EPCOT Disney After Hours Review: A Disappointing Debut

    Disney World held the first-ever Disney After Hours event at EPCOT recently. Previously held at Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park this year, Disney After Hours at EPCOT will run through the end of August. In our EPCOT Disney After Hours review, we will cover event details and offer a review of attending the first night of the event! We paid 100% out-of-pocket for our Passholder-discounted ticket to attend the June 1st event.

    What is Disney After Hours?

    Disney After Hours is a special ticketed event that takes place on select nights and allows guests to explore EPCOT after the park closes with little to no waits on some of the most popular rides. In addition to lower crowds, complimentary soda, snacks, and ice cream novelties are also available during the event. Disney After Hours is a unique way to experience EPCOT in a more intimate and unique way thanks to lower crowds. Whether you want to run through as many attractions as possible or enjoy a more leisurely evening at EPCOT, Disney After Hours promises something for everyone.

    Disney After Hours should not be confused with Extended Evening Hours, which is a perk for guests staying at Deluxe Resorts. Disney After Hours is also not “Extra Magic Hours”, which is a discontinued perk for Disney World Resort guests.

    What’s Included in Disney After Hours?

    When you buy a Disney After Hours event ticket, here’s what Disney says is included:

    • Entry into Disney After Hours event
    • Enjoy some favorite attractions—with lower wait times since the number of tickets for this event is limited
    • Delight in ice cream novelties, popcorn and select bottled beverages—all included in the cost of this ticketed event—available at carts stationed throughout the park
    • See some beloved Disney Characters
    • Get a head start on the fun by entering the park at 7:00 PM—a few hours before the event officially begins

    EPCOT After Hours Dates & Pricing

    There are twelve Disney After Hours events scheduled for EPCOT, starting with last night’s June 1st event and running through August 24th. This means that, like the H2O Glow After Hours event at Typhoon Lagoon, the event will not only (hopefully) provide lower wait times, but also a much-needed reprieve from the Central Florida sun. Here are the announced dates, along with discounted prices for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members. It’s worth noting that these prices are about $20 cheaper than events at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. The Annual Pass/DVC discount keeps tickets at just $99 for every event.

    Disney After Hours runs from 10pm to 1am at EPCOT.

    Event DatePrice (Excludes Tax)Passholders,
    DVC Members
    (Excludes Tax)
    Thursday, June 1$139$99
    Thursday, June 15$129$99
    Thursday, June 22$129$99
    Thursday, June 29$139$99
    Thursday, July 6$139$99
    Wednesday, July 12$139$99
    Thursday, July 20$139$99
    Thursday, July 27$129$99
    Thursday, August 3$139$99
    Thursday, August 10$129$99
    Thursday, August 17$129$99
    Thursday, August 24$129$99

    Disney After Hours tickets purchases: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/tickets/events/

    EPCOT Disney After Hours Check-In

    Disney After Hours at EPCOT officially begins at 10pm, but you can get into EPCOT as early as 7pm with your event ticket. This means that you’ll be able to get a couple of hours of running around before the event starts. You can also catch the nighttime spectacular, EPCOT Forever, included with your event ticket.

    As with other After Hours events, you do not need to make a Disney Park Pass theme park reservation if you are entering EPCOT with your After Hours ticket. If you wish to enter EPCOT with a day ticket or Annual Pass before 7pm, theme park reservation rules will apply.

    We arrived shortly before the 7pm check-in time and found a significant line of guests waiting to enter. Unlike other Disney After Hours events, EPCOT does not have a dedicated, in-park check-in station. This means that guests who were already in EPCOT were instructed to exit the park and re-enter to obtain their event wristband. Once we got inside the gates, we did notice a single Cast Member near the check-in area on the inside of EPCOT with an iPad that would’ve been able to give in-park guests their wristbands for the event without needing to exit the park.

    That said, we wouldn’t rely on this being the policy going forward. A single Cast Member isn’t a check-in station and we would recommend asking Cast Members what the policy might be on the night of your visit if you already have day-guest access to EPCOT.

    The line was quite long and took us 15 minutes to get inside the park. The line stretched way past our position and it’s possible that it took some guests up to 30 minutes to check-in.

