In this post, we review Animal Kingdom After Hours, a ticketed event at Animal Kingdom that allows guests access to the park in the late night hours with lower crowds. We cover everything from purchasing tickets to how long the waits are. Read on to learn all about Animal Kingdom After Hours!
This post is based on a visit during our early summer 2019 Walt Disney World visit. You can read our trip report for that visit here. We also reviewed Hollywood Studios After Hours during that trip.
Animal Kingdom After Hour Basics
We’ll start with the basics before we move on to our itinerary for the night.
What is Animal Kingdom After Hours?
Animal Kingdom After Hours is a ticketed event held at Animal Kingdom on select dates that allows guests to access the park and select attractions “after hours”—that is, for three hours after the park has closed.
Like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom, guests without a ticket are not allowed in the park during after hours. Disney doesn’t seem to actively kick them out, but they’ll need an after hours wristband to do pretty much anything other than shop.
How much does Animal Kingdom After Hours Cost?
Tickets cost $133.13 per person (or $137.39 if purchased the day of the event). Disney World annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club members may purchase discounted tickets for $101.18 per person (day-of purchases are full day-of price).
What rides are open during Animal Kingdom After Hours?
The current attraction list, according to Disney, is: Avatar Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, Expedition Everest, DINOSAUR, It’s Tough to be a Bug!, and TriceraTop Spin.
Additionally, the following entertainment is available: Pandora Drummers (Swotu Wayä), Rivers of Light, and Tree of Life Awakenings. And guests have access to the Mickey & Minnie Greeting at Adventurers Outpost.
Other Animal Kingdom After Hours Perks
During Animal Kingdom After Hours, guests have access to select free snack items, particularly popcorn, ice cream bars, and some bottled beverages.
Animal Kingdom After Hour Dates & Times
Animal Kingdom After Hour dates are only announced a few weeks in advance. You can view the upcoming schedule here.
Currently, Animal Kingdom After Hours starts at 9PM and lasts three hours. After Hours guests can enter the park as early as 7PM.
Buying After Hours Tickets
The easiest way to purchase Animal Kingdom After Hours tickets for most people is going to be via the Disney World website. We purchased our tickets with the help of Lauren Quirk, the Authorized Disney Vacation Planner who we regularly work with to book our trips.
To date, I haven’t seen any discount offers besides the AP and DVC discounts, but you might want to check discount Disney World ticket brokers to see if any have popped up.
Our Animal Kingdom After Hours Experience
While I think this entire thrilling narrative is worth a read, I get that some of you are just here for some wait times. Here’s how long we waited for every attraction (waits are time from when we enter the queue to when we board the ride):
8:47PM — DINOSAUR (2 minutes)
9:01PM — It’s Tough To Be A Bug (4 minutes)
9:30PM — Na’vi River Journey (1 minute)
9:35PM — Avatar Flight of Passage (27 minutes)
10:28PM — Expedition Everest (2 minutes)
10:36PM — Expedition Everest (2 minutes)
10:47PM — TriceraTop Spin (0 minutes)
11:07PM — DINOSAUR (0 minutes, but we took time to watch pre-show)
11:38PM — Na’vi River Journey (1 minute)
11:50PM — Meet Minnie and Mickey (2 minutes)
At 8:30PM we headed over to the ticket center and grabbed wristbands and a guide for the evening.
While not heavily advertised, this spot is right outside Discovery Trading Company (across from It’s Tough to Be a Bug) and obviously beats going to the front of the park for wristbands.
After a long day at Animal Kingdom, there was nothing we had to do, but we wanted to at least see what the waits were like for every experience.
This would be the time to watch the 8:45PM showing of Rivers of Light. While the show does play during After Hours, it’s really not worth your time during the event.
We took a few minutes to watch Tree of Life Awakenings. While we love this show, we do find it takes a little long to cycle through all the stories. It would be nice if this were just a 10 or 15-minute straight show.
At 8:45PM we decided to start with DINOSAUR, which we knew wouldn’t have much of a wait. There was basically no wait, and we were allowed to walk straight through the pre-show and onto the ride.
The DJ Dance Party, which went until 11PM, was pretty quiet all night.
We popped into It’s Tough to Be a Bug. We had to wait a few minutes for the previous show to end. We chatted with a Cast Member. Our favorite part of this After Hours was actually the Cast Members. They were incredibly friendly and talkative.
