I think the Imagineers got a lot of things right when they designed the Animal Kingdom! They definitely learned from the three earlier parks and moved forward to develop a very immersive experience at the Animal Kingdom. Their years of research to make sure each detail is accurate shows in a finished product that makes it easy to suspend disbelief and imagine that you are in Asia or Africa. There are (at least) 10 things I really love about Disney’s Animal Kingdom park:
10. The Animals
Duh. But seriously, Animal Kingdom has a great variety of animals on display in re-created habitats and showcases them in unique ways. I love that I can see gorillas, hippos, tigers, bats, birds, monkeys and even naked mole rats all in the same day.
9. The Nooks & Crannies
I love all of the “hidden” spaces in Animal Kingdom. It seems like the meandering paths often have a side path that leads to an out of the way seating area, an expected view of the Tree of Life, a waterfall or an animal exhibit. These quiet spots make it feel like your own private park. My favorites are the paths around the base of the Tree of Life.
8. The Queues
This is one area where the Imagineers really learned from the past and improved on the standard when building Animal Kingdom. Most of the queues in the park are intricately detailed and were truly made as a “Scene 1” to the attraction from the very beginning. At Kilimanjaro Safari you enter through the warden’s office, at Kali River Rapids you find the abandoned ruins and the market area where the office for the rafting company is located, on Dinosaur you have the Dino Institute, Expedition Everest has a museum, and Avatar Flight of Passage’s queue tells a story before the attraction even begins.
7. Conservation Message
I like the way all of Animal Kingdom (with the exception of Chester & Hester’s) centers on a Conservation Theme. I know there are differing opinions on animals in captivity, but the research that is funded through donations from Disney is a good thing. And the general message to guests to protect and appreciate the natural environment around us and to serve as stewards is an important one.
6. Lights and Lanterns
My favorite little detail at Animal Kingdom are the light fixtures. I love the craftsman/mission style lanterns at the entrance of the park that feature the Tree of Life and all of the animals of the Animal Kingdom, as well as the plain craftsman style lanterns around the Oasis. The Tree of Life Awakenings is unbelievable projection lighting that makes the Tree glow. The whimsical lighting around Discovery Island with the Ladybugs is fun too. In the eating area for Flame Tree Barbecue some of the light poles are owls and the lanterns feature rabbits, and some are anteaters and ants to go along with the predator/prey theme there. Of course, one of the very best places to enjoy the lighting at night is over in Pandora – The World of Avatar as bioluminescence lighting exudes over this entire land!
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5. The Food
Animal Kingdom has some great options for eating. The menus are diverse and the quality is quite good. One of my favorite things about eating here is the great way the restaurants—both table and counter service—are themed. Tusker House, Tiffins, and Yak & Yeti offer unique menus for Table Service options, and Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House is one of my favorite character meals. The barbecue menu at Flame Tree is great—a nice change from the standard theme park food, and the seating area has an interesting theme and beautiful views over to Everest. Satu’li Canteen makes delicious pods with fresh ingredients. Restaurantosaurus offers a pretty standard theme park/fast food menu, but the elaborate theme of the restaurant will make you forget that the food is standard. You will want to take a tour of the entire space to check out all of the details.
4. Festival of the Lion King
This may be my favorite stage show in Walt Disney World. I highly recommend that you see it—the Tumble Monkeys, Fire Dancers, Aerial performers, singers, and audio animatronics all combine for a fun high-energy show. Plus, everyone loves the Lion King and this is the best way to experience an aspect of that movie in the parks.
3. Avatar Flight of Passage
Avatar Flight of Passage is one of the two attractions located in the new Pandora – The World of Avatar area within Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Prepare to straddle what feels somewhat like one of those motorcycles at an arcade, be secured in, and then using 3D screen technology, awesome 4D effects, and motion simulation – feel like you are literally flying on the back of a mountain banshee in the most exhilarating way. Your banshee (somewhat like a flying dragon) will soar through the sky as it takes you on the ride of a lifetime through Pandora – The World of Avatar. This is one of the most amazing attractions Disney holds yet!
2. Kilimanjaro Safari
This attraction is different every time you ride it. The proximity of the animals in a lot of the areas is pretty neat—you may even get held up by an animal traffic jam. The feeling of being out in the savanna (even though it is a created savanna) gives you a sense of excitement about seeing the animals. I think the drivers also do a great job revealing facts about the animals that you see along the way.
1. The Tree of Life
I love the Tree of Life. I could stare at it for a long time just searching out the animal sculptures. It seems like each time I look at it I find something new. I’m afraid too many people rush past it on their way to the Safari or Everest to truly appreciate the artwork that it is. Take a few minutes to walk one of the pathways around the base past the little waterfalls and get up close and personal with the carvings. At night, stop by to check out Tree of Life Awakenings as a perfect way to cap off your Animal Kingdom day.
What is your favorite thing about Disney’s Animal Kingdom park?