Disney After Hours Boo Bash is a new Halloween party coming to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World beginning in August 2021. In this post, we’ll take a sneak peak at the entertainment lineup, dates for the hard ticket event, and offer commentary, including how this compares to both Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Villains After Hours, the two past parties on which Boo Bash is based.
This announcement of Disney After Hours Boo Bash comes as part of the Disney Parks “Halfway to Halloween” wicked celebration today and May 8, 2021 that’ll feature special announcements, a few “shriek peeks,” recipes for dreadfully delicious dishes from the parks, a “mummy approved” Disney+ playlist, not-so-spooky tips, frightfully favorite Halloween wallpapers, and much more.
Before we dig into the details, let’s start with the basics. Disney After Hours Boo Bash will be held on select nights from August 10, 2021 through October 31, 2021. The event will be held instead of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (more on this undoubtedly “controversial” decision in our commentary below), and will feature exclusive entertainment, food & beverage, merchandise, and more.
Get in the spooky spirit at Disney After Hours Boo Bash with Halloween-themed cavalcades. Indulge your sweet tooth at candy stops throughout the park. See some of your favorite and fiendish friends as the characters lurk about, including Dr. Facilier, Captain Barbosa, Goofy, and Chip ‘n’ Dale. Stop and listen to the Cadaver Dans during their special comeback (from the dead) performance. Enjoy themed offerings, from sweet treats to savory delights.
Disney After Hours Boo Bash will take place on select nights at Magic Kingdom from August 10, 2021 through October 31, 2021 from 9 pm until midnight (some nights will be 9:30 pm to 12:30 am). Tickets for Boo Bash will go on sale in June 2021, so continue to check for updates. Disney After Hours Boo Bash tickets will grant admission to Magic Kingdom park as early as 7 pm without the need for a day park ticket or Disney Park Pass reservation, plus the 3 exclusive hours of the event.
Here are some highlights of Disney After Hours Boo Bash:
Candy stops, with plenty of sweet surprises
Character sightings throughout the park
Special performances by the Cadaver Dans
Low wait times at over 20 attractions, including Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain & Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Themed food and beverages available for purchase
Special décor, lighting, music and more!
Guests young, old and immortal can dress in costume for the occasion and get their fill of Halloween candy. As an important reminder, costume masks are not permitted for adults; they can only be worn by children younger than 14. In addition, all guests are required to wear approved face masks during the event.
While Disney After Hours Boo Bash is a direct replacement for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, expect it to be much more like Villains After Hours than Walt Disney World’s flagship spook season event. That’s why it’s bearing the “After Hours” name rather than something like “Touch of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.” (Not that any naming convention should begin with Touch of…)
Since the announcement is relatively light on details, we’re going to spend the next few paragraphs offering some details about After Hours and its villainous incarnation, as that should be valuable context. For those who are unfamiliar with Disney After Hours, it’s a limited capacity event promising low wait times at over 20 attractions and experiences in Magic Kingdom. The event is also offered at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, or rather, it was until Walt Disney World’s closure. None of these events have been back since reopening…until now.
Walt Disney World started the After Hours hard ticket events a few years ago and they’ve grown in popularity since. The event lasts for 3 hours after park closing, and also includes another 3 hours of early admission with regular day guests. In the past, this has allowed event guests to arrive early and enjoy the Happily Ever After fireworks, do dinner, and knock out a few attractions even prior to the park closing and the exclusive event beginning.
Also in the past, Disney After Hours has offered unlimited refreshments, soda, and ice cream (no word yet if Disney After Hours Boo Bash will offer the same). The Villains After Hours incarnation of the event that was occurring when the parks closed also offered a light assortment of special entertainment unique to the event, including a stage show and cavalcade, which featured rare villains and the Maleficent float from Festival of Fantasy rolling down the parade route at night.
The marketing for Villains After Hours hyped up the entertainment, which was fair since it definitely had a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party meets After Hours vibe. However, as we pointed out in our Disney Villains After Hours Review, the emphasis should be on the short wait times and low crowds. (That review is worth reading if you’re on the fence about Disney After Hours Boo Bash as we’d anticipate significant overlap between the two.)
You can get a ton done during this event—more than during a full day in Magic Kingdom pre-closure. In fact, we think so highly of the After Hours events so much that they made our Best Value Splurges at Walt Disney World List. In particular, Villains After Hours was the best of the bunch. It’s more like paid Extra Magic Hours than it is the Halloween and Christmas parties, albeit with significantly lower crowds than EMH, MNSSHP, or MVMCP.
With that said, the entertainment is a nice value-add, but it was not main the reason to purchase Villains After Hours party tickets. The show and cavalcade in Villains After Hours were good diversions, but they’re nowhere on par with Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular or Mickey’s Boo to You parade. Expect that to hold true with Disney After Hours Boo Bash.
In short, the heart of the After Hours events is low crowds and short lines at attractions, with the entertainment being the icing on the cake. By contrast, the heart of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is the entertainment, and short lines for rides are the icing.
