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How to enjoy Disney After Hours: Tips and tricks to get the most out of the theme parks' nighttime extravaganza

Is Disney After Hours worth it? Popverse breaks down the cost.

Magic Kingdom Park After Hours promo image
Image credit: Disney

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There’s nothing quite like a trip to Disney World, but not every part of the trip can feel magical. The big crowds, long attraction lines, expensive food, and hot weather can really dampen the experience.

What if I told you there was a way to experience Disney World without these problems?

Enter Disney After Hours. During this event, guests can experience Disney World theme parks without huge crowds. The lines are short (sometimes non-existent), free snacks are available, and the event is at night, so you won’t be roasting in the sun. Is this the ultimate Disney experience, or is it too good to be true?

I sampled Disney After Hours a few times to see for myself, and I’ve put my findings in this guide. If you’re thinking of purchasing a Disney After Hours ticket, but aren’t sure if it’s worth it, this guide will break down all the pros and cons. Plus, I’ll share my tips and tricks on how to get the most out of Disney After Hours.

Let’s dive in…

What is Disney After Hours

Disney After Hours at Hollywood Studios
Image credit: Popverse

Disney After Hours is a nighttime event held at Walt Disney World theme parks. During Disney After Hours, guests can enter the theme park after closing for a limited capacity event. In other words, you can experience Disney World while it’s virtually empty, and most of the rides have reduced (or non-existent) wait times. During Disney After Hours, vendors throughout the park offer unlimited free popcorn, ice cream, and soft drinks.

(The unlimited snacks are awesome, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the event)

Currently, Disney After Hours is being offered at Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Typhoon Lagoon. There is currently no Disney After Hours event for Animal Kingdom. Disney runs the After Hours event for a few months each year. Each park has selected dates, but new dates are sometimes added. Recently, Disney extended their After Hours event, so it’s now running through the end of the summer.

Prices vary depending on the park and the day, but you can typically expect to spend roughly $165. However, Typhoon Lagoon After Hours is considerably cheaper, running around $75. Discounts are available through travel agents and if you’re a Disney Vacation Club Member.

I’ve visited Disney After Hours on multiple occasions, and sometimes I’ve been charged for parking, while other times nobody has been at the parking booth. To be safe, expect to pay for parking. If it winds up being free, consider that a bonus.

The current dates for Magic Kingdom Park After Hours can be found here.

The current dates for EPCOT After Hours can be found here.

The current dates for Hollywood Studios After Hours can be found here.

The current dates for Typhoon Lagoon After Hours can be found here.

Tickets can be purchased on the Disney After Hours website.

Is Disney After Hours worth it?

Tron Lightcycle Run ride at Magic Kingdom promo image
Image credit: Disney

It depends on what you value in your theme park experience. If you have never been to a Walt Disney World theme park and this is your only chance to go, then I wouldn’t recommend Disney After Hours. The experience is only three hours long (though it could be six if you take advantage of early admission), which is too short for your only trip to Disney World. If you’re traveling from out of state, you will probably want your Disney experience to be longer. In that case, a multi-day park pass might be better for you.

If you’re a Florida resident who has visited Disney before, or have the means to visit Disney again, then I would recommend After Hours. It’s a great way to enjoy the park with massively reduced crowds. The ticket prices vary depending on which date you choose, but you’re generally looking at the $165 range. This is a bit much for a 3-6 hour event, but remember there is unlimited free popcorn, ice cream, and soft drinks. Try to factor that into your budget.

If you go to theme parks for rides, then Disney After Hours is absolutely worth it. The lines are almost non-existent, with most rides being walk-ons. In the span of three hours, you can probably do more rides than you normally would during an eight hour visit on a busy day.

During a normal day, rides like Tron Lightcycle Run require you to purchase Lightning Lane (it’s a fast pass thing) on the Walt Disney World App. There is no regular standby line. However, during Disney After Hours Tron Lightcycle Run has a standby line…and it’s usually pretty short due to the reduced capacity.

However, if you visit Disney parks for live entertainment and character experiences, Disney After Hours might not be for you. While Disney After Hours has character meet and greets and some of the live shows, not every experience or walkaround character will be available. If you want the full Disney World experience, you should purchase a day ticket…preferably on a day that isn’t busy.

If you’ve been to Disney World many times, I would still recommend After Hours. You’ll see the various theme parks (Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Typhoon Lagoon) in ways you never have before. The sight of Magic Kingdom’s Main Street without a huge crowd of people is something a regular parkgoer doesn’t see often.

