Animal Kingdom Wait Times in a Post Pandora EMH World

As with most Walt Disney World attraction additions, the website has taken a keen interest in how Pandora – The World of Avatar wait times and crowd flow have changed since the new Land opened back in late May.

Most recently, we took a look at what to expect at rope drop with a regular 9am opening, which is what we can expect to see most days until the Thanksgiving holiday.

Larger: Here.

I also updated the website’s touring plans, custom map, FastPass+ priority, nighttime spectacular viewing tips, etc. in this post. Pay special attention to the PDF download linked at the top of that page, in addition to the PDF files for the other Parks, linked here.

But there have been a couple of operational changes since we last checked in.

Namely, Pandora’s main entrance/exit next to Pizzafari/Tiffins will be the only one in operation early in the morning. Disney now routes guests waiting for Avatar Flight of Passage across the bridge leading towards Africa instead of out towards Tiffins and around the corner. This makes a lot of operational sense as the first thing guests heading into Pandora between 9am and 10:30am will see is no longer an impossibly long line stretching back to Festival of the Lion King. They’ll have to walk a little further into Pandora to find that now.

This change shouldn’t have much of an impact on your day, but it’s worth noting if you were planning on heading to Kilimanjaro Safaris after visiting Pandora first thing or if you were planning on revisiting Pandora from Africa before 11am or so. You’ll most likely need to walk back towards Pizzafari and then enter Pandora using the main entrance.

Also, baby otters. And there should be two tiger pups appearing in Maharajah Jungle Trek at some point in the near future.

Larger: Here.

Animal Kingdom had enjoyed nightly Extra Magic Hours in the Pandora section of the Park from the day Avatar opened through this past Saturday, August 19th. There are currently no more evening EMH on the schedule moving forward, though that is always subject to change. The above chart shows wait times from this past Sunday, August 20th, with the regular 9am open and 9:30pm close that will continue through September 2nd. Then it’s 9pm closes for the rest of September. At the moment, Animal Kingdom is scheduled to close at 7:30pm nightly in October, but you would expect those hours to be extended at least on select nights when Rivers of Light is performed. Perhaps we’ll see three 7:30pm closes and four 9pm closes each week for most of October, though those hours may not be extended until the middle of September. There’s little chance that Rivers of Light will maintain a nightly schedule.

Otherwise, the lack of evening EMH is probably beneficial in the grand scheme of things. During July, Magic Kingdom was only open after 10pm on three nights and the other Parks closed before that every other night. So most nights, Pandora was the only thing open after 10pm. And you typically have 100,000 or more people with access to Extra Magic Hours on any given day. That caused a huge influx of resort guests to head to late night Pandora under the guise that wait times for Flight of Passage would be shorter than during the day, only to find actual waits that were typically 90 minutes or more. The EMH also propped up wait times elsewhere during the last couple hours of regular operation as resort guests tried to kill a little time on Everest or another attraction waiting for their “exclusive time” in James Cameron’s world.

During daytime hours, the song should remain the same for the most part now that evening EMH are a thing of the past. Flight of Passage wait times still take off immediately, requiring an arrival about an hour before regular Park open and a rush over to the banshee ride in order to ride with a short wait. Na’vi River Journey remains much more manageable and every other AK attraction is going to enjoy a short wait for the first full hour.

Flight of Passage wait times still drop off in the afternoon, making it the best time to ride in standby if you don’t want to arrive early and can’t stay late. Actual waits for Flight of Passage for those that get in line a few minutes before official Park close have been in the vicinity of 40-60 minutes over the last three days. That’s really not bad considering peak posted waits are still 3+ hours. Flight of Passage likely won’t show a posted wait that short at the end of the night…but the actual wait should be under an hour so long as you’re able to enter the actual queue. If the line is backed up outside, then there’s likely an issue with one of the theaters, which can increase waits as capacity diminishes.

Here’s wait times on Monday August 21st with the morning Extra Magic Hour:

Larger: Here.

