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Grad Nite Update at Walt Disney World

Thomas Smith

by , Editorial Content Director, Disney Experiences

Disney Grad Nite

For many years, we’ve been thrilled to host high school graduation celebrations at Walt Disney World known as Grad Nite. And I know many Disney Parks Blog readers (like myself) have been part of the tradition – it’s become a rite of passage for seniors. That’s why today we wanted to share an important update; we will no longer be hosting Disney Grad Nite at the Walt Disney World Resort after this year’s event. With more leisure guests visiting in the springtime, it’s become challenging to schedule special events during April and May. Instead, graduates will have new opportunities to celebrate with us in the parks at more flexible and convenient times.

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.

Disney Grad Nite 2011 at Walt Disney World (and Disneyland Resort) will be held as planned during the dates Tim shared with you last month. And Grad Nite at Disneyland Resort will continue as normal – there are no plans to change the existing offering at the resort. Please stay tuned to the Blog for the most up-to-date information.


  • I went to Disney’s Grad Nite during the class year of 2007. As an employee of the co. I have seen a lot of guests, more then ever for the last couple of years around the spring season. Especially seeing that as now that Magic Kingdom opens as early as 8am and closes around 12midnight. I know how it feels to lose something that you’ve never experienced before. I totally wish for the best out of this years senior class and more seniors to come. To me Grad Nite was something that you only get to experience one time in your life. And this special event has been around since 1961, making this the most oldest Disney Tradition. Even though the deal sounds appealing where seniors can enter a one day park for $55, the once-in-a-lifetime experience will never be back.

    If it was me, I would probably try fighting it. And develop and sign some petitions. Petitions will probably make a Difference between now and the future. And maybe Disney and the petition signers and make some kind of agreement.

  • I have to agree with Philip (#43)…it’s NOT the end of the World. Seniors who are so brokenhearted should take the initiative to present to their class sponsors/administrators a day trip to WDW as a substitute for Grad Nite. If you worked it out right, I’m sure there would be a way to make it into a multi-day trip for ‘educational purposes’. I grew up in FL, I LOVE WDW and have been more times than I can count, and now enjoy taking my kids there…but I do not regret skipping Grad Nite. And for those who say that WDW ending the Grad Nite program will be so bad for the park, and will drive so many seniors to Grad Nite at DL…not a chance. The other people saying that ending this program will take away the chance for less affluent kids to be able to visit WDW in their lives…disagree with that, too. If people are motivated to work hard and succeed, and decide to spend their hard earned money on a WDW trip – they will prioritize it and make it happen.

  • No question that the teenagers most likely brought this upon themselves. Ten years ago when I went we heard stories later about people getting rowdy, not following rules, extra security being called in. Memories are great – and I have mine – but I think this something Disney is entirely justified in wanting to retire…

  • Well, if this is the case, I haven`t ever gotten the chance to visit Walt Disney World for Grad Nite, and I wish that I had that chance back when I was a high school senior. But speaking on behalf of the hipper crowd of future graduating seniors, I think that next year, The Walt Disney World Resort in Florida just ran a lot of seniors out to The Disneyland Resort in California with this one decision. Graduating High School Senior Groups of 2012 and beyond in Florida, start making plans for California.
    I hope that the ” Tornado and/or Hurricane Brain(s) ” at Walt Disney World that even thought about stopping the annual Grad Nite are proud of themselves for the decision that they have made ….. and the grimm outcomes that will follow.
    I saw this news and I am reminded of back in the 90s when I watched one of the Disney Grad Nite Concert Specials on The Disney Channel. It was The Party All Night Concert – Grad Nite at Walt Disney World. I enjoyed watching that special and watching those seniors have the time of their lives in the parks with the rides, etc. and the concerts.
    Good luck, Walt Disney World. I love you, always will.
    But in the words of my middle oldest bro, Bryan who is currently in the Army making his way to Afganistan now,
    ” Traditions NEVER Die. ” … And so shouldn`t Grad Nite. It means a lot to people who are there who get to have the park(s) to themselves and have special concerts geared just for them.

  • Too sad. 🙁 I still have my sweatshirt from Grad Nite, it’s on it’s last legs, but it’s still my favorite!

  • It’s not the end of the world, folks. Relax.

  • As a non-grad-nite person, I know that I don’t come from the perspective of someone who’s experienced it, but maybe a compromise solution could be reached? If Disney created a new hard ticketed event that was available for all guests, grad groups could elect to attend on those party nights, and no one would be excluded. It might also mitigate the “security stories” a previous poster noted because of the more mixed qualities of the group (and the lack of a false sense of security of letting your eighteen year-old loose in the World.)

  • Funny….. This is bothering me sooo much! I remember our DLand Grad Night in 1990. We had a ball!!!!!! Its a unique experience. I hope many seniors get to experience it at DLand. My son will be going in 2013 (we pray… Long as disney don’t make any funny moves).

    Question: will east/midwest/southern schools still be able to participate in the DLand grad night? May sound senseless for the money, but crafted right, it can be a nice week long so cal senior trip with DLand grad night at the end of their stay.

