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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn

Magic Kingdom After Hours

Disney is currently offering After Hours Events at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. On our last trip we had the chance to attend one at Magic Kingdom, read on for an overview of our experiences.

On our most recent trip to the World, we had the opportunity to attend one of the Disney After Hours events at Magic Kingdom. For those who may not know, Disney After Hours is a unique park experience, allowing you to enjoy the parks with significantly fewer people. During an After Hours event, almost all the available attractions are walk on, allowing you to hop from one ride to another. Plus, there is all you can eat popcorn, select ice creams, and bottled beverages. And in the case of Magic Kingdom, there was even an exclusive fireworks show, Disney Enchantment, just for guests attending the event. For us it was a great experience, between the number of rides we got to experience and the greatly diminished crowd levels, it is definitely the type of event we will seek out again if and when it is available during our travels. 

Also, for anyone it applies to, DAS is available during the After Hours events. We have a member of our party who gets anxiety panic attacks in large crowds, o she has a Disability Access Service (DAS) pass which allows her to minimize the amount of time she has to stand in crowded lines and areas. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that it worked during the After Hours event, because it wasn’t abundantly clear when searching online. For those who want to know more about DAS, read our post here.

For those looking for a snapshot of what we accomplished and our recommendation for this event:

5:40 PM - Minnie Van to Contemporary 

6:00 PM - Dinner at Steakhouse 71 Lounge

6:55 PM - Monorail to MK

7:15 PM - Enter Park

8:15 PM - Watched Happily Ever After (delayed by 15 minutes)

8:55 PM - Pirates of the Caribbean with DAS

9:20 PM - Haunted Mansion with DAS

9:35 PM - Haunted Mansion walk-on

9:55 PM - Peter Pan’s Flight with DAS

10:00 PM - After Hours officially starts

10:05 PM - Tangled lantern photos

10:15 PM - “it’s a small world” walk-on

10:40 PM - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh with 5 minute wait

10:50 PM - Popcorn and Ice Cream snacks

11:00 PM - TTA walk-on

11:15 PM - Space Mountain walk-on

11:30 PM - TRON Lightcycle / Run with DAS

11:55 PM - Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin walk-on

12:15 PM - Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid walk-on

12:30 PM to 12:55 PM - Photos with Castle and on Main Street USA as we made our way out

12:57 PM - Exited park and walked over to busses

In total we rode 11 rides and watched one fireworks show between when we entered the park at 7:15 PM and when we left at about 1:00 AM. If we weren’t so tired at the tail end of the night we probably could have snuck in one or two more rides easily enough. 

So who do we recommend this event for: anyone who is willing and able to stay up past 1:00 AM. Unfortunately, this event won’t be ideal for families with smaller children, it is really only worth it if you can make use of the whole event time. If you might have to leave early because you are too far past a kid's (or possibly an adult’s) bed time then we would say skip it until they are older. This event also may not be ideal for someone hoping to get the full offerings at the parks. This is especially true at Epcot, where most of the World Showcase is closed down during the event. Even at Magic Kingdom, you won’t get to experience the parade and most of the shows, not to mention most of the character meet and greets are unavailable. Plus, with most dining locations closed, your food options during the event are pretty much popcorn and ice cream, so you miss out on some of the delightful foods you can find around the parks. But, if you are okay with the more limited offerings, whether you have visited before or are planning a different day in that park, and have the ability to keep yourself awake into the wee hours of the morning, then we highly recommend an After Hours event! If you do plan to do the event, we suggest making it your park ticket for the day. Spend the morning and afternoon resting (so you are at full battery for the late night), enjoying the hotel pool, or going to Disney Springs. 

Now, let’s dive into a detailed retelling of our evening at the Magic Kingdom After Hours:

To start off our evening we made our way over to the Contemporary Resort for some drinks and dinner at the Steakhouse 71 lounge. We left our resort, All-Star Music, at about 5:40PM and got a Minnie Van over to the Contemporary resort. 