Plus, Disney After Hours is great for a date night, a fun evening with the kids, or a solo outing. For more on that, see the individual sections later in this guide.

Pros and Cons of Disney After Hours

Disney Magic Kingdom fireworks
Image credit: Popverse

If you need to weigh the pros and cons of purchasing a Disney After Hours ticket, here are some things to keep in mind.

Pros
  • No crowds.
  • Short wait times, allowing you to ride more in three hours than you would on an eight hour summer day visit.
  • Unlimited free popcorn, ice cream bars, and soft drinks.
  • Cooler weather (essential when visiting Disney).
Cons
  • Some park experiences won’t be available.
  • The event is only three hours long, so there isn’t much time to stop and smell the roses. However, you can offset this by arriving early. Disney lets guests in a few hours before the event officially starts. (For more on specific hours, see the tips section of this guide)
  • The event price is more than a single day park ticket. This is offset by the unlimited free snacks and soft drinks, but it’s still a discouraging price.

Tips for enjoying Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom Park

Cinderella's Castle at Magic Kingdom promo image
Image credit: Disney

Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom Park runs from 10:00pm through 1:00am, but you could arrive as early as 7:00pm. Upon arrival, look for the Disney After Hours signs, and a cast member will give you a wristband. This allows you to experience the park before After Hours officially begins at 10:00pm.

Once After Hours begins, you will experience the park at reduced capacity with shorter lines. There will be food stands throughout the park offering unlimited free popcorn, soft drinks, and ice cream. In addition, there will be costumed characters available for photo opportunities.

To get the most out of your Magic Kingdom After Hours trip, follow these tips…

  • Take advantage of the early arrival option and get to the park by 7:00pm. Those extra three hours can make a huge difference.
  • Give yourself extra time to get from the parking lot to the park gate. Magic Kingdom’s parking lot is on the other side of a lagoon. After exiting your car, you’ll either take a ferryboat or the monorail to the park. If your goal is to enter the gate at exactly 7:00pm, I would try to park by 6:20pm.
  • Give yourself extra time for the drive. Orlando traffic can be unpredictable, especially near Disney World in the evening.
  • The unlimited snacks and drinks are a wonderful part of the experience, so don’t fill up on food prior to arrival.
  • Save popular rides like Tron Lightcycle Run for the end of the night. Everyone will be rushing to the popular attractions at the beginning, which makes most of the other rides walk-ons. By the end of the night, lines for rides like Tron Lightcycle Run are much shorter. In my experience, the queue time for Tron fluctuated throughout the night, but it was consistently the longest. Head towards the ride around 12:45pm.
  • Don’t stress about riding every attraction. Magic Kingdom is a big theme park, so there’s a lot to get to. Make a list of 8-12 rides that are a priority and concentrate on those. If you have extra time, then worry about the rest.
  • Watch the Disney Enchantment nighttime spectacular. It’s a fireworks and lightshow that will warm your heart. Yes, it takes some time away from the rides, but it’s worth it.

Tips for enjoying Disney After Hours at EPCOT

EPCOT After Hours promo image
Image credit: Disney

Disney After Hours at EPCOT runs from 10:00pm through 1:00am, but you could arrive as early as 7:00pm. Upon arrival, look for the Disney After Hours signs, and a cast member will give you a wristband. This allows you to experience the park before After Hours officially begins at 10:00pm.

Once After Hours begins, you will experience the park at reduced capacity with shorter lines. There will be food stands throughout the park offering unlimited free popcorn, soft drinks, and ice cream. In addition, there will be a DJ dance party and costumed characters available for photo opportunities.

To get the most out of your EPCOT After Hours trip, follow these tips…

  • Take advantage of the early arrival option and get to the park by 7:00pm. Those extra three hours can make a huge difference.
  • Give yourself extra time for the drive. Orlando traffic can be unpredictable, especially near Disney World in the evening.
  • The unlimited snacks and drinks are a wonderful part of the experience, so don’t fill up on food prior to arrival.
  • Save popular rides like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind for the end of the night. Everyone will be rushing to the popular attractions at the beginning, which makes most of the other rides walk-ons. By the end of the night, lines for rides like Cosmic Rewind are virtually non-existent. Head towards the ride around 12:45pm. (That being said, in my experience all rides will have short lines regardless. Cosmic Rewind is only slightly longer)

Tips for enjoying Disney After Hours at Hollywood Studios

Onboard the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride at Disney Hollywood Studios
Image credit: Popverse

Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom Park runs from 9:30pm through 12:30am, but you could arrive as early as 7:00pm. Upon arrival, look for the Disney After Hours signs, and a cast member will give you a wristband. This allows you to experience the park before After Hours officially begins at 10:00pm.

