Our Enjoyable Evening in Magic Kingdom
This post covers our recent weekend in Magic Kingdom, during which we enjoyed evening in the park despite it closing before sunset. In this, we’ll share photos and offers tips for staying “late” in Walt Disney World, and experiencing nighttime in the parks.
As you’re likely aware, Walt Disney World dramatically cut fall hours up until Halloween. As a result, none of the parks are currently open after sunset. This is disappointing–night is the best time in all of the parks, the most pleasant given the weather, and the optimal time for enjoying the Halloween atmosphere in Magic Kingdom.
The good news is that Walt Disney World has been extending park hours for select dates in October, and now Magic Kingdom closes only slightly before sunset. We visited for one such extended hours evening, and report on that here along with “how to” enjoy nighttime in the parks right now…
If you’re interested in the full play by play of our day, first check out our Magic Kingdom Weekend Report: Beating Heavier Crowds & Higher Waits. That covers our morning rope dropping the park, strategy for beating crowds and long waits (exactly as the title suggests!), and leaves off where this picks up.
Previously on this Magic Kingdom photo report, we were heading to Splash Mountain approximately 15 minutes prior to the park’s closing time…
Totally off-topic, but prior to getting in line for Splash Mountain I stopped to take a photo on the bridge due to the way the golden hour light was hitting Cinderella Castle.
This underscores why I’ve dubbed this Cinderella’s Chameleon Castle. It looks totally different depending upon the light and cloud cover–sometimes good, sometimes bad. I can’t say I’m a fan of this faux metallic look it has when bathed in side light in the early morning or evening hours.
Here’s the same scene after we exited Splash Mountain, which was about 20 minutes after park closing and just after official sunset time.
Part of the difference here is that Cinderella Castle is illuminated for the evening, so it’s no longer simply the paint and reflected natural light.
This was our first time in Magic Kingdom after sunset since the theme parks reopened at Walt Disney World.
Even though it was open until 7 pm nightly this summer, sunset times were always too late then. There were a couple of times we could’ve stuck around for it, but rain or overcast skies made that pointless.
This particular evening, on the other hand, was gorgeous.
At its peak, the sunset was a rich range of color from deep blue to fiery red. Oh, and the moon as the cherry on top!
Another look at the moon above the National Treasure that is Country Bear Jamboree. It’s truly a shame UNESCO hasn’t awarded it World Heritage Site status yet. They keep ignoring my applications for some odd reason.
Joking aside, this stroll through Frontierland was delightful. We were among the last guests to get in line for Splash Mountain, and after stopping for photos in front of the attraction, pretty much everyone was gone by this point.
After making our way through Frontierland, we arrived in Liberty Square. Equally devoid of other guests, this area is also delightful in the evening.
Overlooked due to its compact and modest design, Liberty Square packs a more powerful punch without anyone around. You can better hear its sounds and see the architectural details–or even mosey past the entrance of Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe for the scents of the season.
I stopped on the bridge between Liberty Square and Main Street for a while, both because I noticed a colossal crowd in the Central Plaza and to wait for the color of the sky to change a bit.
It looks slightly different because of the underlying color scheme change, but this is the same lighting package as before Cinderella Castle had its royal makeover.
It was a lovely evening, with a cool (by Florida in September standards) breeze and slow-burn sunset that we savored well after Magic Kingdom had closed.
As much as I enjoy just gushing about the experience, we promised some tips for staying late, so let’s turn to those…
The best one is fairly standard advice for anyone versed in our step-by-step Walt Disney World itineraries: jump in line for a headliner attraction a few minutes before park closing.
The two obvious picks are Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain, since those typically have the longest wait during the day. This effectively kills two birds with one stone, extending your day and killing time before nightfall.
As a bonus, you should be able to enjoy some beautiful sunset views while on each of those two attractions.
The above photo is one such view–Magic Kingdom’s “skyline” from the drop into the briar patch on Splash Mountain.
Another is a park closing Advance Dining Reservation. Magic Kingdom restaurants accept reservations right up until (or in some cases after) park closing.
Unfortunately, this advice isn’t particularly practical, as it’s incredibly difficult to score one of those elusive ADRs between now and Halloween. (It should be useful for those planning Christmas-time trips, though.) As with the last-minute ride, doing dinner at or after park closing is also useful for extending your day and not “wasting” valuable park time on eating.
The silver lining there is that even if you’re unable to book an Advance Dining Reservation for park closing, you can still benefit from them.
Because restaurants are seating until then, that means guests are eating until an hour or longer after Magic Kingdom closes. Since those guests are still in the park, Disney has little incentive to clear Magic Kingdom quickly.
Accordingly, the final way to stay late at Magic Kingdom is to…just do it.
