All about my experience at Jollywood Nights, Disney’s new holiday after hours event in Hollywood Studios:
If Disney had come to me and said, “Becky, we’d like to create a new Holiday event in Hollywood Studios – which things would YOU personally most want to see?” I’m not sure I could have done much better than what they came up with for Jollywood Nights.
From the moment it was announced it was definitely a “me” event from everything we heard. Encouraging people to dress up in their tinsel town best? I love dressing up! Enjoy the 1930s vibe of Tower of Terror? Well, how about we have a live jazz band and themed cocktails! Oh, but you really love Latin music and food too? We’ll add the Fiesta de Calle for you!
Oh, and we need a big stage show. Who should host? What would Becky be thrilled about? Ah, Kermit and Miss Piggy! We need some special guests of course, and we need to have princesses. Which two princesses are Becky’s favorites? Belle and Tiana? Great, throw them in! (Seriously, I’m not sure the random assortment of characters makes too much sense other than they are all some of my absolute favorites. There really is no other great explanation!)
Once I heard about all of this (and more), I was obviously sold on the event. So much so that I planned a long weekend trip in December just to attend.
And then the first Jollywood Nights happened, and all the vloggers and blogger and podcasters and instagrammers and whomever else attended and reported back…. And it was a disaster by almost all accounts.
I crossed my fingers that Disney would fix the logistical stuff. The other details still looked awesome, and I had hope.
So – did Jollywood Nights live up to my expectations? I’m happy to tell you all about it!
The entertainment at Jollywood Nights
I’m going to start with what I feel was the highlight of the event, and that was hands down the entertainment. There were several big stage shows as well as smaller bands/performances happening around the park.
If this event happens again in the future, my biggest advice to anyone attending – don’t pass by these performers. They are the heart and soul of the event, and they were so talented. If you appreciate live music, there are some great opportunities at Jollywood Nights.
I saw three different performances (the only “smaller” act I didn’t see was the jazz pianist inside the Hollywood Brown Derby because I ran out of time). Each of them played about a half-hour set, and I watched most of it for all 3. This was well worth my time – as an annual passholder and someone who visits the parks several times a year I can do the rides any time, but this was something different.
The full entertainment lineup for Jollywood Nights included:
- Twilight Soiree at the Tip Top Club
- Disney Holidays in Hollywood
- Sunset Seasons Greetings
- Jazzy Holidays at The Hollywood Brown Derby
- What’s This? The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing-along
- Holiday Fiesta en la Calle
- Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!
I didn’t get to all of it, but I did see most of these. I skipped the Nightmare before Christmas sing-along (I’m just not really a fan), I ran out of time for the Jazzy Holidays at Brown Derby, and I watched half of Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! (But I’ve also seen it in the past).
Twilight Soiree at The Tip Top Club
Over by Tower of Terror, they leaned into the “Hollywood. 1939.” theming. There was a jazz band that performed and they were excellent. The trio consisted of a singer, a saxophone player, an upright bass, and a drummer.
The main singer was very talented and also perfectly in character. She made comments to the audience but stayed true to being a 1930s jazz singer. They did a mix of classic jazz tunes and jazzy versions of holiday favorites.
I only wish they had kind of advertised this entertainment a bit more, because it was rather out of the way. While it was mentioned on the map, it would have been nice to have specific times that they would be playing. If you walked all the way back to Tower of Terror to see what was going on and nothing was really happening (and you didn’t know when it would), you might miss out.
Holiday Fiesta en la Calle
Most people just walked through this area (it’s the pathway where ABC Commissary is located), but it was definitely worth stopping to watch the musicians here. They played some great Latin music. I saw two different performances during the night.
The first was one man with a guitar. He was very talented, but he was also great at getting people engaged. I imagine it’s a tough spot to be, with most people just walking by, but as soon as someone stopped for a minute he’d try to get them more involved. At one point he managed to get a group of around 12 of us gathered in a circle and he taught us some dance moves – all while singing and playing!
After his set was done, there was a band a little bit further down the street which did their own set. There was maybe about seven of them in this band, with a lead vocalist plus guitar player, bongos, drums, keyboards, and more. They were super professional sounding and the lead singer’s voice was so good – some of the notes she hit actually gave me chills.
Disney Holidays in Hollywood
I would say this was the “big” stage show of the event, and it was a cute variety-style show in the theater that typically has the live Beauty and the Beast show.
