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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

Disney’s Animal Kingdom park in Florida is the newest park at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. The park opened in 1998 to celebrate the magic of nature with wild animals, exotic jungle trails, and delicious dining experiences. The theme park is completely different from the other Disney Parks with a focus on animals and conservation.

The park features animals from around the world like Africa, India, China and Australia. There are also rides such as Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest that will take you to the top of Mt. Everest or even across Asia!

Animal Kingdom Theme Park

In this blog post learn everything you could ever want to know about the Animal Kingdom Theme Park. We’ll cover the exotic animals, mouthwatering meals, the iconic Tree of Life, seasonal celebrations, and your favorite Animal Kingdom attractions!

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks

Celebrations at Animal Kingdom

For now, Disney has out on hold parades and some nighttime shows. They do have fabulous flotillas that cruise down the river with fun music and beloved characters like Mickey Mouse onboard. To get the best view of these head to the Discovery River bridges when you hear the music!

The flotillas you’ll see in Animal Kingdom Park:

  • Mickey & Friends Flotilla
  • Discovery Island Drummers Flotilla
  • Discovery River Character Cruise
  • Donald’s Dino Bash Flotilla
  • Goofy & Pals Set Sail

Tickets for Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Ticket prices for Disney’s Animal Kingdom vary depending on when you visit and what type of ticket you need. The Park Hopper option costs more, but nice if you like to visit more than one park each day.

After you purchase your tickets, make sure they are in your My Disney Experience app, then reserve your park days. As of now the Disney FastPass+ system is not available. Rumor has it that the Disney Fastpass+ system won’t be returning. Because of that, it makes sense to make your Disney Parks plans without counting on them. 

Hours for Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is open daily. The park opening time and hours vary. It’s best to check the website before your trip because the hours may change. 

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks

Parking at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

If you are not staying at a Disney Resort, you will have to pay to park at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Parking trams are available so you don’t have to walk from the parking lot to the park entrance.

Make sure you remember where you parked in by taking a photo of the sign closest to your car. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom the lots are named Peacock, Unicorn, Dinosaur, Giraffe, and Butterfly. 

1-Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary

Many people question whether or not Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a full day park. If you’re wondering if your time, the answer is yes. When the park first opened it may have been a easy to spend just the morning at the park. But as the park has expanded, it is definitely a full day park.

A one day park day itinerary is the perfect amount of time for a visit for your Animal Kingdom day.

Animal Kingdom FAQs

When did Disney’s Animal Kingdom open? The park opened on April 22, 1998.

Where is Disney’s Animal Kingdom? The park is located in the Disney Animal Kingdom Resort area. The closest hotels are Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas, and Kidani Village.

Does the Animal Kingdom have Disney PhotoPass? Yes, the Disney PhotoPass Service is available in Animal Kingdom Park. It’s also available on some of the Animal Kingdom theme park attractions.

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Rides

To start our in-depth look at Animal Kingdom at Disney World, let’s talk about Disney’s Animal Kingdom attractions.

Things look a little different right now, so make sure to look over the official park map before your trip. This will help you know what to expect during your trip.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park Map

 Avatar Flight of Passage

The Flight of Passage, based on James Cameron’s Avatar, is one of the most popular rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. And believe me, the wait times are an accurate indication. Located in Pandora: The World of Avatar, this ride is a 3-D motion simulator like no other. Guests climb aboard the back of a native banshee for a thrilling ride through passages and stone archways.

This ride is known for being uncomfortable for “guests of a certain size”. Guests who tend to suffer from motion sickness might want to avoid this ride. If this is a must-do for you, maybe save it until the end of the day. Then you can exit the park if you don’t feel so hot after riding.

 DINOSAUR

The DINOSAUR ride in Dinoland U.S.A., takes explorers on a dark and turbulent ride through the late Cretaceous period. There are audio-animatronic dinosaurs throughout the pre-historic rain forests that look and sound quite realistic. When things start to go wrong (and they always do), you’ll be involved in a prehistoric race back to safety!

 This ride and its powerful predators are really quite overwhelming. It probably isn’t suitable for younger children or older children who scare easily.  

Expedition Everest- Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

Expedition Everest- Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is a roller coaster that speeds through the Himalayas. Climb to the highest peaks of Mt. Everest and enjoy the views, if you dare. Because as soon as the Yeti discovers you’ve invaded his mountain, you’ll have no choice hurry back down Mt. Everest in your runaway train, while trying to steer clear of the angry Yeti.

