When the sun goes down at Walt Disney World, the party gets started! Well, maybe not the party, but nighttime is when the parks are best experienced, and most outdoor attractions are enhanced in the evenings. This list ranks the 10 best night rides at Magic Kingdom. (Updated November 16, 2023.)
Although the party part was a joke, it’s totally true that Walt Disney World comes alive with a wonderful energy in the evening. This is especially the case at the Magic Kingdom, which has fantastic ambiance that just cannot be replicated during the day. (It’s also true in World Showcase at EPCOT, Sunset Boulevard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Pandora at Animal Kingdom–really, just about everywhere!)
The overall sensory experience of the Magic Kingdom is heightened at night. The background music in Tomorrowland seems louder, the sweet scents from the Main Street Confectionery are more fragrant, and the Magic Kingdom is both aglow with color and more peaceful in its quiet corners.
There are few things I enjoy more than walking along the wooden boardwalk along the Rivers of America in Frontierland at night. From the lighting to the lights of the Liberty Belle reflecting off of the water to the illuminated spires of Cinderella Castle in the distance, nighttime really puts the magic in the Magic Kingdom.
We’ve already covered the Top 10 Disneyland Rides at Night in a separate post, so we thought it would be fun to take a look at the best attractions are best at Walt Disney World’s castle park at night. Obviously, since the parks share a good number of attractions, so will appear on both lists, but many of our top picks are unique to each park. Let’s take a look…
BONUS: Tiana’s Bayou Adventure
Opening in 2024, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is the Princess and the Frog reimagined ride that replaces Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom. While the indoor show scenes will be dramatically different and it’s currently impossible to say whether those will be better or worse (it’s a high bar, but we’re hoping better!), we already know that the outside sections will be substantially the same.
My favorite parts of this attraction at night are at the leisurely beginning of the attraction, and the end after the drop when you are in a lower area passing through Frontierland. If you can keep your eyes open, the top of the drop also affords a stunning view of Magic Kingdom as a whole, including Cinderella Castle. (If you crane your head around, there are good views at other points of the ride, too.)
BONUS: Tomorrowland Speedway Race into the Holidays
During Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, there’s a trio of Tomorrowland ride overlays. The only one that is outdoors is Tomorrowland Speedway: Race Through the Holidays, which is like a drive-through version of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, albeit scaled back considerably.
Even that might be setting expectations too high–Tomorrowland Speedway: Race Through the Holidays is a bit more sparse than I’d like, but it’s still good. Much better than the regular Tomorrowland Speedway, which we don’t recommend at night…or at all.
10. Liberty Square Riverboat
With its beautiful popcorn lights, and the leisurely cruise it offers around the Rivers of America (as noted above, strolls along the Rivers of America are one of my favorite things to do at night), the Liberty Belle could be near the top of this list.
It’s not due to limited hours, meaning that it often stops operating well before sunset outside of ~4 months of the year. If you have the chance to ride the Liberty Belle at night (the best chance is during the winter when sunset is earlier), take full advantage as this is easily top 3 when it’s running at night!
9. Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid
Admittedly, this one is a bit of an unconventional choice, but hear me out. I’m of the opinion that the Little Mermaid dark ride’s queue is superior to the actual attraction. I think I’m not alone in this sentiment, and while the ride experience isn’t impacted at all at night, this queue is significantly better at night.
This isn’t just true in the outdoor portion where the waterfalls are beautifully illuminated and the rock work stands out, but is also the case inside, where you actually have a chance to stop and appreciate all of the little details when this line more or less empties out at night. Still think this one is a stretch? Okay, it probably is, but I think it was worth drawing attention to a less obvious one, even if maybe another attraction were more deserving of the #10 spot (my alternative ‘substantive’ pick would be the Walt Disney World Railroad).
8. Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
A fairly simple attraction, but given Prince Charming Regal Carrousel’s location right in the heart of Fantasyland directly behind Cinderella Castle and directly in front of the Castle Walls leading to New Fantasyland, it’s a great choice for some beautiful views.
Add to this relatively short waits at night (we typically walk right on or wait only 5 minutes), and it’s a nice change of pace and easy attraction to hit as you pass through Fantasyland.
Dumbo makes the list not because of its location, which is actually still pretty good now, but because of its beautiful nighttime lighting.
When Dumbo was moved and its capacity doubled, it also received an excellent new lighting scheme that really gives it added life at night. Missing is that iconic view of Cinderella Castle, but the view is still breathtaking with most of Fantasyland visible, plus there’s some excellent lighting, so we consider the “new” Dumbo a better attraction at night than the previous one.
6. Astro Orbiter
Astro Orbiter is higher up this list than it was the Disneyland list, and that’s for one simple reason: location. In Magic Kingdom, it remains in its proper place perched atop the Peoplemover platform. While it is just a simple spinner attraction, there’s something about flying throughout ‘outer space’ (and the future?) in that elevated position and the neon of Tomorrowland, it makes the list.
Bonus points if you ride during the fireworks. Double bonus points if you pair Astro Orbiter with the #1 entry on our list and manage to ride both during fireworks. Triple points if you do both of those things, and walk under the Upload Conduit canopy of #4. Phew, that’s a lot to do in the course of ~20 minutes!
