We head out to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to experience the first of the Disney After Hours events taking place there.
The idea at Animal Kingdom will be similar.
Here are the dates, prices, and times:
Over the next four months, there’s sixteen opportunities to attend Disney After Hours with each event scheduled for three hours from 8:30pm through 11:30pm. Unlike Early Morning Magic, which I recently reviewed at Magic Kingdom here and Disney’s Hollywood Studios here, After Hours does not require daytime admission to attend. Your After Hours ticket is all you need to enter the Park as early as 7pm. Advance tickets are $125 each or $129 on the day of with Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members able to buy tickets for $95 each. There is no discount for children. Somewhat interestingly, Animal Kingdom typically closes to day guests at 8pm with the event not officially getting underway until 8:30pm. At Magic Kingdom, the event begins immediately after the Park closes. We’ll see how that plays out as we go about the evening.
Also somewhat interestingly, the cost to attend Animal Kingdom’s After Hours event is the same as Magic Kingdom. I say that because unlike Magic Kingdom, where more than 20 attractions are open across the entire Park, only six attractions are open at Animal Kingdom:
And two of those attractions are TriceraTop Spin and It’s Tough To Be A Bug, both of which are incredibly easy to experience at just about any time during a regular day. When we rode TriceraTop Spin at 9:22pm, the cast member confided in us that only 14 people had been through during the first hour of the event. On the other hand, the wait to see It’s Tough To Be A Bug will actually be the longest that we experience all night. Most notably missing from the attraction lineup is Kilimanjaro Safaris, which currently accepts its last guests of the day at 6:15pm and doesn’t reopen during After Hours. Kali River Rapids and Primeval Whirl are also closed, in addition to no performances of Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo the Musical, and UP! A Great(?) Bird Adventure, among others.
At least we’ll be able to catch a “special” showing of Rivers of Light at 9pm:
The Pandora Drummers will also perform three times throughout the evening and the Tree of Life Awakenings continue throughout the event. The Dino-Riffic Dance Party is also something to look forward to.
Popcorn, bottled beverages, and ice cream novelties including Mickey Ice Cream Bars and Mickey Ice Cream Sandwiches are complimentary for After Hours attendees from 8pm through 11:30pm.
Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bars and Sandwiches will now set you back $5.75 each with Dasani Water coming in at $3.50 and bottled sodas now running $4.50 each. So if you eat one of each Mickey treat and drink two waters and a Diet Coke, then you’ll have consumed $23 worth of stuff. Grab two Diet Cokes for the road and you’re up to $32 in consumables without much effort. You could rationalize that you’ve covered about a third of the discounted cost of the event or about a quarter of the full cost of the event just in drinks and ice cream.
The entrance for Disney After Hours attendees is on the far right. You’ll be able to enter over there from just before 7pm onward to collect your wristband.
If you’re already in the Park, you can scan your tickets/MagicBands at this ticket counter outside Discovery Trading Company and pick up your wristbands. This is on the right side of Discovery Island as you’re looking at the Tree of Life, almost across from the entrance to Tough To Be A Bug. There is not much of a rush to collect your wristband, but you’ll want to do so at some point before 8pm or whenever you’re planning on visiting your first attraction.
If you really want to make things complicated, you can add your Disney After Hours ticket to a “dummy” My Disney Experience account and book a FastPass+ for 6pm to 7pm and then 7pm to 8pm or you can visit an in-park kiosk and book a FastPass+ with your physical ticket that way. It might make sense to ride Primeval Whirl or Kali River Rapids before 8pm since they won’t be operating during the event. Rivers of Light should also be available as a FastPass+ opportunity with the second show currently scheduled at 7:30pm.
I’d recommend eating dinner before After Hours as no substantial food is offered during the event outside of old hot dogs at a couple of carts situated around the Park. Satu’li Canteen is always a good choice and it will be convenient to the Pandora rides after they open for After Hours at 8:30pm.
You could certainly spend the 20 minutes that it takes to see Rivers of Light during After Hours, but I would recommend seeing the second show of the evening during regular hours if you can.
There’s an entire empty section on the Asia side for the 7:30pm show.
And while it’s difficult to see in these pictures…
Both standby sections are almost completely empty on the DinoLand side. So there’s really no reason to wait for After Hours. My estimation is that the After Hours show is scheduled at 9pm as an attempt to pull people away from Pandora around the time that After Hours starts. But it’s not going to work. And it’s probably not worth your time.
A special Festival of the Lion King show during After Hours would have gotten me excited, though. With the last show at 5pm or 6pm, there’s no opportunity for After Hours guests to see it without a day ticket/pass.
