Welcome back to another edition of ParkSpotting! Today we will be checking in on the park some people call “Nahtazu”, which the day I visited was a very fitting name. Animal Kingdom don’t have too many days when it is open late into the evening, so when I saw that they closed at 8pm this past Sunday I thought it would be a perfect time to take a nighttime trip to the park. All the animal attractions close around 5pm so with me arriving after that, I knew my visit would be a little different.
Let’s start with the first thing you see as you are driving into the parking lot of Animal Kingdom, the construction of Avatar land. Our beloved Camp Minnie Mickey is no more and now we instead have the future site location for Avatar land. The early beginning of construction of this new land is what we can spot in these pictures from the Animal Kingdom parking lot. As somebody who admittedly has never seen this movie I still find such a huge expansion to any Disney Parks quite exciting and with seeing how the building soar over the tree line, we are in for something good! To read more about the new Avatar land addition, click HERE
As you pass the hill and walk into Discovery Island and you get your first glimpse of the park icon, Tree of Life, you can immediately spot that Animal Kingdom is a big construction zone right now. Construction walls are coming and going in a rapid pace as the imagineers remodel this park into something new and hopefully a park where people spend more of their precious vacation time.
On today’s visit I was very fortunate to get to see the new area in front of the Tree of Life that had just been revealed from behind construction walls the day before. The plaza in front of the Tree of Life is now very expansive and is great for snapping some modeling pictures.
What is even more exciting are those new root carvings have showed up in this area featuring some of the animals from the parks. The Tree of Life has always sported tons of these intricately designed sculptures but it is really nice seeing some new ones this up close.
These new animal root animal carvings really add some much needed interest to this place and I, personally, couldn’t stop taking pictures of them. I also really enjoyed how close you can now get up the majestic Tree of Life and I would definitely recommend spending some time in this area checking out all the hidden details.
A cast member told me that they now also use this area for small animal shows during the day, which is another great addition to Discovery Island. A more permanent stage was in the works for this too.
As I previously stated in the beginning of this article my visit to Animal Kingdom this day was a late one. The sun was already setting as I walked into the park and as I knew most animal attractions closed at 5pm it would be interesting to see what fun I could find during the last 2 hours of the parks operation. The funny character Dug and Russell from the Pixar movie UP was my first find. Dug lovingly showed off his favorite tricks to delighted guests.
After visiting with the UP characters I decided to head to one of my favorite shows in the park, Finding Nemo the Musical, for its last performance at 6pm. On the way I spotted another exciting construction addition to the park, Rivers of Light. Rivers of Light will be Animal Kingdoms version of a nighttime show like Magic Kingdom’s Wishes but instead of fireworks it will feature live music with water screens and floating lanterns. I think this sound absolutely amazing and definitely what this park needs. I only wish it would open sooner than its expected spring 2016 debut. To read more about Rivers of Light, click HERE
After checking out the River of Lights construction I only had 5 minutes until the Finding Nemo the Musical would start, so I rushed over there and made it with just some minutes to spare. It was a packed house for the last performance, which shows that some guests still like to stick around the park after 4pm.
If you have never seen the Finding Nemo the Musical I urge you to do so. The Festival of the Lion King show has for a long time been considered the reigning king of the musical in this park but I actually think the Nemo show deserves that title. With a beautiful set, great puppets and a whole new music set just for this show it is pretty hard to beat. The show features everything from beautiful songs like “In the Big Blue World” sung by Nemo to funny songs like “Fish are friends, Not food” from Bruce and his shark gang.
After the musical I headed to the nearby roller coaster Expedition Everest with the exciting plan to ride it in the dark, which is something I have never done before. Unfortunately my plans were foiled by an unexpected temporary downtime. With this being one of the few attractions open during Animal Kingdom’s last two operating hours this was definitely a huge bummer.
With my nighttime roller coaster plans now gone I decided to just focus on walking around the park and enjoy the incredible atmosphere it has in the evening. Animal Kingdom feels like a totally different park as soon as the sun sets and darkness creeps in. Not illuminated as well in the evening as the other Disney Parks it gets a mysterious abandoned air around it, which feels very rare to experience in a theme park today.
Perfectly placed lighting helps in shedding some luminescence on the handsome things to take photos of in the park.
Heading towards Africa section of the park, that now had nothing open for guests to experience, you definitely got that mysterious feeling I was talking about. I met only one lonely cast member on my way there and I almost felt like I was all alone in the park. I would definitely head back to Animal Kingdom for a nighttime visit just to experience this feeling again.
As my luck would have it something was open in Africa and that was the gift shop, so I decided to do a little window-shopping. A new Animal Kingdom logo print recently came out showcasing the Fab Five enjoying the safari. I also spotted some adorable new Simba and Nala plush toys.
The new Festival of the Lion King area looked gorgeous in the darkness with themed lights stringed up around the buildings. Unfortunately the last show had already been played so no visit with Simba for me this time. But if you would like to see some more pictures of this new area, click HERE
Continuing on my lap around the park I stopped to check on the now closed Creature Comfort store that is now being re-imagined into Animal Kingdom’s first Starbucks location. With an unhealthy obsession to coffee I can’t wait for this to open this summer. Taking a sneak peek inside the windows it still seems like they have pretty long time to go.
Next on my evening walk, or should I maybe call it construction walk, I passed the now shuttered entrance to Camp Minnie Mickey or what in the future will be the new Avatar land. Not much to see from this vantage point but the investigator in me just had to see if I could spot any sign of Avatar land progress. No such luck this time.
Ending my trip around Animal Kingdom at the beautiful Tree of Life again I got to see this splendid park icon all aglow, which was a beautiful sight to see. Visiting Animal Kingdom late at night may not be everyone’s cup of tea as there isn’t a ton of attractions open. But if you enjoy a leisurely stroll around an almost empty park and taking gorgeous photos, I would definitely recommend this for you! This is one of the most beautiful Disney parks at night and if you can fit a nighttime visit into your schedule you definitely should.
Many are of the opinion that Animal Kingdom is only a half-day park and if you focus on only the attractions you can experience this may be the truth. But much of Animal Kingdom charm is the focus on an incredibly themed environment and an astounding attention to detail and to enjoy all that you need to spend some extra time in the park just walking around.
Thanks for following along on this visit to Animal Kingdom and I will be back for more Disney Park fun next week!