    Once inside, guests will receive a wristband designating that they’re part of the Disney After Hours event. It’s this wristband that will get you onto the rides once the park closes to regular guests.

    EPCOT After Hours Event Guide

    Here’s a look at the event guide for Disney After Hours at EPCOT. Perhaps the most notable part of the Disney After Hours event is that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is offering a standby line. As we’ll see, that didn’t go well during our event, but that’s not to say that it won’t go well in future events.

    Other notable things to pay attention to in the event guide are the complimentary snack locations and where you can grab a bite to eat if you’re looking for something more substantial than popcorn and ice cream. Finally, there is a DJ Dance party in World Discovery that is worth a visit. The music from the dance party will play throughout the park during the event, so it feels like an extra-special night at EPCOT.

    Mix-In & Pre-Event Strategy

    Ok, we’ve checked into the event and we have our event guide. Now, it’s time to come up with a strategy for the evening. When we did the Disney After Hours event at Hollywood Studios, our strategy was simply to ride Rise of the Resistance as many times as we could. At Magic Kingdom, the strategy was essentially to start at Jungle Cruise and work our way around the park clockwise, finishing the evening at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for back-to-back rides. For EPCOT, we realized we’d have to do something a little bit different.

    EPCOT is a large park and there is quite a bit of walking involved to get from attraction to attraction. Because of that, we came up with a strategy to “eliminate the corners”. Essentially, we broke the park down into four corners that we would try to enjoy and then eliminate to prevent wasting time by backtracking. Here are the four corners we came up with:

    • World Nature – The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Soarin’ Around the World, Living with the Land, and Journey Into Imagination with Figment
    • World Discovery – Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Mission: SPACE, Test Track
    • World Showcase East – Frozen Ever After, Gran Fiesta Tour
    • World Showcase West – Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure

    The idea here was that we’d start the 3-hour mix-in with some attractions that would have a lower wait during the last hours of EPCOT regular park hours before hitting other attractions that would typically have a longer wait, but should have minimal waits during Disney After Hours. To that end, we started in World Nature.

    After a lengthy check-in process and some time spent looking over the event guide, we got to The Seas with Nemo and Friends around 7:35pm. We were done by 7:45pm and it was time to make our way to The Land Pavilion to continue our early mix-in strategy. We made our way to Living with the Land, where we had a 12-minute wait and a 28-minute total experience time. We didn’t mind the nearly 30-minute experience because we were still in the “free” portion of the event, which means the 7pm to 10pm window before the official event start. By the time we were done with Living with the Land, Soarin’ Around the World was at a posted 20-minute standby wait time and it was around 8:15pm. This is where things started to deviate from our “eliminate the corners strategy”.

    In theory, we should’ve stayed with World Nature and finished Soarin’ Around the World and Journey Into Imagination with Figment. Those would’ve probably taken us to around 9:15pm. Instead, we let our curiosity get the better of us and left World Nature without completing the “corner” to head over to World Discovery and check in on the situation at Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.

    “Rope Dropping” Cosmic Rewind

    So, why abandon our strategy so early? We were curious to see how many guests would want to go straight to Cosmic Rewind given that this would be the first time many of them would experience the attraction with a standby line. Beyond that, there was a buffer hour for this event like we’ve seen at other Disney After Hours events. Essentially, the park closes at 9pm, but the After Hours event begins at 10pm. What happens during that 1-hour gap? Here’s what we found out.

    During the buffer hour, Disney kept attractions operating to clear out the final day guests but also started admitting After Hours guests with event wristbands right at 9pm. For most attractions, guests will not have to wait until 9pm to enter a queue because event guests get full access to park attractions starting at 7pm. With Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, guests will be forced to wait until 9pm to enter the standby queue as Disney continues to process Virtual Queue guests right up to 8:59pm. Before 9pm, the queue remains open to day guests with a Virtual Queue Boarding Group.

