We pick things up at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on the afternoon of Thursday, May 16th, 2019, just after 6pm. In Part One, we considered the pros and cons of various touring strategies, selected some intelligent FastPass+ experiences, and arrived at the Park early enough to see the last Finding Nemo the Musical show and to grab dinner at Flame Tree Barbecue. Now, we’ll get going on our main touring plan that includes visiting the majority of the rides, ideally with a minimal amount of waiting. On this particular day, the operating hours were 9am to 9pm.
Here’s a look at Animal Kingdom’s operating hours through the end of June:
With 21 8am opens and the number of 10pm closes easily outpacing the number of 9pm closes over the next six weeks, there will be a lot of opportunities to enjoy the Park with lower crowds, at least if you’re able to tour very early and/or very late. The timing in this post comes with a 9pm close and slightly above average crowds. If you’re visiting on a day with a 10pm or 11pm close, you can easily add an hour (or two) to my arrival and departure times. Even better, towards the end of the night, wait times should be even lower on the days that the Park closes at 10pm. This is due to the fact that even more people will give up and head back to their resort after 9pm, reducing waits even further.
I’m heading to DinoLand USA at 6:02pm, where we should be able to experience all three DinoLand rides in short order.
Ideally, we’ll be able to ride DINOSAUR before Disney cuts capacity in half by closing one of the loading bays. Then we’ll hopefully be able to enjoy a short wait at TriceraTop Spin before using FastPass+ at Primeval Whirl.
At 6:07pm, DINOSAUR is posting a 20-minute wait.
But there’s fewer than 20 people moving through standby, which means I’ll be able to walk right into the next pre-show. Perhaps instead of posting a wait time, Disney could just tell you how many people are in line along with the current capacity and we could do the calculations ourselves. The fact that there’s “literally” 17 people in line is a lot more helpful than a bum 20-minute posted wait.
Our short wait is primarily due to the fact that vehicles are loading on both sides, indicating that the ride is operating near full capacity and in turn, moving through as many people as possible.
I was on my way in under ten minutes as I enjoyed some flashbacks to watching the Chernobyl miniseries on HBO:
Trying to take pictures in there is a losing battle, though I’m probably doing slightly better than whatever photography equipment they were using back in the Cretaceous period. Nikon probably still had better dynamic range back then, though.
I arrived at 6:07pm and was back out front at 6:21pm for a total experience time of 14 minutes, which is maybe a minute longer than the absolute minimum amount of time that the ride takes. Thanks late arrival!
Here’s a look at DINO’s wait times so far in May with 6:15pm highlighted:
Of course, it’s not a coincidence that we’re visiting DINOSAUR around 6:15pm, when the 22-minute average is the lowest since 10am. That’s due in large part to the fact that interest has waned as a lot of people have left the Park, coupled with the fact that we arrived early enough that the ride is still running both sides. Waits typically go up around 7:30pm as capacity is halved and enough FastPass+ returners arrive to slow standby to a near-halt.
If you’re planning on touring Animal Kingdom early in the morning or late in the day, make sure you double check the Times Guide to see when certain rides close. You can also pull up the attraction page at DisneyWorld.com and change the date to see the expected operating hour. Here’s DINO, for example.
DINOSAUR typically closes an hour before the rest of the Park. Kali River Rapids typically opens an hour after the rest of the Park opens and also closes an hour earlier. That can turn into a real bummer if you’re unaware and arrive after a ride has closed for the evening. Some of the early closures make sense – The Boneyard probably shouldn’t be open for the youngsters long after dark and there won’t be much to see once darkness descends at the various animal exhibits. Closing major attractions early, on the other hand, “feels” like Disney cheaping out.
As recently as last year, Kali and Safaris were a big part of Animal Kingdom After Dark with both rides open through Park close every day.
But that initiative failed right along with Rivers of Light, which will be debuting a new version of the show on May 24th, 2019.
Pluto, Chip, and Dale meet through 4:30pm as part of Donald’s Dino-Bash in DinoLand. Daisy Duck, Donald Duck, Goofy, LaunchPad, and Scrooge meet through 5:30pm with all characters appearing for the first time at 10am. The Dino-Riffic Dance Party, as seen here to the right of Primeval Whirl and TriceraTop Spin, runs from 5pm to 8pm and includes appearances by Pluto, Chip, and Dale. It’s another fun opportunity for the kids to interact with the characters without having to wait in a formal line.
As expected, Primeval Whirl’s capacity has been cut in half with only one of the two sides operating. The vehicles on this side are held before the first lift.
That translates to some of the longest lines of the day as this isn’t even close to the end of the line as it winds around.
With FastPass+, I got in line at 6:24pm with a then-20-minute wait.