5. Jingle or Jungle Cruise
Jungle Cruise is great at night because it captures the exotic and mysterious Heart of Darkness foreboding feel that a cruise through the jungle should have, but juxtaposes the ride’s normal wry and corny humor alongside that. As an added bonus, many skippers deviate from the standard script a bit more at night, especially when there are many children around.
Jingle Cruise is the Christmas-time overlay of the attraction, and it has a totally different energy. Although the strands of holiday lights are minimal, the whole ride is more lighthearted and jovial while, inexplicably, still maintaining some of its foreboding qualities. Suffice to say, we’re big fans of Jingle/Jungle Cruise at night no matter the time of year!
4. TRON Lightcycle Run
I’ll bet many of you are surprised to see this at #4, expecting it to take the top slot. And it wouldn’t surprise me if many of you are vehemently disagreeing that TRON Lightcycle Run isn’t #1, but hear me out a minute.
TRON Lightcycle Run is amazing at night, and I’d encourage you to try that for your second ride. (Stick to the ‘speed strategy’ in our Guide to TRON Lightcycle Run for ride #1, as you don’t want to play with fire when it comes to the virtual queue.) Going under the Upload Conduit canopy as it illuminates alongside your lightcycle is absolutely awesome.
However, the whole experience is over in mere seconds and the argument could be made that once your eyes have fully adjusted to darkness, the inside scenes lose a bit of their luster as you can see more detail than during the day. (The same is true of other roller coasters, including nearby Space Mountain and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind–and neither of those offer any upside at night, save for sometimes shorter lines!)
Moreover, the ultimate TRON Lightcycle Run nighttime experience is simply standing under the Upload Conduit canopy and looking at the passing roller coaster trains. If you’re on the ground, you can also wander around to get different angles that include Tomorrowland Speedway, Space Mountain, Cinderella Castle, and even the fireworks! None of this is visible while on the ride itself unless you really crane your head around, and we probably wouldn’t recommend that!
3. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Despite a bewildering lack of show lighting on the exterior of the mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is something special to experience at night. It’s almost like the opposite of TRON Lightcycle Run–not much to look at for guests on the ground when it’s dark, but far better to ride!
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train’s nighttime strength is primarily for one reason: location. The coaster has a prime piece of real estate essentially in the middle of Fantasyland, with Cinderella Castle and the attractions ‘inside the Castle walls’ south of it, and New Fantasyland north of it.
As you glide around the outside of the mountain, you have beautiful views of everything Fantasyland has to offer, with literally something in every direction. It’s truly like being immersed in the middle of the Magic Kingdom, which is really special. Our only complaint is that it’s over too quickly! (We’ve been fortunate enough to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train a few times during fireworks, which was amazing–but good luck getting the time right on that!)
The other reason why Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ranks so highly is because the details of the finale scene are much easier to see at night. If Disney decides to better address the show lighting of this mountain in the future, it would likely overtake Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for the #2 spot on this list!
2. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Big Thunder Mountain was #2 in our Disneyland list, and it’s #2 on this list. It’s this high on the list for the same reason: it perfectly embodies the “tranquil yet alive” ambiance in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom at night. Thanks to the excellent lighting on Big Thunder Mountain, the attraction’s nighttime mood is a perfect fit for what you’d expect from a deserted mining town.
Our favorite part of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at night is the first long lift hill. If you look to your right, you have a sweeping view of pretty much the entire Magic Kingdom, and it’s incredible. Manage to time this to coincide with the fireworks–which is surprisingly easily, wait times are usually minimal at that hour–and you have a next-level experience that’s arguably deserving of the #1 spot.
Plus, there are little additional details that aren’t really visible in the sunlight. While the Imagineers are great at designing artificial environments that evoke far away locations, Tumbleweed is a place that can’t possibly be fully ‘evoked’ until the sun goes down and the crickets start chirping.
1. Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover
The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover has seen a resurgence in popularity over the last several years, and we couldn’t be happier about that. It was once only beloved by diehard Walt Disney World fans, but now the secret is out about this leisurely ride around Tomorrowland.
Unfortunately, that means longer lines and that it can be more difficult to “loop” the TTA PeopleMover. Oh well, can’t win ’em all! We’d also imagine that some first-timers are disappointed by the PeopleMover, since many people won’t care about a leisurely ride through Tomorrowland. It doesn’t offer any thrills or wow moments, to me, it’s “only” a calming transportation ride.
I don’t know how anyone could be disappointed in the TTA PeopleMover at night, though. You’re treated to amazing views of the neon of Tomorrowland, whizzing ride vehicles under the canopy at TRON Lightcycle Run, and Cinderella Castle in the distance. Plus, you also can better notice detail in Space Mountain and the other show scenes since your eyes will have adjusted to the light.
The TTA PeopleMover is another ride that takes it up a notch during the Magic Kingdom fireworks and the big bonus here is that it’s a long ride and you can usually do it twice without much difficulty as the pyro explodes overhead. You truly have not experienced the Peoplemover until you’ve experienced it at night. Heck, we might even say that you haven’t truly experienced Magic Kingdom at night until you’ve done the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover!
Which Magic Kingdom attractions do you think get better at night? Any you think are worse at night? Do you agree or disagree with our any of the picks or ranks on this list? 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!