Judging by the response on social media, there are a surprising number of Disney Vacation Club owners who are not familiar with the Moonlight Magic events. Let's take a quick look at the history of the best perk ever extended to DVC members.
Q: What is Moonlight Magic?
A: Moonlight Magic is an after-hours event hosted at one of the Disney parks exclusively for Disney Vacation Club owners. After the park has closed to all other day guests and passholders, attractions, shops and entertainment continue into the night solely for registered party attendees. In many ways, it's like a private Extra Magic Hours evening or ticketed party (e.g. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party) exlucisvely for DVC owners.
Q: When did these events begin?
A: The current incarnation of Moonlight Magic can be traced to the summer of 2015 when members were treated to free admission at Disney's Blizzard Beach waterpark on four summer evenings.
This "Beach Bash" concept was expanded in 2016 to coincide with Disney Vacation Club's 25th Anniversary. In addition to four nights at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, the schedule featured two nights at the Magic Kingdom, four at Disney's Animal Kingdom and one night at Disney California Adventure.
2017 saw Epcot added to the mix with a total of eleven event nights at four Florida parks plus Disneyland. In 2018, the event expands to a total of fourteen nights spread across 6 theme parks and waterparks.
Q: Exactly what happens during Moonlight Magic?
A: Simply put, the park is open...but only for DVC members. Attractions operate, food is available, shops are open and characters are available for meet-and-greet sessions. But for the approximate 3 hour duration of the party, the only guests in the park are registered DVC party attendees.
Peak crowds in the Typhoon Lagoon wave pool still much smaller than a summer afternoon
Q: Is every attraction open?
A: Not every attraction but most of the headliners one would expect: all of the Magic Kingdom "mountains", Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and more. At Disney's Animal Kingdom, Pandora, Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest were among the options available to guests. At the upcoming Epcot events, Soarin, Test Track and Mission Space are among the experiences available. Typically the only closures are a handful of lesser attractions and any which may not lend themselves well to evening operations (e.g. Tom Sawyer Island.)
Q: What sort of attraction wait times should we expect?
A: Similar to normal operating hours, guests are bound to flock to the more popular attractions. Reports from 2017 events indicated 60+ minute waits for the Pandora attractions and 40 minutes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Expect other attractions to be much more managable, with many having no wait at all. At the recent Disneyland Moonlight Magic event, one attendee indicated their longest wait of the evening was at a churro cart.
With some of these events running until 1am expect crowds to be heaviest at the start, thinning considerably over time.
Q: Is FastPass available during Moonlight Magic?
Q: What food options are available during Moonlight Magic?
A: Select food and snacks are offered at no charge. In the past, these have included ice cream novelties (including the Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars), cookies, bags of potato chips, churros and more. At one event, complimentary hot dogs and chicken nuggets were provided. Free beverage options include water and lemonade.
There are no apparent limitations to the free food offerings, with Cast Members restocking right until the end. Additional food selections are typically available for purchase from designated dining locations.
Q: Are Disney characters available for photos and autographs during Moonlight Magic?
A: Yes! And they tend to be some of the more exotic Disney character greet opportunities. Recent sightings include Tarzan and Jane, Launchpad McQuack and Scrooge McDuck, the Genie from "Aladdin" and Sebastian from "The Little Mermaid."
Genie posing for photos in his vacation gear including a Goofy hat
Q: Is there any entertainment offered?
A: Dance parties lead by a Disney DJ are a staple at each event. Also the parks tend to include a private showing of normal nighttime entertainment including Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom and Fantasmic! at Disneyland. An event guide provided upon entry details times and locations of all events.
Q: What does it cost to attend?
A: Moonlight Magic is FREE to eligible members and their guests. No park tickets required. No annual passes. It is free.
Q: Who is eligible to attend Moonlight Magic?
A: All DVC members who qualify for the "Membership Magic" perks program are eligible. This means anyone who has purchased points directly from DVC or purchased resale points prior to April 4, 2016. Those who only have points which were purchased on the resale market after 4/4/16 unfortunately do not qualify.
Q: Can I bring any guests with me?
A: Yes. Owners which a Disney hotel reservation on the night of the event can bring their entire traveling party. If you have 9 people booked in a Two Bedroom villa or even 12 in a Grand Villa, the member can register his entire party. Those without hotel reservations are limited to six (6) total attendees--the member plus 5 guests. This limit applies per "membership", meaning that even if the DVC ownership has several names on the title, the maximum group size is still 6 total attendees.