While the various lands that do not have table service restaurants will generally ‘gently herd’ guests out of the land within 30 minutes or so of closing, guests are able to linger on Main Street for far longer.
It’s not a matter of simply hanging out to enjoy the atmosphere, either.
Stores on Main Street remain open and PhotoPass photographers are out well after closing, so you can be “productive” after Magic Kingdom closes, if you so desire. Yet again, another way to extend your day.
Just be aware that the lines for the Emporium and PhotoPass can be long immediately after official park closing time.
A lot of people see these options on their way out, and impulsively take advantage of the opportunity to do more shopping or have one last photo taken. (On this particular evening, about a half-dozen PhotoPass photographers were out for over an hour after closing!)
One of my favorite nighttime “activities” at Walt Disney World is getting as close as possible to the park icon, standing under it, and gazing up for a few minutes.
You’ll notice details you’ve never otherwise seen, and there’s an unparalleled feeling of awe. Maybe it’s just me, but the icon takes on a new sense of beauty and grandeur. Highly recommended.
You can also enjoy the Halloween decorations in their full glory!
This was one of the big reasons we stayed, and it did not disappoint.
As an added bonus, Halloween background music played from time to time (for some reason, the music alternated between the normal Main Street USA loop and the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party one).
I only wish Casey’s Corner were open. One of my ‘guilty pleasure’ Magic Kingdom meals is the Corn Dog Nuggets with Cheese Sauce. (I’m not sure why, but I associate that with fall at Walt Disney World–probably because that’s when I’ve most often eaten that?)
Ultimately, an excellent evening in Magic Kingdom. While visiting on a weekday would’ve resulted in lower wait times and lighter crowds, it was all worth it for that extra hour and this twilight tranquility. We have missed these evenings on Main Street so much, and the holiday season truly cannot come soon enough so we’re able to do this for a longer period of time and on a more regular basis.
We ended up leaving Magic Kingdom at 8:30 pm–90 minutes after official park closing time–at which point there was still a steady trickle of guests onto Main Street. We could’ve easily stayed later, but we were hungry and there was a pizza place behind Magic Kingdom calling our names. Here’s hoping for an early Festivus miracle–the reopening of Casey’s Corner by November–so we don’t have to leave so “early” next time!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have you stayed in Magic Kingdom until nightfall since Walt Disney World reopened? What was your experience? How long after closing did you stay? Did you do a park-closing Advance Dining Reservation, last-minute attraction, or “just do it”? Will you be attempting to experience evening in Magic Kingdom this Halloween or Christmas season? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!
Anybody know: When the buses stop running after parks close and after Disney Springs close? I think it was 2 hours…since Covid I am not sure if it is the same now
We had a park-closing reservation at Be Our Guest on our August trip and were the last ones out of the restaurant and one of the last few people in the park. You’re right about that “magic” feeling when we walked out to an empty park with the Castle glowing in the twilight and the empty carousel lit up behind it. It was the most beautiful I have ever seen Magic Kingdom.
Of course, the flip side was that we got Covid from our WDW trip (got sick the night we returned home so pretty confident we were infected on the trip–I suspect indoor dining was the culprit). But still, thanks for reminding of us of the good parts–that empty park was like a dream.
I’m constantly floored by the weird combination of wonderfulness and awfulness that is 2020. I know it sounds weird to say anything this year is wonderful, but due to work-from-home, I’ve spent more time with my kids more in six months than I had in the prior 8 years since my maternity leave. In fact, we’ll be back at WDW for a short stay in October and can hopefully be safe now that we have antibodies, though I’m still going to be careful about masks and sanitizer. And we will definitely do more eating outdoors this time!
“Of course, the flip side was that we got Covid from our WDW trip (got sick the night we returned home so pretty confident we were infected on the trip—I suspect indoor dining was the culprit).”
Yikes! Really sorry to heart that. Hopefully everyone is doing better now?
As pizza is one of the four food groups, and you appear to be an expert on “junk food nutrition”, what pizza place?
Beautiful pictures! We have been fortunate enough to bask in the CBJ four times over the last few days. Westward Ho had corn dog nuggets and was open last weekend!
Here’s a tip on something you should not do after MK closes. Don’t make a dinner reservation at The Contemporary and leave your car at the TTC. After having a wonderful birthday dinner at The Wave we were left with the problem of getting to our car. At that point the monorail was no longer running nor were busses to other than Disney Springs. Luckily a nice bus driver who was on her drop-off route to The Poly drove us to the TTC. If she hadn’t done that we would have had to Uber to get our car. Next time we will move our car from the TTC to the resort before we eat.
