REVIEW: Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom is an Expensive, Yet Satisfying Way to Experience Pandora’s Attractions Without Wait
On Tuesday night, I paid to attend the very first Disney After Hours event at Animal Kingdom. The event has existed at The Magic Kingdom for a number of years, but this was the offering’s first foray into one of the other Walt Disney World theme parks. Here’s how Disney describes the event:
Discover a world that glows in the night at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.
Disney After Hours gives a limited number of Guests—including you—access to unforgettable experiences on select nights.
Embark on exciting attractions, journey into a bioluminescent rainforest and see the park come alive like never before! You’ll enjoy little-to-no-wait times at*:
Avatar Flight of Passage
Na’vi River Journey
Pandora Drummers – Swotu Wayä
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
Rivers of Light
Tree of Life Awakenings
It’s Tough to be a Bug!
In the midst of the laughs and thrills, be sure to chill out with ice cream novelties and select beverages—included in the cost of admission—available at carts stationed throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. In addition, you can also purchase menu items at select locations throughout the park.
For tickets to this special event, call 407-939-7795 or visit any Walt Disney World ticket window.
Admission to Disney After Hours at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park can be purchased in advance for $125 per adult or child, plus tax—or purchased on the day of the event for $129 per adult or child, plus tax. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members can take advantage of specially priced tickets for just $95 per adult or child, plus tax.
Guests with Disney After Hours tickets can enter the park at 7:00 PM every event night.
So, like stated above the event begins at 7pm. If you already have park admission, you can head in early and obtain your wristband for the event at the Ticket Corner, just outside of Discovery Trading Post on Discovery Island.
If you only have event admission and not a ticket that gets you into Animal Kingdom during regular park hours, then you can arrive a little before 7pm and enter through the far right turnstiles in front of the park.
On this particular night, that would have left you an hour before park close to enjoy Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While this isn’t a ton of time, you could probably accomplish an attraction or walk-up and see Rivers of Light if you feel the need to. Since Primeval Whirl isn’t open during the event, you may want to knock that off during this time as well. Sadly, unlike Magic Kingdom, a number of attractions were done for the day by 6pm, including Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo: The Musical, and Kilimanjaro Safaris. Unlike Magic Kingdom, it wouldn’t be possible to see almost the entire park on the Disney After Hours ticket and it will be hard to recommend it if you NEED to see any of those three offerings. That being said, I expect those interested are really just looking for a way to beat the lines in Pandora: The World of Avatar. A fun tip: the Disney After Hours ticket media will work to book FastPasses at the in-park kiosks, so be sure to at least try to book something once you get in the park (you can probably snag a Rivers of Light or Primeval Whirl at the least).
But Tom, why would you see the 7:30pm Rivers of Light if you can see a private showing just for Disney After Hours attendees at 9pm? Well, because you probably don’t want to lose 20-30 minutes of the three hours you could be spending in Pandora or riding the park’s other E-Ticket attractions. We found ample seating at the 7:30pm show, and while you can pick where you want to sit and have plenty of space to yourself at 9pm, it’s just eating up time that you could use to experience harder-to-see attractions in the park.
In the half-hour between park close and the start of the event, we found that you could not get a head start on the Pandora attractions, but DINOSAUR, Triceratops Spin, and Expedition Everest opened for event attendees a little early. We got to Expedition Everest at about 8:20pm after being denied access in Pandora, after which we rode the roller coaster 3 times. We could have ridden it about 2-3 more times before Rivers of Light started, but that backwards portion is taking its toll on me in my old age of 30.
We then went to the 9:00pm Rivers of Light, mostly just for laughs. First, I had not seen the show without the live performers yet and was curious how that looked, and second, a mostly empty amphitheater is good material for some “dank memes” as the kids would say. If you’re here for more than Pandora and particularly feel the need to see Rivers of Light, I would start on this side since the attractions open a little earlier. You may be able to do all three rides on this side of the park before the 9pm Rivers of Light, but either way it will get you over to Pandora faster if your itinerary includes all or most of the offered attractions at the event.
