Animal Kingdom After Hours Review & Info
After Hours at Animal Kingdom is a Walt Disney World special event with 3 hours of access to the park with extremely limited attendance and minimal waits for select rides, including Pandora – World of Avatar. In this post, we’ll recap & review our experience. (Updated November 5, 2019.)
As with the other After Hours events at Walt Disney World in Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom’s version of the event does not require regular theme park admission and allows entry as early as 7 p.m. As with the Disney’s Hollywood Studios version of the event, the special event begins 30 minutes after official park closing; to the extent necessary, event guests bypassing what remains of the day guest lines via the FastPass return.
The big question about Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom is likely how much you can accomplish, most significantly, the number of possible rides on Avatar Flight of Passage. We won’t bury the lede–during After Hours, we did the following…
- Avatar Flight of Passage (x5)
- Navi River Journey (x2)
- Expedition Everest (x1)
- Dinosaur (x1)
- Tree of Life Awakenings
- Dino-Riffic Dance Party
That’s a total of 11 or so things, and with Annual Passholder pricing of $95 or regular pricing at our event, that breaks down to around $9-$12 per experience. We also ate about a half dozen ice cream novelties and had a few Cokes, each of which are also unlimited/included in the cost of admission during the event. Here are upcoming 2019 and 2020 dates for Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom:
- Wednesday, November 13, 2019
- Tuesday, November 19, 2019
- Saturday, December 7, 2019
- Saturday, December 14, 2019
- Wednesday, December 18, 2019
- Thursday, January 9, 2020
- Thursday, January 16, 2020
- Wednesday, January 22, 2020
- Thursday, January 30, 2020
- Thursday, February 6, 2020
- Thursday, February 13, 2020
- Wednesday, February 19, 2020
- Thursday, February 27, 2020
- Thursday, March 5, 2020
- Thursday, March 19, 2020
- Thursday, March 26, 2020
- Wednesday, April 1, 2020
- Tuesday, April 7, 2020
- Tuesday, April 14, 2020
- Wednesday, April 22, 2020
- Saturday, May 2, 2020
- Saturday, May 9, 2020
- Saturday, May 16, 2020
- Tuesday, May 19, 2020
- Tuesday, May 26, 2020
You can learn more about pricing and more on the official website.
We want to note that we were invited guests of Disney at this event, and as such, our tickets were free. Whether you can still trust our review as truly unbiased or if you perceive us as paid shills is up to you. As noted in our last Magic Kingdom Update, the price of me “selling out” is a return of Country Bear Christmas to Walt Disney World, and it’s not back (yet), so draw your own conclusions.
Perhaps the silver lining here is that most of our editorializing here doesn’t matter one way or the other–number of attractions experienced is an objective metric for measuring the event, and that’s in no way dependent upon whether we paid to attend or not.
It might seem silly, but I actually dislike that the value of Animal Kingdom After Hours is so easily ascertainable. There’s something disconcerting about saying each ride on Avatar Flight of Passage or Expedition Everest cost $10 (or whatever).
Perhaps it’s just an artificial disconnect, but I prefer when things are more opaque. I grimace when spending ~$100/ticket on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but rationalize it as being for an overall experience that lasts around 7 hours. If I started to break things down, and viewed each parade as $25, the stage show as $15, etc., that grimace might change to skipping the event due to the per-experience price.
It could be totally psychological, but as someone who views Walt Disney World more as cohesive theme parks than a collection of rides, that’s sort of where I stand. I’m fine doing only a handful of rides each day. The highlight for me is mostly just being there. Fortunately, Animal Kingdom After Hours is a good mix of ‘doing a lot’ and ‘being there.’
In terms of the former, Avatar Flight of Passage is the main substantive draw of Animal Kingdom After Hours. FastPass+ remains challenging to score and wait times during the day still regularly eclipse 2 hours. Experiencing this attraction with a minimal wait is a huge selling point of the event; if you value your time and/or sanity, there’s tremendous value in experiencing Flight of Passage as a walk-on.
