Cut the Wait: Disney After Hours Events Coming to Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom

Nov 12, 2018

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We won’t blame you if you can’t keep all the names straight for the various “special” events that Disney World offers. One of the top reasons to stay at a Disney World Resort, Extra Magic Hours, are those hours — beyond park opening time — where you get access to at least one park each day. But, don’t confuse Extra Magic with Early Morning Magic. Early Morning Magic is definitely not free, but it will give you access to some of the best rides in the parks prior to normal operating hours (and it is getting even bigger and better at the Magic Kingdom soon). These events add to your Disney final expense total, but cut significantly into your ride wait times, allowing you to do more in less time.

Most of those events are largely morning offerings — if you’re more of a night owl, Disney After Hours (another pay extra to play event), is probably more your speed. And, this event is expanding to two new parks.

New Magic Kingdom Disney After Hours Dates

First things first, Disney World has announced new dates for Magic Kingdom Disney After Hours events. After Hours events aren’t new to the Magic Kingdom, but here are the newly announced dates:

Enjoy classic attractions, from the Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain, as well as newer favorites like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, plus many more. Event nights will operate on: Nov. 26; and Dec. 3 and 10, 2018; and Jan. 7, 17, 24 and 28, 2019; Feb. 7, 14 and 28, 2019; and March 7, 2019.

Since the Magic Kingdom After Hours event has been around for a bit, we know a little more about what those events look like. Your ticket means you can access that park as early as 7pm on the night of your Disney After Hours event. Included in the cost of the ticket is ice cream, popcorn and certain beverages. Don’t expect free $15 Mickey balloons, but free snacks takes a bit of the sting out of the $125 + tax price tag ($129+ if you purchase it same-day).

(Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

There’s also an official list of attractions open at the Magic Kingdom during Disney After Hours. Quite a few of the attractions on this list (Splash Mountain, Jungle Cruise) aren’t included in evening Extra Magic Hours, so this event does provide some additional late-night access you might not otherwise find with smaller crowds. Depending on which date you attend, you’ll get three hours of dedicated park time with much smaller crowds, stretching as late as midnight on the current schedule.

Disney After Hours at Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is a smaller park, easy enough to get done in one day. That being said, the addition of Toy Story Land makes it a bit tougher to do everything, especially if you aren’t a morning person and/or didn’t score some of the most popular FastPass+ reservations. The description on the new Disney After Hours events at Hollywood Studios are a bit more vague:

Imagine having little-to-no wait for newly opened Toy Story Land attractions, including Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania! Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and other attractions will also be available. Select quick-service food and beverage locations will also stay open for purchases throughout the night. Event nights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be: Dec. 8, 15 and 22, 2018; and Jan. 5, 12 and 19, 2019; Feb. 2, 9 and 16, 2019; March 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, 2019; and April 6 and 13, 2019.

That list contains just about every ride currently operating in Hollywood Studios.

(photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom has rides spread out over a larger area. Up until the recent opening of Pandora — World of Avatar, you’d frequently find an early closing time slapped on the park. Avatar changed everything, and the crowds at Animal Kingdom reflect that. The announcement of Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom appears to be a welcome one for Avatar fans:

Enjoy the best Disney’s Animal Kingdom has to offer at night, including heart-tugging Tree of Life Awakenings, the adventures within Pandora – The World of Avatar and more. Select quick-service food and beverage locations will remain open throughout the night for purchases. Dates at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are: Dec. 4, 12 and 18, 2018; and Jan. 8, 16, 22 and 31, 2019; and Feb. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 26, 2019; and March 5, 20 and 27, 2019; and April 3, 2019.

(Photo courtesy of Disney)

Bottom Line

Just like with Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Christmas Parties, you don’t have to have a separate theme park ticket for the day you attend an after-hours event, as long as you don’t enter until 7pm. Since these events are new to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, the exact inclusions aren’t quite as clear just yet, so keep your eyes peeled for those details as the events start up in December..

If you’re a Disney Vacation Club member or annual passholder, your price for any of the Disney After Hours events drops to $95 + tax. That’s more reasonable than the standard $125, but still pricy for no more than five hours in a park when you already have year-round access.

Is it worth it? It depends on how much patience you (and/or your children have), as well as how the rest of your trip is structured. For example, TPG Family Senior Editor Summer Hull just experienced a two-hour wait with her family to ride Slinky Dog Dash on an impromptu trip to Disney World when no good FastPass+ attractions were available (and they arrived too late in the day to rope-drop). The new roller coaster in Toy Story Land is awesome, but I’m pretty sure my kids would rather do just about anything than wait in line two hours for one ride. But, they would happily stay up a little late to ride without a big wait.

Our advice? If you’re interested, look for one of the nights when Disney After Hours runs from 9pm to midnight. That gives you five hours in the parks with the 7pm early access, and three hours where the crowds will be smaller. You won’t be able to make FastPass+ selections for after the park officially closes, but if you follow our ultimate guide to Disney World, you can maximize your trip.

If you want to use points to cover the cost of some of your Disney tickets, here are our tips. Otherwise, we recommend charging Disney tickets to a card that awards a bonus on entertainment purchases, such as the Citi Premier Card (2 points per dollar) or Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card (4% cash back).

And, if you’re truly a Disney nut like we are, keep in mind that extended nights like these will disqualify you from trying to ride every ride in one day. But, is anyone else really that crazy?

Featured image courtesy of David Roark for Disney

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