess Tiana from "The Princess and the Frog" took us down to the Bayou for beads, beignets and more jazzy fun in New Orleans Square. We embarked on a holiday jazz cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat.
- Miguel Rivera from "Coco" hosted a fiesta that has us all singing "Feliz Navidad" in Frontierland.
In addition to the parties, rides were open with short lines, although some lands were closed, such as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Mickey’s Toontown and Critter Country. We were able to tackle the popular holiday-themed rides such as "it’s a small world" Holiday and Haunted Mansion Holiday. Party guests were treated to A Christmas Fantasy Parade, though it was the same parade that usually takes place during normal days of Holiday Time and was not unique to the event.
We noshed on event-inspired holiday treats (and Magic Key holders were able to attend a party-only Low-Country Boil at Blue Bayou). We enjoyed the Paradise Party Float with blue pineapple juice and watermelon Dole Whip! Special food was available 30 to 60 minutes before the party started since there was an hour between park closing to day guests and the event kicking off.
And, like every Disney party, there was special merchandise and unlimited PhotoPass downloads. This event instituted a virtual queue (must join in person) for merchandise that opened 30 minutes before party time. Read more about it in our Disney Merriest Nites post.
PIXAR Nite at Disney California Adventure - Mar. 5, 2020
Things were looking up in spring 2020 ... or so we thought! This party squeaked in just a week before the parks closed for over a year. Adventure was out there in Disney California Adventure as Pixar stories came to life at this special party. Guests could put on their Pixar best and access the park as early as 5 p.m. The party was 8 p.m. to midnight. We enjoyed incredible interactive dance parties on three different dance floors that were themed to favorite Pixar stories. Partygoers also boogied to the Pixar Dance Party at Pixar Pier, Incredibles Dance Party at Paradise Gardens Park, and Monsters, Inc. Dance Party in Hollywood Land. Pixar pals posed for fun photo-ops. The party offered whimsical décor, food (Remy approved the menu), beverage and merchandise.
'80s Nite at Disneyland - Jan. 29, 2020
The first Disneyland After Dark event of 2020 celebrated the toadally awesome '80s! As a tadpole of the '80s, I couldn't wait. I had my day-glow colors, stone-washed jeans, vintage jean jacket and frosty makeup ready to go, and Leap put on his neon tracksuit! Access to the park began at 6 p.m. We were able to fight for our right to party from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The meet and greet had a long line and got going early.
Does anyone remember Videopolis in the '80s? Teens could dance to hits of the day with state-of-the-art videos and lighting. Well, we went old school with a "Flashback to Videopolis" takeover of Fantasyland Theatre. There was a live DJ, music videos and dancing to hits of the '80s. Videopolis was hoppin'! All of the dance parties were full of people singing and dancing all night long. We did not hear a song we didn't love!
We got into the groove with a live band, playing post-punk, new wave, alternative, hip-hop, synth-pop and rock music from a raft in Rivers of America. Then, we rocked out to a DJ in the Hub while projections decorated the castle, Main Street U.S.A. buildings and what we fondly referred to as "Radderhorn Mountain." But the cutest dance party — Totally Minnie! — took place in Tomorrowland with Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto!
We frogs are fireworks junkies, so we were excited to hear there was a special fireworks show — "Awesome After Dark - Fireworks to the Max!" — featuring fireworks and musical entertainment. However, high winds canceled the show, so Mickey's Mix Magic was the alternate entertainment. The party included "throwback" encounters with Disney friends from the '80s. We met Roger Rabbit, Mousercise Mickey, Ewoks, C-3PO, R2-D2, Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox, friends from Duck Tales, Ariel, Sebastian and more! We ate decade-inspired food, enjoyed '80s décor, beverages and limited-release merchandise. Upon entering, we got a cool cassette credential and a keepsake map. The energy of the whole night was toadally rad!
What to Expect at a Disneyland After Dark Event
Now, onto the general details of what you might generally expect at a Disneyland After Dark event! You may also be interested in our tips for deciding whether a Disneyland After Dark event is worth the extra ticket cost for your family, which we'll share a little later.
Disneyland After Dark events are few and far between. They are more likely to occur in the winter or spring months and not at peak times because they may cause the parks to close earlier than usual. The exceptions are the Halloween Time Oogie Boogie Bash and the new Disney Merriest Nites in the fall. The new Grad Nite Reunion takes place in June, which is unusual.
You used to be able to purchase tickets on the Disneyland website under Special Event Tickets. After the pandemic, demand is higher, so sometimes the ticket links open at a certain time on the event page. Children ages 2 and under do not need a ticket, but they may need a nap first and may prefer to stay with a babysitter or family member than stay out that late. (We left Lily with Grandma when we attended '80s Nite ad Disney Merriest Nites.) Tickets sell out in advance, and parking is not included in the ticket price. The parking shuttles and busses for the structures and Toy Story lots are extended until one hour after party end time on party nights.
