• Animal Kingdom Ride Strategy

Animal Kingdom Ride Strategy

Luiz Alberto H.

Created: Feb 07, 2024

Last Updated: Apr 25, 2024

Animal Kingdom Ride Strategy
  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Expedition Everest
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • Dinosaur
  • Na’vi River Journey (optional)
  • Feathered Friends in Flight! (optional)
  • Finding Nemo: the big Blue… and beyond (optional)

If you plan on buying Disney Genie+, start reading this.

If you want to Rope Drop or have access to Early Entry, start reading this

If you want to check the best Kid-Friendly rides, start reading this.   

Welcome to the theme park that celebrates animals from all over the world and Mother Nature, where you will climb Mount Everest on a roller coaster, visit a mysterious alien wonderland and hum Lion King songs non stop. Animal Kingdom is Disney’s youngest child, debuting in 1998 and receiving a ton of updates since then.

Animal Kingdom Dinosaur queue.webp

World of Pandora launched on May 27, 2017, bringing with it what many consider the best ride in the whole park: Avatar Flight of Passage. Disney isn’t even done updating Animal Kingdom, by the way. Dinoland U.S.A. will close down sometime in 2024, and we are expected to see new rides based on Zootopia and Encanto making its way to a brand new land. Even Indiana Jones is supposed to come to the party as the famous archeologist will have his very own ride, taking over the spot that now belongs to Dinosaur.

Animal Kingdom has one of the best atmospheres in all of Walt Disney World. I mean, everyone loves animals, right? Unless you spot one of those park operators walking around holding a giant tarantula, then they are not so fun. But, hey, you can spot all sorts of cool animals around Animal Kingdom as well. I mean, it’s in the name of the park. Make sure to grab a map. They are helpful and tell you which specimens can be spotted depending on the area of the park you are visiting.

Animal Kingdom Tree of Life 2.webp

Also make sure to get plenty of sleep before your theme park adventure. Prepare your backpack a day before and make sure to wear comfortable sneakers, bring some snacks and don’t forget the sunscreen. It’s also a good idea to bring a water bottle or two. You will be walking around a lot, so it’s easy to get thirsty. If you plan on going to Kali River Rapids, make sure to bring a pair of slippers and even an extra shirt. Yeah, you will probably get soaked, so bring extra clothes.

One good news is that there aren’t any rides using the Virtual Queue system at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Avatar Flight of Passage used it for a while, but you can now just enter through the Standard Queue or by buying a separate Lightning Lane pass for it. As this is one of the most popular attractions in the whole park, it’s not included in Disney Genie+. 

This guide is mostly aimed at young adults or a couple of adults and a teenager. You also won’t be needing Disney Genie+ to ride the attractions that are listed here. It might be a good idea to buy it, though, especially since the prices for Disney Genie+ at Animal Kingdom tend to be the lowest in all Walt Disney World.

Now, just make sure to arrive early in Animal Kingdom, since we are going to storm Pandora early on. As you might expect, the Avatar area is the busiest one in the whole park, especially since it has one of the best rides in Avatar Flight of Passage.

Speaking of which, this is our first stop as we start our Animal Kingdom adventures.

Avatar Flight of Passage

Rating: 9/10

Disney animal kingdom Avatar flight of passage.jpeg
Walt Disney World©

Welcome to Pandora! It’s fine, we will have plenty of time to explore this new region, just make sure to head to the queue as soon as possible. It’s also a pretty cool queue, featuring a bunch of Na’vi inside what looks like Star Wars’ bacta tanks. Considering Avatar is a sci-fi movie, also expect a bunch of visual effects here and there. Sure, the queue can’t reach the amazing details set up by Hollywood Studios’ Rise of the Resistance, but it’s not that far behind.

Avatar Flight of Passage is a motion simulator which makes you feel like you are flying right over Pandora, the mystical alien world envisioned by director James Cameron. You hop on a vehicle for a single passenger, put on 3D glasses and stare at a screen right in front of you. The motorbike only twitches to the sides and back and forth, so you will be standing in place the whole time.

