760b77c8-d745-43be-8ccc-1da3351b5001

REVIEW: Disney Very Merriest After Hours is a Welcome Return to Party Form at Magic Kingdom

On Monday night, we paid to attend the very first Disney Very Merriest After Hours 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. Disney After Hours returned as BOO BASH to replace Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and now, in similar fashion, Disney Very Merriest After Hours has replaced Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Here’s the official description of the event:

This holiday season, join loved ones and friends at an oh-so-jolly occasion during The World’s Most Magical Celebration. 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—including the new Disney Enchantment nighttime spectacular! These dated tickets do not require an additional day theme park ticket or Disney Park Pass theme park reservation.

Admission to Disney Very Merriest After Hours can be purchased online for $169 to $249 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 select event dates in November.

This 4-hour event, held at Magic Kingdom park, begins at 9:00 PM on select nights from November 8 through December 21.

DisneyWorld.com
fbf9e821-e320-4a71-b200-99478d20fc0d

So, as stated above, the event “begins” at 9:00 p.m., but you get to mix in with the regular Magic Kingdom guests for a few hours starting at 7 p.m. 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 Tortuga Tavern in Adventureland.

d793294b-6feb-4dff-aa97-2edabf616222
verymerriestafterhours6
verymerriestafterhours3

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 p.m. 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:

very-merriest-after-hours-map-0-1940440

All nights run 9:00PM-1:00AM.

very-merriest-after-hours-map-25-6832364
very-merriest-after-hours-map-26-3612301
very-merriest-after-hours-map-27-7948531
very-merriest-after-hours-map-28-5743524

Event exclusive food and beverage offerings are available, but no exclusive merchandise.

very-merriest-after-hours-map-30-8665262
very-merriest-after-hours-map-31-6048096
very-merriest-after-hours-map-32-1950847
very-merriest-after-hours-map-15-6663778
very-merriest-after-hours-map-23-7810709

Unlike other parks, The Magic Kingdom features very little that closes before 7 p.m., so you can experience almost the entire attraction lineup with an After Hours ticket. The Disney Very Merriest After Hours ticket also gives you the chance to experience the Disney Enchantment Fireworks during regular park hours, but then you also get Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks.

The park was very crowded at 7 p.m. on the night we attended, and wait times sadly did not improve until the event began. Once the event was going, wait times were more than reasonable:

42d6be9c-ab7e-476f-8966-d365d67ef2b7
a1f8d96c-6e3b-4edc-9e8e-1390f3e4df2e
329db68b-d8f3-4583-91cc-67666b848e4a
e902dee9-2c2c-487c-ab43-aa99352df78c

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.

The only holiday attraction overlay exclusive to the event this year is the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. The overlay is cute and worth seeing if you have the time.

c7c17ea6-6298-4fed-a345-5b0b33db51d2

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 Very Merriest is a strange amalgamation of this event and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, mostly due to the ongoing pandemic recovery. 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.

verymerriestafterhours2

Carried over from the former Christmas parties are the cookies and hot cocoa locations, a dance party, the Reindeer Wranglers, some character appearances and “sightings” (albeit distanced), Disney PhotoPass opportunities, and special music and lighting around the park. A vast improvement over BOO BASH, this event does have a full parade, a stage show, and a fireworks show. Coming over from Disney After Hours are the Snack Carts with ice cream bars, popcorn, and bottled beverages included with your admission and the shorter waits at attractions which are the biggest selling point of these events.

f74c98c7-9ec2-4b2e-a5bf-90bb8b4a7e19
Snickerdoodle Cookies and Hot Coca are available at several locations at no additional charge.
a46a4a07-3ae6-4e68-b82d-fe748afc3230
f0790c57-309b-4489-b29f-95339a6b8e9d
0eeac05c-e646-4f40-bd88-5c731e2a2f80
Allergy Friendly options are also available at treat locations.

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.

