The Disney After Hours events that Walt Disney World offers throughout the year are very popular…and with good reason. Guests who purchase a ticket get access to the park, after closing, for an additional three hours. Tickets are very limited so walkways are essentially empty, attractions are often walk-on or a minimal wait and on top of that there are ‘free’ snacks. It’s basically a dream come true. Who doesn’t want to visit an empty park with no lines?!
After Hours events were initially offered select nights at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. However, since the opening of Galaxy’s Edge, much to the dismay of fans we haven’t seen the return of After Hours to Hollywood Studios. Disney did add the Villains After Hours event to Magic Kingdom.
If you’ve read our Magic Kingdom After Hours review, you’ll know we absolutely loved the event and felt it was well worth the price of admission. It pains me a bit to say this, but our feelings were a little more mixed when it came to the Animal Kingdom After Hours event. We’ll dive into our reasons as we go through the review.
Depending on the park and time of year, the start and end-time for After Hours events will vary. You will always have 3 hours, typically starting 30-60 minutes after the park has closed to regular guests. This helps empty the park out a little before the event actually starts.
Every guest with an After Hours ticket can enter the park starting at 7pm. You don’t need a regular park ticket to enter, you can just find the Cast Members with the After Hours event sign outside the park, check in a receive a wristband. If you do happen to be in the park during the day, you can pick up your wristband inside the park. You can check in just outside the Discovery Trading Company building on Discovery Island.
After Hours at any park is a premium priced event. Tickets for the Animal Kingdom event are priced at $129 USD + tax per person no matter what age, time of year or the night of the week. If you wait until the day of the event, it’s $139 USD + tax.
When this event first debuted, tickets were $125 USD per person, so in a year we’ve seen a price increase of a few dollars.
There is a decent discount price of $99 USD (before tax) for Disney Vacation Club Members and Annual Passholders. This price is a little easier to swallow, but it’s still up there.
For many guests, the Animal Kingdom After Hours is well worth the cost. Being able to ride Flight of Passage multiple times is without question worth $129 USD for some. But by the end of the night, we weren’t so sure it was worth the price for us.
One of the perks at the After Hours events are the “free” snacks. I use quotations around the word free because ultimately, those snacks are part of the price of admission.
Located throughout the park are carts and counters that will be handing out popcorn, Premium Mickey Bars, Mickey Ice Cream Sandwiches, bottles of pop and water.
Some people see this as opportunity to load up on these. That being said, the idea of lugging around bottles of pop and water in my bag over the course of the evening is not appealing to me at all.
For Ryan and I, the snacks are a nice offering, but they aren’t essential to the experience. We’re there for the rides and the opportunity to walk through a nearly deserted park. If you spend too long in a line for snacks, you’ll miss out on valuable ride time. It’s best to just grab a snack when you see a shorter line.
Disney lists a number of attractions and shows included in the Animal Kingdom After Hours event. When you look at Animal Kingdom as a whole, you soon realize that there just aren’t really a lot of attractions. There’s certainly lots to see and experience during the day, but in terms of the number of attractions, it’s lacking.
These are the “attractions” available during Animal Kingdom After Hours:
- Avatar: Flight of Passage
- Na’vi River Journey
- Expedition Everest
- Triceratops Spin
- It’s Tough to be a Bug
- DinoLand U.S.A. Dance Party
- Mickey & Minnie Mouse Meet & Greet at the Adventurers Outpost
- Pandora Drummers – Swotu Waya
- Tree of Life Awakenings show – continuous throughout the night
- Rivers of Light – one showing for After Hours guests
I’ll be honest, pretty much our sole reason for attending the After Hours event was the rides. It is a nice bonus to experiencing the park without crowds as well, but the rides are the biggest draw. We have little interest in the Pandora Drummers and we didn’t watch Rivers of Light because we’ve seen it many times before. Rivers of Light is a favourite of mine, but with only 3 “After Hours”, we needed to maximize our time. Something about spending at least 30+ minutes to see it made us question how necessary it was for our itinerary.
I would also argue that Rivers of Light, the Pandora Drummers, Triceratops Spin and It’s Tough to Be a Bug are easy attractions to do during a regular day at the park, so we are pretty much indifferent to them being included in After Hours.
