The idea has been out there for a long time that Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park is too small to dedicate an entire day to. Maybe go in the morning and hit the pool, or even another park like Epcot in the afternoon. That has not been my experience, at all.
Truth be told, up until now, Animal Kingdom has closed early in the evening, so I can’t say it would be a park to go from 9am to 9pm… Although, you may get the chance when AK opens it’s first nighttime experience, “Rivers of Light”, on April 22, 2016. I also need to preface this blog post by saying that I have only vacationed in AK with my young family. With our family, we’ve had to leave the park before we were ready because it was closing for the day! As you’ll see below, most of that was centered around giving the kids ample time to experience each attraction to their fill.
Let’s forget the usual “blog countdown” this time, and I’m just going to hit the highlights of what fills our Animal Kingdom day.
- When we enter AK, we tend to follow the crowds and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safari.
This is a truly immersive experience where you can get totally lost in the idea that you are on a safari in Africa (with all the Disney safety you could want). I feel like this attraction is best to experience in the morning as more animals seem to be out and visible before the heat of the day.
- The Festival of the Lion King is a show that was closed and then reopened in 2014. Great music and singing, comedy, dancing… everything you’d expect from Disney in highlighting one of it’s biggest animated films. Maybe catch a fastpass for this show after the safari?
- The smaller size of Animal Kingdom lets you jump around the park a bit easier than most of the other parks. As we hit later morning, we may head over and see the Finding Nemo show which is also a near-broadway level performance with incredible puppeteering effects and a couple of new songs to really add to the already great story and songs from the movie.
- That usually puts us at lunch and we really enjoy the counter service at AK. Flame Tree BBQ has the hearty ribs and BBQ sandwiches to fuel you up… and Yak and Yeti (which also has a table service section) brings the asian inspired fare. I recommend both!
- Now, for the roller coaster lovers in the crew, Expedition Everest is a high speed and highly themed thrill ride that will have you screaming throughout. I would definitely leave time to do this more than once so you can catch as many details as possible. Lookout for the eagle at the top of the mountain… oh, yeah, and a little thing called the YETI!
- The Dinoland area is not exactly my favorite. It feels like a bright carnival in the middle of a more “earthy” and darkly themed park. Just a bit forced for me. However, as mentioned here, the play area at Dinoland is a favorite of our kids and can give the adults a chance to rest their feet for a few minutes. It can be a little overwhelming at first so make sure you walk the whole area with your kids so you can get a lay of the land.
Remember, these are just our highlights.
There are many other experiences in Animal Kingdom that will inspire, entertain, and educate you. Just to mention few: Rafiki’s Planet Watch, It’s Tough to Be a Bug, and a soaking water ride, Kali River Rapids. AK is also seeing a large expansion with an immersive Pandora-The World of Avatar, set to open in 2017.
In my opinion, Animal Kingdom may be one of our favorites because we don’t feel overwhelmed by a huge number of attractions like you would find at Magic Kingdom. We feel like we can take our time and enjoy things 2 or 3 times if we’d like. So, dedicate a FULL day to AK. I think you’ll be glad you did!