Once After Hours begins, you will experience the park at reduced capacity with shorter lines. There will be food stands throughout the park offering unlimited free popcorn, soft drinks, and ice cream. In addition, there will be costumed characters available for photo opportunities.

To get the most out of your Hollywood Studios After Hours trip, follow these tips…

  • Take advantage of the early arrival option and get to the park by 7:00pm. Those extra two and a half hours can make a huge difference.
  • Give yourself extra time for the drive. Orlando traffic can be unpredictable, especially near Disney World in the evening.
  • The unlimited snacks and drinks are a wonderful part of the experience, so don’t fill up on food prior to arrival.
  • If you arrive prior to 9:30pm, save Galaxy’s Edge (aka Star Wars Land) for later. The lines will be long as that area is popular, and the day ticket guests will still be in the park. Use the time to ride other attractions like Toy Story Mania or Tower of Terror.
  • If you like live entertainment, check out Disney’s Fantastmic. The show starts at 8:30pm, but if you want seating you need to arrive earlier. While this does cut into your ride time, there will still be plenty of time to enjoy the park’s attractions before 12:30am.
  • As of this writing (spring 2024) Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is closed for refurbishment, which means there are only 8 attractions available. This means that it’s entirely possible to do all of them in one night. Just keep in mind that the Star Wars rides in Galaxy’s Edge have the most traffic, even during After Hours.

Tips for enjoying Disney H2O Glow After Hours at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon

Typhoon Lagoon After Hours promo image
Image credit: Disney

Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom Park runs from 8:00pm through 11:00pm, but you could arrive as early as 6:00pm. Upon arrival, look for the Disney After Hours signs, and a cast member will give you a wristband. This allows you to experience the water park before After Hours officially begins at 8:00pm.

Once After Hours begins, you will experience the water park at reduced capacity with shorter lines. There will be food stands throughout the park offering unlimited free popcorn, soft drinks, and ice cream. In addition, there will be costumed characters available for photo opportunities. There will also be a DJ dance party, with some of your favorite Disney characters joining in the fun.

To get the most out of your Typhoon Lagoon After Hours trip, follow these tips…

  • Take advantage of the early arrival option and get to the park by 6:00pm. Those extra two hours can make a huge difference.
  • Give yourself extra time for the drive. Orlando traffic can be unpredictable, especially near Disney World in the evening.
  • The unlimited snacks and drinks are a wonderful part of the experience, so don’t fill up on food prior to arrival.
  • Weather in Florida can be unpredictable, particularly in the summer. Check the weather for the date you choose. A thunderstorm can end your fun quickly. If you haven’t redeemed your ticket yet, Disney customer service can change the date.
  • Complimentary towels are available if you’re hesitant to bring your own.
  • Disney has a dress code, so don’t bring any inappropriate bathing suits. Bathing suits with zippers, buckles, or other exposed metal are prohibited.

Disney After Hours as a date night

Disney After Hours/Magic Kingdom date night
Image credit: Popverse

I took my girlfriend to Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom for a surprise date night, and we had a blast. It’s an expensive date night, but the experience was worth it. Magic Kingdom could be a very romantic place, especially at night. We watched Disney Enchantment, Magic Kingdom’s nighttime fireworks and lightshow spectacular. The music, the fireworks and beautiful imagery had us tearing up.

Another highlight was riding Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. The dark ride kept us in a romantic mood, making us feel like we were in a fairy tale. My girlfriend and I aren’t bar or nightclub people, but we enjoy theme parks. Due to traffic and scheduling issues, we got to the park a little after 9:00pm, and we were able to do 8 rides before the park shut down at 1:00am.

If we could do it again, I would probably arrive as close to 7:00pm as possible. Those extra pregaming hours are a big deal, especially since the main event is only three hours long. We saved Tron Lightcycle Run for last due to its long wait time, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to the line until 1:03am, and by then they weren’t letting anyone else on.

You can skip Disney Enchantment if you want more time on the rides, but if you’re doing Magic Kingdom After Hours as a date night, then Disney Enchantment is essential. If you can afford it, Disney After Hours is perfect for a date night, especially if you’re hitting Magic Kingdom Park. While it may be more costly than dinner and a movie, you get a lot of great value out of it. The memories are more than worth the price. At various times my girlfriend and I both remarked that we wished the night would never end.

