Making the Most of a Magic Kingdom Extended Evening

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Yesterday, we looked at how Extended Evening Theme Park Hours (EETPH) at EPCOT are one of the best ways to save time in line at that particular park. The wait times during EETPH at EPCOT are lower than during Early Theme Park Entry, lower than regular rope drop, and are remarkably pretty comparable to the waits that you’ll experience if you use Genie+ or ILL for the same attractions. But EPCOT isn’t the only park with EETPH. So today we’ll look at how you can maximize your time during a Magic Kingdom Extended Evening.

So what are EETPH? (Does anyone else just screech that loudly in your brain when you read it? Just me?) EPCOT and Magic Kingdom currently each stay open for an extra two hours after the park closes to day guests, one day a week. Only guests staying at Deluxe or Deluxe Villa (DVC) resorts are allowed to stay and play. If the parks are open late anyway thanks to expected crowds, this can result in some potentially very late nights. For example, the EETPH at Magic Kingdom when we ran this test were from 11 pm to 1 am. Probably not very feasible for those with small children. And maybe not very interesting to regular visitors that just tour during the day in a relaxed manor while enjoying their deluxe accommodations. That all leads to very few people bothering to stay late and take advantage of this perk.

Both parks are reportedly ghost towns during EETPH, even on the most crowded park days (like the week between Christmas and New Years). Most attractions are walk-ons, especially during the second hour. We had a lot of success earlier in the week at EPCOT, so we sent Chrissy to the Magic Kingdom on December 29 to see if we could generate another excellent night.

Explain the Goal!

If you’re already staying Deluxe or DVC, or if you’re already budgeting for a stay at a Value or Moderate resort and are willing to rent DVC points or have the TouringPlans Travel Agency hunt some deals for you, EETPH is a perk that isn’t financially out of reach. In fact, the time savings are definitely enough to justify not purchasing Genie+ for EPCOT or Magic Kingdom. And they may even be enough to allow you forego an extra day of park tickets, especially if you have park hoppers.

Our goal for this late night was to test just how much you can legitimately accomplish during EETPH on one of the most crowded park days of the year – December 29, 2021. Park reservations for Magic Kingdom were sold out for the day, and almost all (if not all) qualifying resorts were at capacity. So it should have been a worst-case scenario for the usefulness of EETPH.

On top of that, we don’t want to just fill our 2 hours with spinners. We want to use our time well – to experience attractions that would have a long wait during the day, and to avoid attractions that don’t see large wait time spikes. Unfortunately, a few factors were working against us on that front. Splash Mountain and Jungle Cruise aren’t available during EETPH, so we couldn’t put those in our plan. On top of that, Big Thunder Mountain went offline at 1:30 pm and never came back up (and, in fact, remained offline the following day as well). We still knew that we wanted to accomplish Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, and Peter Pan’s Flight, as well as several other popular – and enjoyable – attractions.

How Did We Do?

Our in-parks tester began EETPH at 11 pm right outside of Pirates of the Caribbean. With Big Thunder Mountain closed, Pirates is relatively off on its own, geographically, compared to the rest of the available attractions for the night. We didn’t want to have to walk back and forth there because that would take up valuable time. So it came first. Chrissy ended up waiting just over 1 minute for her boat. For what it’s worth, based on other EETPH, Big Thunder would have also been close to a walk on very early on during EETPH if she had decided to begin there instead.

Next up was Peter Pan’s Flight. At 11:20, after navigating from Pirates, she waited just under 6 minutes to fly to Neverland. That’s absolutely crazy – Pan was posted at 60 minutes for most of the Early Entry hour, and peaked at 110 minutes (and staying at that peak for over 2 hours throughout the day).

After Pan, Chrissy headed to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and walked right on with no wait at 11:35.

Then came the potential breaking point of our plan – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which had a 45 minute posted wait when Chrissy got in line at 11:42. Thankfully, the actual wait was under 15 minutes! For reference, we have actual wait times of 42 and 50 minutes within 5 minutes of Early Entry starting, and the peak posted wait for the day was 120 minutes.

After that, everything else was smooth sailing. Chrissy rode Dumbo twice with no wait. In fact, she was allowed to just stay on the ride for her second spin. Check out all of those empty elephants!

That set her up to head to Tomorrowland to finish out the night. She started at Space Mountain at 12:20 am. It had a posted wait time of 30 minutes, but she was launching after just 6 minutes. Compare that to a 30 minute actual wait within 10 minutes of the start of Early Entry, or a peak posted wait of 75 minutes.

Riding in a rocket was fun, so Chrissy followed up with a ride on Astro Orbiter, which was just a 3.5 minute wait.

