Night Life, Part 1
What to do when the parks close early
Friday, January 9, 2004
By Sue Holland, staff writer. Photos by Sue Holland, unless otherwise
Fultons at sunset.
During months when the number of visitors to Walt Disney World is
expected to be low, three of the four main theme parks are likely to close
much earlier than during busier seasons. Epcot is the only park that consistently
stays open until at least 9:00 p.m. with Illuminations being held nightly.
The other parks may close between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m.
One significant advantage to visiting during these periods is the fact
that attractions can generally be seen with little or no wait, so overall
it takes less time to see everything planned in a particular park. That
said, after spending money for airfare, park passes, lodging, and food
for a week or more, one thing people do not want to find on their vacation
is idle time when they are unable to have fun after the parks close in
the early evening.
Have no fearWalt Disney World has many options for people to enjoy
after hours. Some of them have an additional cost attached, but others
are either free or included in the vacation budget already.
There's always the option of having dinner, watching television and getting
to bed early in anticipation of the next day. After all, being at your
park of choice right when it opens ensures at least a couple of hours
to enjoy the popular attractions before many other guests arrive. For
those looking for something a little more entertaining than television
and sleeping, following are several options to consider.
Go for a swim at one of your resort's pools. The water is always headed
to at least 80 degrees, and while you won't find many Florida residents
in the pool when the air temperature drops below the mid-70s, many visitors
from up north don't seem to mind. There's an added element of fun when
the steam from the heated water rises into the chilly air. Just be sure
to bring towels or a robe for that dash back to your room.
Many of the resorts also have one or more Jacuzzi tubs, which are popular
year-round. Keep in mind that each resorts' pools are for the use of guests
registered at those resorts (and Disney Vacation Club members in most
cases), so it is not permissible to use the pool at the Contemporary if
you are staying elsewhere.
Disney movies and singing around the campfire are nightly fare at Fort
S'mores and more
At Fort Wilderness they have an excellent campfire program. This is free
of charge, and open to all Disney resort guests. Each night a different
animated movie is projected onto a large screen, with a large outdoor
seating area. Chip and Dale frequently stop by, and visitors are led in
a sing-along around the campfire. Ingredients to make s'mores are available
for sale for $2 at the Chuck Wagon, but people can also bring their own.
The movie is shown following the singing. It's wise to bring a jacket
or blanket, as it can get chilly after dark. The activities begin at 7:00
p.m. unless sunset calls for a later start time.
Also at Fort Wilderness, they conduct Hay Rides nightly. Leaving Pioneer
Hall at 7:00 and 9:30 p.m., these excursions cost $8 per adult and $4
per child. Reservations are not necessary, and during certain periods
guests might also see the fireworks at Magic Kingdom while on the ride.
Part of the talented Hoop-De-Doo Revue cast entertains during dinner.
Photo by Leesa Brown.
The most popular dinner show is held three times nightly in Pioneer Hall
at Fort Wilderness. The Hoop-De-Doo Revue has been entertaining Disney
guests for decades, and the timeless show has changed little since I first
attended in the 1970s. Held at 5:00, 7:15 and 9:30 each night, reservations
are required and can be made up to two years in advance. Tickets currently
cost approximately $50 per adult and $25 per child.
An all-you-can-eat dinner consisting of salad, fried chicken, barbecue
ribs, corn, baked beans and strawberry shortcake is served during pauses
in the entertainment. The food is delicious, but the real attraction is
the show. A cast of six (three men and three women) sing, dance, tell
corny jokes, and generally win the audience over very quickly. The humor
is extremely corny and appropriate for all ages, but even teenagers seem
to enjoy the silliness of it all.
Dancers perform the traditional Maori poi ball dance, in which they must
continually twirl balls on a string without losing balance, timing, or
getting the strings snarled together. Photo by Mark Fendrick. [Click
here to read Mark's review of the updated version of the luau.]
There are also two other dinner shows available. The Polynesian Luau
has been revamped and renamed to Disney's Spirit of Aloha, held at the
Polynesian Resort. Held Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 5:15 and
8:00, the dinner consists of roasted chicken and barbecue ribs. Several
variations on the hula dance are performed, but the highlight for many
people is the performer who juggles fire. Tickets can be reserved up to
two years in advance, and also cost $50 per adult and $25 per child.
During busy seasons there is a Mickey's Backyard BBQ held at Fort Wilderness,
but chances are if the parks close early, the season is not “busy” enough
for this show to be held. Featuring baked chicken, ribs and hot dogs,
this dinner is priced a bit lower at $39 per adult and $25 per child.
Entertainment consists of line dancing and singing country songs, and
does include character appearances.
Just because you are away from home doesn't mean you can't enjoy simple
pleasures like going to the movies. The AMC Theater in Downtown Disney
has 24 screens, and features stadium seating for the best possible view.
Box offices are located on either end of the building, which helps keep
any lines moving fairly swiftly.
These theaters are modern, clean and comfortable, featuring the latest
movie releases. Prices before 6:00 p.m. are $5.50 per child and $6.50
for everyone else. After 6:00 p.m. it's $8.50 per adult, $5.50 per child,
and $6.50 per student (age 13+ with student identification) or senior
(age 55+). If you are staying at a Disney resort, be sure to inquire about
any additional discount.
DisneyQuest in Downtown Disney is a video game lover's dream.
Also at Downtown Disney, DisneyQuest is a popular place for anyone who
enjoys arcades and video games. As you might expect, Disney takes the
concept of an arcade to a new level, with five floors of interactive games
and several virtual reality attractions that can be as entertaining as
an attraction in the theme parks! DisneyQuest is generally open until
at least 11:00 p.m., with later hours more likely on the weekend. Admission
is included on certain park passes, and the single-day ticket price is
$27 per adult and $21 per child. Once in a while they offer a discount
for the last few hours of the night, but that's not something that can
be predicted or guaranteed during any particular trip.
Food at DisneyQuest is among the best offered at any counter-service
location. Operated by the Cheesecake Factory, portions tend to be large
and everything is freshly prepared and very tasty. Unfortunately, it is
not possible to eat here without paying the admission fee.
To get to DisneyQuest via Disney transportation, take the Downtown Disney
bus and get off at the Pleasure Island stop. From there, walk to the West
Side and DisneyQuest will be near the far end on your left.
Cirque du Soleil is another option, and like all of their shows, La Nouba
is very impressive. The large white theater is hard to miss (located next
to DisneyQuest), and between the music, costumes, and sheer strength of
the performers it is a show to be remembered. Performances are held at
6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday nights, with tickets
ranging from $77-87 per adult and $45-52 per child.
This is the type of show you can see more than once, as there is so much
happening on stage it is impossible to absorb it all in one show. Tickets
are sold six months in advance, with leftover seats available at the box
office. Due to the layout of the theater, every seat offers an impressive
view, although the very best seats are the first sold.
Walt Disney World is a big place, with something to please everyone.
Since we barely scratched the surface, we'll continue our look at options
in Part 2. See you then!
Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since
her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning
more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.
After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in
1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at
the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.
She takes many of these trips on her own, but
she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly,
and people with disabilities.
She works as the Administrative Services Division Head
for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children
and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.
Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers.
Read her trip report archive here.
You can contact Sue here.
Get the latest info about the resort at Park
Update: Walt Disney World.