Q: Do I need to register in advance?
A: Yes!!! Capacity is limited and advance registration is required. DVC has already posted a schedule of the dates registration will open for 2018 events. In most cases, those with hotel reservations have first dibs to book. At 9am on the morning registrations are set to go live, a link will be posted to DVCMember.com (we will post it here on DVCNews, too.) Members will be asked to enter personal information including their DVC member ID, hotel reservation number, party size and more. The registration confirmation is emailed to the member.
Free ice cream, y'all!
Q: If I don't have a hotel reservation, will I still get into the party when my registration window opens?
A: Historically, most of the events have still had some availability remaining when registration opened those without hotel bookings.
Q: Isn't DVC discriminating against locals by requiring a hotel reservation?
A: By all appearances, the policy is in place to encourage fairness. Most DVC members have--at best--one party they are able to attend: the party which coincides with a planned vacation. By comparison, Florida locals could attempt to register for any of the thirteen parties in their area.
To virtually guarantee a party registration, locals could always use their points to book a DVC room the night of an event.
Q: What is the capacity for each event?
A: DVC has not disclosed the maximum number of attendees at any of the parks. Anecdotally, crowds appear to be lighter than you will ever see in a Disney theme park or waterpark, including hard-ticketed events like MNSSHP and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. We suspect they try to strike a balance between accommodating as many members as possible vs. providing the best experience (short attraction lines.)
Q: How many events can I attend in a year?
A: The only stated limit is that members can only attend one party per park. Even though there are three Moonlight Magic nights planned for the Magic Kingdom in 2018, a single member family can only attend one of the three. But that same family could later attend an event at Epcot, one at Disney's Hollywood Studios and so on.
Q: Do I need special tickets to enter the park for the party?
A: Wristbands are distributed to registered attendees. Check-in is available at all DVC resorts and at the park entrance. The registered member must present a DVC ID card along with photo ID. ALL guests accompanying the member must be present at check-in.
After the ID is verified, attendees are given their wristbands and can proceed to the park.
Q: What time do the events begin?
A: Because they start after the end of the park's normal operating day, it will vary. The June 2017 events at Typhoon Lagoon officially ran from 8:30 to 11:30pm. September Moonlight Magic at Disney's Animal Kingdom took place from 9:30pm to 1:00am. And the upcoming Epcot nights are scheduled for 10:00pm to 1:00am.
Q: Can I enter the park before the scheduled start time?
A: Yes! Admission is typically permitted beginning about 1.5 - 2.5 hours before the event start. Similar to other theme park after-hours parties, guests can enter early with their Moonlight Magic credentials only. No park tickets or annual pass required. Complete details will be published closer to every event.
Q: Is transportation provided?
A: Yes. Disney will provide round-trip shuttle service between DVC resorts and the party venue. Other Disney resorts may also be included if attendees are staying at non-DVC hotels. Inquire with Member Services to confirm.
Q: When is the Moonlight Magic schedule typically released?
A: DVC has gotten better about publishing the dates. In 2016 and 2017 the full schedules were not disclosed until January of each year. However the 2018 list was published in November 2017. Given the challenges involved in reserving a Disney theme park up to a year in advance, I'm not sure that we will ever get the full year's schedule more than 11 months in advance (e.g. 2019 dates published by February 2018.) However, DVC has done an impressive job of increasing the number of events and staggering them throughout the year. Hopefully most owners will encounter at least one event during their travels ever few years.
Q: So what's the catch? There must be a cost somewhere?
A: As far as we're concerned, there is no catch. The event is completely free to qualifying DVC members and their guests. Free admission, free snacks, free entertainment. Think you can eat ten Mickey ice cream bars? Go for it.
The events are a sales and marketing expense for Disney Vacation Club. It's a pretty compelling perk to promote to those considering a DVC purchase. And judging by their recent sales numbers, it just may be working.
Note that all Moonlight Magic details and policies are subject to change.
The complete 2018 schedule of Moonlight Magic events and booking dates can be found HERE. For details on past events, click the following links to see our coverage from Typhoon Lagoon, Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom.
As to whether it is the best perk ever, I think the discount on the AP would be my choice of a best perk. It is something we will really use.
We've taken advantage of it 3 times (AK, DCA, DL), and hope to again twice this year (HS, DCA).
If we were new buyers to DVC, we'd have to think hard about buying at least some points directly from Disney to qualify for this benefit.
In the past, that never would've been the case.