Animal Kingdom has a vibe all its own. This is the one Disney Park where you feel like you’re on vacation! With the exception of its heavy hitters over in Pandora, Animal Kingdom is relaxed and easy-going… If you do it right. Avoid these Animal Kingdom mistakes and follow our tips to have the best day ever in Walt Disney World’s youngest park.
NOT USING THE PERKS THAT YOU PAID FOR
Staying in a Disney Resort has perks, and these are perks that you pay for! It is cheaper to stay off property, but Disney Resorts offer great restaurants, quick service dining options, free transportation to the Disney parks throughout the day, in some cases, multiple modes of transportation, and early entry into the parks! It may be a vacation, but don’t sleep in on your Animal Kingdom day if you are staying on property.
Disney Resort guests can enjoy the parks 30 minutes earlier than all other guests. This may not sound like much, but in Animal Kingdom you can enjoy so much! Go in early, grab a coffee, and enjoy the details of the park as you make your way towards the safari to be one of the first guests to see the animals! More of an evening person? Deluxe Resort guests can enjoy extended evening hours at certain parks on certain days. Check your hotel to see what parks on what days have extended evening hours.
NOT EXPERIENCING THE MAGIC WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN
Animal Kingdom does not have fireworks because they would disturb the animals, but that doesn’t mean you should skip out before close! The world of Pandora comes alive at night with bioluminescent plant life and details. This is an absolute must do, even if you don’t care at all about Pandora.
Animal Kingdom usually closes around 8:00 PM, so unfortunately summer guests will miss out on this spectacle, but if you plan a winter trip, plan to stay after the sun goes down! Don’t forget if you’re a guest at a deluxe resort, you will have extended evening hours in select parks on select days.
IGNORING ALL OF THE CARVINGS ON THE TREE OF LIFE
Did you know that the tree of life, the centerpiece of Animal Kingdom is made from a recycled oil rig? What’s even more impressive is the animal sculptures on the tree. There are 325 different animals carved into this tree, some small and detailed, others very large. What is amazing is that these sculptures were made from a material that sets in 8 hours, so each sculpture had to be completed quickly!
You will find a lot of the animals while in line for It’s Tough to be a Bug 3D show, but be sure to go around to the backside of the tree, too. You can even see dinosaurs at the bottom of the tree near the roots. Get it? Because dinosaurs are underground now…? Oh, Imagineers, you are amazing.
EXPLORING THE ANIMALS DURING THE DAY
You came to Animal Kingdom to see the animals, but you came over to the Africa section in the afternoon. Animals get hot too, you know. In the afternoon, you will notice that most animals are either taking sanctuary in their air-conditioned habitat areas or just sleeping on a rock. The best times to see the animals on the safari ride or on the walking nature trails are in the morning when the park opens or in the evening before the park closes.
Want extra time with the animals? Don’t forget to dine with excellent animal views at Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort.
MISSING THE SAFARI
Great! You’re taking our advice to take advantage of the safari rides when the animals are more active! Here’s your warning about checking attraction times in the My Disney Experience app! The Kilimanjaro Safari takes its last safari ride between 30 minutes and 60 minutes from park close. Nothing will make an Animal Kingdom day like hearing the lions roar, and you don’t want to miss the chance!
SKIPPING THE SHOWS
Festival of the Lion King is truly a masterpiece, and I am still blown away that that level of entertainment is available in a THEME PARK! But there is more than the Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom. Prior to the closure, there was a musical adaptation of Finding Nemo that captured our hearts. Disney has announced that coming soon is Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…And Beyond! Our favorite addition to shows in Animal Kingdom this year was Kite Tails! To be honest, I just wanted to see giant balloons crash, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these shows! Grab yourself an ice cream sundae and be prepared to smile.
BRINGING YOUR LUNCH
One of the biggest tips for saving money is to bring food into the parks. It’s true, Disney food is expensive. It should be a crime to do that in Animal Kingdom. Besides the World Showcase in EPCOT, Animal Kingdom has the best food in all of Walt Disney World.
I don’t know what is best, the beef bowls in Satu’li Canteen, the ice cream cookie sandwiches at Dino Bites, or the fact that you can have alcohol added to Dole Whip or coffee! Animal Kingdom has great restaurants, quick service, snack stands, and perhaps one of the best lounges in WDW. (It’s Nomad Lounge. Nomad Lounge is the best lounge!)
SKIPPING RAFIKI’S PLANET WATCH
In the go, go, go of a Disney vacation, you may be tempted to skip the train ride to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Remember, Animal Kingdom is the park to relax and take it all in. Up at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, you can pet pigs and sheep at the affection section, watch over the animal’s veterinary care, and my favorite, the Animation Experience. You can actually sit with a Disney animator and be taught how to draw a Disney character. Bonus: You get to leave with a free souvenir – your drawing, of course!
NOT EXPLORING THE DETAILS
Animal Kingdom is truly unique. A team of Imagineers traveled the world to learn the smallest details to really immerse us into the lands. Ask a Cast Member about the flags in Asia, read the posters in Africa, find the broken Great Stone Dragon, or just find classic hidden Mickey’s throughout the park. It would take a lifetime to find every last detail in this park.
THINKING THAT IT IS JUST “ANOTHER ZOO”
This advice comes from personal experience. I ignored Animal Kingdom for 10 years. Being that I live near literally America’s largest zoo, I didn’t want to waste a precious Disney day on a zoo when we can go to the zoo any time. My husband convinced me to go and oh…my… ganache. I was so unbelievably wrong. Sure, there are animals, but you do not get zoo vibes at all. Instead of walking from man-made exhibit to man-made exhibit, Animal Kingdom feels like this land is for the animals and we are the exhibit for them to enjoy. The rides, the shows, the food, the vibe… Animal Kingdom is so different from all of the Disney Parks and is REQUIRED for your next Disney trip!
I am a mother of three that has refused to grow up. Adulting is for the birds, so I go to Disney World every chance I get for that magical escape from reality. I believe that Haunted Mansion is the best ride in all of the Disney Parks, and I am fervently in team Happily Ever After for fireworks spectaculars, (sorry, not sorry, Enchanted). Finally, I hope I never grow tired of skipping down Main Street, USA, and my dream come true would be “friends with” the Fairy Godmother in my old age.