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The Ultimate Guide To Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Our ultimate guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom will help you plan your visit from start to finish. Plus, we even have a few tips for you!

“Behold the magic of nature with rare animals and world-class entertainment” at Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney Word’s largest park, with 580 acres focused on animal conservation. Animal Kingdom is divided into seven different themed areas: Asia, Africa, Dinoland USA, Discovery Island, The Oasis, and Pandora-The World of Avatar. It is also my favorite Disney park. From incredible ethnic eats to fantastic character photo-ops and a roller coaster ride to remember, here is the ultimate guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. 

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Animal Kingdom Attractions

Whether you are looking for a thrill ride or a kid-friendly attraction, there is something for everyone at Animal Kingdom.

Kilimanjaro Safaris is both a ride and attraction. Climb aboard safari vehicles and tour a mock African savanna to see exotic animals roaming free. Animals you will see include a white rhino, elephants, zebra, kudu, bongo, warthogs, and much more. The ride is exhilarating and the guide fills you in on all sorts of fun facts about the animals and their living conditions and habits.

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When you leave the safari ride, head over to Conservation Station, suited for both children and adults. This is the area of Animal Kingdom dedicated to education and conservation of the fascinating animals on Disney properties from all over the world. Don’t be surprised if you see a medical procedure, surgery, or testing in the animal hospital by Disney veterinarians. There is also a petting zoo, which is always fun to visit, and new programming for learning to draw Disney characters—a family opportunity. 

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I’m always so impressed by the musical performances throughout the park, including the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe and Chakranadi, a sitar performer near Yak & Yeti.

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Feathered Friends in Flight is the new bird show at Animal Kingdom, sure to bring a smile to your face and provide a place to sit down in the shade for a bit.

Disney’s Tree of Life is the focal point of Animal Kingdom and a beautiful display of animals from around the world carved into the massive tree. There are plants and animals to explore in the surrounding area, plus plenty of great photo-ops.

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Fun Things to Do

Did you know that Animal Kingdom had trails? Me either, until my last visit. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trails takes you through a lush tropical forest inhabited by native African wildlife, including gorillas and exotic birds, plus others that call Disney’s Animal Kingdom home.

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Become a Wilderness Explorer by getting a booklet on Discovery island and then collecting animal badges (30+ in total) around Animal Kingdom. It is a fun way to learn about the animals and increases your Jeopardy knowledge while having fun.

Be sure to check out the Wilderness Explorer program at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Wilderness Explorer Handbook

If you love a good musical or have never seen one, the Festival of the Lion King is not to be missed. This Broadway-style show is sensational and great fun for any age group with singing, dancing, acrobatics, and fantastic costumes. 

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I’m a big fan of It’s Tough To Be A Bug!, an interactive 3D film with a few dark parts but an educational look at what a bug’s life looks like. I have personally become much more tolerant of bugs since seeing this show. 

Sigh—Dinoland

I’m a kid at heart, so Dinoland makes me very happy. This land at Animal Kingdom is all about an inviting and game-filled boardwalk, cute (and fun) rides, excellent food kiosks, and maybe the best shopping at the park (Discovery Trading Company). It used to have awesome character greetings, but since COVID, I think those have been temporarily suspended. Primeval Whirl, the spinning dinosaur-themed coaster, is super fun and has a bit of thrill to it as you feel like you might fall off the edge going around the corners. TriceraTOP Spin is another that allows you to fly high on a dinosaur.

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This photo was taken pre-COVID.
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An overlooked and dated ride in Dinoland that I didn’t take time to ride until recently is Dinosaur. Traveling back in time on a prehistoric race to rescue a dinosaur before a meteor strike is the premise, and though it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of today’s technology, it is still worth the time to check out.

Shake your tail feathers and enjoy the music, fun, and high energy at the Dino-Riffic Dance Party!

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Pandora: The World of Avatar

Pandora: The World of Avatar is my favorite part of Animal Kingdom, and I would guess many others would agree. Home to Na’vi River Journey (boat ride in a bioluminescent rainforest with incredible Imagineering efforts), and Avatar Flight of Passage, this life-like, or Avatar-movie-setting-like land (Valley of Mo’ara) that floats and glows, is really something to behold.

On Avatar Flight of Passage, you climb onto a winged mountain banshee for a breathtaking 3D flight over Pandora’s landscape. I brought my 80-year-old dad along for a ride, and he was amazed. I know you will love it!

