Disney’s Animal Kingdom
This spring marked my first official visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. Though I had been to the park for an after-hours dinner party, seeing the expansive property all decked out with animals, visitors, and lush greenery gave a much different impression. The souvenir shops, eateries, and attractions are much different than the other Disney parks and I enjoyed the change of scenery. The park is easily accessible from the parking lot or bus locations, though the neighborhoods are quite far apart and require a lot of walking. As you make your way down the streets at the entrance, watch for cockatoos and macaws overhead, just in the wild.
The Tree of Life
Upon entering the gates, I found the perfect Mickey ears I had been searching for. They were purple and pink cheetah print and I bought them immediately. Remember, if you are a seasoned pass holder, your card often gets you a discount on merchandise. The entrance to the park is also your first sighting of the centerpiece and most iconic item at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Tree of Life. The tree, a man-made Baobab, is a commemoration of all things living- the circle of life-and is home to over 300 animal carvings. Nestled in the beautiful habitat around the tree roots are lemurs, flamingos, and tortoises.
Animal Kingdom’s Themed Areas
Animal Kingdom is built around the Discovery River and is the largest of all Disney parks, as well as the second largest theme park in the world. Themed areas include Oasis, Discovery Island, DinoLand USA, Asia, Africa, and Rafiki’s Planet Watch. The park entrance is in Oasis, where you will find spoonbills and anteaters.
Our first fast pass attraction was for Kilimanjaro Safaris in which you board a safari vehicle for an expedition or adventure ride through the savanna to see wildlife in a natural setting. The driver was fierce and fun, telling us about all the animals that we encountered and pointed out ones that were somewhat hidden, and made the experience unique for us. We saw so many animals along the way: giraffes, lions, African elephants, wildebeests, gazelles, impalas, mandrills, storks, warthogs, white and black rhino, and my favorite, hippos.
Disney’s The Lion King Production Show
Explore the Pangani Forest Exploration trail, a walk through exhibit that explores more African wildlife including gorillas and exotic birds. While in Africa, make sue to check out the incredible Festival of the Lion King off-Broadway style show. Dazzling costumes, talented performers, trained acrobats, and familiar music from the movie engage the audience in a 30 minute performance you will not soon forget. Photos are allowed. I loved the monkey performers, live Timon & interactive Pumba, and of course the audience participation was fun as well. This is a do-not-miss activity!
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
After seeing all of these wonderful animals, it is only fitting to board the rustic decorated Wildlife Express train and ride to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, the part of the park dedicated to a “behind the scenes” look at Disney’s care and commitment to all these wonderful animals. Habitat Habit! features exhibits and educational programs but primarily the interest is in viewing the cotton-top tamarins. I am disappointed that my pictures of the tamarins in their cages did not turn out at all.
The next building at Rafiki’s Planet Watch is Conservation Station which is an upscale modern facility that houses interactive and educational programs as well, this time in veterinary medicine and animal conservation. Live animal cams from one of the nearby animal buildings offered us live feed of the baby rhino, who was just adorable! We saw parrots, chinchillas, geckos, cockroaches, tarantulas, snakes, owls, and best of all, a komodo dragon.
Outside the Conservation Station is a small petting zoo, with mostly goats and sheep waiting for you to admire them. There is a place to purchase food for the animals and it is a great place to take photos.
An impressive feature about Disney’s Animal Kingdom is that they encourage all of us to “Be a Conservation Hero” and offer programs and signs to educate visitors about what we can all to do be a part of a better world. They encourage reusing and recycling throughout the park, as week as behind the scenes.
Divine Curry Dishes
My one and only food purchase at the park was an Indian curry dish from Tamu Tamu in Africa, and it was fabulous. Chunks of chicken swimming in a rich curry sauce over jasmine rice with pita bread slices for dipping. My friend Lynn had the Disney park favorite, the Dole Pineapple Whip, which is always the perfect Disney snack.We were pressed for time, doing Epcot on the same day, so we did not get a chance to visit the rest of Asia and DinoLand; but that will give me something for the next visit. I cannot wait to ride the Kali River Rapids, the Expedition Everest, and see the Finding Nemo musical. The downside of the whole day was that I did not have time to go to any of the character greetings. That will dominate my priority list on the next visit. Have you been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom? What did you think?
Trivia: It is surprising to me that Animal Kingdom is the fourth most visited theme park in the United States, and 7th in the world.
Links to our other Disney posts:
- Epcot’s Biergarten (restaurant)-Germany
- Epcot’s Le Cellier Steakhouse (restaurant)- Canada
- Epcot’s Via Napoli (restaurant)- Italy
- Epcot’s Flower and Garden Show 2015
- Epcot (5 things to do)
- Epcot (5 more things to do)
- Downtown Disney
- Hollywood Studios
- Hollywood Studios (A First Timer’s Guide)
- 50’s Prime Time Cafe (restaurant)- Hollywood Studios
- A Very Merry Christmas Party– Magic Kingdom
- Epcot’s Food and Wine
- Ranking the Attractions at Magic Kingdom