The all-new Disney Very Merriest After Hours kicked off on Monday, November 8, and I was there to check it out. This event is different from, and replaces, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which is not taking place this year due to COVID-related operational changes. This event has some pretty amazing upgrades such as a full parade, a new stage show, and holiday fireworks, along with crazy low wait times at over twenty attractions. However, while the event has a ton to offer it has a large price tag to match, leaving most guests wondering if the event is worth the considerable cost. We tackle these issues and more below.
1 – A Disney After Hours Event
Disney Very Merriest After Hours is a limited-capacity and separately ticketed event that does not require an additional day’s theme park ticket or Disney Park Pass reservation. The After Hours events have been around since April 2016. Offered on select nights throughout the year, guests pay to access over twenty attractions with little to no crowds in the Magic Kingdom Park. The events (some themed, some not) ran throughout the year up until the pandemic closure. The most recent offering of an After Hours event was the very popular (and sold-out) Disney After Hours Boo Bash, which was the first separate ticketed event offered since the reopening in July 2020.
We were all disappointed when Disney announced that Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party would not be offered in 2021. However, Disney is offering the After Hours even as an alternative, likely because Disney After Hours events have always been limited capacity events. During these events, you can enjoy attractions with low wait times; most are even walk-ons. The Halloween and Christmas parties were not “low-capacity” but limited (they did sell out). In fact, one of the complaints we often heard about the parties was that they were crazy busy and hard to enjoy. The lower crowds are a huge benefit of the events, and on our sold-out night, Disney delivered on that promise. While Disney has never stated how low the capacity is for the After Hours events, they are certainly lower than the past Halloween and Christmas parties. Having been to several After Hours events, including the most recent Boo Bash offering, we can tell you that they are not nearly as busy as regular operating hours or seasonal parties (but more on that later).
2 – Disney Verry Merriest After Hours Gets Major Upgrades
Usually, After Hours events are only three hours long and do not include special entertainment, though there are exceptions. The Disney Villains After Hours, which ran in early 2020, did have a stage show, and the Boo Bash from this year included the Halloween-themed cavalcades. The Boo Bash After Hours was really just an After Hours event with some Halloween-themed offerings, and it really couldn’t be compared to the Halloween party because there was so much missing. That is not as true for this event. With Disney Very Merriest After Hours, it’s hard not to compare it to the Christmas Party because it’s so similar. Unlike the Boo Bash, which only had a handful of character cavalcades, Disney Very Merriest After Hours includes the full Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade (that can be seen twice), Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show, a new Mickey & Minnie’s Very Merry Memories stage show, and Club Tinsel Dance Party. The event was also given an additional hour for a total of four hours (9:00 pm – 1:00 am). As before, guests can enter Magic Kingdom as early as 7:00 pm on the date of their tickets, giving them a total of six hours in the park. Also included with your admission, are unlimited novelty ice cream treats, select bottled beverages, popcorn, and holiday treats such as a Snickerdoodle cookie and hot chocolate. The event really is packed with exclusive holiday-themed offerings. However, the most significant selling points to the Disney After Hours events are the low crowds and wait times.
3 – Tickets, Pricing, and Dates
One of the biggest things people noticed when the prices came out was just how expensive this event has become. Prices for the Boo Bash event ranged anywhere from $129-$169 and up to $199 on Halloween Night. Prices for Disney Very Merriest After Hours jumped significantly. Admission to Disney Very Merriest After Hours ranges from $169 to $249 per adult or child (plus tax), depending on the event date, which is a $40-$50 price jump. That is significant, but this event does offer a whole lot more for that bump.
You can see the pricing for all dates below:
Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members can take advantage of a $10 discount on select event dates in November.
The prices are also more expensive than the normal Christmas Party. In 2019, the Christmas Party prices ranged from $99-$139. Comparing those prices to Disney Very Merriest After Hours pricing ranging from $169-$249 takes our breath away. It’s a crazy expensive event. So, is it worth it? Keep reading to find out.
4 – Early Entry into Magic Kingdom, Wristband Distributions
Tickets will grant admission to Magic Kingdom as early as 7 pm, giving guests time in the park before the event begins. You don’t need a park reservation to enter the party. When you arrive, a Disney Cast Member will put an event wristband on for you. If you have been enjoying Magic Kingdom all day, you don’t need to exit the park, but you will need to get a wristband in Tomorrowland (near the old Stich’s Great Escape) or Tortuga Tavern.
