Night at Walt Disney World is my absolute favorite time to be in the parks. The majestic appearance of Cinderella Castle, the way light reflects off of each of the triangular panels of Spaceship Earth, the Tree of Life illuminated from below, and the warm glow of neon on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards are just a few of the reasons Disney parks after dark are simply amazing. I truly believe that the parks have two entirely different feelings during daylight and at nighttime. Come follow me while I explore the four theme parks of Walt Disney World to see some of the best rides to experience at night as they are completely transformed with different vibes from their daytime selves.
Admittedly, this is the park I have spent the least time in after dark, mostly due to the fact that there are few times a year that you are able to see Disney’s Animal Kingdom after dark. Since the park is not open into the late night hours, usually not past 8pm or maybe even 9pm on the rare occasion, there are limited opportunities to experience attractions here at night. One such opporunity is during the Expedition Everest Challenge in May. This is a 5K through the Animal Kingdom followed by a scavenger hunt that takes you almost over the whole 5K course again. It is great fun and a unique change to get to see this gorgeous park late at night since the after party goes typically until 2am or so. For those that aren’t able to participate in this fun RunDisney event, the best attraction to ride at night is definitely Expedition Everest. The ride’s twists and turns and drops and backwards section seem even more thrilling when you can’t see what lies ahead. I strongly encourage any thrill seekers to make sure they try to do this at least once. It is not to be missed!
Stepping into Disney’s Hollywood Studios at night, one can see how the extensive use of neon makes this park come to life. The heyday of Hollywood never looked better than under the fabulous glow of the bright neon colors lining Hollywood and Sunset. The crown jewel of the park at night is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. It sits ominously looming over Sunset Boulevard, with its imposing exterior emblazoned with evidence of that fateful lightning strike. Much like Everest, part of the excitement of this ride at night is in the surprise and not knowing what is coming next. For those who have ridden Tower of Terror during the daylight, you can often tell when you are to the point of dropping by the telltale sliver of light peeking through the elevator doors ahead. Not so at night. This added element of surprise and not being able to anticipate when the drop is coming as well as during the day increases the adrenaline rush for me.
My favorite park at night hands down is Epcot, and World Showcase in particular. The lighting softens from the often harsh Florida sun. Music wafts gently across the World Showcase Lagoon. Libations flow and guests are satiated by the phenomenal dining offerings presented by this park. Illuminations is a magical experience for me. But this isn’t about ambiance, food, beverages, fireworks, or even music. This is about Test Track baby! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) The newly revamped Future World attraction is incredible at night. I love the way the ride gives you a great dark ride inside and then whoosh! You are speeding around the track on a 45 degree angle pushing towards that top speed of 65 miles per hour. When you coming flying through those doors and into that night air, it is invigorating to say the least. Plus, the view of Epcot at night as you whip around the track is amazing!
Spread out across the Magic Kingdom you will find fantastic examples of rides that I find are superior after dark. In Adventureland, the Jungle Cruise takes on a new mystique while exploring the Nile, Congo and Mekong Rivers. If you have never done this at night, what are you waiting for? The skippers corny jokes even take on a life of their own by lantern light. Just adjacent to the Jungle Cruise, the Magic Carpets of Aladdin provide a fun experience on your flying carpet that seems a bit more … adventurous (see what I did there) than during the day. Plus, it is a bit harder to spot the spitting camel at night, adding another element of adventure in trying to avoid it. Frontierland also plays host to two excellent choices for night rides. Both Splash and Big Thunder Mountains are far more exciting (in my humble opinion) at night. I love the moment on Splash right before you go down the five story drop when you catch that glimpse of the castle all lit up in all her glory. If you can try to time it right, Wishes as seen from Big Thunder is a transformative experince. It is one of my favorite views of the fireworks show.
Although it is entirely indoors, except for the queue, which is infinitely better at night (especially during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party), the Haunted Mansion is another great night ride. This Liberty Square attraction takes on an otherworldly and creepy ethereal feel to it when the sun goes down. I love when it is foggy and you can hardly see the tombstones in the graveyard and just barely catch the sound of the howling dog. Fantastic! Not to be left out is Fantasyland. Dumbo is so stunningly beautiful, especially now with the dueling Dumbos and the gorgeously lit fountains with alternating colors. I can stand in that queue transfixed by the serenity of changing lights and the soft sound of the water pouring out underneath the playful pachyderms.
Last, but certainly not least is my favorite land at night, Tomorrowland. The neon popping off the corner of seemingly every edifice is an inviting beacon to this part of the park. An attraction that I do not often do, but if I do will always choose to do at night is the Astro Orbiter. Sitting atop Rockettower Plaza, this spinning ride, similar to the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and Dumbo, seems to fly even faster through the cosmos at night, especially on that descent. Saving the best (again, in my opinion) for last, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover is a 12 minute break from the hustle and bustle that usually is the Magic Kingdom. At night, you can admire the gorgeous neon of tomorrowland, view lights on the edge of Main Street USA and of course see the luminous Cinderella Castle transform from blue to pink to green to orange before your eyes. You can read more about my love of this attraction here in a previous post dedicated to this classic Magic Kingdom ride.
Have you done any or all of these at night? If so, what are your favorites? Did I miss any of your favorite attractions to experience after dark at Walt Disney World? If I have, please feel free to share your thoughts. Hope you enjoyed!Share this article:
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