Disney After Hours with kids

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride line
Image credit: Popverse

A week after taking my girlfriend to Disney After Hours, I took her two sons for a ‘guys night.’ This time around, I picked Hollywood Studios because all three of us are crazy for Star Wars. My girlfriend’s kids are 7 and 13, which is a good age for a Disney theme park night.

Young boys love snacking, so the unlimited free ice cream, popcorn, and soda were a big deal to them. We made sure not to eat anything in the hours leading up to our arrival, this way our stomachs would be empty, and our appetites would be prepared. It was a special night, so I figured I would let them indulge.

We arrived at 7:00pm, allowing us to get the most out of our night. Upon arrival, we immediately got seats for Fantasmic, Hollywood Studios’ nighttime show. I was advised that Fantasmic seating fills up fast, so we should get there immediately upon arrival. This meant that our first two hours at the park were spent waiting for the show and watching the show. If your kids are more into rides, then you could spend this time experiencing the attractions.

Since Hollywood Studios has less rides than Magic Kingdom Park, I wasn’t worried. However, if you have seen Fantasmic before, or don’t care about live shows, I would recommend immediately hitting the rides. With Hollywood Studios After Hours, it is absolutely possible to experience every ride, especially if you arrive at 7:00pm.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is currently down for refurbishment, and the boys were too scared for Tower of Terror, but Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge was their jam. We spent most of our time there, riding Rise of the Resistance multiple times. This left little time for some of the other attractions, but that’s okay. On a typical day, Galaxy’s Edge is one of the most crowded areas of the park, with the Rise of the Resistance queue regularly reaching 90 minutes or longer. Being able to ride Rise of the Resistance multiple times makes the price of admission worth it. Both boys also had a sense of wonder in their eyes as they boarded the Millenium Falcon for the first time for Smugglers Run.

Galaxy’s Edge did feel less alive than it usually does during normal operating hours. There weren’t any costumed characters walking around, and some of the stores and food service places weren’t open. Part of the appeal of Galaxy’s Edge is how each cast member stays in character, making you feel like you’re experiencing part of Star Wars. This was partially absent here, but the boys could’ve cared less. They got to pilot the Millenium Falcon, and ride Rise of the Resistance over and over again.

If you have the patience (and budget) for taking kids to theme parks, then Hollywood Studios After Hours is worth it. The sun is down, so the kids won’t complain about the heat. The lines are short, so they won’t get bored or agitated. Plus, you’ll make your money back on the unlimited free snacks. Any person who does outings with kids knows how much they can eat, and how expensive that can get.

Attending Disney After Hours solo

Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind ride
Image credit: Disney

Alternatively, you can attend Disney After Hours solo. EPCOT After Hours was the last event to sample, and I thought it might be fun to try it by myself. Having learned my lesson from my Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom visits, I made sure to arrive as early as possible. I got to the park at 7:14pm, giving me almost 6 hours to experience everything. Since I was by myself, I was able to move at my own speed.

As a Marvel fan, I immediately went to Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. The wait was long because the regular day guests were still at the park. This is one of the most popular attractions at the park, so this wasn’t a surprise. Had I gone after 10:00pm, I would’ve had a shorter wait time, but I wanted to ride it immediately. If your impulse control is better than mine, I would suggest experiencing some of the less popular rides first. Their lines are shorter, and this way you’ll have some of the attractions out of the way by the time the regular guests leave at 10:00pm. Then you can ride Cosmic Rewind with less of a wait. That’s what I should’ve done, but my inner Marvel fanboy was too excited.

If you plan it right, you can ride every attraction before EPCOT closes at 1:00am. However, the beauty of doing a theme park day by yourself is that you can relax and take it easy. Therefore, I decided not to worry about getting all the rides done, and just what I felt like. I snacked and I enjoyed watching Chip and Dale dance during the DJ dance party. I rode Spaceship Earth and Frozen Ever After multiple times. And of course, I ended the night with another ride on Cosmic Rewind.

I didn’t do every ride, but I got to do 6 of them, which I feel is pretty good. If you want to do Disney After Hours as a solo event, you certainly can. While I had a great time by myself, I found that the event was more fun when I did it with others.

With that in mind, I hope you all have a good time at Disney After Hours! If you have any tips or tricks of your own, feel free to share them in the comments section.

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Joshua Lapin-Bertone avatar
Joshua Lapin-Bertone: Joshua is a pop culture writer specializing in comic book media. His work has appeared on the official DC Comics website, the DC Universe subscription service, HBO Max promotional videos, the Batman Universe fansite, and more. In between traveling around the country to cover various comic conventions, Joshua resides in Florida where he binges superhero television and reads obscure comics from yesteryear.
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