For the most part, theme park hours are straightforward. There’s an open time—when guests are let in the park—and a closing time—when the last guests are allowed to line up for rides. But as with all things, Disney makes things a little more complicated, with changing hours and a variety of ways to get early and late access to the parks. In this post we discuss the typical hours at Animal Kingdom and how to access early and late hours at the park.
Typical Hours at Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom’s typical hours are 9AM to 8PM, but hours do vary. You can view the official Disney hours for Animal Kingdom by clicking this link.
Here’s what the schedule roughly looks like through the early 2020 (you must consult the official Disney link to confirm the times for your day, these times can change on short notice).
Through August 28 — 9AM to 8:30PM / 9PM / 10PM with Extra Magic Hours 8AM to 9AM Monday and Saturday
August 29 through November 2 — 8AM to 8PM / 9PM with Extra Magic Hours 7AM to 8AM daily
November 3 through March 31 — 9AM to 8PM with Extra Magic Hours 8AM to 9AM Monday, Saturday, and December 25
Specific Ride Hours
It’s important to note that not all the rides open and close with the park. For example Kali River Rapids often opens late and closes early.
There’s no way to predict ride opening times in advance other than to look at the ride hours in the days before your visit and assume they’ll stay the same. You can either check the My Disney Experience app yourself (clicking into an attraction will tell you its hours for today), or you can visit TouringPlans—the purple, “observed wait times” line will reveal when the right started and ended operations on that day.
When popular rides open late, a good strategy is to plan to arrive at them about 5 to 10 minutes before they open so that you’ll have a short wait without having to use a FastPass+. We typically try and do this at Kali River Rapids (as seen above).
It is really important that you check the closing times of anything you’re thinking about visiting late. You can check the closing times in the My Disney Experience app, and we’ve even seen the zoological trails close earlier than the scheduled closing time. You don’t want to plan to visit a ride in the last hour of the day only to get there and find it closed two hours early.
When To Arrive
We cover when to arrive at Animal Kingdom in our Animal Kingdom Rope Drop Strategy post. Because the arrival times are highly contingent on what rides you’re starting with, we recommend you read that post in full.
Staying Late at Animal Kingdom
Like all of Disney’s parks, just because Animal Kingdom closes at some time doesn’t mean you have to exit the park at that time.
The closing time is the when guests will stop being allowed to line up for rides. In most cases, you will be able to get in line for a ride right up until closing time. Because there can be exceptions to this—due to capacity issues or ride breakdowns—we don’t recommend you rely heavily on this. Rather, this is a good time for a “bonus ride” you would otherwise skip or a re-ride on something big.
While the last people are allowed into line for the rides at closing time, some stores will remain open and anyone still in the queue for a ride will get to ride and then leave. The stores at the front of the park will be open latest.
It’s common for the nighttime show, Rivers of Light to be scheduled to begin at park close. It’s also common for Tree of Life Awakenings, the nighttime, recurring projection show on the Tree of Life, to continue for a bit after the park closes.
Because it has Avatar Flight of Passage, Pandora is the area of the park open latest. This is nice because it also happens to be an incredibly beautiful area of the park at night. You can often lounge around Pandora for around an hour after the park closes.
Keep in mind you may not be able to leave the land and come back, as you can expect Cast Members to start prevent entry to the land pretty shortly after close. They also may begin directing people to exit the land even while the ride is still operating.
While Disney buses will run until the last guest leaves the park, they’ll do so on a significantly more limited schedule as it gets later, and the later exits almost always have to share buses.
Extra Hours Access to Animal Kingdom
There are several options for getting early or late access to Animal Kingdom. Extra Magic Hours are the most common way to access the park before it opens. Animal Kingdom After Hours is a ticketed event that allows access to certain rides after the park closes to other guests. We’ll cover these both below.
Extra Magic Hours
Extra Magic Hours is a perk offered to guests of Disney hotels (and select partner hotels) that allows guests early access—typically one extra hour—to the park and select attractions on select mornings. Evening after hours are uncommon at Animal Kingdom. You can view upcoming Extra Magic Hour times on the Disney website.
We briefly discuss Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom as part of our Animal Kingdom rope drop and Extra Magic Hours strategy. During morning Extra Magic Hours, the following attractions are open at Animal Kingdom (Note: selection has been more limited for Extra Extra Magic Hours August 29 through November 2):
Avatar Flight of Passage
It's Tough to be a Bug!
Kilimanjaro Safaris (Disney lists this as “subject to availability”)
Na'vi River Journey
Our Extra Magic Hour strategy at Animal Kingdom typically centers on the two Pandora attractions, Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. Outside of Pandora, you shouldn’t expect meaningful waits.
Remember, you must be a guest of a hotel with Extra Magic Hours access to take advantage of this perk. You also must have park admission for the day to use Extra Magic Hours.
Animal Kingdom After Hours
For the evening hours, there is Animal Kingdom After Hours. Unlike Extra Magic Hours, this is not a perk offered to certain guests, but is instead a ticketed event held on select evenings.
When it occurs, After Hours allows ticketed guests access to the park from 7PM to 3 hours after park close. You do not need regular park admission to access After Hours, you just won’t be allowed into the park until 7PM.
Tickets cost around $130 per person and are available for purchase on the Disney World website. We reviewed Animal Kingdom After hours here.
The available attractions are: Avatar Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, Expedition Everest, DINOSAUR, It’s Tough to be a Bug!, and TriceraTop Spin.
As we wrote in the review, Animal Kingdom After Hours is a pricey option for what you get. Because the main draw is Avatar Flight of Passage, most guests flock there. With the already lengthy ride experience, you can expect to spend about 45 minutes on that experience alone.
What If I Don’t Have Extra Hours Access?
One question some people fail to consider is what to do if they don’t have extra hours access on a given day? Let’s go through the different extra hours events and how they impact ordinary guests.
Evening Extra Magic Hours, which mostly only occur at Epcot and Magic Kingdom these days, don’t need to be planned around if you don’t have them. You’ll simply have to leave the park near the scheduled closing time.
Similarly, After Hours events aren’t a huge problem. You’ll see an uptick in crowds when After Hours guests are allowed into the park, but by then you should mostly be through your itinerary for the day.
At Animal Kingdom, it’s really only morning Extra Magic Hours that you have to work around.
Planning Around Morning Extra Magic Hours
Because guests with Extra Magic Hours will get in line for the big-name rides, guests without morning Extra Magic Hours won’t be able to rope drop these, and they’ll be walking into lines to start the day.
Important Message For Visits August 29 Through November 2
This post is impacted by changes, some temporary and some permanent, at Walt Disney World beginning August 29. People visiting between August 29 and November 2 are highly encouraged to click here to read our dedicated post especially for those dates.
At Animal Kingdom, we only recommend starting your day at the park after Extra Magic Hours if (1) you are spending a full day at Animal Kingdom, and (2) you have a Flight of Passage FastPass+. You’ll still be walking into lines, and you’ll have to find a way to fit Na’vi River Journey into your day, but with a full day you shouldn’t struggle to deal with the larger crowds too much.
That said, sometimes you can’t avoid starting your day there. For that, our Animal Kingdom Rope Drop and Extra Magic Hours post includes special coverage for people without Extra Magic Hours.
Some sites advise against visiting parks with morning Extra Magic Hours at all if you don’t have Extra Magic Hours. We’re not that rigid, and we think your afternoon at a park with morning Extra Magic Hours will look more or less like any other afternoon.
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