Disney World regulars and hotel guests have become experts at Disney’s Extra Magic Hours to have the place to themselves, but why not just rent the whole park?
Renting A Whole Park
This week, in a Walt Disney World Annual Pass holder group, a member noted that Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando would be closing early – a major tool supply firm had reserved the park from “8:00 pm to Midnight” for its employees. This sparked an interesting conversation and one that may apply to just about anybody, how much does it cost, and why don’t we get a big enough group to make that happen ourselves?
I’ll get to the economics in a separate section, but on the surface it’s a great idea. My family held annual passes and found that we could ride more rides from 9 pm (just after the start of the fireworks) until midnight during Extra Magic Hours than we could if we arrived at 8 am and stayed through the fireworks show. Most of the families with young children clear out of the park and new entrants do not buy tickets after this period so it allows just guests at Disney hotels or Disney Good Neighbor hotels (see this list on the Disney World website) to access the park. We were able to “turnstile” (repeatedly ride with no lines) during those hours and make far better use of our time and maximize our experience.
This group of annual passholders has begun exploring the idea of renting one of the parks from Walt Disney World Resort to essentially create their own private event with little to no lines. For a former travel hacker like myself, this felt like a mistake fare on Flyertalk.
While just Magic Kingdom was discussed in this group (it has the most rides of any Disney property in Florida), ever the mileage junkie, I considered the idea of renting Disney Hollywood Studios in Orlando. The park features a Star Wars-themed land with the nearly impossible to ride, Rise of the Resistance.
Renting out the entire park would all but guarantee a seat on the ride as well as Slinky Dog Dash (a great roller coaster that can have long wait times), the new Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railroad, and the perfect evening experience, the Tower of Terror.
This would allow members who participated to enjoy these extremely exclusive Extra Magic Hours without holding hotel reservations at a Disney World Resort hotel and assumedly the same would be the case for California and its Disneyland Hotel properties.
Universal Offers This Too
After considering this option for some time, another commenter added that Universal Studios in Orlando also rents out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for private events too. My mother-in-law was at a convention that offered this as an after-hours activity but it all seemed too far out of reach at the time.
One complication with Universal over Disney World is that its two parks are connected by a train that runs between the Harry potter worlds split between the parks. I can’t comment on how they segment just those sections from the rest of the park and if it’s one or both sides included in the rental. Disney, in contrast, has four distinct parks all of which are closed from the others.
Economics of a Renting a Theme Park
Let’s treat this like a mistake fare and do some math.
The purported cost of renting Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for one of these four-hour nighttime events is $180,000 (Universal’s Harry Potter option is rumored to cost $200,000.) That’s a lot of money, but consider that capacity at Magic Kingdom is 90,000 people for the 142-acre park. Even at the height of COVID capacity limits, the park was still able to easily accommodate 22,500 with social distancing requirements and reduced staff and many Annual Passholders that visited during this period loved the short waits for rides. There are 20 rides and dozens of additional attractions.
Current park tickets range from $103-125 depending on the day with half-day tickets available for a slight discount.
- Park rental cost = $180,000
- Divided by the lowest possible full day rate ($103)
- Just 1,748 people could rent the park for the same price as a day admission
- Equal distribution (unlikely but some distribution will happen) puts 87-88 people in each ride line.
- Some rides are constantly moving (Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan for example) which will result in a wait of less than ten minutes. Other rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Big Thunder Mountain run 20-30 seats per 3-4 minute ride resulting in a wait of closer to 12-15 minutes.
- With 3,500 people, wait times might double but costs would drop to Florida resident rates of about $50/day
Some might bristle at the late time for the start of the event, but with no annual pass sales permitted at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, there should be a line out the door for this kind of event. It may not come with the passholders’ complimentary magicbands but is a better experience for even the most loyal fans.
There’s no question that selling tickets for this event would break the terms and conditions of the park rental. However, if a properly organized group could begin a members-only co-op with annual dues, I am confident that this could turn from an idea into reality. Who wouldn’t want to have their own semi-private theme park for a night, especially at a rate comparable to what’s available at the gates?
What do you think? Would you want to rent a park out for the night? Who gets to put the charge on their credit card?