Even though there’s still a ton we don’t know about Disney After Hours Boo Bash, expect that trend to continue with this hard ticket event. Again, there’s a reason it’s following the After Hours naming convention and is not a form of Mickey’s parties.
This is going to be a disappointment to some Walt Disney World fans. Honestly, we are two of them.
We love the Halloween parade, Hocus Pocus stage show, and fireworks. These are normally once per year treats that we savor, and we missed them last year. After Hours is an objectively solid event, but as people with regular access to attractions, it just does not resonate the same way. Obviously, that’s a personal thing–an “us problem.”
However, if you’re an Annual Passholder, local, regular visitor, or taking a longer vacation, it might also be a “you problem.” The After Hours events have always been tougher sells for those demographics. That’s because they’re aimed primarily at tourists whose time is limited and arguably more valuable than their money. For infrequent or once-in-a-lifetime visitors to Walt Disney World, the After Hours events are excellent. Boo Bash should continue that trend.
After getting over my initial (personal) disappointment, I totally understand Walt Disney World’s decision to pivot to the After Hours event for Halloween 2021. For one thing, none of the flagship elements of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party have returned to the parks. Fireworks, parades, meet & greets, and stage shows are all still on temporary hiatus.
While it’s entirely possible that half of those things will be able to return by Fall 2021, that’s not yet a sure thing. And it may not be for a couple more months. These events are normally planned far in advance, with work being done now for parties beginning in August, which simply would not be possible this year.
That opens the door to something like Disney After Hours Boo Bash, which uses an event template that is tailor-made for the current environment since low crowds are its key, and everything about the After Hours events has been “naturally” physically distanced in the past. It’s fundamentally different than MNSSHP, but it’s a great offering in its own right.
With that said, Walt Disney World could’ve started preparing for the 2021 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party making some safe assumptions about what would be possible. That’s exactly what Universal Orlando did months ago in announcing Halloween Horror Nights. At this point, it’s looking like all of those gambles are going to pay off.
Even if Disney had to nix certain elements of the full event, a scaled back or modified event could’ve worked. For instance, I have a hard time believing character meet & greets will be back this calendar year, but runDisney-style selfie stations with rare characters would’ve been a great–and more efficient–compromise. Nevertheless, I’m optimistic that some of these elements will find their way into Disney After Hours Boo Bash, and be announced as there’s more clarity about what’s safe to include.
The real “problem” as I see it is the World’s Most Magical Celebration. As you’re undoubtedly aware, Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration kicks off on October 1, and much of that will be centered around Magic Kingdom. Even if this were a totally normal year, running an After Hours event in October might make more sense than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Closing Walt Disney World’s flagship park early 3-4 nights per week right at the start of its big bash would be a logistical nightmare. We’ve seen this scenario play out for the last several years, and it was really bad two Octobers ago. In fact, our October Crowd Calendar for Walt Disney World(among several other posts) explains why you should do your daytime Magic Kingdom visit on a party night even though you’ll have significantly fewer hours in the park.
In highly technical terms, the Halloween party really screws with crowds at Magic Kingdom. That would be even truer if fireworks and/or other nighttime entertainment were essentially put behind a paywall for half of the week right as they returned and fans descended upon Walt Disney World for 50th Anniversary trips they’ve been planning for literal years. (Note: this is not to say that fireworks will be back at Magic Kingdom by October 1–just that the After Hours approach would allow for them, as it did previously, whereas MNSSHP only has pay-to-play fireworks on event nights.)
The only other alternative would’ve been moving Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party to another park (Disney’s Hollywood Studios likely would’ve been the best candidate). That’s exactly what Disneyland did two years ago when introducing Oogie Boogie Bash. That move was motivated by the debut year of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and the expectation that Mickey’s Halloween Party would be too much of a burden on Disneyland crowd dynamics. (That’s also the reason Disneyland has never had a hard ticket Christmas party–it is not due to lack of demand!)
Ultimately, while I’m a bit personally disappointed that Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party won’t happen this year, I also understand the rationale for the decision. I also know I’d second-guess Walt Disney World’s decision-makers if they opted to hold the Halloween Party and it ended up being a shell of its normal self or created nightmare crowd conditions–two entirely plausible scenarios on some alternative timeline.
Villains After Hours is/was a legitimately great event–the best way to experience Magic Kingdom and its attractions–with a solid amount of entertainment and moody atmosphere as icing on the cake. Given that, I’m cautiously optimistic about Disney After Hours Boo Bash. If Walt Disney World’s entertainment and events teams can cherry-pick the best ideas that are viable in the “current environment” from After Hours and MNSSHP and combine them in Disney After Hours Boo Bash, it could be an exceptional event. It ultimately will come down to budget, execution, and ambition levels. Perhaps Boo Bash is not the event we were hoping for by Fall 2021, but it could be a great one given the ongoing circumstances and necessity of planning several months in advance.
Are you excited for Disney After Hours Boo Bash? Will you be attending the event? Do you agree or disagree with our perspective on this? Are you disappointed that Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party won’t be happening, or is Boo Bash a superior (or at least sufficient) alternative for you? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!