If you’re an experienced Disney vacationer, you know that the most productive park time is usually right at park open. Rope dropping allows you to get to a few rides before lines actually form, making it possible to get through 3-5 rides in less than an hour.
The start of the day isn’t the only time you can take advantage of low waits though! When the sun goes down at Disneyland, a lot of guests decide their days are done and head back to the hotel. This only accelerates after the nightly fireworks display. The guests who remain on tired feet are then rewarded with much lower wait times than the afternoon. Today we’re going to draft the best attractions to ride right before closing time.
Michaela: In my opinion, there is one ride in the park that especially excels in being a late night go-to ride. That attraction is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. For some reason this coaster almost always has a smaller wait than Space Mountain and the Matterhorn, and is always 20 min or less in the late evening. It’s also an incredibly enjoyable attraction, and has the perfect mix of thrill and theme.
I love riding this attraction late at night because seeing the fireworks go off while riding is an incredible treat, and if there’s nobody in line, they let you go again without getting off! If you’re looking for a ride the whole family loves, and you want to end your Disneyland day with a bang, Big Thunder Mountain will give you at least three rides in the last hour of park open.
Andrew: Before I get to my pick, I’m going to point out 2 things: 1. Michaela made the absolute right pick, it’s the best attraction in the park at night and she’s right about the wait times being low. 2. She definitely just took the first pick without any discussion of who goes first. Being the gentleman that I am (I need to boost my self esteem after already losing this draft), I would have given it to her anyway.
All joking aside, it only feels right to stick with the mountains for my first pick and there’s not a wrong way to go in choosing between the 3 remaining. I’m going to go with Splash Mountain because, like Big Thunder, wait times get exceptionally low. People wait for an hour or two for this attraction in the hot sun but completely avoid it during those non-burning hours. Follow the way of enlightenment, grab a poncho and enjoy the park’s sparkling lights before you drop 50 feet! Or you could ride it ten times in a row right before closing!
Your pick, Michaela! Please try not to destroy me even more.
Michaela: I wouldn’t call myself victorious yet, as Splash Mountain would have been my second choice. Instead I will be headed as far back into the park as you can go, to Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. This ride is great at night for two reasons. One, since Galaxy’s Edge is in the back of the park, it clears out earlier than other lands. Two, without a line you don’t have to worry too much about getting stuck with engineer or gunner if you want to pilot the flight. In my experience the Falcon is a walk on for much of the last hour of park time, so you can pilot without worrying about a Karen complaining about having to be gunner.
You’re up Andrew! Pick wisely.
Andrew: It’s another good pick, as I love catching a ride or two here before starting some nighttime photography in the way, way back. But this may have been a head over heart decision for Michaela so I will happily snatch the Matterhorn with my second pick. There’s very few things I enjoy more in life than watching a nighttime spectacular at Disneyland, scampering through the Fantasyland dark rides and then capping it all off by getting in line for the Matterhorn Bobsleds a minute before the park closing time. Not only is it a beautiful ride at night but there’s a real sense of accomplishment in getting so much done in so little time. Starting about half an hour before close and doing the straight line of Pinocchio, Toad, Tea Cups and Matterhorn gives you a little bit of everything and it naturally saves the best for last!
I’m hoping I didn’t upset you with this pick… Where you going next?
Michaela: A very good pick, but I’ll stand by my decision as late night Smuggler’s Run allows for that pilot position. This pick is probably not one that many think about, but I think it highlights the magic of Disneyland at night. The Disneyland Railroad leaves Main Street station right at close, for one last trip around the Magic Kingdom. Not many people (very, very few) ever take this last ride. That means you can maybe snag a train car all to yourself, and take a trip around Disneyland during the quiet closing time. This to me is a very relaxing and reflective way to end a day at Disneyland, and I highly recommend it.
Andrew: A very contemplative and sentimental pick that sounds right up my alley! On to the sixth pick of the draft! Now things open up a little as there’s a number that could fit into the next 5 choices. I’m going to go a little off the wall here and pick Jungle Cruise. So far, all of the picks are better attractions at night than during the day. I’m not sure that’s true here, instead the experience is just… Different? During the day many of the jokes are exactly the same and it’s all a little more animal focused. At night, the ride is far more Skipper driven and dependent on them. Admittedly, sometimes that fails. But there are other times when it is incredibly funny and the Skippers really nail it. My most memorable rides on the Jungle Cruise have all been at night!
Two picks each left!
Michaela: I completely agree with Andrew’s pick, sometimes the Jungle Cruise hits different at night in a wonderful way. My next pick is, alas, another mountain. Most of the time we here at Wandering in Disney ride Space Mountain via the single rider line. But, at the end of the night when the line is shorter, there lies a great opportunity for you and your friends to all ride a rocket together with a very low wait. It seems like near the end of the day some of the ride times don’t update fully, because Space Mountain’s wait often says around 30 minutes near park close. I have found that to be false, and at park close the wait most likely won’t be longer than 10 minutes. Plus, when you ride Space Mountain after the sun goes down your eyes are better adjusted to the darkness and you can see more stars!
Andrew: With all of the mountains off the board, I’m going to take the only thrill ride in the park we haven’t picked – Indiana Jones Adventure! This pick pretty much follows all of the reasoning Michaela just laid out for Space Mountain. At night the actual wait is much lower than the posted time so you’re likely to get on in about 10 minutes. With Indy having one of the longest waits in all of the park there’s only so many times throughout the day where it’s a good option to ride. Bonus tip: Consider the Jungle Cruise and Indy double feature to close out the night!
Alright, last round!
Michaela: Great pick! For my last, I am going to nab the attraction in the park that on average has the longest wait time. That ride is Peter Pan’s Flight. Easily the most popular dark ride in Disneyland, Peter Pan has a 45+ minute wait from 8:15 AM until well after the sun goes down. That’s a very long time to wait for a ride that seems to last less than two minutes. I highly recommend getting into the line for Peter Pan right before park close, to give you the shortest possible wait. Hit Pinocchio and Mr. Toad, then hop in line for Peter! A roam around Fantasyland is a great way to end the night, and you should be able to get onto Peter Pan’s Flight in 20 minutes or less.
We’re ready for your last pick, Andrew!
Andrew: I had a feeling you’d go there and it’s a good choice, as it’s probably the best ride left available for all of the reasons you mentioned. With my last pick, I’m going to go almost the exact same route as you but choose Alice in Wonderland. Somewhat surprisingly, Alice and Peter Pan have had very similar wait times in the past few weeks that I’ve been monitoring. It’s a little harder to get to Alice during the day, as it’s not in that dark ride square that Fantasyland forms and can be forgotten. The ride is excellent though and adds something at night because a portion of it is outside. There’s never a bad time to see the Matterhorn against the dark sky, especially if it’s on a ride.
That completes our draft! Let us know who you think won in the comments below. What are your favorite closing rides at Disneyland? If you’re planning a trip to a Disney Resort, check out our planning guides to help you out along the way. Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney! Please subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email and like our Social Media pages, both of which you can find on the right side of this page. Have a great day!