We return to Magic Kingdom for the Summer 2018 edition of Disney After Hours on the evening of Saturday July 14, 2018.
This is our second Disney After Hours review of the year – we previously considered the version that ran on select nights in January, February, and March in this post.
The event itself follows the same idea with just a couple of differences. First, the summer dates typically start later, with the majority of the events running from 10pm to 1am.
Here’s a look at the available dates:
It’s unlikely that we’ll see dates added past September given the fact that the Mickey’s Halloween/Christmas Party schedule closes Magic Kingdom at 6pm nightly on three or four nights each week. On the dates when Magic Kingdom isn’t hosting a Party, Magic Kingdom is typically open until 11pm or 12am, which is too late to accommodate an After Hours event that runs until 2am or 3am. This isn’t the evening Extra Magic Hours of yesteryear, when Magic Kingdom was actually open until 3am for Disney resort guests as seen in this post from way back when (2011). But those days are well in the past with evening Extra Magic Hours now reduced to just two hours and very rarely running past 1am.
Of course, cost is going to be a determining factor in whether or not you’ll want to consider springing for After Hours. With tax, the sticker price for day guests is between $126.74 and $132.06 depending on when the tickets are purchased. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members can get in for $94.79. During Regular Season, a 1-day ticket to Magic Kingdom costs $126.74 for adults and $120.35 for kids, so the cost of After Hours is just about the same or potentially more than paying for a full day in the Park. And of course, once you get to a 4-day Magic Your Way ticket, adding the 5th through 10th days is only around $11 per day, so adding After Hours is about 13 times that.
We’ll see if we can manage to get our money’s worth.
Guests with Disney After Hours tickets may use them to enter the Park as early as 7pm. If you’re already in the Park, you can pick up your After Hours credential from a couple of locations inside the Park beginning as early as 6pm. Erin and I picked up ours outside what was once Stitch’s Great Escape at 6:20pm. You can see an army of cast members and nobody in line to the left. Guest Services at City Hall on Main Street or in Liberty Square to the right of Hall of Presidents should also be able to provide credentials.
From outside the Park, look for the “Event Entrance” tapstiles typically on the right side of the Mickey Floral. You should be let in between 6:45pm and 7pm.
One nice thing about the 10pm event start time is that you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the 9:15pm Happily Ever After fireworks show without it cutting into the exclusive After Hours time, since the show will conclude around 9:32pm.
Here’s a list of the operating attractions with some additional numbers added:
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:
Other than Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight, none of these attractions should see appreciable waits after the first 30 minutes of the event. That means you can walk on to basically every ride and show for at least 2.5 hours. And during the last hour of the event, Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight wait times will become negligible as well.
In addition to the low wait times, a major part of the event is the complimentary bottled beverages, ice cream novelties, and popcorn.
Here’s one of our snack stops. Popcorn is $5.50, Diet Coke is $3.50, Dasani is $3, and the Mickey’s Ice Cream Sandwich is $5, so you’re looking at a $17 haul.
Unlike our experience back in January, lines for the various kiosks distributing drinks and snacks were largely nonexistent. Almost all of the early 2018 After Hours events sold out, while none of the summer events have sold out thus far, so we’re looking at fewer people attending the event.
Here’s a look at posted wait times over the course of the day, Saturday July 14:
I’ve highlighted the 7pm – 9:45pm time frame in blue, since those are the hours before the event that After Hours guests can tour the Park. Then the 10pm – 1am event hours are highlighted in green. The touring strategies that we typically employ continue to work here during Disney After Hours. It makes sense to visit a couple of moderate priorities during the first 30-45 minutes of the event time while day guests clear out and the tourists head straight to the most popular attractions. By 11pm, virtually every attraction is a walk-on, so there’s no use in waiting 20 minutes for Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, or Space Mountain from the onset.
With the 7pm entry time, we can spend our time in a great number of ways, but it seems to make sense to visit lengthier attractions that won’t be open during the After Hours time along with mixing in some FastPass+ opportunities.
