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Mike Scopa

Everything You Wanted to Know About E-Ride Night

Cinderella's Castle at Night (photo by Sue Holland).
Cinderella's Castle at Night (photo by Sue Holland).

In this session, let me explain what E-Ride Night at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is, how it came about, how it's a win-win situation for Walt Disney World and guests, and how to make the most of it. [Just a reminder: These policies and basics are subject to change.]

A History Lesson

Of course, today's park admission media (the park ticket or pass) gives each guest access to all of the park's attractions. But in the early days of Disneyland and Walt Disney World, guests instead purchased ticket books to go on attractions. These books contained several individual tickets with different letter designations. Every time the guest wanted to ride an attraction, they had to surrender one of those tickets to the ride operator. Starting in 1955, when the park opened, Disneyland introduced the A, B, and C tickets. The D ticket was introduced in 1956 and in 1959 the E ticket was added.

Walt Disney World adopted this ticket method as well, and both parks used the E ticket for their top-of-the-line attractions. E-ticket attractions were such favorites as Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Haunted Mansion. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain weren't around during those coupon days, but if they were they would certainly qualify as E-ticket attractions.

Space Mountain, one of the Magic Kingdom's original E-Ticket attractions.
Space Mountain, one of the Magic Kingdom's original E-Ticket attractions.

Eventually, the term "E-ticket ride" became part of the American idiom to describe an exciting event or experience.

Nineteen-eighty-two marked the end of the E-ticket coupon when Disney replaced the ticket books with admission media that included unlimited access to all attractions in the parks.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

During the 1990s, Walt Disney World conducted many guest surveys to check the pulse of its resort guests for what worked and what didn't work. The overall goal was customer satisfaction, which—translated—means "revenue stream."

The surveys indicated that the two most overwhelming issues needing attention were access to the characters, and access to the most popular attractions. The perennial number-one favorite park among guests, the Magic Kingdom, was then targeted to address these issues.

Character greetings and character meals were added to give the guests more opportunities to interact with Mickey and friends.

Surprise (also known as Early Entry) mornings, Fastpass, and E-Ride nights were put in place to give guests greater access to the more popular attractions in the Magic Kingdom. Of these innovations, E-Ride night took the lead as the one move that seemed to work best for everyone.

What is E-Ride Night?

E-Ride night is a promotion offered only to those who stay on-property in a Walt Disney World resort, and who purchase multi-day admission passes. These qualifying guests then purchase e_ride vouchers, which they exchange for special wristbands. E-Ride nights are offered several times a month, as often as once or twice per week. Factors that determine frequency are usually the seasonal time of year and projected resort hotel room bookings.

During E-Ride night, the Magic Kingdom closes to the general public at a designated hour. At that time all park guests who have their E-Ride wristbands have access to nine special E-Ride attractions for three more hours.

Although the group of E-Ride attractions changes from time to time, they are usually Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Country Bear Jamboree, Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear, Space Mountain, Astro-Orbiter, Tommorrowland Transit Authority, and Alien Encounter. Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean sometimes replace one of the other attractions.

Big Thunder Mountain is an E-Ride Night Favorite.
Big Thunder Mountain is an E-Ride Night Favorite.

Along with the open attractions, you may find some characters around and about during E-Ride night at the base of Splash Mountain and at the gazebos in front of Cinderella Castle. Those most likely to show up are Goofy, Pluto, and Chip and Dale… but don't count out Mickey and Minnie.

Counter service is available for guests to grab a snack during these hours. The same holds true for the Emporium on Main Street USA.

E-Ride Voucher Basics

Guests purchase E-Ride night vouchers at Guest Services in any WDW resort hotel up to the night before the day of the E-ride night, although on the day of E-Ride, the vouchers are available only at Guest Services at The Magic Kingdom.

Only 5000 vouchers are sold for E-Ride night. Those who miss out must then purchase vouchers for the following E-Ride night.

The $12 vouchers look like a room access key. Starting at 4 p.m.,. guests can go to the area between the City Hall and Fire Station to exchange their vouchers for wristbands that are color-coded for the designated evening.