From It’s Tough to Be a Bug we went and walked onto Na’vi River Journey at 9:30PM. We knew we wanted to ride Flight of Passage at least once, so we decided we needed to get it out of the way.
The posted wait was 15 minutes at 9:35PM, and we were on the ride at 10:02PM. We’ll discuss this wait more in “conclusions” below.
Not many people walking the park during After Hours. Most people are probably in the Flight of Passage line.
Expedition Everest was the last ride we really wanted to be sure we got on, so we headed there and rode it twice with no wait at 10:30PM and 10:38PM. (Because Everest does not load and unload at the same spot you’re unlikely to ever be allowed to “loop” it without exiting the ride.)
We love Everest at night, as you really notice how much the light actually carries through the ride during the day. At night, there’s much more pitch black and the views of the outside really come out of nowhere.
Thirsty River, one of the more stocked bars at Animal Kingdom, was open.
Our only ride left for the evening was TriceraTop Spin, which we walked onto at 10:48PM.
The dance party attracted a few kids.
Dino-Rama is pretty creepy during After Hours.
While in the neighborhood, we headed to DINOSAUR, which we also walked onto (we took the time to enjoy the pre-show). We were allowed to loop this one.
It was just after 11PM, with one hour left in After Hours. We basically just spent 45 minutes taking in the park and trying snacks.
Popcorn, ice cream bars, and bottled beverages are included. You can walk up to any open kiosk and ask for one (or just grab them if they’re on display).
Pandora was busier than any other area of the park (obviously)—which still isn’t very busy. There are select frozen bars (fruit bars? I don’t know—the aren’t really ice cream) in Pandora, so you’ll want to swing by the food cart near Na’vi River Journey, across from the restrooms (not pictured here) for those.
Just before midnight we popped in to the Mickey & Minnie greeting. There was only one family ahead of us. We often forget how magical characters can be for kids, so we’re happy Disney includes these greetings in After Hours.
We took a few minutes to watch the Tree of Life before leaving.
Leaving right at about midnight we were back at Pop Century at 12:32AM. While the bigger resorts can be a pain during peak hours, during off-peak it’s nice to be at a popular resort because you can count on better bus service (because your line will grow quicker than others).
Animal Kingdom After Hours Conclusions
Animal Kingdom After Hours faces the same problem that Animal Kingdom always faces from a ride strategy standpoint—the high demand, long load time, and long pre-show for Avatar Flight of Passage.
The pre-show doesn’t actually increase wait times, but wait times are presumably measured to the start of the pre-show, so a lengthy pre-show and loading time can really lengthen the overall time the ride takes.
Tonight, we entered the queue at 9:35PM when the posted wait was 15 minutes. We were in the decontamination chamber at 9:54PM—19 minutes later. After the loading, ride, and lengthy exit were done, we were back in Pandora at 10:14PM, making for a full 39-minute experience.
Now, there were other blogs that advertised this event as how to ride Flight of Passage “100 times with no wait.” Unless we had another 2.68 days left in After Hours, we wouldn’t have time for another 99 rides.
Overall, Flight of Passage took about 21.67% of our After Hours experience, or $22 per person on our Annual Passholder discounted tickets. That’s not the worst value, but personally we think a 39-minute experience during an event like this is pretty poor.
A final point on this topic—had we wanted to watch the 10PM Rivers of Light show, we would have missed it. Entering a queue at 9:35PM with an actual 15 minute wait almost anywhere in Disney World would put you right on the border of making a 10PM show, but we weren’t even close.
Moreover, much of Animal Kingdom’s draw lays outside the rides. Paying $100+ to ride its rides with minimal wait isn’t good value because the park has so much more non-ride experiences to fill the time during your day. This is a one-day (or more) park, not a three-hour park.
Besides that, I’m left to compare Animal Kingdom After Hours to Hollywood Studios After Hours, which I visited a few days prior. Hollywood Studios was a much better value.
Part of the problem is Animal Kingdom’s geography. Expedition Everest and DINOSAUR are located far from everything else at After Hours. In Hollywood Studios, you have the three Toy Story Lands to go between and the pair of Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Star Tours is far from everything, but it’s also not a huge After Hours target.
While I love Na’vi River Journey, it doesn’t have the repeatability of Toy Story Mania. If I’m trying to keep busy waiting for a wait to go down on the most popular ride, I’d rather be in Toy Story Land than Pandora at After Hours.
Regardless of how I’d compare these parks during regular hours, during After Hours Hollywood Studios is the clear winner.
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