Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the newest of Walt Disney World’s theme parks. It opened on 22 April 1998.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a very large, sprawling park.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom sticks to the traditional Disney park arrangement, which is a single-entry corridor that leads to a central area with a series of lands arranged around it.
In Disney’s Animal Kingdom the main entry corridor is called the Oasis, this area connects the ticket and entry area to the central area called Discovery Island.
Discovery Island is indeed an island, it is totally surrounded by water. Bridges connect it with the Oasis and the other areas of the park.
Arranged around Discovery Island are four areas, which are: Pandora – World of Avatar, Africa, Asia, and Dinoland USA.
In this Overview I use the following Shortcuts:
Height Restrictions – Some of the more thrilling attractions have height restrictions. If children are shorter than the set limit, they cannot experience the attraction. Disney will not bend on these restrictions as they are for safety purposes; in many cases they have to do with the attraction seating and associated restraint capability. In some cases just because your child is tall enough to ride, doesn’t mean they are mature enough.
Attractions with height restrictions will be designated like this: (H33) the H designates height restriction and the following number designates how many inches tall you must be in order to ride. In this example (H33) you must be 33 inches tall to ride. Cast members will measure those in question.
Disney Genie – Attractions that participate in Walt Disney World’s two pay to skip the ride schemes will be designated like this:
- Genie+ eligible attractions will be indicated by (Genie+)
- Individual Lightning Lane Purchases eligible attractions will be indicated by (Individual Purchase)
I’ll give a brief overview of the type of food available at each restaurant as well as the type of restaurant (table service, etc.), meals served, and average cost.
Restaurant types consist of counter service, grab-and-go, table service and some buffet restaurants. At least one table service restaurant in each park offers a character meal.
Look for these keys to the rough cost of restaurants and the meals they offer:
$ = Less than $15 per adult
$$ = $15 – $30 per adult
$$$ = $30 – $60 per adult
$$$$ = over $60 per adult
B = Breakfast
L = Lunch
D = Dinner
S = Snack
B – Breakfast
L – Lunch
D – Dinner
S – Snacks
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a single entrance. All guests, no matter where they are coming from will arrive at the main entrance.
Those driving will park and then board trams for a brief ride to the main entrance or walk if they are parked close enough.
Both Disney and non-Disney buses arrive at separate bus terminals near the Animal Kingdom entrance.
After a security check you’ll enter the ticketing area, where you can buy tickets if you need to, and then on to the entrance, which leads into the Oasis.
Rainforest Cafe Table Service – BLD $$ – Omelets, waffles, French toast, burgers, ribs, and pasta. The Rainforest Café is located outside of the Animal Kingdom to the left of the entry.
There is a second entrance to the Animal Kingdom from the Rainforest Café. If there are long lines at the main entrance, you can enter the Rainforest Café, go through their gift shop, exit to the rear and the park entrance will be just in front of you. Note, you cannot activate your et Disney Armed Forces Salutes here.
The Oasis is your transition into Disney’s Animal Kingdom. There are two main paths (left and right) through the Oasis, both lead to the same place. The pathways are lined with lush tropical plants, trees and flowers as well as animal viewing areas where you can discover some unusual live animals.
There are no attractions in the Oasis, but there are plenty of animals which you can spend lots of time observing or photographing.
There is no dining in the Oasis.
There is no shopping in the Oasis.
Discovery Island is the central hub of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The other lands are arranged around it. Clockwise they are Pandora, Africa, Asia, and Dinoland USA.
The Tree of Life – Standing 14 stories tall, this massive icon contains carvings of over 325 animals. See how many you can find!
It’s Tough to Be a Bug (Genie+) – Located under the Tree of Life. This is a 4D experience, that is a 3D movie coordinated with other “real world” effects. Grab your 3D glasses and learn how tough it is to be a bug with Flick from A Bug’s Life. There are some creepy crawly moments in the dark on this attraction that might frighten the little ones or even you if you don’t like spiders. You always hear several kids crying during the show!
Discovery Island Trails – You’ll find trails around the base of the Tree of Life where you can view many small exotic animals. This is a great way to get away from the crowds and kids love seeing the tree’s carved animals and the real animals too.
Flame Tree Barbecue – LD $ – Counter Service – Smoked chicken, beef and pork, tossed salads and kid’s meals. There are lots of shaded areas to sit and dine.
Pizzafari – BLD $ – Counter Service – Breakfast platters, Pizza, pasta and sandwiches are offered. Be sure to spend time exploring the detail and theme of the various rooms. Tiffins – LD $$$ – Table Service – Seasonally inspired world cuisine. Features African, Asian, Latin Cuisine such as Chermoula-rubbed Chicken, Berkshire Pork Tenderloin, and Wagyu Strip Loin and Braised Short Rib. Appetizers, desserts, and specialty drinks.