These blogs are so helpful
We will be at starting our 5 day vacation at Magic Kingdom this Saturday
So nice to know how to extend our night
I would have not known that we could get in line for a ride just before closing
Now, we’ll do the same
Thanks for the tips
The greatest tragedy in my life up to this point is that I have never experienced Country Bears Jamboree. This year, hopefully, that will change–especially after seeing that magnificent photo.
Saw it once and left before it was over. Not my choice in entertainment.
Hi Tom & Sarah,
To answer your question we used late ADR’s many times in order to prolong our stay. We would grab a window seat and enjoy the view of the magic.
Great spots with great views are The Plaza and Tony’s. Two at Epcot that we used were La Hacienda and Rose and Crown.
We used Hollywood Brown Derby but no great views of the Park just great atmosphere inside.
Days at Animal Kingdom and DHS we used to have dinners at Resorts such as Beaches and Cream at Disney Beach Club Resort or The Boathouse at DS.
When we were at MK we were always among the last lingering stragglers catching the last ferry. The only negative of that beautiful view is your going in the opposite direction of the Castle.
I would add that if you do a last minute ride or hop on a photographer line for that last minute Castle photo and arrive ten or twelve minutes late it was never a problem, at that time they would honor your reservation.
Hope these little tips help.
Pizza place behind Magic Kingdom??? Hmmmm….must investigate further
My thoughts as well.
While difficult to book post park closing ADRs, Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table may have space available on the walk-up list. Last Thursday my family got into Be Our Guest shortly before 7pm (an hour after park closing) by joining the walk-up list around 6:20. This could be a good last minute option for something to do after the park closes. We left the park around 8:30pm with very few people left on Main Street.
Nice photos, Tom.
Beautiful, awesome photos, Tom. Seeing the castle and the lack of crowds makes me want to cry that I’m not there.
I agree! Full post-MK pizza report, please! Given the Bricker’s SoCal history, I’m guessing The Pizza Press, which via investigation based on Tom’s comment I’ve learned have 2 locations in the area.
Speaking of pizza, I’d like to thank this website for the recent Via Napoli review, which finally convinced my wife to agree to returning there for the first time in a few years. I’m super excited for pizza tonight! Although I wish they still had the fungi pizza from years past.
Great evening pics!
Wow the sunset. looks the same and i get it for free at my house. LOL
Being in the Magic Kingdom in a deserted land is one of the best magical experiences. One of our best was being the last to ride Pirates of the Caribbean during extra magic hours, had the boat to ourselves, no one in the boats in front of us, and exited to a deserted Adventureland, and took our time enjoying the atmosphere strolling out. Love moments like those.
Thank you for this post Tom. I am saving it to read again shortly before we leave on trip. This cheered me up so much because this evening is what I love the best. Going to start changing reservations tomorrow. Already changed 2 Epcot reservations so I can accomplish this same thing.
Gorgeous photos! Makes me wish even more that we had kept our fall reservations! But coming from such a distance is tricky, and we’re just going to play it safe for now..
Thanks for sharing the beauty!
Had a 6:50pm ADR at BOG this past Wednesday, and was just about the last one leaving. Even then, no one hurried me out and it was a magical time enjoying the castle and Main Street. Got beautiful photos and best part of the day. Next night, had a 7:45 at Oga’s which allowed for coveted time in Galaxy’s Edge with not a sole in sight. Scored the perfect photo with the moon and north star over the Falcon. Highly recommend.
I have very similar reservation times next week. So excited!
I’m still thinking of canceling a November trip and then I read this post, Tom! I can’t decide! I’ve been to WDW two dozen times over the past 7 or 8 years and love it. I love the magic. I guess you’ve got to accept that it’s going to be a different kind of magic the next few months and possibly some things will never go back to before. I took your advice and got ADR’s after park closing for each of my weekday stays in November. I hope I don’t cancel!
In the same boat! We have a trip booked at the end of November. Except it will only be our 2nd time visiting. I, too, love the magic, the ambience…etc. I am still considering canceling but these reviews are making a decision so difficult. It looks and sounds wonderful.
Tom, as always, your pictures are gorgeous.
Amazing photos! So happy we’ll be at MK two Saturdays from now, when the park will be open until 8 p.m.!!
These pictures are stunning. Obviously, the clear winner of the bunch is “Moon Over Country Bear Jamboree.”
Tom….my Nikon shooting brethren.
What camera/lens did you use riding Splash Mountain?
Great Pics as always!!
Thank you for the constant updates during this crazy time! We are planning a short trip Dec 10-13 and I would like to book a late ADR for MK and/or HS. I know it’s hard to predict, but do you think the park hours for that weekend will be the same as the recent extended hours in weekends? Thanks!