It may be difficult for vacationers who have never been to Walt Disney World® Resort to imagine what’s in store for them at the Disney Parks resort on the East Coast. Walt Disney World® Resort is far from just a larger version of Disneyland® Park—though, remarkably, all of Disneyland® Resort could fit inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park, one of the four theme parks in the Orlando, Florida, complex. In addition, Walt Disney World® Resort boasts two water parks, a reimagined shopping and dining district, four 18-hole championship golf courses, and more than 25 hotels on the property, each with different experiences than what a visitor to the Anaheim resort could choose.
Now, Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park is poised to offer guests even more innovative attractions, which have been years in the making. And these new entertainment offerings are changing the overall park experience from one that runs from 9-to-5 to one that continues well into the night.
When the theme park opened 18 years ago on Earth Day, Disney touted Animal Kingdom® as “nahtazu”—pronounced not a zoo—emphasizing that the 500-acre park offers many more entertainment options than a typical zoo. Indeed, that is true. Although there are numerous opportunities to observe animals, the goal of Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park is to immerse guests in the lives and stories of animals on many different platforms.
Rivers of Light, an elaborate nighttime show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park, scheduled to debut this summer, will tell such a story through animal spirit guides. It will take place on Discovery River and bring together elements of the natural world with performers, nearly 100 Asian lanterns and theatrical animal imagery. The finale of the show will delight audiences “with bursts of light as animal images soar to the heavens, signifying the ancient belief that when animals passed from one world to another, they danced in the sky and became beautiful rivers of light,” says the show’s creative director, Michael Jung of Walt Disney Imagineering.
But you don’t have to wait for summer to visit the park at night. Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park will offer extended park hours for the first time ever beginning Memorial Day Weekend. The popular Kilimanjaro Safaris® Expedition will be among the attractions staying open late. Special lighting will mimic a sunset and allow guests to see the animals in their natural habitats well into the night. Visitors may even spot nocturnal species, such as hyenas, that are not seen as often during the day treks. Plus, a new live show, “The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic,” is filled with music and special effects that will light up the night. Other attractions that will be available at night include the in-demand rides Expedition Everest®—Legend of the Forbidden Mountain Attraction, the DINOSAUR Attraction and the Kali River Rapids® Attraction.