Grad Nite at Walt Disney World Ending-Will Other Orlando Parks Pick it Up?


Ah, Grad Nite. You had the chance to go to Disney World at Night without parents, stay out late and ride all the Disney rides. And the best part, you had all of your friends dressed up and there with you. The year for me was 1995 (Yes kids, I’m old) and the line up was as follows: Shenandoah, Brandy, All-4-One, Changing Falls. I didn’t watch one single concert and couldn’t care less. I spent time with my girlfriend (later wife, mother of my children and now ex-wife) riding all of the rides and getting our one petrified (very religious) friend to ride Splash Mountain. There’s a picture somewhere of me laughing, my ex covering her head and our friend praying. Good times.

One memory of millions had by grads since 1972. In recent years the event has moved from Magic Kingdom to the much smaller (and much more boring) Hollywood Studios. It seemed instead of embracing today’s teens they were pushing them further and further away. Today, by way of their official blog, Disney has announced that after this year there will no longer be Grad Nite at Walt Disney Disney World.

We’ve recently seen more and more students visiting Walt Disney World as part of a broader senior class trip. And activities such as youth sports competitions, performing arts programs, including performances, workshops and festivals, and educational programs now give teens chances to experience Walt Disney World virtually any time of the year. Through special pricing, we’ll be offering students the flexibility to visit and celebrate their achievements here at the parks when they want to. In Florida, school groups can continue the tradition with a special one-day, one-park ticket for $55 valid anytime of the year. Also, Disney Youth Programs can arrange customized experiences.


Translation: We aren’t making enough money to justify closing one of our parks early. Kind of a bad attitude to take for the “Happiest place on Earth”, but it’s an understandable one. Closing the park early upsets guests, and gives Extra Magic Hours guests one less park they can experience. Then you have the teenager factor. Most teens see this as a trip, without parental supervision with friends, in the dark, at night. It’s the closest thing to a real Mardi Gras they can get. Add in the fact that today’s teens are far more “sexually aware” and it becomes a chaperoning nightmare. Your employees are reduced to babysitters for horny hormones.

Talking to several cast members I’ve heard stories of “protein spills” on Pirates, or any other dark ride for that matter. Fights erupting, and of course abuse of the beloved characters.

My school was banned from the event for years because of an incident involving several “popular kids” who were chosen to take pics for upcoming events. Instead of acting gracious, they spun around Donald’s head and kicked him into a nearby pond.

However, it was a huge draw for the park. Several parks have imitated and have had success with their version of the event. Universal offers Grad Bash, and Busch Gardens offers a middle school equivalent for 8th graders. With Grad Nite ending, we could possibly see Universal Orlando expand it’s event to both parks (allowing to pack more students in). Sea World could offer an event to 8th graders (who aren’t AS hormonally charged as their high school counterparts). Busch Gardens Tampa (with no dark rides in which teens could get into sexual situations) could appeal to the adrenaline junky side of teens and offer a grad celebration with the allure of “coasters in the dark”. Hell for that matter, let’s extend it to Legoland Florida who could offer a huge deal for kids graduating Kindergarten and Pre-K.

The event will happen (for now) at Disneyland in California.

If it did happen would it work? Would you let your graduates attend? Let us know in the comments below!