Animal Kingdom 2024 Moonlight Magic Review

Animal Kingdom 2024 Moonlight Magic Review

My family and friends attended the Moonlight Magic event at Animal Kingdom last week. Moonlight Magic is one of Disney Vacation Club’s most popular perks. These events give DVC owners and their guests the run of select Disney parks after they close to regular guests. Partygoers are treated to short wait times, complimentary snacks, hard-to-find character interactions, and entertainment.

This was our second Moonlight Magic and we had an absolute blast. Disney’s after-hours parties are always unique and fun, but when they’re free? Greatness!

There was another reason why this party was special. We got to meet Jaime S., a good friend of Danielle. Jaime is a brilliant artist who specializes in mini coloring books based on Disney attractions. We’ll write more about her in the future, but for now, how great are these?!

Jaime S. Haunted Mansion coloring book
Jaime S. Haunted Mansion coloring book
Our family and friends at Moonlight Magic
Our family and good friends enjoying Moonlight Magic

Moonlight Magic Check-In

Moonlight Magic Check-In

We checked in a couple of hours before the official 7 PM start time. A Cast Member verified my ID before passing out wristbands, snack certificates, and programs. We didn’t scan into the park, but you might consider doing that if you use the DAS pass. That service requires everyone to be inside the park before any rides can be scheduled. Cast Members were able to provide temporary cards to DAS pass owners, but it was a needless extra step. It would’ve been simpler to have everyone swipe their MagicBands or phones at the turnstiles.

Moonlight Magic program
Moonlight Magic program details
Animal Kingdom map
Moonlight Magic program details
Moonlight Magic snack and game certificates
Back side of Moonlight Magic snack certificates showing eating locations

Exploring Animal Kingdom before the party

Animal Kingdom closes early. A little too early for me, but animals gotta eat and sleep, I guess! By the time we arrived, the park was mostly empty. We decided to take advantage of the light crowds by experiencing the attractions that would be closed during the party, starting with the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail sign in Animal Kingdom
African Pygmy Geese on Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail

The trail has great animal habitats, from gorillas to hippos to meerkats. That night, we met some baby African Pygmy Geese. You can see them hanging close to mom and dad in the above photo. Can you also spot the hidden Mickey?

We then jumped on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Riding later in the day can be hit or miss. Luckily for us, our trip was great, even if we missed out on seeing baby Corra.

Giraffe and wildebeest on Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro Safaris
Flamingos on Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro Safaris

We met a Cast Member while walking through Africa. He was creating a not-so-hidden Mickey out of flower petals that had fallen from a tree not far away. This kid needs to be an Imagineer with that attention to detail.

Empty walkways during Animal Kingdom's Moonlight Magic
A Cast Member creates a hidden Mickey out of purple flower pedals
A Cast Member creates a hidden Mickey out of purple flower pedals

The park officially closed at 6 PM, so we had an hour to fill before the party began. We tried unsuccessfully to get a table at Nomad Lounge. It closed with the park, so we opted for chicken and steak bowls from Satu’li Canteen. I was not at all upset about our choice, especially after I used my first snack credit on the Metkayina Mousse. I’ve never had a less-than-stellar meal at Satu’li. That night was no exception.

Satu'li Canteen Moonlight Magic menu
Metkayina Mousse from Satu'li Canteen

This photo shows just how great Moonlight Magic is. When was the last time you saw an empty Satu’li Canteen?

An empty service area in Satu'li Canteen

Moonlight Magic in Animal Kingdom

After dinner, the party officially began. Before riding Flight of Passage, I snapped a few photos in Pandora, taking full advantage of the low crowds and beautiful lighting.

Huge flower in Animal Kingdom's Pandora
Floating Mountains at sunset
Floating Mountains at sunset

Then came one of the highlights of the evening — seeing a 20-minute wait for Flight of Passage. Even better? It was nowhere near 20 minutes before we, uh, flew.

