After Hours at EPCOT Review: Disney World’s Newest Paid Party Disappoints

20 min read


After Hours at EPCOT is a hard ticket event with limited attendance and short wait times for Walt Disney World’s most popular attractions. This post shares 2023 dates & details, tips & tricks, and other event info. We also address whether it’s worth the money, which might seem like an obvious “no” given the title, but in actuality, is more of a “probably not, but it depends” answer.

This is the latest of the After Hours events, debuting during Summer 2023 at EPCOT. For July and beyond, it’s the only After Hours event on the schedule for any of the 4 main theme parks at Walt Disney World–so not including H2O Glow After Hours at Typhoon Lagoon Water Park; between now and then, there’s also After Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

In addition to the paid After Hours parties in those other parks, there’s also the “free” Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT throughout the summer season for eligible guests. Obviously, those are air quotes around free–but one of the things we’ll do in this review is compare and contrast After Hours at EPCOT with the alternatives to determine how to best allocate your Walt Disney World vacation budget if you’re interested in one or more of these exclusive ‘extra hours’ events…

Before we get to that, let’s start with basic background. Disney After Hours at EPCOT takes place select nights now through August 24, 2023. After Hours at EPCOT runs from 10 pm until 1 am, with a mix-in starting at 7 pm and the park’s attractions officially closing to day guests at 9 pm. So really, there’s roughly 2 hours of overlap with day guests (a little longer as they filter through standby lines) and roughly 4 hours of exclusive time, give or take.

Ticket prices vary based on date, ranging from $129 to $139, with Annual Passholders or Disney Vacation Club members able to buy discounted advance purchase tickets for $99. As of publication, no dates for EPCOT After Hours have sold out. We do not expect this review to be what changes that.

I ended up paying $105.44 for my AP/DVC discount ticket to EPCOT After Hours. For most dates this summer, a 1-day ticket to EPCOT would exceed the price of non-discounted EPCOT After Hours admission. Of course, there are some key differences, but it’s nonetheless an interesting comparison. We’ll circle back to this–and other–comparisons later in the review.

One of the hallmarks of Walt Disney World’s After Hours parties is the unlimited ice cream novelties, popcorn, and bottled beverages. These are all included in the cost of this ticketed event–you simply walk up to outdoor vending carts stationed throughout EPCOT and grab a Premium Mickey Bar, Coca-Cola, popcorn, or whatever else.

You can also purchase food and beverages at select dining locations, but this is a terrible use of the limited event time. Eat before you arrive or fill up on ice cream and other treats on-the-go during After Hours at EPCOT. Not that you care, but I feasted at Sebastian’s Bistro before taking the Skyliner over for the EPCOT After Hours. That meal was the best part of my afternoon and evening.

EPCOT After Hours attractions include the following:

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
  • Living with the Land
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Test Track

Per Walt Disney World, “Attractions and experiences are subject to change without notice. Admission to this event does not guarantee access to any attraction or experience.”

Keep that caveat in mind throughout this review, as it might be important during After Hours at EPCOT…

Having extensive experience with crowd dynamics for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, I opted to start the night there. Like everything else in the former Future World that uses a standby line, Cosmic Rewind sees smaller crowds in the evening. (In theory, wait times upon returning to the virtual queue should be fairly consistent throughout the day; in practice, that isn’t even remotely true.)

With that in mind, I headed to Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at about 8:50 pm. Experiencing this Marvel E-Ticket for the first time without a virtual queue since it officially opened was my main motivation for doing After Hours at EPCOT. Probably just like 75% of the other guests there.

My expectation was that even with virtual queue and Individual Lightning Lane guests still working their way through the line at 9 pm, the wait time would be moderate. Frankly, this was also a bit of a hedge since I wasn’t sure of what to expect later in the evening. My hope was that Cosmic Rewind would be a walk-on towards the end of the night once After Hours guests got their fix and moved on to other attractions. That’s the dynamic we’ve seen play out with headliners in other parks during After Hours. But EPCOT is always a bit of an odd duck.

Anyway, I did Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind back-to-back starting at 9 pm. My second ride was finished not too long after 10 pm, with that wait taking longer than the first.

