Monday, December 9, 2013

Touring Disney's Animal Kingdom at Night

With Christmas, there comes crowds. Lots of crowds. But this does bring the added benefit of extended hours and during the holiday season that means hours at the Animal Kingdom will continue well after dark. On Christmas night, this year, the park closes at 9 pm, giving you about four hours of night time touring.  And, as you probably know, we love the park after the sun goes down.

The Animal Kingdom at night becomes a dark and mysterious place, especially around Discovery Island and Asia. Make sure you hit these spots towards the end of the night. Especially, Everest. The low light used at this attraction really changes the experience. It's like a different ride. The queue too takes on a much different look. And the rest of Serka Zong exemplifies the mysterious quality of the park at night. I particularly like the Tangled-like lanterns that hang just above your heads along the path. It all combines to make you feel like you are in a far away place, which is, I suppose, the point.

Dinoland USA, however, is much different. Its bright, well at least Dino-Rama. But it has such a great look about it. And riding Triceratops Spin or Primeval Whirl both give you a fun, bird's eye view of the area. A personal recommendation: Grab a rum lemonade from the nearby Restarauntosaurus. Harambe, too, is a great spot to take your time and enjoy the setting. This will generally be less crowded. At dark, both the Kilimanjaro Safari and the Pangani trail will be closed, so until the Lion King show opens, there really is nothing to draw crowds. But go anyway. And try to catch an evening performance of the amazing Burudika band. They tend to have a late show or two.

Now, like I said, animal exhibits close. So if you want to do the safari, or walk the trails, its important to find out exactly when they close. In the winter, that is often 5pm when its dark. Don't think you will be able to walk the Maharajah Jungle Trek at night. You can't. Another thing to watch out for: Kali River Rapids. As you probably know, you get wet, real wet. And at night, in December, you will also like get cold, real cold. Keep that in mind.

One more word to the wise, its dark. If you or someone in your party has difficulties visually, this may be an issue. Even if you don't, it can be difficult to navigate. This again is especially true at Discovery Island. You can actually walk around the dark paths here but there are no animals to see. The tamarins, flamingos, and what not are off exhibit. The Tree of Life is, like everything else, under low lights creating a mysterious presence, albeit a beautiful one. The stores will be open, of course. And walk around the Flame Tree BBQ. All the pagodas are lit, with different colors. Some green. Some red. All beautiful.

Speaking of eating, even when you don't have extended hours, if you get the last seating at Yak & Yeti, you will often be done after dark. While you don't get to enjoy Everest or Primeval Whirl at this point, you do get to see the place. So take your time and take some photos. In any event, Yak & Yeti is a good spot for a meal. Its often quiet later on. And we love the bar for an adult beverage. The place has a great aesthetic, so soak it in. Be advised that some of the other, smaller places to eat like Tamu Tamu or the kiosks will often close earlier than the park itself so keep that in mind if you are looking for food on the go.

Then there are the shows. Flights of Wonder will not play after dark. You have been warned. The other two often will, but try to see those earlier in the day. They, like Its Tough to be a Bug, do not take advantage of the ambiance of the park at night. Also, crowds tend to peeter out as the late afternoon and evening progress. And all three gobble up people, so you need not worry about seeing them while it is more crowded.

A couple of other things to consider: The Wilderness Explorers interactive game typically shuts down at 6pm no matter what. At least, so far anyway, so until further notice you will not be able to play this during the evening hours. Character greetings are a toss up at this point. Check your schedules but they often do not go until the late night either. Shops, however, as you might have guessed are typically some of the last things to close.

Well, there you have it. If you are lucky enough to get a few hours of night touring in, I hope that helps you plan out those few precious hours so you really get to enjoy it. The best plan, I think is to try to ensure you hit Dinoland and Everest last. Frankly, as the crowds just about disappear, you can probably ride Everest over and over again. Of course, when Avatarland opens and the River of Lights starts, all bets are off.

by Safari Mike (@JamboEveryone)

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