Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom was the fourth theme park built at Walt Disney World. It opened on April 22, 1998, which is Earth Day. Visiting it is akin to being at a zoo on steroids. Imagine being completely immersed in the habitat of the beautiful animals you are viewing. It truly is an awesome experience and there is something for the whole family there.

The Fletchers at Animal Kingdom's Tree of Life

There are lots of animals to see at Animal Kingdom. Some of them you can even interact with. There is a great place to pet some animals at Rafiki’s Planet Watch which you must take a train to get to.

In addition to the animals, there are several other great rides and other attractions at Animal Kingdom. Expedition Everest makes my top five all time roller coasters. Be forewarned, it goes backwards for a bit.

The park is seperated into six areas: Oasis, DinoLand USA, Discovery Island, Africa, Asia and Rifiki’s Planet Watch. Each area is uniquely themed.

You enter the park through Oasis. There is not much here but there is a tropical garden that is home to a lot of different birds and fish. Once you weave through the paths you will find yourself on Discovery Island which is the hub of Animal Kingdom. The center piece of the park is The Tree of Life which is on Discovery Island and you can see in our family photo in the background above. This picture does not do it justice. The tree is enormous.

Disney's Animal Kingdom MapAttractions

Oasis

  • The Oasis Exhibits

Discovery Island

  • Wilderness Explorers
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug
  • Discovery Island Trails
  • Adventurers Outpost

Africa

  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Pangani Forest Exploration trail
  • Wildlife Express Train (Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch)

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

  • Habitat Habit
  • Conservation Station
  • Affection Section (petting zoo)

Asia

  • Flights of Wonder (a great bird show)
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

The Fletchers on Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest

DinoLand U.S.A.

  • The  Boneyard
  • Fossil Fun Games
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical
  • Primeval Whirl (April calls it Primeval Hurl)
  • TriceraTop Spin
  • DINOSAUR

Dining

There is some notable dining at Animal Kingdom. Among our favorites is Tusker House which is a buffet open for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is a character dining where Donald Duck is the host, but lots of his friends will be there too. Tusker House is similar to Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge. There is a good selection of both African inspired and American dishes so even the pickiest eaters will find something they like.

I have to give a nod one of my favorite quick service dining restaurants in all of Disney World: Flame Tree Barbecue. The ribs and chicken are outstanding and a great value.

Flame Tree Barbecue by hirotomo t is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Flame Tree Barbecue by hirotomo t is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Oasis

  • Rainforest Cafe

Discovery Island

  • Isle of Java
  • Flame Tree Barbecue
  • Gardens Kiosk
  • Beastly Kiosk
  • Discovery Island Kiosk
  • Pizzafari

Africa

  • Dawa Bar (adult beverages)
  • Tusker House
  • Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery
  • Harambe Fruit Market
  • Tamu Tamu Refreshments

Asia

  • Bradley Falls (Asian inspired vegetarian dishes)
  • Mr Kamal’s (Indian and Vegetarian)
  • Upcountry
  • Yak & Yeti Restaurant
  • Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes
  • Yak & Yeti Quality Beverages
  • Anandapur Ice Cream Truck

DinoLand U.S.A

  • Restaurantosaurus
  • Dino-Bite Snacks
  • Trilo-Bites (turkey legs)
  • Dino Diner

Planning Your Day

Animal Kingdom is really unique among the Walt Disney World theme parks. At the moment it is what many refer to as a “half day” park. It generally is not open much past 7:00 PM.

The reason for this has always been for the care  of the animals, but this is changing with the opening of the Pandora expansion at the park which is themed after the movie, “Avatar”. This expansion is currently under construction and portions of it can be seen when entering the park. I have heard that once it is open that Animal Kingdom’s hours will change and that it will be open later.

With that said, I think that we will continue to plan our Animal Kingdom days in a similar way to what we always have done. We usually like to get to the park early to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris. The reason it is important to ride it early in the day is because the animals are most active in the morning time and there is a better chance to see a lion.

A Lion at Disney's Animal Kingdom Kilimanjaro Safaris

In all of the times that we have ridden this attraction we have only not seen a lion one time and that was when we rode it later in the day. I think the best thing to do is get to the park when it opens and go straight to Kilimanjaro Safaris. We don’t bother with a FastPass+ for it. You may wait a bit, but if you are there early, it will not be long. Of course, we are usually there in off season so if you are visiting when it is busier, the lines will always be longer. If waiting for an hour or two for this attraction is going to put you off, you may want to get a FastPass+ for it.

