Saturday, November 12, 2022

Top Five Disney World Rides That Are Better At Night

I often go back and forth on what is my favorite time of day at the Disney parks.  We've discussed some of this in various posts here, and for many reasons, midday is the worst time to be at the parks (usually related to crowds and weather).  The best times of day are almost invariably early in the morning or late at night.

This got me thinking about different rides and whether there are some that are better at different times of day.  As much as I love early mornings at the parks, I don't know that I could say there are any rides in particular that are BETTER due to riding at that time of day.  Early mornings are the best for beating crowds, the general hum of anticipation in the air and some great photos as the sun crests the horizon.

On the other hand, there are a bunch of rides that are better at night.  "Better" here is a relative term, as most of these are great rides at any time of day.  But for various reasons, these are often better enjoyed at night.  In fact, I came up with a list of my top five rides that are more enjoyable once the sun goes down.

A few caveats here.  First, basically all rides that are indoors or mostly indoors don't qualify for this list.  Those attractions have their own mood and atmosphere that Disney wants you to feel.  Space Mountain is entirely dark no matter what time of day you ride, so there really is no comparison.  The closest indoor attraction I could come up with that would be better at night is the Haunted Mansion - it is an indoor ride, sure, but the queue is outdoors, and walking through that graveyard is certainly better at night (preferably a gloomy, rainy night if we're being authentic).  But it doesn't affect the ride itself, so I didn't include it here.

There's also the general matter of outdoor queues with indoor attractions.  In the blazing sun, these can be a slog, so these would all be "better" as well, simply by not baking in the sun.  But again, the rides themselves are the same, and I didn't think these would be good uses of the precious few spots on this list.

I considered a ride such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train here, in large part because the line is generally shorter later at night.  This is a fun one at any time of day once you're on it, though, and I don't think the ride is materially changed regardless of when it's ridden.  Three other coasters did make the list though, as we'll discuss below.  

Without further ado, here's my list:

5 (tie). Tomorrowland Speedway / Astro Orbiter (Magic Kingdom):

This is probably a cop out already, including two here as a tie for fifth place.  But there are some similarities to these two.  They are both Tomorrowland attractions at Magic Kingdom and neither one are considered "headliner" attractions.  Neither of these are really considered GOOD attractions either! But that's partly why they're on this list.

In the case of Astro Orbiter, it's a ride that's nothing special.  It's a spinner, and there are plenty of those at Magic Kingdom, with Dumbo being the most iconic.  It also usually has a line that is far too long for what you get out of it.  But at night, you at least have the benefit of enjoying the neon lights of Tomorrowland.  The fact that it is raised up gives you a great view of the park, and for a ride that is supposed to simulation space flight (even in a rudimentary way), the nighttime gives it some authenticity.

For Tomorrowland Speedway, the big advantage of riding at night is that the temperature is much more palatable.  You'll still have the burning fumes to smell while waiting on line, but it doesn't feel like the heat is radiating off the pavement around you.  These are both skippable rides in most cases, but especially for families with children, if you have to do them (and you know you will), consider riding at night.

4. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Magic Kingdom):

On the other hand, this Frontierland attraction is one of my favorites at any time of day.  Unlike Seven Dwarfs as mentioned above, I do think riding at night adds a little something extra.  The mountains are illuminated at night and the "out of control minecart" aspect takes on a new dimension as you rocket through the tunnels.  

This lends a little more of an air of danger to a relatively tame coaster - the darkness actually reminds me of Space Mountain a bit in certain sections.  Added bonus if you can time your ride with a showing of Enchantment, as being on a coaster as fireworks go off in the distance is a real treat.

3. Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom):

This is a pretty intense coaster (by Disney standards) no matter when you ride it.  But the story involving the yeti and the mountains gets more ominous if ridden after dark.  The exhilarating drop coming out of that long climb is even cooler this way, as you alternate between indoors and outdoors without much distinction.

Speaking of which, the culmination of this ride is the (in)famous yeti scene.  That already takes place the dark indoor section of the ride, but there's less suspension of disbelief going from the bright sunlight into the encounter and subsequent backwards section of the ride (which always leave me a bit disoriented anyway).  Given that Animal Kingdom is less crowded at night anyway, it makes the entire queue and attraction much more pleasant.

2. Slinky Dog Dash (Hollywood Studios):

Do you sense a pattern here?  In looking at an attraction list for all the parks, so many of Disney's rides are indoors and many that aren't are coasters, so it stands to reason that we'd see a few of them on this list.  Slinky's inclusion here is largely a factor of weather - the queue and ride itself are in the blazing sun of Toy Story Land, a place built by people who didn't understand that guests like some shade on occasion. 

Toy Story Land is also beautiful at night, and Slinky gives you a vantage point to see it in all its glory that you can't get anywhere else.  That alone makes it a good choice for evenings.  It doesn't create the ominous atmosphere of the previous two coasters, but the ride and atmosphere around it are more enjoyable once the sun goes down.

1. Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (Magic Kingdom):

And we end up back where we started this list, in Tomorrowland.  If you can't tell, this is one of my favorite places in all of Disney at night.  The land comes to life with the lights and movement and makes it a great place to end your night.  The PeopleMover is the best way to take it all in while enjoying a tour of the whole land from above.

Let me be clear here - unlike the other two Tomorrowland attractions I mentioned above, the PeopleMover is a GREAT ride at any time of day or night.  It's probably best enjoyed multiple times, if we're being honest - that gives you a different perspective of Tomorrowland each time.  But this ride is especially gorgeous at night, giving you views of the Cinderella castle lit up in the distance, as well as all the neon in Tomorrowland.  This will be an even bigger advantage once Tron opens, as that canopy is designed to be viewed from a distance.

In any case, these lists are always subjective, but I stand behind my selections here.  Is there anything I'm forgetting or something that you like better at night that I've overlooked?  Drop me a line and let me know.

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