The Tree of Life Awakenings show is another experience that we think is better left for another day in the park. They are lovely projections and fabulous soundtracks, but even 15 minutes (plus and extra 5 minutes standing around) is time you could be spending on one of the limited number of attractions in the park.
Expedition Everest, Dinosaur and both of the attractions in Pandora are the real reason we wanted to attend Animal Kingdom After Hours in the first place.
What’s Not Included
We were surprised and disappointed that Primeval Whirl didn’t make the list. I know it’s a seasonal attraction, but I suspect this might have something to do with how often it breaks down. Disney may not want to risk overworking it. But that’s pure speculation on my part.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that neither the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail or the Maharajah Jungle Trek are available during the Animal Kingdom After Hours event. Kilimanjaro Safaris is also excluded from the list. It’s just too disruptive for the animals. No one can expect them to be up and about all day and night and we completely understand that.
Without these attractions and experiences, the list of what is included in After Hours is relatively short. You are basically getting 6 attractions, 1 meet and greet, 3 shows and a dance party for $129 USD.
I feel like it’s worthwhile to break down the structure of our evening. For anyone checking out Animal Kingdom After Hours, your experience will most certainly vary. Hopefully, you get a good understanding of the evening ahead of time, so you can temper your expectations.
Pandora (the first time)
There are those out there that may be saying Flight of Passage is totally worth the price of admission. We absolutely concede that for some guests, they would spend the money just for that attraction alone. Don’t get me wrong, Ryan and I love Flight of Passage. In our After Hours event, we had hoped to ride it three times, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.
About 20 minutes before the event officially kicked off, we headed over to Pandora. Even though Animal Kingdom closed 30 minutes prior to the start of the event, we quickly realized that there were still a lot of day time park guests waiting in line to ride Flight of Passage. Even moving guests through at peak capacity, it would take them a while to get through that line. Instead, we decided to start over in Dinoland and work our way back over to Pandora over the course of the evening.
Checking Off the List
Knowing that we wanted to make sure we rode every ride at least once, we started our After Hours at Triceratops Spin. There was no line at the time (is there ever?). Plus, since we had wristbands on, the Cast Members let us on a couple of minutes early. Can you say VIP treatment? Maybe not for Triceratops Spin, but it was a nice little bonus. I can confidently say we are content for the rest of our lives with that one spin. We’ll stick to Dumbo as the only spinning attraction on our must-do list.
After that, Ryan and I walked over to Dinosaur. With a short wait time, we rode it a few times in a row, since it is another favourite attraction of mine. For whatever reason, Dinoland always feels so far away from everything else in the park. Not knowing if we’d make it back to ride it again in the evening, we made sure to get our fill.
A quick stroll up to Asia and we found ourselves at Expedition Everest, which we promptly rode twice in a row with a minimal wait. If you’re the kind of person who loves sitting in the front row or the back row, this is a good opportunity to do it, since you’re not waiting as long as you would during the day.
After a few rides on Dinosaur, followed shortly by our couple of treks on Expedition Everest, our heads had taken a bit of a beating. It was a perfect time to take a small break and grab a snack. We both opted for a Mickey ice cream sandwich and a drink. Depending on the cart or counter you pick up your snacks from, you may be served either a bottle of pop/water or get it in a cup.
We sat for a few minutes, let our heads stop spinning and were on the move shortly thereafter.
Pandora (the second time)
As we were nearing the mid-way point of the After Hours event, we were determined to head to Pandora. We walked the long and winding queue for Flight of Passage and managed to board quite quickly. Unfortunately, that’s when our bad luck started. During our ride, we heard some loud clanking.
We didn’t think too much of it at the time, and opted to ride a second time right away. When we entered the queue, we quickly realized that there was a longer line. By the time we had made it inside, we figured that something was wrong with one side of the attraction (there are two sides/screens inside Flight of Passage). The ride was now operating at half capacity and the stand-by wait time jumbed to about 30-40 minutes. We did wait about that long to ride Flight of Passage one more time, but we decided we couldn’t waste another 30 minutes to ride it a third time.
Instead, we headed for Navi River Journey and rode through it a couple of times. As an aside, Navi River Journey is a ride I really enjoy, but I do not think it’s worth waiting in line for more than 30 minutes. In that regard, the Animal Kingdom After Hours event is the perfect time to get on this ride a few times.
