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Our Experience: Returning to Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom reopened to the public on Saturday, July 11. Two days later, my daughter and I made our first visit. We’re local Passholders, and we were not able to get reservations before that. We attended the Passholder Preview at the Magic Kingdom a few days earlier, and we had high expectations that Walt Disney World would continue to make safety the top priority. Disney did not disappoint.

We didn’t arrive at rope drop, we got there a little bit after 1:00. The woman at the toll plaza asked if we had reservations, since not everyone realizes that they are needed right now. We then parked. Since parking is staggered and we arrived late, we ended up in the row next to Preferred Parking. At the beginning of the day they will instruct people to park every other spot. By the time we arrived, they were filling in the empty spots. There are still no trams.

Next was temperature check and bag check. They have switched to the Evolv system for bag check, you just walk through! It is fast and easy. Umbrellas need to be taken out of bags, but besides that you can just leave everything in. One of the security Cast Members told me that so far they really like the new system.

The only time that I’ve ever seen Disney’s Animal Kingdom so quiet was when we attended Disney After Hours. We walked right onto Avatar Flight of Passage, and then walked on a second time. It’s nice to go through the queue and hear the sounds! It was a different experience.

Avatar Flight of Passage

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Flight of Passage always had two preshows, but they have now been combined. You’ll be given a number, but that won’t be where you stand for the preshow. Instead, you’ll stand on a circle on the floor, so don’t forget your number! Both rooms are used for the preshow, to keep parties apart. There’s no more checking for parasites or moving around while you link with your Avatar. The ride itself is as incredible as always. You won’t ride right next to another party.

Marker to stand on for Avatar Flight of Passage

There were plexiglass barriers up in lines when people might end up side by side. There were only five of us on Kilimanjaro Safaris, and there are barriers between rows on the jeeps. (A special shoutout to our guide, Guinevere, who really loves her job!) On DINOSAUR, you could skip the preshow if you wanted to, or stay and watch.

Kilimanjaro Safaris dividers

We ate at Satu’li Canteen. This is probably my favorite quick service restaurant at Walt Disney World. Only Mobile Ordering was allowed, and there was a code to scan if you don’t have the My Disney Experience App. We couldn’t go inside until our order was ready. This time it was fast! Inside there were tables marked off, and a Cast Member was getting drinks for people. The food was just as good as I remembered.

Satu’li Canteen

Cast Members were once again making sure that everyone wore their masks properly. I didn’t see anyone trying to get around the rule today. There are Relaxation Stations in the park. We went inside the one in Pizzafari, and the AC felt nice! Tables are spaced far apart, and there are Cast Members on hand to make sure that everyone is following the rules.

Relaxation Station

Characters at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are seen on Character Cruises along the Discovery River. When I first heard about this, I wasn’t sold on the idea. In my mind I pictured squinting to try to make out who was on each float. I will admit that I was wrong! There are great places to watch, and a new float will come out every few minutes. I know that this isn’t the ideal way to see characters, but I still felt like Mickey was happy to see us.

Riverboat Characters

I’m not going to tell anyone whether or not they should come to Walt Disney World right now. What I will tell you is that Disney is doing their part to keep people safe. The rest of it is up to us when we go. We need to wear our masks, use the hand sanitizer that is everywhere, and follow the social distancing guidelines. There may be some parts of Disney’s Animal Kingdom that we can’t experience right now, but there is still plenty of magic to be found.

About PaulaK

I grew up in Western Massachusetts. When I was nine my family went to Disneyland and I was hooked. I grew up, attended New England College in Henniker, NH and eventually moved to Virginia. I worked as a disc jockey, married and became a full time mom when our daughter was born. Fast forward several years. In 2010 we moved to Central Florida and my Disney obsession grew. I now work as a freelance writer and spend my spare time in the parks. Under the name Paula Brown I penned the novels Dream Wanderers and The Coffee Cruiser. I also am a co-author of Dining at Walt Disney World: The Definitive Guide. I'm obsessed with Star Wars, so this is a good time to live in Central Florida. I've been a vegetarian for well over a decade, a choice that my daughter eventually made as well. While my husband still hasn't joined us fully he has given up most meats except for seafood. I was relieved to find that vegetarian dining is not difficult at Walt Disney World.