And that’s exactly what Flight of Passage is during Disney After Hours. During the party we attended, Flight of Passage was a walk-on after about 9 p.m., and less than an hour after that, there were entire theaters going nearly empty. Seriously, there were 2 occasions when no one else was in the entire theater (not just our load area–all of them). It was surreal looking left and right while riding the banshee and seeing a sea of empty seats on an attraction that is the hottest at Walt Disney World.
As odd as this might sound, there’s a good reason for it: Flight of Passage’s pre-show. If you’ve only experienced the attraction a handful of times, the awkward and rambling pre-show might strike you as mildly annoying. Try experiencing that same pre-show 4 consecutive times and you’ll find it interminably long and bordering on torture (talk about the ultimate first-world hyperbole, but still).
In theory, you could ride Avatar Flight of Passage 9 times during Animal Kingdom After Hours. The full experience from entering the queue to exiting and walking back to the front of the line as a walk-on ranges from 19 to 22 minutes (depending upon walking speed, load time, and whether you have Pandoran parasites).
However, I do not believe anyone will have the patience to subject themselves to that pre-show that many times in a single evening. It just isn’t possible. As majestical, detailed, and euphoric as the ride experience itself is, you’ll be spending the bulk of your time in the pre-show each time, and that’s just too much. Unfortunately, there is no way to skip the pre-show. We asked–twice.
I don’t think most people will end up doing Avatar Flight of Passage more than 3 times, which will still eat an hour of the 3-hour event. We did it more because Expedition Everest makes Sarah sick and she loves Flight of Passage. Plus, there’s a certain pull in walking onto the most popular ride at Walt Disney World, even if we do grumble a bit about the pre-show.
In terms of After Hours strategy, I think the best approach would be starting in Asia and doing Expedition Everest repeatedly. The total ride experience there is significantly shorter, meaning you can get more ‘per ride value’ from Disney After Hours by doing Expedition Everest 5 or 6 times.
From there, doing Dinosaur a couple of times makes sense (you can skip the pre-show there…but why would you want disrespect the venerable Dr. Seeker like that?!) before ending the night in Pandora – World of Avatar where you can bounce between Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage to mix things up a bit, and prevent overload on that pre-show.
Our rationale for this strategy is that everyone is going to head to Pandora first. It’s the main draw, and why 95% of people are going to buy tickets to this event. At the beginning of the event, not only will party guests flock to Pandora, but day guests will still be there.
After about an hour of the event, day guests will be long gone, and Disney After Hours guests will also start to move on to other areas of the park. The last 90 minutes of the special event, you should have Pandora pretty much entirely to yourself.
This strategy is more for the future than it is the present. The first Disney After Hours event was absolutely dead, and that’s even with it being the media event. If you told me there were under 1,000 people in the entire park, I’d believe it. Even if attendance triples or quadruples for the 2020 nights, most attractions will still be walk-ons.
There were several occasions when walking around the park when we wouldn’t see anyone else for minutes at a time. This desolate feeling was one of the cooler aspects of After Hours at Animal Kingdom. Well, “cool” until you think about all those carnivores that might be lurking in the shadows, biding their time until they can grab some prey without being detected.
Kidding aside, the lack of crowds was my favorite aspect of the event. I love the physical environment of Pandora, but it is normally so chaotic that it’s difficult to enjoy. During Disney After Hours, it was so devoid of people that the “organic” ambiance there felt apt–like an alien planet being reclaimed by nature. Walking around other areas of the park was similarly satisfying.
Likewise, there’s something to be said for the novelty of walking right onto attractions that are normally packed with people. I lost count of the number of times we attractions entirely to ourselves. Not just our ride vehicle empty–but all of those around us, as well. I’d hazard a guess that only a single-digit percentage of available ride capacity was in use at any given moment.
