Animal Kingdom is one of my favorite parts of Walt Disney World, and I’ve spent enough time there over the years to know what things other guests might be missing. For a park so rich in detail, it’s important to really take everything in and know as much as you can about it before your trip.
12 Things You Should Really Know About Disney’s Animal Kingdom
1. Getting there early
As with any Disney theme park, it is important to get to Disney’s Animal Kingdom early. This park closes earlier than all the others, so to get the most into one visit you’ll want to be there right when the park opens. Arriving early to the park also gives you a chance to hit some of the more popular attractions before the park gets too crowded as it eventually will later in the day.
2. Importance of seeing the animals
I know this might sound crazy, but when you visit Animal Kingdom, be sure to actually see all of the animals. It’s easy to overlook this part of the park with all of the rides and shows, however seeing the animals at Animal Kingdom is completely different from your local zoo. There are numerous walking trails and exhibits, in addition to the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction that allow you to have close up views of the animals, and these experiences should not be missed.
3. Different experiences each trip
Speaking of animals, the animals in the park can actually help provide you with a different experience each trip. Do not blow off the safari because you’ve done it before, you never know what animals might be out in the savannah this time that were feeling a little too camera shy on your last trip. This is especially true if it’s been a while since your last trip, as different animals might have been added to the attraction as well.
4. Don’t forget about Rafiki’s Planet Watch
A lot of guests forget to visit Rafiki’s Planet Watch simply because it is a bit out of the way from the rest of the park. Don’t let this discourage you from visiting though. Hop on the Wildlife Express Train and head up to Rafiki’s at least once per trip. Up there, you’ll find a petting zoo, along with character meet and greets, and viewing areas of the behind the scenes portions of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
5. Backstory of Dinoland USA
Dinoland is sometimes disliked because guests feel that the area’s theming is too tacky and does not belong in a Disney park. I used to be one of those guests, who would simply disregard the area as a tacky carnival. There is actually a lot of fun details in Dinoland though, and once you understand the backstory the whole area will make a lot more sense. I’m not saying you have to like it, but I am suggesting that you make an effort to learn the backstory, either before your trip, or by asking cast members while you’re there, and simply giving this part of the park a chance.
6. Some of the best food
When you think of which park has the best food, your mind might immediately jump to Epcot. Don’t be so quick to kick Animal Kingdom out of the running though. Especially in terms of quick service restaurants, Animal Kingdom has some of the most unique (and delicious) options, and they’ll only be increasing in the coming year or so as the new expansions open.
7. Disney’s Worldwide Conservation Fund
Whenever asked if I would like to donate to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, I always make sure to do so. The money you donate goes directly towards non-profit organizations that are working to protect and improve the lives of animals all over the world. The best parts? Disney matches whatever you contribute, and covers all overhead costs of the organization, meaning your money will double in value and go directly to a specific fund rather than to paying electric bills or accountants.
8. Wilderness Explorers
The Wilderness Explorer program is a great way for kids (and adults) to get a little more out of their visit to Animal Kingdom. The program, based on the hit Disney film “Up!” allows guests to complete challenges and earn badges throughout the park by learning about animals and different parks of the world. It’s a great interactive learning opportunity to keep focused on completing something while walking through the different areas in the park.
9. Shopping opportunities
Animal Kingdom is one of my favorite places to go shopping. The different areas of the park have so much to offer in terms of unique merchandise, and all of the Animal Kingdom themed items at Discovery Island are great as well. Animal Kingdom can also be a nice place to shop as it is typically not as crowded as say the shops on Main Street USA, or Mouse Gear at Epcot. And you won’t be able to find some specific merchandise like the Yeti or Dinosaur themed items anywhere else at Walt Disney World.
10. Photo ops
Whether you’re simply using the PhotoPass service to get some family photos in front of the Tree of Life, or you’re a professional photographer, the theming and décor of the different parts of Animal Kingdom have a lot to offer in terms of photography. Don’t feel limited to the Tree of Life and Expedition Everest, each part of the park has numerous photo ops if you’re feeling creative.
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11. Live entertainment
Keep an eye out for all of the live entertainment in Animal Kingdom. There are live musical performances such as the Festival of the Lion King, and Finding Nemo the Musical, as well as educational productions like Flights of Wonder, and even numerous types of street performances throughout Discovery Island, Asia, and Africa. If you’re not tied down to ride-only attractions, there can really be so much else to see and do in the park.
Animal Kingdom has some specific expectations regarding the safety of the animals that guests should be aware of. For one, you won’t see any lids for cups, or plastic straws in this park, because they can be harmful for the animals and Disney isn’t taking any chances that trash will end up near where they live. In addition, you should understand how important it is not to feed the animals—they have their own food, and should not be eating yours, which is more than likely not super healthy for them.
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