Tips for viewing Disney’s Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom


My family and I saw Rivers of Light, the new nighttime show at Animal Kingdom, during opening weekend. Of course, that night it was crowded with everyone wanting to see Disney’s newest offering, but I wouldn’t expect that to change in the near future. Given that, here are some thoughts and tips to help you make the most of your experience:

** First and foremost, do everything you can to book a FastPass for Rivers of Light. If you do not have a FastPass, you will need to join the standby queue, and it has been hours long on some nights.


** Know that, at least for now, Rivers of Light is not performed daily. For the next month or so, it only takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays with one show each night. Of course, Walt Disney World schedules are subject to change. In fact, for opening weekend, second show times — and more FastPasses — were added days beforehand.

** If you are unable to get a FastPass for Rivers of Light, your next best bet may be to purchase a dining package for either Tiffins or Tusker House. Both come with reserved seating for the show. See pricing and details here.

** If you DO secure a FastPass for Rivers of Light, when should you line up? My Disney Experience will recommend arriving at the Discovery River Amphitheater no sooner than 25 minutes before showtime. If you are not picky about seating, that is probably sufficient for this particular show. My family and I wanted to sit near the bottom, as close to the action as possible, so we arrived an hour ahead of time. We were not the first in line, but we still were seated in the second row. Also, know that that about 15 minutes before the show begins, there are lighting and sound effects you will not want to miss.


** One of the perks of sitting near the bottom was that a PhotoPass photographer walked down there and handed a Rivers of Light prop to guests within reach who wanted their photos taken.


** Another photo opportunity I discovered when we were sitting near the action was to ask the PhotoPass photographer to snap a few images of friends and family standing with the lighted floats coming into view. This only works for a few minutes before the show starts and the floats are getting into place. PhotoPass photographers will not do this once the show starts. Afterward, there is a similar small window when guests are exiting the theater that you could take your own photos with the floats in the background.

** Know that you can take food and beverages into the amphitheater, but they do not sell them inside (at least not on the night we were there). There are some cute Lotus Flower light-up food and beverage items sold at nearby stands. Look for a Glowing Lotus Blossom Bucket served with flavored chips; a Glowing Stein or Lantern served with a fountain beverage; and a Lotus Flower Glow Cube for drinks.


** Speaking of merchandise, probably the cutest thing I saw was the new Made With Magic light-up wand. It’s shaped like an animal-themed totem pole and it interacts with the Rivers of Light show, changing colors as the elements in the show do. It also is affected by other Made With Magic items that are nearby and can be used at other select nighttime spectaculars at Disney Parks. Plus, each guest can change the colors on the totem pole manually. They are so cute that I bought one for each of my kids.


** If you didn’t bring a blanket with you in the park, you might consider purchasing the soft Rivers of Light logo blanket as a souvenir and using it that night. It’s perfect for cozying up on cooler nights to watch the show or for getting sleepy little ones comfortable on the concrete and metal bleachers. Look for the blanket in the Island Mercantile gift shop at the front of the park.


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10 Replies to “Tips for viewing Disney’s Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom”

  1. hi Kristin,
    we are coming in July are we able to get a Fast pass to River of Lights and one of the new Pandora Rides? or only one or the other? thanks your posts are super helpful!

    KRISTIN: Thanks so much, Sheri! As of now, Animal Kingdom doesn’t group attractions into “tiers” like other parks so you should (theoretically) be able to book anything you want at the same time. Good luck!

  2. We are going to DW in Nov. will they still have the show. When I go to there calendar for November it says the park closes at 7:00 PM. Does the park stay open later for Rivers of Light cause that says the show starts at 9:15PM. How do you make dinner reservations without knowing this information? Any info you can would be appreciated.
    Thank you,

    KRISTIN: Rivers of Light is expected to be a permanent show, so, yes, the show will be performed in November. The current park closing time is listed as 7 p.m., and no time is listed for Rivers of Light. I don’t think that means the show won’t be performed, just that the schedule has not been published yet. If I had to guess, I would expect that show to be performed at 6:30 or 7 p.m., especially because it needs to be dark outside for the show. Keep in mind, though, that closing times can change, especially during busy holiday periods. The best I can suggest at this point is to plan on dinner at a counter-service restaurant where your time can be flexible and keep checking My Disney Experience for show times.