There were two human hosts, but they (of course) were overshadowed by the two real hosts of the evening – Kermit and Miss Piggy! I’m always happy to see the Muppets get a little more love, and it was so cool to see them “live.”
There was an ensemble of very talented dancers who really added a lot to the big numbers. We had a song from Tiana, a cute duet with Mickey and Minnie in their holiday outfits, and then Belle came out to sing “As Long As There’s Christmas” (from the Beauty and the Beast Christmas movie which is actually good if you haven’t seen it!). She was also wearing her Christmas dress as an added bonus.
The show was about half an hour and played 4 times during the evening. I caught the second show at 9:45pm. I got a seat maybe 10-15 minutes before without any issue. I was pretty close to the front and off to the side. If you wanted a close, middle seat, you might want to plan to get there a little earlier.
Sunset Seasons Greetings
This is what Disney calls their holiday projection show in Hollywood Studios, which happens on the Tower of Terror. I will say the projections are really beautiful, and it was even accompanied by “snow” on Sunset Boulevard!
I didn’t stop to watch the little show, but there was music and some sort of story? I definitely heard Olaf talking at one point, but to be honest, with everything going on, and it was a little hard to hear. But it was a really nice Christmas-y addition!
Food and Beverage
Another highlight for me? The food and drink options that were available during this event! You did have to pay extra for everything. It would have been nice to have something included like soft drinks/bottled water and popcorn like at the After Hours events, or hot cocoa and cookies like at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
That being said, I thought the food and drinks available for purchase were overall better than what was normally available during the day, and they did pretty well at getting into the theming with them.
A look at the locations with food/drink and a bit of what they offered:
- Holiday Fiesta en la Calle at ABC Commissary (Latin cuisine)
- Baseline Taphouse (small bites and drinks)
- Dockside Diner (dips, cookie, drinks)
- Epic Eats (sweet and savory funnel cakes)
- Fairfax Faire (popovers, doughnut, milkshake, martini)
- Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction (ice cream and cookie)
- Market (Spring rolls, macaroons, drinks)
- PizzeRizzo (Italian bites and drinks)
- Twilight Soirée at The Tip-Top Club (cocktails and champagne)
- The Trolley Car Café (dessert)
- Jazzy Holidays at The Hollywood Brown Derby (small plates, cocktails)
- Outdoor vending/bar carts (gingerbread bites, drinks)
- Joffrey’s carts (specialty coffee drinks)
Sadly, I couldn’t try all of the locations – though I did manage to eat and drink my way through quite a few of them! Here’s what I tried and my thoughts.
Holiday Fiesta en la Calle at ABC Commissary
Not only did this section of the park have some good music, they had some good food too! I had the Chicken Empanadas with Street Corn (Chicken empanadas served with a side of street corn salad topped with chili peppers, lime, and cotija cheese).
There were two empanadas they were very tasty – I only wish I had one or two more! However the street corn that accompanied it was perhaps even better, so that was a great side.
I grabbed a drink here as well, and went with the Oaxaca Old Fashioned (Casa Dragones Blanco Tequila, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, agave nectar, Mexican chocolate, and orange bitters served over ice garnished with an orange).
I would say this was just okay. I love both old fashioneds and tequila, so I thought this would be really good, but it was kind of one-note for me. The description mentions Mexican chocolate and I’m not sure that was involved in my drink at all? It was probably my least favorite drink of the night.
I love Baseline Taphouse during the day, so hearing they had some specialty items for this event meant I had to stop by!
For a food item I went with the Charcuterie Cup (Manchego, chorizo, serrano ham, pickled vegetables, olives, and toasted focaccia bread). This is about what you’d expect – nothing super special but all very good. Except the olives, I don’t eat those. But the rest was tasty!
And for a beverage, of course I had to try the Beer Margarita (Blend of Patrón Silver Tequila, Cointreau Liqueur, and lime juice topped with Scrimshaw Pilsner over Ice).
Remember in the intro how I mentioned that it seemed like Disney basically created an event based on things that I love? Well, this drink was no different. It was as if they said “What are Becky’s two favorite drinks? Margaritas and craft beer? Let’s just combine them!”
I wasn’t sure if this would “work”, but I had to try it. And it actually was really, really good! The pilsner was a perfect, light choice and paired surprisingly well in a margarita. I’m going to have to try to recreate this at home.
Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction
There was one item available here, and that was the Christmas Gertie Cookie (Sugar cookie with mint icing). It was also available with mint soft-serve and as someone who loves mint, of course I’m going to add the ice cream!
The soft serve mint ice cream was really good, and it was a great accompaniment to the cookie. I think the cookie by itself would have been just okay. It was a good sugar cookie and adorable of course!
This was the one area where I’m not sure what “theme” they were going for with the savory food choice, but I still got some of the Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls (Fried spring rolls served with a jalapeño-ranch dipping sauce and fried rice noodles).
I’m not sure how they relate to the holidays or Pixar (this location is in Pixar Place) or what, but I will say they were really good! They definitely had a good kick to them with the jalapeno dipping sauce. And you got 5 pretty large ones so it was actually a decent value for the money.
My favorite drink was also here! That was the In Holiday Fashion (Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon, rosemary syrup, cranberry and lime juices, and cinnamon)
Remember how I mentioned I love a good Old Fashioned? This was a great holiday twist on one! It wasn’t overly sweet but had enough hints of sweetness from the juices to make it more approachable. In fact, it was so good I recreated this one at home already!
Twilight Soirée at The Tip-Top Club
This is where you’ll find some fun cocktails inspired by the 1930s and the atmosphere over by Tower of Terror. The first drink I had was The 5th Dimension Royale (Teremana Blanco Tequila, Cointreau Liqueur, desert pear, agave nectar, and lime juice topped with Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut and garnished with a dehydrated blood orange wheel).
This was really good and my second favorite drink of the night, after In Holiday Fashion. The desert pear added a more unique flavor and some sweetness but the brut balanced it really nicely. It went down pretty easy!
And then I had the Twilight Daiquiri (Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, ube, lime juice, and a splash of shimmer).
This was the opposite of the first one – it was icky sweet and I didn’t enjoy it at all. Very rarely am I tempted to not finish a drink – my aunt may have commented at Christmas “you like all the kinds of alcohol!” – but I didn’t bother with the last few sips of this one. It was on the warm side as well which didn’t help, but it just tasted like sugar. I didn’t notice much shimmer, either.
Sugar Cookie Martini
A few carts and small stands around the park were offering this Sugar Cookie Martini (Stoli Vanil Vodka, Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur, and DISARONNO Originale Liqueur mixed with milk and sugar in a sprinkle-rimmed glass with a sugar cookie garnish).
I grabbed one right before the end of the night, found myself a spot on the curb, and watched some of Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! This drink was actually better than I expected. It was sweet but not too sweet and stronger than I expected (they could have done this the wrong way and went super heavy on the milk and sugar, but I’m glad they didn’t). It was a nice little “dessert drink” to end the evening.
If you’ve followed my blog regularly, you probably know one thing about me – I love to dress up and get into a theme. Whether it’s a running costume, Halloween, or for a fancy event, I’m in! The description in the first press release said “Disney Jollywood Nights is brimming with red-carpet moments, Hollywood vibes, glimmering décor and fantastic photo ops—so you’re encouraged to don your holiday best!” Of course I had to take them up on that.
And I wasn’t the only one! Many guests were dressed up. Whether it was fancy holiday attire, a 1930s period look, or decked out in fun outfits for the holidays, part of the fun that evening was just checking out all of the outfits!
And whatever you choose to do to dress up, of course getting a few photos has to happen. Jollywood Nights went above and beyond here. Not only did they have some fun spots to take photos and special magic shots, they had even more unique photo opportunities. It was a lot of fun!
Also a side note – all of your photo downloads were included for this event, so you didn’t have to pay extra for Memory Maker if you didn’t have it. I always do as I pay for the add on with my annual pass, but it’s good info to know that you’ll get your photos from this event regardless.
I only got one magic shot, but it was one of the best Magic Shots ever! If you’re not familiar with Disney’s magic shots, the photopass photographers at certain locations will have you pose a specific way. Then later something is “magically” added to your photo.
I had almost forgotten she set me up for a magic shot, so the next day I was pretty thrilled to see a photo with two of my favorites – Kermit and Miss Piggy! Have I mentioned that there should generally be more Muppets everywhere?
From what I’ve seen, there were also magic shots with Ollie (a new gingerbread man character they introduced), and a life day orb in Galaxy’s Edge.
There was also a stylized photo over at the “Tip Top Club” by Tower of Terror. They took a few photos here but one of them comes out as an old Hollywood style black and white photo. Very cool!