We highly recommend you get there as early as possible for a few reasons. One is quite obvious in the fact that you’ll have more time. If you are using the event to replace a day at Magic Kingdom (which it totally can), then you’ll want to catch Disney Enchantment. Check the My Disney Experience app for showtimes, so you don’t miss it. You’ll also be able to take advantage of a bonus hour (see #6).
5 – Enjoy Over 20 Attractions
There are plenty of attractions to enjoy during the event. Check out the list below.
Attractions open during the event include:
(Attractions with a + are included with Genie+; Individual Lighting Lane attractions are noted as LL)
- See Mickey at Town Square Theater
- Swiss Family Treehouse
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
- Holiday-themed Jungle Cruise – +
- Pirates of the Caribbean – +
- Splash Mountain – +
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – +
- Haunted Mansion – +
- Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
- Peter Pan’s Flight – +
- “it’s a small world” – +
- See Disney Princesses at Princess Fairytale Hall
- Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid – +
- The Barnstormer
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant – +
- Mad Tea Party – +
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh +
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – LL
- Tomorrowland Speedway – +
- Space Mountain – LL
- Astro Orbiter
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – +
- Holiday-themed Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor
You’ll see that thirteen attractions are Genie+ attractions. Also, the two Magic Kingdom Individual Lightning Lane Attractions are included. Therefore, this event would be an excellent time to take advantage of the lower wait times and ride these attractions. In addition, that would allow you to skip purchasing Genie+ or the Individual Lightning Lanes on a different Magic Kingdom visit. (More on that below).
6 – Lower Wait Times & A Bonus Hour
Disney has added a larger buffer between park closing (8:00 pm) and the start of the event (9:00 pm). The biggest complaint we’ve heard in the past is that the first hour of the events tends to be busier than expected since regular-day guests may still be in line. The Boo Bash event only had a 30-minute buffer between park closing and the event start. With that, there were plenty of day guests still in line at popular attractions such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain. Thankfully, Disney seems to have spotted the problem, and now there is a one-hour buffer between the event and park closing. This additional half-hour made a huge difference with the problem of longer wait times in the first hour of the event. It also gives event guests an extra hour to ride attractions. After the park closes at 8:00 pm, only guests with a wristband can enter the queue. So, by the time After Hours actually starts most day guests will have made it through the line. At 8:55 pm, I waited only 10 minutes for Space Mountain. Not a bad way to start the evening!
Here are the wait times for our night at 9:17 pm (click any image to enlarge):
As you can see, there are some waits up to thirty minutes on the most popular rides. But if you wait just a bit longer (catch the new stage show), you’ll see even better wait times.
Here are the wait times for our night at 10:20 pm (click any image to enlarge):
Now you can see most wait times are at 5 minutes (usually means walk-on), Seven Dwarfs Mine Trail is down to 15 minutes, and the slow loading attractions are around 25-30.
Here are the wait times for our night at 11:32 pm (click any image to enlarge):
Finally, in the 12 am – 1 am hour, Peter Pan’s Flight was down to a walk-on, with almost all other attractions at 5 minutes. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train held steady at around 15 minutes for the later part of the evening.
There’s no denying that these wait times are fantastic and that you can get a lot done!
7 – Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas Time Parade
Full parades have yet to return to Walt Disney World during regular park hours, so the return of the full Christmas parade is a really big deal. So many people have been waiting for parades to return, and we’re so glad this one is back! The parade is mostly the same parade that was seen at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. It is offered twice in the night at 9:45 pm and 12:05 pm. The parade is not exactly the same as it was before. Many dancers and other characters on the street in between the floats are missing, but the parade was fantastic as always, and it was great to see again. Just like at the Christmas Party, the second parade is less busy. When I walked through Frontierland during the second parade, there were plenty of spots along the street to see the parade. There is no need to line up early unless you want a particularly good spot to watch from.