OK, let’s talk about the entertainment…

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade

verymerriestafterhours1

Performing twice a night, this is the first “full” parade offered at Walt Disney World since March 2020. It is nice to see a full parade back, even if over 90 performers are missing from it. This would be a time in the past where we would complain about such a reduction, but that seems odd given that the majority of the entertainment department was let go last year. It’s good enough that this is being offered, and our expectations will certainly return to where they were previously as time marches on.

There are plenty of characters appearing throughout, and as you can see by the video above, certainly more than have been appearing at one time in the park over the last 18 months.

Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks

Returning from Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is the relatively new fireworks spectacular, Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, performing at 11:15 p.m.

Honestly, I remembered being pretty indifferent about this show, but it was much better than I remembered. A number of guests we spoke to at the event also remarked that it was the highlight of the night for them.

Mickey and Minnie’s Very Merry Memories Show

760b77c8-d745-43be-8ccc-1da3351b5001

Castle stage shows are also back in a reduced format. While the runtime is shorter than most, Very Merry Memories is a nice addition on the slow road back to normality. Having grown up in the 1990s, I was ecstatic to see a little bit of “Celebrate the Season” return, and otherwise, the scenes from the more recent offering are all enjoyable.

Character Sightings

A small variety of characters made appearances around the Magic Kingdom at 6 locations.

1de7d44d-40bc-46e3-bee8-3f1e601913b0
2a2dcaca-a453-490e-b6f8-3ad9f62c8a9d

The Country Bears (Liverlips and Big Al) in scarves and sushi hang out on the balcony of Grizzly Hall in Frontierland.

captain-hook-and-smee-6230816

Captain Hook and Mr. Smee are on the stage across from Pirates of the Caribbean.

5e2658cf-217d-4127-a713-c8644e193ee5

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are outside of the Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland.

f8e8ca21-824a-4e4d-a051-08782eb1cc6e

Santa Stitch can be found at the Club Tinsel dance party in Tomorrowland.

santa-claus-meet-2-6305640

Santa Claus can be found at the gazebo behind Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, but he does have a formal queue that can be quite long.

5529726c-6c42-4ee7-8b93-86cdd5f81b69

The Pooh characters in their festive costumes are on the balcony of the Crystal Palace on Main Street.

The Reindeer Wranglers

A musical trio playing holiday favorites can be found a few times a night as well. They also perform on the rooftops of Frontierland near the Country Bear Jamboree.

Should You Attend “Disney Very Merriest After Hours” at the Magic Kingdom?

75979ce8-485c-4981-9fc3-fdebbcbd7986

So, is Disney Very Merriest After Hours 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. $169-249 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, 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 7 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. 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.

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 Very Merry Christmas Party purely for the entertainment and character appearances it offered, I think I have a very different outlook on this After Hours than I did for BOO BASH. This does come close to what the event was with the return of a parade, a castle stage show, and its own full-blown fireworks show. Getting to see two different fireworks shows in one night is a big value, and if crowds remain as they were on this night, you will be able to walk up to any of these Very Merriest offerings just minutes before they start and have a great view. That is an enjoyable evening, one that was never really possible even at the reduced attendance parties.

7e659575-cf2d-43fa-a86e-1c5e4cf56f17
The “snoap” snow once again falls at Magic Kingdom during Very Merriest After Hours.

Yes, it’s still short on some performers and character meet & greets, but we are getting closer to what these offerings used to be. If you want to relive that magic this holiday season, I don’t believe that Disney Very Merriest After Hours will disappoint.

For more information on booking your next trip with our official travel agent sponsor, the Vacationeer, visit wdwnt.travel.

  1. What gets to me about these events is the time. How do they expect families with small children to do this? It’s just not feasible. I mean, you could try but there goes the relaxing care-free time in the park when you have an overtired child crying in the stroller. I really hope this isn’t the future of parties because we won’t be able to go to any of them for at least the next 6 years.

Comments are closed.