There’s a lot of talk about regarding the price of tickets at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It certainly can’t be argued that going to the parks is cheap, but if you get up early and stay late, you can do your best to get your money’s worth out of what you spend. The parks tend to be open for a long time, i.e. most of the day, so you have plenty of time to try and do as much inside the parks as possible. Unless, of course, there’s an After Hours event that closes a park early.
I’d always felt like After Hours events, like Christmas or Halloween parties, just weren’t worth it. They always cost more than a standard park ticket at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and the party runs fewer hours than a normal day, so you simply have less time in the park, especially per dollar spent, than normal. But recently, Walt Disney World invited me to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (full disclosure: as a guest, I did not pay for the ticket), and I have to say my opinion on these events has changed somewhat. I’m now looking forward to attending more of them in the future.
The Vibe In The Park Is Simply Different
The difference between a normal day at Magic Kingdom and the After Hours experience can be felt almost as soon as you enter the park. Part of that was likely it just being my first exposure to Christmas for the season, but there’s something more going on too. Walk into the Magic Kingdom on a normal day, and everybody in the park is there looking for a good time. Everybody is a Disney fan to some degree, but walk in to a hard ticket-only Christmas party at Magic Kingdom, and everybody is there because they want something special and different, just like you. You are among your people.
It’s hard to put a dollar value on ambiance, but it has value for me, and just being inside Magic Kingdom for this special event felt different. Some of it was the music and decorations that are also around during the day, but there's something even less tangible about it all. It's a party after all, so everybody is there to have a different sort of fun.
The Park Doesn’t Feel Less Crowded, Except When It Does
One of the benefits of the hard ticket events is that fewer tickets are sold than what the park usually sees in a day, which means that there should be less competition for the normal Disney World stuff that you want to do. For the most part, I wouldn’t have guessed that Magic Kingdom had less people in it. It didn’t feel less crowded while walking around, but every time I got in line for a ride, I realized that there were a lot fewer people around.
The first thing that I did after entering Magic Kingdom was get in line for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the newest Magic Kingdom attraction with normally the longest line in the park. I waited about 10 minutes. I wouldn’t even have gotten in line if it had been a long wait, as I don’t actually love the ride enough to wait a long time, but for a wait like that, it's no brainer. Even later in the night when the line got longer, it was still much shorter than normal.
Immediately after the special Christmas fireworks show, I decided to ride Space Mountain (more on that in a second), and I was not the only one. The line was so long that it stretched outside the show building, a spot that would normally be a significant wait, but the line was clearly due to only a “comparatively” large number of people getting in it. I was again through in about 10 minutes (though the fact that both Space Mountain tracks were available due to a lack of Lightning Lane functionality probably didn’t hurt).
That’s not to say there were never lines. My attempts to try a Holiday Dog at Casey’s Corner were thwarted by a post-parade line out the door, and mobile ordering was not available during the event, which kinda sucks, but these instances were few and far between.
The Unique Offerings Are Worth Checking Out
The major draw of After Hours events is that they offer things that are simply not normally available. This can be special character interactions or PhotoPass locations, as well as unique attractions. For Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, we got a parade and fireworks, as well as a unique holiday-themed Space Mountain.
The parade and fireworks were a lot of fun, as they almost always are at Disney Parks, and they were real. Maybe I always felt that a parade and fireworks show meant for a limited number of people would be something lesser, but the parade actually felt longer than ones I had seen previously. Though granted, due to the general lack of parades in the last two years, it's been a while since I’d even seen one.
The holiday-themed Space Mountain was… interesting. I don't want to oversell it, it was just some Christmas music piped into the ride with some red and green lights going off in the dark. It felt like somebody had sent a roller coaster through a Christmas Glow Bowl night. It wasn’t a retheme like when we see Disneyland’s Space Mountain sometimes become the Star Wars-themed Hyperspace Mountain, but it was still fun and worth doing.
There were also some other fun little add-ons. I have a commemorative Christmas ornament, and several locations offered free hot cocoa and cookies (the type of cookies varying depending on the location), which was nice and added to the general holiday vibe.
I’ll Be Checking Out Future After Hours Events At Disney World And Disneyland
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that if you’ve never been to a park that you plan to make an After Hours event for your first experience. While you can probably still hit as many rides in the short window as you can during a normal day due to the shorter lines, you’ll be missing out on what the event has to offer that’s special. This works best for people who have experienced a lot of what a park has to offer and are looking for something different.
As noted above, I didn’t pay for my ticket to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Having said that, assuming prices for such events don’t get too much higher in the future, I’ll certainly be willing to spend that money for other events that interest me. Disneyland’s Oogie Boogie Bash gets a lot of praise every Halloween, and there are always other events announced throughout the year. Having been to the parks many times, having a different sort of experience inside them is fun and worth spending a bit more money in order to have it.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
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