I’ve never been able to pick a favorite park in Walt Disney World. Every one of them has so many great things to offer. When I write about each one, each of them becomes my favorite all over again. As I reminisce about Animal Kingdom it brings back some of my favorite memories from past Walt Disney World vacations.
The park begins with a restaurant, so it’s only fair that restaurants start this list. All three of the table service restaurants here are worth every penny and all for different reasons. Tusker House features unique buffet food options in an African marketplace atmosphere with character dining to boot. Yak and Yeti has incredible Asian cuisine with some of the most breathtaking décor in any of Walt Disney World’s restaurants, while the Rainforest Café right at the front gate of course features an incredible jungle meal experience kids of all ages are sure to enjoy. But it doesn’t end there. Even if you are looking for a quick bite to eat, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has some of the most unique and delicious options on the entire property. Take Flame Tree Barbeque, where watermelon and jerk chicken salads and absolutely-over-the-top pulled pork sandwiches and ribs elevate this counter service restaurant to another level. Finally, the addition of the Harambe Market offers even more food and drink options you won’t find anywhere else on property.
Two of the best shows in the parks are located in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Finding Nemo – the Musical plays to full houses 5 times a day. It’s a 40 minute musical theatre/puppetry version of the hit Pixar film. The puppetry is the reason I go back every single time. Watching Finding Nemo’s characters come alive in gigantic puppet form is magical on a level no one but Disney could deliver. People have said that it’s the air conditioning in the theatre that packs the houses each day, but looking around the theatre you can see the audience is glued to the action unfolding in front of their eyes. On the other side of the park, another story unfolds on stage. Festival of the Lion King plays even more often each day and is a 30 minute mini-version of the Broadway production based on the film. The songs are incredible, and they have found a way to make the show interactive, and incorporate aspects normally expected in a Cirque show. Both of these shows are on our list each and every visit.
We’ve all visited zoos at some point in our lives. Maybe we’ve even gotten the opportunity somewhere close to home to go to a park where there’s a safari-type ride. Now that I visit Walt Disney World at least once a year, those rides are all ruined for me. Kilimanjaro Safaris is probably the closest you will come to an actual safari without heading to Africa itself. Getting that close to elephants, lions, hippos, cheetahs and many more majestic animals is something most people just can’t experience themselves out in the wild. Here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom you get a view of them in habitats as close to their own African homes as you can get. If that wasn’t enough, the walking tours around Maharajah Trek and Pangani Forest give you up close and personal encounters with giant bats, tigers, gorillas and many more beautiful, awe-inspiring creatures.
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As you enter the area of Asia in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can’t help but notice the enormous replica of Mount Everest on the horizon. Within it is one of the best thrill rides any theme park has ever created. Expedition Everest climbs to Everest’s peak in search of the elusive Yeti. Most people grab FastPasses for this experience, and I have to say I am among them. I do remember the days when we waited in line, though, and the story Disney creates with the props and set pieces along the way is well worth the wait. Pictures and prop pieces depicting the Yeti and his travels in the mountain ranges, temples, bells and prayer flags adorn the walls and every corner of every twist and turn of the line. Take your time on one of your trips and wait in the line if you haven’t experienced all of those twists and turns yourself. Then, of course, the ride itself interacts directly with the Yeti as you race for your lives by the end of it. This is one of my favorite rides anywhere.
All of the parks have unique offerings when it comes to shopping. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has some extremely unique ones though. Shops like Mombasa Marketplace/Ziwani Traders in Africa have instruments, masks and more products made on site by people from that continent. A lot of the goods even in the shops in Asia are from those countries themselves, with proceeds going back to the country to help a struggling economy half a world away. Our favorite shops are the Expedition Everest gift shop, designed with Himalayan mountain trekking decor, and the Yak and Yeti Shop: great clothes, toys, picture frames, glasses and much, much more.
Just because the park closes early doesn’t mean there isn’t lots to see. Leave yourself lots of time to explore Animal Kingdom and take in everything it has to offer.