• Animal Kingdom Park Overview

Animal Kingdom Park Overview

Luiz Alberto H.

Created: Jan 19, 2024

Last Updated: May 02, 2024

Animal Kingdom Park Overview

Top 3 must see attractions:

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Expedition Everest
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris

Ever wanted to see a komodo dragon up close? Maybe approach a family of lions and see them sleeping under the sun? How about getting face to face with a giant tarantula, even to the point where you can touch it? Well, it’s at least a “no” for one of those questions (tip: it’s the spider one), but you can do everything else at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! As you probably already guessed, Animal Kingdom is a giant mix between a theme park and a zoo, where you can ride a roller coaster and a minute later head straight to a safari to snap pictures of animals living in the wilds.

Animal Kingdom launched back in 1998 and is Disney World’s youngest theme park. If Epcot is meant to celebrate planet Earth and all the different civilizations and cultures, Animal Kingdom is all about embracing the exotic wildlife which populates our beautiful world. You can find close to two thousand animals here and numerous unguided attractions which lets you see them up close. Crocodiles, gorillas, tigers, bats, it’s all here! 

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Of course that you can hop on the Kilimanjaro Safari if you want to feel like you are in the middle of an expedition in Africa, and get the chance to see rhinos, hippos and a bunch of species that look absolutely beautiful (and dangerous)! Did you know, by the way, that hippos are the world’s deadliest mammals, only losing to humans? Yep, they kill more people than lions, elephants and rhinos combined. This is Famvia’s piece of trivia for the day.

Animal Kingdom isn’t a park that you should visit if you wanna check out numerous rides or have the time of your life riding thrilling roller coasters. In fact, it does have an amazing outdoor roller coaster - Expedition Everest - and a very fun 3D motion simulator in Avatar Flight of Passage, but Animal Kingdom is more about exploring and taking in the atmosphere than going from ride to ride. It is, in fact, the theme park with the least amount of traditional rides in Disney World. You can find, however, a bunch of live shows with top notch quality production which are great for the entire family. 

Rides

Rating: 7/10

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There are two rides in Animal Kingdom that you should definitely not miss: Expedition Everest and Avatar Flight of Passage. The first one is a roller coaster that tells the story of the Abominable Snowman, a.k.a. The Yeti! It’s a pretty good atmospheric ride which manages to tell a story, entertain and also be very fun with high speeds, a section where you are launched backwards and a great first drop. 

For a long time, Expedition Everest was Disney’s most expensive roller coaster ever, costing Mickey Mouse a whopping $100 million. It’s easy to see the investment if you pay attention to the quality of the queue, the special effects during the ride and numerous systems that change the track layout mid-run. Fast forward to 2022 and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot reportedly cost $500 million, making it one of Disney World’s most expensive rides to date. Yeah, managing theme parks isn’t easy.

So, what about Avatar Flight of Passage? Well, you should definitely check it out, even more so since most guests say that this one is the best ride in the entire park. Flight of Passage is a 3D motion simulator without any hard turns or twists. In fact, you just hop on a motorbike which stays still, put on 3D glasses and enjoy the view in front of you as you explore the world of Pandora. The best thing about this attraction is definitely the visual. Not only does Pandora look breathtaking, but the HD screen really is a HD screen. The visuals are crystal clear and not blurry at all, unlike something you might find at *cough* Universal’s Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. 

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There are also a number of attractions that you should visit and, although they certainly aren’t a must see, are fun enough for a first time visitor. Kali River rapids is your classic raft ride where your objective is simply to get soaked. A very fun option for a hot summer! Dinosaur is another attraction that guests talk about a lot in Animal Kingdom, a dark ride full of twists and turns which basically lets you experience the final moments before a giant meteor hits Earth and the dinosaurs go bye bye. It’s Tough to be a Bug! Is one of the most charming and better 3D films out there, and a great time especially for young kids.