If you’re good at math (or even if you’re not), you can probably break that down and surmise that the average cycle time for Cosmic Rewind from entering the queue to exiting the ride at about 30 minutes. In the past, we’ve seen some other reviews tout “unlimited” rides on attractions like Avatar: Flight of Passage or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance during these events. “Unlimited” is either a massive exaggeration or a fundamental misunderstanding of how time works.

One big reason is that it fails to account for the tremendously long pre-shows in these modern headliners, none of which are skippable. This means that even in a perfect world, your minimum time commitment for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is about 20 minutes. That’s assuming the stars align and you encounter no line or delay at any step of the attraction.

Theoretically, that would mean 3 rides on Cosmic Rewind per hour during 3 hours of the event (plus the ‘bonus’ 9-10 pm hour), for a total of 12 intergalactic chases through time and space–maybe 13 if you’re lucky and sequence a final ride in right before the end. Again, that is very much in theory, and not how this EPCOT After Hours played out for me–or anyone who attended.

Along with actual wait times, what precluded that from happening was that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind was operating at half-capacity for the entirety of EPCOT After Hours. Based on what I observed on the attraction’s load platform, I do not think this was a deliberate decision to save operating expenses.

While Walt Disney World often engages in baffling cost-cutting measures, I highly doubt this was one of them. Cosmic Rewind was still fully staffed, and if the goal was to reduce operating expenses for After Hours at EPCOT, it would’ve made infinitely more sense to not have a dance party for an audience of none, or to reduce staffing on literally any other attraction. Reducing capacity on the park’s newest headliner that almost everyone was there to ride makes absolutely no sense–I do not believe it was intentional.

Regardless of the reason, the result was that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind seldom dropped below a 60 minute posted wait time for the entirety of EPCOT After Hours. There were a couple of times I saw it at 45 minutes, but it was 60 minutes for the vast majority of the time between 10 pm and 1 am. The queue often spilling out the front entrance suggested that wait time was close to accurate, too.

Making matters worse, the event started with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure down for almost an hour (not 100% sure on the actual duration, that’s just what I saw/surmised from the app). When EPCOT’s other new attraction did come back up, it was also operating at reduced capacity with one side of its load platform also down. Consequently, the Rat Ride’s wait time was also high for a good chunk of After Hours at EPCOT.

Now, you might be inclined to dismiss all of this as an anecdotal example of poor luck on my part. And I’ll be the first to admit that it very much was that. I won’t make sweeping generalizations about EPCOT After Hours based on those unfortunate capacity reductions and ride downtime. I also won’t ascribe any ill intentions to Walt Disney World–the rocky start and negative word of mouth cannot possibly be what they would’ve wanted for an event that has yet to sell out a single date.

However, what I will say is that I’ve done Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT about a half-dozen or so times since that launched and, from my experience with that, this type of thing is not even remotely uncommon. I’ve never had any issues with Cosmic Rewind at that (knock on wood), but during roughly half of those nights, either Frozen Ever After or Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure has gone down.

The point is that my experience at EPCOT After Hours was definitely unlucky, but also not exactly without precedent. While you’re unlikely to have the exact same issues as me, it’s certainly possible that you will have problems with downtime or reduced capacity rides.

Exacerbating that issue is the limited ride roster at EPCOT. Unlike Magic Kingdom or even Disney’s Hollywood Studios, EPCOT doesn’t have much beyond the ‘big’ attractions. There are 4 rides that everyone at EPCOT is there to do, so even one of those going down is 25% of the meaningful capacity in the park. (No one is shelling out $100+ for After Hours to do the Seas with Nemo or Living with the Land, as much as I might enjoy night rides on the latter.)

Consequently, one ride going down sends wait times soaring at other attractions. It also can throw a serious monkey wrench into your evening, since everything is spaced so far apart. If you walk over to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure only for it to break down as you arrive, you aren’t just losing the time on that attraction, you’re also losing the “commute” both there and to the next closest headliner. It’s over a mile round-trip between the Rat Ride and Frozen Ever After!

Despite this, I was actually able to accomplish a decent amount during After Hours at EPCOT:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (x2)
  • Test Track (x2)
  • Frozen Ever After (x2)
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (x2)

With the exception of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, all of these rides on the same attractions were back-to-back. Due to the aforementioned size of EPCOT and distance between headliners, bouncing around simply eats up too much of the clock.

