Welcome to Disney’s Animal Kingdom… AFTER HOURS!
Disney After Hours is an extra ticket event offered currently at three Disney World Parks: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.
For three hours after park close on select nights, Disney offers limited guest access to the park (meaning little-to-no-wait for popular attractions). The event’s cost also includes snacks like ice cream novelties, popcorn, and select beverages to keep you fueled in the nighttime hours.
While Disney After Hours has been offered in Magic Kingdom for some time now, the event only recently expanded to Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. So recently, in fact, that we were able to attend the very first Disney After Hours in Animal Kingdom!
There’s LOTS to cover, so let’s waste no time!
Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom runs on offered nights from 8:30 – 11:30 PM. However, After Hours guests are allowed to enter the park as early as 7:00 PM. That’s why guests receive a plastic ticket upon check-in with their materials.
This allows entry into the park starting at 7:00 PM even if you don’t have other admission to the park on that date.
Guests also receive a paper guide listing attractions and entertainment running during the event hours (which we’ll show as we go) and a VERY IMPORTANT wristband.
Cast Members will ask to see wristbands before you attempt to ride any attractions or receive any of the included snack items throughout the night, so it’s best to strap this on your wrist immediately to avoid losing it!
Speaking of attractions…
Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom offers access to six attractions.
The inclusions are Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey in Pandora — The World of AVATAR, Expedition Everest in Asia, DINOSAUR and TriceraTop Spin in Dinoland, U.S.A., and It’s Tough to be a Bug! on Discovery Island.
According to Disney’s After Hours Animal Kingdom page, guests will “Be among a limited number of Guests to enjoy a unique, 3-hour park experience—featuring popular attractions and experiences with little-to-no wait!”
So… what does that mean?
Well, honestly speaking, I’m fairly certain that the first event was not sold to capacity. But THIS is what it meant on the night we attended…
The sign you see above is the 5 minute wait time for Avatar Flight of Passage. You may know this already, but Flight of Passage is one of the two most in-demand rides in Disney World right now (with the other being Slinky Dog Dash in Hollywood Studios). And the “5 minutes” posting you see, on the night we attended, was not a lucky moment. The wait time was at 5 minutes for pretty much the entire event.
How do we know this? Well, while I was covering other aspects of the event in different areas of the park, I gave my companion an assignment: to go to Pandora with the specific purpose of observing wait times for Flight of Passage, since — let’s face it — that’s what everyone wants to know.
5 minutes. The whole time he was in the land… IF THAT. In fact, on his first ride, he was THE ONLY PERSON in his flight chamber. And here’s the picture proof.
When I joined up with him later, there were so few people riding the attraction at some moments that we were given the choice of which flight level — 1, 2, or 3 (the top) — we wanted to ride on.
And that same 5 minute sign was pretty much what you saw at all of the open attractions! Na’vi River Journey?
DINOSAUR? (It’s Fast! It’s a Blast! It’s in the PAST!)
At least, that’s the only time we saw posted throughout the evening for all included attractions. So, that’s how that went. And it was, in fact, PRETTY. SWEET.
There wasn’t even a wait for the restrooms in Pandora. Tell me when you’ll ever see this again…
Okay, in all seriousness… noticeably missing from the attraction list is Kilimanjaro Safaris, which — when you consider the animal involvement and also the difficulty of seeing much on the Safari at night — makes sense. But, as one of the most popular attractions in the park, it’s good to know in advance. In fact, the entire Africa section and portions of Asia are also blocked off from After Hours guest access.
I have to admit… when we first learned about the Animal Kingdom After Hours event, my mind went immediately to the park’s attractions (specifically those in Pandora). But I had underestimated the entertainment offerings.
These include a showing of the Rivers of Light spectacular, performances by the Pandora Drummers — Swotu Wayä, the Dino-Riffic Dance Party with Chip ‘n Dale, and the ongoing Tree of Life Awakenings.
There is one showing of Rivers of Light during After Hours, and on our evening it took place at 9:00 PM. Now, there are several options for seeing the Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular on regular park days. These include the usual means of the Standby Line or by reserving a Fastpass+, or add-on options such as the Rivers of Light Dining Package or Dessert Party.
But none of those, as far as I’m aware, offer you the same chance to view it like this:
My apologies for the blurry photo, but I think this shot gives you a pretty good idea of the crazy amount of room in the seating area!
For instance, I know the picture of my seating row below looks like nothing. But it is actually a picture of a very important something.
It’s a photo of all the people NOT sitting right next to me during Rivers of Light! I have been fortunate to have seen Rivers of Light more than a few times now, but this experience had a very distinct, unique “VIP” feel to it. And speaking as a non-VIP, this was kind of cool.
The Pandora Drummers — Swotu Wayä were scheduled for three performances during the event (at 8:30, 9:30, and 10:30 PM).
Theirs is a high-energy, fun performance, and if you are able to catch it during regular park hours, you should. But with the limited number of guests, practically everyone was able to join in the show by grabbing a drum or one of the extra instruments the drummers passed around at some point during the show.
