Our consideration of Disney After Hours continues with a look at what to expect from the version offered at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Last week, we visited Animal Kingdom for Disney After Hours, which I reviewed here. There were so few people there that entire rows were empty on Flight of Passage versus the 160+ minute wait that you’ll see at the attraction most of the day.
You’ll also find my reviews of Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdomhere and here.
There are 15 Disney After Hours events currently scheduled at Hollywood Studios through the middle of March:
The cost to attend is $125/person in advance or $129 on the day of the event. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members can purchase discounted tickets that cost $95 each. There’s no discounts for kids and pricing is the same as the events at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. Unlike Early Morning Magic, which I review at Hollywood Studioshere and Magic Kingdomhere, no additional daytime ticket is required to attend. Your After Hours ticket will grant you admission to the Park beginning at 7pm with the event going from 8:30pm to 11:30pm on the majority of dates and 9pm to midnight on a few dates in March and April when the Parks are expected to be busier for spring break/Easter.
The evening arrival is typically a pleasant one with no lines for bag check here at 7:30pm on the first night of the event, Saturday, December 8th.
Disney After Hours event attendees use the tapstiles on the far right of the entrance where you’ll pick up a wristband. Originally, Disney used lanyards, but I think people ended up sharing them a little more often than Disney would like.
If you’re already in the Park, you can pick up your wristband at Ticket Central beginning around 6:45pm. This is to the right of the fountain at the end of Hollywood Boulevard/the start of Sunset Boulevard.
All six rides are open, in addition to Star Wars Launch Bay and four other sets of Meet and Greets:
Unlike at Animal Kingdom, we won’t be seeing any nighttime spectaculars during After Hours, since Fantasmic! and the fireworks cost anywhere from a couple to many thousands of dollars to produce, unlike Rivers of Light, which currently carries a per-show cost of around five dollars.
Here’s the handout:
I joked on Twitter that I was going to spend my evening pounding beers at Baseline Tap House and cycling through the Olaf meet. Unfortunately, Baseline was not open for the event – not that it stopped me from cycling through Olaf. Woody’s Lunchbox [sic], Anaheim Produce, and KRNR The Rock Station remained open with the Lunch Box your best bet for “real” food. Anaheim Produce is on Sunset Boulevard and KRNR is outside Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
As with the other After Hours events, popcorn, bottled sodas, bottled water, and select ice cream novelties are included in the cost and served from a variety of carts and kiosks around the Park. You can rationalize making a considerable dent in the cost of the event by consuming a number of these snacks. Above is $8.50 worth.
Mickey Ice Cream Novelties will set you back $5.75 each with bottled sodas coming in at a cool $4.50. So if you eat a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar and Cookie Sandwich along with two Dasanis, a Diet Coke, and two Popcorns, you’ve consumed $33 worth without much effort, which is more than a third of the discounted-ticket-price and more than a quarter of the full cost of a ticket. Pop a couple Diet Cokes into your backpack for the road and you’re doing even better for yourself.
The Strawberry Bar is a lighter option and yes, I have begun painting my thumbnail to fit in with all of the other Instagrammers.
Whatever it takes, here with the No Sugar Added version and what is actually my own hand.
Here at 7:38pm, or 22 minutes before official close, Hollywood Boulevard remains relatively crowded. Fantasmic starts at 8pm and Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! starts at 8:30pm, so a lot of people are going to be sticking around until 8:45pm or later, despite the Park “closing” at 8pm.
This won’t have a discernible impact on our evening, but it may be worth noting if you’re expecting to see few people in the Park to start the event.
Toy Story Land will probably be a big focus of your evening, so we began back there with quite a few people still around at 7:45pm.
As we know, wait times drop considerably at the end of the night, particularly here at the Studios where you’ve got Fantasmic pulling 8,000 people and another thousand or more consumed by the fireworks. Toy Story Mania would be a walk-on to close out the night with a 10-minute posted wait at 7:45pm.