As with the Magic Kingdom incarnation of the event (which gave away tickets to hotel guests for several parties before finally finding its groove), it’ll take a while for After Hours at Animal Kingdom to gain momentum. To be honest, I’m not sure it’ll ever gain that much traction–outside of Pandora, Animal Kingdom has less appeal, and the park is so spread out that it absorbs the After Hours attendees incredibly well.
The biggest downside to Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom is everything that isn’t open. Even with early admission at 7 p.m., After Hours guests won’t be able to experience Kilimanjaro Safaris, Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo the Musical, or UP! A Great Bird Adventure, all of which currently end operations before 7 p.m.
We’d recommend arriving early, and allocating that time to Kali River Rapids or Primeval Whirl–or anything else that won’t be open during Disney After Hours. During the event, you’re necessarily going to be repeating attractions, as so few are open. Doing other things in that 90 minute window will at least give the sense of greater variety.
If this event were to have a ‘soft’ opening time of 4 or 5 p.m. a la the Halloween and Christmas Parties, a strong case could be made to skip a full day at Animal Kingdom and just do this hard ticket event instead. You’d be able to experience enough of the shows and regular day experiences, and have an exceptional time doing headliners with minimal waits for 3 hours.
As things stand, After Hours at Animal Kingdom is a great option for those who want to avoid crowds and experience Flight of Passage (or other headliners) repeatedly. In which case, maybe do another partial day at Animal Kingdom to see shows, animals, trails, etc., rather than a full day.
Ultimately, Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom is an event that leaves me conflicted. On principle, these upcharges bother me, especially considering that they could be Extra Magic Hours (something that has been scaled back in the last several years) available to all resort guests. The flip side is that you’d never get this much done at a free EMH evening, and more special ticketed events is clearly the direction Walt Disney World is going, whether I like it or not.
In the end, I’d pay to do it again if we visiting with our parents or friends who had never done Flight of Passage. Likewise, Animal Kingdom After Hours is a strong option for families with kids tall/old enough to experience the park’s flagship rides–it sure beats getting up at the crack of dawn for the chaos of doing the “Flight of Passage Flee” through Animal Kingdom at rope drop.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
What do you think of Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom? Is this something that interests you, or is the cost too high to justify? How many times do you think you could handle the Flight of Passage pre-show in a single night? Do you agree or disagree with our review of the event? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
We are heading to Disney World in September – do you think they will have After Hours then? We would really like to go!
We did the Ultimate Christmastime Package last year which included an after hours event at Animal Kingdom, with less attractions open. We did Flight of Passage 7 times, back-to-back. Because we ended up in the pre-show with the same family each time, we just spent time chatting with each other and the pre-show didn’t seem as long. The 7th time on FoP left us feeling a little disoriented so we stopped at that point. Being in the park with so few people was just amazing! I remember walking towards the front gate and seeing no one. It was eerie, but definitely a cool eerie. I was reading your review because we are heading to WDW next month and I am considering Animal Kingdom After Hours. Thanks for your review. Personally I believe it is unbiased,
I know you updated this post early November, but you should make clear *when* you attended this event. It sounds like you didn’t go again recently (?) and people should be warned Disney may very well raise attendance caps and/or sell out tickets and have a vastly different experience than what you had almost a year ago. Maybe that’s just me being overly cynical.
Do you think DAH HS and AK will extend into Fall of 2019? I know they don’t normally have DAH MK in October, but I assume that is because of MNSSHP
We did the AK after hours event last night – arriving at 8:30 and leaving when it closed. It really was totally empty. But even so – we only had time to do everything once (including Rivers of Light). Flight of Passage was the only one we made it on twice. Everything was walk on except FoP where we waited 20-25 minutes each time (including pre-show). We did it last, too, when we thought it might be a bit slower, but they only had one theater running which created some waits. Overall, we thought the tickets were totally worth it!! We loved being there without the crowds and just walking onto almost everything was really cool. The only weird thing we noticed was that the people who are typically on the Rivers of Light boats weren’t there lol. Would definitely recommend this tho. We had to work all day, so it was the perfect way to still enjoy a park!
