Disney’s Animal Kingdom

By James | Last updated May 10, 2024

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998 and is the biggest Disney World park by far. Animal Kingdom is five times the size of the Magic Kingdom, covering some 500 acres, though the safari tour takes up a lot of this. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is home to over 200 different animal species set in realistic habitats

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is designed to look like a safari park and is landscaped with over 100,000 trees and 4 million plants. Because of the nature of wild animals it is not a park to be rushed. To get the most enjoyment from Disney’s Animal Kingdom you should take your time and relax and just watch the animals interacting in their own environment.

Avatar Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom
Avatar Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom photo by @banzsnapsdisney

Animal Kingdom Map

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is divided into a number of main “lands” spread around the central Discovery Island like the spokes of a wheel:

  • Oasis – a leafy oasis of exotic animals, just inside the park entrance near the Rainforest Cafe
  • Discovery Island – cannot be missed because of the giant Tree of Life, also home to the It’s Tough to be a Bug! 3-D show based on the Disney/Pixar classic animation.
  • Africa – experience a wildlife safari with Kilimanjaro Safaris or explore the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch – only accessible by the Wildlife Express Train and home to the Conservation Station
  • Asia – take a white water raft ride down the Kali River Rapids and explore jungle paths on the Maharajah Jungle Trek. The “Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain” roller coaster ride that opened in April 2006
  • Dinoland U.S.A. – fun for the whole family where kids can play in The Boneyard or take a spin on the Primeval Whirl roller coaster
  • Pandora – The World of Avatar opened in 2017 and offers an immersive adventure based on the Avatar film
Animal Kingdom Map
Animal Kingdom Map

For the detailed map, visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s page where you can find the map at the bottom.

Camp Minnie Mouse used to be home to the Festival of the Lion King stage show and meet and greet Mickey, Minnie and friends. It closed to make way for Pandora – The World of Avatar and the Festival of the Lion King moved to Africa.

Because of the safety of the wild animals there are no evening firework displays at Disney’s Animal Kingdom but like the other parks there was an afternoon parade that ran from Africa, past Asia and across Discovery Island before making its way back to Africa. It was closed in 2014 to make way for the new Pandora attraction.

Disney have brought Pixar to Animal Kingdom with a new show featuring characters from the Disney-Pixar film “Up”. It debuted in the Spring of 2018 at the Caravan Theater in the Anandapur village part of Asia. To make way for the “Up” show, “Flights of Wonder” closed on December 31, 2017.

Like, Flights of Wonder, the new show also feature a number of different bird species accompanied by Wilderness Explorer Russell and his short-attention span dog, Dug.

Animal Kingdom Rides

There are some must visit Animal Kingdom rides that stand out at the park. These iconic attractions are part of the reason why thousands of visitors flock here every day.

Avatar Flight of Passage

This is our favorite ride out of all the Disney parks and as a big fan of the Avatar franchise, it certainly doesn’t disappoint. We’re not the only big fans of this ride, it’s often ranked at the top of Disney fan’s favorite list too. The Flight of Passage will see you soaring above the breathtaking world of Pandora in this magical experience. As you fly on the back of a banshee, your senses are all drawn into the stunning visuals of the world around you.

Expedition Everest

As you walk around the park, you will notice an astonishing mountain emerging from the background, Mount Everest. Here you embark on an expedition to Mount Everest where you navigate through the Himalayan mountain on a speeding train. Similar to Magic Kingdom’s Thunder Mountain, you race through the tracks with some dramatic drops and twists.

Expedition Everest ride to the top of the mountain in Animal Kingdom
Expedition Everest ride to the top of the mountain in Animal Kingdom photo by @bankzsnapsdisney

You can expedite your Everest experience with the single rider line queues if you’re willing to ride alone without your friends or family. You can find the entrance for the Single Rider Line near the ride’s exit, adjacent to the gift shop area. This is a great time-saving tip if you’re looking to maximize your time out of the queues and wish to spend more time around the park’s attractions.