While the Pandora rides won’t open to Disney After Hours guests until right at 8:30pm, the other operating rides should continue to take After Hours participants from 8pm onward.
So you can ride DINOSAUR, Expedition Everest, or TriceraTop Spin between 8pm and 8:30pm with virtually no wait.
Here we are at Expedition Everest at 8:27pm after first riding DINOSAUR.
There’s two other people on-board.
Each ride will take under ten minutes all night.
Where applicable, you’ll be using the FastPass+ queue to enter each attraction.
Which cuts down on the time it takes to experience each ride. My first one here took nine minutes.
We got in line again.
Me fighting my way to Flight of Passage on a regular morning.
We rode three times in under 25 minutes. There’s no other opportunity to do that during a regular day.
This cart was open until the 9pm Rivers of Light show providing drinks and ice cream to guests.
This is the entirety of the crowd waiting to see Rivers of Light on the Asia side.
this is the entirety of the crowd seeing rivers of light on the dinoland side during the first after hours at AK. 21 people. amusingly, the only place i saw more people in one place was tough to be a bug (36 people). literally nobody in line for flight of passage or river journey pic.twitter.com/2pTpIXJORU
— josh (@easywdw) December 7, 2018
There were 21 people watching on the DinoLand side:
Proof that I watched the whole show. You can safely arrive a minute before the show starts and you’ll have your choice of seats. Well, any of the 5,000 seats that aren’t occupied by the 62 other people watching the show.
Rivers of Light is about 15 minutes long, which puts me back outside the theater to this now-closed cart at 9:18pm. If you enjoy Rivers of Light or would like to see it with an entire seating section to yourself or would just like somewhere semi-comfortable to sit while you enjoy Mickey Ice Cream Bars six, seven, and eight, then this is certainly that opportunity. At this point, we could walk on Expedition Everest as many more times as we wanted.
But 45 terrible pictures of the yeti is my max.
We were the 15th and 16th people to ride TriceraTop Spin that evening.
What a life pic.twitter.com/mfITwNozZQ
— josh (@easywdw) December 5, 2018
You might take a moment to offer some company to a cast member in need.
The Dino-Riffic Dance Party was running all night in Chester & Hester’s DinoRama.
Featuring Chip, Dale, and more cast members than guests.
Hers’s an opportunity to grab one of those hot dogs.
Or a beer. Pongu Pongu in Pandora and Thirsty River Bar are also open during the event if you’re looking for a more-interesting drink or beer. With Africa completely closed off, Dawa is unavailable, unfortunately.
There’s nobody at DINOSAUR.
No joke – we had the entire Time Rover to ourselves, which is pretty fun. The total experience time was right around ten minutes.
A completely empty DinoLand at 9:45pm or about 75 minutes after the event got underway.
Finally, some people!
No such luck in the opposite direction.
Two more! It’s a little awkward to elbow people when there’s “literally” nobody else around, but you’ve got to keep them sharp. They’ll understand.
Amusingly, Tough To Be A Bug is going to be posting a longer wait than any other attraction in the Park.
The walk into the show is a pleasant one with the Tree of Life Awakenings wrapping around the Tree:
Tough to Be A Bug took us from 9:49pm to 10:10pm for a 21-minute experience time. There’s absolutely no reason to do it during Disney After Hours, but it was fun to see the show with just 30ish other people in the theater. It will actually be the most people that we see in one place all night.
Another popcorn opportunity on the walk to Pandora.
Here’s the scene outside Pandora at 10:15pm. I see two people sitting down and three grabbing snacks at the collection of carts on the left across from Tiffins.
There’s one person visible on the walk over to Na’vi River Journey.
Nobody in that direction.
We’ll continue on to Na’vi:
Our first River Journey ride took exactly ten minutes and you could ride as many times as you wanted with the boat to yourselves.
For a bit of culture, we stopped by the Pandora Drummers for their 10:30pm show. You could also catch them at 8:30pm and 9:30pm.
Yes, that is a 5-minute posted wait for Flight of Passage.
While we used the FastPass+ line to head into the attraction.
Cast members invited us to head through the standby queue if we wanted to take a look at the animatronics and other set pieces.
I thought that was a nice touch.
As we know from rope dropping Flight of Passage, we’ll head through the FastPass+ line and bypass all of this stuff first thing with no opportunity to see the standby queue unless we’re far enough back in line to wait 45+ minutes anyway.
This is it. Nobody in line.