 Kali River Rapids

The Kali River Rapids is rip-roaring, raft ride located in Asia. It’s the place to go if you want to get wet and cool off on a hot Florida day. This exciting rafting trip down the Kali River past mystical ruins, scenic waterfalls, and through a dense rain forest. Eventually you drift your way to the peaceful tropical canopy.

You are guaranteed to get soaked on this ride, so prepare accordingly. There are lockers that can be rented for two hours near the restrooms at the entrance to the attraction. It’s a great idea to bring an extra set of clothes, especially anyone who would be uncomfortable in wet clothes. I’ve seen guests wear ponchos on the ride, but the seat is actually where most of the water accumulates. 

 Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition

This attraction is probably as close as most of us will get to an African safari without visiting Africa. Guests ride in an open safari vehicle through over 100 acres. During the excursion you will have the opportunity to see a variety of African animals. You can expect to see the mighty African lions and white rhinoceros all from a safe distance, of course!

Although the ride can be a bit jerky, it’s a great experience for guests of all ages. The best time to experience this attraction is mornings, as the animals tend to hide during the hot afternoon hours. No matter when you go, though, it’s a great Disney experience you have to do!

Na’vi River Journey

Na’vi River Journey is located in Pandora and takes you on a journey down the Kasvapan River from the movie Avatar. Travel deep into the bioluminescent rainforest and enjoy the native wildlife as you search for the Shaman of Songs.

This ride is dark, but it’s a calm ride. The boats travel the Na’vi river, similar to It’s a Small World (without the singing dolls) in the Magic Kingdom. The ride is suitable for guests of all ages. 

 TriceraTop Spin

TriceraTop Spin, located in Dinoland U.S.A., is a ride geared for the younger visitors of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Similar to Dumbo the Flying Elephant or The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, this ride features dinosaurs that fly. Riders can to control how high or low their dinosaur goes, which can be a real thrill for younger kids. 

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks

Attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

In addition to the rides at Walt Disney World, the Animal Kingdom Park also has beautiful nature trails. One favorite, the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, allows guests a glimpse into the habitats of some amazing animals. You’re also not going to want to miss their amazing shows! Let’s explore these exciting adventures now.

 Discovery Island Trails

Discovery Island Trails is a self-guided walking tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. Down this trail, you will find animal exhibits that include monkeys, tortoises, lemurs, kangaroos, flamingos, and more.

Visit the Tree of Life to see the many animal spirits and fascinating animal carvings on this work of art. This gorgeous park icon is a great photo opportunity for your family or travel group!

 Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is located in the Africa section of the Animal Kingdom. This attraction is a walking tour where you will discover native African wildlife. Some animals that you might see include storks, monkeys, cranes, hippos, and of course a pack of lowland gorillas. The walking tour is self-paced and you can spend as much time on this immersive experience as you like.

Maharajah Jungle Trek 

The Maharajah Jungle Trek is another self-guided walking tour that guests can enjoy, but this time with native Asian wildlife. When you first enter this attraction you will be greeted by a Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard. Further down the trail, you will encounter amazing animals like bats, tapir, deer, birds. But the highlight of this attraction are the Asian tigers!

Discovery Island Trails

Discovery Island Trails is another nature trail guests can explore for a peek into how the animal live. Here you’ll find monkeys, tortoises, lemurs, kangaroos, flamingos to explore- no safari gear needed!

Wildlife Express Train

The Wildlife Express Train at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the only way to get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch & Conservation Station. This seven-minute train ride will take you to parts of the park you would not otherwise see. Animal lovers will enjoy a behind the scenes look at animal care. Not to mention the housing areas and the savanna where the animals spend their evenings.

The train runs non-stop from about 30 minutes after the park opens until an hour or so before park closing. Your return trip to the main part of the park takes about five minutes. 

The Oasis Exhibits

The Oasis Exhibits form the corridors around the entrance to Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. Here you will find a relaxing, tropical oasis with streams and a waterfall. There is also some wildlife here to see including a two-toed sloth, an anteater, flamingos, wallabies, and exotic birds. You may be rushing through this area at rope drop, so make sure to take your time walking through later. 

Conservation Station

The Conservation Station Encounter is located at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This part of the park is only accessible by riding the Wildlife Express Train. At Conservation Station you can see behind the scenes where vets work on injured or rehabilitating animals. Visit the nursery is where newborn animals go, as well as more educational experiences.

Cast members and vets are usually on-hand to give demonstrations and explanations about what is going on. This attraction highlights Disney’s conservation efforts and is open seasonally. 

Affection Section

Affection Section is also located in Rafiki’s Planet Watch and is next door to the Conservation Station. The Affection Section is a self-guided tour where kids are allowed to pet and brush goats and sheep. They can even feed llamas, chickens, and other animals.

