Visiting Walt Disney World or Disneyland is an experience like no other. From the nostalgia of Peter Pan’s Flight, to the thrills of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, there are dozens of things for everyone to experience. How parks, resorts, restaurants, and more are enjoyed varies depending on age, ability, and other factors. However, there is one way to fully have the ability to enjoy the majesty of these places: hanging back after closing.
So, what does “hanging back” mean? This is, at park closing, not participating in the mass exodus, and instead perhaps sitting on a bench for fifteen to twenty minutes before slowly walking back to your applicable conveyance. In order for this to work in a peaceful manner, one should be at the ‘back’ of the park, so they can truly experience the park as they leave. For example, in Magic Kingdom, you might position yourself toward Splash Mountain, or the Germany pavilion in Epcot (and then exiting toward Future World, clockwise). By exiting in this manner, you can depart with fewer people around, and with the parks lit up in all their splendor. As merchandise locations and attractions are closed, there is nothing to distract you from enjoying what is around you.
Hanging back and slowly exiting is a strategy I employ, and, from my own personal experience, it puts me in a small minority, as it appears most guests hustle for the exit as quickly as possible. Rather than bottle-necking down Main Street, U.S.A. proceeding slowly through Fantasyland or Adventureland (my preference) allows for a much more relaxing egress. As the era of a slow-time seems to be over at Walt Disney World, this method provides you with plenty of space to walk, and lets you really appreciate the beauty of attractions and other buildings with minimal distraction.
Free of other diversions, such as running to your Advance Dining Reservation, you can notice how imposing Space Mountain is when illuminated or really appreciate Main Street, U.S.A. at is most luminescent. Much like when start your day early and see the sun light up the parks, ending it late can allow you to get a new perspective.
The relaxing qualities of this strategy can also make your trip back to your resort or car a little more peaceful. While this is not a sure-fire way to avoid crowds on transit, it can help you avoid having to wait through three or four full busses at the end of a long day. A willingness to take rideshare (such as Uber or Lyft) from a nearby resort, further shows off the Disney parks at night. A walk out of the International Gateway in Epcot to the resorts around Crescent Lake provides the opportunity to see the Boardwalk Inn Resort at night; a sight you might not otherwise see. By walking to the Contemporary Resort and getting a Lyft, you can see Tomorrowland, the Seven Seas Lagoon, and, of course, the Contemporary Resort, as you leave Magic Kingdom. While it is an extra cost, especially if one solicits the services of a Minnie Van, it is a great end to a long day, or even a trip. With the ‘Tragical Express’ and a day of travel ahead, it is a nice, but sobering, treat.
Like anything, this method is not perfect. Unless you have professional equipment or skill, opportunities for pictures may be poor. Also, if Hollywood Studios closes at 10:00pm, and you are not even leaving until 10:30-10:45pm, you might not return to your resort until 11:15pm or later. And, after a day in a Disney park, it can be very hard to go to sleep.
And another tempest looms on the horizon of this whole conversation: the cast members who now have to stay while you take your time in the bioluminescence of Pandora – The World of AVATAR. I have asked cast members while at Walt Disney World about this strategy, and they seem unconcerned about this in terms of being held up from leaving. The parks still have to be cleaned, and guests are still in queues for attractions, and are still eating at restaurants. Obviously, I do not expect them to say that a guest is a nuisance in any context. For candor, I thus have turned to the DisBoards, where plenty of past and perhaps some current cast members are willing to be blunt. Forums pertaining to specifically planning for the parks have confirmed that guests are hanging around for many reasons, and cast members are generally not leaving anytime soon after closing, regardless of whether or not you choose to amble along.
Slowly meandering as you exit the park lets you really soak in the magical place where you and your family have chosen to spend their vacation. It can be done in a manner respectful to cast members, and without requiring a massive time investment. A half-hour wandering through Magic Kingdom free of other distractions really provides the park the opportunity to show itself at its most resplendent. But, from my experience, the guests who hang back are a very small minority.
Is hanging back a method you choose to employ? Why or why not? Cast members past and present: is what I’m suggesting keeping you at work much later than necessary? Please feel free to share your thoughts!