Animal Kingdom Planning

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!

Today I am going to take you through Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Post updated February 2016

Think zoo a la Disney!

It is a really neat park that is not to be missed. This park won’t take as long to see as the others, which is good because it closes earlier too (I think it has to do with taking care of the animals). 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 Planning

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!

Because your day at Animal kingdom will be about 5 hours shorter than any other park, with the exception of our favorite sit down breakfast that I try to reserve for 1 hour BEFORE the park opens so as not to waste valuable park time, I recommend doing a quick service lunch in the park and going somewhere else for dinner after the park closes.

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)
  • Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe – quick counter service; no reservations (see review)
  • Flame Tree Barbeque – quick counter service; no reservations (see review)

Planning your Day at Animal Kingdom

Note: We like to plan our day at the Animal Kingdom on a day with evening magic hours if possible. That means the park will typically stay open until 8pm instead of 5pm.

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.

Animal Kingdom - Safari Ride

AS SOON AS THE PARK OPENS go to Kilimanjaro Safari.

Go directly here to get on with 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!) Then use a fastpass+ to ride it again towards the end of the day!

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 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).

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!

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.

Festival of the Lion King Show

Festival of the Lion King Show

This amazing, don’t miss show has a new home back in Africa. To minimize walking (and waiting as the early shows are often less crowded) consider watching the 10am show. You’ll want to get here 15 minutes early. 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 Pangani Forest Exploraition Walking Trail

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Walking Tour

If you have time before the first Lion King show at 10am, take 15 minutes to walk through to see naked mole rats burrow, birds, hippos, meerkats, and my favorite – the Gorillas! If you don’t have the time, just take this walk after the nearby show.

Animal Kingdom - Birds in the FLights of Wonder Show   

Flights of Wonder

If your family is ready to take in another show you can head towards Asia and stop to take in the 30 minute bird show. You are going to want to watch the 11:45 show.

The show is interesting enough, but our family chooses to skip it most visits and opt for more time to ride rides instead!

Animal Kingdom - Maharajah Hunger Trek

Go just past Kali River Rapids (don’t worry, you’ll ride that next) to the Maharajah Jungle Trek. This often times overlooked 15 minute walking tour includes some beautiful displays of tigers, Komodo dragon, birds, and deer.

Animal Kingdom - Kali River Rapids Ride

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! 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.


With all the excitement, don’t forget to grab lunch. From here you can easily check out my two favorite counter service meals – Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe or Flame Tree BBQ. Plan to spend about 20 minutes eating.

Disney Vacation 2009 775


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. Unless you are using magic hours (in which case you can see it all) I would plan on doing two of the following:

  • Triceratops ride – just like Dumbo but with a dinosaur theme
  • Primeval Whirl® (must be 48” tall to ride)
  • 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 ride – 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.  

Animal Kingdom - Tree of Life

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

At about 2:15pm walk to the beautiful 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.

  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. 

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

Finding Nemo The Musical

Make sure you plan to go to the Finding Nemo The Musical show. If you are following our schedule, you will want to see the 3pm show. Ger here early if you can, but know that there is really no bad seat. This is another attraction that may be worth having a fastpass for, but again you’ll have to arrive at least 15 minutes early to take advantage of that!  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 - Meet Rafiki from The Lion King

Pick your Favorite:
It is about 3:30 and unless there are magic hours this evening, you only have 90 minutes until the park closes. So pick what appeals most to your family and make sure to leave time around 4:30pm to ride Expedition Everest (see description next)

  • Kilamanjaro Safari AGAIN – our family really enjoys this ride and many times we will just opt to do this a second (or third if we can squeeze it in) time.
  • 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 DinolandAnimal Kingdom - Get a picture by the iconic Tree of Life
  • Get a picture by the iconic tree! Don’t forget to get a picture in front of the massive Tree of Life. Remember you can ask a Photo Pass photographer to take a picture with your personal camera even if you don’t buy their picture!
Animal Kingdom Expedition Everest Rollercoster

Expedition Everest Rollercoaster

For the thrill seekers in your group you are not going to want to miss one of the most thrilled roller coasters in Disney World – Expedition Everest.  If you are following our plan, you should get here just a little after 4:30pm

First of all, the theming starts in line and is beautifully carried throughout. Secondly, this coaster is one of the smoothest, most exciting, and unexpected of all the ones at Disney. I LOVED that when you get to the broken tracks, it went backwards – this ride does not disappoint! Even my 6 year old loved it.  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

Animal Kingdom closes at 5pm most nights

I highly suggest using the opportunity of a free evening (and being nearby) to eat dinner at Boma (click review of this scrumptious restaurant).

Animal Kingdom Tips

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 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).


Animal Kingdom Touring Plan for Families

And just in case you don’t want to print of this whole page to get a balanced 1 day at Animal Kingdom Schedule for families. Includes at a glance attraction list, suggested order, height requirements, character locations, and helpful tidbits.



More Disney Vacation Information & Travel Tips

See all our Disney World planning tips, or start exploring by topic below:

  1. When to take your kids (what is the ‘perfect’ age)
  2. Planning for your trip (time of year, how long to stay, Disney hotels, and affordability/deals)
  3. Tidbits (20 tips from the best place to see Mickey to strollers to super cool Disney features you may not know about)
  4. Dinning: My top picks for snacks, quick meals, and reviews on 12 restaurants (including character meals)
  5. Magic Kingdom
  6. Animal Kingdom
  7. Hollywood Studios
  8. Epcot
  9. DIY Autograph Book & Bag
  10. 5 Things You’ll Want to Bring on a Disney Vacation
  11. Disney Vacation Packing List
  12. 8 BEST Snacks at the Magic Kingdom

Where to Book Your Disney Vacation

Magical Moments Vacations - the best place to book your Disney vacation

When you’re ready to book your next magical Disney vacation, allow me to recommend Magical Moments Vacations. MMV is a full service travel agency with over 160 travel agents who are ready to help you plan a seamless trip.  You’ll get the same prices as booking direct, but with the added benefit of having ONE agent who is looking out for YOU! They will take care of everything to make your trip the best trip ever! They even price match and are on the lookout for new offers to help their booked customers save! Trust me, I’ve booked through them and you are going to love the personalized service! You can also follow Magical Moments Vacations on Facebook.

Contact Magical Moments Vacations for your FREE, no-obligation quote now!

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 www.kindergartenworksheetsandgames.com where she shares Kindergarten spedicif worksheets,& educational ideas.

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