I know, I know, you are probably thinking that this ride doesn’t sound exciting at all. Don’t worry, this is one of the best motion simulators in Disney World. What makes it truly amazing is the quality of the screen. Seriously, I usually don’t like 3D rides that much mostly because the visual effects can look blurry and the effects sometimes look low resolution, but the technology here is different. The screen looks amazing! Everything is super crisp, and the visual effects and colors really come alive. Flight of Passage definitely wins the awards for best visuals, textures and overall good quality when it comes to 3D motion simulators. I do wish that the Harry Potter rides at Universal had this same level of quality when it comes to visuals. 

Once you are done, get ready to prepare your camera and snap some pictures. There are a lot of fun visuals around the World of Pandora, from alien flora to Na’vis standing around and also huge Mechs just begging to be photographed. 
I wish I could tell you to ride Flight of Passage again, and you might have a second chance late in the afternoon but, for now, there is a good chance that the queue will take you around 2 hours.

Done? Awesome. Now it’s time for what is probably Animal Kingdom’s most classic ride.

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Rating: 8/10

Animal Kingdom Kilimanjaro Safaris.webp

It’s very hard to actually give a score to Kilimanjaro Safaris. You might get lucky and spot every kind of animal during your brief journey, or the animals might just be having a lazy day and decide to sleep the entire week while settling down behind trees. Still, you should definitely try your luck here, since this is one of the most original and unique experiences that Disney World has to offer.

We advise you to ride early to increase your chances of encountering different animals and species. The exotic wildlife tends to be more active during the morning, so come here before they decide to have lunch and head to bed right past noon. Now I’m jealous.

Once you are ready, get your phones and cameras ready! You never know when a group of giraffes will appear right by you, or monkeys will show up playing along the trees or a rhino will run at your vehicle. Just joking, this has never happened before. I think.

Kilimanjaro Safaris is pretty cool for the whole family. The whole expedition takes about 20 minutes or so, which is the perfect time for a fun and chill adventure in the jungle. Each safari truck is conducted by a park operator who explains a bit about each spotted animal and warns all guests to stay inside the vehicle at all times - yes, don’t even think about jumping out if your phone falls off the truck, by the way.

Let’s hope you are lucky and that you can take pictures of lions, hippos and, of course, the beautiful rhinos. You can always come back here later to roll the dice and try your luck once more, since the experience will probably be very different. 

For now, however, we are booking a special trip to Mount Everest.

Expedition Everest

Rating: 9/10

Disney-Animal-Kingdom-Expedition-Everest-entrance-2.webp

This was the first ever “super big update” to Animal Kingdom, back in 2006. For more than ten years, Expedition Everest held the record for the most expensive roller coaster in the world, a record that was only broken by Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventures at Islands of Adventures in 2019. We can see how Expedition Everest might have cost a lot, by the way. Disney created an artificial mountain in the middle of the park and a ride queue filled with hundreds of top-notch quality items and Easter Eggs.

It wouldn’t matter much if the whole attraction cost a billion dollars if it just wasn’t fun. Thankfully, Expedition Everest is one of the best roller coasters in Disney World. Your vehicle goes through a journey through the Himalayas, as the first part of the attraction looks more like what you’d experience in a dark ride. This is until you come face to face with the Yeti and he decides to play with the tracks.

Expedition Everest is a steel roller coaster which lacks loops, but makes up for it with a fun section where you roll backwards and includes an amazing first drop. Other than that, it’s just a very good time, and holds the title for Walt Disney World’s tallest roller coaster to this day. You should definitely come here more than once, also because there aren’t many bumps, so you won’t have a headache. The Single Rider line can be a very good option if you want to enter as soon as possible, since it skips all the pre-show.

Now we go from the highest peak on planet Earth to challenge dangerous exploratory rapids.

Kali River Rapids

Rating: 8/10

Animal Kingdom Kali River Rapids 2.webp

If you already checked Famvia’s Islands of Adventure guide, you probably noticed a ride there called Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges. Well, Kali River Rapids is very similar to that, which means that there is a good chance that you will get soaked. From head to toe. 

You should know by now how to try and avoid that, right? 

Step 1: Make sure to take off your socks before entering the queue and put on the slippers that you (hopefully) brought to Animal Kingdom.

