Disney After Dark... for Teenagers!
by Pete Saroufim
This article appeared in the October 22, 2002, Issue #161 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
If you're a teenager like me, you love your parents. Come on, admit it -- deep down you do. You love them so much you'll even take a vacation to Disney with them. You're quite generous. Really though, you're having fun, you're bonding... but when you're a teenager, you don't want to spend every minute with Ma and Pa. As your parents settle in for the night after long hours in the parks, the sugar from all of those Cokes and Mickey Ice Cream Bars is finally kicking in, and your day is just beginning. But where do you go? You're most likely thinking, "This is Disney -- there's nothing to do at night." Ah, allow me to correct you.
Geez, where to start? The clock's ticking, it's 9 p.m., and time to get a move on. On certain nights, there's no better place to be than Magic Kingdom after closing time. The fireworks finish and everyone's walking out, except for that small group of coaster-loving, ride-hopping, Haunted Mansion sing-a-longing group of Disney fans trying to get every last minute out of their Disney day. We call them the E-ers... the Ears? Hmm... E...nighters? Fine, we don't call them anything. They're just the people who were smart enough to do some research before their Disney trips and get some tickets for E-Ride night -- a few hours of rides and shows after the park is closed to the general public, exclusive to Walt Disney World Resort guests with a multi-day pass. Because they sell a limited number of tickets, you might not be able to get in at the last minute. But with these limited tickets come limited lines. For the next three hours, you're riding Space Mountain with only 10 minutes of waiting; you're on Splash in five and eating in Pecos Bill in seconds. Oh, and don't be surprised if your Haunted Mansion hosts give you an extra, after-dark scare.
What if there aren't any E-Ride nights during your stay? Is there anything else to do? Well, if you're willing and not pressed for time, join me on a virtual odyssey of Disney After Dark.
When people think of late-night Disney, the first place that usually comes to mind is Pleasure Island, the party capital of the Mouse. If you're 18 or older, then your choices are numerous -- the Adventurers Club, the Comedy Warehouse, 8TRAX, Pleasure Island Jazz Company, Rock'n'Roll Beach Club, and the all-new Motion. Sadly, I'm a mere 15 years old, and since you're also with me on this virtual tour, we've both been turned away.
But then it hits me, like a 300-pound fastball from Pedro Martinez -- there's a lot more to Downtown Disney for you and me than just the Island. The Disney Village Marketplace awaits us, and although we may not yet be adults, we have dozens of stores of all kinds at our fingertips, and a room key with charging privileges getting heavier and heavier inside our jeans pockets. We can check out the Lego Imagination Center, Disney's Days of Christmas, and the ultimate, enormous World of Disney store, probably the largest character store on the planet. We can also head over to Disney's West Side, where a variety of merchants will tempt us with everything from $3,000 guitars to penny candy. We reach down for that room key and find... a hole in our pockets. No card. Maybe next time.
In that case, it's time for what some would consider to be the best option of all for a teenager: DisneyQuest. DisneyQuest is five floors of video games, virtual reality, and hours of fun for any true teenager of the 21st Century. This could keep us occupied on most nights until 11 p.m., or until midnight if it's Friday or Saturday. But after a few hours of pressing buttons and swinging virtual swords, it might be time to move on.
Are you a movie buff? One of those true fanatics who can't spend a few days in Disney without seeing a film? You might want to check out the AMC Theater in the West Side where you can see what Tom Hanks' latest project is, or how many movies the cast of Friends can be in at one time. Just keep in mind that the last movie usually starts no later than 10:30 p.m. -- it looks like we missed it tonight. You may think that we're now out of options, but we haven't even chipped the ice... chopped the block? Crowed the rooster? OK, how about: We're just getting started.
First things first, though -- we're getting hungry. The video games and late night rides have given us quite the appetite. Don't worry -- this is my specialty. Downtown Disney offers some great entrees for that rumbling stomach. Rainforest Cafe, Wolfgang Puck, Planet Hollywood, and Bongos might satisfy our taste buds (not necessarily all in one night). But if you're like me, and I bet you are, you'll be tempted by the classic gourmet food presented by none other than... McDonald's.
If you think our night in Downtown Disney is all done, you might want to hold out from scarfing down food for about another 20 minutes. That should be enough time to take a bus over to the Boardwalk, where we have our choice of great chili fries, corn dogs, even some pretty good take-out pizza until about midnight. But if we get there too late, never fear. My expertise in tracking down food has this problem covered once again. Take a walk over to the Dolphin Resort right next to the Boardwalk. Tubbi's Buffeteria is open 24 hours a day to satisfy our food needs, and at a reasonable price.
Since this is a virtual odyssey, I think we have time for dessert -- something Disney is great at providing even after dark. If it's not too, too late, we can head over to the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts across the water from the Boardwalk and stop inside Beaches and Cream, the old-fashioned ice cream shop -- maybe we'll even dare to try the famed Kitchen Sink! But that could be a whole separate article from me. Once we've finished our banana splits or ice cream sundaes, we can leave Beaches and Cream, take a right, and enter the next door we see: the arcades. All the Disney resorts have arcades, so if you're one of those people who likes to party without leaving home, this is a good choice. We can digest our late night feast while playing air hockey or Star Wars pinball, trying not to lose too much cash. Remember, we lost our room keys.
As you begin to realize all the things that Disney can offer a teenager after dark, you notice that you're not the only enlightened one. There are plenty of people our age to meet, so don't hesitate to talk to them. Maybe you and your new friends will want to do something together, and yet again, Disney comes through. There's little to do that's much more fun with a group than miniature golfing, and Fantasia Gardens is one of the better courses on property. Fantasia Gardens is open until 11 p.m., with the latest starting time of 10:30 p.m., and it's easy to walk to if you're staying at a resort in the Crescent Lake area -- just follow the pathway that goes by the Swan and Dolphin resorts. (There's another miniature golf course, Winter Summerland, located near Blizzard Beach, but it's not as easy to get to.) If it's too late, or if golfing is not your cup of tea, there's always the quiet pool at your resort, which most likely will stay open all night.
You didn't think there would be that much to do when the lights dim and the parks close? Wrong you were. However, there is one last thing to do before your night is over. It's probably the most important and possibly the one that I enjoy the most (other than eating). Sweet dreams, you're up at 7 a.m. tomorrow.
You can learn more about Pete and read his other ALL EARS® columns at: http://allears.net/btp/pete.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.