Avatar in a tank in the Flight of Passage queue
Flight of Passage loading area

After riding, I took a few more pics. I just couldn’t help myself. I rarely have the opportunity to photograph Pandora late in the day.

Pandora at night
Pandora at night

Then it was time for Na’vi River Journey. We hadn’t ridden this since Pandora opened. Yes, it’s soothing and beautiful and the Shaman is stunning, but the wait times are inexplicably high. I need a drop or two if I’m going to wait that long for a ride. Fortunately, Moonlight Magic had us covered. We waited less than 10 minutes.

Shaman on Na'vi River Journey
Na'vi River Journey load/unload area

It was time to get out of Pandora (for a little while, at least) and explore a darkening Animal Kingdom. There was a photo op in front of the Tree of Life, so we had to hit that up. Even better, we were treated to Tree of Life Awakenings. It had been a long time since we experienced that show.

Moonlight Magic sign in front of the Tree of Life
Tree of Life Awakenings
Tree of Life Awakenings

I wish Disney would allow guests to hang out on Discovery Island well into the night.

Enough photography for the time being. We needed to ride Expedition Everest. The posted wait time was 25 minutes, so we opted for the single-rider queue. It was closed, so we used the standby line and boarded a train within 2 minutes. Yep, Disney doesn’t always provide the most accurate wait times.

The ride itself was phenomenal. I like it even more at night (but I’m still not a fan of the backward section — my brain doesn’t appreciate those Gs). I’m not sure if it’s because my eyes were accustomed to the dark, but Disco Yeti was lit up brighter than I’ve ever seen him. No pics of the ride, unfortunately. I can’t justify taking my camera when shooting would only result in blurry pics of flailing arms.

Expedition Everest at night
Moonlight Magic logo projected on a building in Asia

Then it was time for ice cream. Cast Members were giving away Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars, Ice Cream Sandwiches, and Strawberry Bars, no snack credits required. They seemed upset that I only wanted one.

Free Mickey Ice Cream Bars

We gave away our carnival tickets to a family in DinoLand. Our group wasn’t into playing Fossil Fun Games that night. Instead, we wanted to ride Dinosaur since its days are numbered. That attraction is showing its age, but I’m really going to miss Dr. Marsh, Dr. Seeker, and the Dino Institute.

Better late than never, I learned something about Dinosaur while walking through the queue. Jaime told us about a second B-mode Carnotaurus that’s hiding in the dark when the photo is taken. Look to the left and up the next time you’re blinded by the camera flash.

Carnotaurus skeleton in the Dinosaur queue
Dinosaur ride photo
Terrifying!

Moonlight Magic was now over. Three hours flew by while were smashing rides and eating free food. We passed several meet-and-greets during the evening, but none of us were interested in waiting in those lines. I would’ve snapped pics of the characters, but they were always posing with people whom I doubt want to be featured on this site. So you’ll have to imagine Chip ‘n’ Dale in their dinosaur costumes or Pocohantas and Meeko.

I did take pics of Cast Members, who were the stars of the night. Seriously, thank a Cast Member whenever you can. Disney is special because of them.

Cast Members waving from DinoLand U.S.A.

We said our goodbyes to Jaime before I walked back to Pandora for more pics. My family cashed in snack certificates for popcorn and water.

Pandora at night
Waterfalls in Pandora at night
Waterfalls in Pandora at night

Did Disney schedule this during a full moon on purpose? If so, well played!

Waterfalls in Pandora at night
Pandora at night
Pandora mountains at night

And then I needed one final Tree of Life pic.

Tree of Life Awakenings

Make that two.

Moonlight Magic in Animal Kingdom after the party was over

Our Moonlight Magic experience in Animal Kingdom was phenomenal. No, there aren’t a ton of rides in this park, and there are even fewer once the sun sets. But it’s beautiful at night and has such a unique vibe. 1000 out of 5 stars. DVC owners should plan trips around these events. They’re that good.