    If they really want to make money, What disney should do is have a grad night alumni night!!! Don’t know how they will validate who gets to attend, but, I’d be willling to herd my senior class to go!

  • I feel the ticket should be cheaper ($40) or offer discounts for multy parks (2nd day/park – $40, 3rd day/park – $30). I hope they continue to offer senior souvenir items for grads.

  • I’m glad to see it pass away, the noise made it impossible to sleep in a tent at Fort Wilderness. I used to plan my Disney trips around them.

  • Wow… way to go, Disney. Way to end a tradition, so you can sell more park-hoppers, hand out more PhotoPasses, and sell a few more pins and other assorted merchandise for one more day out of the year.

    It’s a shame that this is what The Mouse has become. But I guess when there’s enough money involved, the place “where dreams come true” can easily turn into the place “where dreams go to die.”

    What next? A FastPass system to see Mickey Mouse…? Oh, wait… that’s already in the works.

  • It is very sad that Disney is putting an end to this wonderful Florida tradition. I still remember my Grad night and it’s been over 20 years. My daughter who is in high school was so looking forward to her night. Grad Night was a memorable event that cannot be replaced. Everyone who ever attended Grad Night became a Disney fan for life. Disney should seriously reconsider this decision.

  • I’m surprised this has been allowed to happen for so long to begin with. I’ve heard how the grad nights get out of hand and all the extra security that’s needed those nights to protect the park from the rowdy “guests”.

  • Anyone who’s commented on how this is ‘great news’ is incredibly disappointing. As someone above posted, this only affects a few days out of the year (if it’s like Disneyland, it’s only a couple of days per week at most for the time it goes on), and I can’t imagine anyone thinking their trip to Disney World was ruined because they were barred from one (of four!) parks during their stay for one night. It’s on par with the selfishness of guests who complain at Christmastime that the CMs at Disneyland are having their Christmas party and one of the parks closes early that night.

    The whole thing about the discounted tickets is that it takes away the seasonal specificity of Grad Nite. And if it’s true that Universal Islands of Adventure is still having an equivalent event, then this decision is just foolhardy. I don’t get removing traditions for the sake of profit; the fact that traditions were kept alive at Disney Parks is one of the reasons I prefer going there over other theme parks.

  • I am very sadden at this turn of events. GradNite is a tradition and right of passage for Florida Seniors. Parents, and Friends have shared our experiences with the next generation and have told them this event surpasses PROM in so many ways. It is a night of Celebrating your childhood and adulthood all at the same time. Lifetime memories are made here. A night like no other. I hope this decision is reconsidered!

  • My daughter, who is a junior, has been so excited about the prospect of Grad Night. I attended Grad Nite in 1981 and it was one of the most magical nights of my time in high school. It also created my love of WDW and it’s somewhere we spend a lot of vacation time there. Please reconsider this decision.

  • This terrible news! I’m quite literally crushed. I’m a junior in High School and I was GREATLY looking forward to GradNite, especially being such the huge Disney fan that I am. I was looking forward to taking my friends around the park and showing them everything (most of my friends have never gone). Now, there’s really nothing to look forward to my senior year. And I will probably not end up going to GradBash in Universal either, mostly because I’d prefer Disney. I really do hope WDW reconsiders this. I really do. This is very sad news 🙁 🙁

  • Wow……. an EXTREMELY POOR business decision. I am 51 years old and went to Grad Nite in 1977, a night my friends and I STILL talk about when we GET TOGETHER AT DISNEY every couple of years to reminisce.

  • This is horrible news – my son is a junior and was so looking forward to going next year with his class. I didn’t go to high school in FL but I was so excited for my son to experience Grad Nite as we are “Disney People”. We’ve been on Disney cruise twice and to the parks more times than I can count. Very sad news indeed 🙁

  • I too, think this is sooo sad! I’m sorely disappointed that they would make this decision. I went to Grad Night 2 years in a row in high school and had a blast! Very sad and disappointed my boys will not get to enjoy this same experience.

  • Very sad. My 2 older sisters went to Grad Nite and I also went in 1997, my brother graduates next year and would have loved to have gone. My sisters and I all have children now and we would have loved to continued the senior tradition of Grad Nite. This will truly be missed.

  • Grad Nite was what we looked forward to as Seniors! I attended both the c/o 1994 as a guest and the c/o 1995’s as a graduate and the memories are priceless. The pictures are great to look back on and seeing one of the popular bands made it even better. Day visit’s just aren’t the same since you usually get to do them at various times with your school anyway.. (ie 6th, 7th, & 8th grade). Very disappointed that my children will not be able to have this experience. Hopefully Disney will reconsider this!

  • I am so happy that I am a senior this year I would have been terrible upset if I could not attend.

  • Its sad for the tradition of high schools, but Disney is a business and needs to do whats best for the company.