Slinky Dog Dash sees a longer wait at the end of the night as it posts a 75-minute wait to deter people from getting in line. If you got in line at 7:47pm, you’d be looking at an actual wait of about 40 minutes. If you got in line at 7:59pm, you’d wait about 30 minutes. All regular guests will have cycled through the ride by the time we arrive back at 8:30pm to start the event.
Alien Swirling Saucers is posting a 25-minute wait at 7:51pm. The actual wait will be closer to 20 if you got in line now and closer to 15 if you got in line at 7:59pm.
As always, everyone in line before official Park close will be allowed to ride regardless of the posted wait.
To experience all three Toy Story Land attractions in standby at night, I’d arrive about 75 minutes before close, first doing Toy Story Mania, then Alien Swirling Saucers, and closing things out with Slinky Dog Dash. If you’re able to use FastPass+ at one, then arriving 45 minutes before close should suffice. If possible, it always makes the most sense to use FastPass+ at Slinky Dog Dash. I’d make Alien Swirling Saucers your second priority and then Toy Story Mania if you’re unable to acquire FastPass+ for one of the two new rides. Swirling Saucers occasionally operates at half capacity at the end of the night due to mechanical trouble and FastPass+ will get you on much quicker than standby in that scenario. An hour before close, Toy Story Mania’s actual wait is typically under 20 minutes, while you’re looking at 30 at Saucers and 75 at Slinky at the same time.
We actually managed to pull a FP+ for Slinky to close out the evening.
At 8:07pm, Slinky’s queue has been closed for seven minutes and there’s about 25 minutes worth of people waiting. With the 8:30pm start of the event, Disney After Hours guests will likely be turned away from Slinky until around the official start, while other attractions will let you ride beginning right at 8pm with your wristband. That’s a similar situation to what we saw at Animal Kingdom, where Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage were unavailable to guests during the 30 minute lull in between the official close and the start of the event, while all other rides remained open to Disney After Hours guests.
Because Toy Story Land will be the busiest to start the event, it makes sense to begin your evening elsewhere – probably on Sunset Boulevard for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. This is the scene outside Alien Swirling Saucers at 8:07pm.
Saucers is posting a 10-minute wait.
We were allowed in with our wristbands:
It ended up being our longest wait of the night – just under ten minutes. We got back in line at 8:25pm.
And were on-board in “literally” two minutes. At this point, we could stay on the ride as long as there isn’t someone waiting to board. And there likely won’t be for the majority or the entirety of the event, so you could ride as many times as your stomach and brain can handle back-to-back.
This is 8:30pm and you can see that crowds have dissipated almost completely to begin Disney After Hours.
There’s literally nobody in line for Swirling Saucers.
It makes the least sense to start the event with Slinky Dog Dash, which will be the first stop for the majority of Disney After Hours guests.
Thus, waits will be longest from 8:30pm to 9:30pm and probably short to nonexistent after that.
So we got in line to see what to expect.
We were on-board in exactly ten minutes:
It was fun to watch the fireworks go off during the ride as we were back out front 14 minutes after getting in line.
On our second ride, our wait was just five minutes.
The night shot really shows off Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Just imagine what this thing is going to look like lit up at the end of next year.
This time around, our total experience time was just nine minutes.
One other thing to note is that crowds will actually be a little heavier at 8:50pm than 8:30pm due to all of the people heading over after Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! and Fantasmic. That’s another reason to start your evening elsewhere or if you do begin in Toy Story Land, save Slinky Dog for after riding Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania a couple of times.
It doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense to eat a substantial meal during Disney After Hours since you’re paying a considerable amount of money for easy access to the attractions, but this is the one time where the Lunch Box’s two registers are sufficient.
