We stop by Magic Kingdom to check out the 2018 version of Disney After Hours.
According to the company:
This lays things out pretty well. Disney After Hours is geared towards those looking to experience the most attractions in the shortest amount of time with the fewest other people around. Ice cream, popcorn, and bottled beverages, including water, are complimentary throughout the event.
After Hours is officially a 3-hour event beginning at either 8pm or 9pm. Here’s the date/cost breakdown:
Your three hours come at a hefty cost – between $94.79 and $132.06 per person with tax depending on when you purchase your tickets and whether you qualify for a discount. At the time of writing, there are also only six more dates scheduled, so you may find that your trip falls on dates when After Hours isn’t an option.
Disney After Hours is a completely separate ticket purchase, much like admission to Mickey’s Halloween and Christmas Parties. On the first night, everyone with an After Hours ticket that was already inside the Park was required to exit and re-enter through the event tapstiles.
There were a couple of exceptions where guests had their tickets scanned by a cast member at the front of the Park without the guest having to exit. With Mickey’s Parties, there are typically two in-park areas where guests can redeem their tickets and pick up their event credentials. Disney may or may not staff those locations for future events. But I would be prepared to head to the front of the Park to pick up your credentials if you’re already inside the Park.
Also unlike Mickey’s Parties, Disney After Hours guests weren’t allowed to enter the Park until 6:40pm, which is 80 minutes before the event officially started. This gives event-goers plenty of time to arrive and make their way inside, but it’s significantly later than the 4pm admission time for Mickey’s Party ticket holders. This may change for future events, but I wouldn’t purchase an After Hours ticket expecting to be let in before 6:30pm.
Here’s a list of which attractions are open along with some numbers that I’ve added in red:
The first number in red is the attraction’s priority during After Hours based on the amount of time you’ll save in line versus riding during the day. Attractions with a “5” are the highest priority because average waits are longer. The second number is the amount of time the attraction will take to experience given virtually no initial wait. Astro Orbiter might be a 90-second ride, but the time it takes to wait for and ride the elevator up to the loading platform, rocket to outer space, and go back down the elevator after will amount to about 15 minutes. When deciding what to ride, you’ll want to consider the time investment. You could ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh three times in the amount of time that it would take to ride Astro Orbiter once.
Here’s the same information organized from highest priority to lowest priority along with the minimum experience time:
And here’s a look at posted waits beginning at 5pm on the date in question – Friday January 19, 2018. Note that the event hours are 8pm to 11pm:
Astro Orbiter is goofy in that it was posting a 50-minute wait all night, despite the fact that you could walk into the next elevator up to the loading platform to ride for most of the night. Since it takes so long to do, it may be Disney trying to scare people away from investing the time. Otherwise, just a couple of rides should see waits that exceed 10 minutes – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the big one with Peter Pan’s Flight also typically seeing appreciable waits. I’d suggest holding off on those two for the last 30 to 45 minutes of operation depending on how many times you want to ride. Actual waits for Mine Train were 30 minutes from 8pm-9:30pm and then 20 minutes from 9:30pm to 10pm before dropping to under 10 minutes for much of the last hour of operation.
What you do upon arrival depends on what you want to accomplish. To maximize your After Hours time, you’ll want to make your way to the Land of your choice no later than the event start time. That way you can use your credential right at 8pm to board the attraction of your choice. Erin and I were interested in what the experience would be like for those that wanted to see Once Upon A Time and Happily Ever After on an event night. So we took a lap around Magic Kingdom on the train to start our evening after arriving at 6:35pm.
Then we found spots for the 7:30pm performance of Once Upon A Time at about 7:20pm. Main Street crowds are no joke with people shoulder to shoulder from Cinderella Castle all the way down Main Street.
Once Upon A Time lasts almost 15 minutes, leaving another 15 minutes until the start of Happily Ever After.
Happily Ever After is nearly 20 minutes long.
That means seeing the fireworks will cut into your After Hours time by about a half hour. It’s also incredibly unpleasant trying to make your way against the crowds towards a Land after the conclusion of the show. If possible, I would strongly advise seeing Happily Ever After on a night when you won’t be participating in Disney After Hours. But seeing the show is not the end of the world if that’s the direction that you want to take it. In the 30 minutes it took to watch, we could have experienced two or three attractions.