    The actionable news here though is that Cosmic Rewind will open before 10pm. That means that you can “rope drop” Cosmic Rewind during the buffer hour and maybe even experience some lower wait times due to a nearly empty queue thanks to an inefficient end-of-day Virtual Queue policy. Prior to standby opening, the final Virtual Queue Boarding Group was called at 8pm. By the time 9pm rolled around, there was nobody left in the queue – all of the day guests were past the pre-show areas. Here’s a look at the “rope drop” situation at 9pm when Cast Members began letting After Hours event attendees into the queue. There were less than 100 guests waiting to “rope drop” Cosmic Rewind, but we expect that it will be a bit more popular going forward.

    We rode Cosmic Rewind twice during the buffer hour. We entered the queue for the first time at 9pm and the total experience time was around 25 minutes. We were back in the queue for our second ride at 9:28pm and our total experience time for the second ride was about 45 minutes. With the conclusion of our second ride, the Disney After Hours event had officially begun. We’ll come back to Cosmic Rewind a little later in the article with some commentary on how it performed as a standby attraction and how you might best approach riding it during Disney After Hours.

    EPCOT Disney After Hours Experience Recap

    Before we jump into our experience, we want to begin with a bit of advice. Just because Disney After Hours events promise low wait times doesn’t mean they always deliver on that promise. To ensure you’re maximizing your time, check the My Disney Experience app throughout the event. Wait times will not be posted during the “buffer hour”, but starting at 10pm, they were available in the My Disney Experience app.

    To that end, we’re going to check in with wait times at 10:09pm as we exit Guardians of the Galaxy; Cosmic Rewind after our second ride. We were pretty much going to ride Test Track regardless because of how close it is to Cosmic Rewind, but it’s a good thing we checked in because we learned that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure was temporarily closed. Our plan to ride Test Track looked to be a good one given that it was posted at just 10 minutes. We’ll check in on wait times and attraction statuses throughout the evening and this article.

    We “started” Disney After Hours at Test Track and a posted wait of 10 minutes. It took us about 15 minutes to get buckled in and our total experience time was about 21 minutes. While in line, we continued to check wait times as we planned where to go next. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure was still closed, so it seemed like Frozen Ever After would be the right move.

    After completing Test Track, we decided to check wait times again and make a decision on either heading to Frozen Ever After or Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (if was open). It turns out that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure had reopened after less than 40 minutes of event-time downtime. Both would be a considerable walk, but with both posted at a 15-minute wait and Frozen Ever After closer, we decided to head to Norway. Because we were checking wait times, we knew that there would be a crowd headed to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and wanted to try and avoid it. As we’ll soon find out, there is a difference between logic and luck.

    During our walk from Test Track to Frozen Ever After, the posted wait time would jump from 15 minutes to 35 minutes and the line was at the door when we arrived. Not ideal. I briefly considered coming back later to see if Frozen Ever After would have a better wait time later in the event, but with the “eliminate the corners” strategy still in the back of my mind, I reluctantly got in line. The thought here is that the extra 20 minutes of posted wait time might amount to anywhere from 10-20 minutes of actual additional wait, and I might “waste” that walking back to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure anyway, and who knows what the wait time will be now that it has just reopened to guests. Additionally, we’re in the business of providing realistic information, so there is a risk of over-optimizing our evening too. Here’s a look at the queue that we found at 10:54pm.

    The posted wait time of 35 minutes translated to an actual wait time of 14 minutes. A 15-minute posted wait time probably would’ve been an actual wait of 5 minutes or less, but I wasn’t completely dissatisfied with a 14-minute wait and a total experience time of 19 minutes. As suspected, Frozen Ever After would be a walk-on later in the evening, but it ended up being worth it to just ride while we were there. Ideally, this would’ve been an actual wait of no more than 10 minutes and maybe short enough to lend itself to back-to-back rides.

    Ok, to recap, we’ve completed the following rides with our Disney After Hours ticket so far:

    • Pre-event: The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Living with the Land
    • Buffer hour: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (2x)
    • 10pm to 11:15pm: Test Track, Frozen Ever After

    We were approaching the halfway point for the event and knew that we’d have to knock out Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure eventually. The goal at this point was to still ride Soarin’, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, and one or two other attractions if possible. Walking off of Frozen Ever After, we checked wait times again and we were pleasantly surprised to see that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure had not increased past 15 minutes and chalked it up to the efficiency of the attraction. Time to head to France.