We started our evening with Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor in Tomorrowland.
Then it was PeopleMover time.
The ride is open during After Hours, but it’s also a low priority according to our chart and was basically a walk-on at 7:30pm.
So it makes some sense to hop on early.
We then visited the Carousel of Progress, another anytime attraction in Tomorrowland that won’t be open during After Hours:
Those three attractions filled up about an hour.
We headed over to use a FastPass+ at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
And The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
That took us to around 8:30pm.
At this point, we could head to Main Street for Happily Ever After.
We could also visit a couple more moderate priorities in Fantasyland or elsewhere in front of enjoying the fireworks from New Fantasyland, where crowds are much lower.
We opted to head to an 8:50pm Be Our Guest Restaurant reservation, wanting to try a couple of the dishes one last time before the restaurant switches to its 3-course prix fixe menu on July 27th.
We’ll compare the two dinner experiences shortly after the new menu debuts.
Here’s the scene in Old Fantasyland at 10:02pm, or two minutes after the event has officially begun.
Given how few tickets were actually sold for the event, actual wait for Peter Pan’s Flight is probably about 15 minutes at this point.
When we return two hours into the event, there’s going to be “literally” nobody in line.
We opted to begin our evening at Haunted Mansion, a ride that sees a peak wait of 50+ minutes virtually every day in the FastPass+ era.
And one that’s a little spookier with fewer people around.
Outside of first thing in the morning, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to walk right up to the doors into the mansion:
We got in line at 10:05pm and were back out front at 10:19pm for a total experience time of 14 minutes, which is exactly what we were expecting based on our earlier chart.
It was time for a Mickey Ice Cream Bar.
PhotoPass was still out doing the popular lantern shot outside the Rapunzel bathrooms, which I thought was a nice touch. The line for this can easily be a half hour long during the early evening but was closer to ten minutes here.
Liberty Square at 10:29pm.
And into Frontierland.
A look in the opposite direction.
Over to the Big Thunder/Splash Mountain area.
And onto Splash Mountain:
We arrived at 10:36pm and were back out front at 10:57pm for a total experience time of 21 minutes, which is one minute longer than our minimum expectation based on the chart. There was a problem with the lap bar in the log before us. VACATION RUINED.
After another Mickey Ice Cream Bar, it was time for Big Thunder Mountain at 11:04pm. You might note that an hour has gone by and we’ve made it through exactly two attractions, despite basically no initial waits. That’s partially due to the fact that it’s two of the lengthier rides – the combined minimum experience time for Splash and Haunted Mansion is about 35 minutes, plus the time it takes to walk between the two. Add a couple of snack breaks and an hour has easily passed.
Fortunately, we were on Big Thunder in under five minutes:
We were back out front at 11:14pm for a total experience time of 10 minutes, which is, of course, exactly what’s represented in our chart. I’ll now stop pointing that out.
Frontierland at 11:16pm. I think I see a dozen people.
And Pirates of the Caribbean:
We arrived at 11:17pm and were back out front at 11:31pm for a total experience time of 14 minutes.
Here’s Caribbean Plaza.
We took a moment to appreciate the newly-returned Leaky Tikis.
Here at 11:35pm, I actually had to wait a minute for someone to approach the snack cart to show that it was open.
From an efficiency/time saving standpoint, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to visit Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, or Mickey’s PhilharMagic, but it might be fun to have the show virtually or completely to yourself.
Jungle Cruise is up next:
We arrived at 11:41pm and were back out front at 11:52pm for a total experience time of 11 minutes. It’s worth noting that despite so few people in the Park, most ride vehicles remain somewhat full. At Jungle Cruise, they wait to fill the boats. At other attractions like Big Thunder Mountain, they’re only operating one side, so most rows are going to fill for the majority of the night.
On the other hand, it’s tradition to ride The Magic Carpets of Aladdin “literally” by ourselves, so we did that next.
