Moonlight Magic is back: An inside look at this free perk for Disney Vacation Club members
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A major perk for Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members recently returned to Walt Disney World.
Disney Vacation Club Moonlight Magic is a complimentary event that gives DVC members after-hours access to select Walt Disney World theme parks with extra entertainment, special treats and smaller crowds (read: shorter wait times for rides). The first Moonlight Magic events to return after a pandemic pause were held at Epcot on March 17 and 31, and we took part to see what the latest iteration of this popular event was like.
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First things first: What is Disney Vacation Club?
Only Disney Vacation Club members and their guests are eligible to attend Moonlight Magic, so let’s start with a quick refresher on the program.
Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s more flexible take on the traditional timeshare. The points-based program allows you to purchase an end-dated real estate interest at select Disney resorts. Members buy a certain number of “vacation points” per year at a designated “home resort,” and use them annually to book stays at any Disney Vacation Club resort.
Eligible DVC members get access to a number of perks and discounts, called “Membership Extras,” of which Moonlight Magic is one of the most sought-after.
Learn more about DVC in our comprehensive guide to Disney Vacation Club.
Everything you need to know about Moonlight Magic
Upcoming 2022 Moonlight Magic events will take place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on May 24, June 16, and July 14, 2022, and at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on July 26, Aug. 31, and Sept. 28, 2022.
Who can attend Moonlight Magic?
Registration is required to attend Moonlight Magic, and these special events do fill up quickly. The first-round registration opportunity goes to Disney Vacation Club members with a resort reservation on the event date at a Disney-owned and operated hotel at Walt Disney World or Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. So, for your best shot at attending, try to snag a resort reservation for one of the event dates before the Moonlight Magic reservation window opens (more on that later).
Members can register themselves and up to four guests per membership, or up to the number of guests on their resort reservation. Children under age three do not need to register.
If members have multiple resort reservations, they can register themselves and the total number of individuals on their reservation if staying with Vacation Points or Reservation Points (Vacation Points converted to reserve accommodations with the Disney Collection or Concierge Collection). If they’ve booked their stay with cash, Interval International points or RCI points at an eligible Disney resort, members can register themselves and the number of guests staying in the same room with the member.
How and when can I register?
Registration for Moonlight Magic dates at Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens at 11 a.m. EST on April 20, 2022, to DVC members with a Disney resort reservation on the day of the event.
Members with an eligible reservation should look out for an email sent on April 19, 2022, with a link to register. Resort reservations and party size for eligible reservations must have been finalized by 11:59 p.m. EST on April 17, 2022, to apply to the initial registration window.
Pending availability, registration will open to all members at 11 a.m. EST on May 10, 2022.
The registration window has yet to be announced for Moonlight Magic at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but expect it to follow the same process — opening first to members with resort reservations on the dates of the events, followed by registration open to all members.
When and how do I enter the theme park for Moonlight Magic?
Event times will be confirmed to registered guests closer to the date, but Moonlight Magic typically runs for three hours beginning an hour after official park close. For the recent Epcot events, guests were able to enter the park as early as 6 p.m. (no admission or theme park reservation needed for registered Moonlight Magic guests) and stay until the event ended at 1 a.m.
Guests at Epcot were given three check-in options — at the park’s main and International Gateway entrances and in the park at a Disney Vacation Club kiosk.
An event confirmation email, a valid digital Disney Vacation Club membership card and a photo ID are required, and guests are given wristbands upon check-in.
Food and drinks available during Moonlight Magic
We were seriously impressed with the food and beverage options included and available to Moonlight Magic attendees. Upon check-in, each guest receives three complimentary Delectable Delight vouchers, which can be redeemed for snacks and drinks throughout the park.
During the Epcot events, vouchers were redeemable from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at various quick-service locations, as well as at select Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival outdoor kitchens.