Plan the rest of your day accordingly. I would recommend using a FastPass+ for either a show like The Lion King or, my preference, Expedition Everest. But I would give yourself enough time after the Safaris to walk through Panagani Forest Exploration Trail. You will see lots of cool stuff on it, including gorillas and hippos.

Another thing we never miss is Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia. I can watch the tigers there for hours.

The tigers at Animal Kingdom's Maharajah Jungle Trek

If you opt to ride Kali River Rapids, just remember that you will get wet and you may get soaked. There has only been one time we were there that we decided not to ride it. We were there in March and it happened to be a chillier day. If you are there in the winter, just be warned, I have seen a young lady get absolutely drenched and she wound up being miserable for the rest of the day. You may want to consider packing a change of clothes for this one if you are there when it is colder and it is on your do not miss list. It is a great ride and the anticipation of who is going to get hit with a wave of water next is pretty exciting.

One thing to keep in mind about this park is that they do not provide drink lids or plastic straws within the park, nor will they allow you to bring them in. This is to protect the wildlife. For the longest time you could not get straws at all but a few years ago they started providing cardboard ones.

Have you been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

8 Replies to “Animal Kingdom”

  1. Such a wonderful park. Well i have never been to disney world, actually i’ver never been to US, but post is inspiring and so appealing to me that i’m a nature lower. But i will bear this park in mind so when i will have the chance to visit US this will be one of the first places for me to visit. And Tusker House will be the place where i definitely be taking a bite

  2. I went to Disney World a long time ago when I was young, so I don’t really remember it. I have been wanting to go back for a long time though and now, when I do get a chance to go back, I will have to go to the Animal Kingdom because it looks amazing. Also, the chicken and ribs look delicious!

    1. Hey Justin, I went as a kid and honestly did not much enjoy it. I briefly talked about it on out About Us page. But I have to say that I absolutely love it as an adult. And my kids get a kick out of watching their dad act like a kid again.

      I hope you get to go again soon. It really is a fun place.

  3. Hi Christian,

    This park looks awesome, when my wife and I visit the US we will definitely be putting this on our to do list.

    I like the idea that the park is so big that the animals are more in their ‘natural’ habitat as oppose to a small zoo where they are all cooped up.

    The food sounds really nice and I also like the idea of being able to interact with the animals somewhat. Thanks for sharing

  4. Hi Christian,

    Great article, we are going to Animal Kingdom at the end of the year and its great to be given a guided tour of the whole place based on your experiences. Its good t get someone else viewpoint rather than reading through the sales brochures from some travel agent.

    If you were to give a top 5 things to do what would they be?

    1. Thanks for the comment. It’s hard to pick a top five, especially since people have varying interests and if you’re traveling with younger children, you will likely have to skip some of the more thrilling rides. With that said, I’ll be happy to give you my top 5 do not miss attractions at Animal Kingdom.

      1) Kilimanjaro Safaris – This attraction is good for everyone. Try to hit it in the morning as the animals are more active than they are later in the heat of the day.

      2) Kali River Rapids – You will get wet. You may get soaked. Most kids can handle this one. With that in mind, if you are visiting off season and the weather is cooler, bring a change of clothes or skip if. If you don’t, you may be in for some misery for the rest of the day. Yes, I speak from experience. 🙂

      3) Expedition Everest – This is a thrill ride that is probably not a good fit for people who don’t like roller coasters or younger children. You go through a dark tunnel for a bit and it does go backwards for a little while.

      4) Flights of Wonder – This is a very entertaining and educational bird show. The birds will literally fly right over the heads of the audience. We never miss this show.

      5) It’s Tough to be a Bug – This is a great 3D movie that is great for most of the family. There may be a couple of scary spots so if you’ve got a young one who is prone to scare easily you may want to skip out on it. It is a really fun movie that will make you laugh a lot.

      I hope this helps!

  5. Thanks for sharing this information. We are planning to take a trip to Disney World in the next couple of years, so it’s good to get some info to help plan the trip. We’ve primarily got our sites set on the Magic Kingdom, but it is good to learn that there are additional options out there to liven up the rest of the trip. How does the animal kingdom differ from a typical zoo, though? If you have some additional info on that it would be great!

  6. WDW is my favorite place to be at any time, and my favorite part of WDW is the Animal Kingdom.

    By far my most favored attraction is Dinoland. I love dinosaurs, and Disney, so putting them together is great fit for me.

    This guide was amazing. Actually, I’ve bookmarked this page, like I do with any great Disney website. I’m gonna see what else you have here. Keep up the great work Christian!

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