I wasn’t back out front until 6:42pm, for a total experience time of 18 minutes, and what is now a 45-minute wait. That’s why we used FastPass+ here and not at DINOSAUR. I actually waited longer to ride Primeval with FP+ than DINO in standby. The actual wait for Primeval Whirl now would be a maddening 40+ minutes as the outdoor line inches forward.
The capacity reductions, leading to longer waits later in the day, are obvious. From 3pm through 6pm, the average wait is under 30 minutes. After that, the wait jumps to 30+ minutes for more than an hour, before returning to an average wait around 25 minutes to close out the night. If you’re riding during the last 60 to 90 minutes of operation, you can get away with riding in standby. But I’d be looking at using FastPass+ during the afternoon and evening, whether you book it in advance or grab it as a 4th or subsequent FastPass+, which is typically easy.
TriceraTop Spin should be a walk-on for the majority of the evening. Here, I’m able to walk onto the next rotation. I arrived at 6:42pm.
And I was on-board three minutes later.
What a life pic.twitter.com/Bsfw41dorY
— josh (@easywdw) May 16, 2019
TriceraTop Spin should take less than ten minutes and may be worthwhile for some fun views of DinoLand.
Primeval is still posting 45 minutes.
You could take another spin on TriceraTop if you wanted.
Expedition Everest is my next stop.
The closer you get to the beginning of Rivers of Light, the more congested the area in front of the roller coaster will get, as it’s near the FastPass+ entrance.
With just over two hours until showtime, we’re doing just fine.
As previously mentioned, a new Rivers of Light show will debut on May 24th, 2019. According to Disney, we should “anticipate additional stunning imagery and familiar animal characters from Disneynature films, along with a colorful tapestry of classic moments from Disney animation. The show will also weave the original musical score and familiar Disney themes to create a powerful arrangement that inspires and carries us through moments of discovery, fun, friendship, fear, love and family.”
Here’s the current schedule through June with two shows most nights:
You’re obviously going to need to plan around seeing Rivers of Light if it’s on your itinerary and in most circumstances, taking in the show is going to be prohibitive. If Rivers of Light is only scheduled once, and it’s at Park close, then you’re not going to be able to see both the show and get in line for Flight of Passage at the very end of the night, since you likely can’t be in two places at once. You’ll have to prioritize one or the other. With two shows, you could feasibly see the first show and then hurry to Pandora immediately after, arriving about 25 minutes after the show begins with its 15-minute run time and the likelihood that it will take about ten minutes to exit the theater and walk to Pandora.
In May and June, when two shows are scheduled, that means you could see the 9pm show and be in Pandora around 9:25pm. Riding both Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage in standby is still going to be tight. It’s probably doable, but there’s a chance that you won’t disembark River Journey until after the Park closes and find yourself locked out of Flight of Passage. With River Journey being a relatively easy FastPass+ to acquire, you might plan on using it at the boat ride and then just need to get in line for Flight of Passage at some point before Park close. That would be easily doable with a Rivers of Light show scheduled at least an hour before Park close. You’d likely want to use FastPass+ for the first Rivers of Light, though. The nighttime show usually becomes available as a 4th or subsequent FP+ selection in the late afternoon or early evening as a couple thousand experiences are distributed for each show and people will inevitably change or cancel their plans, particularly with the late showtimes.
Back to the task at hand, it’s just before 7pm and Expedition Everest is posting a 25-minute wait. The actual is probably right around there, making our decision to use FastPass+ a good one:
Single rider is also a good choice if you don’t mind splitting up. There’s all of eight people waiting.
That should result in an actual wait of three or four minutes minutes, if that.
If you don’t mind using single rider, then it will open up your FastPass+ selections and allow you to use it elsewhere. I don’t take advantage of single rider during these run-throughs because I know most people would prefer to stay together. At least if you’re not traveling with the in-laws. In which case, it’s single rider all the way. Even on rides where single rider isn’t ordinarily an option.
This late in the day, the wait for single rider should be about half of the wait for FastPass+, making it the easiest way to experience the ride. Occasionally, you can run into a large group that’s entered single rider, but it’s rarer when the standby wait is relatively short. Single rider backs up more when posted waits are 45+ minutes. The nice thing about single rider at Everest is that the line is clearly visible shortly after you get in line and if it’s prohibitively long, you can come back later or get in standby. Single rider would also be a good choice for a re-ride:
I arrived at 6:56pm and was done with the ride at 7:08pm for a total experience time of 12 minutes, which is a minute or two below average.
The pictured time is 7:10pm, after I spent a moment or two taking pictures of some t-shirts.
Here’s a look at Everest’s posted waits so far in May with 7pm highlighted, since that’s around the time we’re planning on arriving:
Come 6:30pm, the average wait drops below 40 minutes for the first time since 10:15am, but 25 to 35 minutes is longer than we probably want to wait nonetheless. More often than not, in the last hour of operation, your actual wait should be less than 15 minutes. Still, FastPass+ and single rider are smarter. If you have no interest in Pandora, then you could ride Everest several times in the last hour, keeping in mind that there will be a bit of a swell 20 minutes after Rivers of Light starts as a few thousand people exit the show. Surprisingly few people get in line for Everest, though. Rivers of Light may be that demoralizing.
