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.
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.
- The Oasis Exhibits
- Wilderness Explorers
- It’s Tough to be a Bug
- Discovery Island Trails
- Adventurers Outpost
- 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)
- Flights of Wonder (a great bird show)
- Maharajah Jungle Trek
- Kali River Rapids
- Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
- The Boneyard
- Fossil Fun Games
- Finding Nemo – The Musical
- Primeval Whirl (April calls it Primeval Hurl)
- TriceraTop Spin
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.
- Rainforest Cafe
- Isle of Java
- Flame Tree Barbecue
- Gardens Kiosk
- Beastly Kiosk
- Discovery Island Kiosk
- Dawa Bar (adult beverages)
- Tusker House
- Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery
- Harambe Fruit Market
- Tamu Tamu Refreshments
- Bradley Falls (Asian inspired vegetarian dishes)
- Mr Kamal’s (Indian and Vegetarian)
- Yak & Yeti Restaurant
- Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes
- Yak & Yeti Quality Beverages
- Anandapur Ice Cream Truck
- 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.
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.
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.