11 Things You’ll Love About Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom After Dark
After years of being under appreciated, Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom has finally achieved its full potential! Formerly a half-day destination, this park has a lot happening between their sun-up to moonrise hours. At Animal Kingdom guests can enjoy a slew of entertainment, dining options, and attraction experiences. Today, we want to discuss the best things a guest can experience after the sun has gone down. Let us delve into the reasons why you must allot at least one full day for this magnificent park!
1. An African Safari … At Night
A beloved AK attraction, most guests try to ride the Kilimanjaro Safari as early as possible due to higher animal activity. Now, there is an equally great option for the night owls. By riding the safari at a later time, guests (for the first time ever) will finally see animals that are primarily active at night! This is your chance to finally see the majestic lions prowling about. Keep your ears peeled for their roars in the dark. Cue the goosebumps.
2. Nightly Climbing Expedition
Another crowd-pleasing attraction, the Expedition Everest roller coaster is well known for its precarious descent and backward plummet. Now, what could make this experience even more terrifying? Experiencing it in darkness! (Personally, I thought the Yeti was terrifying enough in the daytime.) I can only imagine that the overall experience is twice as thrilling at twilight. As always, remember you are challenging the mountain at your own risk.
3. A Trip Down the Rapids
Getting drenched on the Kali River Rapids may not appeal to everyone, but keep this fact in mind folks. Florida humidity can be brutal and last well into nighttime hours. A cool-off from this ride could really hit the spot for any drained or sweaty visitors. (Plus, most rides feel faster in the dark. I’m sure this would apply to a bumpy journey over the precarious rapids!)
Animal Kingdom is well known for their traveling street musicians and dance parties by the Harambe Market. If it’s possible, this entertainment seems to multiply as the clock keeps ticking! Drink in the native instrumentals and learn tribal dances with cast members and fellow visitors. Just think of the park as a family-friendly outdoor nightclub. Could there be a better place to celebrate a long-awaited vacation?
5. Shows upon Shows!
While this isn’t specific to nighttime offerings, the longer park hours have enabled guests to see allof the park’s shows with ease. Favorite productions include The Festival of the Lion King, Up! A Great Bird Adventure (formerly Flights of Wonder), It’s Tough to be a Bug, and the incomparable Finding Nemo – The Musical. Previously, most guests could only see one or two shows if they also wanted to experience any rides. Now, you can easily make time for every thrill attraction and Broadway-level Animal Kingdom production!
6. The Tree of Life Comes Alive
No one walks into Animal Kingdom without taking a quick photo of its landmark, The Tree of Life. This towering man-made tree is praiseworthy for its realistic foliage and its intricately carved trunk. (Take the time to admire it and its slew of unique animal carvings.) Well, this piece of art becomes even more magical at night when it comes to life in brilliant color. At that time, take a moment to literally watch the tree. Every 10-15 minutes or so, beautiful projections of animals fly, dance, or leap across the surface. A true visual delight, this is a magical touch that shouldn’t be missed.
7. Unique Ambience
Noted as the most humid park to visit, this park takes on a different form at nightfall. While it is a bustling land of adventure during the day, the park feels cooler, calmer, and more … mystical at night. Take note of the beautiful lighting, soothing drum beats, and the gentle sounds of animals chirping, buzzing, and settling in for the evening. If you didn’t know better, you may believe that you truly were exploring a continent on the other side of the world!
8. Elegant Dining
Animal Kingdom has always been a frontrunner for exceptional cuisine. Well, thanks to their new hours, we all have an excuse to make time for a relaxed meal. The most notable additions include a new Signature Dining restaurant, Tiffins, and its corresponding bar, Nomad Lounge. Boasting inventive delicacies, Tiffins is already beloved by foodies and those looking for a great date night spot. For those who didn’t grab an Advance Dining Reservation, the exotic Nomad Lounge is luckily a walk-in only establishment! In addition to the festive décor, the menu is full of mouthwatering small plates and a lengthy list of beer, wine, and specialty cocktails. Whichever venue suits you, either is a great place to recharge your batteries.
9. A Nighttime Spectacular
Following the tradition of the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios – Animal Kingdom has a nighttime extravaganza to wrap up a perfect day! Happening almost every night on the Discovery Lagoon, Rivers of Light is a spectacle to behold. Settle into the arena, and marvel at the opulent floats, dancing fountains, life-like projections, and original music. Be warned though, the seating is limited for this show. Consider arriving early or booking a FastPass+ for guaranteed seating!
10. Dessert Party
Speaking of guaranteed seating, you will have a reserved seat for Rivers of Light if you sign up for one of the dessert parties! For a set price per person, you can attend a special pre-party at the Asia Viewing Area Terrace. At this event, you can indulge in endless appetizers, desserts, and alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages. After satisfying your hunger at your leisure, you will be shown to a special seating area where you can enjoy the entertainment. Perfect to commemorate a special occasion, this event is the literal cherry on top of the sundae.
11. Visit a Different Planet
Pandora: World of Avatar has risen to fame due to its thrilling attractions, delicious food, and stunning scenery. If you can believe it, this scenery is even morebreathtaking in the dark. The entire area, from the plant life to the walkways themselves, are light up in fiber optic bioluminescent glory. This not only makes for incredible pictures, it also makes for an experience that’s completely different from the daytime equivalent. Even if you have experienced everything in Pandora earlier that day, don’t miss out on a nighttime stroll.
Rebekah is a life-long Disney enthusiast who is thrilled to be sharing her passion with fellow fanatics! As someone who lived on a Disney diet in childhood, her appreciation for the company has only grown over time. When Rebekah isn't planning her next trip, she can be found reading, blogging, obsessively exercising, and participating in the musical theater community.