Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is a beautiful park to enjoy not just for the attractions but for the landscape, design and details. Truly enjoying the park means taking the time to walk the many pathways, explore the off-the-beaten-path spots and take your time. But don’t forget the thrills and attractions too… and the animals, the stars of the show! Here are 10 suggestions for having a great day at Animal Kingdom Park.
10. The Shows
It may take some scheduling skill, but I really recommend that you take time to see the many shows at Animal Kingdom. Festival of the Lion King is a fun show featuring music, acrobatics, and a fire dancer. Finding Nemo the Musical is a beautiful Broadway caliber show with all of your favorite friends from the reef. Flights of Wonder is an education but entertaining look at bird species from around the world—and you get up close and personal with some feathered friends. And then you have live entertainment that takes place in various locations throughout the park—a times guide at the entrance to the park will let you know the schedule for the day. As much as you can you want to see the major shows, but don’t forget to happen upon some of the live entertainment that brings the park areas to life.
9. Safari At Dusk
One of my favorite times to enjoy Kilimanjaro Safari is right around dusk. I’m such a Type A Planner that I actually do a Google search for the sunset time on the day of our visit to schedule my FastPass time. You don’t want to go when it is too dark because it is too hard to see anything, but if you time it just right as the sun is setting not only is the savanna beautiful, but the animals are really active. On multiple sunset safaris I’ve seen the lions up roaming around, jumping along the rocks and even roaring.
8. Breakfast at Tusker House
A fun & delicious way to kick off your day at Animal Kingdom is to schedule a breakfast at Tusker House before the park opens. The timing gives you an opportunity to walk through the park almost alone to take in the atmosphere, and allows you to eat your breakfast before other guests enter the park (& the attraction lines). The fantastic buffet is filled with breakfast favorites along with some items with an African flair. It is always fresh and tasty. The interior of the restaurant is made to look like an outdoor market in an African town, the details are really nice. And then there are the characters—Mickey, Donald, Goofy & Daisy all dressed like they are ready for their African Safari, great for photo ops.
7. Hit the Headliners
No visit to Animal Kingdom is complete without a ride on one of the parks headliner thrill rides: Expedition Everest in Asia and Flight of Passage in Pandora. My recommendation to make your day go as smoothly as possible is to “rope drop” one of these two attractions (if you don’t have a FastPass for it). Lines build quickly, so if you arrive at the park early before opening to get lined up and then head straight to one of these attractions you will be able to ride using the standby line (with the elaborate theming) with little or no wait—especially compared to the rest of the day.
6. Counter Service Dining
While I like to recommend adding some of Animal Kingdom’s excellent table service options to your plan, I also really like their counter or quick service dining. And even the snack options are great! Flame Tree Barbecue offers delicious smoked meats that will please even pickier eaters. The Harambe Market has several different stations where you can sample food with an African influence, while Yak & Yeti Local Foods Market serves up some nice Asian specialties. Over in Pandora you can visit the Satu’li Canteen for internationally inspired dishes with a particularly good selection of vegetarian options. Be sure to look at the menus at the various kiosks through the park too—you’ll find some very inventive food options to satisfy you as either a snack, a dessert, or a meal.
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5. Animal Adventures
As the name implies, Animal Kingdom is full of animal encounters and to make the most of all it has to offer you will want to plan some time to explore the trails around the Oasis, Discovery Island and the Tree of Life. Along these trails you’ll find animal exhibits and sometimes Cast Members or Animal Care Specialists who can give you more information about the animals. The same is true for the more obvious animal trails: Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia and Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail in Africa. These offer great viewing opportunities of animals along with some fun activities and information. Conservation Station and Rafiki’s Planet Watch offer more great opportunities to get up close and personal with the animals—there is even a look at the animal care team treating the animals through a large glass window.
4. Take a Tour
Animal Kingdom offers some amazing behind the scenes type experiences if you are looking to add on to your day in the park. These tours are an additional expense on top of your park admission. The Caring for Giants tour gives you the opportunity to learn in depth about the elephants at Animal Kingdom and how they are cared for along with a special viewing opportunity. The Wild Africa Trek allows you to get special access to the Harambe Wildlife Preserve with a guide—you’ll walk to special viewing opportunities of the animals, traverse bridges across habitats, cross the savanna in special safari truck and even enjoy a meal overlooking the savanna, it is an unforgettable experience. Backstage Tales is an early morning experience that takes you backstage to the animal care facilities including the nutrition center and veterinary hospital. There are other opportunities as well include an evening safari.
3. Eat at Tiffins
Tiffins restaurant is nestled just off Discovery Island before the entrance to Pandora. The dining experience here is just that, an experience. You can enjoy Tiffins in the restaurant itself (reservations recommended/required) or in the Nomad Lounge. Either way you’ll be treated to a top notch event with spectacular service and creative dishes prepared with fresh ingredients. Don’t let the menu scare you away with some of the more exotic ingredients and combinations, there are a lot of options here and they are all delicious. The interior of the restaurant features drawings, artifacts, paintings and samples all collected during the Imagineer’s travels and used to design Animal Kingdom park, so not only are you treated to a fantastic meal you also get a feeling for the work that went into creating the park. It is a great way to relax for dinner.
2. Wilderness Explorers
Do you have kids in your group? Even without them I recommend signing up at the beginning of the park to be a Wilderness Explorer (like Russell in the Disney-Pixar Movie Up). You are given a book that guides you around to various parts of the park where you interact with a cast member to learn more about animals or culture and earn a badge (sticker) for your book. Kids love hunting for the locations, doing the activities, and most of all earning the stickers. And I find as an adult it takes me to places in the park I normally would’ve overlooked or missed.
1. Stay After Dark
Animal Kingdom is beautiful after dark. It is peaceful but also completely vibrant! You will want to take in a show at Rivers of Light (maybe combine that Tusker House breakfast or Tiffins Dinner into a Rivers of Light dining package with reserved seating). This beautiful production captures your imagination about the natural world around us. Stop by the Tree of Life to catch an Awakening. There are a few different versions of the projection show that bring the animals carved into the trunk to life. There are no set times for these, they start around sunset/dark and rotate through during the night. And of course, you can’t miss Pandora: World of Avatar at night. The bioluminescent plants glow all around you creating a breathtaking & other worldly experience.
What are you best tips for a great day at Animal Kingdom?