I was happy to see short lines for the characters, even at 9pm, or 30 minutes into the event. You’re going to wait between 30 and 60 minutes for Woody/Jessie from 9:15am through 7:30pm most days. This is closer to a 5-minute wait, which is also shorter than it is for the majority of the Early Morning Magic event. One potential nice thing about Disney After Hours is that it skews towards adults with most kids sitting the late nights out. We’re going to see very few strollers and very few ECVs and even when we do, they’re not going to be an issue moving around the Park with so much empty space (that could really be filled in). This also means shorter waits for the characters, since the kids are usually what drive those experiences.
Instead of basically fighting for their lives, Woody and Jessie were able to have some fun with guests as they headed backstage to check their boots for snakes.
Less than 30 minutes in, Toy Story Mania is posting a 5-minute wait.
There was basically nobody in line.
To the point where we could pick any row we wanted. Cast members will let you stay on the vehicles if there’s nobody waiting, but you will have to exit the building and come all the way back around if there is. If you can choose your own row, I’d go about two-thirds of the way back, where it’s least likely that someone will be standing there waiting to ride after you get back. People are lazy, so the first few rows are typically taken. The last couple of rows are typically the second most popular.
Our total experience time was 15 minutes, which is the absolute minimum that the attraction takes. This is the scene at 9:15pm – there’s certainly a lot more people around than we saw anywhere at Animal Kingdom, but it’s still easygoing.
There’s about four groups waiting to meet Buzz.
Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania will be walk-ons all night.
Slinky Dog ‘s wait will vary between one minute and seven minutes for the majority of the event with it typically going down as it gets later in the evening.
Here’s the crowd heading into and out of Toy Story Land at 9:15pm. It’s more people than we’ve seen at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, but since it doesn’t affect wait times adversely whatsoever, I think I preferred seeing the smiles; it adds a little energy to the experience.
One note and something that may change in the future, but there are no snack carts in Toy Story Land distributing complimentary drinks, popcorn, or ice cream.
This cart outside Voyage of the Little Mermaid is the closest.
For popcorn, your best bets are the kiosks in front of the Chinese Theater, where they should be popping fresh.
There was a special cocktail for the event – the Midnight Margarita.
While I am known to “enjoy the occasional cocktail,” I don’t have much time for it during these events since you can’t bring the drinks with you on the rides.
You could certainly sip a Hopsecutioner on the way from Hollywood Boulevard to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or something, though. Several pop-up bars remain open during After Hours and Woody’s Lunch Box also continues serving drinks along with KRNR and Anaheim Produce.
One nice bonus during the holidays – Sunset Seasons Greetings are shown throughout the entire evening.
See this post for more information.
We also have some “shopping opportunities” here if you’d like.
We didn’t experience a wait longer than two minutes for snacks. On our first go-around at Magic Kingdom, waits were as long as ten minutes, which was frustrating given the fact that you had to give up the equivalent of two rides on Peter Pan’s Flight in order to grab a water.
We’re onto Sunset Boulevard at 9:32pm.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster was posting a 5-minute wait.
There was nobody in line and the pre-show wasn’t running, so you could walk right into the loading area.
Pick any row you want.
We rode once in the front row and once in the back row.
Over the span of 15 minutes. You will need to exit the vehicle and head back through the queue to ride a second time, which is a bit of a bummer considering it adds about five minutes to each ride.
Both Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror should be walk-ons all night.
Here we are at Tower of Terror at 9:52pm:
At Tower of Terror, you’ll have the option of whether you want to watch the pre-show or not as one library will be showing the introduction to the attraction and one will be open for anyone to walk right through.
We did one of each.
It was fun to watch the pre-show without anyone else in the room.
And it was fun to get a better look inside the library.
Our two rides took 13 minutes each. This is another attraction where you’ll need to exit the elevator and walk back through the queue. I minded that a lot less here since it’s so neat walking through the hotel and its grounds.
Here’s the crowd on Sunset Boulevard at 10:20pm.
No wait for a water or ice cream bar.
Here’s another look with the clock in the frame. Looks like about 11:30am to me based on the angle of the sun.