My original plan was to start and end at Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, operating under the assumption that people would get their fill and it’d be a walk-on by the end of the night. In actuality, the opposite was true. Cosmic Rewind had its longest line of the night in the final 15 minutes.

This was almost certainly exacerbated by the reduced capacity and high wait time throughout the night, but it’s also possible that many people planned to hit it on the way out, and its wait time would spike even on a “normal” night of After Hours. (We’ve seen exactly this happen with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train during After Hours at Magic Kingdom.)

Since I would be leaving through International Gateway, I called an audible and booked it back to France and did Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure to end my night instead. At this point, both sides were loading and the ride was a walk-on. In overhearing other guests talk, there were a few families in front of me who had looped it repeatedly–it sounded like they were having an awesome evening.

My experience with both Test Track and Frozen Ever After was somewhat similar. The first time I did each of those, the wait time was minimal–about 10 minutes or so. For my subsequent rides, both were walk-ons. With Cosmic Rewind having a higher wait time, Test Track’s line did get longer later on, but the opposite occurred with Frozen Ever After–when the Rat Ride returned, its family friendly counterpart in World Showcase dropped.

In the end, I accomplished 8 attractions during After Hours at EPCOT. Whether that’s disappointing or impressive is a matter of perspective. Admittedly, it was a letdown for me.

I went into the event with (what I felt were) realistic expectations in light of the long duration for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Nevertheless, I expected to knock that out 6 times. (Less realistically, I was really hoping to hear every song at least once, and debated making that my goal.) In addition to that, I was hoping for 2 rides on each of the other 3 headliners. Mission accomplished on the second part, I guess.

If all went according to plan, that would have been a total of 12 rides during After Hours at EPCOT. During my most recent experiences doing After Hours at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I’ve been able to average 14-16 attractions. At Magic Kingdom, not all of those are as popular as the headliners at EPCOT–but the ones at DHS are!

In retrospect, I don’t think that would’ve been possible even if After Hours at EPCOT went flawlessly. Assuming Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind operated at full capacity the entire night, it probably still would’ve averaged a 45 minute wait (you can’t just cut the 60 minutes in half–a lower wait time would’ve induced more demand from people like me who balked at the 60 minute posted time).

Realistically, I probably could’ve managed one additional ride on Cosmic Rewind and maybe one more on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure or Frozen Ever After. My best case scenario for EPCOT After Hours was probably 10 attractions, all high profile.

However, it’s also worth emphasizing that I did pretty well timing everything, so even my “bad luck” with downtime was at least partially offset by good strategy–I didn’t waste time walking anywhere only to encounter a breakdown, or get stuck behind the ‘wave’ of the crowd anywhere. To the contrary, I’d hazard a guess that I “outperformed” the median guest on this particular evening, and it wouldn’t surprise me if others only averaged 4-6 attractions in total.

Circling back, the question of whether After Hours at EPCOT is worth the time and money is “it depends.” There’s more than one reasonable interpretation of my objective stats during the event. For me, it was disappointment. But you might see the above ride counts and think that’s pretty good, especially as contrasted with using Genie+ at EPCOT, doing a normal day in the park, or even Early Entry.

There’s definitely something to be said for experiencing all or most headliners multiple times, not having to hassle with the Cosmic Rewind virtual queue, a park completely devoid of crowds, and included refreshments. As we’ve mentioned in our reviews of other After Hours, the event has a quasi-VIP vibe. That was true again of EPCOT After Hours.

The other thing that it’s important not to overlook is the reality of Florida weather between the months of June and August. Even during Early Entry, humidity can be oppressive and the midday sun can be draining. At night, the sun is down and it feels better.

Between the weather and the lower crowds, After Hours was a much more pleasant way to experience EPCOT. The special event had a relaxed and low stress vibe, and just enough extras to give it a “special” feeling. A sharp contrast to my other days in EPCOT during the start of summer season!

Even with my frustrations and higher-than-expected wait times, it was a fun evening, and I stayed until the very end–leaving EPCOT at about 1:30 am. This is a critical review of After Hours at EPCOT, but it’s not an entirely negative one (there’s a difference!). Although I wouldn’t personally pay to do EPCOT After Hours again, I had an enjoyable evening when not thinking about the cost or comparable alternatives.