Arriving at a Disneyland After Dark Event
If you have been to a Disneyland Halloween Party such as the Oogie Boogie Bash at Disney California Adventure, then you’ll find that the Disneyland After Dark events work in a similar way. Unlike the Halloween parties, which occur over multiple nights of a season, the Disneyland After Dark parties tend to occur on just one or a few nights. They also start later in the evening than the Halloween parties. The party hours can vary per event, but if a party runs from 8 p.m. until 12 a.m., then the park closes to the public at 7 or 8 p.m. (each party time may vary slightly).
Party guests can usually enter the park three hours early and start mixing in with the daytime guests beginning at 5 or 6 p.m. For some parties, a popular meet and greet line might open early. That's what hoppened with the Ewok meet at '80s Nite, so be sure to ask about those when you arrive. All times may vary based on the specific party. There are separate entrances for Special Event tickets up until the event starts.
The Special Event Tickets turnstiles lead into a roped area to pick up a wristband and credentials. The wristband may be color-coded and include the event name and date. The credentials are essential for staying in the park after the park closes. You'll want to pick up a program with a park map. If you're already in the park during the day, ask about in-park check-in so you don't have to exit and reenter.
The program points you in the right direction to find characters around the park (who might be in very different areas than they normally are during regular park hours). It also highlights themed foods, entertainment and any can’t-miss moments. It's very helpful, so don’t froget to read it, especially since there are not always many specific details released before you arrive.
If you arrive before the party gets underway, you can go on rides, take pictures while the lighting (and maybe hair and makeup) may be better, and jump in line early to meet your favorite character. (FYI: At '80s Nite, nobody's hair was better! It was fun to see the big bangs, crimped hair and colorful bows, though.) You can scout out the lines to purchase limited-edition merchandise you must have in your life and must-try foods, but none of the special menu items will be available until the party officially starts.
Plan your meals and shopping into your party itinerary. On normal nights, the shops on Buena Vista Street or Main Street, U.S.A. are still open after the parks close so you can get some souvenirs or a caramel apple and other yummy treats. But at Disneyland After Dark events, the shops close up as soon as the event ends. We learned this the hard way when we couldn't get that much-wanted Spider-Man caramel apple we thought we would purchase before exiting the park at Heroes Assemble. At least Tad got his blue raspberry Space Stone Churro before the party ended!
Be aware that the mix-in time will be more crowded than the actual party until the daytime guests leave the park. Cast members will do sweeps and have checkpoints to look for bracelets and credentials throughout the night to make sure only party guests are partaking in the fun. Guests without wristbands will be escorted to the exit and not allowed to participate or purchase event foods.
Food, Drink and Merchandise at Disneyland After Dark Events
During the event, you can enjoy specially-themed food, drinks and special merchandise. These special items become available when the party starts and not at mix-in time. Be sure to allow time to go shopping or dining during the actual event hours. You don’t want to miss those limited-edition beverages and treats! Also, the parks close as soon as the party ends. That means the shops and restaurants are closed then too.
'80s Nite had decade-inspired eats. Sweethearts' Nite offers romantic foods and beverages. Because Heroes Assemble was held at Disney California Adventure, there were themed alcoholic beverages, but events at Disneyland generally do not serve alcohol (unless you can get it at Oga's Cantina in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge or at special dining at Blue Bayou). We knocked down a greenish Hulk Smash at Lamplight Lounge. It had Midori, Blue Curacao, pineapple juice, rum and Chambord. Yum! Marvel fans ran around the park to collect all six colorful Infinity Stone churros and other Marvel-ous treats.
The PIXAR Nite promised "Remy-approved" snacks. The Villains Nite sells sinfully delicious snacks. The '80s Nite lineup seemed to feature a lot of convenience foods, such as ones inspired by Hamburger Helper recipes! Disney Merriest Nites offered over 20 holiday treats created just for the party. Sweethearts' Nite had heart-shaped pasta and many sweet treats or specialty churros. We can't wait to see what the Disney chefs have in store for the next parties!
If you know of any limited must-have merchandise, hop on that and purchase ASAP. For example, the two-night Heroes Assemble event had a Thanos light-up Infinity Gauntlet that sold out on night one. None were available for night two (we had a sad Tad that night). There was a gauntlet sipper for drinks available for both nights, though. Do your research ahead of time and identify any must-have items to purchase right away.
Costume Guidelines for Disneyland After Dark
Capes? Or no capes? One of the reasons many guests love the Disneyland After Dark events is that adults can wear costumes or dress in themed outfits. At Throwback Nite, many folks were dressed all dapper. You’ll see many people dressing in themed outfits and DisneyBounding as their favorite characters at these events. The costume guidelines are similar to the Halloween Party guidelines. Be creative, but use good common sense.