Over in Dinoland, the Dino-Riffic Dance Party goes on throughout the evening, and that’s where you’ll find Chip ’n Dale in their adorable Dinosaur costumes.
And because of the small amount of people, it was super easy to get your photos with them without waiting in a line.
The Tree of Life Awakenings also take place throughout the event. These beautiful projections are accompanied by music and typically, there is a small-to-large crowd on Discovery Island to catch the various stories. But After Hours?
Not so much. (I should note that the picture above was taken at the very end of the night, and that earlier in the evening there were more people around the Tree. But to say there was plenty of room would be a huge understatement.)
Yes, FOOD!!!! Your admission to After Hours includes select — and unlimited — beverage, popcorn, and ice cream novelties at carts you’ll find operating in Discovery Island, Asia, and Dinoland. Offerings are pretty much the same at all the stops like those we found at Corn-Ivores, the popcorn cart in Dinoland.
The three ice cream novelties were standard at the carts we visited: Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars, the Mickey Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Sandwich, and the Edy’s Strawberry Fruit Bar (plus the No-Sugar-Added version of the Fruit Bar).
And, hey, while we’re here…
Don’t mind if I do!!
Available drinks were bottled sodas (Sprite, Coke, and Diet Coke) and Dasani water.
And, of course, all the POPCORN you want was up for grabs!
I have to say, the first time I walked up to a cart and asked for a Mickey Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Sandwich, I felt kind of strange (and very spoiled) not paying anything afterward.
I got over that pretty quick 😉 … as evidenced by the second Mickey Ice Cream Sandwich of the evening.
It’s worth noting that both of these locations serve alcohol, which is good for of-age guests to know.
Though it wasn’t noted on the event handout, I did notice that Royal Anadapur Tea Company was open as well (at least it was as the Rivers of Light showtime approached — I’m not sure if it stayed open for the rest of the night).
Additionally, a couple of hot dog carts were serving a few items.
We spotted them open just outside of Pandora and also in Dinoland. But be warned…
Dale might be particularly interested in your hot dog if you grab one in Dinoland, so keep your eyes peeled for chipmunks in dinosaur costumes before you make your purchase!
Honestly, with the unlimited snack offerings, satiating hunger with more offerings didn’t seem to be a huge need — at least I didn’t think so. But it was nice for adults to have the option to purchase a beer or cocktail if desired.
I didn’t see any event-specific After Hours merchandise. However, a few merchandise locations are open for attendees, including Serka Zong Bazaar in Asia and The Dino Institute Shop. But the open store where this provides the most potential benefit is Windtraders in Pandora.
This event is the only time that I have been in Windtraders and have not seen a line of guests waiting to adopt a Banshee in the Rookery, and the guest I saw purchasing one had the experience primarily to herself.
The Make Your Own Avatar experience was also available for guests.
And these, in total, were the offerings that made up the first ever After Hours in Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Disney does note on the materials that, as always, inclusions are subject to change. But that’s how things went for us on the first night!
And with that, it was “Good Night” to a pretty much empty Animal Kingdom!
We say it a lot when it comes to Disney World these days… “this one’s a splurge.” That’s because there is no shortage of ways to enhance your vacation at Disney World with add-on offerings like Extra Hours events, dining experiences with reserved seating for a specific show, and many more. And, at $129 per guest if purchased in advance and $139 day of (for any of the After Hours events)… well, “this one’s a splurge.” As always, there are factors each group must consider such as party size and tolerance for late nights while traveling to make sure its worthwhile. (Note that if you’re an Annual Passholder, you may be able to get a discount to $99.)
But, overall, this was a splurge that did impress. The access to Avatar Flight of Passage, in particular, is practically worth its weight in gold, especially for guests on a shorter length of trip. But it wasn’t only that. Strolling into Rivers of Light for what felt like a private event is something I won’t forget. Neither is the intangible feeling of “having the park to ourselves.” And the sheer amount of what you’re able to do (and repeat, if you want) is substantial. Basically, there’s a good amount of bang for the buck.
Plus, you’ll never hear us complain about All-You-Care-to-Eat Mickey Ice Cream Bars.
There is a suggestion I would make. For the price point, it would be nice to have an official character meet and greet (specifically, Mickey and Minnie at Adventurer’s Outpost) as part of the event. That said, it was no problem at all filling the three hours with lots of fun. [EDITOR’S UPDATE: Please note that the Mickey and Minnie Meet and Greet has since been added at this event.]
This event could really be worth your consideration if you’re limited on length of stay, celebrating an extra special event (a teen’s milestone birthday is something that came to mind, or perhaps an anniversary), or just looking for a pretty cool way to plus that vacation. And if you’re interested, you can find more details, including offered dates, on the Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom page on the Disney World wesbite.
Do you have early birds or little ones in your party? Then you might want to see what an Early Morning Magic event is like in Disney World instead. Find out in our DFB YouTube Video!