Complete Guide to Disney World Animal Kingdom in Florida

Combines Disney magic with the world of the Animal Kingdom

Over 1000 animals in a park of over 500 acres, Disney’s Animal Kingdom takes the concept of an animal park to a new dimension. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has rides, shows, and attractions all based around the animal theme. It has 6 lands – The Oasis, Discovery Island, Dinoland USA, Camp Minnie Mickey, Africa, and Asia. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a huge park – almost five times the size of Magic Kingdom. So a visit takes some planning – let me guide you through Disney World Animal Kingdom.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Tree Of Life

The focal point of Disney Animal Kingdom

Look very carefully at this photograph as things are not always what they seem. The amazing focal point for the Animal Kingdom is the Tree of Life. It is entirely man-made. As you walk closer you will see hundreds of animals carved into its trunk.

Housed beneath the Tree of Life is It’s Tough To Be A Bug! This multi-sensory show experience uses 3D effects – and can be a little scary for young children. A cast member once told me that they lose a lot of their audience a couple of minutes into the show as it is very intense!

Disney Animal Kingdom Kilimanjaro Safari Ride

One of Animal Kingdom’s Most Popular Rides

One of the most popular rides in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Guests board open safari vehicles to take a tour of the animal habitat. Clever use of landscaping ensures that the guests get to see a wide variety of animals on their safari – from giraffes to hippos, elephants to lions. Guests can be assured that the landscaping also hides barriers – so you are not going to literally face to face with the dangerous animals!

This is a very bumpy ride. Take notice of the warnings as to who should not ride the attraction.

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This is now the Animal Kingdom’s second most popular ride – it has been beaten into second place by the new Expedition Everest Ride. However, it is still very popular, so you need to plan. One tactic is to head there as soon as the park opens. Depending on the status of the line when you get there, either ride the safari at that time, or get a Fast Pass and return later.

Want to have the best chance of seeing the animals on the Kilimanjaro Safari Ride? Get there at opening time – it really makes a difference to the number of animals you see as most of them are more active in the early morning.

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Our trainer taught us about this hippo family and fed him some lettuce so we could see that HUGE mouth

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Concierge guests have the opportunity to reserve special Sunrise and Sunset Tours – you need book early as these tours are very popular.

How To Get The Most Out Of The Animal Kingdom Safari Ride

Want to get the best chance of seeing the animals? Get to Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safaris as early as possible in the morning. This is when the animals at their most active.

What are the Opening Hours for Animal Kingdom?

The ‘usual’ scheduled opening hours of Disney’s Animal Kingdom are 9am to 5pm. Depending upon the time of year these hours may be extended. Always check ahead of time to see the hours for the day that you are visiting, Disney resort hotel guests have Extra Magic Hours privileges. On certain days they will be allowed additional hours in the Disney parks.

Photos used under CC from flickr/expressmonorail

Animal Kingdom has an official opening ceremony called The Adventure Begins which starts each morning 15 minutes before the official opening time for the park and is located in the Tree of Life area. If you are there at this time you will be allowed past the turnstiles and into the park to view the ceremony.

The opening ceremony is hosted by Minnie, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Pluto.

As with all Disney parks, it is a good idea to arrive early – sometimes the parks do open up to 45 minutes to an hour before the ‘official’ opening time and you can get a head start on the crowds.

Animal Kingdom Park Kali River Rapids

Disney Animal Kingdom Water Ride

Prepare to get wet on this thrilling Disney’s Animal Kingdom white water raft ride. Lasting around 5 minutes you will travel in a 12 person raft over rapids and waves. But this is more than just another theme park water ride – this is Disney and the landscape is wonderfully themed. You glide through a rain forest, under waterfalls, and past temple ruins.

Animal Kingdom Park Kali River Rapids
Animal Kingdom Park Kali River Rapids

So just how wet do you get? Take my advice and do not ride if the weather is on the cold side. You will get absolutely drenched. Imagine having a bucket of water poured over you and you will begin to get the idea! A great idea in the heat of the summer but there will be a reason that the line is short at cooler times – the wise don’t want to spend the rest of the day drying off!

Kali River Rapids has a height requirement of 38″ and a Child Swap is available so that members of your party can ride separately without standing in line twice.

