Photos, Report & Review: Disney After Hours Boo Bash

We attended the first After Hours Boo Bash at Magic Kingdom, the new Walt Disney World special event with lower crowds, short wait times for popular rides, plus Halloween entertainment, characters, and atmosphere. In this review, we’ll share party photos, what we accomplished, and whether it’s worth the money.

If you’re looking for background info about the event, ticket prices, dates, and all of the other basics, consult our Guide to Disney After Hours Boo Bash. We’ll be updating that with more photos and advice based upon our experience at the first party night, plus whatever common questions might arise from this report.

In case you’ve missed past coverage, Disney After Hours Boo Bash is the indirect replacement for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party–hopefully just for this year. Boo Bash definitely has a similar vibe, and the event’s Halloween-theme and entertainment feature prominently in its marketing. However, beyond the surface level similarities, Disney After Hours Boo Bash has very little in common with Walt Disney World’s iconic Halloween Party…

It’s understandably tough to get past this since Disney After Hours Boo Bash is occurring during the same timeframe as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and the event description sounds similar to MNSSHP. It thus stands to reason that they should be similar, offering comparable experiences and appealing to the same general audience.

That’s like saying Eddie Murphy’s modern masterpiece, the Haunted Mansion, is similar to Hereditary. Or Casper is like the Conjuring. They’re all “haunted house” movies at their core, so what’s the difference? Anyone conflating those films for their superficial similarities has made a gross miscalculation that they will quickly regret after pressing play. Same goes for Disney After Hours Boo Bash, which is a fundamentally different event than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

We won’t belabor this point too much since it’s been (overly) emphasized in all of our Disney After Hours Boo Bash coverage to date, but Boo Bash is much more akin to Villains After Hours. Suffice to say, that assessment feels even more accurate after experiencing Boo Bash.

To reiterate one final time, the heart of Disney After Hours Boo Bash is low crowds and short lines at attractions–the entertainment just icing on the cake. By contrast, the heart of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is the entertainment, and short lines for some rides are the icing. Your opinion of Boo Bash will hinge entirely on whether you want a low crowds event or a Halloween event. Boo Bash most definitely does not fill those Not-So-Scary sized shoes…but it also doesn’t try to do so.

Moving along to our evening, we arrived at 7 pm, right as Disney After Hours Boo Bash guests were first allowed to “mix in” with day guests. The result was large crowds on Main Street as guests arriving, leaving, and claiming spots for the fireworks all collided in the same general area.

Our plan was to do a few attractions and get a general feel for crowds before returning to watch Happily Ever After from the front of the park. We managed to knock out it’s a small world, Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, Dumbo, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and Carousel of Progress during this time. All of these waits were minimal, and we could’ve done even more were we singularly focused on doing attractions. (We passed Barnstormer as a walk-on, and both Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Tomorrowland Speedway appeared to have short lines.)

Upon returning to Main Street, we realized that trying to watch/photograph the fireworks was a total lost cause due to the heavy crowds and congestion, so we doubled back to Tomorrowland.

After taking some photos and checking out the merchandise, we got in line for Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover only a few minutes before the fireworks began. It’s always enjoyable watching the pyro explode overhead while aboard the TTA.

We raced to Fantasyland after finishing the PeopleMover, and managed to catch the last couple minutes of the fireworks from between the New Fantasyland walls.

This area is usually uncrowded and great for photos. For your viewing purposes, I’d recommend a spot with both Beast’s Castle and Cinderella Castle visible so you can simultaneously see the low level and rear bursts. It’s great for being fully “immersed” in the fireworks, with pyro exploding in front of and behind you.

After the fireworks, there was a roughly 30 minute gap between Magic Kingdom closing to day guests and Disney After Hours Boo Bash beginning. We checked out a couple PhotoPass spots, but neither were ready to go. We also noticed event guests starting to queue up for trick or treating, snacks, and other things.

Knowing that all of this would have no lines later in the evening, we instead headed deep into Frontierland and did Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which had virtually no wait. This also would’ve been a good time to knock out Splash Mountain, which had a 15 minute posted wait and no visible line, but we opted against it.

Instead, we went over to Haunted Mansion, grabbed ice cream, and watched Madame Carlotta for a bit.

