Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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When I’m talking to Disney newbies about their Disney Vacation plans, I’m frequently asked “Do I really need to visit the Animal Kingdom? It’s just another zoo isn’t it?” While it does have animals that one would find in a zoo, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is so much more than that.  The entire park is based around the concept of being kind to the Earth, and so I thought with Earth Day right around the corner, it was the perfect time to showcase this beautiful creation! 

If you’ve been following along, you know I love Disney! I have shared One-Day Guides for both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, so now it’s time to give the most unique theme park in all the land some love!

Animal Kingdom Map

Much like the other parks in Disney World, Animal Kingdom is modeled with a Hub and Spoke layout. The Tree of Life on Discovery Island is the Hub in the center of the park, and each land spokes out from there including Pandora the World of Avatar, Africa, Asia, Dinoland USA and the Oasis.

FastPass Choices

You can make your FastPass+ selections 60 days before arrival. Animal Kingdom FastPasses have two categories, and your initial 3 selections can include 1 from Category A and 2 from Category B.

Group A currently consists of two attractions: Avitar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. Both rides are in Pandora, and it is recomended that you prioritize Flight of Passage as the line for the River Journey doesn’t take quite as long!

Group B has ten attractions including: Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Kali River Rapids, Primeval Whirl, Rivers of Light, It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo the Musical, and Adventures Outpost Character Greeting.

One of the things I love the most about the Animal Kingdom is that you do not have approach it with the same rush from ride to ride mentality as you do in. While I still recommend that you arrive at rope drop, you can take the park at a slower pace and really take your time to take in all the detail.

Morning Plan

Whenever possible, I like to start my day in the park with a fun character breakfast, especially if you can snag the reservation before the actual park opening. Donald’s Safari breakfast at the Tusker House happens to be one of the most fun character dining experiences we have had to date!

OMG Pay no attention to the crazy woman who thought bangs were cute!

Donald and friends including Daisy, Minnie, and Goofy or Mickey help you “Awaken the Day” with a buffet-style meal and full-on dance party! The buffet includes favorites like Mickey Waffles, pastries, eggs, fruit, a selection of meats and fresh juices.

After filling up on a yummy breakfast, you’ll be all set for that first FastPass+ Reservation. Ideally, you’ll have that all set up for somewhere around 9:00 at Avatar Flight of Passage.

Disney Parks Avatar
Pandora – Photo Credit: Disney Parks

When you take your wondrous flight of passage, you will board the back of a Banshee and will find yourself gliding over the world of Pandora. Wind effects and water spray help to make you feel like you really have been transported to the world of Pandora!

Once you disembark your ride, you will want to take some time to fully explore Pandora! Your next stop will be the Na‘vi River Journey. This is a slow-moving boat ride, similar to Frozen in Epcot, that more fully immerses you into the world of Pandora. It’s a relaxing, beautiful experience that is meant to be enjoyed just for that and not as a thrill ride.

Get in as much of Pandora as possible before the park fills up with non Disney Resort guests. If you did not have a breakfast reservation, grab an early lunch at Satu’li Canteen. If you’re still full, I’d circle back for dinner! The unique food at this restaurant is for a sure a do not miss!

Following your tour of Pandora, head towards Africa to take a Safari to the Savannah! Once again, Animal Kingdom will take you on a fully immersive experience far away from Central Florida!

Kilimanjaro Safari Animal Kingdom
Getting ready to board the jeep at Kilimanjaro Safari.

You definitely want to take your safari in the morning, while the animals are the most active. Unlike a zoo, where you walk from small cage space to small cage space, Disney has transformed hundreds of acres of land to be an amazing habitat for these animals. Not only do you feel like you’re in Africa, they feel right at home as well! We have seen some of the most beautiful animals on our safaris from giraffes, to lions, and even a baby elephant (is there anything cuter?).

Disney’s story telling is top notch on all of their attractions, and the safari is no exception. While you’re enjoying the beautiful animals over 18 miles, you’re also on the look out for poachers! Disney brilliantly opens the conversation about wildlife protection for families in a way that young children can fully understand!

Your approach to the FastPasses in Animal Kingdom, should be the same as the other parks, and you should attempt to stack them in the morning so you can go back and snag more in the afternoon. Before lunch, you’ll ideally have your second FastPass, and if you’re a thrill seeker, it needs to be for Expedition Everest. Confession, we have not yet gone on it! My kids have run away screaming every time! I have told them that I will not pay for another Disney trip unless they promise to ride it and I think they actually believe me this time! They’ll call my bluff because we all know I can’t go that long without my Disney fix!

Afternoon Plan

When we have a huge breakfast, we aren’t typically hungry for lunch. Usually we will nab a snack from a cart and then go catch a show! If you did not have breakfast, I’d double back to either Tusker House or Pandora for lunch, and try some of the many unique treats they have to offer. Animal Kingdom has some amazing shows, like the Festival of the Lion King!

Animal Kingdom Festival of the Lion King
Festival of the Lion King – Photo Credit: Disney Parks

I love how Disney tells a story in their park shows! We’ve seen the Lion King Broadway musical several times, and this condensed version does not disappoint! The cast members sing beautifully and the acrobatics are amazing! Catching a show is also the perfect way to decompress and cool off a little bit midday!

Following the show, head over to the Maharajah Jungle Trek. This is a beautiful path to walk through where you get to see even more animals that were not on the Safari! This self-guided walking tour takes you through Asia where you can see beautiful birds, bats, and the mystical tigers!

Tigers in Disney's Animal Kingdom
I know they’re fierce, but I just want to go snuggle them!

From your walk through Asia, you can head towards the Kali River Rapids or towards Dinoland. We are not a water ride family, I don’t like walking around wet, so I only do the River Rapids if we plan to go back to our hotel and do something else for dinner. If we’re sticking it out then we head over to Dinoland USA for some good, old fashioned carnival fun!

This is a great area of the park for little guys with the midway games and dino dig, and then it throws in the Dinosaur thrill ride! My boys LOVE dinosaurs and anything that reminds them of the Jurassic Park movies we spend a good part of our afternoon over there. There is also a quick service restaurant, the Dino-Diner that has, you guessed it, diner style food. If you don’t have an adventurous pallet, or really picky eaters, this is probably your better bet for lunch or dinner than some of the other spots in Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom
Not sure what to think about Animal Kingdom

The last time we were in the Animal Kingdom, it was our last day before we took our “pool day break” from the parks and a certain little guy was OVER IT! The Dino-Diner is where he ended his Animal Kingdom tour, above is right before he crashed and burned! Haha! I should couldn’t resist that cute face!

The cool thing about a little guy crashing, is that one parent gets to go back to the hotel and also take a nap (Matt jumped at the opportunity for the nap) and the other gets some really great, low-key one-on-one park time! Landry and spent the rest of our afternoon meeting some really fun characters! Tarzan was totally my favorite!

The Animal Kingdom does have some incredible Character greetings. While they change frequently, you can always plan to meet someone that you won’t be able to meet at any of the other parks! Make sure you’re on the lookout for Devine! She blends in!

Disney's Animal Kingdom Devine

Use the afternoon to meet characters, and pick up some FastPasses for rides you may have missed!

Evening & Nightime

The Animal Kingdom used to be a park that you could easily exit mid-afternoon and either park hop or make an early evening from and grab dinner at one of the many cool hotel restaurants. Disney picked up on that lost revenue and with the addition of Pandora, extended Animal Kingdom’s nighttime attractions to keep you in the park! So Smart! Now, guests can go back for a second nighttime safari and see the animals in a whole new light!

Disney's Animal Kingdom Rivers of Light
Rivers of Light – Photo Credit: Disney Parks

The Rivers of Light was introduced as an animal-friendly nighttime show! It doesn’t have the huge booms and fireworks that the other parks do, and rightfully so, but it is absolutely stunning and not to be missed! It’s a moving storytelling experience that shares about how we are one with the earth and how it is our responsibility to take care of our planet and the beautiful animals in it. What’s really cool is that you can grab priority seating for this show if you book it as part of a dining package. You could have dinner at Tiffins and book the Rivers of Light Dining Package so you can try amazing African cuisine and have great seats to the show!

Following the Rivers of Light, you should be ready to head back to the hotel and crash. Unless your 4 year old went back for a nap, in which case he will be up with his second wind and ready to go!!! Haha!

Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Have you visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom? What is your favorite attraction? Anything you can’t wait to check out on your next visit?

Did you know that I help plan Disney Vacations with Kingdom Destinations? I would LOVE to help you plan your next trip. Send me an email today for your free quote at junell@kingdomdestinations.com

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We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

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  1. Grace Esedeke | Today Was Fab | 29th Apr 19

    I love the animal kingdom. You take beautiful pictures.

  2. Danielle | 28th Apr 19

    I absolutely love the Animal Kingdom! I really want to get back to visit and I think that I can def use your tips!

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