Animal Kingdom Expedition Everest

A fabulously themed and exciting roller coaster – ride Expedition Everest if you dare! This coaster is thought by many to be Disney World’s very best with a top speed of 50 miles per hour and lots of twists, turns, and visual effects.

This Animal Kingdom ride is the most popular attraction in the park so either get there very early at park opening time or get yourself a Fast Pass. Expedition Everest is one of the most technologically advanced rides which Disney has ever built. read more

Animal Kingdom DiVine

Can you spot this character at Animal Kingdom

You will see all your usual favorites like Mickey and Minnie at Disney’s Animal Kingdom but there are so extra special characters who live there too. Watch out for Animal Kingdom’s DiVine. She can be found on the paths between African and Asia but will you be observant enough to spot her?

Divine Stilt Walker Disney Animal Kingdom
Divine Stilt Walker at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom

The best show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

Let’s not forget the amazing shows at the Animal Kingdom including The Festival of the Lion King. A visually stunning high energy show which is a must-see on your visit to this Disney park. The Festival of the Lion King stage is in the middle of the audience so allowing great views from most seats but arrive early at busy times to be assured of a place in this popular show.

Finding Nemo – The Musical

Finding Nemo The Musical is one of Disney World’s most spectacular stage shows. This combination of live-action, singing, dancing, digital effects, and puppetry is of course based on the Disney Pixar movie. I admit that the first time I saw this I was a little skeptical – could Disney really make this one work. Puppets after all? Well of course they do – and it is one of my very favorite shows.

Finding Nemo is a very popular stage show and there is limited seating in the theater. The only drawback is that at busy times then you will be part of a very large crowd standing in line. The one thing that Disney doesn’t seem to have designed that well is the line area – it is in a relatively narrow area of the park and it can be impossible to pass through to take this route to Expedition Everest. Arrive early for the best seats.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Parade

Mickey’s Jammin Jungle Parade

One of the great things about the Disney theme parks is their parades – and Animal Kingdom park is no exception. Be sure that you catch Mickey’s Jammin Jungle Parade. It runs every day and lasts around 15 minutes. You could even be one of the lucky guests who are picked to take part in the parade. Every day around 25 Disney guests are picked to join Mickey and his friends.

Photos used under CC from PrincessAshley

One of the things that I really enjoy about the Animal Kingdom parade is the stilt walkers – those of you who remember the Tapestry of Nations parade at Epcot will be reminded of that greatly missed parade.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Conservation Station

Take the Wildlife Express Train from Harambe right next to the exit of the Kilimanjaro Safari and at the end of the line, you will find the conservation headquarters of the park.

This is the place to learn about the behind the scenes operation of the park. But it does take some time to get there and back as it can only be accessed by train. On a first visit or where time is pressing I would suggest thinking carefully about whether or not to visit Conservation Station. Whilst the exhibits are educational the access problem does mean it takes perhaps rather longer than it warrants to enjoy this part of the Animal Kingdom.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

If you are looking for a wild place to stay in Disney World then look no further than the Animal Kingdom Lodge. This deluxe Disney hotel is located right next to the Animal Kingdom theme park. This is the place to stay if you want the feel of an African safari right in the middle of Disney World. Book a savanna view room and you can sit on your balcony and gaze at the giraffes!

Dinoland

Dinosaur land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Not all of Disney’s Animal Kingdom inhabitants are real – check out Dinoland where you will find Dinosaur the ride. You travel back in time to capture a dinosaur before they become extinct. This is one of the most intense rides in all of the Disney parks – and actually to be honest my least favorite! Others love it though but just be careful who you encourage to experience the ride!

Disney Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom Dinosaur Ride

Great thrill ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Travel back in time on a mission to bring back a living dinosaur to save it from extinction! This is the storyline of the part track part motion simulator ride Dinosaur.

This is not one of my favorite rides. I will admit that I forced myself to ride Dinosaur again just to see if I disliked it as much as I remembered! Well for me things hadn’t improved with age (mine). My daughter clung onto me so at least it was a bonding experience.

But many people just love this ride so unless you have particularly easily scared members of your party then give it a try! It is a very clever complex ride that uses the same kind of technology as the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland (which is one of my favorite Disney rides of all time).

There is a height requirement of 40″ for the Dinosaur ride. A Child Swap and Fast Pass are also available.

Hidden Gems in Animal Kingdom

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