Totally worth it. 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 an opening of April last year(2016), which was then moved to May….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. Nope….not this time. 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. It currently starts at 7:15 and last for abut 15 minutes, which at this time of year (February), will take you right to closing time at Animal Kingdom.
What you need to know:
Rivers of Light is still in its testing phase. During our show, which was the second showing available to the public, we experience technical difficulties and the show had to stop for roughly 15 minutes. For us this wasn’t terrible because essentially, they restarted the show and we got to see it twice. Be patient, they are still working out the bugs and if you pay attention, some of the technology they are using in this show is pretty impressive and these things take time to perfect. Plus, come on, its water, which is pretty unpredictable.
Get a fast pass! At least for now, while its new and everyone wants to see it. I want to start by saying, I never recommend getting fast passes for shows that anyone can see without a fast pass. This is the exception to this rule. Currently, the entire viewing area near Asia is reserved for FastPass only and the opposite side of Discovery River near Dino Land is being reserved for Annual Passholders who have a Rivers of Light pass(more on that later). While there are other areas to view this magnificent show from, you will most likely be standing and for a long time. We waited for about an hour and the location itself wasn’t even that ideal due to the screams we could hear coming from Expedition Everest. Just do it, get the Fastpass.
If you’re an Annual Passholder, you may be able to get a special wristband at the beginning of the day that will allow you into the viewing area near Dino Land. Inquire about it as you arrive at Animal Kingdom; don’t wait until the day goes on as they only issue a certain number of these and once they’re gone, they’re gone. I made (another) mistake by not knowing about this beforehand and by the time I realized it, a CM told me I was too late and that the wristbands were all gone. I imagine this will only be temporary and that it will be Fastpass on one side and first come first serve on the other side but that’s really just speculation at this point. Even the cast members aren’t sure how they’re going to choose to run it at this point as everything is still being tested.
There’s no bad place to watch it. If you don’t get a FP+ and aren’t a Passholder or were unable to snag a wristband, 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 CM’s 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! The CM’s were all extremely helpful for those who needed direction to find somewhere to sit, so you can always politely ask for some suggestions from them as well. Despite the setbacks, the delays and even the technical difficulties, we feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to see Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom this weekend and we hope you love it as much as we did! Totally worth it.