Here are the costume guidelines for Disneyland After Dark:
- Costumes must be family-friendly and may not be obstructive, offensive, objectionable or violent.
- All guests may dress as their favorite character, but may not pose for pictures or sign autographs for other guests.
- Costumes may not contain any items that resemble (or could easily be mistaken for) an actual weapon.
- Costumes may not contain sharp/pointed objects or materials that may accidentally strike another guest.
- Layered costumes or costume props that surround the entire body are strongly discouraged and may be subject to additional security screening.
- Costumes may not reach or drag on the ground (e.g., full-length princess dresses).
For Guests Ages 13 and Under
- Costumes may be worn, as well as some masks, as long as the entire face isn’t covered and eyes are visible.
For Guests Ages 14 and Older
- Capes cannot go below the waist.
- Themed T-shirts, blouses, sweatshirts and hats are permitted.
- Acceptable accessories include transparent wings, plastic light sabers, toy swords and tutus.
- Headwear may not cover the face.
- No masks of any kind, except for medical purposes.
The above rules apply only during event hours (and mix-in time when you're allowed to enter the park a little early for the event) — standard theme park attire rules apply during all other times. All rules, regulations and guidelines are subject to change without notice. If you don't adhere to the guidelines, Disney may remove you from the event, unless you can modify the costume to meet the above standards.
Some of the classic Disney characters may also wear special costumes or outfits for the event. Be sure to hop by to compliment them on their party clothes! Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy were all decked out in the '80s attire at '80s Nite!
Character Meet-Ups at Disneyland After Dark
One of the most exciting aspects of Disneyland After Dark is getting to rub elbows with very rare or never-before-seen characters. The '90s nite had a lot of characters from Disney shows in the 1990s, such as "Duck Tales" and "The Disney Afternoon." Obviously, the "Star Wars" event featured new "Star Wars" characters. At Sweethearts' Nite, many character couples were out for a date night themselves. We get to see many princesses on a normal day at Disneyland, but on Sweethearts' Nite, the princes joined in the fun at the Royal Ball. Couples including Hercules and Meg, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow and others can be found throughout the park.
Heroes Assemble starred Marvel heroes. The usual characters were in attendance, plus rare ones, too. Iron Man made his first Disneyland Resort visit (he has since made regular appearances in Avengers Campus), Thor came back from Asgard to attend and Hawkeye whooshed in with his arrows. Other characters who may appear in entertainment, but do not usually greet guests (such as Peter Quill) were out meeting their fans, as well.
The '80s Nite characters included favorites from "Mousercise," "Duck Tales" and "Star Wars" movies (such as Ewoks, C-3PO and R2-D2). Roger Rabbit, Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket, Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and more were out and about. Sebastian the crab joined Ariel!
If you are in a line to meet a character when the event ends, you can remain in line to meet them. But don't necessarily wait until the very end to jump in line as some lines may close early. Ask a cast member if you aren't sure.
Rides at Disneyland After Dark
Most rides are open during the After Dark events. Be aware that Toontown, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Critter Country sometimes close at Disneyland Park events — it just depends on the event's theme. You can access these areas during mix-in time if it's on your must-do list, but don't waste valuable party time in line for a ride that will still be there the next day. The party waits for no one.
We were jumping up and down with excitement over being able to hop on toadally cool and popular rides such as Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT!, Radiator Springs Racers, Incredicoaster and Toy Story Midway Mania without a wait at Heroes Assemble. Being able to simply walk into Guardians of the Galaxy and enjoy looking at the collection in the lobby area without any people in the way or pressure to keep moving was such a treat!
There was little to no wait for rides at Disneyland during '80s Nite. When else can you hop on the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Dumbo or Space Mountain without a wait? This is a major plus for people who want to ride a lot of rides without any kind of wait. In fact, even Disney Genie+ isn't available. Keep in mind that Hyperspace Mountain, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run have the longest lines during Star Wars Nite. The rest of the rides had very short lines.
PhotoPass and Photo-Ops at Disneyland After Dark Events
Free PhotoPass downloads are included in the After Dark events. You'll have 45 days to download the images. With PhotoPass, you have great professional photos of special moments when meeting those favorite characters and posing for photo-ops. Capture that perfect costume or outfit! Each Disneyland After Dark event presents uniquely themed photo-ops in line with the event. Scout out your favorites and prioritize because lines can get long. Disneyland After Dark events have many themed props and backdrops for striking your favorite pose.
Sweehearts' Nite had backdrops themed to various movies and their most romantic scenes. Throwback Nite had nostalgic Disneyland-themed backdrops such as an old Skyway bucket and a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse backdrop.
