Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom Review

Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom Review

The Rivers of Light nighttime show at Animal Kingdom opened February 2017 after a very, very, very long teaser period. We were super lucky to see it by chance on opening weekend at Animal Kingdom and just wanted to share everything you’ll need to know to completely enjoy this amazing show. While you may not think this is an Animal Kingdom Must-Do, we can tell you it’s absolutely worth it. Here’s all our tips and why you should take the time to see it.

Rivers of Light Show At Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom has finally come into it’s own as a full day theme park at Walt Disney World. While always a worthwhile park due to the amazing wildlife and immersive African and Asian atmosphere, Animal Kingdom has finally added an evening show that is worth your time. With the new amazing nighttime experience at Pandora,  Rivers of Light may feel like it’s something you can skip. We, however, totally believe you need to experience this amazing show at least once. The music, the scenes, the lights. It’s breathtaking.

What is Rivers of Light?

Rivers of Light is a digital projection show that takes place in the Discovery River and Bay area, visible from the bridge that takes you from The Oasis to Africa.

The show projects images of animals in colors across sprays of water that are projected from the floating boats and flowers that cover the small lake later in the evening. If you’ve seen Illuminations at Epcot, its similar technology. The thing that really sets this show apart is the absolutely amazing music that accompanies the whole show.

Between the colors, the images, the boats, the fire, the flowers and music, Rivers of Light completely envelopes your senses and makes you feel completely in the moment. Since Animal Kingdom is all about connection to the earth, you can really feel that Disney completely hit the mark with this show. You feel completely connected. Completely immersed.

The Rivers of Light show currently has starting times, depending on the day at 8:30 and at 9:45pm. As always check the times guide when you enter the park the day you visit.

Where is Rivers of Light in Animal Kingdom?

Since the show takes place in the Discovery River and lake area, you will be able to enter the stadium seating right outside Dino-Land or on the other side of the water, right near Expedition Everest. We totally recommend grabbing a little snack or drink at one of the food carts around this area before settling in to your seat.

Is Rivers of Light Worth Seeing?

At 15 minutes, this show is completely worth seeing. We would definitely recommend it as the perfect end to your Animal Kingdom Day. Whether you’re toting toddlers or teens or grandparents, the show really is quite beautiful and probably like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Be on the lookout for the boats carrying the singers and drummers  that weave through the projection, it’s very cool to see how well the entire show is themed to Animal Kingdom with extremely authentic Asian and African elements.

Do We Need a Fast Pass for Rivers of Light?

No. When shows and rides first open at Disney we always, always recommend getting a fast pass, but in this case, Rivers of Light has been open since February 2017, and believe it or not, the crowds have simmered. If you haven’t visited Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom recently you may have not yet seen Pandora: World of Avatar either. But our recommendation is to use your Animal Kingdom fast passes on Flight of the Banshee, Na’vi River and any other ride of your choice. This show has quite a bit of seating and you can always go a little early to snag a great seat.

Know that there isn’t a bad place to see this show. At least this is what the cast members will tell you, and we totally agree. If you end up having to watch it in a not-so-ideal location and missing out on some of the elements of the show, you will still see and hear all the important aspects of the show. As always cast members are all extremely helpful if you need directions to find somewhere to sit or the handicap locations.

Despite the original setbacks with the release of this show, which took almost a year longer to debut than anticipated, we felt so incredibly lucky to have been able to see Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom even with the technical difficulties.

Waiting for Rivers of Light to Debut

As with all brand new Disney things, there’s always “technical difficulties.” This is what soft openings, soft launches and previews are for. In 2016 Rivers of Light was finally opening. The very first evening show to premier at Animal Kingdom added high hopes that Animal Kingdom would finally step into the limelight and start being open later than 6 pm.  Pre-Pandora days, and before Disney announced the slew of new things in the works before the 2021 anniversary of Walt Disney World, this was the most exciting thing that was happening -it’s not every day Disney launches a new show.

Here’s our personal account of the rather anguishing wait to finally see Rivers of Light!

The wait for Rivers of Light is over! Finally! Let me just start by saying that the wait for Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World has been a difficult one. What was originally supposed to be opening in April 2016, was then moved to May 2016….and then moved to who knows when, we thought FOR SURE that it would be available for us to see during our long WDW trip in September 2016. Nope.

With more rumors of Rivers of Light being debuted close to the holidays, I had contemplated booking a last minute trip just to see it. But then when I found out we would be here in January for a long weekend, I was most certain at that point it would be available to view this slowly-becoming-notorious Rivers of Light that I had heard so much and so little about. However, that too was the wrong assumption and we came and left Orlando without hearing a peep about this much anticipated show. Would we ever get to see it?

I was really beginning to wonder. That’s when I saw it. The glimmer of hope came from Instagram of all places in the form of a sneak peek at Rivers of Light by a fellow blogger who had been invited to the coveted Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.  Suddenly, before I knew it, Fastpasses were able to be booked and chatter was high in the online Disney community. Call it fate, but with this very last minute addition to Animal Kingdom, the debut of Rivers of Light came on the very same weekend that we had already planned to be at Walt Disney World before leaving for our Disney Cruise. Obviously, we were going. No question about it. Fastpasses were booked and we were ready!

As with all good intentions, things never go as planned. Somehow there was an error with not only mine and G’s Fastpass booking but with Rochelle’s as well and we quickly realized how difficult it would be to find a good spot to watch Rivers of Light as crowds were lining the streets of Animal Kingdom between Asia and Dino Land for over an hour before the scheduled time of the show. Without having secured seats in the area surrounding Discovery River, its important to know that you must find and claim a spot EARLY.  We were able to find a spot standing on the bridge between the two lands overlooking Discovery River and while it wasn’t the most ideal location, it was sufficient considering we didn’t have much choice.

The setup of the show itself is similar to Illuminations at Epcot as it is essentially a story being told through music and visual aesthetics. Rivers of Light, however, is much, much cooler. With the use of lights, lots of water, lots of color, projections onto a water “screen”, boats, and fire, this show is so much more visually stimulating than I probably could have imagined. 

Take comfort in knowing that this show has so much going on visually that there’s no such thing as a bad place to watch it. At least that’s what the cast members will tell you, and I agree. For now, having to watch it in a not-so-ideal location and missing out on some of the elements of the show is better than not being able to see it at all. And this is a show you will not want to miss!

Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom was the perfect end to the day. We hope you love it as much as we did! Totally worth it.

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