Updated for Summer 2018 our Guide to Animal Kingdom for Beginners is an essential guide for first-time visitors & experienced travellers. Find out all you need to know about Disney’s Animal Kingdom and how to handle Orlando’s hottest attractions at Pandora – The World of Avatar. In addition, we have all the latest additions for Summer 2018 at the Animal Kingdom.
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Are you looking for specific information? Our handy jumps will lead you key information in our Guide to Animal Kingdom for Beginners.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom was the 4th park to open at Walt Disney World on April 22, 1998. It is the largest park in Walt Disney World covering more than 400 acres. 10.9 million guests visited the park in 2015 making it the 4th most visited park in the United States. The park’s icon is The Tree of Life a 145-foot tree sculpture. The tree was engineered from a former oil platform and has 325 carvings.
The Animal Kingdom is dedicated to a kingdom of real, ancient and imagined animals. In total there are around 2000 animals representing 300 species. The park is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
However, animals are not all you will find in this superb park. The Animal Kingdom has some of the biggest E-Ticket attractions in Walt Disney World and after the opening of Pandora – World of Avatar this is at least a 2-day park.
Animal Kingdom Facts
Despite being the newest theme park at Walt Disney World it has plenty of interesting statistics and facts. Click the pictures to see some of our favorite facts.
Planning Your Visit
To experience the Animal Kingdom you should spend time planning your experience. In the past, it was possible to do all the major attractions in one day but this is now impossible. The majority of guests will need 2 or even 3 days to experience the full park.
Not having a plan could mean you miss your top attractions.
It is important you understand about Fastpass+ before you visit and the key booking windows. You can only pre-book one Fastpass for either Na’vi River Journey or Flight of Passage. Due to the popularity of these attractions do not expect to get an extra Fastpass later in the day.
We have created a Guide to Fastpass at the Animal Kingdom including an Animal Kingdom Fastpass Strategy. Our guide has information on how to get those Key Pandora Fastpasses and what to do if you miss out.
Guests of Walt Disney World Resort Hotels & select non-Disney owned resorts can enjoy extra time in the Animal Kingdom several days each week. Extra Magic Hours occur either before parks open or after they close to regular guests. However; remember there are 30000 hotel rooms in WDW so that is a lot of people who can attend.
We have created a Guide to Extra Magic Hours so you can learn more.
Struggling to get a Fastpass for all your top attractions?
Expedition Everest has a single rider line which can cut your wait if you are happy to ride on your own. Read our guide to the Single Rider Line to find out more.
Tips, Mistakes & Must-Do Attractions at the Animal Kingdom
Anybody who has ever visited The Animal Kingdom will have a list of Tips, Mistakes to avoid & Must-Do attractions for a future visit. Here is a selection of ours which we have learnt from previous visits. Learning from other guest experiences is a great way to create your Ultimate Animal Kingdom Plan.
Here are our Top Animal Kingdom Tips to have a fantastic day.
We all make mistakes. Occasionally these mistakes can ruin your vacation. We have created a list of the most common Animal Kingdom Mistakes.
If time is tight it would be worth looking at our must-do attractions and those to consider skipping guides. The Animal Kingdom is a massive park plus several attractions usually have lengthy waits. Most guests will struggle to do all the attractions in 1 day.
Are you big enough to ride?
Don’t create a strategy that includes all family members riding to realise too late not all of you can. Many of the Walt Disney World attractions do carry restrictions. At the Animal Kingdom these are:
- Avatar Flight of Passage at least 44 inches tall to ride
- Dinosaur at least 40 inches tall to ride
- Expedition Everest at least 44 inches tall to ride
- Kali River Rapids at least 38 inches tall to ride
- Primeval Whirl at least 48 inches tall to ride
Also, many small children do find It’s Tough To Be a Bug petrifying & Dinosaur many guests will find a little scary even if big enough to ride.
However, if the kids are too small to ride it does not mean adults and older siblings can’t. Rider Switch, also sometimes known as child swap, allows guests with small children to take turns riding while another adult stays with the child.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has become a very popular park following the opening of Pandora – World of Avatar.
