Visit Disney During These Special Events For Shorter Ride Wait Times

On any trip to Walt Disney World, there are a number of tricks you can try to reduce your wait time for the most popular rides. Consulting a crowd calendar online before you lock in the dates of your trip can help you plan around the times when Disney World's four theme parks are busiest. Another way to beat the crowds is by staying on-site at Disney World's resort hotels and taking advantage of Early Theme Park Entry. This is a special perk that enables guests to enter the parks 30 minutes before they open to regular ticket holders.

Guests of Disney's deluxe resorts and villas and other select hotels also have the Extended Evening Theme Park Hours benefit at their disposal. It works much the same way, allowing you to stay in the parks for two additional hours on certain nights after they've closed to the general public. Paired with the Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane services, which work like paid FastPasses, these options can go a long way toward getting you on board the rides you want. 

Let's say your time at Disney World is limited, though, and you want to be sure you get to all the attractions on your checklist. When you've exhausted all the possibilities above, another option is to spring for a "hard ticket" event. These include Disney After Hours or the holiday events Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

After Hours vs. Extended Evening Theme Park Hours

Admission to Disney World's hard ticket events, which usually occur at night, isn't covered by the usual daytime park tickets. It requires the purchase of a separate ticket, which will get you into the park when capacity is limited, meaning there are fewer people and the rides will have a shorter wait time. Disney After Hours is similar to Extended Evening Theme Park Hours, except the event is three hours instead of two hours. It also comes with free refreshments like ice cream, popcorn, and soft drinks. You're paying extra for it, though it's somewhat of a trade-off when you consider the hotel cost for Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. 

With After Hours, however, you can enter the park at 7 p.m. and enjoy it for two and a half hours or more before the event officially starts and the park closes to non-participating guests. This means it's really more like five and a half or even six hours, with three of them being exclusive to After Hours guests. Suffice it to say, After Hours is so in demand that the 2023 event sold out at Disney's Hollywood Studios. 

The other parks currently offer it on a rotating, seasonal basis, so you'll need to check each one for their individual availability. When all else fails, another nighttime alternative is seasonal events like Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween and Very Merry Christmas Party

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party isn't limited to October. It begins in late summer at the Magic Kingdom, with the 2023 event running from select nights between August 11 and November 1. Both it and the follow-up event, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, offer reduced wait times for attractions and the ability to enter the virtual queue for the popular new ride Tron Lightcycle / Run at 6 p.m., using the My Disney Experience app. In 2023, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party runs from November 9 to December 22.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween and Very Merry Christmas Party each begin at 7 p.m., but as with After Hours, you can enter the park early (in this case, at 4 p.m.) while it's still open to other guests. In addition to shorter waits for rides, another benefit of these events is that you can see special holiday-themed parades, shows, character costumes, and ride overlays. (The Jungle Cruise becomes the Jingle Cruise). For the Halloween event, you can even dress up in a costume yourself and trick-or-treat throughout the park.

As noted in our guide on the best time of year to visit Disney, September, late October, and before or after Thanksgiving generally offer adults (or even families) the best chance of avoiding the biggest crowds. Just be aware that these special events do sell out and prices and demand tend to go up the closer you get to the holidays they're celebrating.