Kilimanjaro Safaris

This is a wonderful open-air vehicle ride through Disney’s African savanna which takes you on a wild adventure to explore the park’s wildlife. On route, you get the chance to spot the park’s exotic animals such as lions, elephants, and giraffes. If you’re a fan of wildlife parks and safari you will absolutely love this experience. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is also a great stay if wanted to get close to nature at your resort.

Timing the safari can be crucial to get the best out of the experience. Early morning or late afternoon tends to be better for spotting animals due to cooler temperatures. The safari queues tend not to be too long but there is the option of the lightening lane if you want to secure your slot for one of the preferred early morning rides.

Genie Plus Animal Kingdom Strategy

Disney’s Genie Plus will play a key role in your queue avoidance strategy at Animal Kingdom. This service allows you to enter the Lightning Lanes by reserving a time for select rides and experiences. Understanding Genie Plus can help you make the most of your day, ensuring you enjoy more of your favorite attractions with less time spent queueing.

Genie Plus pricing is dynamic, meaning that it fluctuates based on seasonality and it’s important to assess the value it provides on the day of your visit. A typical day might see prices ranging from $20 to $25 per person. If you are going off-peak, it may not be worth the investment. If you do opt for the queue jumping option, everyone in your group will need to purchase Genie Plus to take advantage of the Lightning Lanes.

Prioritizing which attractions to book first can be the difference between a good visit and a great one. Where possible, we would recommend booking the most popular rides, like Kilimanjaro Safaris and Na’vi River Journey. These queues have been known to extend past the entrance gates (long queues!). Booking these attractions as early as possible in the day is a great strategy and it can have a positive ripple effect on the rest of your schedule.

Animal Kingdom at Night

Animal Kingdom has always been the least busy of the four Disney theme parks in Walt Disney World and is seen by many as a ‘half day’ attraction, not helped by the early closing and lack of evening entertainment.

To help try and address this, Disney have introduced a range of new night-time entertainments.

There is a new “Rivers of Light” show on Discovery River featuring live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery and live performers on Discovery Island. It was originally planned to open in April 2016 but technical difficulties delayed the opening and it finally opened on February 10, 2017.

The Kilimanjaro Safaris ride has been extended to offer Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris in the evenings after dark.

Animal Kingdom for Kids and Toddlers

Animal Kingdom has a lot of children-friendly activities that make it great for a family day out. From thrilling expeditions to wildlife trails and state-of-the-art rides, there’s something here for everyone in the family.

Kid-Friendly Rides

  • Na’vi River Journey – Explore the Na’vi River in Avatar and glide through the magical rainforest.
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris – This is an Ideal activity for all ages, from infants to seniors. You can all enjoy this guided tour through the African savanna.
  • TriceraTop Spin: This is recommended for younger children. This is a gentle ride featuring dinosaur-themed gondolas that soar and spin.
  • Expedition Everest: For the slightly older children and teens (and adults). Venture on a high-speed roller coaster with sharp turns and a yeti encounter!
  • Avatar Flight of Passage: One of Animal Kingdom’s best rides in our opinion. This is suitable for most ages but you must be 44 inches or taller to experience this flying simulator.
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug! A great 3D film experience for preschool children and up but there are a few jump surprises that can be a bit too much for very young children.

Animal Kingdom Character Meet and Greets

Meet classic Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie, dressed for adventure. As you explore the park, you are likely to bump into a few of Disney’s favorite animal friends, like we usually do. You can also meet with Rafiki or Pocahontas around the park and learn about the importance of conservation.

Animal Kingdom Live Shows and Performances

  • Festival of the Lion King – Perfect for all ages and we love it. This is a live musical show with colorful costumes and amazing music you will recognize from the film.
  • Finding Nemo, The Musical – Enjoy the undersea story of Nemo and friends with puppetry and songs. The show is called The Big Blue and Beyond.