Though there are many advantages to doing Disney bright and early, visitors to Walt Disney World should try to schedule at least one night to enjoy Disney after the sun has set. Whether it’s watching the fireworks from a unique vantage point, riding your favorite attraction under the cover of darkness, seeing the bioluminescent plants at Pandora – The World or Avatar come to life or enjoying the Disney nightlife, night owls will get to experience and enjoy a very different side to Disney. Here are just a few of the ways that you can experience Disney after dark.
1. Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours – As a general rule of thumb, I usually advise visitors to avoid the parks that are doing Magic Hours in the morning. These parks tend to be the busiest of the day with the largest crowds and the longest lines. However, the same doesn’t necessarily hold true of its late-night counterparts. For instance, the Magic Kingdom stays open on some of these evenings well past midnight, however, there aren’t a lot of families (as you can imagine) that have the stamina to stay up that late. This typically means that you can enjoy many of your favorite rides without the longs lines, hot temperatures and hefty crowds. Extra Magic Hours are also a great time to take some beautiful photos or to a have late night Dole Whip. If you can make it work logistically for your family, definitely try to enjoy a late night at the theme parks.
2. Enjoy the view from outside the theme parks – If hitting the parks late at night isn’t your bag, find another spot to cosy up to watch the evening festivities. Whether it’s catching the Electric Water Pageant from the shores of the Grand Floridian or watching the fireworks from the beaches of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, many Disney resorts offer fantastic intimate spots from which to enjoy nighttime events. For something truly adventurous, why not book in FerryTale Dessert Cruise departing twice a week from the transportation and ticket center you can watch Magic Kingdom’s evening fireworks from the middle of Seven Seas Lagoon. For those that enjoy fine dining, book your family for an evening meal at the California Grill also at the Contemporary Resort and you can enjoy rooftop views of Wishes from the private viewing deck. h Reservations are bookable online or a 407-WDW-DINE.
3. Arrange for a babysitter – With all the excitement of Walt Disney World during the day, it’s not surprising that your little ones might be feeling a bit worn out come dinner time. However, that doesn’t need to stop mom and dad from hitting the town. Instead, take advantage of one of Walt Disney World’s evening babysitting services. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club Resort, Polynesian Village Resort and Walt Disney World’s Dolphin Hotel all have Children’s Activity Centers where children between the ages of 3 and 12 can enjoy a range of fun Disney-themed activities as well as a snack or evening meal. The centers open at 4:30pm each evening and stay open until 11:55 pm. Rates vary depending on the center but range between $15 per hour or $55 per evening. Advanced booking at 407-939-7529 is strongly recommended. Or if your little ones hit the hay early, an alternative may be to take advantage of Disney’s In-Room Babysitting Service. Provided by Kid’s Night Out, rates start at $18 per hour for one child up to $26 per hour for four little ones. Guests can book at 407-828-0420.
4. Consider a Dessert Party – Though I too balk at the idea of having to dish out for premium experiences on-top of my already expensive park tickets, the dessert parties do have one really fantastic advantage-you can enjoy a beautiful view of the evening fireworks displays without having to stake your claim early or push your way through grumpy evening crowds. In addition, guests can enjoy a nice array of delectable late night treats from chocolate covered strawberries to themed cupcakes, cookies, ice cream and for adults a nice array of sparkling beverages. Dessert party options are available at three of the four theme parks. Happily Ever After Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace at the Magic Kingdom Epcot’s Frozen Ever After Dessert Party is filled with lots of Frozen-themed treats and even includes a ride on the Frozen Ever After attraction. Finally, Hollywood Studios is now offering the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party where you can expect a plethora of Star Wars themed sweet treats, Advanced bookings can be made through My Disney Experience and are strongly recommended.
5. Stay for the last two hours of the day – I often recommend visiting the parks during the first two hours of the day for guests who want to be able to enjoy their favorite attractions without the lines. The same rule applies for the end of day. While many people start to line up for the night-time fireworks displays, use this time to enjoy your favorite attractions. You’ll be amazed at how much you can fit into those last 120 minutes.
6. Squeeze in that last-minute ride- One of my favorite Disney late-night secrets is that right up until the parks officially close, you can get in line for your favorite rides. For instance, if the Magic Kingdom closes at 12:00am, squeeze into the line at Space Mountain at 11:59 for one last go. Disney is more than happy to accommodate. Squeezing in one last ride as the park is closing can be a fun little way to end your evening plus it leaves you feeling like the cat that got the cream.
7. Have dinner with a view – Some of the most breathtaking views of the fireworks can be found at one of Disney World’s amazing restaurants. Nowhere is this truer than at Epcot. Many of the pavilions around the World Showcase boast restaurants with fantastic sightlines of IllumiNations. Whether it’s a window with a view at France’s Monsieur Paul’s, an exotic vantage point at Morocco’s Spice Road Table or the pub atmosphere of England’s Rose and Crown. Book your table well in advance as fireworks viewing spots fill up fast and be sure to request a table with a view. Dining reservations can be made online or by calling 407-WDW-DINE.
8. Don’t open and close the parks – Go easy on yourself and if you have a day where you’d like to enjoy some late-night ride time or view the evening fireworks, don’t arrive at the parks for opening. Disney days can be exhausting on visitors young and old. By the time the evening festivities roll around it will feel more like an endurance test and less like an enjoyable activity if you’ve been toughing it out since 9am. Instead, spend your morning relaxing by the pool. Or, if you must, head to the parks for a few hours in the morning, head back to your resort for a siesta and then return back to the parks once the sun goes down.
9. Hit the rides that are better at night – There are some rides at Walt Disney World that are meant to be enjoyed at night. When you are creating your late night touring plan, be sure to include rides best enjoyed under the cover of darkness. For instance It’s a Small World is largely the same ride during the evening as it is a 10 am. However, taking that final plunge on Splash Mountain is a completely different experience in the pitch black then it is at noon. Rides like Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and even Dumbo the Flying Elephant truly lend themselves to late night riding. Starting this past Summer, Animal Kingdom also began offering evening safaris where you can view the animals well into the night. So if you’ve made the decision to go at night, really give some thought to and hit the rides that will offer you an amazing nighttime experience.
10. Head to Disney Springs – When the sun sets, Disney Springs really and truly takes on a life of its own. From shopping, to great place to grab a late night bite to evening entertainment at Cirque du Soleil or House of Blues, Disney’s downtown district is raring to go well into the evening hours. So whether you want to have a night-cap at Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, bowl the night away at Splitsville or enjoy fine dining at one of Disney Spring’s fantastic restaurants, at Disney’s Downtown shopping district is definitely the place to be. And for those staying at a Walt Disney World resort, transportation options run until 2am which means that you don’t need to scurry to grab a cab should you stay out a bit longer than expected.
Next time you decide to pay a visit to Walt Disney World, be sure to schedule in some late night Disney time. Magical Disney memories don’t just happen during the day. As a matter of fact, the best time I’ve ever had with my 6 year old was paying a late night visit to the Magic Kingdom. It was well worth sleeping for a few hours during the day to experience the beauty of the park at 12am, cooler temperatures, and zero wait times. Give it a try. You won’t be sorry you did.
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