Having Main Street USA to yourself during a Magic Kingdom extra magic hour, or racing around Big Thunder Mountain at midnight - it's a totally different way to experience the Disney theme parks and it's exclusive to resort guests!
There's been a lot of talk recently regarding Disney's plans to reduce the extra magic hours, particularly cutting the evening hours down from an extra 3 to just 2, starting January 2013. Disney say they will review the schedules and I imagine during the peak season we could very well find that missing hour back on!
The news hasn't been received well across the Disney community and many are saying it's a factor that would put them off staying at a Disney resort. Honestly, I can see where they're coming from, you're paying a fair few extra $$$ to stay on site and you want to feel like you're getting something extra special, above those who stay off Disney property and considering ticket prices have just gone up too, this is yet another kick in the teeth to many fans. (Lets just hope they don't go the way of Universal and start limiting the EMH to only those guests staying in moderate or deluxe resorts!)
I always consider the EMH's in my planning, especially the early openings. During busier times of the year those early extra magic hours really do make all the difference and you can usually get quite a few rides in before the park opens up. Early extra magic hours have always been my favourite - I'm an early riser! Once the extra magic hours schedule comes out (around 10months or so in advance), the parks with early openings get put straight into the itinerary.
Top tip: Book an in-park ADR for just after general opening. You'll have done a whole bunch of rides and can take a leisurely breakfast afterwards!
As for the evening extra magic hours, we do sometimes take advantage of them, after all nothing can rival the experience of Tower of Terror when it's quiet, late and dark - it's like a whole new ride! We don't tend to include the evening hours in our itinerary but we always make a note of them. The downside to the evening extra magic hours is that the operational rides are always restricted and not everything will be open. The biggest problem I have though, is that non-resort guests are of course still in the park. Now, Disney Cast Members are suppose to stop guests without resort key cards from entering the ride queues etc, but on a busy day when the line has been 90+mins even during evening extra magic hours many of those guests will still be in line. And when they can't get on the rides? There's always lots of arguing, pleading, speak-no-English-so-will-push-past-and-ride-now chaos going on. You don't really feel as though you're getting much out of the evening hours. By time many of the non-resort guests have left, and especially now they are cutting back on the extra hours you get - it's going to be time to head for your resort bus.
Evening Extra magic hours for me could mean extra time to shop in the parks - but all of the non-resort guests want to stay in the park for as long as possible too so they head to any lighted building with open doors that will have them!
Even though I want to take as much advantage as possible being a resort guest, the evening extra magic hours just don't work for me - so the cut back, as sad as it is, isn't really going to put me off being a Walt Disney World resort guest! Now, if they were to lay their little white Mickey gloves on the early extra magic hours I'd start to get really upset!!
Do you take advantage of extra magic hours? Which do you prefer - early or evening?
Until next time,