Have you ever wished you could have Disneyland or Disney California Adventure mostly to yourself, hopping from ride to ride without any wait or crowds to navigate? Do you love dressing up as your favorite Disney character? Do you jump up and down at the chance to meet a rare character who never usually visits the parks? Then a Disneyland After Dark event may be just the ticket for you! The Disneyland After Dark events are separately ticketed parties that are held after the park closes to the public.
Each 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 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. We assembled our Frog Squad, donned our capes and leapt to Disneyland After Dark: Heroes Assemble to accomplish our mission of shedding light on the Disneyland After Dark parties. So hop along as we share what to expect at one of these special events.
What to Expect at a Disneyland After Dark Event
Disneyland After Dark events are few and far between. They are more likely to occur in winter or spring months and not at peak times because they may cause the park to close earlier than usual. You can purchase tickets on the Disneyland website under Special Event Tickets. 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 be out that late. (We left Lily with Grandma when we attended.) Tickets often sell out in advance, but if tickets are still available the day of the event, you can purchase same-day tickets at the ticket window. Parking is not included in the ticket price.
Past Disneyland After Dark themes have included Throwback Nite (taking guests back to the 1950s and 1960s), Sweethearts Nite, '90s Nite, Star Wars Nite and Heroes Assemble. Each of them offered unique types of entertainment, food and opportunities for fun. Most of the parties have taken place inside Disneyland Park. Heroes Assemble was the first-ever Disneyland After Dark event held at Disney California Adventure.
Arriving at a Disneyland After Dark Event
If you have been to a Disneyland Halloween Party like Mickey’s Halloween Party (or the new Oogie Boogie Bash), then you’ll find that the Disneyland After Dark events work in a similar way, but they tend to occur on just one or two nights and start later in the evening. The party hours can vary per event, but if a party runs from 9:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m., then the park closes to the public at 9:00 p.m. Party guests can usually enter the park three hours early and start mixing in with the daytime guests beginning at 6:00 p.m. All times may vary based on the specific party. There are separate entrances for Special Event tickets vs. General Admission 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 event name and date. The credentials are essential for staying in the park after the park closes. You may also pick up a program and gift if there is one.
The Heroes Assemble gift was a pack of cards with Marvel heroes on them. It was missing Iron Man. To earn Iron Man, you had to embark on a scavenger hunt mission to solve a puzzle. We put Tad to that task, and he hoppily succeeded with enthusiasm! (It kept him busy while we waited in line to meet Iron Man.)
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 is 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 (the early frog gets the flies), 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. 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 event eating 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 or other yummy treats. But at the Heroes Assemble event, the shops closed up as soon as the event ended. We learned this the hard way when we could not get that much-wanted Spider-Man caramel apple we’d thought we would purchase before exiting the park. 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 to check 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 foods, drinks and special merchandise. These special items become available when the party starts and not at mix-in time. Be sure to allot time to go shopping or dining during the actual event hours. You don’t want to miss those limited-edition beverages and treats!
'90s Nite had decade-inspired eats. Sweethearts' Nite had romantic foods and beverages. Because Heroes Assemble was held at Disney California Adventure, there were themed alcoholic beverages, but events at Disneyland do not serve alcohol. 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.
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 night one. None were available for night two. (We had a sad Tad on night two.) There was a gauntlet sipper for drinks available for both nights, though. Definitely do your research ahead of time and identify any must-have items to purchase right away.
Costume Guidelines for Disneyland After Dark
One of the reasons many guests love the Disneyland After Dark events is that adults can wear costumes or dress in theme. At Throwback Nite, many folk were dressed all dapper. You’ll see many people dressing in theme 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 not 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 — standard theme park attire rules apply during all other times. All rules, regulations and guidelines are subject to change without notice. If you do not 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.
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-seen-before characters. The '90s nite had a lot of characters from Disney shows in the 1990s like "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. Cinderella's stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella met guests. Couples like Hercules and Meg, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow and others roamed 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, 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 (like Peter Quill) were out meeting their fans, as well.
Rides at Disneyland After Dark
Most rides are open during the After Dark events. Be aware that Toontown sometimes closes at Disneyland Park events. We were jumping up and down with excitement over being able to hop on toadally cool and popular rides like Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT!, Radiator Springs Racers, Incredicoaster and Toy Story Midway Mania without a wait. The same is true for Disneyland After Dark events. This is a major plus for people who want to ride a lot of rides without any kind of wait. Who wants to wait? Even though we skip the lines with FASTPASS and Disney MaxPass on normal days, there is always some kind of wait or planning involved. 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 is no FASTPASS or MaxPass service during After Dark events. Don’t worry! You don’t need them.
PhotoPass and Photo Ops at Disneyland After Dark Events
Free PhotoPass downloads are included in the After Dark events. That way, 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 unique photo ops that are in theme 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. Throwback Nite had nostalgic Disneyland-themed backdrops such as an old Skyway bucket and a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse backdrop.
Our favorite photo op from Heroes Assemble were the "Guardians of the Galaxy" glass cages (traps, really). Guests got to temporarily climb in and become part of Taneleer Tivan's collection, while also posing 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, but they are only good for a portion of the day. The party goes by so quickly that it is challenging to do it all. It may be worth it if any of the following apply:
- You really love dressing up in costume, theme or Disneybound attire.
- You are toadally excited about the party theme.
- Seeing one particular rare character would make your night.
- The main reason to go is to experience rides without wait times.
- You love all things Disney and just want to be part of the magic.
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.
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. Maybe 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 of the night. Guests who are standing in line when the party ends can remain in line. 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. We’ve already met or at least seen many of the other Heroes in the parks over the years. We arrived at 7:00 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 9:00 p.m., and we finally got our moment to shake hands with a suited-up Tony Stark by 10:00 p.m. We waited three hours and the whole party lasts only four hours (at least two of the wait hours were pre-party).
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 have been disappointed to miss Iron Man, but we would have been more disappointed if our three-hour wait to meet him took up three out of four hours of actual party time. So, if we had gotten to the line later, we would have readjusted our plan. We would have waved to Iron Man from afar and hopped 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.
We can’t wait to see what the next Disneyland After Dark party theme will be. 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