This is a great tip for anyone looking to resort hop while staying on-site: Minnie Vans, as an official Disney Transportation, use the bus lanes, bypassing the guard shack. You cannot always get into a Disney resort from an Uber or standard Lyft, or your personal car, without a reservation to either stay or dine there. Since we just wanted to eat at the Steakhouse 71 Lounge, we did not have a reservation. We could have used Disney transportation to get there, bus over to the Magic Kingdom and then take the monorail, but wanted to skip the extra walking and added time that would take. By taking a Minnie Van we were able to get through the gate without a reservation. Minnie Vans do cost extra, but for certain destinations we highly recommend them. 

We made it to the Contemporary Resort a little before 6:00PM. Steakhouse 71 is located on the first floor, just past the reception area to the left. During the After Hours event there is all you can eat popcorn, select ice cream, and bottled soda included in the pricing. However, most dining locations are closed. To ensure maximum riding time and ensure we had something semi-nutritious to eat, we decided to grab dinner at the Steakhouse 71 Lounge. There you can order from a number of appetizer like items, but for us it is plenty of food. We ordered Crab Cakes, Macaroni & Cheese, and Onion Rings (emphasis on the semi in semi-nutritious, but better than popcorn and ice cream). The Crab Cakes were AMAZING, we 1000% recommend them and will be back for more! 

At about 6:55PM we left Steakhouse 71 and headed up a few escalators to where the monorail waited to take us around to the Magic Kingdom.  

In the past we have attended different hard ticket events, like Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party, and found a giant line of people waiting to enter the park. We were pleasantly surprised when this was not the case for the After Hours. In fact we were able to go through without any wait. Once we got off the monorail at the Magic Kingdom stop, we walked all the way over to the right hand turnstiles. There are specific turnstiles designated for event guests, make sure you enter using these turnstiles (there is a sign) and get your event wristbands. The wristbands are how Cast Members know you are in the park for the event, they will not allow anyone without a wristband onto attractions once the event starts.

We entered the park at about 7:15PM and made a bee-line for the hub so we could watch Happily Ever After. One of the fun perks of the Magic Kingdom After Hours is you have the ability to watch two separate fireworks shows. The first, Happily Ever After, during the overlap with regular park hours, and the second, Disney Enchantment, is held at 11:00PM for event guests only.

For Happily Ever After, we ended up splitting up, with Lyn heading toward the front to get an up close view of the castle and the projections there, and Kim and Brenda went to the Disability viewing area to watch the fun without Kim having a panic attack from the masses of people. Disney advertises the Disability viewing area for guests with scooters and wheelchairs who cannot stand for the entire show. This area is blocked off and allows them to see the fireworks without someone standing immediately in front of them blocking their view. However, if you have a DAS and cannot manage the crowd that amasses in front of the castle (it’s a lot even for people without anxiety), they will let you stand in that area as long as it is not full. Plus, after the show when the crowd really gets intense and chaos reigns for a bit as all those people head out of the hub, you can stay in the roped off area for a bit, away from the crowd. If you are hoping to make it into this area we recommend checking about an hour before the show starts as it does fill up. In the past, we have had success getting in and have been turned away, so earlier is better. For this trip, Kim and Brenda were let in and got to stand up against a railing without people pushing in around them. 

While we waited for the fireworks to start we hopped onto the My Disney Experience app and made a DAS return time for Pirates of the Caribbean. 

We did have a 15 minute delay in the start of Happily Ever After as a result of the high winds, one of the few things that will stop a fireworks show. Thankfully it was only delayed 15 minutes, and not canceled, so we still got to enjoy the magic! Though because it was so windy Tinker Bell did not fly, which was a shame. 

Following us bawling our eyes out (everyone cries during the fireworks right?) we waded through the crowd over to Adventureland. On this particular day, Magic Kingdom was open to normal park guests until 10:00PM, when the event started, so there were still a decent number of people wandering around and in line for rides immediately following the first fireworks show. When we walked up the listed wait time for Pirates was 30 minutes, but by 10:00PM that had dropped to 5 minutes, and I expect it was a walk-on ride (though we did not return to find out). 