8 – Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show
Another addition to the event that wasn’t offered during Boo Bash is the return of holiday-themed fireworks. Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks show debuted in 2019 and was only seen for one season. The show features updated castle projections that fit perfectly with the 50th-anniversary emblem. This show also has a ton of fireworks! Unfortunately, there is only one showing, and it’s at 11:15 pm. Since there is only one show, you may need to get a spot about 20-30 minutes before depending on where you want to watch from. Not surprisingly, the Hub area was crowded, but trust me, it’s nowhere near as jam-packed as the regular fireworks. You have room to move around, and you are not packed in like sardines. While the projections are fantastic because the star of the show is fireworks you can opt to skip the Hub and Main Street area and watch them from wherever you are in the park. I really enjoyed these fireworks! They are truly amazing.
9 – Mickey and Minnie’s Very Merry Memories
There’s also a new stage show that takes place four times throughout the night at the Castle Forecourt Stage at 9:25 pm, 10:35 pm, 11:45 pm, and 12:50 am. Here is the description from the Walt Disney World website:
Join Mickey and his pals for a celebration filled with music, dancing and nostalgic yuletide fun!
Behold a brilliant holiday performance at Cinderella Castle inspired by beloved Magic Kingdom holiday shows of the past—including “Mickey’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “Celebrate the Season” and “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration.”
Throughout the show, enjoy harmonious medleys of holiday songs both classic and contemporary. And be on the lookout for beloved Characters, including:
- Mickey Mouse
- Minnie Mouse
- Donald Duck
- Daisy Duck
- Chip ‘n’ Dale
Mickey & Minnie’s Very Merry Memories is presented on nights when Disney Very Merriest After Hours is offered. Characters are subject to change.
This is a really cute show and was well done. It’s not as long as holiday stage shows of the past, but it was over 10 minutes and very enjoyable. It was great to have a longer stage show once again on the Castle Forecourt Stage. During the daytime, only Let the Magic Begin is offered and that’s under five minutes. As you may expect, the 12:50 am show was the least busy, and it’s a great way to end the night.
10 – More Entertainment and Characters
The Reindeer Wranglers (Dapper Dans) also perform throughout the night in Frontierland at 9:25 pm, 10:30 pm, 11:40 pm, and 12:35 am. If dance parties are your things, you can enjoy the Club Tinsel Dance Party in Tomorrowland the entire night from 9:00 pm-1:00 am. Santa Stitch is there to encourage guests to dance the night away.
While there are no character meet and greets, you will see characters pop up and greet from a distance throughout the park. We saw the Country Bears, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and friends from the Hundred Acre Wood. While I did not see him, Santa Claus was reported to be seen in Liberty Square.
11 – Complimentary Snacks
At carts throughout the park, guests can enjoy complimentary snacks such as ice cream novelties and popcorn, along with select beverages. Drink options include Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, and Dasani water. Ice Cream novelties include Mickey Bars, Mickey Ice Cream Sandwiches, and Strawberry Fruit Bar. The carts are plentiful. Like the attractions, you may find lines at the carts in the first hour of the event since everyone wants to get their first treats. Usually, as the night progresses, there are short waits, and most of the time, I had no wait at all at the carts. I always encourage guests to come hungry and take advantage of these treats. While it does not completely offset the cost of the event, considering a drink is around $5 and ice cream over $6 during the day, it’s nice that these treats are included, and you can enjoy as much as you like.
There are also seasonal treats (Snickerdoodle cookies and hot cocoa) at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café, Columbia Harbour House, Pinocchio Village Haus, and Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café. Note that allergy-friendly options are available upon request.
12 – Exclusive Treats Available for Purchase
If you’re looking for some extra treats that are exclusive to the event, there are four items available. At Golden Oak Outpost, you’ll find two items: a gingerbread almond cake pop and a To Be Jolly Float. At Sleepy Hollow, you’ll find a ginger apple funnel cake. And finally, at the Main Street USA Snack Cart, you’ll find an Orange Bird churro.
13 – Scheduling & Tips
To get the maximum value, especially since the ticket is so expensive, you’ll want to plan on staying through the end of the event at 1:00 am. You can take your time as you leave, get more photos, or enjoy that last attraction by getting in line just before 1:00 am or catching the last stage show at 12:50 am. When you do that, you may not actually leave until 1:30 am or later. Parents, you’ll want to consider the ages of your children and how well they could handle such a late night. Also, plan the next day of your vacation with that late night in mind. For example, you don’t want to schedule an 8:00 am breakfast the next day!
