It was just announced yesterday that Disney’s Animal Kingdom will begin its first ever extended Park hours starting Memorial Day Weekend and later this year! Nighttime at Animal Kingdom is truly a Disney fan’s dream come true. Not only do you have all of your favorite Animal Kingdom attractions open, but there are tons of new entertainment offerings happening all around the Park.
We were part of the lucky few who got to experience the magic and fun of what Nighttime at Animal Kingdom will be like, and let us say, it’s going to be a wild time. Here are our top picks that you need check out when you visit Animal Kingdom this summer:
The icon of Animal Kingdom has always been the Tree of Life. This 145 foot tall tree has been welcoming guests into the Park for the last 17 years, and now it will come to life like never before. “You’ll see all throughout the evening, the tree is completely active,” Michael Young, creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering explained to us. “And the animals will stretch, and awaken … where you kind of wonder, ‘Did that just happen? Did it just move? Is the canopy alive?’ And then it’ll weave into these beautiful vignettes”
There are four vignettes that guest will be able to see that happen throughout the night. Our favorite one that we experienced blended classic Disney songs from films like Tarzan, The Lion King, The Jungle Book, Finding Nemo and Pocahontas with animated imagery of real animals. It’s truly amazing to see such gorgeous visuals come to life on the tree, and the experience will leave you in wonderment.
One of the best parts about Animal Kingdom’s extended hours is that we can experience our favorite attractions at night! For Kilimanjaro Safaris, the adventure continues in a permanent sunset state, where the forests and savannas of the Harambe Wildlife Preserve get highlighted in new ways. Not only do you get to see animals that are more active at night (like the super cute wild dogs and lions!), you still spot giraffes, elephants, and rhinos, too. We recommend riding during the day and night to get two completely different and unique experiences.
In our sneak peek of Rivers of Light, we got to see how the creative team at Animal Kingdom have combined, light, water, music, visuals, and performers to tell an original story inspired by the animal world. What makes Rivers of Light a must-see is how that combination of so many elements comes together in a beautiful way on the Discovery River. If you love nighttime spectaculars at the Disney Parks, we guarantee this will be one of your favorites when it premieres later this year.
Expedition Everest is already adrenaline-pumping during the day, but at night, your high-speed encounter with the Yeti is that much more exhilarating. The view climbing to the top of the mountain gives you the perfect bird’s eye view of the lagoon for Rivers of Light. But, you might forget about the scenery as you race down the mountainside in the dark. It’s so much fun, and we can’t wait to go on it again.
5. New Nighttime Entertainment
Whether it’s the Harambe Wildlife Parti or the Discovery Island Carnivale, there’s no shortage of music and entertainment during Nighttime at Animal Kingdom. We got to see some of the new entertainers, including stilt walkers, lively bands, and a football (aka soccer) team that will show you a few tricks. The energy is magical and really brings the spirit of Harambe and Animal Kingdom to life in new ways.
Bonus: The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic
With the new live-action The Jungle Book in theaters, it makes perfect sense that Animal Kingdom would want to incorporate the photorealistic animal characters into the Park. As Joe Rohde, portfolio creative director for Walt Disney Imagineering explained, “It’s not that often that films come by that lock with the Animal Kingdom look … When a film does, and the new Jungle Book is so believably real, and yet so core [to the company’s heritage] it’s something that we don’t want to let go by.”
The live show will combine music and special effects that celebrate the new film and the classic songs, infused with an Indian influence. “To be able to again put a little bit of a cultural spin on it, and embrace it in our part of the Park and really make it feel at home with the Animal Kingdom is really exciting,” said Young.
No matter what you choose to do during Nighttime at Animal Kingdom, you’re sure to discover something new and intriguing during your adventures. “Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a special kind of magic,” said Rodhe. “It’s the magic of nature and that’s a magic that you can believe in, because it is in fact real.”