Animal Kingdom can be a bit of a challenging undertaking to visit in just one day. With limited park hours, and numerous routes and trails, seeing everything in one visit without a solid plan is nearly impossible. When visiting this park for one day only, keep the following tips in mind to ensure that you get the most out of your visit.
5. Check the Times Guide
When you enter the park in the morning, be sure to pick up a Times Guide for that day. Especially in comparison to other parks, Animal Kingdom’s hours of operation vary, and some attractions close earlier than others. You’ll want to have a Times Guide (or the My Disney Experience app on your smart phone) to keep you up to date on show times, attraction/restaurant operation hours, and character greetings. The Times Guide is important so that you can plan your day accordingly.
4. Wait to Shop Until you Exit (with a few exceptions)
Animal Kingdom, especially in Asia and Africa, has some of the best gift items of any Disney park. Specialty items in Asia and Africa are unique to those parts of the world, and the shops in these areas sell many handmade gifts that would be difficult to find elsewhere. With Asia and Africa shops being the exception, wait to browse the gift shops until your way out of the park. You will have to walk by the shops on Discovery Island (Island Mercantile, Disney Outfitters, and Creature Comforts) to exit, and these shops will be open for about an hour after the park closes, so save most of your shopping until then. Animal Kingdom specific, and general Disney merchandise will be located in those shops, so do not feel the need to spend time shopping for Mickey ears when you could be riding the safari. Dinoland U.S.A. also sells unique dinosaur themed merchandise, however I would recommend visiting this land last, and purchasing these gifts towards the end of the day. If you do end up purchasing something in Africa or Asia early on, have the items sent to package pickup at the front of the park, or to your resort, free of charge when you check out. (If you really missed out on shopping, and the park has closed, head over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, as the gift shop there sells many similar items.)
3. Start in Africa and End in Dinoland
Upon entering the park, I would recommend going right towards Africa and getting Kilimanjaro Safari and the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail done first thing in the morning. The safari is generally the most popular ride here, so going early allows you ride with minimal wait, and go again later if you want to. Wander through Harambe, and see Festival of the Lion King while you’re in Africa, so that you do not spend time backtracking later in the day if you don’t want to. Hit up Rafiki’s Planet Watch while you’re in the area. Next head to Asia, which is located in the middle of the park, and head to Dinoland U.S.A. last. The Oasis Exhibits and Discovery Island Trails (towards the front of the park) can be done either on your way in or out of the park. If you’ll be shopping at the end of the day, I would suggest doing them early, on your way to Africa. Taking this route around the park generally allows you to take your time and see things in the order that they’d be open for. When the animal exhibits and safari are closed for the day, you’ll likely still have time to ride Expedition Everest or visit Dinoland U.S.A., so it makes much more sense to start in Africa and work your way around the park from there.
2. Arrive Early
I think that it is extremely important to arrive early for a day in Animal Kingdom. Because the park has shorter hours than the others, there is a lot to fit into one day, and you would not want to waste time by arriving late. Arriving early also allows you to get onto the first attractions of the day, like Kilimanjaro Safari, with little to no wait. This also allows you more time, so that you will not feel the need to rush around from attraction to attraction to fit everything into your visit. If you’re staying at a Disney resort, I would recommend arriving early (at 8:00 AM) during an Extra Magic Hours morning, to maximize your time at the park.
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1. See the Animals!
This is my number one tip for any visit to Animal Kingdom. While Animal Kingdom is indeed a theme park, guests often forget that it is also an accredited zoo. When people refer to it as a “half day park” or mention that there isn’t enough rides here, I feel as though they are not quite getting the park’s message. Instead of focusing on the rides, make the animals the focus of your vacation. Walk through the various trails, and pick up an Animal Guide when you grab your map and Times Guide in the morning. Animal Kingdom does an excellent job of presenting animals to guests the way that they actually live in their natural habitats, so be sure to take the time to wander through the parks visiting all of the different animals here. On a similar note, one of the most underrated attractions in Animal Kingdom is the Flights of Wonder show, which exhibits beautiful birds from all over the world, and helps to promote the message of how important it is to help conserve nature for these animals. If you’d like to do something to help with conservation, you can donate to Disney’s Worldwide Conservation Fund at any quick service or merchandise location. The fund goes directly towards supporting wildlife all over the world, and Disney matches each donation and covers all overhead costs.
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Photo courtesy of Disney Photo Snapper