REVIEW: Disney After Hours BOO BASH at the Magic Kingdom is No Party
On Tuesday night, I paid to attend the very first Disney After Hours BOO BASH event of 2021 at The Magic Kingdom. Disney After Hours events have existed at The Magic Kingdom for a number of years, and then expanded to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios a while ago. The Villains After Hours version debuted in June 2019, and returned for 2020 until the pandemic closed the parks. Now, Disney After Hours is back to replace Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (at least for this year, possibly forever), so let’s see how the event holds up. Here’s the official description:
Disney After Hours Boo Bash will take place on select nights from August 10 through October 31. Ticket holders will be admitted to Magic Kingdom park as early as 7:00 PM on the valid date of their ticket—giving them even more time to enjoy park favorites before the event begins! These dated tickets do not require an additional day theme park ticket or Disney Park Pass theme park reservation.
Admission to Disney After Hours Boo Bash can be purchased online for $129 to $199 per adult or child (plus tax), depending on the event date. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members can take advantage of a $10 discount on event dates in August and September.
Tickets are nontransferable and nonrefundable. The number of tickets available is limited. Tickets are valid only during specific event dates and hours. Prices, entertainment, attractions, experiences, ticket types, entitlements and other event elements subject to availability, closures and change or cancellation without notice or liability.
So, as stated above the event “begins” at 7:00 pm, which means you get to mix-in with the regular Magic Kingdom guests for a few hours. If you already have park admission, you can head in early and obtain your wristband at the former Stitch’s Great Escape in Tomorrowland or at Tortuga Tavern in Adventureland.
If you only have event admission and not a ticket that gets you into The Magic Kingdom during regular park hours, then you can arrive a little before 7:00 pm and enter through the turnstiles indicated as an “Event Entrance” in front of the park.
Here’s the full event lineup via the guide map:
Some nights are 9:30PM-12:30AM, but most are 9PM-12AM.
Event exclusive food and beverage offerings are available, but no exclusive merchandise.
The park was very crowded at 7pm on the night we attended, and wait times sadly did not improve until the event began. Here are the wait times at 7:26pm:
Some wait times were still rough at 8:41pm, just 4 minutes before Happily Ever After fireworks began.
That being said, crowds were light from the start of the event onwards and the Magic Kingdom has lots of crowd-absorbing rides and shows that you could do with minimal wait even when the park is still open to everyone. The special entertainment and such also seemed to pull crowds away from rides, leading most headlining attractions to be a “walk-on” for the event’s duration.
Here’s a look at the wait times just after 11pm, with 90 minutes of the event still remaining:
While Disney’s Hollywood Studios was the first to introduce “themed” Disney After Hours events with their 30th anniversary and Star Wars versions, the Magic Kingdom then offered Disney Villains After Hours, which added a stage show, mini-parade, special PhotoPass opportunities, unique paid food and beverage offerings, as well as ride overlays, lighting and decor changes around the park, and different area music in the various lands. The BOO BASH is a strange amalgamation of this event and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, mostly due to the pandemic. That being said, we have seen Disney shift towards more expensive, less crowded events the last few years, so if successful, this may just be what “parties” will be moving forward.
Carried over from the Halloween parties are the Trick-or-Treat locations, a dance party, the Cadaver Dans, some character appearances (albeit distanced), Disney PhotoPass opportunities, and special music and lighting around the park. Coming over from Disney After Hours are the Snack Carts with ice cream bars, popcorn, and bottled beverages included with your admission, as well as the character cavalcades (technically introduced at Villains After Hours pre-COVID), and the shorter waits at attractions which are the biggest selling point of these events.
As mentioned above, included in the admission are complimentary snacks: popcorn, Mickey Ice Cream bars, fruit bars, and the Mickey ice cream sandwich. Complimentary bottled beverages include Dasani water, Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite. If you are hungry or thirsty and this doesn’t fit your needs, Main Street Bakery, Main Street U.S.A. snack cart, Golden Oak Outpost, Sleepy Hollow Refreshments, Storybook Treats, Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies, & Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea Company “Revive” are all open throughout the exclusive hours. You can read a review of the exclusive offerings at these links:
Why you would buy a ton of snack items when the complimentary offerings are available for free with your ticket is beyond me. That being said, a few of them were pretty good this year and I might recommend them. Stick with the Mickey-shaped treats and popcorn if the night is already too expensive for you.
We also spotted special PhotoPass opportunities around the park.
OK, let’s talk about the entertainment…
Mickey’s Happy Halloween Cavalcade
Performing twice a night, Donald, Daisy, Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto are joined by a group of dancers representing the segments of the now-defunct Mickey’s Boo-To-You Halloween Parade. While this worked as a daily offering last year, just rolling out an old gazebo float and some characters walking feels pretty lazy at these prices.
