DADventure Disney – Disney World After Dark With Little Kids

Many of us love going through the different Walt Disney World parks after the sun goes down. We love how the rides light up, the nighttime parades and, of course, the fireworks.

But, what do you do when you’re traveling with little kids? By now, you know my kids are 5, 3, and 1. That’s little. Their bedtime is normally between 6pm and 7pm. Meaning, it’s usually dinner, bath and bed.

When traveling with little kids, it’s always suggested to stick to the kids’ normal schedule as best you can. I get that. And we really are going to try to get that afternoon nap in each day.

However, we’re going to be at the Happiest Place on Earth – am I robbing them the experience of the night time wonders if we stick to their schedule? Is the joy on their face during Fantasmic or Happily Ever After worth having over-tired kiddos the next morning? Does it spiral out of control by the 5th day?

I’ll tell you – I don’t know. It’s one of those things I’ll report back on after our trip next month. However, I can tell you that one long night may work (especially if you rest in the afternoon). I think we may try that.

What is calling us to the parks at night? Let’s take a look.

Magic Kingdom

Happily Ever After
9:00pm – 18 Minute Run Time

Photo: Disney

Go on a dazzling journey of color, light and song that captures the heart, humor and heroism of many favorite Disney animated films.

Watch in awe as Cinderella Castle becomes part of the story by magically transforming through amazing state-of-the art projection technology that you have to see to believe.

This astounding 18-minute fireworks extravaganza uses more lights, lasers and special effects than any other fireworks spectacular in the history of Magic Kingdom park, plus a soaring score featuring contemporary versions of beloved Disney songs.

This is an outdoor show and subject to cancellation in case of inclement weather. Showtimes are subject to change.

A PLANNING MUST! When it’s the holidays check the Magic Kingdom Calendar! Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are events that close the park at 6:00pm and have separate entry fees to go back at night.

Toy soldiers parade down Main Street, U.S.A., at Magic Kingdom during “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.” The festive processional is one of the happy highlights of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, a night of holiday splendor with lively stage shows, a unique holiday parade, Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season nighttime fireworks, and snow flurries on Main Street, U.S.A. The special-ticket event takes place on select nights in November and December in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Ryan Wendler, photographer)

The week I’m going with my family there are only two nights open for us to go to for Happily Ever After. So we had to be sure to plan FastPasses and Dining Reservations around those dates.


Epcot Forever
9:00pm – ~15 Minute Run Time

Photo: Disney

Witness the wonder as the story of Epcot and its next incredible chapter come to life in this new nighttime spectacular. Behold the single “spark of imagination” that started it all. Watch it grow, evolve and transform into an epic nighttime extravaganza that stirs the senses and captures all you love about Epcot—and all that’s to come—with dazzling fireworks, stunning laser effects and choreographed kites set to tunes that have become theme park favorites.

View the show anywhere throughout Epcot that offers a clear view of the World Showcase Lagoon. Since this is an outdoor show, it is subject to cancellation due to inclement weather. Entertainment is subject to change.

A PLANNING MUST! Many of the Epcot restaurants offer dessert or late dinner seating around World Showcase Lagoon – best seats for the show. Look into that when you’re planning your evening meal reservations.

Hollywood Studios

9:00pm – ~15 Minute Run Time

Photo: Disney

Featuring more than 50 live performers, massive sets, stunning effects, dazzling pyrotechnics and rousing music, this larger-than-life show is painted on a grand canvas of dancing water and light like nothing you’ve ever seen. Overflowing with silly and suspenseful surprises, it will leave your entire family smiling from ear-to-ear!

Fast asleep, Mickey Mouse dreams that he is a mighty sorcerer’s apprentice with the power to control water, color and magic. The Disney Villains—including Maleficent in the form of a towering, 40-foot-tall dragon—turn Mickey’s dream into a nightmare, but don’t underestimate the power of Mickey’s imagination!

The fantastic fantasy includes Disney Characters from some of your favorite animated classics: Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

DADVENTURE EXTRA: Look for the Character Palooza before Fantasmic! Read about it on our Comprehensive Character Meet Info Page.

A PLANNING MUST! Hollywood Studios also offers a second night time show. Right now, it’s Star Wars a Galactic Spectacular.

Photo: Disney

And in the holidays they launch Jingle Bell, Jingle JAM! It’s 9pm and runs about 14 minutes.

Photo: Disney

Feel the warmth of holiday magic as Disney’s Hollywood Studios transforms and surrounds you in unforgettable Disney moments.

Each night from November 8, 2019 to January 5, 2020, experience the joy, excitement and music of the season as Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! raises holiday spirit to awe-inspiring new heights! Watch in wonder as buildings and rooftops come to life—and be immersed in beloved scenes from Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Beauty and the Beast, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and more.

Featuring traditional holiday tunes and stories brought to you by Mickey, Minnie, Olaf and friends, state-of-the-art projections from Disney Animation classics, amazing laser effects, fireworks and even a little “snow,” this spectacular evening celebration builds to a festive finale that must be seen—and heard—to be believed!

Animal Kingdom

Tree of Life Awakenings
An hour or so before park close

Photo: Disney

Flickering fireflies magically appear and stir to life the animal spirits in the tree’s towering trunk—bringing to light a dazzling visual display swarming with color and animated imagery.

Gaze upon a young doe embarking upon a thrilling journey. Behold love blossoming between a pair of hummingbirds. Spy a sly fox spreading gifts of love among the denizens of a wintry forest.

A feast for the eyes, each revelation celebrates the eternal balance and harmony that exists in all living things, big or small, and is sure to inspire and delight your whole family tree.

A PLANNING MUST! This is the FIRST YEAR Animal Kingdom is going all crazy for the Christmas holiday season! Every part of the park will be redesigned with holiday theming and the Awakenings show will be too!

Photo: Disney

So, which park do I choose for my ONE night with the kiddies?

Epcot Forever is a ‘band aid’ show between Illuminations (RIP) and HarmoniUS. I watched the live feed from opening night and it’s…. ok. If you’re a TRUE Epcot fan from back in the day, you’ll appreciate the nod to old music from the past. Everyone will like the new fire kites, too. However, my little kids have no attachment to 1980s Epcot. Not a big sell for us.

I don’t know what to think about Animal Kingdom at night. I know Pandora will be AMAZING to see at night, but we’re not going on those rides with the Littles – it would be a wasted trip over there. The other areas of Animal Kingdom – no one knows what they’ll be like – I may have to play this by year. Since there are no fireworks, it may be the best sensory friendly night time lights to see.

I’ve loved Fantasmic every time I’ve seen it. I’ve enjoyed it in California and at Hollywood Studios. The nice thing about Fantasmic is the arena you watch it in – you’re not scrambling to waste your time sitting on the curb waiting for the show. [See Disney Parents Panel’s Top 10 Time Wasters in the Disney Parks] You can even book a FastPass for the show.

So, if I was only going to choose one night to keep the kids up – Fantasmic may be the best bet. One BIG thing in its favor is being linked via the Skyliner to our Caribbean Beach Resort room. So, we don’t have to wait for the bus with everyone else.

Then, there’s the Magic Kingdom. Cinderella’s Castle all lit up and Christmasy. The music. The fireworks. Tinkerbell flying through the air. How do I NOT let my kids experience this on their first trip?

I’m torn people. Help a father out! If you could only do ONE night time park with the Littles- which would you choose? Or, are you going to advise me to stop being a stick in the mud and let the kids try them all?

HELP ME in the comments below or on Instagram and Facebook.

Thanks for reading. Remember, DADventure is out there!


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