After we danced along to A Pirates Life for Me, we made a DAS for Haunted Mansion and meandered over there. By now it was after 9:00PM, and most of the ride wait times had started to go down so by the time we had walked over to Haunted Mansion we were able to ride. Finally seeing the Hatbox Ghost in person was definitely a highlight! Then, because we love it so, and because there was no wait by the time we exited, we jumped in line to ride it again. 

Prior to hopping on again we made a DAS come-back for Peter Pan’s Flight so after riding Haunted Mansion we walked to Fantasyland to fly off to Neverland. By the time we got off Peter Pan it was after 10:00pm and the After Hours Event had begun. From that point on we had to show our wristbands to get onto the rides. 

Before we continued our ride hopping, we backtracked to the Tangled bathrooms, which were the emptiest we had ever seen them, and stood in a brief line for the Photopass lantern photo. This special photo is offered during regular park hours but often has a sizable wait. We only had to wait for one family in front of us.

Following our Tangled vibe, we walked back over to “it’s a small world” and not only was there no wait, we ended up having an entire boat completely to ourselves. 

After we got off “it’s a small world” we found that a large portion of Fantasyland had been closed down. Much like delaying, or even canceling, a fireworks show due to high winds, Disney will close parts of Fantasyland for safety when they do have the show and high winds are a possibility. That night, all of Fantasyland behind the castle was closed from about 10:25PM to 11:20PM. This included Princess Fairytale Hall, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel, and Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train. We dashed across the area they were closing off and made our way to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. For those keeping track it was now about 10:40PM. 

Upon exiting the Hundred Acre Wood, we had two options: we could dash around to the front of the castle to see the second fireworks show that was about to start or continue ride hopping. For anyone reading this to decide if this event is for them, the crowds in front of the castle for the second fireworks show are generally negligible compared to normal fireworks crowds, so worth considering for others who attend. We opted to continue riding rides and headed toward Tomorrowland. On the way we made a DAS come-back time for Tron. It was the only ride during the actual event we needed to use DAS on. 

In Tomorrowland we did a quick pit stop to grab popcorn and ice cream to fuel up for the remainder of the night. None of us are huge fans of popcorn (it’s okay, but we don’t eat buckets of it) and it was a chilly night so ice cream wasn’t really ideal, so this ended up being our only food stop. Now if there had been coffee somewhere besides on Main Street, we probably would have been all about that.

After our fuel up we decided to ride the PeopleMover where we got to see the fireworks over the castle as we rode by. 

Then, before the fireworks had ended, we rushed over to ride Space Mountain with no wait. 

By the time we wound our way out of Space Mountain (there may have been no wait but we still had to walk forever to the front of the queue and then back out), the fireworks were done and all the people had rushed to Tron and the ride wait time for it spiked to 45 minutes. But since we had already made our DAS and passed our comeback time, we passed through the lightning lane to ride with only a minimal wait at the end of the queue. 

To finish up Tomorrowland we backtracked a little to ride Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, where we made Planetary Pilot, Ranger 1st Class, and Space Cadet…one of us is really not good at this ride (looking at you Lyn). 

As we exited Buzz Lightyear it was officially past midnight, and again for those keeping track, we had knocked out four attractions, including two that often have an hour wait or more (Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear) and one that has stiff competition to ride during regular hours (looking at you TRON virtual queue) in only about an hour. 

While we had definitely had a very successful night up to that point, we were starting to flag. We decided to get in one more ride before calling it a night. We made the very long journey (or so it felt at the time) from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland to ride Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid. What better way to get us pepped up for the trek to the busses and then to our room than some fabulous songs to sing-along to. 

With that final ride, which we exited at 12:25AM, we were ready to throw the towel in. We did manage to stop for some cute photos on the nearly empty Main Street USA and then drug our tired selves back to our room to collapse. 

Overall, we felt it was an excellent event and well worth the money! To not only be able to hop from ride to ride to ride, but also to experience the park with such low crowd levels was a real treat. 


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