Our Bad Luck Continues
Once we left Pandora, we felt like making our way back to Asia. Unfortunately, our bad luck continued as we then noticed Expedition Everest was down. In fact, it had been down for about half of the night, so we were glad we got on early in the evening. It would have been pretty disappointing for the guests who didn’t get the chance to ride at all that evening.
For those keeping score, Flight of Passage was operating at half capacity, with a much longer wait than anticipated, and Expedition Everest was down for at least half of the event. There were now 4 rides still operating…one with a lengthy wait.
The End to our Night
A quick check of the time told us that we were nearing the end of our evening. At the last moment, Expedition Everest came back into operation, but watching a large group of people power-walk towards it meant we’d be looking at another relatively longer wait time. We chose to slowly make our way to Discovery Island. We stopped at a popcorn cart to grab another snack and a couple bottles of pop. They were out of water and it wasn’t worth trekking across the park in search of it.
One of the best additions to Animal Kingdom over the past few years has been the Tree of Life Awakenings shows. They run fairly continuously, without too long of a wait in between. That means that as you make your way towards the park exit, chances are good that you’ll catch a glimpse of the projections on the Tree of Life. Ryan and I stayed to watch before we called it an evening and headed back to the resort.
I love Animal Kingdom, it’s only ever so slightly behind Magic Kingdom as my favourite park. It’s such a beautiful park at night with the strands of lights along the walkways. Personally, I consider riding Expedition Everest at night as a must-do for everyone.
Despite having some complaints about the evening, Ryan and I really did have a good time. We love being in the parks without the crowds. Being in a Disney park with this much freedom to move around and ride what you want is a truly unique experience.
That being said, we did come away saying that, while we enjoyed ourselves, we wouldn’t do this particular After Hours event again and we’re hesitant to recommend it.
Unlike Magic Kingdom, it’s a hike between most of the attractions at Animal Kingdom. Africa is closed, so that route is not an option between Pandora and Asia during the After Hours event. We found we spent a fair bit of the three hours walking from one end of the park to the other. It’s very difficult to go back and forth between lands at Animal Kingdom because it takes a lot of time. You pretty much have to plan to get all your rides in on one attraction before heading to another area of the park.
We try to be as positive as we can when we visit Walt Disney World. I think we both understood that we just happened to go on an off-night. I really don’t think most guests will experience what we did in terms of rides breaking down. It was disappointing for us, but it happens, and we didn’t let it ruin our night. However, it did make us realize how little was actually included in this premium-priced event, especially when you compare it to the Magic Kingdom After Hours event.
Who Should Attend Animal Kingdom After Hours?
The fact that there isn’t a child-priced ticket is an indication that this event may not be specifically geared towards children. It’s also a rather late night, so it would be a lot of money to spend for a child that may fall asleep in a stroller. Most of the attractions also have height requirements. With both of those things in mind, I wouldn’t recommend Animal Kingdom After Hours to children under 10.
If you’ve been to Animal Kingdom before, this could be a fantastic evening. The event allows you to walk through an empty park and get a number of rides in with short waits. Honeymooners and couples might consider it a fun splurge and/or a good date night.
I don’t think Animal Kingdom After Hours should be the only time guests visit Animal Kingdom. Kilimanjaro Safari, the walking trails, live entertainment and the food options are some of the best things Animal Kingdom has to offer. Sadly, they can only be experienced during the regular park hours.
It’s difficult for us not to compare the Animal Kingdom After Hours event to its counterpart at Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom After Hours felt like it had less people there. There are far more attractions available in the park, so it’s possible that the same number of guests are just being distributed over a wider number of rides.
More attractions at Magic Kingdom is also a reason we felt we got more for our money with that event than at Animal Kingdom. In the end, you do really have to compare the two events. They are both the same price, but one offers vastly more value for your money. Yes, we would pay the ticket price for the Magic Kingdom After Hours event, without question. For us, we can’t justify the cost for the Animal Kingdom After Hours event… and it breaks my heart a little bit to say that.
Have you attended an Animal Kingdom After Hours event? Are you planning to? Let us know your experiences in the comments below!