I am typically (always) a little Disney cheerleader, confidently asserting that they know what they are doing and they won’t screw anyone over (boo Genie+). However, I am totally at a loss with this upcoming holiday season. For reference, we have spent a week in Disney World every November/December for as long as I can remember. It is our one “big trip” every year. Nothing beats the weather, moderate crowds, or holiday theming during mid November or early December, in my humble opinion.
In recent years, hands down the best hours of our 8 night Disney trips have been the extended evening hours in Magic Kingdom. I originally posted about them in all their glory below, emphasizing how the emptiness of the park made it feel like an exclusive, paid after hours event. We typically walk on everything except for waiting maybe 10 minutes for Mine Train. It’s our most eagerly anticipated time of every trip. I even try my best to include a Wednesday night on any of our little mini trips at other times of the year as well, since these special MK hours typically fall on Wednesdays.
For whatever reason, this year, Disney has decided they prefer not to host holiday parties and MK extended evening hours during the same weeks. This was first seen during the Halloween parties that are currently underway. For the bulk of the Halloween season, the Wednesday extended evening hours have been shifted to Hollywood Studios, whereas last year they still occurred in Magic Kingdom (they just wouldn’t have Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party on Wednesdays). This year even though there typically are not any Halloween parties in MK on Wednesday nights, for whatever reason, they don’t want to keep MK open late for Deluxe Resort guests on Wednesdays in addition to the party nights. When I saw this, I got nervous for the Christmas season but figured meh, worst case scenario, we get extended evening hours in our favorite park, Hollywood Studios (although I do figure extended evening hours are probably more beneficial in MK just due to the number of rides available). We would be okay missing out on our favorite MK hours to experience Hollywood Studios pretty empty late at night for a change.
However, for some reason, Disney has chosen not to offer extended evening hours in MK or HS during the bulk of the holiday season this year, instead choosing to bizarrely announce extended evening hours in Animal Kingdom for most of the Christmas season weeks on Wednesdays (or Mondays in the case of the week we are travelling, with no extended hours offered anywhere on Wednesday December 6th, and the Epcot hours moved to Thursday that week… whew confusing), as if anyone would say “hooray two extra hours after 7pm in a park where the main attraction closes at dusk regardless!” I fully get that Flight of Passage is a pain in the butt to get on, but no way is anyone chomping at the bit to stay in Animal Kingdom two extra hours when it’s one of only 3 nights per week where Magic Kingdom is open regular hours for the public instead of closing at 6.
Looking at our scheduled trip for the first week of December, we are practically going back to Covid reduced hours at MK and HS thanks for all of the paid Christmas parties. During our 8 nights, Magic Kingdom closes at 6pm 4 times, and HS closes at 8pm twice. So then you think to yourself, okay don’t panic, just go to those particular parks on the nights where they don’t close early, duh. Well what is everyone else thinking? If Magic Kingdom is only open past 6pm 3 nights a week, those 3 nights will be packed. Disney families are crazy about seeing MK fireworks, and if they only have 3 chances per week, you can bet MK will be an absolute shit show, pardon my language, those 3 nights that it stays open normal hours. I can’t speak to how Hollywood Studios will be, since I can’t remember ever being there during a time when there were multiple nights that HS closed early. I’m sure Fantasmic will be absolutely packed on the other nights of the week at a minimum. In general, the best time to do HS is the last 3 hours of the day, and those hours are taken away for 25% of our trip, so I can’t help but be a little bummed.