No matter when you visit you will meet some crowds. Sometimes the crowds will be light but on occasion, they might feel unmanageable.
However, you can still have a great day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom even when it is crowded.
Avoiding Crowds at Walt Disney World is a guide we have created to help you manage the busiest days.
Disabilities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The Animal Kingdom provides extensive facilities for all forms of disabilities including visual, auditory, mobility & cognitive disabilities. You are able to contact Walt Disney World at (407) 560-2547 or [email protected] prior to your visit to discuss your requirements.
Walt Disney World has created a Disability FAQ which you also might find useful to check before your visit.
Character Meet & Greet
Characters are probably not the main reason guests visit the Animal Kingdom. However, there are several characters you can meet which you will not find in other parks. Although not guaranteed, waits to meet the most popular Disney Characters can be shorter in the Animal Kingdom compared to the Magic Kingdom.
At the time of writing characters that can only be met in the Animal Kingdom include Pocahontas, Russell and Dug.
Plus, for summer 2018 there is the new Donald’s Dino bash which features more characters including Launchpad McQuack. Read our summer 2018 section of this post for more information.
There are 7 lands at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The newest land Pandora – The World of Avatar opened in 2017.
The Oasis is the Main Street, USA of Animal Kingdom. Guests enter this land after entering the park. Exhibits include wallabies, babirusa and a variety of birds. In addition, the Oasis has various guest facilities including locker hire, stroller hire, wheelchair hire and guest relations.
The maze of paths at the Oasis all leads to Discovery Island.
Discovery Island is the main hub of the Animal Kingdom & is located around the Tree of Life. Discovery Island is home to It’s Tough to Be a Bug! and several animal trails. Tough to Be a Bug is a 4D adventure starring the cast from A Bug’s Life.
The animal trails are missed by many guests especially those in a hurry. Take your time there is plenty to see here.
This is one of my favourite lands in the Animal Kingdom. The theming of the land is outstanding.
Africa is home to:
- Kilimanjaro Safaris a ride through animal exhibit taking the theme of an African Safari Vacation.
- Festival of the Lion King a great sing along with the cast of the Lion King.
- The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail formerly known asThe Pangani Forest Exploration Trails. Animals include hippos, meerkats and of course gorillas.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Reached via the Wildlife Express Train the area has a conservation station & petting zoo. If you are short on time this is a section of the park to consider skipping.
Expedition Everest & Kali River Rapids are the big attractions here. In addition, you will find the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
- Expedition Everest Embark on a thrilling expedition through the Himalayas before coming face to face with the Yeti. A great fast thrilling coaster that has a backwards section.
- Kali River Rapids a fantastic raft ride. You will get wet and make sure you store your belongings in the free lockers.
- Maharajah Jungle Trek. This stunning exhibit includes tigers, Komodo dragons & a walk through bird exhibit.
The popular Flights of Wonder show played for the last time on 31 December 2017. The new UP! A Great Bird Adventure has recently opened. In this show featuring characters from Up!, you can discover some of the world’s most exotic birds.
Dinoland U.S.A. contains the excellent Finding Nemo: The Musical and Dinosaur. Make sure you check the showtimes for Finding Nemo & arrive early when the park is busy. Dinosaur is a ride many young children will find scary but it is great fun.
The awful tacky Chester and Hester’s Dinorama contains Triceratops Spin and Primeval Whirl. Chester and Hester’s Dinorama continues to feel out of place in the otherwise stunning Animal Kingdom park.
- Triceratops Spin is a Dumbo-like ride on a triceratops.
- Primeval Whirl is a spinning coaster. Which if it had better theming would be actually a fairly good ride.
Pandora – The World of Avatar
The newest area of Animal Kingdom opened in 2017 containing the unbelievable attractions Flight of Passage & Na’vi River Journey.
- Na’vi River Journey Guests are taken through the Kasvapan River of Pandora. On your journey, you will see native animals and bioluminescent flora.
