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If you have never experienced evening Extra Magic Hours (EMHs) in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you have missed something special. Although Disney has not definitively stated that they will no longer offer evening EMHs for Animal Kingdom (AK), none are scheduled on the calendar through September http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/animal-kingdom/calendar/. The last evening EMH was this past February.
EMHs, one of the perks of staying on Disney property, allow guests to enter parks early or stay late on certain days. The parks participating in EMHs on any given day are listed on the Disney World calendar, where AK continues to list morning EMHs. The other three parks list both morning and evening EMHs.
So what was so special about the evenings in AK? First of all, they were your only opportunity to see the park in dusky darkness. Even though the animals went to bed at their regular times, and the animal attractions closed at their regular times, the “jungle” seemed to come alive at night. The birdcalls and other animal sounds were more noticeable in the night air. The beauty of the park seemed to stand out more as well, perhaps because the harsh Florida sun has a softness to it at sunset.
Despite the fact that the animal attractions were closed, and despite the fact that many of the parks restaurants closed as their regular times, the remaining open attractions made AK in the evenings something very special. My family would attend the evening EMHs just for the opportunity to ride Kali River Rapids at night. One year we rode this ride 5 times in a row without getting off because the crowds were that low! Being on the river at night, I saw the fires along the banks more vividly. The burning logs from the illegal mining company that is threatening the natural environment really stood out in the darkness. In sum, I was more aware of the ride’s storyline at night than I was during the day.
Another fun ride in near darkness is Expedition Everest. As we ascended to the top of the mountain, the lights sparkled in the jungle below, and the lights from neighboring Disney properties were beautiful. The fast decent as we “escaped” from the Yeti and burst out into the night air was amazing. Because our eyes did not have to adjust from the darkness of the Yeti’s cave to the bright daytime sun outside, we could see more of the beauty of the ride including the vegetation along the route once our train slowed down a little. Disney’s attention to detail really seemed to stand out at night. Because the crowds were so low during the evening EMHs, my husband was able to enjoy this attraction 3 times in a row without getting off!
The dramatic decrease in crowds for Animal Kingdom’s evening EMHs was more striking than the decrease we noticed in other parks for their evening EMHs. Perhaps because of the size of AK, the remaining Disney guests might have seemed sparser since they would have been more spread out. The pathways throughout the park were almost empty when we were there in the evenings.
Dinoland appeared to take on a more carnival-like atmosphere as the lights on the various attractions came on. This area was great for younger children, and what was also great for younger children was that Animal Kingdom’s EMHs never lasted too late. During our visits the EMHs were from 5-7pm. A closing time of 7:00pm, early by Disney standards, enabled us to leave the park at a reasonable time and get to bed relatively early (something we would intend to do in other parks, but found more challenging because there was always “one more” attraction to enjoy).
We will miss Animal Kingdom’s EMHs because they were some of my family’s favorite times in AK. Hopefully, this is just some sort of trial or temporary change, and Disney will soon reinstate AK’s EMHs.