Attending Disney’s Grad Nite has become a decades-old tradition for high school seniors in Florida and California but after 2011, Disney is ending the annual student event in Orlando.
Disney announced today that beginning in 2012, Grad Nite will no longer be offered at Walt Disney World, instead offering special pricing on student tickets year-round. School groups can receive one-day, one-park tickets for $55 throughout the year, encouraging classes to visit the Walt Disney World Resort at other times of the school year, not only near the end.
Grad Nite will continue annually at the Disneyland Resort in California and will take place as scheduled at Walt Disney World this year. It has been an annual event at Disneyland since it began in 1961.
The after-hours special event has featured popular musical acts within Disney’s theme parks, entertaining students celebrating their upcoming graduation. When I personally attended in 1999, Britney Spears performed in front of Cinderella Castle, having only one hit single at the time. Reel Big Fish also played during the night on a stage in Tomorrowland. Students attending Grad Nite were required to dress up for the occasion, with girls’ attire including dresses and boys’ required to sport a collared shirt and tie. At Walt Disney World, Grad Nite was held almost every year at the Magic Kingdom, though it moved to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2009 for one year with Disney under the impression that high school students preferred the attractions there.
Over the years, Grad Nite has seen its share of security and safety issues, requiring Disney to carefully watch attending students for inappropriate behavior. During my year at Grad Nite, I knew of at least one student who was pulled aside by “Mickey police” for shoplifting and several more who attempted to smuggle in a few illegal substances. But despite a few bad apples, Grad Nite tended to go off without a hitch, providing a fun fantasy-filled night for teenagers to act like kids one more time before heading off to college.