    Remember our earlier walk to Frozen Ever After and a wait time jump from 15 minutes to 35 minutes? By the time we made it back to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure the wait time had jumped from 15 minutes to 45 minutes – tied for the longest of the event at the time with Cosmic Rewind. Going back to the concept of luck vs logic, we’d take luck any day of the week.

    A posted wait of 45 minutes translated to a queue that stretched almost back to the outdoor switchback. This is not a sight you want to see when paying for a limited-capacity, limited-time event. Ideally, you’d find nothing posted at more than a 15-minute wait during the event.

    Our actual wait was 26 minutes and the total experience time was 32 minutes. What was frustrating was that Disney was only running one side of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, effectively causing the wait time to double. As you can see in our photos below, there were no Cast Members stationed at the dispatch area on the right.

    When we got to the end of the ride, there was a delay in exiting because of a backup in ride vehicles with extra rats sitting at unload where the extra capacity would be if they were running properly. It wasn’t immediately clear if this was a staffing decision or a partial attraction breakdown, but it’s frustrating either way. Again, luck vs logic. We attempted to go through our evening combining common sense with a strategy, but we seemed to run into issues after getting a bit unlucky. Even so, it sounds like we had one of the better experiences.

    As it turns out, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure was not the only attraction operating at half capacity during Disney After Hours. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind was also operating at half capacity during the event, causing wait times to double for event attendees. Rope-dropping Cosmic Rewind turned out to be a great idea and was the one time that logic prevailed over luck for us during the event.

    As we exited Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the clock struck midnight. Here’s a look at wait times as we entered the final hour of the event. With the “corners” of Norway and France completed, it was time to make the trek back to the front of the park to ride Soarin’ Around the World. In theory, you could easily already complete this corner of the park during the mix-in time. We left The Land Pavilion around 8:15pm to check on crowds for Cosmic Rewind “rope drop” at 9pm. Instead of sitting around for 40 minutes waiting for Cosmic Rewind to open, we would’ve completed Soarin’ Around the World and maybe even Figment before heading over to Cosmic Rewind. You really don’t need to show up more than 10 minutes before 9pm for Cosmic Rewind.

    We arrived in World Nature around 12:10pm but realized that we hadn’t collected any of our free snacks yet. Instead of taking 700+ photos, many of which didn’t make it into this article, we could’ve had some popcorn and ice cream in the queues and when walking between attractions like a typical guest would. After an entirely too long 12-minute photo shoot of our snacks in front of Spaceship Earth, it was time to try for Soarin’ Around the World and then make it back to the Cosmic Rewind queue before 12:59pm. We got to Soarin’ Around the World at 12:30pm and felt confident that we could get both rides done.

    As it turns out, there was essentially no queue before the “merge” portion of the line, but Disney was running just one Soarin’ theater – only 33% of the capacity for the attraction. We found a bit of a wait toward the load area and started to feel the pressure of not making it into the Cosmic Rewind queue by 12:59pm. Ultimately, the loading process was quite slow and we bailed from the Soarin’ queue just before the pre-show video started to play. It’s a good thing too, because we made it to the front of Cosmic Rewind with just 5 minutes to spare before the line closed for the night.

    Cosmic Rewind standby queue at 12:55am

    When we arrived at Cosmic Rewind, it looks like many guests had the same idea as us and that the ride was still struggling. We spoke with Cast Members who confirmed that the ride was still operating at half capacity and said that technical difficulties prevented them from operating both sides during the event.

    It took us 40 minutes to get through to the queue to the first pre-show area, only to find out that the pre-shows were broken and guests were being walked through a hallway that bypassed both pre-show rooms. In total, we waited 60 minutes in line and boarded the ride at 2am! Here’s a recap of our After Hours experience:

    • Pre-event: The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Living with the Land
    • Buffer hour: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (2x)
    • 10pm to 11:15pm: Test Track, Frozen Ever After
    • 11:15pm to 12:15am: Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, snacks
    • 12:25am to 1am: Failed attempt to ride Soarin’ Around the World, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

    With that, EPCOT Disney After Hours was done and it was time to head home.

