Most visitors to Walt Disney World are up at the crack of dawn to be one of the first through the gates at the resort’s amusement parks. Somehow, though, certain magical Disney moments are made even more enchanting as the sun sets and gives way to twilight. On your next trip, skip the early morning alarm for at least one day, sleep in, and maybe drink an extra cup of coffee so that you can rally into the wee hours (well, for Disney anyway) because there are some Disney experiences that are best enjoyed at night.
When the Sun Sets Over Disney World, the Real Fun Begins
1. Fly up, up, and away in a (tethered) hot-air balloon.
If you’ve ever wondered if you can actually go up in the big, blue hot-air balloon at Disney Springs, the answer is “yes.” The Aerophile, the world’s largest tethered hot-air balloon, is open anytime you visit Disney Springs, but the nighttime views are beyond compare. When you top out at 400 feet, you’ll catch a glimpse of both Magic Kingdom and Epcot (and the surrounding hotels) and, if you time it right, you may get your own private fireworks viewing. The balloon holds up to 29 people (plus a pilot), and tickets, which are $20 for adults and $15 for children, are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
2. Get down with Chip ‘n’ Dale at a campfire sing-along.
Even if you aren’t staying at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, it’ll be worth your time to mosey on over for a rollicking evening of marshmallow roasting, campfire songs, and a Disney movie under the stars with Chip ‘n’ Dale. Held nightly, Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long is one of the few character meet-and-greet opportunities that don’t require a park ticket or dining reservations. For a totally free evening, you can bring your own marshmallows, or you can purchase a s’mores kit from the nearby Chuckwagon Snack Bar. Both the campfire and the outdoor movie are subject to cancellation if bad weather strikes, so check in with Guest Services if dark skies are on the horizon.
3. Boogie at a dueling piano bar.
Disney World may not be known for its nightclub scene, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few spots where you can have a little over-21 fun. Jellyrolls, located at Disney’s Boardwalk, is a lively dueling piano bar where audience participation is highly encouraged. It has a full bar menu, but your best bet is a bright and colorful cocktail (Purple Rain, anyone?) in one of its refillable tumblers. Seating is limited, so you’ll have to get there early if you want to be guaranteed a good seat near the stage. There’s also plenty of standing room to be found. Jellyrolls is open daily from 7:00 PM to 2:00 AM, which is also the same time Disney’s resort hotel buses stop running. If you’re planning on staying until closing, research your transportation options ahead of time. Both Uber and Lyft are available throughout Disney World.
4. Embark on an evening safari.
Disney’s Starlight Safari gives guests a unique nighttime opportunity to observe the animals who roam the savanna area surrounding Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. With the help of a rugged safari vehicle, night vision goggles, and a knowledgeable guide, you’ll get a glimpse of zebra, giraffes, antelopes, and more than 20 exotic animal species and their habitats. Advanced reservations are recommended for the Starlight Safari, which is held twice nightly at a cost of $74.17 per person.
5. Charter a private fireworks cruise — on a yacht.
Even if you aren’t living the yacht life at home, a Disney World vacation seems like the perfect reason to splurge. While there are certainly more economical options, there is nothing more indulgent than chartering Disney’s Grand 1 Yacht for an intimate nighttime cruise, complete with an unmatched view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks, an onboard meal, and your own private butler (for an additional fee). This swanky yacht does seat up to 18 people, so the $399 per hour base price really isn’t so bad if you share the cost with friends. You’ll want to call Disney well in advance to book this exclusive experience and the aforementioned extras.
6. Indulge your foodie tendencies with a progressive dinner.
Disney World makes it easy to create your own food (or drink) crawls — an evening spent traveling from hotel to hotel via Disney transportation while sampling various meal and beverage options along the way. For a truly top-of-the-line dining experience, however, you’ll want to embark on what is undoubtedly the most delicious Monorail ride ever taken, the Highway in the Sky Dinearound. This progressive dinner shuttles you from course to course around Disney’s Deluxe (i.e. fanciest) resorts — Disney’s Contemporary, Polynesian Village, and Grand Floridian. Your evening will end with a nightcap of desserts, cordials, and coffee with a view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. The cost of this popular culinary adventure is $170 per person and it books up quickly, so advance reservations are strongly recommended.
7. Shut down the Magic Kingdom in style.
Short lines and unobstructed views are hard to come by at Disney World, but Disney After Hours events get you just that and more. Held on select nights throughout the year, tickets start at $129 per person for these limited-ticket specials. Disney allows far fewer guests in for these events than it does during regular business hours, so you can hit all your favorite rides as many times as you’d like. There’s also free unlimited — yes, unlimited — ice cream, popcorn, and select non-alcoholic beverages available at food courts throughout the park. You’ll enter Magic Kingdom in the early evening (times vary by date) and stay until midnight or 1:00 AM (again, dependent on date).