Let’s also not forget the numerous live shows that you can find at Animal Kingdom, most of them lasting from twenty minutes to half an hour: Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and beyond! and Feathered Friends in Flight are all Hollywood-style plays with great production levels for you to sit down and enjoy. Just remember to grab your park map and check out show times as soon as you make it past the gates.

Atmosphere

Rating: 8/10

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As a theme park focused on wildlife, I’d certainly say that Animal Kingdom does a great job trying to connect guests to nature. It’s safe to say that each Disney park has a landmark which acts almost like a trademark. Epcot, for example, has the “giant white ball”, also known as Spaceship Earth. Magic Kingdom has Cinderella’s Castle. Animal Kingdom has the Tree of Life, a giant 145-foot artificial tree in the middle of the entire park, which contains 300 hidden animal gravures carved into it. It’s a beautiful and imposing landmark and definitely one of the most famous picture spots you can find.

The sense of living amongst nature is also helped by the fact that you can find a different species of animal basically anywhere in Animal Kingdom. Some of them can even be seen walking amongst guests! Animal Kingdom is divided into different areas, much like every other Disney park. There is Oasis located near the entrance, then Dinoland, Asia, Africa, Rakiki’s Planet Watch, Discovery Island and the recent addition Pandora: the World of Avatar. Most areas have special locations where you can spot a variety of animals or even enter an unguided trail to get closer to different species and snap pictures.

A lot of guests now come to Animal Kingdom to check out Pandora: the World of Avatar, which opened its doors back in 2017. Here’s a fun fact, I was there on the weekend during launch week. Took me three hours just to enter Pandora, since you needed a special ticket for it, then I stayed six and a half hours in line to experience Flight of Passage. Thank god for cell phones and Netflix. 

I have to say, however, that Pandora looks absolutely fantastic, and I’m not even a fan of the franchise. Expect to find a lot of trees, plants, waterfalls and rivers which makes it look like you are walking through the world envisioned by James Cameron. You can also spot a few alien specimens and plants which are direct copies of the ones from the movies. I’d definitely recommend coming here at night as well, when you can experience the environment full of blinking lights similar to fireflies. Looks absolutely mesmerizing.  

Kid Friendliness

Rating: 9/10

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I mean… animals! Right? Everyone loves them (except arachnids, sorry). Animal Kingdom is very similar to Epcot when it comes to just taking a walk around the park with your entire family and enjoying the atmosphere. Kids go crazy just by looking at so many animals they had never seen before, or just caught a glimpse of them on their favorite cartoons. From colorful birds to dangerous reptiles and huge elephants, there is a good chance your children will be hypnotized during their entire stay in Animal Kingdom.

There are also a handful of rides that the entire family can enjoy. Expedition Everest and Avatar: Flight of Passage are the two best rides in the entire park, with height requirements of only 44", which means that there is a good chance that a seven year old can experience both of them. Kilimanjaro Safari doesn’t have a height requirement and it’s a very unique way to make your kids feel like they are exploring a jungle in the midst of Africa, and spot animals they wouldn’t get the chance to see anywhere else.

Another good way to entertain our younglings is by taking them to the various live shows across Animal Kingdom. Festival of the Lion King is a top choice, since it offers amazing music and also performers doing a lot of acrobatics while wearing colorful outfits to make them look like animals. Feathered Friends in Flight is a live performance all about - you guessed it - birds! Birds of all kinds and types, and there is even a chance one of them will land near you or on top of your head, which is always good for some laughs. 

You can also meet & greet a great number of Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald and Goofy in cute safari gear. Chip ‘n Dale, Rafiki and Pocahontas are also wandering around, and you can even find best-character Scrooge McDuck. As always, it’s a good idea to grab a park map and check what time characters will show up for pictures.