The major downside to Flight of Passage is that there’s no way to bypass the lengthy pre-show rooms, which there are two of. You’ll also have to exit the building and re-enter from the front to re-ride.
That means each ride will take about 20 minutes, with 15 of that spent watching the same pre-show videos. This is obviously very far from the end of the world, but it means that you could ride Flight of Passage a maximum of about eight times over the course of the three hours and you can expect three rides to take about an hour. It’s something to keep in mind if Flight of Passage is expected to be a big part of your evening.
At least you can still adopt a banshee.
We decided to head back to River Journey, though we could re-ride Flight of Passage with no wait right now.
Nobody at River Journey at 11:08pm, which is not all that surprising considering it’s River Journey.
There’s at least three empty boats in front of us.
We ended the evening with another ride on Flight of Passage.
SO IS IT WORTH IT?
As always, these sorts of things are not inexpensive propositions and those purchasing tickets at a reduced rate will find more “value.” A family of four non-passholders/non-vacation-club-members is looking at spending more than $530 on a maximum of four-and-a-half hours of Park time. But I was able to ride DINOSAUR twice, ride Expedition Everest three times, see Rivers of Light, see It’s Tough To Be A Bug, see the Pandora Drummers, ride Na’vi River Journey twice, and ride Flight of Passage twice all with nonexistent wait times. We’re talking entire theaters at Flight of Passage otherwise empty. 90% of the boats on River Journey empty. 90% of the rows empty on the other rides. That’s nine rides and three shows with no stress or hassle whatsoever. There’s no other opportunity to do all of that outside of a Park buyout.
One question is whether or not the event will become more crowded in the future. On the first night, at least half of the attendees were comped by Disney for the sake of promotion. I was not one of them. But even if twice the number of people end up paying for the next event, the crowds and wait times would be about the same. And even if you added a few hundred more people, you’d still be looking at short to nonexistent wait times everywhere other than Flight of Passage, where it’s possible than a five or ten minute wait might develop. But even if it does, you’d be able to bypass that by visiting the other attractions first and then heading into Pandora about an hour into the event. That is probably good advice even with lower crowds – you might as well do DINOSAUR, Everest, etc. before Pandora unless you have absolutely no interest in them. The majority of the people attending will start in the alien world and then head elsewhere after they get their fill. I’d be surprised if that’s more than one ride on River Journey.
One other thing to note is the relative lack of things to do. At Magic Kingdom, you’re not going to be able to do everything that’s open during After Hours once, let alone multiple times. That can make the event “feel” a little overwhelming as though you’re not getting enough done. Animal Kingdom is quite the opposite of that, for better or worse. There is more than enough time to get everything done and then some. And there’s nothing offered that you can’t do during a regular day with an early arrival and intelligent FastPass+ usage – at least outside of being the only one in the entire Flight of Passage theater.
Another thing to note is just how many things are closed and what that does to the “feel” of the Park. I love Animal Kingdom at night, and “depressing” is probably too strong of a word, but it’s definitely a little more solemn than you might be expecting passing by so many shuttered buildings and kiosks. This isn’t a make-it-or-break-it observation, but there is definitely some amount of energy that’s missing versus a normal night. Of course, I’d trade that to be the only person in my Time Rover.
Overall, Animal Kingdom’s version of Disney After Hours delivers on its promise even better than Magic Kingdom. The Park is a complete ghost town with virtually nobody in line or on the paths. The first event did not sell out, so the number of tickets was not artificially capped lower than other dates, but it’s certainly possible that positive reviews will increase the number of tickets sold. That’s what happened at Magic Kingdom. You might remember that when the event debuted, Disney was literally giving tickets away for free at the various resort concierges to any guest that asked about it. Now, several thousand tickets are sold for each event, though wait times are still nonexistent at virtually all of the rides for the majority of the evening.
IN CONCLUSION, yes, I think Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom is “worth it,” even given a relatively meager lineup of attractions. Most people are interested in Pandora anyway, and there’s no easier way to experience the Land or the attractions than After Hours. On the other hand, it’s possible to experience all of the attractions and all of the shows on a regular day.
The crowd behind you at rope drop will just look like this. See how to go about rope dropping Disney World’s most popular attraction in this post.
You can also ride Na’vi River Journey with a relatively short wait around the end of the night as described in this post. The wait for Flight of Passage, if you get in line a couple of minutes before official Park close, is typically 30 to 60 minutes. Both are viable alternatives to Disney After Hours that won’t cost you any more money.
If you do elect to attend After Hours, come hungry for ice cream and bring a cooler for those Diet Cokes and you can do pretty well for yourself. I’d go back.