While the list does include Triceratops Spin and “its tough to be a bug”, it’s easy to understand why. Flight of Passage, DINOSAUR, and Expedition Everest all have height requirements and health limitations, so having 3 attractions that everyone can see is a good idea. That being said, I’m not sure that 75 guests rode Triceratops Spin on the night we attended. However, we were in a theater of 20-25 guests for one single showing of “it’s tough to a bug”. Variety is never a bad thing, and I’m glad it’s not just the thrill rides open for this.
Nothing had a wait of any kind. Here are some empty queue pics for you to drool over:
Unlike The Magic Kingdom, there is some entertainment to see at Disney After Hours – Animal Kingdom Edition. We already mentioned Rivers of Light, but you can also catch the Dino-Riffic Dance Party featuring Chip and Dale, and also the Pandora Drummers show.
These two later offerings make the park feel a little more alive, even though you may go minutes between seeing people if the event remains as empty as it was on the night we went. The Tree of Life Awakenings show is a nice offering as well, not one that is hard to see regularly, but is much more enjoyable with no guests around you.
This event was made for Pandora – The World of Avatar. Pandora is already pretty magical at night, but with far less guests around, you can experience the most special theme park experience in all of Walt Disney World in a unique way. You can clearly hear the flora and fauna around you as you walk through the darkness and photograph all of the bioluminescence with no guests in the way to ruin your pictures.
You can then likely walk-on to either attraction with no wait, which is probably why you are here. I will say that Flight of Passage does eat up some time, so expect to still take 25-30 minutes for each ride just due to the lengthy pre-show, boarding, and exit process involved. If you really tried, you MIGHT be able to ride Flight of Passage 7-8 times during the course of the event, but probably no more than that. Certainly not 100 times as a blog who didn’t pay to attend might tell you in their clickbait title. This is opposed to the rather short Early Morning Magic event at the Magic Kingdom we attended just a few days ago, where we were able to ride 5-6 attractions in the time it might take you just to do Flight of Passage once, even with an empty queue.
While they allow you up the FastPass queue, you can go experience the amazing standby line once you get to the merge area. Just ask the cast member and they’ll be happy to point the way.
We should also note that history dictates that this won’t last. Disney After Hours at the Magic Kingdom has become more popular over time, now even selling out from time to time. On a sell-out night, guests may find up to a 20 minute wait for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We’re not saying it will, but something similar could happen to Flight of Passage over time as this event becomes more renowned. In our experience, we were often the only people in the queue for Flight of Passage and Navi River Journey, but the event seemed to be very lightly attended.
Also included in the admission are complimentary snacks: popcorn, Mickey Ice Cream bars, strawberry fruit bars, and the Mickey ice cream sandwich. Complimentary bottled beverages include Dasani water, Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite. If you are hungry or thirsty and this doesn’t fit your needs, the Thirsty River Bar and Pongu Pongu are open, as well as a number of carts selling hot dogs and beers. If you want a real meal, have it before the event begins. Snack distribution began at 8pm, 30 minutes before the start of the event.
So, is Disney After Hours – Animal Kingdom worth it? Probably. You can’t have a bad time in a mostly-empty Disney theme park with headliner attractions open; it’s impossible. It is a VIP experience at a price point that doesn’t require as much capital as a VIP tour or something of the like. The determining factor, as always, is the price. $129 plus tax is expensive, especially if you’re taking a child who can’t ride half of these attractions. You just need to decided if you think it is worth it for you based on the above review. I don’t known that I would regularly drop around $100 to do this, but if someone was visiting who doesn’t often come to WDW or for some reason can’t brave the crowds of Flight of Passage, this is something I would book for a special occasion.
Animal Kingdom is beautiful in the evenings and this is a great way to see it if it fits your budget.