We made our way to Frontierland for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, passing by some attractions that it probably makes more sense to experience during the day. On the other hand, if there’s an attraction like Tiki Room or Country Bear Jamboree that you love, you may want to take advantage of basically having the show to yourself.
We arrived in Frontierland at 8:23pm or about six minutes after Happily Ever After concluded.
Had we started here at 8pm, this would be our third ride on Big Thunder instead of our first. The posted wait is 5 minutes.
There was a bit of a wait to board.
You’ll see fewer cast members at the attractions and where variable capacity comes into play, fewer ride vehicles. That can push up waits a bit first thing as people are less spread out after heading to the highest priority ride in their chosen land.
We arrived at 8:28pm and were back out front at 8:41pm for a total experience time of 13 minutes, which is three or four minutes longer than the minimum investment.
Amusingly, some of the longest waits you’ll probably experience are at the various snack carts.
They should all be operating. This one is to the left of Big Thunder.
There’s one to the right of the entrance to Haunted Mansion.
One outside Pinocchio Village Haus in Fantasyland. You’ll see plenty throughout the evening.
You’re not limited to Mickey Ice Cream Bars, so you can mix things up with an Olaf Pop or what have you.
After seven or eight Olafs, I don’t think I was in control of my faculties.
You may be able to rationalize some value here. If you were to get:
- 1 Popcorn
- 1 Mickey Ice Cream Bar
- 1 Mickey Ice Cream Sandwich
- 1 Diet Coke
- 3 Waters
You’d have consumed $26.75 worth. And you could theoretically grab a couple of bottled beverages “for the road.”
The scene in Frontierland at 8:49pm after taking about eight minutes to pick up and eat half of our snacks.
Pirates is up next.
If you’re trying to experience rides with fewer people in the vehicles, don’t follow anybody in.
And if a group is hot on your tail as you walk through the queue, you might let them pass and then linger for a moment.
Our boat ended up being completely full, while at least three boats ahead of us and behind us were empty. Apparently, Pirates went down around 9:15pm, stranding several boats full of people for over a half hour as cast attempted to get them out.
Our boat was actually backed up all the way to Old Bill during unloading.
We arrived at 8:53pm and were back out front at 9:10pm for a total experience time of 17 minutes. There are not a lot of people around.
We moseyed over to neighboring Jungle Cruise where we found another 5-minute posted wait.
We walked right on the boat, but sat there for a minute or two waiting for others to arrive before the next boat pulled up behind us.
That meant there were only about 15 of us.
We arrived at 9:11pm and were done at 9:22pm for a total experience time of 11 minutes. You could have the Swiss Family to yourself though if you got lost, I feel like you might still be looking for your way out as nobody else is going to be walking it.
We opted for The Magic Carpets of Aladdin.
I spent $129 to ride The Magic Carpets of Aladdin by myself pic.twitter.com/3KBXB1Kd0J
— josh (@easywdw) January 20, 2018
As seen in this cinematic masterpiece.
It took all of five minutes as people are actually heading into the Tiki Room.
Liberty Square at 9:42pm. You can see a decently long line for snacks ahead on the right – looks like about 20 people.
We walked right into the stretching room at Haunted Mansion.
But we were far from the only people there.
We arrived at 9:44pm and were back out front at 9:59pm for a total experience time of 15 minutes, which is right around the minimum.
Fantasyland at 10:05pm or about 55 minutes until the end of After Hours.
Peter Pan’s Flight was sending everyone through the FastPass+ line, which might be disappointing for those that want to experience the interactive queue.
The posted wait fluctuated between 5 and 15 minutes throughout the night, here appearing at ten minutes at 10:06pm.
A healthy line.
That took closer to five minutes.
Old Fantasyland at 10:16pm, indicating a total experience time on Peter Pan of ten minutes.
And over towards The Many Adventures:
After Hours should be a good opportunity to get a little extra time with the princesses, particularly in the final hour.
Mine Train is still posted at 30 minutes, but the actual wait should be under ten.
“Literally” nobody in line at The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at 10:22pm.
We got in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at 10:29pm.
And found ourselves on-board six minutes later.
Back to Peter Pan’s Flight and then back over to Mine Train:
We managed to ride Peter Pan’s Flight two more times from 10:45pm to 10:55pm, then got in line for one last ride on Mine Train. As usual, you can get in line for any operating attraction up until the event’s end time regardless of the posted wait.
