Anyone who has visited a Disney park at night will probably tell you that they take on a whole new life after the sun sets. Nighttime is one of the best times to visit because it’s cooler out, crowds may be lighter, and the evening entertainment is top-notch. Here are 10 tips for getting the most out of your nighttime park adventures!
10. Take a rest in the afternoon
The first step to a great night sometimes happens in the afternoon. If you want to have energy to tackle the parks at night, you may want to give your group the benefit of an afternoon break during the day. Whether it’s a trip back to the resort for a swim, shower, or nap, a little time to relax and refresh goes a long way in helping you stay out longer at night. Besides, some kids love pool time as much as they love park attractions. Take advantage of this excuse to get them out of the park for a few hours.
9. Bring an extra layer
You might be surprised by a cool night during your trip, so it’s always best to bring a sweatshirt or jacket if you plan to stay out late in the parks. It may be a pain to carry, but it will save you from having to buy a pricey new one if you get cold! If you don’t anticipate any cool weather, you may want to have an extra t-shirt in your bag; after a long day in the heat, a fresh shirt might help keep you feeling comfortable into the nighttime hours.
8. Stay until the park closes
Once you’ve decided to go to the park at night, try to stay until the park closes. You’ll find that crowds begin to dissipate the later it gets, especially after evening entertainment ends. This is a great time to ride popular attractions, as their lines tend to decrease closer to park close. This is one time when trying to stick to a strict bed time is not recommended! In fact…
7. Stay until after it closes
Did you know that the park is actually open long after it officially closes? Even if you can’t go on attractions, you can still stroll the park and explore the gift shops. If you’re in the Magic Kingdom past closing time, you might even see the “Kiss Goodnight”, a gently worded “time to leave” message and lighting of Cinderella Castle.
6. Try to attend evening Extra Magic Hours
If you’re staying at a Disney resort, be sure to attend evening Extra Magic Hours. They are “extra” magical, and sometimes give you several extra park hours. For instance, the Magic Kingdom sometimes gives up to 3 extra hours, staying open as late as 3am!
5. Watch the second parade/show
As a general rule, if there are two parades or evening shows scheduled in the evening, as is the case in the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, the first one tends to be more crowded. You’re more likely to find a good viewing location (without having to stake it out long in advance) if you opt for the second parade or show.
4. Be open to unique viewing locations, or prepared to wait for a prime spot
You don’t have to jockey for a viewing position on Main Street USA. There are many wonderful areas to watch parades from in Frontierland and Liberty Square. I always enjoy watching parade floats enter or exit the parade route at the gate by the firehouse, or the gate by Splash Mountain. Watching Wishes? You’ll get a unique view if you watch from behind the castle, where the fireworks are set off. When you do want a prime location, there are times that you will have to stake out a spot up to an hour in advance. For instance, if you’re trying to catch IllumiNations at Epcot, you’ll want to find a spot that is free of obstruction (trees, lampposts, islands in the middle of the World Showcase Lagoon, etc.). While IllumiNations fireworks can be seen from outside the park, much of the show takes place on the water, so you’ll want to have a clear view.
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3. Ride attractions during evening entertainment
On the other hand, if you don’t care to view nighttime entertainment, this is a great time to experience attractions with much shorter lines. Or, if you already saw the first parade or show, do take advantage of shorter lines during the second showing (or vice-versa)!
2. Enjoy outside rides at night
Be sure to save a few of the outside attractions for your nighttime visit for a completely different ride experience. Some fun examples are Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, The Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain, Dumbo, Test Track, and Expedition Everest. And, if you love great views, ride the Peoplemover at night!
1. Don’t rush to the busses right after the nighttime entertainment
There is usually a mass exodus from the parks after nightly entertainment. Sometimes, this is because the park is closing (as is often the case with Hollywood Studios after Fantasmic!). However, this also happens when the park is going to be open for several more hours (in the case of evening Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom). Take your time leaving, because if you leave with the crowd, you’ll be spending a great deal of time waiting on line for the busses. Wouldn’t you rather be waiting on line for an attraction or perusing a gift shop? I know I would!
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Photo courtesy of Disney Photo Snapper