We pick things up from Part One, where we laid the groundwork for what we’re trying to accomplish with a late arrival at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In Part Two, we got going with the first half of our touring plan, which began in DinoLand and then continued through Asia. That puts us in Africa with none other than this Mike Wazowski Sipper. I think this confirms that Monsters, Inc. 3: Straight Out of Harambe is in production.
It’s 7:32pm as we head towards Kilimanjaro Safaris to use our third FastPass+ with the sunset expected around 8:14pm.
As recently as last year, late night rides on Kilimanjaro Safaris were a big part of Animal Kingdom After Dark, the initiative that added the Tree of Light Awakenings and eventually, Rivers of Light. While many of the additions were positive, including extended hours at Animal Kingdom that saw the Park open until 10pm or 11pm each night, the after-dark Safaris left many guests wanting. It was always difficult to see the few animals that were present on the savanna. And with no real change in the storyline, in addition to a shortened route, I think most people found the late night rides disappointing, though typically there was a highlight or two during the experience. That may be why Disney has cut back the hours here with the ride typically closing an hour before the rest of the Park.
If possible, I recommend riding Kilimanjaro Safaris twice – once during the day and ideally during the morning, and again closer to sunset. With the Park closing at 9pm on this particular day, I’m not going to want to get in line much later than 7:30pm, so I have enough time to get to Pandora to ride both Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage in standby before the Park closes. With a 10pm close, which there are many of over the course of the summer, I could ride right around sunset at 8:15pm, which would put me back out in front of the entrance around 8:55pm. That’s enough time to make it over to Pandora with an hour more until the rest of the Park closes. With the 9pm close, I could ride later in the evening if I had FastPass+ for River Journey or was only interested in experiencing one of the two alien attractions. But even then, you wouldn’t want to get in line with FastPass+ much later than 8pm as Safaris is going to take 35 to 45 minutes to experience, even with a short initial wait.
Safaris is somewhat unique in that it’s the one ride where you’re typically expected to push your stroller through the majority of the queue. Cast members will take the strollers and park them somewhere off to the side, much to the confusion of your average guest who then needs to find their transportation unit at the end of the ride. A guest who begins their day with their stroller being parked for them is probably also going to try to wheel that stroller through other queues expecting a similar result, only to be turned away and the rest of us left wondering WHAT ON EARTH THEY WERE THINKING.
These days, those using FastPass+ may be asked to park their own strollers off to the side.
Riding Kilimanjaro Safaris later in the evening is one of the better opportunities to see some of the animals that aren’t typically active during the day moving about. Usually, the black rhinos are sitting down towards the back of the enclosure, but we have a bit of prancing going on here, not unlike how I move to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at rope drop.
One benefit of walking on the river floor, 90% submerged 90% of the time, is the fact that nobody knows how big you’ve gotten over the holidays.
On the other hand, I’m not sure how many buffets it would take until the crocs bubble up. It took me several hundred.
I always appreciate the opportunity to say goodnight to my status cows.
I’m not sure what it is, but the wildebeest have been a lot more active in recent memory.
It’s difficult to capture in an image, but they galloped across the savanna as we drove by. Maybe they heard that some of the Flower and Garden merchandise is already 25% off.
I’m not sure what color a flamingo would turn if 95% of their meals consisted of Disney World quick service. Green, probably.
It’s a lousy picture, but the cheetahs were up and moving across their enclosure.
But the real highlight was the male lion up on his feet, vocalizing:
Out of several hundred rides, I had never seen the lions go in for a cuddle. The poor lion in the foreground reminds me a lot of my college experience.
With FastPass+, I arrived at 7:33pm and was back out front at 8:09pm, for a total experience time of 36 minutes. That’s right around average and you’ll want to budget about 40 minutes to experience the ride with priority boarding.
Standby was backed up further than this picture implies with a lot of FastPass+ returners with priority arriving alongside me. If it weren’t for FastPass+, the standby wait would have been around ten minutes, including the time it takes to board the vehicle after the merge with FP+. With FP+, you’re probably looking at that 30-minute posted wait being just about right.
Here’s a look at wait times so far in May with 7:30pm highlighted:
When possible, FastPass+ is the way to go here as capacity reductions again come into play. The average wait drops below 40 minutes from 5pm to 6:45pm before going all the way back up to 48 minutes at 7:30pm and then 49 minutes at 7pm. That’s still good compared to earlier in the day as the ride realizes a 50+ minute average wait just an hour into operation. If you need to ride in standby, then the lowest waits of the day outside of first thing in the morning are found around 5:30pm, making it the best time to ride from a wait-time-perspective if you’re not going to get in line much earlier. Those 9:30am waits are scary with the average wait already exceeding 40 minutes, due in large part to only one of the two loading bays in operation most mornings. Only one loading bay will likely be in operation from 7pm onward as well. It is possible that summer staffing will arrive this weekend with Memorial Day followed by heavy early June crowds. We’ll see. But the bottom line is that you’ll likely want to use FastPass+ here unless you’re planning on getting in line after 8pm. Riding after 8pm is viable with a 10pm or if you’re only riding one of the Pandora rides after.
We’ll use the back entrance to Pandora, which is located down the path to the left of Tusker House.
With a quick pit stop at the Tree of Life. This angle can be seen right across from Tamu Tamu Refreshments in Africa.
And then past the theater for Festival of the Lion King with the expected home of Animal Kingdom’s Club 33 location ahead.
There’s not a whole lot to see at Club 33, which probably means these pictures deserve their own post.
If you’d prefer, you could use the main entrance into Pandora, which is located down on the walkway to the left of Pizzafari.
But we’re not going to run into many people along this path.
And heading this way will offer us some pretty views as we meander towards Na’vi River Journey. We may also luck out and get permanently lost, making a ride on Na’vi River Journey impossible.
Work continues on painting the ground throughout Pandora.
They’ve moved on to the area in front of Flight of Passage. Hopefully the bright bioluminescence will be restored in its entirety in the near term.
This may be the sort of project that we see get underway every two years or so.
We’re just a day away from Pandora’s two-year anniversary. Or depending on when you’re reading, it may be the day of the anniversary. Or if you only visit this site once a month to catch up on the two posts that you may have missed, the anniversary might have been a few weeks ago.
I think it “feels” like it opened much more recently. Time flies when you are “literally” scared to death of the Galaxy’s Edge opening.
Our goal is to ride Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage at the very end of the night, ideally with the shortest waits outside of first thing in the morning. Since Flight of Passage consistently posts much longer waits than River Journey, we’ll visit it after. The 115-minute wait for Passage at 8:21pm is probably about accurate.
Here’s a look at Flight of Passage’s posted waits so far in May with the last wait of the day highlighted:
While Flight of Passage initially posts a 60-minute wait, those who are among the first few hundred people to arrive will wait 20 minutes or less. We’ll get back over to Animal Kingdom for a Flight of Passage rope drop in the near-term, which may help you decide whether an early or late arrival strategy better fits your schedule and temperament. For our discussion today, it’s worth noting that Flight of Passage’s posted wait at the very end of the night still averages 109 minutes, which is one-hour-and-forty-nine minutes.
The 127-minute overall average for the first 22 days in May 2019, as seen in the lower right hand corner of the chart, is actually about 20% higher than what we saw over the same dates in 2018. Part of that is due to the fact that Animal Kingdom was open until 10pm every day in May last year and only 9pm during the majority of days in May this year.
Even so, at the very end of the night, the actual wait averages about an hour. It should be around 45 minutes if the ride is operating at full capacity and as much as 75 to 90 minutes if one of the theaters is down for technical difficulties. Disney typically runs Flight of Passage at full capacity until the last guest of the day rides in order to get people out of the Park as soon as possible. If you can’t ride early, can’t ride late, and can’t secure FastPass+, then getting in line after 12:30pm is smart. You don’t want to wait 2+ hours in line earlier in the day when it’s possible to experience other attractions in standby with short waits. You’ll probably also wait longer for Flight of Passage if you get in line between 9:30am and 12pm than you would if you get in line after noon. Thousands of people make that mistake every day, which is probably good for us as it’s the thing that opens up the other attractions for us to enjoy with few people in line.
It’s 8:24pm and Na’vi River Journey is posting a 45-minute wait.
Smugly, I thought to myself, “I hope it actually does take the full 45 minutes so I don’t have to ride again.”
But that smugness ended up causing me some stress, as I’m barely going to make it to Flight of Passage after.
To be on the safe side, I’d be in line for River Journey an hour before Park close, which will give you plenty of time to experience the attraction and make it over to Flight of Passage with a nice little cushion. On days with a 10pm close, you could probably push it closer to 9:15pm, but I’d still probably play it safe and get in line closer to 9pm. Of course, if you can score a Na’vi River Journey FastPass+, which is relatively easy to get, then you can use that instead. Your actual wait with FastPass+ should be about five minutes, resulting in a total experience time of around 15 minutes.
My actual wait was 26 minutes as I’m about to board at 8:50pm:
I was flustered enough by the timing to take this picture of the River Journey wait time on the run. It says 25 minutes at 8:58pm, or two minutes before Park close. I could get back in line to ride a second time if I wanted. But I don’t want that. At the very end of the night, the actual wait is probably closer to ten minutes than twenty-five. My total experience time ended up being 34 minutes. That’s much better than average and the shortest wait you’re going to find outside of the first 30 to 45 minutes of operation.
