Until recently, Animal Kingdom shut its doors as soon as the dinner bell rang, making it a big payout for a single-day ticket that basically expired at 6 p.m. But with the spring 2017 unveiling of Pandora, the World of Avatar, and new extended safari hours, AK is now the place to be at night.
Pandora’s counter-service Satu’li Canteen offers space-age food such as steamed “pods” (bao buns stuffed with cheeseburger meat or vegetable curry) and cool views of the glowing, floating mountains from the outdoor patio seating. Parents also won’t want to miss the drinks that glow in the dark (from a magical Unadelta Seed) at the Pongu Pongu stand.
With the sun down, the Pandora section of the park completely transforms; bioluminescence makes the ground glow with every footstep, trees light up as you touch their trunks, and the kids shine too, with the help of black lights if they’re dressed in white or pale colors. Both of the area’s new rides run at night: The Na’vi River Journey is a boat ride filled with six-footed animals, accompanied by melodious tunes from the Shaman of Songs; for bigger thrills, the Avatar Flight of Passage flies you over the moon on the back of a mythical Banshee.
All ages will also enjoy an evening Kilimanjaro Safari. Animal-spotting takes on added drama as you ride through the savanna at night, when you can witness the nocturnal habits of the reserve’s many animals, including wild dogs, lions, and hyenas. And big kids will want to charge down the thrilling Expedition Everest coaster with a dark sky up above.
Animal Kingdom starts rolling out special entertainment as soon as 5 p.m. hits, like the Harambe Wildlife Parti, a festival of street performers. Then head over toward the park entrance to see the Tree of Life Awakenings, where the 145-foot baobob-tree replica becomes a wildlife theater as projected animals seem to emerge from the twisted trunk and branches and leap out into the sky. In the Rivers of Light show, larger-than-life floating origami animals, elegant junk boats, and mist-spraying lotus flowers combine in a spectacle that feels like a Broadway show. Watch as images grow and glow from the mist (a trick of high-tech lasers you won’t see anywhere else). Keep an eye on the Asian puppetry and costumed actors on the shores too.
Pandora’s The Na’vi River Journey is dark but not too scary.
The icon of the park sits quietly during the day but wakes after dark with projected images.