Does going on your favorite ride at Animal Kingdom again and again with practically no wait time sound like a dream come true? Do empty queues and free snacks at a Disney park sound like things only millionaires can enjoy? You can do all this and more with an Animal Kingdom After Hours ticket. But for a ticket that’s priced at $125 per person for an event that lasts a few hours, is Animal Kingdom After Hours worth it?
If your main reason for visiting Animal Kingdom is the animal encounters, then After Hours is not worth it, for the simple reason that most of the animal exhibits are closed during the After-Hours event which takes place in the evening. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of some of the most popular rides at Animal Kingdom and want to enjoy them without long waiting times, After-Hours at Animal Kingdom could be totally worth the ticket price. It’s also a good deal for people who have only one or two days to visit the Walt Disney World Theme Parks and want to maximize their time in Orlando.
This guide will help you decide whether Animal Kingdom After Hours is worth it. We’ll also tell you what you can do to get the most bang for your buck if you do decide to purchase an Animal Kingdom After Hours ticket.
What is Animal Kingdom After Hours?
Animal Kingdom After Hours is a special event that allows guests access to the park for three hours after regular closing hours. After Hours is also offered at other Disney Parks, including Magic Kingdom. This ticketed event at Animal Kingdom is available on select nights throughout the year. It is an exclusive event with a limited number of tickets sold. This means you can expect thin crowds and a premium experience at Animal Kingdom if you go After Hours.
Tickets to Animal Kingdom After Hours are priced at $125 per adult or child plus tax when you buy in advance (the cost is marginally higher if purchased at the gate). Advance purchase is highly recommended because the tickets do sell out fast. You do NOT need to purchase a regular Animal Kingdom park ticket to attend the After Hours event.
The After Hours event usually takes place from 9 PM to Midnight (the timings can vary depending on the season). Guests with After Hours tickets are allowed to enter the park starting at 7 PM. Animal Kingdom usually closes to regular guests at 8 PM. After 9 PM, only guests with After Hours bands are allowed to remain in the Animal Kingdom park.
What to expect with Animal Kingdom After Hours?
It’s worth noting that not all rides and attractions are open during the Animal Kingdom After Hours event. Most animal encounters close much earlier in the day at around 4 or 5 PM. However, many popular rides such as the Avatar Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Tricera Top Spin, and It’s Tough to be a Bug are open and included in the After Hours event (this is subject to change depending on the weather or ride refurbishments, so be sure to check listings before you book).
Only a limited number of food and beverage outlets are open during Animal Kingdom After Hours. You’ll still have a fair bit of choice if you plan to get dinner in the park. For instance, the chili garlic shrimp and chicken bowls at Pandora – The World of Avatar’s Pongu Pongu are delish. There’s a full bar with specialty cocktails and beer at the Thirsty River Bar in the Asia section of the park. You can also pick-up quick bites like hot dogs, churros, corn chip pie, or grab a beer from snack carts throughout Animal Kingdom.
If you’re in the mood to buy some Disney souvenirs, several shops such as the Serka Zong Bazaar, Windtraders, and Island Mercantile are open during Animal Kingdom After Hours.
Perks of Animal Kingdom After Hours
Not only do you benefit from near-empty rides, but the After Hours event also includes a range of free snacks and non-alcoholic bottled beverages (popsicles, Mickey bars, popcorn, frozen juice bars) from stands and carts throughout the park.
Also included in the Animal Kingdom After Hours event are special shows and performances such as the Tree of Life Awakenings and Rivers of Light as well as Mickey and Minnie character greetings. You can enjoy entertainment including the Pandora Drummers or Dinoland U.S.A.’s DJ dance party.
Is Animal Kingdom After Hours worth it?
Let’s make this simple for you. If you’re not sure whether Animal Kingdom After Hours is worth it, we are going to help you decide.
Animal Kingdom After Hours is NOT worth it if:
- Your main reason for visiting Animal Kingdom is the animals (animal encounters are closed during the After Hours event because it’s past the animals’ bedtime).
- You’re on a multi-day trip to Orlando with plenty of time to visit all the parks. In this case, it’s difficult to justify paying $125 per person for 5 hours (7 PM to midnight) in one park. If you have a Disney park-hopper pass, it makes more sense to access Animal Kingdom for a full 10 hours (8 AM to 6 PM) instead and enjoy everything the park has to offer.
- You’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, which means you can make FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days before check-in for your entire trip. In this case, you can visit Animal Kingdom during the regular opening hours and use your FastPass+ reservations for the popular rides (short queues for popular rides is a key feature of Animal Kingdom After Hours).
Animal Kingdom After Hours IS worth it if:
- You’re on a very short trip and you want to make the most of your time in Orlando by going to as many Disney parks as possible.
- You’re staying offsite (i.e., not in one of the Disney Resort hotels) and therefore you don’t have access to FassPass+ 60-day advance reservations. This means if you visit Animal Kingdom during the daytime, you could spend hours in queues at the popular rides like Expedition Everest and Flight of Passage.
- Your party consists of adults or older kids who are okay staying up late and want to maximize their time in Orlando.
- You’ve visited Animal Kingdom before and had the full experience. Now, you just want to ride your favorite rides like Avatar Flight of Passage or Expedition Everest multiple times. During regular park opening hours, trying to ride a popular ride multiple times will mean you’ll spend the whole day waiting in line.
Making the most of Animal Kingdom After Hours
If you purchase an Animal Kingdom After Hours ticket, here’s how to make the most of your visit. When you enter the park at 7 PM, your first plan should be to experience the attractions that will close when the park closes at 8 PM, meaning the rides or attractions that are not included in After Hours. Remember, however, that most animal exhibits will be closed by this time.
The Animal Kingdom After Hours event is exhilarating and can leave you feeling like a kid in a toy store. Wandering around a near-empty theme park and riding your favorite rides multiple times, sometimes without even leaving your ride vehicle, is an awesome experience.
A last word of advice… Pace yourself or you’ll end up exhausted before the After Hours event ends (it’s a good idea to spend the day relaxing or shopping before heading to Animal Kingdom After Hours). Eat before you come to the park or be sure to factor in some time for dinner. You’ll need the energy to tour the park. And take breaks between rides by watching shows or performances to make Animal Kingdom After Hours worth it.