We’ll be able to find out how long Flight of Passage takes if we’re “literally” the last person in line with the 90-minute posted wait at 8:59pm.
I’m hoping that it will be about half that.
After I got in line, about 30 people arrived after me before the queue was closed right around 9pm.
I let them go ahead as I took a few pictures from the queue.
If the ride is operating with all of the theaters open, then you’re looking at a 60-minute wait if the end of the line is backed up to the caves.
These caves, with this picture taken on a different day.
If you’re able to make it further into the cave or even into the research facility, your wait will likely be less.
If your wait starts in the outdoor queue, before the caves, then you’re looking at a wait that’s probably going to be more than an hour. On average, the line typically backs up to about halfway through the cave that leads into the research facility. If any of that makes any sense.
The good news is that after hours, 95% of the ride’s capacity will go to standby.
Since FastPass+ experiences aren’t distributed after the Park closes.
Another bonus of riding last thing is the fact that I’m basically spending zero minutes of Park time in line, since all of the attractions are technically closed.
That’s true first thing in the morning as well, as Pandora typically opens 20 to 40 minutes before the rest of the Park.
If you start the day with Na’vi River Journey, which is incredibly easy, then you’ll be able to ride two or three times before official Park open if you so choose. Here’s what that looks like from earlier this year.
If you begin your day with Flight of Passage and are among the first couple hundred people to arrive, then your actual wait for the ride should be in the vicinity of 15 minutes.
That should allow you to ride and disembark a couple of minutes after Park open.
It should then be possible to ride Na’vi River Journey with a short wait. I rope-dropped Flight of Passage this past Friday with a regular 8am open and arrived at the ride at 7:37am and was back out front at 8:06am. My wait for River Journey after was about three minutes, if that. I then walked right on Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Since Pandora opens around a half hour before the rest of the Park, there’s really no downside to riding Na’vi River Journey first thing if you’re at the Park that early.
Other than the fact that you have to ride Na’vi River Journey.
Here at Flight of Passage at the end of the night, you might let those behind you pass.
It’s fun to look around the queue at your own pace.
At rope drop, the first few hundred people will head through the FastPass+ queue instead of standby in order to get the most people on the ride quickly.
Back to the evening at hand, I arrived at 8:59pm and was past the merge point with FastPass+ at 9:28pm, for a total wait of 29 minutes at this point. I’ll still need to wait in this line to be placed in a pre-show. Since this is where you’d end up with FastPass+, I’ve basically waited 25 minutes longer than I would have with FastPass+ at some point earlier in the day.
That’s pretty good, particularly when you consider the fact that 99% of my time spent here is after every other attraction has closed.
After the theoretical merge with FastPass+, your wait will likely be another ten to fifteen minutes, but there’s nothing you can really do about that.
I was back out front at 10:03pm, for a total experience time of 64 minutes.
That’s about a half hour longer than it would take with FastPass+.
But still pretty good.
If you were to ride first thing at rope drop, you may wait less in line.
But you’re also going to need to arrive at least an hour before the Park opens. If you add that time to the 15ish minutes that you’ll probably wait in line for Flight of Passage, then you’ve probably invested more time overall than I have with my late arrival. Of course, early morning touring is still a great way to experience the Park, particularly for those unable to stay through Park close, which is really the key to late arrival touring. If you’re not staying until the end of the night, and getting in line for a top priority attraction last thing, then you’re not going to be as efficient or save as much time as those who do. Obviously, the Parks are less crowded during select times when fewer people are naturally able to be present. You may need to stay out a little later or wake up a little earlier in order to take advantage of the best times of day to tour.
Personally, I’m not much of a morning person and prefer the late arrival, staying through close. It also affords an opportunity to enjoy the atmosphere, lighting, and other effects during the day and night. As an extra bonus, those who get in line for Flight of Passage at the very end of the night will have the opportunity to explore Pandora with very few people around. I was the last person out.
Overall, my evening was a success. I was able to experience:
- 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
- Kilimanjaro Safaris with FastPass+: 7:34pm – 8:09pm
- Na’vi River Journey: 8:24pm – 8:58pm
- Avatar Flight of Passage: 8:59pm – 10:03pm
In four hours, I was able to experience all of Animal Kingdom’s rides with the exception of Kali River Rapids. I could have fit that in by booking it as one of my initial FastPass+ experiences and then booked Primeval Whirl as a 4th FP+. I also arrived early enough to enjoy the least popular Finding Nemo the Musical with very little lead time, in addition to dinner at Flame Tree Barbecue with only a handful of people in line.
We’ll compare and contrast the experience with an early morning arrival.