Disney’s Animal Kingdom is such a fun, low-pressure park to enjoy. There is a ton of fun exploration, including trails and Wilderness Explorer challenges for kids. The experience of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a lot more self-paced than other park experiences. That is because the park is more about the environment than a large population of attractions. There are seven sections of the park, with plenty of time to experience each one, if you take the time to plan properly. A Day at the Animal Kingdom can be long or short, depending on your taste. Here is a comprehensive Animal Kingdom touring plan to get you ready for your next Walt Disney World trip.
Get there before the park opens. You don’t need to be ahead of the crowds and get there a half-hour early. Just be there around opening time and remember to leave time to get through security. Once inside, you will not be rushing to your first attraction, so don’t worry about being late or losing time.
Take Your Time
Upon entry into the Animal Kingdom, you will find yourself in an Oasis, which is a tree-covered courtyard that leads to a bridge that takes you to Discovery Island. Discovery Island is the hub that leads to all other sections of the park. However, take a look around before you leave the oasis. There is a lot to take in, including some animal habitats to enjoy. Throughout the day, you should refrain from running from one attraction to the next. Enjoy your surroundings and stop to explore what’s around you before moving onto a new section of the park.
Some restaurants in Disney’s Animal Kingdom require you to have a reservation. Tiffins, Tusker House, and Yak and Yeti are all table service restaurants you need reservations for. You can make reservations 180 days in Advance of your check-in date, regardless of which day of your trip your Animal Kingdom touring plan is on. Tiffins is a signature dining restaurant connected with the Nomad Lounge on the bridge to Pandora. It’s ideal for an early lunch. Tusker House is a character buffet in Africa, where Donald and his friends roam around in Safari uniforms. If you wait for a late lunch or an early dinner, you may want to eat at Yak and Yeti in Asia.
Fastpass+ allows you to select (1) Tier one attraction and (2) tier two attractions. Once you use all three you can continue grabbing and using additional Fastpasses one at a time. The Tier one Fastpasses are Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. The clear choice is to use it on Flight of Passage. Everything else is tier two. We suggest using your second and third Fastpasses for Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest. Once you claim your third Fastpass, you can find a new attraction to claim and modify with a convenient return time. Keep that going one at a time, until you have done every attraction you want. For more Fastpass information read Deciphering Animal Kingdom Fastpass+ Tiers. We also have a helpful guide on Fastpass Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make at Disney World.
Early Morning — Oasis/Discovery Island
When you enter the park, take your time and enjoy the surroundings. When you come to Discovery Island there is a fun 3D show in the Tree of Life, as well as Discovery Island Trails and some character meet and greets. You can meet Pocahontas here, as well as characters from UP. If you need a bite, Creature Comforts has a colossal cinnamon roll that you have to try. It’s ideal for splitting between three or four people.
Late Morning — Pandora
Your First Fastpass+ should be for Flight of Passage in Pandora. Schedule it for some time between 10:00 and 11:00. Take in the World of Avatar and it’s interactive surroundings, but plan also on returning after dark. Hold off on the Na’ vi River Journey until then. For more on the world of Avatar read What to Expect at Animal Kingdom’s Pandora The World of Avatar.
Once you leave Pandora, start making your way toward Africa. There is an extensive marketplace, some excellent street food, a safari, a gorilla encounter, a train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and the Festival of the Lion King. This is not a section of the park you want to rush through. It can take 2-4 hours, depending on how you do lunch and how much time you want to spend in the area before moving on. Your second Fastpass+ should be for Kilimanjaro Safari sometime between 12:00 and 1:00. Be sure to see Festival of the Lion King as well. It’s a short but entertaining show. Don’t waste a Fastpass+ on it, just plan to arrive about ten minutes before the scheduled showtime.
For an Early Lunch, consider Tiffins. It’s an homage to Imagineering’s love of the Animal Kingdom. It tells a story of the park and the menu is fine dining quality. The character buffet at Tusker House is another nice choice. Otherwise, you may like to use Mobile Order at the Harambe Market to get some quick bites.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
The train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a nice little ride that takes you to a conservation facility, a petting zoo, and a new Animation Experience that illustrates how Disney artists draw their inspiration from live creatures for films such as The Lion King, The Jungle Book, and Dumbo.
Your third Fastpass+ should be for Expedition Everest between 3:00 and 4:00. Asia is a gorgeous place to spend the late afternoon. There is a jungle trek, a rafting ride, and Yak and Yeti, a table service restaurant ideal for an early dinner. As soon as you scan your last Fastpass+, you can select a new one and modify the return time. Try Kali River Rapids while you are still in Asia, or plan ahead for Dinosaur at around 7:00.
Check out the last performance of Finding Nemo on your way into Dinoland USA. When you enter the Dinosaur themed land, notice the twin theming of the Dino Institute and the DinoRama roadside attraction. This is also a character spot for Donald, Scrooge, Launchpad and more. Dinosaur and Primeval Whirl are fun rides you can use Fastpass+ on to save time. Enjoy the carnival games and the intricate story details in the area until the sunset.
Nighttime at the Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has nighttime entertainment that projects onto the Tree of Life and the Rivers of Light show. Rivers of Light has an 8:15 show with viewing areas on the east side of the park. Pandora is also a sight to behold after dark. If you did not have Dinner at Yak and Yeti or Restaurantosaurus, Satu’li Canteen is an excellent way to end the evening in Pandora. Even better would be to enjoy drinks at Nomad Lounge before you call it a night.
I have been visiting the parks annually since my parents first brought me at just a year old. Recently I was able to fulfill my life long dream of being a Florida local and moved from the wintery Northeast to the sunshine and fun of central Florida. Now I am hoping to share my Disney knowledge with you so you can have the best vacation possible!
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