Step 2: Wear a poncho or something similar if you really don’t want to get soaked.

Step 3: Pray that Poseidon has mercy on your soul.

So, what should you expect when riding Kali River Rapids? Water. Lots of it. There are a few drops, waterfalls and basically anything there exists to try and get you soaked. I mean, that’s the objective of rafting rides, right? You know what you signed up for! Still, I love this style of attraction, especially when you are going with your family and friends. It’s just an awesome time for a good laugh, especially when it’s not you being showered by that specific waterfall as the vehicle makes its way down the river.

Done? It’s fine, we will wait for you to get dry. Mission accomplished? Awesome. We should celebrate with some Hakuna Matata.

Festival of the Lion King

Rating: 7/10

Animal kingdom festival lion king.jpg
Walt Disney World©

I know, you read about the Lion King and immediately start singing the main theme. It’s fine, you can do this while you experience the Festival of the Lion King! This is a 30 minute Broadway-style spectacle which features not only music from the movies, but dozens of actors and performers in costume performing live on stage. We are not only talking about singing and dancing, but even stunt actors that jump around in an amazing display of athleticism.

The show is also filled with colorful puppets which celebrate wildlife from all over the world, especially the beautiful species that originate from Africa. You get to see Mufasa, Simba, Timon and Pumba, and also listen to the award winning music with fan favorites like “The Circle of Life” and “I Just Can’t Wait to be King”. Unfortunately, Elton John is not on stage.

Make sure to check your park map and see the time slots for the Festival of the Lion King. Since this is a long show with a lot going on, live presentations during the day might be limited, so remember to select the perfect hour for you and arrive about ten minutes early.

We said hi to the king of the jungle, but let’s not forget about the small insects that are also so important for our ecosystem.

It’s Tough to be a Bug!

Rating: 8/10

Animal Kingdom Tough to be a Bug Entrance.webp

This is one of my favorite 3D attractions when it comes to Walt Disney World. It’s Tough to be a bug is a 9 minute movie featuring Flik from A Bug’s Life and numerous charming insects showing up to tell you why they should make peace and be friends with humankind. There is even a spider, which might make things a little more complicated than needed, but she ends up being really cool and chill.

This attraction is a classic, even more so since it’s located inside the Tree of Life, considered by guests to be Animal Kingdom’s main landmark. The show itself is also pretty fun and has a bunch of visual and practical effects, with small jets of water being splashed on guests and even angry Black Widows dropping from the ceiling. Yeah, young spectators might get a little scared, but it’s all for good fun. Each insect on screen has a different trick upon their sleeves, so you are always expecting something original to surprise you.

Some bad news, though: It’s Tough to be a Bug is set to close down, probably sometime in 2024. Disney is planning a huge new update to Animal Kingdom, and it’s rumored that a new ride based on Zootopia is ready to invade the Tree of Life. I guess peace with the insects was not an option, after all.

Flick and friends, you will all be missed. But wait, we are still not done saying our goodbyes *wipes away tear*.

DINOSAUR

Rating: 7/10

Animal Kingdom Dinosaur 2.webp

I’m sad to inform you that Dinosaurs will go extinct. Again. As it’s the case with It’s Tough to be a Bug, Disney recently announced that they plan to introduce a new Indiana Jones ride and put it in place of Dinosaur in a move that will close down the entire Dinoland U.S.A. area. Saying goodbye isn’t easy, but there will be new surprises based on Indy, Zootopia and Encanto. We still have a lot to look forward to!

So, is DINOSAUR fun? Sure, it’s worth your time in the queue, even more so since it’s one of the most classic rides in Animal Kingdom and now we know that it will only exist for a limited time. I don’t think it’s worth coming here more than once, though. This is basically a dark ride that lasts three minutes and can get really bumpy. 

The idea is that you travel back to the Prehistoric Era to examine and collect a certain dinosaur specimen. Of course that things don’t go as planned, and you find out that there are only a few minutes before a meteor collides with our planet and pulverizes… well, everything. That’s where the ride gets bumpy, as your vehicle dances a lot to the sides while dino-animatronics keep appearing nearby to surprise you.