Thank you Tom for all your entertaining and insightful entries. I must add that it’s a real bonus that we share a very similar viewpoint. It’s like I was writing the blog but you accomplish the feat in a far more humorous and articulate manner!
We loved Flight of Passage so much and thanks to FP+ and the old paper pass Rider Switch system, my oldest son was able to ride it multiple times. If they allowed a soft opening time of 5 or so, this would be worth it to us, as we have never gotten to experience the regular queue for FoP because we’re unwilling to wait in that line. Since they’ve switched to the new confusing electronic Rider Switch system, this would be a simpler way to experience Pandora with our little one, as we could just take turns riding N’avi River with him with no wait. Tom, are any of the restaurants open during the event? How about the shops?
For the record, you CANNOT skip the preshow at Dinosaur. The cast will not allow it as it goes against the rules in their training. The preshow video contains important safety information that you are supposed to watch.
I think your allowed to skip it after watching it once though. I have had it when it is empty at dinosaur and they just allowed us to ride it again without having to rewatch the preshow.
Could I ask – do you know if these After Hours Events (at a cost) on the same nights that WDW Hotel Guests have Extra Magic Hours?
The after hours events do sound appealing, but what bothers me is that the park closes early and Pandora even earlier as a result; and as a guest paying full price for park admission, this makes me feel cheated. On a recent trip, Pandora closed at 6pm and the rest of the park at 7pm; I assume to help clear things out for the after hours event. If this really is going to be after hours, they should do it after the normal park closing, not shorten the day.
It’s no different than closing MK park early at 6 pm for MVMCP. They need to allow time for the event ticket holders to enter the park and for others to exit before the party starts. AK is usually only open until 8, whereas MK is 10, so it’s not shortening the day by too much in AK and if you have park hopper you can switch to another park. Or just don’t go to AK on days where they have an evening party. They advertise the events well in advance. This past week was for Pop Warner.
Disney After Hours at AK is not worth it to me. I plan my FP+ for AK early enough where I can experience the attractions I want without resorting to an up-charge event. FOP and EE make me somewhat nauseous so once is plenty and I’ve skipped these rides on more recent trips. Also, I love AK for their offerings during day such as the character greets, shows, and Safari. I love the atmosphere of AK in the evening but the crowds seem to calm down at night during regular park hours therefore I do not need an up-charge to experience the ambiance.
Did you happen to attend the Hollywood Studios version too? Would love a review of that one and which you think is better!
I’ve only done FOP one time, but we got to the start of the ride and experienced unexpected problems and had to reload through the pre-show again. Even in that limited experience, I was totally over the pre-show but I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who feels that way!
I have never done an after hours/EMM events but I’ve had several friends that did them and on non invited media nights where attendance was greater than what I’ve seen from press posts. By no means is it busy but I think that Disney realizes what events aren’t selling, gives those tix away to press, general public sees pics/vlogs and says, “Wow, there’s nobody there, let me buy these tix”, which of course is what Disney wants and then the events generate more sales and the remainder of these special limited sales events are never like the ones you vlogged/posted about. I would be willing to buy the after hours tix/or early morning magic at one of the parks but they’ve yet to be offered on dates when we go. We always just miss it by a day or two.
I think you’re right to a degree, which is why I discussed a future increase in attendance.
In this case, it was the very first night of Animal Kingdom After Hours, and I simply don’t think it has caught on yet–nor do I think it’ll catch on for several more months, at least.
If people are thinking about booking this same event in mid-2020, this review may very well not apply by then…but for the immediate future (and all dates currently on sale), I’d say it’ll more or less be accurate as to what people can expect.
I see all of this as prep for both early/after hours admission charges for Star Wars when it opens up. Can’t even imagine how much tohose tickets will run.
Sure looks like all this has its benefits, but oh my dear sweet lord, WDW has found another avenue of revenue. Hard ticket events are so passe now, they had to add hard tickets *inside of* hard ticket events (dinner party or whatever at the xmas party).