- Flight of Passage. Guests take a flight on a Banshee across Pandora. This 3D simulator is unbelievable and has raised the bar on theme park experiences.
Make sure you leave plenty of time to explore Pandora and try to visit both during the day and night. Pandora is even more magical at night.
We have created a Guide to Pandora – The World of Avatar which has plenty of hints and tips.
Dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The park has 4 table service restaurants.
- Rainforest Cafe part of the worldwide chain. The restaurant can be entered both from inside and outside the park. Click here to see our video review.
- Yak & Yeti an Asian-themed restaurant.
- Tusker House in Africa offers safari themed Character Meals.
- Tiffins this signature restaurant opened in 2016 and has the Nomad Lounge adjacent.
In addition, there are several quick service restaurants in the park.
Disney’s Advanced Dining Reservations are restaurant reservations made in advance at the majority of Disney Table Service Restaurants. The Animal Kingdom’s restaurants do fill up and standby lines, if they exist, can be long. Make sure you plan well in advance especially if you have booked the Disney Dining Plan.
Our Guide to Advanced Dining Reservations has further information.
Entertainment at the Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of the best parks for entertainment offerings. Whilst there is no longer a parade in the park there is plenty of other entertainment you should not miss.
There are 3 fantastic stage shows:
- Festival of the Lion King
- Finding Nemo the Musical
- Up! A Great Bird Adventure.
Shows can be very popular and if you are not using a Fastpass you must arrive well before the scheduled start.
Walt Disney World offers several free interactive games within the parks. Wilderness Explorers is a scavenger hunt in which guests earn badges for completing activities. The games are loosely based on the film Up! Examples of badges you can earn include:
- Veterinary Badge – Help diagnose a sea turtle’s health issue
- Dinosaur Badge – Join in the exploration for dinosaur fossils
- Animal Find Badge – Check off each of the animals you see
- Yeti Badge – Find Yeti artefacts and hear about the folklore
In total there are 30 badges to collect.
To get started, guests need to collect a field guide from the headquarters which is located on the bridge between the Oasis and Discovery Island.
Tree of Life Awakenings
This show is incredibly clever and happens every 10 minutes nightly.
A combination of light, projections and music make the animals on the Tree of Life come to life. The show is impossible to describe but you shouldn’t miss it.
Rivers of Light
Rivers of Light is the first major night-time attraction at the Animal Kingdom. This highly popular show features water fountains, barges, music and spectacular lighting. There are 11 barges in total.
The show is located in Discovery Lagoon between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest. The show is incredibly popular and if you don’t have a Fastpass you should arrive at least 1 hour before show start.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is perhaps the best park at Walt Disney World to fall upon unexpected entertainment. From fantastic African Bands to the mystical Swotu Wayä Na’vi Drum Ceremony In Pandora, there is so much to discover.
Perhaps the very best is Discovery Island Carnivale which performs several times every evening. Guests will encounter dancers, stilt walkers and musicians for a nighttime dance party in the streets of Discovery Island. Don’t miss it!
Coming Summer 2018
After all the new fun at the Animal Kingdom in 2017, 2018 is a little quieter.
Donald’s Dino Bash!
A new meet and greet is coming to Dino-Land, opening 25 May. At Donald’s Dino-Bash! The Animal Kingdom is promising more characters than ever before including Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Chip ‘n Dale and Launchpad McQuack.
It is hard to imagine that Donald’s Dino-Bash will make Dino-Land a must-do area to visit but you never know.
UP! A Great Bird Adventure
The popular Flights of Wonder show played for the last time on 31 December 2017. The new UP! A Great Bird Adventure has recently opened. In this show featuring characters from Up!, you can discover some of the world’s most exotic birds. Early reviews have been positive for this new show.
The Animal Kingdom is 20 and there will be merchandise available throughout the park to celebrate the occasion.
Our Guide to Walt Disney World for Beginners is a great starting place to start planning your vacation.
We have created a fantastic selection of Walt Disney World Planning Tips which you might find useful.