As is tradition I spent $125 to ride Magic Carpets literally by myself during Disney After Hours pic.twitter.com/Nib75R4zxy
— josh (@easywdw) July 15, 2018
Over 11,000 people have watched us ride on Twitter, which is kind of funny.
Here’s Adventureland at 11:58pm.
We’re headed back to Fantasyland.
A good restroom picture opportunity.
Amusingly, Disney was taking advantage of the low crowds to shoot some promotional videos themselves here with a group of four “young adults” acting very excited to head into the Peter Pan’s Flight queue.
The posted wait is 10 minutes.
But there was nobody in front of us.
And our total experience time was just five minutes, which is almost unbelievable given the fact that you’d wait 25+ minutes if you had gotten in line as early as 9:15am that morning and 60+ minutes for most of the day.
Old Fantasyland at 12:12am.
You could walk right in to either princess meet and greet at Fairytale Hall and basically have the characters to yourself.
At 12:15am, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was basically a walk-on and Erin and I switched between riding it and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh for the rest of the night.
During the three hours, this is what we were able to accomplish:
- Haunted Mansion: 10:05pm – 10:19pm
- Splash Mountain: 10:36pm – 10:57pm
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: 11:04pm – 11:14pm
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 11:17pm – 11:31pm
- Jungle Cruise: 11:41pm – 11:52pm
- Aladdin’s Magical Carpets: 11:55pm – 11:59pm
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 12:05am – 12:10am
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 12:13am – 12:18am
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 12:19am – 12:24am
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 12:28am – 12:40am
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 12:41am – 12:52am
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 12:53am – 12:58am
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 12:59am – 1:09am
In addition to three or four snack stops and a couple of PhotoPass pictures.
From a touring standpoint, there isn’t much I would change, though we could have done “more” by choosing a couple of attractions with shorter durations. But I don’t think we’re being any less efficient by enjoying one 15-minute attraction in Splash Mountain versus three 5-minute attractions. We certainly could have moved a little faster from ride to ride, but I think enjoying the atmosphere and noticing little details that are typically hidden among 50,000 other people is part of the charm of Disney After Hours.
Overall, I came away feeling more positive about the event after this experience, largely due to lower waits for snacks and fewer people around given the fact that this date was far from a sell out. The bottom line is that it’s a completely unique way to experience Magic Kingdom. Evening Extra Magic Hours are much more crowded, cover less time, and obviously don’t include the “free” snacks. Wait times are similarly short during Mickey’s Halloween/Christmas Parties, but you’re looking at 20,000 more people in the way as you move from attraction to attraction.
Still, the cost is high. If you give full value to the snacks, you’re looking at something like:
- Two ice cream treats: $10
- Two popcorns: $11
- Two waters: $6
- One Diet Coke: $3.50
That’s thirty bucks right there, per peson. As an Annual Passholder, I then need to find about $60 worth of value from three hours of incredibly low crowds and virtually no wait times. One key to doing that is to forget about the clock and enjoy what you’re able to do in the moment. On my first go-around, I was doing too much, “It’s already 11:16pm.” “We have less than an hour left.” “I don’t know if we have time.” There’s no fun in that. Perhaps like life in general, it’s best to enjoy the time you do have with the people you’re lucky enough to love.
Still, a family of four is looking at spending $528 for the evening, which is probably enough money to add an extra night at the resort and another day to the tickets. With rope drop, an intelligent touring plan, and FastPass+, you could do everything that we were able to do over the course of a few hours, perhaps with the exception of the re-rides on Mine Train. For that reason, After Hours is probably best-suited for those with time constraints. Considering the late night hours, groups consisting primarily of teens and adults are probably best-served.
So was it worth it? Given no waits for snacks or attractions and with virtually nobody else around, I’m much more likely to say yes. But the opportunity cost of the $95-$135 ticket price remains high. But the summer edition of Disney After Hours delivers exactly what it promises. And there’s certainly a high cost for Disney to be running this number of attractions for so few people. We left satisfied.