A new perk this year that had attendees lining up in droves is an exclusive Disney Vacation Club souvenir popcorn bucket filled with popcorn. Each attendee gets one voucher redeemable for a popcorn tub, which can also be refilled during future park visits for $2.25. A souvenir popcorn bucket will normally set you back $13, so this is by far the best value you’ll find for a Delectable Delights voucher. If popcorn isn’t your thing, you can also use that voucher for any of the other eligible snack items.
We were able to get classic snacks like a Mickey pretzel with cheese ($7.50 value), as well as specialty festival items from outdoor kitchens, including Boneless Impossible Korean Short Ribs ($6.75 value) from Trowel & Trellis, Grilled Oysters with Cajun Butter from Magnolia Terrace ($7.50 value) and the Tuna Tataki Bowl from The Citrus Blossom ($6.25 value). You can also use vouchers for bottled water and soda, but we’d recommend using your vouchers on food for better value.
To get the most mileage out of your vouchers — and the event offerings as a whole — your best bet is to focus on the food during park operating hours from 6-9 p.m. in order to get much more interesting (and in most cases, more expensive) snacks.
Once the park closes and the event officially starts (at Epcot the start time was 10 p.m.), vouchers were only redeemable at select popcorn carts and two quick-service locations — Sunshine Seasons (until 11 p.m.) and Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe (until 1 a.m.).
Complimentary Mickey ice cream bars and frozen strawberry fruit bars were also handed out from designated carts from 10 p.m.-1 a.m.
Aside from more bang for voucher buck, another big reason to do your snacking before the event’s official start is to free yourself up for the most unique aspect of Moonlight Magic — the character sightings. This is a great opportunity to see a wide range of characters — including some very rare ones — with short or even nonexistent wait times.
The Epcot events featured Disney villains, including Captain Hook and Smee, Pain and Panic, Oogie Boogie, the Evil Queen, the Old Hag and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Characters were out from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., so keep your eye on the clock as you make the rounds.
Disney PhotoPass photographers weren’t on hand, so plan to rely on selfies or ask a friend or cast member to snap your photos.
Character sightings for the Epcot events were distanced. However, with the phased return of more traditional character experiences beginning April 18, future Moonlight Magic events might eventually offer more traditional character experiences, too.
There’s no need to plan your evening around the entertainment, which is more a “nice to have” than a main focus.
However, event DJs and periodic performances from musicians on the Canada Mill Stage added energy to the night. A great soundtrack also made the event extra lively, as did two “Welcome home moments” on World Showcase Lagoon, which included special lighting and spraying of the Harmonious barge fountains along with part of the soundtrack from Epcot’s now-retired nighttime spectacular, IllumiNations.
Shorter wait times for rides
As with other Disney World after-hours events, another big draw is the potential for lower wait times on rides. All of Epcot’s most popular rides were open, and wait times were for the most part well below average. Ride queues were open to Moonlight Magic guests only beginning at 9 p.m., as soon as the park officially closed to day guests.
While most guests flocked to viewing locations for Harmonious, Epcot’s new nighttime spectacular, we hopped in line for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Cast members checked wristbands to ensure we were registered for Moonlight Magic, and we waited just 20 minutes for the ride, which averages 80+ minute wait times during normal park hours.
Additional locations open late
For those in need of some extra caffeine or an adult beverage to help push through to the wee hours of the night, Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company and Rose & Crown Pub both stayed open until 1 a.m.
Moonlight Magic is a Membership Extra every Disney Vacation Club member should take advantage of if your dates align and you can manage to stay awake late enough.
While Moonlight Magic entertainment may be a bit scaled back in comparison to paid After Hours events at Walt Disney World, what the event lacks in major entertainment like parades and stage shows, it makes up for in better snacks, plenty of rare characters, shorter character lines, and a $0 price tag for members and their guests. With Disney World’s recent Very Merriest After Hours tickets ranging from $169 to $229, Moonlight Magic is a perk Disney Vacation Members shouldn’t miss if they can help it.
Featured photo by Brooke McDonald for The Points Guy.
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