It’s about two hours into the event and I’ve done Alien Swirling Saucers twice, Slinky Dog Dash twice, Toy Story Mania once, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster twice, and Tower of Terror twice, in addition to a couple of snack stops and a little shopping.
That’s pretty solid, particularly considering our cumulative wait is about 20 minutes, virtually all of which was in Toy Story Land at Slinky Dog and the initial wait at Saucers prior to the event officially getting underway.
Needless to say, it was time to meet Olaf. There was nobody else in line and hilariously, he was standing there in the doorway peering out as we turned the corner into his room.
After Hours is also a great opportunity to meet Mickey and Minnie, who don’t offer FastPass+ and typically sport waits of 20 to 35 minutes.
We were in in three:
No matter how old you are, it’s always fun to say hello to Mickey, who meets in his iconic sorcerers outfit.
Nothing is open in Grand Avenue.
Your moment of zen pic.twitter.com/5GlD0JRSTi
— josh (@easywdw) December 9, 2018
But you might take a moment to look around in peace and quiet.
We headed to Star Tours.
Spoiler: it’s a walk-on.
Our total experience time ended up being about 15 minutes after taking a few pictures of the queue and the store.
It’s now 11:17pm, which means we have time to do one or two more things.
We decided to head back to Toy Story Land to see how things were looking back there.
As expected, it has emptied out.
There’s virtually nobody waiting to meet Buzz. It would take two minutes.
Here we are at 11:22pm.
You could ride Toy Story Mania with no problem.
I opted to wait in line to meet Woody and Jessie – it took three minutes.
Here we are at Slinky Dog Dash at 11:26pm and a 10-minute posted wait.
There’s nobody waiting.
Nobody in line.
And nobody to fill several rows.
We were on-board in three minutes.
Which puts our total experience time at just six minutes.
As with the other events, it is a “hard” close with the queues for all of the attractions closing at that time. So you’ll want to be sure to be in line a minute before the event is scheduled to end or you will almost certainly be turned away.
Here at 11:36pm, you’ve got a good opportunity to take a few pictures in an empty Land.
Here looking in the opposite direction.
SO IS IT WORTH IT?
In a little over three hours, we were able to do (with the average daytime wait of visiting the attraction/character once in parentheses:)
- 3x Slinky Dog Dash (85 minutes)
- 2x Alien Swirling Saucers (35 minutes)
- 1x Toy Story Mania (45 minutes)
- 2x Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (70 minutes)
- 2x Tower of Terror (45 minutes)
- 1x Star Tours (25 minutes)
- 1x Olaf (10 minutes)
- 1x Mickey/Minnie (30 minutes)
- 1x Woody/Jessie (45 minutes)
That’s 14 things with a wait-time-savings of almost 12 hours. And we could have done more if we had moved a little faster, started in a more intelligent location, or ate fewer Mickey Ice Cream Bars. So I will say again that yes, I do think it’s “worth it” if you have the money to spend. There is no other way to experience Hollywood Studios like this. On the other hand, you can experience all of the Studios’ attractions at least once with an early arrival, an intelligent touring plan, and smart FastPass+ choices.
I show you exactly how to do that in this post with Part 2 following here.
But as far as stress-free experiences go, it’s hard to beat what Disney After Hours offers. As long as you wait an hour to visit Toy Story Land, you can visit “literally” any attraction whenever you want and experience virtually no wait. Of course, it’s possible that these events will become a little more popular. I attended on “media night,” which means Disney gave away a couple hundred free tickets to just about anyone associated with any Disney social media account on any platform willing to offer a positive review. This website was, of course, not one of them. I point this out largely because even if a few hundred people actually purchase tickets to the next event, the crowds and wait times would be similar. And even if Disney managed to sell 500 more tickets, wait times would still be negligible to nonexistent at the majority of the attractions for the majority of the night. If that does change, and wait times somehow become 10+ minutes at most attractions, then I’ll post an update alerting you to that effect. But even with a thousand more people scattered around the Park, you’re still not looking at considerable waits.
I would go again.