For many years Disney’s Animal Kingdom had been known as just a partial day park. Even so it had grown on us over the years with the exotic theming and access to nature being a relaxing and enjoyable experience for us. Recently there have been some newer additions to the park to include some offerings that have even extended the park hours longer than before. On our recent trip to the world we were excited to check out some of these newer offerings and for the first time stay in Animal Kingdom later than a 5pm close time. We decided to book a dining package to experience the River of Lights night show for the first time.
General Package Info
Lately we have really become fans of dining packages. When we want to enjoy a good meal, it usually isn’t that much more to turn it into a package that gets you better seating for a show. Here is how the River of Lights Packages work:
Pick Your Time: just because the show is in the evening does not mean you have to book dinner. We tend to pick a lunch time as it tends to be cheaper and we can eat a large meal with the afternoon to walk it off.
What to Eat: a meal includes your choice of an appetizer, entree, dessert (or full buffet) and non-alcoholic beverage
Show Times: it seems that show times can vary throughout the year (probably based on when the sun goes down). When we went in November there were two shows. Our earlier dining time meant that we received passes to the earlier show at 6pm.
How to Book: Dining reservations can 180 days in advance by visiting the dining section of the Walt Disney world website or calling 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463). (Please note: you do not have to pay until the day of the meal.)
Dining at Tiffin’s
For our meal, we chose to dine at Tiffin’s. This was the more expensive option at $67 per person for lunch, but we have been really wanting to try this spot since it opened it 2016. We soon found out that this was one of the most high end dining establishments within a park, and the menu was inspired by quality dishes from around the world. Lunch at Tiffin’s was an easy reservation to get and judging by the number of guests in the restaurant, we could have walked right in and gotten a table. Not sure if this restaurant is too eclectic for most palates or the higher price tag deterred some, but it made for a quiet and lovely atmosphere.
The lunch package includes an appetizer, entree, and dessert along with non alcoholic beverages. It is good to note the ice tea and hot tea we ordered were a high quality as well. As with most everything we get at Disney, we tried to order as many different things that we both would like. Here is what we selected…
Tiffins Signature Bread Service $11.00
Indian-spiced Tomato Chutney, Spicy Coriander Yogurt, Fig Tapenade
This was a fun starter to share to mix and match the different dipping sauces. The flavors were varied and tasty.
Selection of Artisanal Cheeses $16.00
Chef's Selection of Accompaniments
We are always big cheese fans. This sampler plate was perfect to try and went well with the breads too.
Braised Lamb Shank $43.00
Black-Eyed Peas, Piquillo Peppers, Coriander Chutney, Baharat
This meat was super tender and flavorful! The sides were really beautiful as some of the vegetables were little edible pieces of colorful glass.
Surf and Turf $65.00
Grilled Wagyu Beef, Lobster Tail, Purple Potatoes, Charred Peppers, Chimichurri Butter, Bonarda Reduction
This selection was a no brainer at the value. The steak was superb and the lobster delicous. The side of potatoes was whipped to perfection.
Tiffins Trio $13.00
South American Chocolate Ganache, Whipped Cheesecake, Guava Mousse
South American Chocolate Ganache $12.00
Caramelized Banana, Cocoa Nib Tuile
We ordered a trio to try a couple desserts. They were a perfect size and a nice way to try different options. For the second dessert we ordered a single order of chocolate ganache as that was our favorite.
All of the food was outstanding with quality ingredients and lovely flavors. We found the service at Tiffins spectacular and want to give a special shout out to our server, Deandra. She was very knowledgeable and one of the best servers we have ever had on Disney property! This truly was a little adult oasis in the middle of a busy park day.
We also would recommend that anyone dining at Tiffin’s take the time to walk around to see the various decorations and artifacts. A lot of those artifacts, notes, and drawings were done by the Imagineers during their travels through Africa and Asia while researching this restaurant. Disney is all about the details, and Tiffins has plenty!
The River or Lights Show
Priority seating tickets for the River of Lights show are brought to the table with the check noting what time to be at the seating area and where the entrance is located. While the regular entrance is near Expedition Everest, people with dining packages have their own entrance right across from the Finding Nemo stage show. Be warned the areas near the seating entrances get very congested and hard to maneuver. To be honest we don’t know if we would have wanted to wait in the mass of people for general seating, it looked like a nightmare.
All dining package guests are seated in a reserved area that is in the middle area of the river with the most direct view of the projections. We arrived about 20 minutes before showtime and had no problem finding seats we were happy with. We were only a few rows up from the very front and had a great view of all aspects. The seats themselves are made of stone/concrete without a back to lean on, similar to Fantasmic.
Rivers of Light began right after the sun went down. There is some string lighting in the stands and the glow from the trees in the distance but otherwise is pretty dark. Then different elements start floating into place. There are large light up lotus flowers that open, spray water, and even a little bit of fire. There are large animal barges in a variety of colors. There are some boats adorned with lights that have drums, but appear to be missing drummers. There is also a spray of water with projections during the show.
The show has thematic worldly music with colorful moving visuals. Being on the water the show is naturally slower than if on land but the barges float around in formation. The projection features imagery of real animals. The show is pretty and a little mystical but we did find it was missing the “wow factor” that many other Disney night shows have. It is hard to compete with fireworks though. We also think a bit of the emotional element was missing. Other Disney shows have characters in them that have back stories that bring up memories. Pretty visuals of animals just doesn't quite have the same effect. All in all though it is visually pretty and nice to have another option finally in the Animal Kingdom park.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and look forward to eating at Tiffin’s again. Rivers of Lights was nice to experience, but is something we could take or leave depending on schedule during future visits. We certainly wouldn’t want to be in that standby line though! So the big question is would we do the package again? If we were paying extra to see the show, we think this is a one and done for us. However when we tallied up the cost of what we ordered at Tiffins we actually paid less for the whole package ($134) compared to what we ended up ordering at lunch ($160 + whatever the beverages were). So this made the package absolutely worth it for us. So if pricing stays similar we could see another Tiffins package in our future.