The first performance does a loop of the parade route, so don’t worry if you miss it on the first pass.
Disney Villains Halloween Cavalcade
The villains float from the Share a Dream Come True Parade will celebrate its 20th anniversary during BOO BASH, and here it is carrying Dr. Facilier, Jafar, and the Wicked Queen. Captain Hook, the Queen of Hearts, the Big Bad Wolf, and Bowler Hat Guy walk in front of this procession.
Jack’s Nightmare Cavalcade
Also “converted” from daytime cavalcade included with regular admission to BOO BASH nighttime offering is the Nightmare Before Christmas characters aboard a float.
Maleficent’s Fiery Prowl
Returning from Disney Villains After Hours is the Maleficent unit formerly from the Festival of Fantasy Parade.
It is accompanied by the ravens and vines characters that walked with it in the daytime parade. I remember being pretty harsh about this offering in the past, but it was so nice to see this float back in action after such a long absence.
A small variety of characters made appearances around the Magic Kingdom at 5 locations. At Pirates of the Caribbean, you’ll find Pirate Goofy.
in Frontierland, by the Country Bear Jamboree, Chip and Dale are out intermittently as a pirate and a vampire.
At The Haunted Mansion, three residents of Gracey Manor receive guests: Miss Carlotta, Miss Renatta, and their faithful servant, Broome the Butler.
Above Pinocchio Village Haus, Foulfellow and Gideon can be found.
The Pooh characters in their Halloween costumes are on the balcony of the Crystal Palace on Main Street.
The Cadaver Dans
The Dapper Dans become the Cadaver Dans for Halloween four times nightly. They also perform on the rooftops of Frontierland near the Country Bear Jamboree.
Should You Attend “Disney Villains After Hours” at the Magic Kingdom?
So, is Disney After Hours BOO BASH worth it? It depends who you are. You can’t have a bad time in a mostly-empty Disney theme park with headliner attractions open; it’s impossible. It is a VIP experience at a price point that doesn’t require as much capital as a VIP tour or something of the like. The determining factor, as always, is the price. $129-199 plus tax is expensive. You just need to decide if you think it is worth it for you based on the above review. I don’t know that I would regularly drop this money to do this, but if someone was visiting who doesn’t often come to WDW or for some reason can’t brave the crowds of The Magic Kingdom in the often 100-plus-degree summers of Orlando, this is something I would book for a special occasion. As with past events, I might even recommend not buying a day ticket to Magic Kingdom and just doing this instead since you’ll accomplish more between 7pm and 12:30am than you might with a full day in the park.
The sad truth is that the everyday Walt Disney World experience wasn’t very enjoyable before COVID, and as crowds have risen in the last year, it’s slowly getting back to where it was then. The absence of FastPass is a curse or a blessing depending who you ask, but no one is excited about the prospect of paid FastPass. Whenever that inevitably happens, maybe it just makes more financial sense to attend an event like this and not have to buy a regular park ticket and then add-on front-of-the-line access. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
There’s also the ever-changing pandemic to deal with, and as variants develop, maybe there are many guests who are happy to pay more to be around less people and have some peace of mind. Maybe this is the perfect offering for the time period we live in.
In the end, my review stays mostly the same. I think the only way to accomplish a lot and not feel miserable by the time your trip is over are these expensive add-on events. I know telling you that does little to fix all of the current problems at the domestic parks, but I’ll recommend these even though a small part of me will die every time I do.
These events are stress-free, take place in the cool evening hours, and are a remarkably good time. Yes, they are expensive, and yes, Disney should care that their normal guest experience is miserable, but there’s nothing you or I can do about that. If you personally want to continue to have fun at Walt Disney World and have disposable income, then Disney After Hours is your best bet.
If you enjoyed Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party purely for the entertainment and character appearances it offered, well, I think you are in the group that will be tremendously disappointed by Disney after Hours BOO BASH. It is not that event, or even close. The cavalcades do not make up for Mickey’s Boo To You Parade not being there, there is no stage show, there is no fireworks show, and there are very few character appearances compared to years past. It bears little resemblance to that past event other than resurrecting a few small bits of it here and there. Disney after Hours isn’t made for the crowd that would go to this event every year, or sometimes even multiple times in a season. It’s clearly aimed at casual tourists alone, as all other Disney After Hours have been. I’m not saying you wouldn’t have fun at the event, but I’d leave all pre-conceived notions from years of attending Not-So-Scary at the door if you want to enjoy yourself and just hope that Disney turns back to the traditional event next year.