We’ve already stopped griping at the idea of paid parking at the resorts. I shudder at where they will take this idea…
Do you think we should skip HEA this Wednesday for this? We’re seeing it tonight with reserved viewing for the first time, and I can’t decide what to do! Wednesday would be our only other opportunity for each this trip!
Since you’re already seeing HEA once, I’d lean toward this event, if you don’t have other opportunities to ride FoP. Unless, of course, you see HEA and can’t wait to watch it again. Both will be around for awhile.
Thank you! We have 2 FoP fastpasses coming up this week, but it will be our first time experiencing it! Too many fun things!
This strikes me as yet another way of selling ride capacity without the PR nightmare of directly selling FP+. It forced to choose between upcharge FP, and an event like this that takes park time away from normal guests, I’d take the former.
Walking around an empty park would be the coolest part of this, I think. I’m still morally against selling the same park 2-3 times per day, but I guess that ship has sailed.
I realize the long Avatar pre-show probably beats just standing in line doing nothing, but the actor/dialog is really not great. It doesn’t even cross into campy like the Soarin’ pre-show. and it’s sooo long.
I’m not much for rides (flight of passage makes me terribly motion sick as does almost all coasters etc) but the wife would trade me for a six pack multi experience fastpasses. From a photography viewpoint, is the value there to get empty park pics? We’ve done after hours at MK, considering the AK event. Thanks
Not as much value as at Magic Kingdom, photography-wise.
On a normal 8 p.m. closing night, so many parts of DAK are empty by around 6 p.m., that most empty park photos could be accomplished during regular operating hours. It all depends upon how much you care about Pandora (which I’d say is the most photogenic land of the park, so there’s that).
I won’t be back to WDW for a while, but this is one of my biggest questions when thinking about considering starting to plan the next trip: How bad is FOP vis-a-vis motion sickness? I am worthless on Star Tours-like motion simulators, and I turn green just looking at Mission: Space (even the mild side), but do OK on most coasters. Tom, does Sarah manage FOP well?
I’m like you in the motion sickness susceptibility. I have tried FOP 2x having taking bonine and Dramamine. Both times I have been pretty sick and disoriented coming off. I spent most of the 2nd ride with my eyes shut. Everyone loves the ride and you should try it but beware. I’m done with it…which is sad as it’s by far my wife’s favorite ride of all time. Good luck!
My son and I get extremely motion sick as well. After much trial and error, I’ve found what works for us both, and we’ve had no trouble on any rides since. We both take a Bonine in the morning, as well as wear Sea-bands all day long. Don’t ever take them off. We also generously apply Motion-eaze behind our ears about every third or fourth ride, and always before a simulator or coaster. It’s worked wonderfully for us, which is a good thing bc we LOVED Flights of Passage!! Good luck!
Simulator rides are hit-or-miss for me. I cannot ride Star Tours, but I did fine the one time I rode Mission: Space (orange). I have also been hit-or-miss at Universal motion simulators. I was always fine on the old Back to the Future ride (haven’t tried Simpsons), but can’t do Despicable Me. I can do HP and the Forbidden Journey, but only once (haven’t tried Escape from Gringotts yet).
Anyway, I got to ride FoP once during my last trip in March and I LOVED it. I rode it in the morning and would have ridden again if the line wouldn’t have taken all day. It is very well done and unique, and I felt completely immersed in the experience. I can’t wait to ride again on my next trip! I would definitely at least give it a try.
Just a note, I pretty much never take motion sickness medicine in the parks, so all of the rides above were ridden “au naturale”. 🙂
How many tickets is extremely limited exactly?
Walt Disney World doesn’t publish how many tickets are available, but for at least the next 6 months, demand is going to be the bigger limiting factor. Even if 10 times the number of guests attended one of these as the After Hours night we attended, most rides would still be a walk-on. The park was *that* empty.