Disney After Hours Is the Best Way to Experience Hollywood Studios
Walt Disney World/David Roark, photographer
Even if you go to Walt Disney World every single year and consider yourself a veteran of the parks, it’s impossible to do everything at the resort. Beyond the four theme parks and two water parks, there are over 50 rides and attractions, not to mention dozens of shows, over 200 restaurants, 20-plus resort hotels and endless attractions and things to see that don’t even require a park ticket. It’s a lot! Knocking anything off your Disney bucket list — such as riding every single ride at one of the parks — is a challenge to get done in a single day, let alone in just a single hour. But thanks to a relatively new event, Disney After Hours, that’s totally possible.
If you haven't heard of Disney After Hours events, don’t worry. They quietly launched in the Magic Kingdom in 2016 and rolled out at the other two parks in November 2018.
These “hard ticket events” (meaning they’re not included in normal park admission) allow an extremely limited number of guests to enjoy the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom for three hours after the parks have closed to standard guests. Most rides are still open, and attendees can eat all the popcorn, ice cream treats and bottled sodas they desire, and other items, like hot dogs and chicken nuggets, are for sale.
Of course, the tickets cost a pretty penny: $125. Are they worth that extra cost on top of an already pricey vacation? The Active Times recently had the chance to experience a Disney After Hours event at Hollywood Studios for ourselves — and we can comfortably say yes.
When Disney says that these events are kept to extremely limited numbers, they mean it. As we walked around the park, it wasn’t unusual not to see another soul walking down the same pathways. And typically bustling rides that almost always have wait times exceeding 60 minutes — such as Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Slinky Dog Dash — are walk-ons.
Photo Credit: Carolyn Menyes/The Active Times
Because the crowds are so thin after hours, you have the ability to breeze right past the pre-shows and other fanfare you’d have to partake in before getting on these rides. This theme park fan walked on, rode and got off Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in a matter of five minutes. In fact, if you plan your time at a Disney After Hours event at Hollywood Studios correctly, you can ride every single ride in the park in that hour you’d typically spend waiting in line for just one of these attractions.
Admittedly, Hollywood Studios isn’t filled to the brim with actual rides. A good chunk of the park is taken up by shows and meet-and-greets. As of this writing, there are just six rides at the theme park: Alien Swirling Saucers, Toy Story Mania, Slinky Dog Dash, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and Star Tours. (Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and the two rides in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge are due to open in the coming year.)
But still, accomplishing all of that in just 60 minutes feels great. The best part of this event is that even after riding all of those rides, you can do it all over again. During After Hours, this writer was able to ride Toy Story Mania three times, Slinky Dog Dash twice and everything else once while going at an extremely leisurely pace. It truly feels like you have the park to yourself, and that’s its own kind of Disney magic. And that's on top of the bright lights that shine on the park during the nighttime, which are already pretty darn magical.
After Hours events are running at Magic Kingdom on Thursdays in May, at Hollywood Studios on most Fridays through June, and at Animal Kingdom on most Tuesdays between May 14 and June 18. When you’re vacationing at Walt Disney World, time is money, and these events are well worth both your time and your money. While about $20 more than a standard day at the parks, booking one of these Disney After Hours events is one of our favorite ways to save money on a Disney vacation.