A fair number of people had similar plans.
With the 30-minute posted wait, our actual wait ended up being about five.
We were back out front at 11:09pm to cast members funneling everyone towards the exit. This path towards Tomorrowland is blocked off.
One unexpected surprise was seeing the princesses outside Princess Fairytale Hall saying goodbye to guests.
They were happy to sign one more autograph or take one more picture.
You might pass by on your way out.
— josh (@easywdw) January 20, 2018
We also managed to walk through Cinderella Castle just as the 11:15pm Kiss Goodnight started. A fun treat to end the night.
The crowd departing at 11:20pm is sizable – similar to what it would look like around 12:15am on a Mickey’s Party date.
PhotoPass photographers maintained their positions for the few guests that wanted a picture on the way out.
This is what we ended up doing:
- Once Upon A Time: 7:20pm – 7:45pm
- Happily Ever After: 7:45pm – 8:18pm
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: 8:28pm – 8:41pm
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 8:53pm – 9:10pm
- Jungle Cruise: 9:11pm – 9:22pm
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin: 9:29pm – 9:34pm
- Haunted Mansion: 9:44pm – 9:59pm
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 10:06pm – 10:16pm
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 10:21pm – 10:28pm
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 10:29pm – 10:41pm
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 10:45pm – 10:50pm
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 10:50pm – 10:55pm
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 10:57pm – 11:09pm
With some snacking mixed in.
Overall, I’d compare the crowds to the first minute or two of rope drop, where most attractions see little to no wait and few people in line, but the Fantasyland priorities like Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs do see longer waits. You want to avoid both Fantasyland rides if you can for at least the first 90 minutes of the event when waits are longer. This particular Disney After Hours date sold out, so these crowds should be as “bad” as they get. But it was also an unseasonably cold evening and some number of people seemed to give up earlier than they likely would otherwise. I’d expect people to stay a bit longer given more comfortable temperatures. On the other hand, if future dates don’t sell out, end-of-the-night crowds should be similar. But I wouldn’t go in expecting to see nobody else around and there will likely be plenty of other people in the pre-show areas and ride vehicles.
The price point is high at $95-$132 per person regardless of age. I think those that will find the most value are infrequent visitors on shorter trips. You may be able to rationalize the purchase by forgoing Park Hopper and instead using the After Hours ticket as your one hop of the trip. We spent the day at Animal Kingdom, leaving around 5pm to grab dinner at the Polynesian, before taking the monorail over to Magic Kingdom. Adding Park Hopper is around $65 per ticket, so you are paying about twice as much for After Hours, but you’ll have the benefit of being able to see the nighttime spectaculars and then enjoy light crowds for the rest of the evening.
On the other hand, a family of four is looking at paying $528 for the evening. That should be enough money to add another night at a Moderate resort and extend each person’s theme park tickets for another day. You could reasonably accomplish what we were able to do during Disney After Hours in three or four hours with a sensible rope drop and smart FastPass+ use.
The three hours go fast and counting down the minutes until it’s over is kind of a bummer. Even with short waits virtually everywhere, you’ll still probably find yourself asking “if there’s enough time for that.” Granted, we got a late start, but we didn’t even make it over to Tomorrowland. We could have by skipping over a couple of things, but everyone will eventually run out of time.
I came away feeling neutral about the experience. I like Early Morning Magic more, which I review for a second time here. It’s sort of an apples-to-oranges comparison, but that event allows you to mix and match ten to twelve rides on Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh before moving on to other priorities once the Park opens to everyone. The breakfast buffet also seems to hold more value than the occasional ice cream and Diet Coke. It’s also fun knowing you have the entire day ahead of you rather than systematically counting down the minutes until it’s time to go home.
But there are times when After Hours may make more sense. Principally, for those on short vacations and particularly for those that can use the ticket in lieu of adding Park Hopper. But it seems hard to find $528 of value here for a family of four. We had fun, but even at $95 per person, I think I’d put my money to work elsewhere next time. A less expensive Mickey’s Halloween or Christmas Party ticket buys you eight hours in the Park, in addition to treats, special fireworks, special characters, and special nighttime parade. Disney After Hours is basically a 3-hour set of evening Extra Magic Hours with fewer people around. I think I’d find it more valuable with an extra hour.
We’ll see how others fare.