We’re on our way towards Asia at 7:15pm, having made it through four rides since we began our tour at 6pm. That’s not too bad.
The siamang exhibit is closed for refurbishment with the water around the island drained.
With temperatures rising, so do wait times at Kali River Rapids, where we’re going to see a longer average wait than Expedition Everest or DINOSAUR, both of which are probably considered to be “more popular.” Still, wait times are reliably short to start and end the day, even if peak waits are higher than most rides outside of Pandora.
Here’s a look at May’s posted wait times with 7:30pm highlighted, since that’s our arrival time:
The actual wait at 7:30pm should be around 15 minutes, on average, if it’s even that long. Kali is somewhat unique in that the posted wait very rarely resembles anything close to accurate. It’s not uncommon at all for the posted wait to be 75+ minutes with all of 12 people in standby. With the long, winding queue, the length of the line isn’t something that you can ascertain without walking a considerable distance towards the temple and if the line is actually backed up a ways, you may find yourself retracing your steps all the way back out.
Kali also operates during a limited number of hours, which doesn’t help those 70+ minute peak waits in the afternoon. It makes some sense since few people are probably interested in getting drenched at 8:30am, but you might be surprised how many people would get in line that early a couple of years ago, perhaps having no idea what they’re getting themselves into. It may be that limiting hours is just Disney’s way of doing you a solid. DINOSAUR might upset your tum-tum before bed and you don’t want to get stuck going down the slide at The Boneyard after dark. Nobody might find you until the next morning. Not that I have any experience in that sort of thing.
If you’re interested in riding Kali, then using FastPass+ is obviously the easiest way. Of course, you could say that about most attractions. During the last hour of operation, actual waits should be under 20 minutes at least 90% of the time, even if the posted wait is 35+ minutes. The closer you get the time that the ride ceases operation, the less the wait will be. I could get in the standby line here at 7:15pm and be done with the ride around 7:40pm or so, which would work in the overall scheme of things. Hopefully you’re okay staying dry – it makes things easier.
As I mentioned back when it was salad time at Flame Tree, quick service dinner at Animal Kingdom is much less popular than lunch. There’s “literally” no wait to order at Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe, which is a good thing since mobile order isn’t an option at third party establishments. From 11:30pm to 1:30pm, you can easily wait 15 or more minutes to place an order during the heat of the day.
Sweet & Sour Tempura Shrimp is the “Daily Chef Special,” replacing the Rib Tips, which had been the “Daily Chef Special” for several years. I’ll probably give these a whirl on my next visit.
Said Rib Tips have migrated over to the regular menu. With portion reductions and increasing costs, the only items I’d really recommend here are the Pork Egg Rolls and Chicken Fried Rice, but even that pair will run you $11.75 these days, which is almost the cost of an entree. Somehow the “American Kobe” Cheeseburger and Hot Dog remain on the menu, tricking some number of tourists into thinking they’re getting a higher quality product than they’re going to end up receiving. But at least the Hot Dog isn’t made of chicken…
Sixteen bucks worth.
When considering service, quality, comfort, food quality, and ease of the overall experience, Yak & Yeti Restaurant is probably among my favorite on property these days.
We’ll make our way over to Africa.
Domestic Disney theme parks are officially smoke-free – at least inside the gates. Amusingly, Disney moved the smoking areas from what were mostly obscure areas inside the Parks to the main thoroughfares outside. Animal Kingdom’s smoking area is right along the exit path that most people take out of the Park. Word is that the change had less to do with guest comfort and more to do with a police presence near the smoking areas to curb the use of illicit substances.
Crowds are relatively thin as we continue on.
We’ll take a look at the artwork and some of the details around the Caravan Stage and Tree of Life:
So far, my day has gone well. I’ve enjoyed:
- Arrival and cupcake: 3:53pm and 4:15pm
- Finding Nemo the Musical: 4:16pm – 5:08pm
- Otters and dinner: 5:10pm – 6pm
- DINOSAUR: 6:07pm – 6:21pm
- Primeval Whirl with FastPass+: 6:24pm – 6:42pm
- TriceraTop Spin: 6:42pm – 6:49pm
- Expedition Everest with FastPass+: 6:56pm – 7:08pm
I’ve spent a total of maybe ten minutes in line, in addition to arriving at Finding Nemo about 15 minutes before showtime. The rest of my time was spent enjoying one thing or another, which is positive.
In Part Three, we’ll enjoy a sunset ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris and see what we can expect in Pandora at the end of the night.