Disney After Hours – Everything You Need to Know
Starting on January 19th, you’ll have a rare opportunity to have the run of Magic Kingdom. Yes, the most popular theme park in the world will close to regular guests at an early hour on certain days in January, February, and March. Anybody willing to pay a bit extra will have the run of the place. It’s a rare opportunity that you should strongly consider, budget allowing. Here’s everything you need to know about Disney After Hours 2018.
What Is Disney After Hours?
In 2016, The Walt Disney Company introduced a new upcharge option for Magic Kingdom. Called Disney After Hours, it had a simple premise. Disney fans could pay more money to stay after the park’s closing. They didn’t even need admission tickets for the day, just the event itself.
For Disney After Hours, park managers kept Magic Kingdom open after it shooed out the regular guests. The ones willing to pay for the privilege got to experience something historically unprecedented at Walt Disney World. They had an entire theme park to themselves.
The first year, the price for Disney After Hours was $149 per person. The early reception was lackluster. The company absorbed a beating from disgruntled park guests, many of whom felt like this upsell crossed a line. They felt like Disney was marketing their most treasured theme park to people with deep pockets, ignoring the rank-and-file fans that comprise the major of the company’s customer base.
When Disney After Hours debuted, it was something of a bust. Early attendance was sparse, forcing Disney to announce discounts for Disney Vacation Club members and others. In fact, a dirty secret from the resorts at the time was that they were just giving away (!) Disney After Hours tickets to boost attendance numbers.
Estimates placed attendance in the range of 3,000 customers, some of whom either hadn’t paid or received heavily discounted tickets. Cynics crowed over Disney’s inability to sell out their latest upcharge event, confidently hinting that no one would ever hear about Disney After Hours again. That…was an incorrect assessment. It returned in 2017, and it’s now back for 2018. Also, a lot of people, myself included, believe that it’s a really good deal.
Why Is Disney After Hours a Good Idea?
I already gave you a hint in the paragraph above. Magic Kingdom received almost 20.4 million visits in 2016. That’s an average of 56,000 guests per day. Disney After Hours sells out after a few thousand participants.
The general consensus is that you’ll join 3,000 other guests during the night of the event. At Magic Kingdom, that’s as close to empty as you’ll ever see. Even the Extra Magic Hours option for Disney resort guests has a larger crowd than 3,000 people. For a fixed cost, you get to spend the best night of your life at Magic Kingdom.
Disney After Hours runs Magic Kingdom almost the same way as if the park were open. Disney states that more than 25 attractions and character meetings are available during the event. You’ll have your pick of each one. Since you’re allowed into the park several hours prior to park closing, you can also book regular FastPasses for the end of the day (presuming you have regular admission tickets), the time when the park is the emptiest anyway. With some clever planning and in-park strategy, you could feasibly ride every major attraction at Magic Kingdom.
Here’s something you should know about the value of Disney After Hours. Disney expects the average guest to ride nine attractions during a full day at the park. Experienced visitors with a mastery of the FastPass system can do even better. During the event, guests frequently ride a dozen attractions or more, meaning that it’s superior to a full day in a crowded park. You may wonder whether your favorite rides are available, though.
Disney lists these attractions as open for Disney After Hours 2018:
- 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
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Space Mountain
That’s virtually everything of note at Magic Kingdom. Plus, you’ll face little to no lines for many of these rides. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the primary exception, at least based on our experience. And its line is still tinier than you’ll ever see it on a regular day, at least outside of rope drop. You may wait as much as 15 minutes, which is still trivial. Even other tickets events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party have longer lines. Disney After Hours is the emptiest that you’ll ever see Magic Kingdom.
You’ll also get some additional benefits from attending the event. Disney provides free snacks such as popcorn, ice cream, and Mickey Bars plus complimentary beverages, too. They’ll also keep Casey’s Corner open if you need something more substantial.
What Are the 2018 Details for Disney After Hours?
Disney hosts the event on three dates in January, two in February, and two in March. The first four nights have Disney After Hours operating hours of 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. On the final three nights, the ticketed event is available from 9 p.m. to midnight. For all Disney After Hours evenings, you can enter the park at 7 p.m. The official dates are:
- Friday, January 19th (these four dates are 8 p.m. events)
- Friday, January 26th
- Tuesday, January 30th
- Thursday, February 8th
- Thursday, February 15th (these are the 9 p.m. events)
- Thursday, March 1st
- Thursday, March 8th
The cost is also important. After Disney failed to persuade guests to pay $149, they lowered the price. You’ll pay $119 in advance or $124 the day of the event. Also – and this is huge – annual pass holders and Disney Vacation Club members get a better price. With proof of membership, the cost drops to $89 per person. Given that the dessert fireworks party costs $49 per person, I view the Disney After Hours pricing as reasonable bordering on cheap. Your mileage may vary.
If I’ve convinced you to attend on one of these dates, I would like to offer three pro tips. The first is that you should eat a late dinner. While you can order food, a quirk of Disney After Hours is that the longest lines are oftentimes for food. Next, remember the photo ops. You’ll have a rare amount of time with Disney characters as well as photographers. You may want to dress up or DisneyBound for the event. The pictures alone may justify the full cost of the event. Finally, bring your own camera. You’ll be a social media darling thanks to your pictures of an open but empty Magic Kingdom.
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