  • This truly is sad. It’s not just about visiting Disney – it’s about the entire experience. Grad Nite cannot be duplicated by simply visiting. Being in the park at 3 AM with your closest friends listening to one of the most popular bands is an experience unique to Grad Nite. I hope that Disney reconsiders this decision. I have many Disney memories. My family would visit the parks every couple months since I grew up relatively close. I was even a Cast Member for a few years. But Grad Nite is probably my most favorite Disney memory.

    Bad move, Disney… Bad move.

  • Funny thing – Universal does an event called Grad Bash which has grown in popularity the past few years. I think alot of the schools that still go to Disney this year will go to Universal for “Grad” next year.

  • I can’t believe this! I guess now the seniors will have to go to Universal instead. How sad! I especially loved the pictures you’d get of your group of friends!

  • This is a very foolish decision that WDW has made, but I’m still happy that Disneyland will continue their Grad Nite.

  • Oh this is such sad news…For many many years there has been Grad nite… my sisters went, I went in 2010 I got to chaperone for my handicap son to go and although it has changed quite a bit from when I went it hasn’t in the way that it is a very special night for Seniors a gift from Disney…this has been going on at least 37 years…it’s a tradition…I hope the powers that be reconsider, way to many kids deserve the chance to make the same memories we had growing up, let’s not change everything!

  • 🙁 this is gonna be a “tough one” at home! -( as my oldest child went last year, & my youngest expected to attend, -NEXT year!..) Talk about sibling rivalry… I know a certain upcoming-senior who’s going to be very disappointed to miss the opportunity to share in that tradition, & what would have been wonderful memories…- (not too mention the cool Mickey-Ears Grad hat..) As a first-time chaperone I loved it… It Was a wonderful & fun to experience… I know it will be sorely missed…

  • Im not sad at all! It sounds like a better plan to have students go any time of the year. I never went to mine cause my school went to IOA instead of Disney so I boycotted.. haha

  • Honestly I say thank goodness and good riddance! It is really difficult to have to plan your vacation around Grad Nights. I’m a recent college graduate, and honestly, I survived just fine without a “grad night”. Senior skip day was usually a trip to the beach, or a cookout across the street from the high school to taunt the underclassmen.

    It is not some sort of God-Given right to go to Disney for Senior Trip.

  • Awesome news!!

  • I think this is one of the worst decisions Disney has made. Grad night is a tradition for most seniors I know it was for my graduating class twenty years ago. Disney does not realize that’s some youths only chance to ever go to Disney due to their prices are so high that average working class people can’t afford to take their children they rather cater to people from other countries than make it reasonable for everyone to have an oppurtunity to go especially Florida residents!!

  • Grad Nite affects 4 (four) nights of operation at Magic Kingdom. The operating calendars and park closing times for this time of year are posted well ahead of time. Grad Nite was an amazing, unique, and memorable experience that left an impact on hundreds of thousands of past graduates. This influx of so-called “leisure guests” can plan accordingly to still have an amazing Disney trip. After all, there are three other parks in which to spend the evening enjoying.

    Would an increase of guests in the later half of the year make way for the cancellation for Night of Joy? That I would fully support.

  • That is extremely upsetting. My mom is a teacher and class adviser and loves to plan Grad Nite as the senior trip. This should not be taken away. I hope this doesn’t really happen :/

  • WOW…..sad day for those who look forward to Grad Night!

  • As someone who attended Gard Nite myself, what an end to a wonderful tradition. It will forever live in the memories of generations of Seniors. But…I am sure many cast members are giving a collective sigh of relief at the news.. 😉

  • One of my fondest memories is Grad Nite at Disney, nearly 20 years ago. My middle school also had an 8th grade “Grad Nite” there. It’s sad to see this tradition go away. I still have my grad nite souvenirs.

  • Sorry to see this great tradition end. I have very fond memories of Grad Nite 1985.

  • Aw, this is sad. I wish I got to experience Grad Nite at Disney, but I only recently graduated from high school with a group of only 30 kids. So, since it was small, I know it would have been a different experience. I love watching the videos posted online of all the kids celebrating during Grad Nite, especially the fireworks and performances that were held.

  • How disappointing! That is the worst news I’ve heard from Disney in a long time. My son has been waiting and planning for his HS grad trip to WDW for just this event — NEXT YEAR! He and his friends will be sorely disappointed.

  • Thank you. It was always disappointing to be closed out of the park during our very special vacations.

  • This is terribly upsetting….my daughter will be a senior next year and will not have Grad Nite to look forward to. NOT HAPPY AT ALL!!!!

  • I can understand the reasoning behind this decision.

    As there are a number of other regional venues available for Grad Nites, grads will not be left without alternatives.

  • How sad, indeed! I greatly enjoyed Grad Nite at Disney back in 2001. It was such a fun time for my friends and I. It was so nice having to park all to “ourselves”, so to speak. I’m sad that after this year graduating seniors will not be able to experience this.

  • that is so sad. I went last april with my senior class and had the greatest night of my life but now what will my future children have to look forward to as seniors !

  • How sad. Our local high school has been attending Grad Nite since 1980, when MY senior class approached our sponsors and asked to go. All 3 of my sons went to their grad nites as well.

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