This is also a very dark ride which makes use of a lot of different sound effects. Young children definitely get scared here, so make sure your kids are all okay with angry dinosaurs and meteors falling from the sky once you are inside. 

And… that’s it! At least for the main attractions at Animal Kingdom. You can use that extra time if you want to re-ride big names like Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest, or if you want to just check the animals around the park in self guided tours. 

We are not yet done. Let’s also check some optional rides which might have a place in your itinerary.

Optional Rides

Na’vi River Journey

Rating: 6/10

I know what you are thinking. “Wait, an Avatar ride is marked as optional!? What in the name of Na’vi is going on!?” yeah, you read that right. Compared to Avatar Flight of Passage, River Journey is just very passable. There is nothing wrong with it, though. It’s a traditional boat dark ride, which takes you through a bioluminescent forest in the world of Pandora. This means you will come face to face with all sorts of weird fauna and flora as you explore this alien landscape. Yeah, it also means you will see animatronics based on those super tall blue guys known as the Na’vi. 

I’d even say that, when it comes to a boat ride, River Journey is above average. The worst thing about it? The queue times. Since the World of Pandora is still a relatively new area - and one of the best ones in Animal Kingdom - Na’vi River Journey gets packed very fast. Not as much as Flight of Passage, sure, but you will still need to face 50-70 min queues for a very typical boat road. If you’ve never been to River Journey, it might be fun to come once just to say that you explored every corner of Pandora.

Feathered Friends in Flight!

Rating: 7/10

Disney Animal Kingdom Feathered friends.webp

Birds! Relax and stay with me, I will be using that word a lot during this section, okay? Well, let’s continue. Everyone loves birds, even more so if they are trained birds to perform amazing feats right in front of our eyes. Feathered Friends is a live performance which has bird trainers bringing birds of all styles and sizes to show us birdamazing displays of skill and dexterity.

It’s a very fun 30-minute show with a similar vibe to Universal’s Animal Actors on Location. Guests sometimes are called on stage to interact with the various animals, which is always funny. Kids tend to enjoy these live performances more than adults do, so you should bring them here. Just remember that, as a live show, you should check your park map to see show times and if you can fit it in you itinerary.

Finding Nemo: the big Blue… and beyond!

Rating: 7/10

Animal Kingdom Finding Nemo show.webp

Oh, another live show, but very different in tone when compared to Feathered Friends in Flight. Finding Nemo is more like a puppet show and a Broadway musical all in one, making it a better comparison with Festival of the Lion King. Nemo has gone through a lot of changes throughout the years. It actually started as a very long 40 minute musical and, after the Covid lockdown finally came to an end, it came back with a revamped version which now runs for about 25 minutes.

The musical tells the story of the movie, which means that you will see a desperate Marlin trying to find his son and you also get the chance to listen to some of the best songs. It’s all very cute, but there is less action than what you saw at Festival of the Lion King. If you have someone in your party that is a big fan of Nemo then, yes, you should definitely come here at least once during your Animal Kingdom adventures.

Closing Thoughts

We hope you had an amazing time reading Famvia’s special guide to Animal Kingdom. There are still a few attractions that were not shown here, since they are mostly self guided tours that can take you a few minutes or as many hours as you wish, as it’s the case of Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and Rafiki’s Planet Watch. 

You can probably finish Animal Kingdom in a single day if you don’t mind skipping some of the optional rides. Disney Genie+ might be a good option when it comes to Animal Kingdom, since it’s usually the cheapest Genie+ when considering every park in Walt Disney World. It won’t give you priority access to Avatar Flight of Passage, but it works for Na’vi River Adventure and Expedition Everest, and I already consider that a win. 

Don’t forget that Disney plans a huge investment in theme parks for the near future, and Animal Kingdom will receive a brand new area in the coming years. As we told you before, Dinoland U.S.A and It’s Tough to be a Bug are almost ready to say goodbye and give way to awesome new surprises inspired by Zootopia, Encanto and Indiana Jones. It’s definitely a good move. Animal Kingdom deserves new blood, and a new land to compete with Pandora would elevate it to new heights.

Thanks for reading and until next time!

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