  3. Hi Kristin!

    I’ve never done this type of dining package before. Is the reserved seating for the dining package the same as a Fastpass for the show? Do people who purchased the dining package line up in the same queue as Fastpass holders? Is it the same seating area for both groups?

    Thank you!

    KRISTIN: The seating for dining packages is on the opposite side of where seats are reserved for FastPass holders. You will not line up in the same queue. Those with dining packages should make their way to the side of the amphitheater closest to the Nemo show, and cast members will direct you.

  4. Where did you purchase the magic light up wand exactly? They look super cute and I’d also like to purchase for my kids. Thanks.

    KRISTIN: We purchased our Rivers of Light wands at Island Mercantile, which is the large gift shop on the right if you are facing the Tree of Life. But you can find them all over Animal Kingdom at various shops and at the carts that sell light-up accessories once it gets dark.

  5. The Rivers of Light Dining Package is only scheduling up to the end of June. As of now you still can’t book it for July or August. Is this typical for new shows? Other than checking the dining reservations page every single day, do you have any tips for finding out when to expect the dining package to be made available for summer?

    KRISTIN: Yes, it can be typical of dinner packages and dessert parties, but not always. We haven’t heard anything, but I do wonder if it has something to do with the Pandora opening. In any case, your best bet at this point is to keep checking My Disney Experience, as you said.

  6. Thank you for sharing all of the above info! Few more questions for you! Looks like I will be going with your recommendation of the dining plan (yay!) in order to score reserved seating. I will be with my 5 yr old boy and maybe a stroller. What kind of seating are they providing? Should I be looking to park the stroller elsewhere prior to the show? I do appreciate any feedback/suggestions! Its our first solo trip together! We are going in September for the Halloween celebrations!

    KRISTIN: Hi, Shannon. There is stroller parking right outside the amphitheater, and cast members will direct you where to park. Seating is all bleacher style. The lower benches are concrete/stone and the upper ones are metal. Enjoy the show!

  7. Hi Kristin,

    Thanks for the tips and the write up; we will be there on April 30 and I managed to get a fast pass since the window has just opened up.

    My question is regarding the seating; I am mobility impaired and use a scooter; I absolutely can’t do stairs for stadium bleachers. Is the handicapped seating in the rear and could you tell if the visibility will be good regardless of where you sit?

    I’m so excited to see the new show and the Tree of Light show!

    KRISTIN: The handicapped seating we saw is actually the front row of bleachers, which is perfect viewing. Cast members will lead you there via a ramp. There may be other handicapped spots as well, but we definitely saw the front row is reserved.

  8. Thank you for your all your advice!!! We were fortunate to be able to get Fastpasses for the show next week and are really excited about it!

  9. Thanks for the tips. But how was the show? Is it worth the time investment? I know there have been MANY issues/ problems getting this show going.

    KRISTIN: I think it’s a beautiful show and one worth seeing, for sure. I just don’t know if I would wait hours in a standby queue for it. That said, I do think it’s a matter of personal preference, as I mentioned in the previous comment.

  10. Hi Kristin,

    Thank you for always being a reliable source to all things Disney. So what is the verdict of the “Rivers of Light” show? Did you and your children like it? I want to justify whether I should buy a dining package if I couldn’t get a fastpass. We won’t be there till early December.

    Best Regards,

    KRISTIN: Thank you for your kind words, Chi! I think it is a beautiful show, but it’s a matter of personal preference as to whether the dining package would be worth it to your family. My 14-year-old son and I would rank Wishes as our favorite nighttime show at Walt Disney World. However, my 12-year-old daughter was enthralled and can’t wait to go back to see it again. If you were planning to eat at Tusker House or Tiffin’s anyway, the dining package would be the way to go. You could always book the dining package and think about it within the cancellation window.