Taking that a step further, if I had to choose between a full-priced 1-day ticket or After Hours at EPCOT, I’d choose this event–hands down. As much as I might like more time to soak up the atmosphere of World Showcase, less time with my shirt getting soaked with back sweat is definitely a plus. However, most people probably are not debating between a single-day ticket or EPCOT After Hours, so that’s a false choice.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point out that the story is pretty similar during Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT.

Again, we’ve done this on-site perk several times and have always loved it–even when things don’t go smoothly. (See our Guide to Extended Evening Hours at Walt Disney World for taking advantage of this perk, eligibility, and more.) We’ve honed our approach to Extended Evening Hours, and can usually knock out all 4 headliners over the course of that event.

The key difference is that Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT is only 2 hours and has slightly longer wait times everywhere except Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. We’ve repeatedly called that perk hugely advantageous and enjoyable at both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. It makes a few nights in a Deluxe Resort one of the best splurges at Walt Disney World. We’d recommend that over dessert parties and other upcharges…including After Hours at EPCOT.

For most non-solo travelers, the added cost of EPCOT After Hours is going to be higher than the premium to book a hotel that’ll give you access to Extended Evening Hours. If you’re a family of 4 without access to AP or DVC discounts, the cost of this event will run you over $500. You could easily book a night at a Deluxe Resort for that price, which offers access to Extended Evening Hours and, obviously, nicer accommodations.

To that end, potential options for taking advantage of Extended Evening Hours without breaking the bank include doing Disney Vacation Club Point Rentals or booking the Swan & Dolphin Resorts, which are usually roughly the cost of a Moderate Resort. Doing a Split Stay at Walt Disney World Hotels is another great option, with a two night-stay at a Deluxe Resort–checking in on a Monday and out on a Wednesday–in order to take advantage of both Extended Evening Hours nights.

With the cost of admission for After Hours at EPCOT, you could probably upgrade from your existing accommodations for 3 nights to one of the above options. (The math should be the difference that upgrading your hotel costs–not the full total of a Deluxe/DVC resort–since you’re going to need a place to stay one way or the other.)

In our view, that’s a far superior use of your vacation budget (and time!) than buying tickets to After Hours at EPCOT. Without a doubt, we’d rather have 2 hours at Magic Kingdom one night and 2 hours at EPCOT another night as opposed to all of that time at EPCOT in a single evening.

Another alternative for those visiting in the first half of summer is After Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Without a doubt, we’d also recommend that paid event over this one. If you haven’t already read it, check out our standalone Guide to 2023 After Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

While we are critical of “overbuying” upcharge offerings due to FOMO, we actually love After Hours at DHS. It’s definitely a splurge, but it’s one that’s actually worth the money. After Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios adds a VIP vibe to the visit, and at a fraction of the price of hiring a tour guide. After Hours at DHS is our favorite of these events, and the one that offers the most value for money due to lack of alternatives to the paid event.

The difference between EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is both the headliner ride roster and the sizes of the parks. While the number has increased at EPCOT, there are still more at DHS–and the latter is the more difficult park to “conquer” with conventional strategy.

Also, and this might be more subjective, but I think there are also more options at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that are re-rideable. Slinky Dog Dash and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster are the big ones, and both have very short total time commitments. Cosmic Rewind is the most re-rideable attraction at EPCOT, but the total duration including pre-shows is far longer, and it’s likely that the wait time will be going forward, too.

Ultimately, that covers my experience doing After Hours at EPCOT and why it was a disappointment for me. Again, others may have a very different opinion based on attending the exact same event–or even reading this report–and I can appreciate that. It’s all a matter of perspective and perceptions of value.

Whether After Hours at EPCOT is worth the time and money is an admittedly difficult question as a result. I’m approaching the event from the perspective of someone who has done the “free” version of this and also paid to do every single other After Hours event that Walt Disney World has offered. That’s my frame of reference, and in my view, this falls short as compared to those alternatives.

Others might approach EPCOT After Hours from a different perspective, perhaps contrasting it with a single-day summer ticket to the park or obtaining a quasi-VIP experience without having to be accompanied by a tour guide or having to pay even more money. That’s fair, but those points of view are tough sells for me given the superior and more obvious alternatives. Splurge on something else–After Hours at EPCOT is not the best use of limited vacation dollars.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

Have you attended After Hours at EPCOT? What did you think of the event? Would you attend, or is it too pricey? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!


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