This was not an objectively good use of our limited event time–Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise both had 15 minute posted waits and actual waits even shorter than that judging by appearances–but we wanted to enjoy the Halloween entertainment in addition to taking advantage of the low waits.

In fact, a good portion of our evening revolved around seeing and getting photos of the special Halloween entertainment. Definitely more than the average attendee, but it’s safe to say we are not the average attendees.

The irony that we focused on entertainment while stressing the point that you should not focus on entertainment isn’t lost on me. As Annual Passholders who are in Magic Kingdom at least once per week, seasonal entertainment is a novelty for us, whereas attractions are not. (Which is probably why so many other APs and other regulars were disappointed by this event replacing MNSSHP.)

From Haunted Mansion, we headed over to Frontierland to watch the Cadaver Dans perform.

Back in the ‘golden age’ of the Party Pass (two years ago), we spent many a late night in front of Country Bear Jamboree watching them serenade guests and crack jokes. It was a nice stroll down memory lane.

After that, we spent considerable time at the front of the park watching the Halloween cavalcades. These are identical to those from regular daily operations last year, with the addition of the Maleficent Festival of Fantasy parade float. They are not even remotely on par with the full Mickey’s Boo to You Halloween parade.

The music, costumes, choreography, and performers all evoke that iconic Halloween parade. Sort of like how British Invasion reminds you of the Beatles. The cavalcades are enough to whet your appetite, but leave you wanting more.

As with the daytime cavalcades, our perspective on the Halloween cavalcades is that they are best enjoyed as something you spontaneously “happen upon.” They are cute and fun, but there’s not nearly as much meat to them–even all of them combined–as a full parade.

Planning your evening around seeing the Halloween cavalcades can be a time drain, even with the low crowds and last-minute availability of viewing locations. Unless you or your kids are fond of particular characters featured in the cavalcade (or want to see Maleficent roll down Main Street), we would not recommend slotting them into your itinerary. You’re truly not missing much if you don’t see them.

This is definitely a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” We spent way too long watching and photographing the Halloween cavalcades. It was nice not having to fight crowds for good photos, but the cavalcades themselves were not particularly satisfying.

It didn’t help that the Maleficent float was not breathing fire. Seeing this at night was the “icing on the cake” for Villains After Hours, so it was a big letdown. (I’m probably overemphasizing this as compared to most guests, but I really wanted to experience it again.)

The other seemingly-insignificant (but big to us) disappointment was PhotoPass. There were not nearly enough photographers doing these Magic Shots, and the longest line of the entire event was for the photo above.

You can’t tell from the profile view, but in our “normal” photo before this, I was channeling Nick Nolte’s mugshot. Unlimited ice cream (and copious amounts of sugar) is a helluva drug! 😉

The last hour of Disney After Hours Boo Bash was especially glorious.

Aside from Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, and Haunted Mansion (always popular at Halloween-themed events given its connection to the holiday) pretty much everything was a walk-on or close to it. We only waited a few minutes for Peter Pan’s Flight, despite its 20 minute posted wait.

We ended up doing a dozen attractions during the pre-party and event itself, and that number is almost certainly much lower than anyone who went in on a mission to ride as much as possible. We allocated a lot of time to entertainment and photos that the average guest presumably wouldn’t–or at least, shouldn’t.

I’m hesitant to offer much strategy from our one-off experience that was not focused on efficiency, especially given that crowd levels and dynamics might change. With that said, this is now our third Magic Kingdom After Hours event, and they all seem to follow more or less the same pattern.

Accordingly, I’d recommend knocking out low wait and longer attractions during the pre-event mix-in hours. Following the fireworks, start in deep in Frontierland or Adventureland, and then do the other of those two. Cross through the hub and knock out Tomorrowland, finishing in Fantasyland. Hopefully you’ll see some of the cavalcades and characters at random, but if not, oh well.

Lines for trick or treating and snacks virtually disappeared by the end of the night, but PhotoPass lines did not. It’s possible there will be less demand for PhotoPass during future event nights–or Walt Disney World will increase the number of photographers who can do the Magic Shots. That’s definitely one easy area for improvement.