Visit as you like, but remember to see this attraction catch a ride on the Wildlife Express Train.

Wilderness Explorers

Wilderness Explorers is a free park-wide interactive attraction. To participate, visit a Wilderness Explorer station to take the solemn vow and get a handbook. There are over 30 different badges to earn for completing challenges that range from animal observation to nature skills.

The Wilderness Explorers program is self-guided and you can complete the challenges on multiple trips to the park. For more detailed information on this free kid-friendly adventure, check out my post about the Wilderness Explorers.

Boneyard Dig Site

The Boneyard is Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s is a dig site themed playground that the kids are sure to enjoy. They can dig for fossils of a Woolly mammoth in the huge sand pit. Don’t worry Mom, it’s not real sand. It’s also non-stick so there’s no need to worry about the kids being covered in sand all day.

 It’s Tough to be a Bug 

It’s Tough to Be a Bug is a 3-D show on Discovery Island featuring Flick from A Bug’s Life. This a fun 8-minute film about the life of a bug and some of the dangers that they face. Some of the scenes are a bit intense, so that’s something to consider for younger kids. It’s definitely worth a few minutes of your visit to see this attraction, and wait times are usually short.

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks

Shows at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

One of the best things about Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park is the Broadway style shows that you can there. They are definitely a must-do and a great way to rest and cool off a bit on a hot day.

Festival of the Lion King 

Festival of the Lion King is an amazing 30 minute spectacular of acrobatics and music from the Lion King. This show is brilliant and definitely on the must-do list for any family. The songs are inspiring and the interactive sections are entertaining. And boy, oh boy- those silly tumble monkeys will put a huge smile on your face!

Finding Nemo The Musical

Finding Nemo is another great show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This show follows the story of the movie and is filled with musical numbers, acrobats, and brightly colored costumes. The show is about 40 minutes long and is performed several times throughout the day.

Entertainment in Africa

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom when you travel to the different lands, you will find entertainers performing on various small stages. Here’s what you might see in Africa:

  • The Tam Tam Drummers Of Harambe
  • the Harambe Village Acrobats
  • Kora Tinga Tinga
  • the Karibu Sisters

 Entertainment in Asia

The entertainment that you might encounter in Asia includes the Bollywood Beats Dance Show, and UP! A Great Bird Adventure which features winged encounters with birds from many different regions.

Entertainment in Discovery Island

The entertainment on Discovery Island includes the Tree of Life Awakenings and Feathered Friends in Flight. Beginning October 1st, the Animal Kingdom’s newest show, Disney KiteTails will open. KiteTails will be a colorful daytime show that celebrates animals with themed kits and run several times a day.

The Rivers of Light nighttime show was retired in 2020 and won’t be returning. There’s no word right now of another show to replace Rivers of Light.

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks

Dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

There are some amazing restaurants and dining options available to try at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. There are also some authentic African and Asian cuisines available, not to mention some seriously delicious desserts.

Let’s talk about some of your restaurant options in the park. Remember, some restaurants and snack stands are only open seasonally. Several offer mobile app orders on the My Disney Experience app which is great for saving time.

Restaurants in Dinoland, U.S.A.

Restaurantosaurus – If you are in the mood for a Cobb salad, burger, shrimp, or chicken this restaurant is for you. Kid’s meals are served in a sand pail with a shovel that they get to keep. You’ll also love their amazing cupcakes!

Dino Diner– If you are looking for a hot dog, chili dog, corn chip pie, or some amazing churros then this little diner is just what you are looking for. 

Dino Bite Snacks– If you are just looking for a quick snack like an ice cream, pretzel, cool drink, or a cookie then this is a perfect spot. 

Trilo-Bites– If you have some snack credits that you need to use while visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom this is the place for you. Milkshakes, sundaes, cold drinks, and adult beverages are what you will find on the menu here. 

Restaurants in Africa

Tusker House Restaurant– Join Mickey and his friends in their safari gear! Served buffet style, this restaurant has African favorites and American classics. This is character dining option the most popular dining reservation at Animal Kingdom. Make sure you reserve your spot at Tusker House as soon as they open to secure a table. 

Zuri’s Sweets Shop– Zuri’s Sweets Shop is the place to go if you need a sweet treat. Cookies, candies, caramel apples, brownies, and even African candies and treats can be found here. Seasonally there are also specialty cupcakes available here.  

Tamu Tamu Refreshments– Looking for a unique treat? Check out their Dole Whip pineapple cup, or their Malva Cake Sundae. The dole whips can be served with or without alcohol. They also have some amazing African coffee and Simba ice cream sandwiches. 