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The food, shopping, and every inch of Pandora is dedicated to the Avatar film and transport you there; honestly, there isn’t any evidence that you are still at a Disney park. The lines are long for the rides, but they are enjoyable. Flight of Passage was one of the top attractions in the world for quite some time, though I figure it has fallen a rung or two after the Star Wars addition at Hollywood Studios.

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Animal Kingdom Rides

Kali River Rapids is the ultimate water ride, taking you on a rip-roaring raft ride through scenic jungle landscapes. But, you will get drenched. It’s a fact. Many riders wear raincoats or ponchos, but you are guaranteed to still end up with part of your clothing or shoes soaked. There are lockers nearby to store your belongings for your ride.

One of the best thrill rides in all of the four Disney parks is Expedition Everest. You’ll see its home, Forbidden Mountain, as you walk through the park. You will speed through the Himalayas on a runaway train on this coaster while avoiding the mythic Yeti. Enjoy the artifacts and attention to detail from the Tibet and Nepal-inspired decor and props as you make your through the ride queue. 

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Animal Kingdom Characters

Animal Kingdom’s character meet-and-greets feature some characters and outfits that you can’t see at any other Walt Disney World park. 

Though I miss the one-on-one photo ops that were how character greetings were pre-COVID (pictured below), the new cavalcades are performed throughout the day on a boat in Discovery River. I liked its surprise, and you can actually see the characters quite well from many places in the park.

The Discovery River Character Cruise features Timon, Pumba, Rafiki, OR Pocahontas, John Smith, and Meeko. Donald’s Dino Boat Bash has Donald, Daisy, Launchpad McQuack, OR Goofy, Chip, and Dale. And it wouldn’t be complete without a photo opportunity of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, so watch for the Mickey & Friends Flotilla for that one, plus Pluto.

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Animal Kingdom Restaurants

So much deliciousness going on at Disney’s Animal Kingdom—here are our favorites.

For breakfast, I recommend the Tusker House character breakfast, recently redone to omit the buffet, but turn it into a table-buffet dining experience. Think Mickey waffles, bacon, sausage, roasted potatoes, Indian-inspired egg curry, and a pastries basket. You’ll also experience meet and greets with Donald, Goofy, and Mickey Mouse.

For lunch, I eat something from Harambe Market, a quick-service eatery, on most visits. I love the plant-based food options (HotLink Bowl), even though I am not a vegetarian. Order on the mobile app, and then when you are ready to eat (your set time), select “I’m Here, Prepare My Order” on the app. You will then wait to be notified when your order is ready. It may still take 15-20 minutes, so expect that. I recommend planning your order in advance and saving it, then clicking the “prepare” part when you get near the restaurant. 

Fancy a cocktail? Thirsty River Bar in Asia mixes tasty specialty drinks and has a great covered patio to sit and people watch. Try the Khumbu Icefall with Cruzan Guava Rum, coconut, and raspberry pureé. Or, are you looking to try the beloved DOLE Whip? Tamu Tamu Refreshments in Africa is where you’ll find it.

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Yak & Yeti

Another excellent lunch choice, and our favorite Animal Kingdom restaurant, is Yak & Yeti. We always start our meal with Pork Pot Stickers, perfectly prepared. Excellent main course options are the Korean Fried Chicken (tenders with gochujang-maple syrup), Korean Beef, and Chicken Tikka Masala. If you are really hungry, the BBQ Ribs with fries and kimchi slaw are pretty tasty. 

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For dinner, Yak & Yeti again for a Pan-Asian feast, or Flame Tree Barbecue, another park favorite. I’m salivating just thinking about the baked Mac and Cheese with Pulled Pork and Smokehouse Chicken Salad with Granny Smith apples and cornbread croutons.

Pro Tip: For full-service restaurants, reserve your spot 60 days in advance through the app or My Disney Experience website.

Pro Tip #2: Isle of Java is a great snack stop for Joffrey’s cold brew, Mickey pretzels with cheese, and Tiger Tail chocolate twist.

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Tips For Visiting Animal Kingdom

  • Animal Kingdom is huge, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes!
  • Since Rafiki’s Planet Watch closes early, be sure to visit earlier in the day.
  • Start your day on the Safari because the animals are most awake in the morning. 
  • Bring a fan! Animal Kingdom is the hottest Disney park. There’s very little shade and the plants give off heat. 
  • Animal Kingdom has a lot to look at. Some sort of plant life almost always surrounds you. Don’t run through the park; take it all in.

Enjoy Your Time At Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is a lot of fun. Whether you like thrill rides, mesmerizing shows, good eats, or animals, there is something for everyone at this Walt Disney World park. Use our guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to make the most of your visit.

Have a wild day!

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