Ultimate 2020 Disney After Hours Review
How many Disney attractions do you experience during a standard park day? Disney believes that you should visit nine of them in a full day. However, the company also offers a kind of cheat code to give you more opportunities in a short timeframe. How well does it work? You’d be amazed… Here’s a review of the 2020 version of Disney After Hours.
About the Event
Over the years, Disney has tried a few versions of the same idea. A single park opens for a few extra hours on a given night. Generally, Disney hosts them weekly during the early winter months. Then, the schedule varies for the rest of the year.
Guests must purchase tickets to this three-hour event. When they do, attendants can ride all of their favorites at a time when a small number of people are in the park. The latest name for the event is Disney After Hours, and this one seems likely to stick.
The event began in 2016 and wasn’t initially popular. Disney charged $150 for the first version before realizing that guests wouldn’t pay that much for it. Quickly, the company lowered prices and provided discounts for annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club members. Unfortunately, due to the overcharging, only a small group of people gave it a chance.
Growing in Popularity
Oddly, this worked in Disney’s favor. The lucky few folks who attended the event had the run of Magic Kingdom. They could ride almost anything at the park, and they rarely had to wait in line.
In other words, the earliest guests at Disney After Hours hit the motherlode.
Few people knew about the event. And an even smaller number of them were willing to pay roughly $150 for three hours of extra time at Magic Kingdom. Thus, the hundreds of people who did show up lived out the theme park visit of their dreams.
Because of the small crowds, the earliest attendees provided glowing reviews. They relished Disney After Hours as the best way to spend time at the park. So, buzz grew, turning a disastrous first attempt into one of the most popular ticketed events at Disney theme parks.
By this point, a ticket for Disney After Hours costs roughly the same as full-day admission to Magic Kingdom. However, guests can check off many of their to-do list items at the park in only a few hours. In other words, you can cram a full day of stuff into three tight hours.
Plus, Disney provides free snacks as part of the event. Guests can choose between Mickey Ice Cream Bars, popcorn, ice cream sandwiches, and other goodies. Anytime you need a treat, you head over to one of the snack cart stations.
As part of the event, you can eat and drink as much as you want. The beverages are all along the lines of soft drinks and bottled water, though. The parks don’t sell alcohol for these events, which is the correct call.
The Current Versions of the Event
Over the years, Disney After Hours has expanded a bit. It’s now available at three out of four Walt Disney World parks. At Disneyland Resort, the company has introduced Disneyland After Dark events, also. Disneyland’s version usually includes a theme such as 90’s Nite, which isn’t the case at Walt Disney World.
When you attend one of the Orlando events, you’re there for the rides. It’s that simple. During 2020, Disney charges $129 per person before the day of the event or $139 at the ticket window. Annual passholders and DVC members still receive discounts that lower the price to $99, which is how much my party paid for Disney After Hours.
In 2019, park officials introduced a modified version called Disney Villains After Dark. This more expensive event includes character meetings with Disney’s black-hats and a Villain show or two. As an experience, it’s closer to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) than Disney After Hours. It also costs more, with tickets at $145 before the night of the event, $155 on that day.
We went to the regular version of Disney After Hours. However, we would have happily attended the Villains version if it’d been available during our travel dates.
Reviewing the Event
My party of nine attended Disney After Hours on January 27th. This date was a Monday, and I emphasize that because I believe it’s important. During our previous after-hours ticketed events at Walt Disney World, we’d encountered reasonably sized crowds. The parks never felt empty per se, but they did seem less trafficked than during regular operating hours.
Our late-January visit this year surprised us because the crowds were massive throughout our trip. It was Pro Bowl weekend, the 2020 International Festival of the Arts was in full bloom, and many international tourist groups were visiting the parks. Also, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has undeniably increased park traffic throughout Walt Disney World.
So, my group was accustomed to large crowds by the time that Disney After Hours arrived. The event felt like a desert oasis after what we’d witnessed in our previous days. The Monday evening date discouraged Floridians from attending, which meant that Magic Kingdom was mostly empty during our visit.
Our Experience at Disney After Hours
We arrived at 6 p.m. for an event that started two hours later. Before Disney After Hours began, I ran into one of the strangest park quirks ever. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin experienced a surge in the FastPass line like I’ve never witnessed before. The ride had a posted wait-time of 40 minutes. With a FastPass, we stood in line for that long. Confused cast members were asking us what had happened.
I mention this to establish that Magic Kingdom was shockingly crowded just before closing. At 8 p.m., Happily Ever After ran as scheduled, even though the park was technically closed. During this event, my group headed to New Fantasyland.
We rode Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Peter Pan’s Flight in 20 minutes. I’m not exaggerating. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train listed a 25-minute wait, but it was nearly walk-on. Meanwhile, we actually did walk on Peter Pan’s Flight. After three full days of fighting unexpectedly massive Walt Disney World crowds, we were genuinely confused about the short lines.
Unlike MNSSHP, Disney After Hours lacks character meetings or exclusive shows/parades. Guests are all about the rides when you do this, which suited our purposes quite well.
Our Disney After Hours Achievements
During the first two hours and 30 minutes, my (large) party experienced all of the following attractions:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Haunted Mansion (again)
- Jungle Cruise
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
We couldn’t ride Splash Mountain, which is down for maintenance this month. We also didn’t jump on It’s a Small World due to some confusion about whether it was open. And we skipped Space Mountain after some members of the party found it too rough the previous day. Similarly, nobody expressed an interest in Astro Orbiter.
With 30 minutes to go, we’d ridden so much stuff and eaten/spilled so much popcorn that we were all in a terrific mood. We decided to act like teenagers and ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train over and over again until Disney kicked us out.
That’s precisely what happened, as we spent our final 20 minutes riding it three more times. Yes, thanks to Disney After Hours, we rode Magic Kingdom’s most popular attraction four times in three hours. We could have done it 10 times if we’d wanted.
Overall, we experienced more than 10 attractions in three hours. I think the final count was 12, although my wife and I struggled to name everything after the fact. We rode so many things so quickly that things kinda got blurry.
To a person, we were thrilled with Disney After Hours and thought the event provided terrific value. We rode almost as much as we had the previous day, which was a VIP Tour. But Disney After Hours costs several thousand dollars less!
PS: If you can, go on a Monday. Only the Disney diehards attend those.