Camera Array Magic Shot
Unique to this event (at least so far), there were two special photo ops. These were back in two buildings in the Animation Courtyard. I made this my first stop of the night because I wasn’t sure how long they would take and what the lines would be like.
The first one, the camera array, uses 9 different cameras to create a “boomerang” style video. They had a small gift box and you could do a few different fun things with it – open it, or fight over it if you were with a group. I actually didn’t wait at all for this one and walked right up to it.
Robotic Arm Magic Shot
This was a super neat video opportunity! There were two different styles you could choose from – one was called “celebrate,” and one was slo-mo. You could basically do anything you wanted within the 5 or so seconds you had.
Celebrate was more upbeat and looked like it would be good with a group of people, but you could also do a lot of fun stuff with the slo-mo video. A lot of couples did cute things like dancing together. There were some funny ones too! People were very creative.
Special Disney PhotoPass Lens
They also had a special PhotoPass Lens you could access during the event from the app. Normally during the day you get access to these filters if you purchase Genie+, but this one was exclusive to Jollywood Nights.
I would have preferred if the exclusive one was something a little more in the “glam” or holiday theme, but it didn’t really relate to the event at all. It was an Incredibles themed lens that you can’t normally do.
Characters at Jollywood Nights
After hours events are usually a time when Disney brings out a lot of character opportunities – often ones that aren’t normally available in the parks.
During Jollywood Nights they had the following characters:
- Mickey Mouse
- Minnie Mouse
- Donald Duck
- Daisy Duck
- Edna Mode
- Max as Powerline
- Chip n Dale as Rescue Rangers
- Phineas and Ferb
- Jiminy Cricket
- Snow White and Dopey
- Mary Poppins and Penguins
- Santa Duffy
- Santa Stitch
Not all of them were out at the same time, and all were subject to change. For instance, Mickey and Minnie switched off, as did Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio and many others.
I enjoy character photos, but it’s also not where I usually want to focus my time overall. I’m also fortunate to get lots of unique character opportunities during the RunDisney events. For example, I had just gotten a picture with Santa Duffy at Wine and Dine last month!
I was hoping Mickey and friends would be super glammed up to go with the vibe – and while they did have different outfits than usual (some holiday themed, some not), I wasn’t overwhelmed by the outfits.
I grabbed a picture with Daisy just because I wanted at least one character photo if the lines weren’t too bad. I’d say I waited less than 10 minutes for her, but this was pretty early in the night.
Later on in the evening I happened to be passing by Pixar Place and Edna Mode and Frozone had character ops. Both of them had no line at all and I walked right up!
They are normally there during the day, so it’s not something unique to the party. But without a wait, why not get a few more photos?
Of course, the other major component of the evening was that we were actually in a theme park and many of the rides were running!
Most of the major rides were up, including:
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Toy Story Mania
- Tower of Terror
- Rock n Roller Coaster
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Rise of the Resistance
Rise of the Resistance was operating with a virtual queue for during Jollywood Nights, which you could join starting at 8pm.
Fun fact – it completely slipped my mind to join the virtual queue until around 8:45pm, but I hopped on to see if I could do it anyway. I was able to join the queue and my return time was around 11:15pm so it wasn’t too bad!
Rise of the Resistance was the only attraction I did that night. I had thought about doing a few others, but I was having such a good time with the entertainment options that I knew I wouldn’t really be able to fit it all in.
I did keep an eye on the app and the wait times though, and they were very short throughout the night. I think the longest listed wait time was 20 minutes, but most of them were in the 5-10 minute range. I’m guessing they were pretty much walk-ons. So if you’re looking to ride things without a wait, you could get a lot done!
Merchandise / Gift
The most disappointing thing may have been that there wasn’t any specialty merchandise. I heard there was a t-shirt at one point, but I’m not even sure it was still around when I attended the event. A pin would have been great!
Hopefully if they do it again next year they’ll have some fun merch. Not that I NEEDED to spend more money, but I’m sure they could make some stuff that would tempt me.
They did give us a free gift as we left. It was nothing too exciting – just a set of 2 coasters with the Jollywood Nights logo printed on them – but it was at least nice to have some sort of keepsake. And free is even better!
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So overall, I absolutely loved Jollywood Nights. It was a bit different than some of the other holiday or after hours events, but for me it was well worth it. My fingers are crossed they continue it in future years and just make it even better!
What do you think of Jollywood Nights? Do you think it is an event that you would enjoy?