Once back on ground, it was 12:49 and there wasn’t time to walk anywhere else. So she headed to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which had no wait. She was able to take two shots at this attraction before the park closed down for the night!

Summing it up: In the course of the 2-hour EETPH, she was able to accomplish 10 attractions, with about 31 minutes of total waiting. And almost half of that wait was just for Seven Dwarfs!

What Would That Look Like Without EETPH?

I’ll be short and sweet (wait for it – it’s a joke). If you were a regular, off-site guest and rope-dropped Magic Kingdom at normal opening time – 9 am – AND if you had clairvoyance and knew the best way to hit each attraction in the right order to minimize wait time AND if you had a stomach and bladder of steel such that you didn’t need to take any breaks or eat anything … we can figure out how much time you would’ve spent in line during the day to accomplish the same 10 attractions in an ideal manner.

So what would your day have been like? In order to do the same 10 attractions (8 distinct attractions, plus re-rides on Dumbo and Buzz), you would have been actively touring from 9 am to 4:45 pm with no breaks. You would have spent 395 minutes in line. That a number that’s big enough that it’s hard to understand in minutes. It’s over 6.5 hours of waiting!! For 10 attractions! We were able to minimize the wait at Seven Dwarfs to “only” be 70 minutes, and keep the wait for Peter Pan to under an hour as well. But that meant taking some trade-offs in the form of an average wait of 45 minutes for Buzz both times, and almost an hour wait at Space Mountain. Yikes.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. The more compact layout of Magic Kingdom means that it’s easier to accomplish more there in a shorter amount of time (and without as much physical exertion) during EETPH compared to EPCOT. Hooray!
  2. On the most crowded days of the year, touring just during EETPH can save you over SIX HOURS of waiting compared to experiencing the same attractions during the day. And that was without being able to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which would’ve generated even more time savings. We calculated potential time savings from Genie+ at the Magic Kingdom, and none of them even come close to six hours of time savings, no matter the crowd conditions.
  3. We skipped past Haunted Mansion and Under the Sea in this test, but Haunted Mansion and Under the Sea both would’ve been about a 45 minute wait during the day, and had less than 5 minute waits during EETPH.
  4. There are some attractions that should just be on your no-go list for EETPH. Those would include shows like Country Bear Jamboree, Enchanted Tiki Room, Mickey’s PhilharMagic and Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, as well as walk-through experiences like the Swiss Family Treehouse. I’ll admit that watching Country Bear Jamboree at 12:45 am is probably an amazing entertainment choice, but it’s going to eat up a lot of your 2 hours, and you wouldn’t wait that long for it during the day anyway.
  5. Like at EPCOT, posted wait times during EETPH are typically very inflated. Seven Dwarfs stayed posted at 45 minutes for most of the night, and we had 4 actual wait times of around 15 minutes. Pan was posted at 20 during our 6 minute wait, and Space Mountain was posted at 30 during a 6 minute wait. So don’t trust what you’re told. Especially near the end of the 2 hours almost everything will be a walk on.
  6. There are fewer attractions on the “left side” of Magic Kingdom that are worth doing during EETPH. So if you want to save the steps, focus on Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Otherwise, start over at Big Thunder and work your way to Fantasyland after knocking out the few “left side” attractions that you want to do.

Have you tried out EETPH at Magic Kingdom? Or does Chrissy’s experience convince you that maybe it’s something you should stay up late for? Let us know in the comments! And remember that the lovely folks over at the TouringPlans Travel Agency can help you book Deluxe so that you can take advantage of this awesome perk! Click below to get yourself a quote.

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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-gandillon/ or instagram @raisingminniemes

15 thoughts on “Making the Most of a Magic Kingdom Extended Evening

  • December 31, 2021 at 1:55 pm
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    Hi Becky, you’re right, I did love this one, wow, 10 rides in 2 hours sounds pretty sweet!

    However, as you mentioned, this day had late hours! The start was 11pm which is the typical end time most nights. Next week, magic kingdom closes at 9pm on Wednesday, so you’ll have extra hours from 9-11. The park is not sold out yet, but I do wonder if the earlier extra hours will entice more to stay, creating longer lines… It’s all relative, I’m guessing you’d hit 8 rides instead of 10. Maybe only riding those 2 rides once instead of twice.

    Either way, that’s a tremendous haul of rides. Definitely better than our Genie+ usage for Magic Kingdom the Wednesday before this experiment. But, I used 7am to grab a parade viewing spot. (We were there for Christmas, so a guaranteed spot was amazing for us). Here’s our view: https://youtu.be/EuS5CGhjDK8. We also were fortunate enough not to get screwged over by Disney. We were able to do Peter Pan and Dumbo with LL (both nearly walked right on) and had a pass to buzz and magic carpets (daughter wanted to do it and it had a posted 30 minute wait at the time) but just couldn’t get to either due to other timing issues. Also bought ILL$ for 7dmt. It was going great until I sat down in the ride vehicle when they announced the ride broke down . Was about to leave cause I knew my wife was done for the day, but fortunately after 15 minutes, they got it going! Yay. Probably 25 total minutes waiting.

