When Disney Parks announced their After Hours Events, I was quick to judge the extra- ticketed event. Although Disney still has extra magic hours, they’ve become less of a focus, and it seems as though the focus has shifted towards After Hours Events. My view on the event, which is not included in your park admission, changed when I attended the After Hours event at Hollywood Studios over the weekend.
Disney After Hours are special-ticketed events that let guests explore their favorite parks and attractions with very low crowd levels. I was skeptical to this, I haven’t seen low crowds at Disney World since 2007 when I went the second week in January and it was their “off season.” Any Disney fanatic will tell you that there really isn’t an off season anymore. That being said, I was shocked at how little the crowds were. Upon arrival, you will check in at a wristband distribution area. You’ll be given a wristband and it will constantly be checked through out the night. There are cast members at the event whose sole job is to check wristbands.
Not all After Hours are the same. Some are on different nights, some are longer than others, and Epcot doesn’t have After Hours at all. The Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are the 3 parks that participate in the event.
Tickets to the event are $125 per adult and child, or $129 if purchased on the day of event. If you are an Annual Passholder, tickets are a little cheaper at $95 per adult and child. Our After Hours at Hollywood Studios was 9:30 pm- 12:30 am. Guests are allowed to enter the park hosting the party, at 7:00 pm. I do not recommend entering earlier. You will still have lines and crowds, and if your plan is to go until After Hours ends, it’s best to go when it starts. We entered Hollywood Studios at 9:00 pm, as they were closing for the night. To say we felt like a VIP is an understatement. As the crowds of people were leaving, we were the select few walking the opposite direction into the park.
Most of the attractions are available for the event. More importantly, Toy Story Land is completely open. The three attractions in it, Woody’s Lunch Box, and character meet and greats (Woody, Buzz and Jessie) are all accessible during the event. By habit, we headed to Toy Story Land first. If there were any crowds at this event, this is where they were. I use the word “crowds,” loosely because if you’ve been to Toy Story Land during peak times, then you know what crowds are.
Our first stop was Slinky Dog Dash. We had ridden this ride before, thanks in large part to Disney’s DAS Pass. I know several families who have been to the Walt Disney World Resort many times since Toy Story Land opened, and they still haven’t been able to obtain a Fast Pass for it. The line for Slinky Dog during After Hours was only 5 minutes. After Slinky Dog we did the Alien Saucer’s, Slinky Dog for a second time (we couldn’t resists, it was so cool to do this ride at night), and then Midway Mania. We spent over an hour in Toy Story Land and left feeling like for the first time we truly got to experience all it had to offer. We weren’t sweating from the sun beating down on us, and we weren’t frustrated due to over crowding. It was exactly how Toy Story Land should be experienced. Our next stop was Star Tours. There was no wait and we walked right on. Our kids enjoyed seeing all the droids in the wait ques, in fact that was the only stopping we did. We stopped to actually take in the scenery and magic around us. After Star Tours, we were headed to The Tower of Terror.
As we walked from Star Tours to Tower of Terror, the park was empty. So empty, I was able to actually sit right in the middle of the Main Street area, and snap a picture (talk about a true, Millennial Social Influencer moment!). As we made our way down Sunset Boulevard, my husband and I had a chance to actually admire and appreciate what a beautiful park Hollywood Studios is. We approached Tower of Terror, and keeping in trend with the theme of the night, there was no line and we walked right on.
After we checked out of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, it was about time to leave. Our family was “Disney tired.” We left feeling like we had gotten to do everything we wanted, and certainly everything we hope to do during the day time at Hollywood Studios. The past five times we’ve been to Hollywood Studios as a family, we’ve left only doing two rides and feeling frustrated. Leaving After Hours, we felt complete! I even told my husband that I didn’t realize how fun a park Hollywood Studios was, especially at night.
Here comes the big Q: Was it worth the price of admission? Yes, but it’s more complex than that. Speaking in terms of being a regular person on vacation at Disney World, yes. You don’t need a park ticket, you only need a ticket for the event. I would advise a party traveling, to do one less day of a ticket and just purchase the ticket for the party to whichever park that want to attend for the After Hours event. You’re not saving any money, in fact you are spending a little more, but you will get done in 3 hours what you will absolutely not be able to accomplish during the day. If you don’t have a Fast Pass for Slinky Dog Dash or other popular rides, you will have a way better time attending the event and are guaranteed to ride the popular rides.
If you’re a Passholder, you already have your ticket for the year. You would be spending an additional $95 to attend the event. If that doesn’t matter to you, then do it. If you’re an AP on a budget and still want to attend, my advice would be to sacrifice a signature dining experience, and use your money towards an After Hours event.
Know Before You Go: All you can eat popcorn, Mickey ice cream bars and soda are included in the price of a ticket. I can’t even begin to explain how unnatural it is walking up to an ice cream cart and not paying for the coveted Mickey treat, but you get used to it and feel the need to have more than 1 through out the night (ok- maybe 3, but whose counting?). There are no other snacks available, even to purchase. All the restaurants are closed, including Starbucks. Make sure to eat dinner and get your coffee before entering. Knowing this, we would have gone in a little earlier before the park closed, to get our Starbucks fix. A huge plus is, Disney’s Photo Pass is available for the entire event. We were able to get some great family shots, without the crowds in the background!
I can’t speak on After Hours at Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom, but Hollywood Studios was truly magical. The park was empty, but managed to feel alive at the same time. Something we hadn’t felt from Hollywood Studios in a long time, if ever. After Hours certainly brought new life to a park on the verge of greatness, with the opening of Galaxy’s Edge in the coming months. We would love to experience After Hours at the other two parks, and hopefully they will include Epcot in its line up, in the near future. I highly recommend the After Hours event at Hollywood Studios.
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