Staying at Disney World all night… what Disney fan doesn’t dream of an experience like that? Just picture an empty Magic Kingdom with the lights still glistening on the castle and rides. No crowds and unlimited viewing time in front of the castle. A dream come true, right?
We’ve tried to make it happen by staying in the parks for as long as possible, attempting to be the very last guest to leave the park. Maybe you’ve tried to do this a few times in different ways: You’ve sat in the middle of Main Street trying to get the shot without any other guests. Or you’ve hopped into a long ride line just as the park closed. You’ve had security ask you leave so Cast Members could go home. Yep, guilty as charged.
If you’re like me, you’ve done lots to try to soak up that last magical moment at Disney. BUT I bet you’ve never been successful at being the very last person in the parks. And you’ve definitely never stayed at Disney World all night long (except if you attended a rare 24-hour event — but for the purpose of this article, that doesn’t count!).
The secret is that some people DO get to stay in Disney World ALL NIGHT… but there’s a bit of a catch. You have to WORK at the Disney Parks in order to do so. AND you have to have one of certain roles within the parks. That’s right, not even every Disney employee gets to say that they have stayed overnight in the parks. A few roles that do sometimes have the opportunity to experience the wonder and magic — or eeriness — of the parks at night include:
Entertainment Cast Members
A limited number of entertainment Cast Members have had the opportunity to stay at Disney World overnight. This only really happens when Disney has scheduled overnight rehearsals for shows and parades. A group of performers every few months is chosen to put on the shows and parades that are presented in the parks on a daily basis, like Festival of Fantasy or Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire. When this new group of performers is chosen, they must learn the choreography and details of the shows.
Performers practice for days, sometimes weeks, to perfect each component of a Disney show. This is done at a rehearsal facility on property during the day. Once the material is perfected, performers need to practice the show in the areas that they will be performing them.
If a group is learning a castle stage show, they need to see how movements and vision change once they are on the physical stage. This clearly cannot be done on the castle stage during the day — it would ruin the magic for guests. If a group is learning a parade, they have to physically take to the streets to learn to pace themselves based on the distance. They have to see where there are safety hazards, to practice their choreography based on location, and to experience working with their floats for the first time. This too would ruin the magic if seen during the day.
That’s why Disney hosts overnight rehearsals. This is pretty much a huge sleepover at the parks for entertainment Cast Members. They come in comfy clothes, bring blankets, and snacks ready to put in hard work so they can perfect a show. This rehearsal cannot begin until they receive an all-clear, meaning that the park is completely free of guests, therefore this rehearsal typically begins around midnight.
As a previous entertainment Cast Member, I can tell you that this is one of my fondest memories ever. Seeing an empty Main Street. Standing on the castle stage. Laying down in front of the castle with some of my closest friends while cheering on our fellow performers. Lighting up an empty Magic Kingdom with fireworks and no guests. Nothing will ever compare. Staying all night in Disney World was literally the Best Thing Ever.
Parade drivers are also a part of the entertainment family, but their overnight jobs are a little different. This only happens every once in a while, just like the rehearsals mentioned above, but what these Cast Members are learning is very different and is very safety-driven. These people are literally learning how to drive around the giant floats you see on Main Street USA every day for shows like Festival of Fantasy or Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It! They need to learn to see from different angles while inside the float with limited vision. They have to learn how to turn, stop, and speed up. This practice is SO important so that they don’t run over a curb — or worse, a guest — during a show!
Yes, someone is driving the float you see above. Don’t you see why they have to practice? They are responsible for not only for the guests’ safety but for the safety of the performers on the float as well!
One group of people who get to stay in Disney World all night, every night are the third-shift Cast Members. These guys start their day when most of the guests have emptied the parks. Many are there to make sure that the park is in tip-top shape for the following day. Some drive trucks and clean the streets. Others come in to paint, fix small mishaps around the park, correct safety hazards, set up new products in merchandise shops, restock dining locations, or work on construction. A lot has to happen around the parks to keep everything running smoothly, but Disney tries to prevent guests from thinking about little things like this. So most of this is done at night to ensure that the magic for guests is kept alive.
One of the most major overhauls that is done overnight each year is when the parks are transformed from Halloween to Christmas. A HUGE group of people comes in to take down pumpkins and put up Christmas trees, lights, and more. The process is mind-blowing! Check out the video Disney posted for a glimpse into the work that is done overnight at Disney!
Want to know more about the life of a Disney Cast Member? Then, check out these posts as well!
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