Dawa Bar– This is the place to stop in and grab a unique adult beverage and cool off. If you stop in here, check out the Ngumu Jungle Juice.

Note: there are no child-friendly items here. So you might want to save this excursion for a kid-free trip. If they’re old enough, let the kids explore a nearby attraction while mom and dad relax.

Harambe Market– Harambe Market is an African inspired open-air market. There are five different windows where you can order food and plenty of outdoor seating. From gyros, ribs, and roasted vegetable bowls the food here is flavorful and plentiful. 

Harambe Fruit Market– This is a great place to pop in for a quick snack or some fresh fruit. They have Mickey and Simba pretzels, hot dogs, as well as various cheeses, veggies, and fruit cups.

Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery– Perfect for a quick breakfast pastry and coffee. Their shrimp or chicken curry is a great choice for lunch or dinner. 

Disney's Animal Kingdom Park

Restaurants in Pandora- The World of Avatar 

Pongu Pongu– You can find sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits and French toast sticks for breakfast. Pretzels with cheese, or a pineapple spring roll for a snack here. Although it has great snacks, Pongu Pongu is most known for its specialty drinks though.

Satu’li Canteen– If you are looking for a meal besides your standard theme park fare of chicken nuggets, hamburgers, and hot dogs then this is the place for you. The chopped wood-grilled chicken bowl, slow-roasted beef bowl, and the cheeseburger pods are all delicious choices. 

Restaurants in Asia

Yak and Yeti Restaurant– This beautifully decorated Asian themed restaurant has some amazing food as well. Honey chicken, Bhaktapur duck, Miso salmon, Kobe beef burgers, and more. The whole family will find something they love here. 

Mr. Kamal’s– Located on the walkway connecting Asia and Africa, if you love fries then you need to stop in here. Mr. Kamal’s seasoned fries and sauces are famous! 

Warung Outpost– Looking for a snack or a tasty frozen adult beverage? You can get Mickey pretzels with cheese, and Kevin cupcakes as well as frozen margaritas here. 

Anandpur Ice Cream Truck– Stop here for a vanilla or chocolate waffle cone, an ice cream float, or a cool drink. They also offer some adult beverages here.

Caravan Road– Caravan Road is open seasonally, and they offer a delicious sausage and ginger slaw, and Char Siu Pork served with sticky rice. Grab a tasty meal at this counter service restaurant.

Royal Anandpur Tea Company– Looking for hot tea, cold tea, coffee, iced coffee, or a bakery fresh treat? If so, then pop in here for some amazing looking treats and a beverage to match. 

Restaurants on Discovery Island

Flame Tree BBQ– If you are looking for ribs, pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, or a smoked half a chicken then this is the place for you. They also have seasonally available specialty cupcakes and drinks here. 

Feeding Ground– This is a great place to stop in for some popcorn in a souvenir bucket and a frozen lemonade to cool off. You can even get refills on your popcorn for your whole stay for just a few dollars. 

Pizzafari– Who doesn’t like pizza? The pizza’s here are individually sized and are served with a small Caesar salad. They also offer PB&J Uncrustables, macaroni and cheese, and Mickey pasta for little ones. 

Eight Spoon Café– Looking for a different kind of snack or a Mickey pretzel? Why not stop in and try some pulled pork or shrimp baked macaroni and cheese? 

Tiffins– This is one of the more expensive table service restaurants in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. It has a unique menus with dishes like charred octopus, Tamarind braised short ribs, & butter chicken. 

Smiling Crocodile– This location is only open seasonally, but when it is open it is a great place to grab a taco or a pulled pork doughnut sandwich. Yep, you read that right!

Rainforest Café– The Rainforest Café is located at the entrance to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and they are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Here you can find ribs, pasta, salads, sandwiches, burgers, fish and chips, shrimp, and more. 

Character Meet and Greets at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Right now there are traditional character meet and greets look a little different right now. Character meals and close together photo opportunities are temporarily suspended. That doesn’t mean that you won’t get to see your favorite characters though, it will just be from a distance. 

Discovery River Character Cruise– Throughout the day Timon and Rafiki, or Pocahontas and Meeko will sail around on the park’s waterways. 

Donald’s Dino Boat Bash- Here you can see Donald and Daisy Duck and Launchpad McQuack as they float from Dinoland U.S.A. to the Discovery River. 

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks

I hope this Animal Kingdom theme park blog post has been helpful and informative, as well as entertaining! If you would like to read more posts about Disney’s theme parks, please visit the other park guides below.

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