Getting the Most Out of E-Ride Night

Yes, you should have a plan of attack even for E-Ride night.

During E-Ride hours, both Adventureland and Fantasyland are shut off. With this in mind, here is one suggested plan of attack for E-Ride night.

Assuming you plan to enjoy all the available attractions, start with the twin mountains in Frontierland. Some suggest alternating from Big Thunder to Splash Mountain back to Big Thunder, however, going from one attraction to the other could waste time.

One option can be to ride one attraction to your heart's content, then move on. Consider starting with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and taking about three or four spins on it (or however many you prefer), then moving on to Splash Mountain for the same number of rides.

Once you have had your fill of the twin mountains, walk down to Country Bear Jamboree and enjoy a performance, then move on to Haunted Mansion. Of course, you can always skip Country Bear Jamboree and go directly to Haunted Mansion.

Cast members who staff Haunted Mansion seem to enjoy working E-Ride nights. For that matter, all cast members working E-Ride night seem to give a little extra to their roles. This attraction is most enjoyable during this special night.

After you have had your fill of Haunted Mansion, make your way towards the castle forecourt and head into Tomorrowland.

In Tomorrowland, you have five attractions to choose from. Some guests skip the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. I don't – on a warm summer's eve it can be refreshing.

Check to see when the next Alien Encounter performance begins. If you have time, go to Buzz Lightyear, then to Alien Encounter. After you have visited Alien Encounter, go to Astro-Orbiter.

Alien Encounter is usually offered on E-Ride Nights.
Alien Encounter is usually offered on E-Ride Nights.

By now most of the E-Ride guests have probably had their fill of Space Mountain. By waiting until now to do Space Mountain, you may find the lines to be even shorter than they probably would have been at the start of E-Ride night.

You should be able to ride Space Mountain several times before E-Ride night is over. If you tire of Space Mountain, you could always return to Astro-Orbiter visit Buzz Lightyear repeatedly.

This three-hour tour of E-Ride night is just a suggestion. You should plan your approach E-Ride based on those attraction you and your traveling party most favor.

A Win-Win Situation

The E-Ride night promotion is a great idea. From the Walt Disney World Resort's viewpoint, this promotion offers a boost to that day's revenue stream. If they max out with E-ride night, they realize another $60,000 in revenue for that day that they otherwise wouldn't enjoy. With only nine attractions in operation, there's a need for only a skeleton crew of cast members to service the public.

Guests of course are given a great opportunity to enjoy the most popular attractions in the park without having to fight long lines and crowds… and the hot sun. E-Ride nights allow you to squeeze a 12-hour day into just three hours.

I strongly recommend taking advantage of E-Ride night, especially if you are a big fan of the Magic Kingdom… it will make your stay a bit more magical.

Next time: New Year's Resolutions Wish List for WDW.

Class dismissed.


CREDIT:

Photos on this page by Brian Bennett unless otherwise noted

OTHER LINKS

MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide has a page on E-Ride Nights, too.

Here's a list of the trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives!

Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)

Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)

Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)

Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, "The Trip Planner" for more travel planning information!

EDITOR'S NOTE

Brian Bennett, author of MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide (and publisher of the Disney Trip Report Archive), writes:

The first Disney trip report that I ever read was a report by Mike Scopa that I downloaded from the America Online travel library in late 1994. The report was a detailed description of the Scopa family's trip to WDW in the summer of that year.

As soon as I was done reading it, I was hooked.

I picked my own brain and documented my own trips and the things I'd learned from my own experiences. Then, in 1995 I actually wrote a report as the trip unfolded. I took a laptop with me and spent some time in the evenings documenting what had happened that day. (I've repeated that process for my own reports ever since.)

In July 1996, I started my Disney trip planning Web site. Besides including my own reports, I asked for permission from the authors of several other reports and added them to the offering. Since then, the number of reports has expanded greatly. In 1997, I added an information summary for each report to make it easier to sort through the reports that are available.

I still 'blame' Mike for hooking me on this Disney habit.

Thanks Mike!


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