Starting in December, Disney has added Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios to its After Hours Event line up. We attended the Hollywood Studios version on its opening night and are going to be taking a look at that here.
We previously reviewed the original Magic Kingdom version of the event here.
It that post, we came to this conclusion:
If you have the disposable income, or seeing the park mostly empty just sounds too good to miss, I can say with confidence that you will have a blast if you do decide to attend. For myself, the biggest value of the event was being able to snap photographs of places that would otherwise be very tough to do so without a lot of people in the frame. I would probably do it again in the future for that aspect alone. The rest is a lot of fun too though.
These feelings hold true for the Hollywood Studios iteration of the event. Its pricey ($125 per person, or $99 w/ and AP), but there is no denying the fun to be had.
The event runs for 3 hours, which on this night was from 8:30 – 11:30. If you are not already using a daily ticket / annual pass to visit the park earlier in the day, you can enter any time after 7 pm with just the event ticket.
The big appeal here currently is going to be doing Toy Story Land without the crowds. I would suggest avoiding this the 1st hour of the event as that’s where most people are going to head first. We heard reports of 10-15 minute waits for Slinky Dog within the first hour of the party (still much better than the 90+ minute waits which were posted all day long), as opposed to us walking on closer to 10:00.
Instead, we viewed the 8:00 showing of Fantasmic and then started on on Sunset Blvd immediately after.
We did 2 rides each on both Tower of Terror and Rock N’ Roller Coaster, all of which were walk ons. For whatever reason, they made us watch the preshow both times for ToT but allowed us to skip it for RnRC. I left my camera behind with a non rider for these rides so I didn’t grab any shots of the empty queues. Poor planning on my part I suppose.
After back to back rides on RnRC, I decided to let my stomach calm down for a bit so I wandered around and shot some photos. Most of the park was starting to get pretty empty by this point.
Here is the approach to Toy Story land around 9:45 pm, or 1 hour and 15 minutes into the event. A far cry from the mobs of people heading there all throughout the day.
At this point, all three rides in the land were walk-ons. The longest line we saw all night was for the Woody and Jessie meet and greet, which we didn’t do, but I would guess was probably around 15 minutes. Again, much better than waiting an hour + out in the hot sun during the day.
We took a ride on Swirling Saucers and two on Slinky Dog. Saucers was literally walk right on, while slinky we had to wait for a train or two but was still basically no wait. We could have easily ridden several more times if we liked but my stomach was feeling a little woozy by the end of the 2nd of back to back rides.
I also wanted to take some photos of the mostly empty land.
Woody’s Lunch Box was open, but was not one of the locations handing out free ice cream, popcorn and beverages. Even during this event, most of the seating was full. What were they thinking?
The walk up to Slinky Dog was empty.
The ride looks great at night!
We took a quick ride on Midway Mania on the way out of the land. Unfortunately, due to the long walk both too and from the new entrance / exit, its not worth doing multiple rides and wasting all that time walking. If you really want to ride again, try asking if you can just stay on the ride if there is nobody waiting to board.
Here’s what the lead up to the land looks like now around 10:30 pm. Literally nobody in sight.
Moving on, we headed towards the Star Tours / Grand Avenue area of the park. Unfortunately, due to the Star Wars Land construction, there is no quick way to get there from Toy Story Land. You have no choice but to back track to the Echo Lake area and then head over from there.
As you can see, there is still not much going on here. Those 2 cast members were literally just standing there all night as they were in almost the same spot in my photo above which was taken an hour earlier.
I took two quick rides on Star Tours. I was only planning on riding once but there was nobody waiting when the ride ended so I was able to go again without getting up.
As I was about to head over to Grand Avenue, the highlight of my night occurred when I was lucky enough to spot Josh of EasyWDW fame (in between one of his several Olaf meet and greets). I’m sure many of you already know this, but Easy WDW is the single best tool for planning a great Walt Disney World vacation. Not only that, but its also just straight up entertaining. If you haven’t done so already, I strongly suggest heading over to Josh’s site right now and spending hours digging through all the great stuff it has to offer. I know it probably seems like I’m sucking up (and I probably am) but its really that good.
Getting back to the event itself, I headed over to Grand Avenue and Muppet Courtyard for some photos.
A portal into Galaxy’s Edge???
Muppetvision 3D recently had its hours cut and now closes at 7 pm, including on after hours days. This is nothing short of a travesty if you ask me.
It was getting close to the end of the event by now so I headed back towards the Echo Lake area to rejoin up with my group. For some reason, they didn’t want to join me in spending 15 minutes taking photographs of an empty Muppet Courtyard. Their loss!
Unrelated to the event, the Christmas decorations at Hollywood Studios are really solid. The park has an incredibly festive feel to it that time of year, especially in the Echo Lake Area. Who wouldn’t love Santa Gertie?
Heading back towards the park entrance, there’s not much going on. If it were in the middle of the event I probably could have gotten some empty street photos but with the event coming to a close there was always a family or two making their way out of the park.
It’s a terrible picture, but here is a look at Sunset Blvd right around 11:30 pm.
There were running Sunset Seasons Greetings throughout the event which was a nice touch.
Overall, we had a wonderful night at Hollywood Studios’ After Hours event. We were able to ride ToT (2x), RnRC (2x), Star Tours (2x), Slinky Dog (2x), Swirling Saucer and Midway Mania (1x each). In addition to that, I was able to spend a good amount of time photographing a mostly empty park. We also had a Coke, a water, and 2 ice cream bars each. Had I not spent as much time taking photos, we easily could have done several more rides and eaten more ice cream. It’s pricey, but you’re going to have a great time. With little to no crowds, this is by far the most enjoyable way to experience the parks.