In order to have any night in MK past 6pm with less than insane crowding due to fewer nights being available to the general public, we will have to spend at a minimum $500 for our tiny family of 3, on top of what we are already spending for park tickets, in order to attend parties we honestly have no interest in attending. We’ve done Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party and considered it a fine thing to experience once, but not worth returning since IT DOESNT COMPARE TO THE EXTENDED EVENING HOURS. Why is Disney taking away the one chance per week that we’d get to have a decent relaxed time in the quintessential Disney park? There is literally no reason they can’t have Magic Kingdom open late on those Wednesday nights. There are no Christmas parties planned for those Wednesday nights (except Thanksgiving week). Even if there is a Jollywood night on a Wednesday, why would that mean they can’t keep Magic Kingdom open for Deluxe resort guests? Staying open late at massively reduced capacity can’t be a significant staffing issue if four nights a week they manage to staff massive MVMCP events in MK while simultaneously keeping Epcot and HS open for normal hours. Even if you argue that it’s rare for MK and HS to both be open until midnight…. So what? Is it a matter of not having enough bus drivers to work that late for two parks ? It can’t possibly be the park cast members because the cast members required to keep MK open on Wednesday nights at reduced capacity is a teeny percentage of those required for a MVMCP, and all of those MK cast members absolutely will not be required at HS given that there are no parades, free snack or beverage stands to man, nearly as many rides or characters, etc (don’t get me started on how disappointing of an offering Jollywood Nights is, given how awesome it could be).
Doing this might honestly just be a thinly veiled attempt to move some small bit of crowding out of Magic Kingdom on those Wednesday nights. Given that HS is closing early for holiday parties on several of those Wednesdays and MK will be open regular hours after being closed early most other nights those weeks, you’d assume MK will be absolutely packed on those Wednesday nights. So maybe Disney thinks they are being clever and trying to lure some deluxe resort guests over to a partially open Animal Kingdom instead.
I have absolutely no explanation for the first week of December having no extended evening hours anywhere on Wednesday night, and replacing the Epcot extended evening hours with Animal Kingdom on Monday. No idea what is going on there, except maybe they are anticipating huge Epcot crowds on December 5th for the premiere of the new fireworks show, and they can’t keep Epcot open late the night before due to preparations or something. Thankfully they at least have the Epcot extended hours on Thursday that week instead of not at all.
Otherwise, the lack of MK/HS extended evening hours is just an attempt to push us to fork over the $500+ for Christmas party tickets. I came so, so close to buying Jollywood Nights tickets for our family, but it makes me very nervous that only four rides are currently named as being kept open for the event (0 without a height requirement, so watch out families with small kids). There is no mention of keeping open Toy Story Mania, Smugglers Run, or Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which is mind blowing and has to be an oversight in the event description. There also are no free cookies or hot chocolate, which sounds silly but was the highlight of MVMCP for our family last year. It’s hard for me to justify selecting Jollywood Nights over MVMCP when it’s very nearly the same cost (when you factor in no child pricing for Jollywood) without the free food or massive parade, and fewer hours of park entry allowed. It’s just bizarre. I’m holding out hope that they will see low ticket sales as a sign to announce they are including some snacks, or at a minimum announce additional rides will be open.
As things currently stand, I’m really struggling to plan our Disney nights for our December trip, and nights are our absolute favorite time in the parks, by a landslide (we nap all afternoon to make sure we are energized for the best time of the day). I wish Disney would recognize that most families only get a weeklong trip to Disney once in a blue moon (we are lucky to do a weeklong trip once a year), so throwing in these slap-in-the-face Animal Kingdom 7pm-9pm nights for a few weeks of the year might seem small to them, but for families, it takes away the best part of a trip people have been waiting for for a very long time. A lot of these deluxe resort guests are DVC members, aka the most loyal supporters/investors that Disney has. It’s been nice to receive just a couple hours a week of reduced wait time as a perceived thank you for being Disney die hards (or just the people paying the most for on site rooms).
Very bummed that our trip falls during one of what I’d now consider the unluckiest 3-4 weeks of the year that you could stay at a Deluxe Disney Resort (first world problems for 800, Alex). The first week of December is arguably the unluckiest of all the weeks since there are no extended evening hours at Epcot either. I will somehow survive, but my beloved Disney should know that I may have called them a-holes for the first time since the introduction of Genie+ when they made this AK extended hours announcement.