    EPCOT Disney After Hours Wait Times & Crowds

    We’ll start with the average wait times for attractions open during EPCOT Disney After Hours (10pm to 1am), according to posted wait time data collected by thrill-data.com:

    AttractionDisney After Hours
    Average Wait
    2023 Average Wait
    Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind57 minutesN/A (Virtual Queue only)
    Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure23 minutes74 minutes
    Frozen Ever After17 minutes74 minutes
    Test Track Presented by Chevrolet22 minutes63 minutes
    Soarin’ Around the World10 minutes44 minutes
    Mission: SPACE10 minutes23 minutes
    Spaceship Earth5 minutes18 minutes
    The Seas with Nemo and Friends5 minutes13 minutes
    Gran Fiesta Tour5 minutes10 minutes
    Living with the Land5 minutes12 minutes

    The average wait time for the entire event across all open attractions was just under 16 minutes. That means that if you waited an average amount of time at each attraction, you would wait roughly 160 minutes in line during Disney After Hours – an event that operates for 180 minutes. Once you factor in ride times and walking times, it becomes clear that you won’t be able to do everything during the 3 hours that the event officially operates. That said, it becomes very doable once you add the two hours of pre-event time and the buffer hour between the official park close and 10pm event start.

    In terms of crowds, if you’ve made it this far in a single reading, you know that we ran into “crowds” everywhere we went. That said, the event was not sold out, and that was probably a lucky thing given how much the marquee attractions struggled to operate throughout the evening. We thought that crowds would’ve been manageable if the attractions were running fine, and would agree with Disney’s assessment that a limited number of tickets were sold.

    Is Disney After Hours at EPCOT Worth It?

    Ok, whether you’ve read to this point or simply jumped down here, we’re going to try and quantify if EPCOT Disney After Hours is worth the price and effort to attend. When compared to events at Magic Kingdom earlier this year or the few events remaining at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, EPCOT After Hours is notably cheaper – to the tune of about $20 cheaper. That’s already a bonus given how expensive these events have gotten in the past and how expensive it is to visit Walt Disney World theme parks already.

    Next, we’ll try to squeeze some value out of the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is offered as standby. If the attraction is operating smoothly, we could see the average wait time settling in somewhere around 30 minutes. If that’s the case, you could probably ride it non-stop around 6-8 times if that’s all you did during the event. At an average Individual Lightning Lane price of about $15, that’s somewhere between $75 and $120 “worth” of Individual Lightning Lane purchases. If that’s all you want to do, then EPCOT Disney After Hours is worth it. You can’t ride more than 3 times on the best possible day, so anything beyond that has some amount of value.

    Let’s try for a bit more of a complicated view. We didn’t want to just ride Guardians all night, so we were able to ride Frozen Ever After, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Test Track, and more during the event for a “minimal” wait. Even with some attraction reliability issues, we found value in the event if you’re only concerned about attractions. That said, I would wager that our experience during that first event was better or even much better than average. If you tried to rope drop Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure only to find it closed, and then went on to experience a 60-minute wait at Cosmic Rewind and a 30-minute wait at Test Track, your experience did not live up to expectations set by the promise made by Disney of low wait times.

    It is reasonable to expect average posted wait times below 15 minutes at most attractions, and maybe 30 minutes at the top one or two attractions during an event like this. The debut event of Disney After Hours at EPCOT was certainly disappointing from that perspective. For example, at Magic Kingdom, we’d expect Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to average around 30 minutes, but everything else should be well below that. The fact that Cosmic Rewind was operating at half capacity with an average posted wait time of nearly an hour and downtime during the event is almost unacceptable. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure being down for the start of the event and then seeing it was half capacity when we rode was also disheartening.

    We expect operational issues to be sorted out for the next event and hopefully remain minimal going forward, but we don’t plan on purchasing any more tickets to review the event again. If Guardians can hover around 30 minutes or less and Remy/Frozen can get closer to 10-15 minutes at most, there is certainly some value in attending Disney After Hours at EPCOT. If the question is Disney After Hours or a day ticket to EPCOT, we’d still recommend the daytime ticket. The EPCOT experience is much more than just the 10 rides that you’ll do during Disney After Hours and demands hours of strolling and exploring which is really only possible with a daytime visit, but if you’re looking for a more attraction-heavy experience After Hours is worth considering.

    As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!

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