Animal Kingdom is often called a “half-day park”, but I couldn’t disagree more. It doesn’t have as many rides and attractions as Epcot or the Magic Kingdom, but comparing it to those parks is like comparing apples to oranges. Animal Kingdom is best enjoyed at a slower pace, for a few reasons. One, it’s the hottest park because you will spend more time outside vs. inside air conditioned attractions. Secondly, it’s a park full of intricate details and more subtle experiences that you need to slow down to notice and enjoy. In no particular order, here are 15 excellent things to see and do at Animal Kingdom. I dare you to get these done in a half day!
15. Kilamanjaro Safaris
The cornerstone of Animal Kingdom is Kilamanjaro Safaris. You’ll be amazed at how many animals you’ll get close to, from a rhino crossing your vehicle’s path to pride of lions relaxing on the rocks just a few hundred feet away. Fun fact- the ride vehicles are actually grounded by their huge rubber tires, so you can even ride if there’s thunder and lighting.
14. Maharajah Jungle Trek
This amazing walking trail through Southeastern Asia leads you to majestic tigers, deer, birds, and other animals. Don’t walk by the fruit bat enclosure without stopping to check them out. They are gigantic, and you can usually watch them climbing and eating fruit. Make sure you take time to appreciate the carvings and murals on the walls throughout the area, too. This is truly one of the most beautiful areas of any Disney park.
13. Pangani Forest Exploration Trail
Many people miss this trail because they are rushing off of the Safari and heading to the next big attraction. Don’t make this mistake- either take the path after you ride the safari, or make a point to come back to it later. Home to the park’s native African animals, you’ll get to see gorillas and hippos on this trail. If you’re lucky, a hippo may be swimming when you visit, and that means and up-close and personal view of the hippo from the eye-level under water tank!
Travel through time and space to pick up a dinosaur from the past and save him from extinction! This is considered a thrill ride, and might be too scary for young children. It’s dark, and you’ll see lots of animatronic dinos impeding your path as you rock back and forth down the track. Although this ride isn’t a roller coaster, it is a little wild. Ride with caution if you have any back problems or if you don’t like huge dinosaurs jumping out at you from the dark. Personally, I love it, so I highly recommend it. Ride it in the morning to avoid a long line.
11. Flights of Wonder
I’m a bird owner myself and consider this to be an excellent bird show. It’s a mix of comedy, impressive bird tricks and feats, and messages about conservation. People who have a fear of birds, however, may not appreciate the birds soaring over the audience’s heads. Also not to miss is the bird presentation which occurs outside the show, usually 30 minutes or so before show time.
10. Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe
Later in the day, take some time to walk around the Harambe village area in Africa. Approximately once an hour a group of African drummers come out to perform. This is a great area for taking a break. There’s a huge restroom facility, interesting shops, and snacks all in the immediate vicinity.
Divine is a foliage-clad performer at Animal Kingdom. A statuesque stilt-walker, Divine is surprisingly hard to spot. She is often found creeping along the path between Asia and Africa. If you don’t see her, try asking a cast member to tell you where she is.
Everest is a unique coaster. While it does not have inversions, it travels insanely fast both inside and outside the mountain. Spoiler alert: It also goes backwards. Personally, this ride is too intense for me, leaving me a little dizzy after I ride it. I recommend it because it’s very unique and extremely fun if you like an adrenaline rush. For a shorter wait, use a FastPass+ or try the “single rider” line. If you do find yourself waiting in the queue, they’ve really made it interesting by including lots of artifacts for you to look at. It’s one of the most interesting queues in Disney.
7. Discovery Island Trails
These walking paths allow you to get extremely close to the base of the Tree of Life- in some cases, passing under the roots. As you meander through these trails, you’ll also see lemurs, flamingos, and other interesting creatures. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing it is to see the detailed carvings on the Tree of Life. You can also get close to the tree and as you approach and exit “It’s Tough to be a Bug.”
6. Flame Tree Barbeque
I like Flame Tree Barbeque so much that I included it on my list of 6 “Must Try” Restaurants at Disney. They’re famous for their ribs, but I’ve had several other things on their menu and they’re all great. I like the atmosphere here almost as much as the food. Have a bite and relax on the cool outdoor patios before continuing on with you day. For a great view, head to the lower patio and you’ll be able to see the river and Everest.
5. Character Greeting
Animal Kingdom has some really fun character greeting opportunities. Did you know you can meet Dug and Russell from Up, Mickey and Minnie in safari clothing, and even Rafiki? One of my favorites is meeting Baloo and King Louie from The Jungle Book. They’re both pretty animated and the wait to see them shouldn’t be too long (besides, it’s shaded).
4. Rafiki’s Planet Watch
There isn’t too much to see on the train ride out to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, but once you get to the remote area you’ll find a cute animal petting area, as well as an area where you can observe Animal Kingdom cast members at work. If you head out in the morning you may get to see the vets performing exams or procedures on the animals. Look through the window into another area and you might see someone measuring out food for the animals or analyzing animal droppings.
Another highlight of Rafiki’s Planet Watch is meeting Rafiki himself! Rafiki is a fun character to interact with, and this is your only opportunity in Disney to meet him. Because Rafiki’s Planet Watch is generally uncrowded, you can meet Rafiki fairly easily. At times, Jiminy Cricket also meets there!
3. Ziwani Traders
Yes, I put a gift shop on my list, but this one is really worth a visit. I always find something unique here. It’s also huge, making it a great spot to duck into during a sudden rain storm. They sell standard Disney souvenirs, but also have a great selection of Animal Kingdom specific merchandise. If you like animal print, you’ll love this store.
2. Finding Nemo: The Musical
Finding Nemo: The Musical takes the animated story, Finding Nemo, and transforms it into a musical told through beautiful puppetry. The show includes 14 original songs, as well as 2 favorites from the animated feature. Get there early for seats if you can, because seating in the back isn’t as good. All of the rows are tiered, with the exception of the first row of the back section. Don’t sit here- you won’t be able to see most of the show unless you’re tall.
1. Festival of the Lion King
I can’t wait to go see this show in its brand new building! Festival of the Lion King is a great show, arguably the best live entertainment in all four parks. The quality of the performances is superb. Enjoy the tumbling monkeys, the acrobatic birds, and the vocal styling of Scar as you sing along to all of your favorite songs from The Lion King. This is a show that is sure to delight all members of your party, from young children to adults.
With the completion of the “Pandora: The World of Avatar” section of the park in a few years, Animal Kingdom will likely lose its reputation as a half-day park. In the meantime, I hope you can experience some of my suggestions and see Animal Kingdom in a new light: as a park that can be enjoyed for an entire day.
What are your thoughts? What are your favorite ways to enjoy this park? Let us know in the comments section below!