Our favorite photo-ops from Heroes Assemble were the "Guardians of the Galaxy" glass cages (traps, really). Guests were able to temporarily climb in and become part of Taneleer Tivan's collection and pose with his servants. Since the Hulk doesn't visit Disneyland Resort, guests could put on green hulk hands and pretend to smash things in that fun photo-op.
PhotoPass photographers are available at character meet-ups, as well. You can have the photographer scan your code in the app, but we found it easier to link a PhotoPass to hand over to photographers throughout the night. The cast members are so helpful at holding your stuff and using your camera and phone to take pics while you focus on not going all fangirl or fanboy on your favorite character. As Tad would tell us, “Stay cool!”
Is a Disneyland After Dark Event Worth It?
This is always a hard question to answer. The tickets usually cost less than a one-day ticket (except for Disney Merriest Nites), but they're only good for four hours (plus three hours of mix-in time). The parties do offer some unique experiences, but the hours fly by so quickly that it's challenging to do it all. It may be worth it if any of the following apply:
- You really love dressing up in costume, themed outfits or DisneyBound attire.
- You're toadally excited about the party theme.
- Seeing one particular rare character would make your night.
- You love all things Disney and just want to be part of the magic.
- The main reason to go is to experience rides without wait times.
- You want a new or different experience in a Disney park.
- You like meeting others who share the same interests.
- Exclusive party merchandise really excites you.
- You're OK with long lines for photo-ops and character greetings.
- You love dancing in a Disney park.
- You like staying up late.
Even if you don’t care about the theme and really just want to focus on riding all of the rides without a wait, then the Disneyland After Dark events may be well worth it. We can honestly say that some events are worth it. Others not so much. If '80s Nite returns, we will toadally be there! Disney Merriest Nites does not measure up to the amazing holiday foods and entertainment available during normal Holiday Time at Disneyland, especially for more than the cost of a daytime ticket. Spend your money on a multi-day ticket and experience what both parks have to offer all day and into the evening during Holiday Time instead. Sweethearts' Nite has some fun character couples and photo-ops, but hopfully, physical distancing will be but a memory by the time 2023 rolls around.
You need realistic expectations to tackle these events. If you want to do it all (characters, food, photo-ops, rides and other entertainment), you may get a little frustrated when time flies (did someone say flies? Yum!) while you’re having fun and you miss out on experiences before the party ends. We felt a little like Cinderella at the ball, getting caught up in the fun and frogetting to watch the clock. (Thank goodness we left the park with both of our shoes!)
If you have a favorite rare character you’d love to meet, then expect long waits. Use pre-party time as wait time so you can enjoy more of the party when it starts. The experiences will vary per theme, so it’s hard to predict the must-see attraction or merchandise of the night. Chances are, if it's exciting to you, you're not alone and others want that same experience, so you'll have competition. Guests who are standing in line before the party ends can remain in line. We find that lines usually drop off toward the end of the night. If your favorite character has a long line, hop in place before the party ends to extend your wait time post-party hours.
It seems that guests of all of the Disneyland After Dark Events love the event, but not so much the long lines to meet characters and to take advantage of photo-ops. For example, at Heroes Assemble, we wanted to experience everything, but we also really wanted to meet Iron Man. Now, we frogs love all of the Avengers, but our main hero is Iron Man. (We must admit that we do find the Hulk's color quite agreeable though — we had a drink in his honor.) Iron Man was our number one bucket list character experience. At that point, we had already met, or at least seen, many of the other Heroes in the parks over the years. Of course, now it seems silly that we waited so long to see Iron Man when he now regularly drops into Avengers Campus.
We arrived at 7 p.m., two hours before the party started and hopped in the rapidly growing line. Great minds think alike! We were not alone in that plan. Iron Man arrived at 9 p.m., and we finally got our moment to shake hands with a suited-up Tony Stark by 10 p.m. We waited three hours, and the whole party lasts only four hours (at least two of the wait hours were pre-party).
At '80s Nite, the hot ticket meet-up was the Ewoks. We waited over an hour to meet them, but that included a cool lightsaber photo-op and much of our wait was pre-party. That line opened early and the Ewoks were moving guests through well before the party began. Keep an eye out for experiences that open early!
You can skip the long lines and look for shorter lines, but all of the characters have significant lines. You may need to be flexible or set priorities. We would've been disappointed to miss a favorite character, but we would've been more disappointed if a three-hour wait to meet them took up three out of four hours of actual party time. So, when we come across a long line once the party starts, we readjust our plan. We wave or snap a pic from afar and hop on to a different experience instead because we frogs keep hoppin' to stay happy. You’ll best enjoy the event if you can be flexible and set realistic expectations. And remember, the rides will always be there for another visit. The rare characters, photo-ops and exclusive party merchandise will not.
Are you ready to experience Disneyland After Dark? What do you think the next Disneyland After Dark theme should be? Let us know in the comments below!
Related: Full Schedule of Disneyland Events