While I will always love being one of the first people in the park (who doesn’t enjoy a good sprint through the Disney Hollywood Studios to jump in line for Toy Story Midway Mania?) there is something about being in the parks at night that make the world more magical. Here are Ten Rides you NEED to try after dark at Walt Disney World.
The parks take on a different vibe after dark and in turn, so do many of the rides. Check out the list below to learn more about attractions to experience after sundown.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Magic Kingdom)
This here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness! Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a high-speed mining train that whips you through the town of Tumbleweed. Gold was discovered here in the early 1800’a and the small mining town built around the mountain began to flourish. Little did they know that this mountain was sacred Indian land – which was suddenly destroyed with a flash flood! Tumbleweed was abandoned, but you can still take a ride on the trains.
I feel this attraction is best experienced first during the day so that you can take in the feel of the abandoned landscape (watch out for rattlesnakes and goats as you crest the tallest hill) and enjoyed again after dark. At night the mountain is lit beautifully and feels like a totally different ride. If you are lucky enough to ride during the firework show, you’ll be able to catch glimpses of that as well.
2) Splash Mountain (Magic Kingdom)
Splash Mountain (the mountain here’s actual name is Chick-a-pin Hill) is a flume ride themed from the Disney 1946 film Song of the South. Guests will enjoy a peaceful float trip on the first part of the journey as you meander through the mountain and meet the main characters: Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox. Now comes the “splash” part of Splash Mountain: a 50 foot plummet into the briar patch!
A good part of the ride does take place inside, but the outdoor moments at night give you a great view of the rest of the park lit up after dark! Don’t worry that you will get wet with no sun to dry you off – cause you definitely will!
3) Jungle Cruise (Magic Kingdom)
The Jungle Cruise is a great place to cool off in the middle of a hot day. Climb aboard your riverboat and put your feet up for a minute. Other than the occasionally annoying intentionally bad puns delivered to you by your captain/tour guide this can be a somewhat relaxing ride. Feast your eyes on the lush greenery and fun audio-animatronics as you make your way through several “rivers of the world”!
Your nighttime tour will offer the same spiel from your captain, but you’ll see the animals along the ways in an entirely different light (pun intended!)
4) Astro Orbiter (Magic Kingdom)
I still call these the Star Jets (and I don’t really care how much that ages me!). This is one of those rides that you have to ride twice- once to “drive” and once as a passenger. Climb aboard your two-seater rocket ship and blast off over Tomorrowland!
Today’s version of the Star Jets – the Astro Orbiter – is really a beautiful to behold ride. Jules Verne would be proud of the imagineering that went into this one. After dark, this is another great place to be treated to glimpses of the castles, the fireworks and of course, Tomorrowland’s Space Mountain.
5) Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom)
This dark ride is bound to send chills up your spine no matter what time of day you decide to visit. Perfectly creepy during the day but oh, so much more sinister after the sun goes down. The queue alone is worth visiting, the mansion makes a beautiful backdrop as you wind around reading the tombstones.
Nighttime means the mansion is illuminated which somehow makes it even spookier. As this dark ride takes place entirely inside, you won’t note a difference if you ride in the evening verses first thing in the morning, However, the outside view and just the idea of being at a haunted mansion in the dark will set the stage for a creep-tactic time.
6) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom)
One of the newer rides at Walt Disney World, and the newest coaster in any of the four parks, this is a ride you must ride simply for the reason it’s new. For those of us who are fans of “Snow White’s Scary Adventures” this ride kicks it up a notch. The queue is one of the most interactive and beautiful to look at of all the attractions at Magic Kingdom. The line tends to get rather long, so having a Fast Pass+ is key, but keep in mind you’ll miss some real eye-candy by doing so.
As you careen around the mine at night you’ll gain a much better view of the party going on inside Snow White’s cottage – don’t forget to say hi to the witch – she’s lurking about hoping for an invite.
7) Tower of Terror (Disney Hollywood Studios)
Submitted for your approval: a ride so brilliantly designed you need to ride it more than once! This thrill-ride will have you convinced you are in an episode of The Twilight Zone as you travel back in time to the year 1939 – you’ll be treated to a pre-show where you’ll watch what appears to be “lost footage” from the original Twilight Zone television show but is actually cleverly dubbed clips of Rod Serling sharing with you an original story that YOU become part of!
Ride during the daylight hours and try to enjoy the 5 seconds or so that’ll you’ll catch an awesome view of the Disney property – from 13 stories up you can see a long ways! Ride again at night to give yourself an extra chilling view of neon, spotlights and maybe even part of Illuminations.
8) Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom)
This is bar-none my personal favorite “mountain” of the Disney parks! I think this is one of the best back-stories, most beautifully themed and brilliantly executed ride that the imagineers have dreamed up. I don’t have a hard time at all imagining that I am really headed up to the base of Mount Everest in a steam train. Watch out for the ripped up, ruined tracks and also take a peak out beyond them – you’ll need to be in one of the first few seats in order to do this (no worries – there is a special line for the front row – just ask a cast member) and you’ll spot EPCOT’s iconic “golfball,” Hollywood Studios’s Tower of Terror and more!
Climbing the mountain at dusk is equally as rewarding, if not more so. The mountain is lit so you won’t miss any of the props, the view of the horizon at the top is now illuminated and the Yeti is ever as terrifying! Don’t forget to wave at him as you zoom past.
9) Kilimanjaro Safaris (Animal Kingdom)
Where else can you climb aboard a custom-built safari truck and head into the African savannah for a photo safari but be back in time to meet the rest of the family for a Dole Whip? Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safaris, of course! The safaris definitely feel more realistic under the heat of Florida’s mid-day sun, but coming soon (we hope – and definitely stay tuned for more details!) is a night-time version of the ride where you’ll be able to chill with the antelope, rhinos and maybe gleam a better view of some of the nocturnal animals who occupy the savannah.
10) The Monorail
I am going to go ahead and count this a ride! I enjoy riding the monorail any time of day but it’s even more alluring to ride in the evening. Hop on this elevated train at any of the three resorts that are connected (Polynesian, Contemporary or the Grand Floridian) or Magic Kingdom, EPCOT or the ticket and transportation center. If you time it just right you’ll be able to see the water parade that floats along the Seven Seas Lagoon, the firework show at Magic Kingdom or EPCOT’s Illuminations just to name a few. If you ride after EPCOT has closed for the night you may spot the after hours crew cleaning the park and preparing it for the next day’s guests!
Do you have a favorite after-dark ride at Walt Disney World? Sound off in the comments below!