With that said, let’s check the ideal age ranges for kids at Animal Kingdom:

  • 0-5 years old: a very, very good time. You can just take a stroll across the park, snap pictures with characters in costume and show your kids animals of all kinds and sizes. The experience should be similar to Epcot, but instead of visiting the World Showcase and going from country to country, you will go from wildlife to wildlife. 
  • 6-9 years old: probably the best age range for Animal Kingdom. Kids at this age will love every show and probably every ride. Dinosaur is a dark ride that is, well, really dark and might scare some young guests. Still, kids will really enjoy checking out and interacting with all the different animals.
  • 10-14 years old: I imagine kids at this age range will be more interested in riding Expedition Everest than anything else. They might still enjoy all the animals and welcome the chance to learn more about them. They can also enjoy the Kilimanjaro Safari more than ever.
  • 15+ years old: I’d put Hollywood Studios and Epcot ahead of Animal Kingdom for this age range. Kids over 15 yo might think they are too cool for all the different animals, and the only thrill ride they might enjoy is Expedition Everest.

Food

Rating: 7/10

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Hey, guess what? Animal Kingdom is above average when it comes to theme park dining and food options. As it’s the case with all Disney World parks, you can find a huge list of options for both table-service and quick-service restaurants, offering dishes for all tastes. 

Animal Kingdom is also the only Disney World park which features a Rainforest Café, located right by the exit. Don’t know what that is? Well, the Rainforest Café is a themed restaurant rich with atmosphere, which celebrates wildlife all across Earth. A perfect fit for Animal Kingdom, right? Rainforest has a bunch of animal animatronics and artificial plants which produce sounds and movements to make it feel like you are eating in the middle of a jungle. It’s not a cheap place to eat, but the mood is amazing and kids love it.

Another good destination is the Tusker House Restaurant, your only option to meet Mickey and his friends in safari gear while you are eating. I’ve only had lunch there and recommend it. I see a lot of people online saying that breakfast here is amazing - some of the best in all Disney World - so that’s another thing to keep in mind when visiting Animal Kingdom.

If you want to sit down and maybe spend an hour or two dining, Tiffins is one of the fanciest restaurants in all Disney World, with a pricey but very tasty menu which features the *licks lips* Surf & Turf filet mignon. The Yak & Yeti offers a wide variety of dishes based on Asian cuisine and receives overwhelmingly positive reviews from guests from all over the world. This one usually leads the list for the best restaurants in Animal Kingdom, so keep an eye on it and make sure to make a reservation if you really want to go there. 

Ride Queues

Rating: 7/10

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Queue times for Animal Kingdom tend to be not so great for a very simple reason: there just aren’t that many rides to accommodate the huge influx of guests. The busiest ride by far is Avatar Flight of Passage, which is usually a 60 min queue time, followed by Na’vi River Journey and Expedition Everest, with both of them reaching the 45 min mark most of the time. It also doesn’t help that Disney Genie+ isn’t available for Flight of Passage, so you have to face the standard queue or buy an individual Lightning Pass for it.

As for the remaining rides, they aren’t so bad. Kali River Rapids and It’s Tough to be a Bug! Will take you around 20 min in line. Kilimanjaro Safaris is usually a 30 min waiting time early in the day, but that’s also the best time slot to experience the safari at its fullest, since most animals are still wandering around and not sleeping after lunch. 

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One thing to keep in mind is that Disney Genie+ might be valuable for Animal Kingdom. Sure, it doesn’t work for the main attraction in Pandora, but it’s basically worth it for everything else. It also might be a good buy for two reasons: one, it’s usually the cheapest Disney Genie+ in all Disney World parks, costing around $15-$20. Two, almost every guest skips Disney Genie+ for Animal Kingdom, which means that the Lightning Lanes are indeed lightning fast. You can use it for Dinosaur, Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safari and even to have priority access to take pictures with some characters during the meet & greet sessions. 

Just keep in mind that queue times are very hard to predict and change a lot during seasons, holidays, weekdays and weekends. You can always download the My Disney Experience app on your phone and see live queue times for every Disney attraction, which is a good way to see which ride is more popular than the rest. 

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