In Disney

After Hours Park Dining: The One Secret I Didn’t Want to Share

I’ve shared a lot of Disney tips and tricks and other secrets with you. I’ve told you what targets to hit to be a Galactic Hero on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. I’ve told you my secret places to relax on property. Heck – I’ve even told you about that time I yelled at my mom during mile 25 of a marathon. And that other time I yelled at my dead grandmother during a manicure. (These sound worse written in quick succession than they were…I promise.) 

But all of those secrets were cake compared with this. This was the little trick that I really wanted to keep to myself. But I love you guys and TRUST YOU to use this information responsibly. So here we go.

Obligatory castle shot. Also – TeePublic has kids’ masks now!!

You know how all of the parks are closing pretty early right now? And how you can’t even be in them after dark? Well…there’s one little way around that.

Magic Kingdom currently closes at a remarkably early 6 p.m. But…you can book dining reservations until almost 7. What that means is, so long at you listen to the rules and follow the Cast Members’ instructions about where you can and cannot be, you can enjoy some incredible quiet time in the park long after the gates close for the night. 

This Tuesday evening, after the boys’ finished school and did their homework, we headed over to Magic Kingdom. We arrived at around 4:30 p.m. and did a ton over the 1 1/2 hours before park closing. In just those 90 minutes, largely thanks to heavy rains earlier that had cleared out already light crowds, we rode Buzz Lightyear, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Thunder Mountain. 

A perfect picture of Madame Leota is my holy grail. This one, taken that evening with my Sony a7iii and Sigma Art 24-70 lens, is one of my favorites to date.

Then the park closed at 6 p.m., but we had reservations at Liberty Tree Tavern at 6:50 p.m., so we were able to stroll around a bit. I share this with you trusting that you will abide by the Cast Member’s instructions about where you can and cannot be and where you can and cannot linger, but as we made our way from our last attraction to Main Street, we were able to enjoy some incredible views of the empty park.

And in walking through the arch below Cinderella Castle, I encouraged the kids to walk ahead of me and snapped picture after picture of them hand in hand.

Everything the light touches is our kingdom.

If you ever choose to recreate this with your own children, please please share it with me!!

At 6:50 p.m., we headed to Liberty Tree Tavern and had an amazing meal. They never ever disappoint…but I don’t have any pictures because I forced myself to put down my camera and be fully present with the kids. While we were eating I shared my thoughts with them…that a relaxed Tuesday evening dinner after school at Magic Kingdom was exactly the sort of incredible thing that I daydreamed about when we were first thinking of moving here.

Our meal was lovely and unrushed and we finished at around 8 p.m. and slowly made our way out and down Main Street, U.S.A. 

Most of these pictures were taken with my Sony a7iii…but this was shot on nothing but my trusty iPhone 11 Pro. If you’re staying still, the camera on this phone works magic in low light.

Be sure to make your way there in a timely manner so as not to overburden the hard working Cast Members’ trying to finish their day’s work.

Always offer to take someone else’s picture for them…at least in non-COVID times. They might just offer to return the favor.

The opportunity to be on Main Street, U.S.A. after the crowds have left is so wonderful. I’ve done it so many times – either closing down after hours events or simply lingering quietly at the end of a normal park day. But something about these after close dining reservations is different. Perhaps because you’ve already had the chance to unwind before and during your meal, so the time spent slowly exiting the park afterwards is all the more relaxed.

All of this said, forgive me for likely stating much of the obvious…but there are a few things that everyone who does this needs to know. And so here are the rules of after hours park photography:

  1. You aren’t the only people there capturing the moment. Always be mindful of anyone else trying to capture those precious empty park pictures. If someone is further down Main Street taking pictures, move out of their shot and let them have their moment. They’ll likely return the favor when your time comes.
  2. Listen to EVERYTHING the Cast Members tell you about where you can and cannot be and for how long. They are trying to close up shop. Listen to them or you’ll end up being the reason we can’t have nice things.
  3. This comes with all of the current COVID-related quid pro quos, but in normal times, offer to take the pictures for another family so that they can all be in the shot together. A few seconds of your time might very well mean the family picture of a lifetime for them.
  4. Don’t. Overstay. Your. Welcome. Seriously, please. I share this post with you because I want you to know that this opportunity exists but please, please, again: do not be the reason we cannot have nice things. If people take advantage of after hours park time, it will go away.

That, right there, is the money shot, my friends. That perfect moment that you want to remember forever.

And I so very much do not want this to go away.

I hope that you use this information well. If you do, please comment here and let me know or reach out on Instagram so that I can share your story. 

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Please join me on Instagram for my day-to-day adventures living a mile from the magic. And join the conversation over in our community on Facebook!

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If you’re planning a trip to Disney and want a fun way to rock a mask, check out my designs at TeePublic right HERE!! (Allow time for shipping as I know they are processing tons of orders as fast as they can right now.) If you cannot or choose not to visit now and are looking for a way to bring the magic home, I’d love for you to check out my Core Memory Candle collection right HERE. And as always, stay safe and be kind, my friends.




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