    We also did iasw standby – posted 60 actual 20. And also Little Mermaid posted 30 actual 20. We also got to Magic Kingdom at 11ish, so basically slowly walked down main street to wait for noon parade and left for Wilderness Lodge at 3 for a Story Book Dining ADR at 430, so rest in the lobby then dining, ate up 3.5 hours of 9 hours being at the park.

    Anyway, thanks for the fun series. I think it might be worth it next time to rent points at one of the nearby hotels and stay late when wife and kid want to head back to go sleep. I can hit the rides I want to do at night while doing what they want during the day. Win win lol

    Reply
    • December 31, 2021 at 3:38 pm
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      Excellent point about the timing, Erik! We’ll make sure to try it out again once the hours shift back to something more “normal” and see what happens.

      Reply
  • December 31, 2021 at 2:24 pm
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    Hello! We had almost an identical experience (10 rides including Pan, 7D and Space: our re-ride was barnstormer. Ha!) the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving day at MK. We were so excited!! We were staying at the Swan on Marriott points and that was all setup before these nights were announced so we felt like we won the jackpot! Honestly the only lines we stood in were the lines to scan our magic band before we actually got into the regular line. My family still talks about how much fun that night was. Highly recommend!!

    Reply
    • December 31, 2021 at 3:29 pm
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      This is great to hear! I had heard of some Swan/Dolphin families having trouble and having to be double-scanned at each ride. Glad that wasn’t the case. You got a great deal!

      Reply
  • December 31, 2021 at 3:44 pm
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    I can’t wait for this in May for my BLT stay!

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  • December 31, 2021 at 10:35 pm
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    I’m super excited to read about these too! We will be going in early April , and my husband is not a big fan of crowds and long waits. These extended evening hours are perfect for us, and will allow us to feel less stress the rest of our visit. Got a great deal on split stay at Dolphin and renting DVC points at Kidani Village. Can’t wait Thank you for the reporting!

    Reply
  • December 31, 2021 at 11:38 pm
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    Think Disney will continue these extra hours for a while? I would assume they knew the capacity would be ultra-low, but is this within their calculations? We’re headed there in May and staying deluxe so here’s hoping!

    Reply
  • January 1, 2022 at 8:04 pm
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    Absolutely agree! Extended evenings for Deluxe and DVC resort guests is a treat. Like the experience here, we nailed every major attraction, Pirates (x2), Haunted, Seven Dwarfs, Big Thunder (x2), Peter Pan, Space Mountain (x2), and Buzz Lightyear all in two hours. There is precious little competition for any attractions. Thank you, Disney Parks, for this benefit at a time when you’ve taken so much away.

    Reply
  • January 3, 2022 at 6:59 pm
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    Becky, would you choose extended evenings over early entry? I’m not sure I have the stamina to do both back to back.

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    • January 3, 2022 at 7:06 pm
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      As a morning person, it pains me to say this – but I would absolutely opt for Extended Evening if I was eligible and it worked in my schedule. Lots more people are eligible for and take advantage of Early Entry. It’s still good, but not as good as Extended Evening.

      Reply
  • January 4, 2022 at 3:59 pm
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    Would you choose extended hours in September vs Boo Bash with a 5 year old?

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    • January 4, 2022 at 4:13 pm
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      Oh man. I have a 5 year old. If you’re more interested in party atmosphere and low lines as an added bonus, then Boo Bash. But it’s also an added cost. If you’re already staying Deluxe/DVC and are mostly interesting in low waits, Extended Evening is the obvious winner.

      Reply
  • January 7, 2022 at 1:36 am
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    Would love to see the comparison with a really hardcore rope drop near the front of the pack, WITH Genie+ and ILLs. Like, what’s the best case scenario for those of us who really push the limits in the morning vs Extended Evening. While I’m a night owl, most of my family prefer mornings.

    Reply
  • May 20, 2022 at 7:26 pm
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    Wow, this is reminiscent going to WDW back when there truly was a “slow” season! Great to hear the words “walk on” again! But we’re going in September, and I’m assuming parks will close at 9:00. Like others, I would be interested in hearing how Extended Evening hours work out when both Epcot and MK close at 9:00.

    Reply
    • May 20, 2022 at 9:16 pm
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      Good news for you and others – I’ve got an article about an EPCOT 9 pm-start evening hours coming up very soon!

      Reply

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