The morning Extra Magic Hour itself is actually a better opportunity than a regular morning to experience Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey, so long as you can arrive at least 45 minutes before the EMH begins. Otherwise, overall waits are about 25% longer than Sunday, though the day remains manageable with an intelligent touring plan and the ability to stay ahead of the crowds as they move towards Asia and Africa after experiencing Pandora. And in the final 90 minutes of operation, any attraction outside of Pandora should basically be a walk on for the rest of the night.

And here’s Tuesday, August 22nd, a weekday without morning EMH:

Larger: Here.

Wait times are actually very similar to the day before with most attractions’ averages for the day within a couple minutes of each other. Over all attractions at all times of day, the Tuesday sees a 4.8% reduction in wait times versus the Monday, which doesn’t seem particularly significant. Of course, if you’re ineligible for the Extra Magic Hour or won’t be able to make it anyway, then going on a non-EMH day usually makes more sense. But if you look at wait times after 5pm, it’s basically a wash from there on out, making a late arrival equally viable on either date.

In other words, if you are eligible for the morning Extra Magic Hour and able to arrive at least 45 minutes before it starts, then you’re likely better off than visiting on a non-EMH weekday. Fewer people will be present and because FastPass+ isn’t offered during Extra Magic Hours, the standby lines for Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey will move faster.

So the loss of nightly evening Extra Magic Hours may not be such a bad thing. Over the course of the summer, wait times for Flight of Passage remained long after 10pm as guests flocked to Animal Kingdom because the other Parks were closed. We seem to see much less of that now, though we only have a couple of data points to work with so far. It’s also good news that Disney continues letting guests enter the queue for Flight of Passage right up until Park close. Regardless of how long it takes, you’re guaranteed to ride so long as the whole operation doesn’t close for technical difficulties, which has been mercifully rare.

Perhaps we’ll take a look at what wait times look like at non-Pandora attractions this year compared to last year to see if Avatar did create an appreciable increase at Expedition Everest, DINOSAUR, et al.

Comments

  1. Christi + S says

    Thanks for all the insight Josh. It is super helpful for planning this fall – keep up the great work (though I’m going to need extra snark in your next post!)

  2. Christine says

    Thanks so much for the updated information and review! Our family is going end of October of this year so it’s super helpful. Right now, AK is closing at 7pm when we are there. That being said and with the limited amount of “sunset and night time” we’ll have on the day we go, what would you recommend doing? We want to explore Pandora at night, do the Kilimanjaro Safari at night, and see Rivers of Light. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to do all of this. I’d really
    Appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks!

    • Nicci says

      We did the Safari at night. We were not able to see much. I think you are better off using the night to see Pandora at night and then you can do standing room at Rivers of Light and see the show fine from afar. The show is large and on water sprays, you will not need a front row set.

  3. Alissa says

    Really hope they extend hours for October. Right now show 7 pm close with 6:45 sunset. With the number of commercials showing the tree of life awakenings and Pandora at night I really hope my kids get to see it.

  4. Kevin says

    Thanks for the analysis. We’re going for a short trip in October and were not able to obtain FoP FP+ (probably a sign of high crowds). Hopefully they extend hours and release some more FP+, but barring that it’s nice to have a plan of attack to still get to experience the attraction

    I also hope the evening EMH going away causes MK hours to extend once again. this summer was disappointing..

  5. Emmy says

    Thanks for all of the insight! We will be there at the end of November/beginning of December – how difficult would you say it is to get a flight of passage fast pass?

  6. Mickey says

    With a 9 p.m. close in September, realistically how dark is it for the Rivers of Light show? Just curious when the sun actually sets at that time in Florida.

  7. Aaron says

    Just curious…..why would they extend hours and add ROL to show nightly in Sept. but not do the same for October and Nov.?

  8. Doug says

    I was disappointed at first that extra EMH are going away, but you made a good point that it was a huge swarm of people that visited the park nightly since there are only 2 nights a week where other EMH are offered.

    Will be interesting to see what Pandora looks like during its first September.

  9. Jennifer Baine says

    Trying to come up with a strategy for DVC Moonlight Magic Party on Sep 6th. Thinking it would be best to join the end of the night line unless they decide to distribute FPs or something. What do you think Josh?

  10. Pooch says

    Would it be possible or realistic to do Safari abs FOTLK before a 10:30 Tusker House ADR? What the me would you suggest arriving to aid in this plan?

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