Walt Disney World has a certain aura when the suns set. Most theme parks do actually. While the sun can be a big draw for vacationers, nightfall gives a land’s creators a chance to evoke a specific mood. Diagon Alley is a perfect example, as a dragon breathing fire at night is somehow more powerful and interesting than it letting loose the flames in daylight. Beautiful lighting and immersive lands aren’t something new to the theme park landscape though. Disney has been using this to their advantage for years.
With Pandora on the way at Animal Kingdom and the Star Wars/Toy Story combo coming to Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World is soon to have a host of new lands to explore at night (and during the day.) Pandora and its bioluminescent forest, in particular, is a land that I’m very excited to see after the sun goes down.
While we anxiously await those new lands, there are still plenty of good choices on lands to visit at night. I’m going to count down my top-5 (and few honorable mentions) lands across 4 theme parks.
Main Street – Magic Kingdom
One of the most iconic views in the whole world is even more beautiful at night with the wonderful lighting on the castle. The lighting on Main Street feels quaint and like a well-kept small town and then as you head toward the castle, there’s a whimsical feeling that comes over you. That alone makes Main Street memorable at night. Of course, there aren’t many attractions to light so that’s where this land misses out.
New Fantasyland – Magic Kingdom
New Fantasyland is a beautiful area in daylight or at night. Where it misses out though is having substantial lighting on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The mountain is a little dark once the sun goes down and I think really misses out on an opportunity. Still, the bright lights of the circus as well as some wonderful mood lighting on Be Our Guest and Prince Eric’s Castle are enough for this area to earn a nod.
Discovery Island – Animal Kingdom
This may be a little preemptive. Animal Kingdom is making a jump into a nighttime park this summer and the Tree of Life will be lit up like never before. Video and photos I’ve seen are detailed and beautiful. I think the tree will be reason enough for this to make the list but if they also light up some of the Discovery River Trails (I don’t know how much of an option this is due to the animals) then this land will be a must-do in the dark and may even move up into my top-5.
Let’s leap into my top-5 Walt Disney World lands at night.
5. Asia – Animal Kingdom
While Discovery Island may have been jumping the gun a bit, I have seen this area around sunset and in the dark and it is stunning. With Everest looming in the background, Asia feels more festive with the lights on. This will only be enhanced by the beautiful new seating for the upcoming nighttime spectaculars. Also, Everest will become a must-do attraction at night as the park stays open later. Asia makes this list above Africa because of the water, Expedition Everest, and brighter colors around the area. With that being said, I do think Africa will be very fun to see once the sun goes down as well.
4. Sunset Boulevard – Hollywood Studios
The crown jewel of Hollywood Studios (maybe the only jewel now?) Sunset Boulevard feels a bit like Main Street with simple lighting going down the street and a looming presence at the end of it. That looming presence is, of course, the Tower of Terror. Looking even more haunting at night, the green lights from the building seem especially eerie as you make your way down the boulevard. Tower of Terror is a fairly unique experience at night too. There are some wonderful views if you are brave enough to keep your eyes open while on the ride (I’m not that brave.) With Fantasmic! next door, Sunset Boulevard becomes the place to go at Hollywood Studios after dark.
3. Liberty Square – Magic Kingdom
I’m a sucker when it comes to rivers. Liberty Square lies right next to the Rivers of America and offers views into Frontierland from the river’s edge. This land has some of that ‘quaint’ feel that makes Disneyland (on the other coast) so charming. The lanterns hanging in the tree symbolizing the 13 colonies is enough of a lighting detail for this to make the list. Then throw in those beautiful views along the river and the lighting within the square and you’ve got a great land to visit at night. All of that said, what steals the show is the Haunted Mansion. Like Tower of Terror, the Haunted Mansion looks especially menacing at night. I think Frontierland may offer the most versatile views of any land in the Magic Kingdom, especially at night. Just because of that in falls in at number three on my list.
2. Tomorrowland – Magic Kingdom
I’m a fairly big critic of Tomorrowland. Both in Florida and California, I think Tomorrowland is in need of an overhaul. Still, this land is beautiful in the night (at least if neon doesn’t horrify you.) The colorful lights all around offer up a hopeful look to the future and give this land a warm feeling that many guests are drawn to. The TTA Peoplemover at night is one of my favorite experiences in any theme park. This land definitely has more energy at night than it does during the day, often times having live music or DJ’s. While I’m not a big fan of the dance parties, I think the music can offer up a great energy that makes Tomorrowland unlike any other at nightfall.
1. World Showcase – Epcot
This was an easy number one for me. Maybe I shouldn’t count this whole area as one land but this is my blog and I’ll do what I want 😉 This area is great at anytime but I find it most enjoyable right before or after Illuminations. Seeing how each country uses the lighting on their pavilion is fascinating to me. Spaceship Earth all lit up from across the lagoon is also a beautiful sight. While Liberty Square may offer up the most unique views, World Showcase offers up the most views in general. There are so many things to look at and enjoy. I can’t go without mentioning Illuminations, which is my favorite of the nighttime spectaculars at Walt Disney World. This show perfectly embodies the feel of World Showcase, a sense of togetherness and a celebration of different cultures. Furthermore, strolling around World Showcase in the quiet after Illuminations is a beautiful experience and one that I’d highly recommend as well.
What are your favorite lands to visit at night? Let us know in the comments! Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney!