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Must Read Animal Kingdom Planning Tips

Is your family considering visiting Animal Kingdom in Disney World? Here are some amazing Disney World Planning tips for your families next Disney vacation to Disney’s Animal Kingdom including a free printable touring plan!

Animal Kingdom - Everything you need to know to plan an amazing disney vacation at Disney World's Animal Kingdom. Includes a free printable trouring plan with suggest order, favorite snacks, height requirements, tidbits, tips and more! #animalkingdom #disneyworld #familyvaction
Post updated January 2019


Today I am going to take you through Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Think zoo a la Disney! It is a really neat park that is not to be missed.  And now, with the addition of Pandora and the evening show, it is a full day park! With that being said, if you want to see all the shows you will need to plan your day a little bit to get it all in. [updated map coming soon!]

NOTE: This park, more so than the others, gets HOT! I am not sure if it is the construction of the theming, less trees, or what – but just know it gets HOT!

 

Animal Kingdom Tips

What Animal Kingdom Fastpass+ to Get

First, learn about Disney Fastpass+. Second, make sure you reserve them up to 60 days in advance for hotel guests and 30 days in advance for all other ticket holders. Finally, here are our recommended Animal Kingdom Fastpass Selections in order of best first:

  • Flight of Avatar – new ride in World of Pandora
  • Kilamanjaro Safari – family friendly safari ride; line is outdoors and is frequently 60 minutes long
  • Expedition Everest – thrilling roller-coaster that goes backwards! Line is frequently 60 minutes, but the single rider line can cut the wait in half
  • River of Life – unless you get a Dining Package that includes free tickets you may want to snag this Fastpass as the seating for this show is substantially lower than the average number of guests in the park daily!
  • Kali River Rapids – This ride is basically an excuse for getting soaked! It feels great mid-day, but often has a 60 minute line then. Go first thing or end of the day for a short wait.
  • Finding Nemo The Musical – this amazing, coloroful show is a don’t miss. Lines can be long and they let in all the Fastpass+ guests first. The first and last show of the day have the shortest lines; most others will allow you to get in, just not get the “best” seat.
  • Festival of the Lion King – dynamic show featuring powerful vocals, colorful costumes, trapeze, and fire dancing too. Again, the first and last show of the day have lower attendance and the Fastpass+ guests will get in first.
  • Primeval Whirl – rollercoaster that spins as it goes through the track; line can be 30-45 minutes

Animal Kingdom - main gate

Eating at Animal Kingdom

First things first, if you haven’t already made your dining reservations. And if you are less than 180 days before you trip –make your dining reservations ASAP! Guest favorite restaurants fill up quickly!  I always try to reserve our favorite breakfast for 1 hour BEFORE the park opens so as not to waste valuable park time, Other than Tusker House, we don’t love any other sit down meal at Animal Kingdom so I would recommend doing quick service lunch and dinner in the park. There are LOTS of great quick service options here!

Donald's Safari Breakfast at Animal Kingdom Tusker House in Africa is our favorite breakfast anywhere in a lovely restaurant

At Animal Kingdom I recommend eating . . . .

  • Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House – table service meal; need reservations (see review) I highly suggest getting the package with free tickets to River of Lights Show
  • Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe – quick counter service; no reservations
  • Flame Tree Barbeque – quick counter service; no reservations
  • If it is exceptionally hot or raining you will want to sub in Pizzafari or Restaurantosaurus which offer run-of-the-mill burger and pizza options INDOORS

 

Animal Kingdom Pan

Note: We like to plan our day at the Animal Kingdom on a day with morning or evening magic hours if possible so we have more time!

Like all the Disney parks, you will need to go through security before entering.  Animal Kingdom does a little opening show as the park opens. It is my least favorite of all four parks so don’t worry about missing it if you are going in 1 hour early for breakfast like we typically do. But if you are there, it is a fun way to jump start your day.

 

World of Pandora

disney-world-of-avatar-tips-for-visiting

With the wildly popular new World of Avatar area you will want to plan carefully to enjoy this dazzlingly creative new area!  The best approach is to secure a Fastpass+ for Avatar Flight of Passage to enjoy a timed entry without standing in hour long lines. If you go this route you will still want to head over to Avatarland to ride the Na’vi River Journey. This gentle boat ride will take you into a bioluminscent rainforest in serach of the Na’vi Shaman of Songs. This ride is visually very beautiful and suitable for the whole family. The lines can reach 100 minutes throughout the rest of the day and it is a short ride. So if you want to see it, go first thing!

If you are unable to secure one of these Fastpasses, make sure you head straight for this area as soon as the park opens and get in line for the thrilling Avatar Flight of Passage! This ride is a one of kind combination between a simulator and ride that is incredibly immersive and not to be missed if you meet the height requirement! After you get off, consider riding the Na’vi River Journey if the line is short enough for your family to wait in.

Now it’s time to head to the back of the park. You will come back here at night when the whole land comes alive with bioluminiscent lights. It is truly something you will want to see.

You have some choices now as to where to head next: Africa, Dinosaur, or Asia. This will really be dictated by what Fastpasses you were able to obtain and if your family are thrill seekers or not. Each of the following 3 areas all have a “major” attraction that will get a long line later in the day. Just pick whichever one you want to start with. We are going to head to Asia . . . 

wilderness-explorer-free-activity-animal-kingdom-planning

If you have kids from ages 4-10 you may want to grab a FREE Wilderness Explorer book as you enter Asia. At different places throughout the park kids can get badges (stickers) to add to their book as they learn more about animals and conservation. It is a fun activity our kids loved! At the end of the day visit the Wilderness post on your way out, take the Wilderness Oath, and get more stickers. This fun, free activity is like a big scavenger hunt with an UP theme!

Asia

If you have a thrill seeking family, and you did not snatch Fastpass+ for Expedition Everest, now might be a great time to headed to the exact opposite upper right corner of the park.  Start off with major attraction, and our families favorite roller coaster at Disney World – Expedition Everest.
Animal Kingdom Expedition Everest Rollercoster

Expedition Everest Rollercoaster

The line will weave you through where hikers got their gear, local museums, etc. as hikers ventured to find the Yeti. The ride is a quick, smooth, and exhilarating roller coaster that will take you backwards at one point during the ride! When you finish you can add your picture to your photo pass. There is a great spot to watch family members on the ride! If there is only one member of your group who wants to ride ask for the single passenger entrance and expect a VERY short wait!!

Note: you need to be 44” tall to ride

HINT: Single Riders (or families willing to split up with kids at least 7 years old) will get through the ride much quicker!Animal Kingdom - Kali River Rapids Ride

Kali River Rapids

As it is probably nearing midday and you are in the vicinity, you may want to venture on to Kali River Rapids. This is a fun boat ride whose main purpose (if you ask me) is to get you soaking wet. It is much appreciated on a hot day!  The themeing in line is beautiful and you feel like you are on the mountain in Tibet. The ride itself, like I said, is about getting wet! Some folks bring ponchos and what-not, but let’s just face it – you are going to get WET!! There is a storage in the middle with a lid for phones, backpacks, etc. You MUST wear your shoes to ride! Unless you ride this at “off times” like first think or late in the day, you may want to use this as one of your fastpasses as it can get crowded midday on warm days.

Note: you need to be 38” tall to ride.

EAT LUNCH

With all the excitement, don’t forget to grab lunch. From here you can easily check out one of my  favorite counter service meals – Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe. Plan to spend about 20 minutes eating.Animal Kingdom - Maharajah Hunger Trek

After lunch, if it’s not too hot, take a stroll through the Maharajah Jungle Trek. This often times overlooked 15 minute walking tour includes some beautiful displays of tigers, Komodo dragon, birds, and deer. You will find this nearby, just pass Kali River Rapids.

Animal Kingdom - Finding Nemo the Musical is a don't miss

Afternoon Shows

We like to visit shows in the afternoon as Florida heat can be overbearing! Consider heading to the nearby Finding Nemo The Musical. This is a don’t miss show in my book! To get the closest seats you will need to use this as a Fastpass+, but really there is no bad seat. This 30 minute show is AMAZING! It uses puppets, bubbles, music, lights, and is an amazing show! Don’t miss it!! Plus who doesn’t want to sit in the air conditioning at this point of the day?!

Animal Kingdom - Tree of Life

Tree of Life & It’s Tough to be a Bug!

At this point it is probably about 2:15pm and we suggest walking by the beautiful, iconic,  Tree of Life and observe this 145 foot tall tree incredibly carved with 325 animals. WOW! At the base of the tree is the 8 minute 3D show It’s Tough to be a Bug. I LOVE this show & think it is SO well done. Plus it is on your way to Africa.

Animal Kingdom - It's a Bug;s Life 3D Show

You will see, smell, and feel the excitement!

Spoiler alert: You will feel movement in your chair that feels like bugs! The “villain” Hopper, is very large and if you have very small or scared children you may need to skip this.

When you exit the show you are almost in Africa.

Africa

festival-of-the-lion-king-show-disney-world-animal-kingdom

You should be in time to see the 3pm show of  Festival of the Lion King Show. To get your first pick of seats you will need a Fastpass+, but again there really are no bad seats. The first and last show of the day are less crowded.  Although there are no “bad” seats, if your child is hoping to get picked sit towards the front and on an aisle. This 30 minute show is filled with amazing music, floats, costumes, acrobatics, fire tricks, audience involvement, and the most amazing soloists you can imagine! It is not to be missed!!

Animal Kingdom - Safari Ride

Kilimanjaro Safari

Hopefully you saved a Fastpass+ for Kilimanjaro Safari as the line is typically a 60 minute wait. If not, make sure you hit this earlier in the morning for a minimal 10 minute wait (this attraction is at the very other side of the park. But, if you had early breakfast reservations, you’ll already be here!)

This is one of the most popular rides in the park and for good reason!  This is an AMAZING ride! You will go on a bumpy jeep (there is a reason expectant mothers shouldn’t ride!) through the safari. Every time you go is different as the animals are allowed to roam.

If you brought a stroller, watch Disney at its finest. Cast members will take your stroller from you in line and it will magically appear at the exit for you! But make sure to take your valuables with you just in case. If lines are short you may consider riding it twice!

My advice always was to head here first thing… but with the opening of Pandora Land and the often 2 hours lines I think you need to head their first. However, if the area is unexpectedly closed, or you score fantastic Fastpass+ for Pandora than go back to this sage advice. If you want to see the animals up close & the most active go FIRST THING!! We got amazingly close to Elephants (so much I was surprised – but don’t worry Disney has a very well hidden barrier to keep the animals at a safe distance).

Animal Kingdom - Hippos on Kilimanjaro Safari Ride

Tip: This is one of the rides I highly recommend getting a Fastpass+ for. See more about how to set up your Disney Fastpass + and other Best Rides to Pick for Disney Fastpass + for more details.

This ride is WONDERFUL when it is raining! You will be mostly covered and all the animals become very active in the rain!

Animal Kingdom Pangani Forest Exploraition Walking Trail

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Walking Tour

If you are up for a stroll before dinner, take 15 minutes to walk through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail to see naked mole rats burrow, birds, hippos, meerkats, and my favorite – the Gorillas!
Animal Kingdom - Meet Rafiki from The Lion King

Pick your Favorite:
It is about 4pm and you have time to sneak in one of these activities before dinner.

  • If you haven’t gotten a picture in front of the iconic tree yet, make sure you snap one between Africa & Asia
  • Flights of Wonder – If your family is ready to take in another show you can head towards Asia and stop to take in the new 30 minute UP! bird show. Along the way is a great place to take a family picture with the iconic Tree of Life!  The show is interesting enough, but our family chooses to skip it most visits and opt for more time to ride rides instead!
  • Try to get on your favorite ride again
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch – there is a 15 minute each way train to get out here and once you get here there is a place to pet animals and learn about conservation. Honestly, I’m not sure it is worth your time. The one redeeming factor is you can meet: Rafiki (from The Lion King) and Chip & Dale.
  • See Favorite Characters
  1. Balloo & King Louis (from The Jungle Book) are between Asia and Africa) but only until 4:30pm
  2. Donald & Daisy (in traditional clothes) can be found on Discovery Island but only until 4:30pm
  3. Mickey & Minnie (in Safari clothes like at Tusker character meal) can be found on Discover Island until 4:30pm.
  4. Goofy & Pluto (in Paleontologist clothes) can be found by the Boneyard in Dinoland.
  5. Pocahontas (from namesake movie) can be found on Discovery Island
  6. Russell & Doug (from the movie UP) can be found on Discovery Island
  7. Flik & Fiona (from the movie A Bug’s Life) can be found between Africa and Asia
  8. Jiminy Cricket (from the movie Pinocchio) can be found at Rafiki’s Planet Watch
  9. Winnie the Pooh & Tigger (from Winnie the Pooh) can be found by Dinoland

flame-tree-barbecue-grill-animal-kingdom-food

Dinner

I always suggest eating your meals at Disney World a little early or late to avoid long lines and waiting for tables! For dinner we highly recommend Flame Tree Barbecue Grill which is close to Dinosaur Land so you’ll be ready for after dinner fun! All their food is delicious and a great value. Plus, with the expanded seating area, you will find a great table. We like to sit by the fountain.

dinosaur-boneyard-fun-playground-at-animal-kingdom-disney-world-tips

DINOLAND

Next up,  DinoLand USA.  Honestly, I don’t really get this part of the park in fitting with the overall theme or being very “Disney” based. But, you’re here. Pick whatever interests you and you have time for before you head to River of Light Show. As with all Disney shows, make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes early to your showtime. The following are listed in order of our top picks first:

  • The Boneyard – This is one of my kids favorite spots. There is a huge playground with different paths and slides, but don’t worry – they all lead to the center for parents to easily supervise! There is also a HUGE dinosaur dig site where kids can be paleontologists and dig around the super cool material to get to the bone. Although not an indoor attraction, this area is shaded and there are oscillating fans on top of the dig site.
  • DINOSAUR – You need to be 40” tall to ride, but I want to give you fair warning the the Dinosaur ride is cool, but VERY scary! It is pretty much just an attempt to scare you and is a little jerky. My 6 year old was scared, and he LOVES thrill rides. Basically you are headed back in time to grab a dinosaur….. but run into some snags along the way  😉
  • Triceratops ride – just like Dumbo but with a dinosaur theme (unless the line is really short or you have all little kids, you may want to skip this based on your time)
  • Primeval Whirl® (must be 48” tall to ride) – This roller coaster spins back and forth the entire time it whips around the track. If you are a thrill seeking family you may want to try this.
animal-kingdom-river-of-life-show

River of Light Show

Make sure you check your times guide to see how many shows there are. Usually the second show is less crowded, but with limited seating compared to number of guests typically in Animal Kingdom park you need to have a Fastpass+, Dining Package (we recommend getting one with Tusker House breakfast), or plan to arrive early.
The show combines illuminated floats, spraying water, and projected images on the water to create a beautiful show showcasing animals, African culture, and few favorite Disney friends. I recommend seeing this show once, but it is my least favorite of all the parks.
tree-of-life-awakening-animal-kingdom-show-disney-world-planning

Tree of Light Awakening

Make sure you start heading out 30-45 minutes before closing. First head into World of Pandora to see the land in a whole new night as it is alive with stunning bioluminicent light. Stroll a little and then don’t forget to save time to stop by the Tree of Life to see the tree come to life with colorful images and scenes of animals and favorite characters. This is our favorite way to end our day at Animal Kingdom. It is a continuous show – just show up and start watching where it is at. The complete show is about 15 minutes.

Animal Kingdom Tips

Other Animal Kingdom Tidbits

Depending on what all interests your family, the highly regarded restaurant Boma is at nearby Animal Kingdom Lodge. If you want to try out their yummy buffet this is the ideal place to use as a jumping point. You could pop over for lunch and back to the park, or finish your day early and head their for dinner. With all restaurants off premises, it will probably take 3 hours out of your day (between waiting for buses and walking figure about 1 hour transportation, 1 hour eat, 1 hour transportation) (click review of this scrumptious restaurant).

Animal Kingdom Park Tidbits & Curiosities:

  • Straws are made of paper so that they don’t pose a hazard to the animals
  • It gets HOT – make sure to drink lots of fluids! Remember you can ask for a free cup of ice water from any vending area that sells drinks from a soda machine.
  • There is a LOT of walking in this park – you will want a stroller for kids 4 and under!
  • TO maximize your time try to only see unique to this park characters (Bug’s Life, Pocahontas, Jungle Book, Jungle costumed Mickey & friends)
  • I try to see this park first on our Disney World vacation because there are fewer rides here. If my kids have been at the other parks first they tend to be disappointed by the number of “rides”
  • There are lots of events that are unscheduled that can be very magical – street performance on the African drums where children get to participate, etc.

*Please visit Disney’s website for any updates, changes, and current ride closures/refurbishments.

Animal Kingdom Attractions that have CLOSED!

Animal Kingdom Mickeys Jammin Jungle Parade closed in June 2014
Mickey’s Jammin Jungle Parade ended June 2014
Immediately after the show go through dinosaur land to Discovery Island to catch the 3:45 Mickey’s Jammin Jungle Parade.  It is a LOT of fun!
Animal Kingdom - Meeting Chip and Dale

Camp Minnie Mickey – closed to make way for Avatar expansion
Camp Minnie Mickey is the place to see characters at Animal Kingdom. You will find 4 shelters each with different characters that rotate through each one. Characters vary but you might see Donald, Daisy, Chip & Dale, Goofy, Mickey, Minnie, Winnie the Pooh, Pocahontas, Timon, Baloo, and others.

This is also the place to enter the Lion King Show (see above for new location).

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About the author

Beth Gorden

Beth Gorden is the creative multi-tasking creator of 123 Homeschool 4 Me. As a busy homeschooling mother of six, she strives to create hands-on learning activities and worksheets that kids will love to make learning FUN! Beth is also the creator of 2 additional sites with even more educational activites and FREE printables: www.kindergartenworksheetsandgames.com and www.preschoolplayandlearn.com

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