The Asia area of Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom is, for us, right up there with Pandora – The World of Avatar! We love the rides, the food, the animals, and the elaborate Central Asian theming that’s evident everywhere you look. If you’re not sure what all the fuss is about, check out our favorite 10 things about Asia at Animal Kingdom.
1. Expedition Everest
You can’t miss this thrill ride in Asia – it’s the tallest ride in WDW, and it towers above the park! This ride takes you deep into the Himalayas to search for the iconic Yeti. You’ll reach speeds of 60 miles per hour, and drop a harrowing 80 feet. And you haven’t seen anything yet: after realizing the tracks in front of you have been ripped up, you’ll be suddenly thrown backwards into darkness at hair-raising speeds. Despite our love for the ride’s resident Yeti, we admit this is by far the most thrilling part of the attraction! Tip: if you don’t have a FastPass+ for Expedition Everest, try the single rider line to get on faster.
2. Photo Ops
There are countless places within Animal Kingdom’s Asia to pose for the perfect photo. Some of them are pretty obvious (selfies with the “Himalayas” of Expedition Everest are a must!), but take some time wandering around the area to discover other, less apparent locations for that perfect photo. There are temple ruins, prayer flags, mountain trekking equipment, and even performers on stilts dressed from head to toe in leaves, blending in with the jungle – plenty of amazing backdrops for your new favorite photo!
3. Yak and Yeti
When you need a break from trekking through Animal Kingdom, we recommend a lunch or dinner reservation at this authentically-themed restaurant! Dining here will make you think you’ve been transported to Central Asia, and the food won’t disappoint. You’ll eat surrounded by statues of Himalayan deities and beautifully carved wood furnishings. There’s plenty here for adventurous eaters, and also for those who want something a little more familiar. Our favorite? The fried wonton dessert! We love the attention to detail at this restaurant, like the cast iron teapots and sumptuous architectural details.
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4. Kali River Rapids
This glorified lazy river ride in Animal Kingdom’s Asia is a must-do on hot days (just make sure you have a FastPass+, or you’ll be waiting for quite awhile!). It’s not a thrill ride, unless you consider bobbing along in a giant innertube with seats thrilling. But you will definitely get wet from a number of rapids, waterfalls and sprays – it’s just a question of how much! We’ve emerged from this ride looking – and feeling – like we just went swimming. So be prepared – and have fun!
5. Thirsty River Bar and Trek Snacks
You’ll find this open-air bar near Expedition Everest. There are a variety of fun adult beverages here, from beer to wine to specialty drinks. Fruit juice blends and frozen drinks are also available here, so there’s something for younger trekkers too! You can also grab some sweet, or not-so-sweet, snacks here: popcorn, Mickey pretzels, ice cream bars, and hummus with pita and veggies are all offered.
6. Maharajah Trail
Here on the Maharajah Trail, you can explore the jungles of southeast Asia at your own pace, on a self-guided walking tour. You’ll encounter tigers, a Komodo dragon, giant flying foxes, gibbons and more along the path. There’s an aviary where you’ll get up close and personal with a variety of beautiful, exotic birds (borrow a bird spotting guide to see how many you can find). There are observation stations where you can talk to cast members and learn more about your favorite species, and what’s being done to keep them safe around the world.
This area is one of our favorites in all of Animal Kingdom for buying one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Check out the Expedition Everest shop for all things Yeti; they also have a great selection of apparel for all ages, and items (prayer flags, scarves, and more) that are from Central Asia. Visit the Yak and Yeti shop for a variety of Asian merchandise – we have yet to make a trip without buying something here! Mandala Gifts also offers Asian-themed souvenirs, including masks, jewelery, and stuffed animals.
8. Jungle Book Characters
If you’re a fan of the Jungle Book, you’ve come to the right place! Baloo and King Louie from the classic Disney film meet guests and sign autographs at Upcountry Landing, an abandoned boat launch, in Animal Kingdom’s Asia. You’ll love that there is shade along the way, which makes waiting – especially in this park – much more bear-able! All punning aside, meeting these huge, friendly, huggable characters is a great introduction to Jungle Book for young ones!
9. Anandapur Ice Cream Truck
It’s not hard to spot this ice cream truck on the path to Expedition Everest in Asia! It’s a delightfully whimsical blue bus painted with landscapes, designs and creatures from Central Asian mythology. Here, you’ll find soft-serve ice cream (chocolate, vanilla or twist), floats and beverages. It’s the perfect way to cool down on a scorching day in Animal Kingdom! (Tip: visit Anandapur Ice Cream Truck after riding Expedition Everest!)
Even if you didn’t go on any attractions or visit any restaurants in Asia, it would still be well worth the visit simply to wander through this area of Animal Kingdom. The Disney attention to detail is apparent everywhere, and Imagineers actually traveled to Central Asia to conduct research before this area opened, bringing back photos, artifacts and cultural information that helped them create what you see today. You’ll love the crumbling ancient ruins surrounded by lush jungle, the prayer flags blowing in the wind, and the gorgeously intricate artwork that evokes images of far-away lands.