Tonight, we attended the first official Rivers of Light Dessert Party at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The event is similar to others on property, offering drinks (alcoholic since this isn’t Magic Kingdom) and desserts while you wait for the show to start, and then a premium view of the Nighttime Spectacular. The price is $79 for adults and $47 for children ages 3-9 (prices tax inclusive) and must be paid for in full at the time of booking. It is offered on select evenings and prior reservations are required.
The entrance to the dessert party is next door to the control booth for the show, just across from Expedition Everest and next to the bridge between Asia and Dinoland U.S.A.. If you’re coming from Asia, just keep going past the FastPass entrance to the show until you get to the inlet just before the bridge to the right. If you’re coming from Dinoland, just stick to your left once you get over the bridge.
I suggest lining up at least 30 minutes before the dessert party if you want your pick of the tables available, should you decide to watch from there. The event itself starts 1 hour and 15 minutes before a Rivers of Light showing. Ours began at 8pm, so we could enjoy drinks and desserts until the 9:15 show began. For safety, at 9:15, we were asked not to move again until the show was over due to lower light levels in the amphitheater. The cast members gave us plenty of notice before this happened, so we weren’t caught off guard and had plenty of time to make trips back to the dessert station and bar.
Some tables offer really special views of the show that have never before been available, however, the first several rows of the lower viewing are reserved for dessert party attendees as well.
We chose to stand on the highest level by the control booth for a really special view of the show as we have seen it many times. If it is your first time, then I suggest going to the lower viewing area with seats, but do note this isn’t much different from showing up very early with a FastPass+ reservation. Here’s what we saw at the tallest vantage point:
I am not the biggest fan of Rivers of Light, but when the show works it is beautiful from this view. Here’s a look at the three viewing areas available if you wish to stay by your table:
While the views were great and you have your choice of many different angles, my enjoyment emanated mostly from the food, drink, and service quality of the dessert party which led to my favorite viewing to date of Animal Kingdom’s nighttime spectacular. Let’s go over the food and beverage.
Here is the dessert spread which is beautifully laid out and themed to boot!
My personal favorite was the Orange Tiger Cake Push Pop. It’s layers of cake and creme with a strong orange flavor. It’s the largest single dessert and the first at Walt Disney World in the push pop form I’ve actually enjoyed. The cake was fresh and moist, which I think is what made it so enjoyable. The Green Tea Cake is a little sugar forward but the light green tea flavor made it unique and tasty. If you’re a chocolate lover, the Chocolate Pot de Creme is just straight quality ganache with a fun presentation. For a lighter option and for those who like the Dole Whip, you’ll likely be a fan of the Pineapple Bar.
The Yogurt Panna Cotta is a parfait, I’m not sure why it’s labeled as such. It’s basic, pedestrian, but very good for what it is. The Mickey cookies and Lotus Blossom Cupcake are in the same vein, but I still ate 4 of them. They’re simple sugar cookies with chocolate coating and vanilla cupcakes with frosting, but they do the job. Kids will be thrilled with these options for sure.
The fruits (strawberry, blueberry, blackberry) are very fresh and bursting with flavor, not sitting there for hours as they feel at most other similar Disney World events. The havarti and gouda cheeses were a nice thought, but it was no different then you’ll find in a cheese plate from your local grocery store. Based on how far above and beyond the rest of the party’s offerings went, the cheese just doesn’t stack up. I did however like the presence of a nut mix (cashews, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, and almonds) at a party with alcohol available.
Upon request, you can slo get Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars and snacks to fit any and every dietary restriction.
Now let’s take a stop at the bar…
The two pre-mixed drinks are fantastic. The Tiger Lily will impress those who like a sweet cocktail, while I would be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t like the smooth Asian Chai Tea. While I usually prefer sweet, after 1.5 Tiger Lilly drinks I was ready to move on. I ended up having quite a few of the Chai Teas following that. While both are definitely alcoholic, they certainly didn’t taste like it (but they felt like it after).
The available wines (DMZ Chardonnay and Excelsior Cabernet) are there simply so those who don’t like cocktails and beer will be ok. The Chardonnay is fine and nice to have with the cheese, but the Cabernet is trash (it’s $9 a bottle at your local Total Wine).
Tiger Beer is actually not particularly easy to find outside of Walt Disney World so it’s a nice item to have ($10 a can at other Animal Kingdom locations). It’s produced by Heineken and is somewhat similar to the abundantly available Dutch lager. Bud Light is also available, I’m not going to review Bud Light though.
A non-alcoholic drink station is available near the dessert table.
Here you’ll find ice water, iced tea, and the specialty non-alcoholic beverages, the Purple Lotus and ubiquitous Jungle Juice.
Despite earlier reports, kids at the dessert party are no longer receiving these cups with their admission. I was given one by a particularly wonderful cast member since I was celebrating my birthday. That being said, you can certainly take a Lotus Blossom glow cube from your table if you would like.
The Rivers of Light Dessert Party is my favorite at Walt Disney World. It is more intimate than either the Happily Ever After before or after dessert parties and it feels way more special than the Frozen Ever After version at Epcot. The only one that even rivals this is the Hollywood Studios version (Star Wars most of the year, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam during the holidays), but that again doesn’t feel nearly as secluded and special.
The service provided by the cast members at Animal Kingdom was so far above and beyond the rest that I’m not sure I would ever feel I received the value I paid for at any of these dessert events at the other three parks again (other than not fighting crowds to see those shows or rides). They were attentive, continually checking in with every table and guest, and made sure we all knew what viewing options were available to us for the show. They asked if we needed anything regularly, and I’m pretty sure they would have brought us pretty much anything. On person in our party asked for chocolate milk and the cast member went somewhere outside of the event to get it. At the Magic Kingdom, I’m sure the answer would have just been “no”.
I do not want to see Rivers of Light from anywhere but this viewing area ever again (for both the view, quality of offerings, and quality of cast member service). Given the finances of this decision, I may just not go to Rivers of Light until I am asked to go to this Dessert Party again.