It’s worth noting that despite this (and many other) Disney After Hours Boo Bash being “sold out” online, tickets were being sold day-of at Magic Kingdom. I have no clue if this is due to cancellations, increased capacity, or tickets being set-aside from the outset for same-day sales (Disneyland has done that for years with its Halloween parties).

Regardless of the why, the crowd level at the Disney After Hours Boo Bash we attended was perfect. It wasn’t eerily empty, but many attractions were walk-ons and wait times were reasonable at the headliners. I wouldn’t want to see attendance much higher than this unless there’s more entertainment and “other things” added. I’m also concerned October crowds at the event could be higher than what we experienced.

At the end of the night, we raced to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, getting in line one minute before Disney After Hours Boo Bash ended.

We breezed through the cool queue in 11 minutes under the shade of the night sky, with a feels like temperature of 85 degrees. Those details might seem like odd inclusions given that it was after midnight, but anyone who has waited for over an hour in the unshaded overflow queue recently with 110 degree might be “sold” on Disney After Hours Boo Bash on the basis of that last sentence alone.

The practical reality of Florida weather cannot be overstated. Right now, daytime hours are downright miserable–even at rope drop, humidity is oppressive and the midday sun can be draining. While this event runs through October when temperatures will (hopefully) be cooler, nighttime is still much more pleasant.

At night, the sun is down and it feels better. Between that, the lower crowds, and a mild breeze, Disney After Hours Boo Bash was an incredibly enjoyable experience. (“I enjoyed being outside” may seem like a low bar, but it’s not a sentence you’ll hear many Floridians utter in August.)

The heat and humidity create a “haze of hostility” that just lingers in the air. I’m not even kidding, that’s the highly scientific explanation for Florida Man’s many misadventures! As soon as the fireworks ended, you could feel Magic Kingdom’s temperature drop, both literally and figuratively. The park became palpably more pleasant and the overall mood improved.

To that point, Disney After Hours Boo Bash was our most pleasant prolonged visit to Magic Kingdom in a while. Probably since around this time last year when off-season crowds plummeted, but before hours were dramatically cut. It was very similar to previous After Hours events in this regard, and markedly better to Extra Magic Hours or the Halloween and Christmas Parties in their last years–all of which had become over-crowded.

Whether Disney After Hours Boo Bash is worth the money really depends–even more so than other hard ticket events Walt Disney World has done in the past. We paid $274.78 for our two tickets after tax and discount, and that was for the cheapest event night.

Disney After Hours Boo Bash is more expensive than past Halloween or Christmas Parties, but it’s cheaper than a single day ticket to Magic Kingdom or doing a VIP tour. Unfortunately, all of those are highly imperfect comparisons, so you’ll really need to assess how much more comfortable crowds and short wait times plus spooky atmosphere are worth to you. For families with young children, there’s also the question of whether your kids can last until midnight.

Ultimately, we would recommend Disney After Hours Boo Bash to first-timers, infrequent Walt Disney World visitors with limited vacation time, or those who value riding a lot of attractions with minimal waits. This is the best experience you’re going to have at Magic Kingdom, both qualitatively and quantitatively. You’re going to be able to accomplish around a full day of attractions in only a few hours, and do so in a much more comfortable and pleasant park.

With that said, Disney After Hours Boo Bash certainly is not for everyone. If you are expecting a modified Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, you will almost certainly be disappointed. You might even think this review is a bit too positive since the event is so “scaled back” as compared to MNSSHP. To be clear, Disney After Hours Boo Bash is subpar strictly as a Halloween event.

However, rating Disney After Hours Boo Bash as compared to MNSSHP in terms of entertainment makes little sense, as that’s not what this offers. That would be akin to reviewing Casper negatively because the ghost is friendly and it’s not nearly as scary as the Conjuring. More appropriately, consider Disney After Hours Boo Bash a mass market, self-guided VIP-lite experience. Through that lens, Disney After Hours Boo Bash makes infinitely more sense and the value proposition is markedly superior–so long as Walt Disney World doesn’t raise that attendance cap for future Boo Bashes.

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Have you attended Disney After Hours Boo Bash? What did you think of the event? How many attractions were you able to experience? What was your average and/or highest wait time? What’d you think of the atmosphere and entertainment? Would you attend, or is it too pricey? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!

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