Like all Disney events, we often find the biggest challenge is getting it all done, which honestly isn’t really an option. It’s best to go in with a game plan and discuss what is most important to your family ahead of time. Is it to ride as many attractions as possible? See all of the holiday entertainment? A mix of the two options is probably what most people will go for. Get a list of the top attractions you want to enjoy, and make plans for seeing the entertainment mixed in there while stopping for drinks and ice cream along the way. The time at these events seems to evaporate, and it really does fly.
I wanted to hit the two Individual Lighting Lane attractions (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain) and get a few bonus attractions, which I easily did. I caught the stage show twice, the parade, fireworks, walked a full loop of the park and did everything I wanted to do. I spent more time on entertainment than attractions, but I wanted to focus on the exclusive offerings that I can’t take advantage of during the day. So, if you are visiting Magic Kingdom another day during your vacation, save some attractions for that day and focus on the holiday offerings.
We’ve given some tips throughout the article, but here are a few more:
- First, be at the front gate just before 7:00 pm, so you enjoy the maximum available time of the event.
- Between 7:00 pm-8:00 pm, focus on offerings that will not be available during the event (like Disney Enchantment) or get some shopping done to free up event time.
- Come hungry and thirsty to take advantage of the included ice cream, popcorn, and drinks.
- Expect the first 20-30 minutes to be a bit more crowded as regular day guests are leaving.
- Take advantage of the 8:00 pm hour and get a few attractions in before the holiday entertainment begins.
- Enjoy Peter Pan’s Flight in the midnight hour for the lowest wait time.
- Be mindful of your schedule the next day so you can recover from your late night.
14 – Final Thoughts
Is it worth it? This is the question we get asked the most about these special ticketed events. And the question is so subjective, it’s hard not to answer with, “it depends.” First, let’s look at the event without considering the cost for a moment. I really enjoyed my time, got lots done, and honestly, had one of the most magical experiences at Walt Disney World in some time. It was a great evening.
However, with the huge price increase this year, you can’t ignore just how much it costs to attend the event. A typical family of five who wants to go in early December will pay $209 per person, costing a whopping $1212.92 (including tax). It’s even more as you get closer to Christmas. Right now, the cheapest ticket option available at $189 and would still cost $1006.43. One thousand dollars for four hours in Magic Kingdom. Whew. We paid for my ticket so I could check out the event. I’m glad we did because it was a fantastic night, but we only paid for one ticket. Families have a much tougher decision to make.
You’ll need to decide just how badly you want to see the Christmas parade, fireworks, and other holiday entertainment that are exclusive to the event. While Disney has offered the Christmas parade during regular park hours of Christmas week in the past, there is no guarantee they will this year since full parades are not offered during the day. They may offer the shorter holiday cavalcades, but nothing has been announced.
As we noted, the biggest draw to the After Hours events are the low wait times. As mentioned above, Disney delivered on that promise. That is huge and if paying for the holiday entertainment AND low wait times is in your budget, it is totally worth it. We are now in the age of paying for attraction access with Genie+ and Lightning Lane, and this is another option for families who want the most out of their time at Magic Kingdom and get the bonus of holiday offerings. If you attend the event, we recommend you skip paying for Lighting Lane access (whether Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane or both) for Magic Kingdom during another day of your vacation. Doing that would offset a portion of the cost of your vacation. Since you (hopefully) were able to ride a lot of attractions during the event, you wouldn’t need to pay again to do so another day of your vacation.
So is it worth it?
Here are some pros:
- Significantly lower wait times
- Exclusive holiday stage show
- Exclusive holiday parade
- Exclusive holiday fireworks
- Plenty of treats included
- Exclusive holiday treats available for purchase
Here are some cons:
- Very expensive
- You’re going to be staying up very, very late
- Barely any characters (compared to the Christmas party)
We hope this has helped you decide on whether or not attending this event is right for you. Happy holidays!
Check out more photos and video from my night at Magic Kingdom by viewing our Instagram Story by clicking here.
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