Nomad Lounge S $$ – Located right next to Tiffins, enjoy beers, wines, and specialty drinks plus appetizers from the Tiffins menu, like Indian Butter Chicken Wings, Vegetarian Summer Roll with Ponzu, and Honey-glazed Coriander-spiced Pork Ribs.
Beastly Bazaar – Island Clothing and Souvenirs.
Creature Comforts – Focused on children’s items, clothes, toys, etc.
Island Mercantile – Themed merchandise from around the park
Pandora – The World of Avatar
In this land journey into the magnificent world of Pandora which includes spectacular floating mountains, a bioluminescent jungle and the winged creatures known as Banshees.
This area of the park is well worth seeing both during the day for the spectacular floating mountains and other interesting scenery as well as after dark when the bio-luminosity of the flora is beautiful.
Both attractions in Pandora are in very high demand! Online FastPasses for Flight of Passage will all be taken 60 days prior (some are reserved for same day kiosk use). Wait times are exceedingly high for both attractions but weighted more towards Flight of Passage.
Avatar Flight of Passage (Individual Purchase) – Fly on the back of a mountain banshee during an exhilarating, 3D ride above this vast moon. Get a banshee’s-eye view of the beauty and grandeur of Pandora on a rite of passage you won’t soon forget!
This ride is simply spectacular! The visuals are stunning!
The stationary ride vehicle is similar to a motorcycle body. You sit astride it leaning forward wearing your 3D glasses. Braces are moved into place behind your lower back and calves to keep you in the proper position. The cover over the screen in front of you opens and you are presented with the most spectacular 3D ride imagery that I’ve seen. Your “banshee” dives, climbs, twists, and turns over the Pandoran landscape. Your ride vehicle will be tilting back and forth and to the sides, but is not moving. You will also feel your banshee breathing between your legs in time to hearing it on the soundtrack (so keep your legs squeezed lightly around your banshee.
Na’vi River Journey (Genie+) – Your adventure begins as you set out in a boat to venture down a mysterious, sacred river hidden within the bioluminescent rainforest. The full beauty of Pandora reveals itself as the boat passes by exotic glowing plants and amazing creatures. The journey culminates in an encounter with a Na’vi shaman, who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora and sends positive energy out into the forest through her music.
Satu’li Canteen – LD$ – Counter Service – Features pick your own content bowls. Pick a main item, base, and sauce. Mains include beef, chicken, fish, and tofu. Bases are: Quinoa and Vegetable Salad, Red & Sweet Potato Hash, Mixed Whole Grain & Rice, and Romaine & Kale Salad. And the sauces: Charred Onion Chimichurri, Black Bean Vinaigrette, and Creamy Herb Dressing. “Steamed Pods” which are Bao Buns stuffed with a cheeseburger or curry filling. Deserts and assorted beverages.
Pongu Pongu – S$ – Counter Service – Alcoholic and non-alcoholic specialty drinks with a Pandoran flair and a Pineapple Cream Cheese Spring Roll.
Windtraders – Offering all things Pandora including pet banshees, build your own Avatar, and other items.
You’ll enter Africa by walking across the bridges from Discovery Island or Pandora into the “village” of Harambe. Harambe is a Disney version of the central area of an African village. Dining and shopping are centrally located here, with attractions towards the rear.
Festival of the Lion King – A Broadway style show featuring song, dance, and large puppetry. This is a 30-minute-long show. The show is staged in an enclosed (air conditioned) octagonal timber theater. The theater is sectioned into four parts labeled as either elephant, giraffe, warthog or lion. This is an awesome presentation with a large energetic cast and four large moving stages. FastPass or get there really early (1hr) for each scheduled performance.
Kilimanjaro Safari (Genie+) – Ride into the African Savannah and find animals all around you on this marque must see attraction! You will board a large truck fitted with multiple 4+ person rows on the truck bed. As you drive along your driver/tour guide will point out all of the animals that are viewable. You will see a very wide variety of animals! Here are a few:
- Black Rhino
- Savanna Flamingo
- Mandrill Baboon
- Pink Flamingoes
- White Rhinos
- Scimitar-Horned Oryx
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail – Walk at your own pace on this self-guided adventure where you will see exhibits and lots of animals such as hippos, okapi, meerkats, gorillas, birds, and more. Guides are stationed at intervals to answer any question that you might have about the animals. Your walk along the trail should take you about 20 to 30 minutes depending on how long you pause at each station and it is a quiet and shady reprieve from the park.
Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch – Take a train ride to Conservation Station – Rafiki’s Planet Watch which is focused on the environment, conservation and animal well-being. Here you will find animal viewing areas, exhibits, and an animal petting area. There are several other areas to explore including the Sounds of the Rainforest, and the Veterinary and Training Exhibits. Trains run about every 10 minutes and there is a five to seven-minute walk to Conservation Station – Rafiki’s Planet Watch after getting off the train.
Tusker House – BLD $$ – Table Service –Breakfast is a buffet character meal with Donald, Daisy, Mickey and Goofy. Lunch and dinner are served buffet style, featuring regular buffet fare with a few African-inspired dishes in the selection.
Harambe Market – LD$ – This collection of walk up windows features four serving stations: Chef Mwanga’s Ribs Shop, Famous Sausages (serving sausages fried in curried corn batter), Kitamu Grill, and Wanjohi Refreshment (which focuses on cocktails and cold beverages).
Dawa Bar – S$ – Bar and Table Service – Adult beverages – The totally outdoor seating tends to get crowded with folks who are waiting to eat at Tusker House next door (especially for the Character Breakfast).
Harambe Fruit Market – S$ – Cart Service – Fruit, snacks, and beverages.
Kusafiri Coffee & Bakery – B $ – Counter Service – Coffee and bakery items offered from an outside window just past the Tusker House entrance.
Tamu Tamu Refreshments – BLD $ – Counter Service – Ice cream, smoothies and sodas.
Mombasa Marketplace/Ziwani Traders – Safari clothing, African gifts, and unique items.
Daka La Filimu – Film, batteries, and memory cards.
Moving clockwise around Discovery Island from Africa, you’ll come to Asia. There you’ll find the mythical Kingdom of Anandapur (place of delight) complete with the crumbling ruins of an ancient village, temples, and a Maharajah’s palace.
Expedition Everest (H44) (Individual Purchase) – Is a high-speed coaster that climbs, plummets, turns, and even backs up! After walking through the queue area which contains tons of items gathered by Disney from Nepal, you’ll board your train to go in search of the fabled Yeti. As your train heads into the mountains you will see signs of the Yeti until you come to a section of ripped up train track. Your train halts, pauses, and then rushes backwards to reverse course. When you are clear the train switches tracks and you race down the mountain to get away! Riders sit two by two in the long coaster trains. There is an extra wait for the front row option. A single Rider Line is available.
Kali River Rapids (H38) (Genie+) – A white water raft ride. There are no steep drops, but you will get wet. Twelve riders sit facing inward in a circle in the rafts. There is a water proofish bag in front of your seat for valuables. I recommend bringing your own big zip lock! Lockers are available near the entrance. You’ll board your raft from a constantly moving turntable as the rafts move along the perimeter. Once the ride starts you will float along and go up hill on belts which is followed by cruising down the river. There are dips, turns, and plunges as well as rapids. Large amounts of water can come into the raft!!! There is an elevated foot rail to keep your feet off the floor. Count on someone in the raft (not everyone) getting very, very wet!
Maharajah Jungle Trek – a self-guided walking tour of Southeast Asia—home to Asian tigers, dozens of bird species, gibbons, fruit bats, flying fox and a Komodo dragon.
UP! A Great Bird Adventure – An exotic bird show featuring a Russell and Doug showcasing the natural abilities of a number of different birds.
Yak & Yeti – LD $$ – Table service – Pan-Asian cuisine dishes such as Dim Sum, Lo Mein, Egg Rolls and Maple Tamarind Chicken.
Yak & Yeti Local Cafes – LD $ – Counter Service – This is the Yak & Yeti walk up counter. Serves honey chicken, orange beef, mandarin chicken salad, and sweet-and-sour chicken.
Serka Zong Bazaar – Expedition Everest gift shop, souvenirs, apparel, and Yeti toys.
Continuing clockwise from Asia you’ll enter DinoLand U.S.A. where you can explore dinosaurs both real and imagined.
The Boneyard – An interactive playground for the kids. Your kids will love climbing, sliding, and exploring. The flooring is soft and spongy in case someone falls while blowing off steam. ===>Note: Not currently offered.<===
DINOSAUR (H40) (Genie+) – Enter the Dino Institute, home to this thrilling attraction. You’ll first pass through the outer queue area with lots of dinosaur skeletons and information to read. Then you will see a pre-show movie explaining your upcoming tour to the past in your time rover. This is a fast, very bumpy dark ride, with scary looking lunging dinosaurs! If young ones scare easily or someone doesn’t like herky-jerky rides, this might not be for you. Your time rover seats four to a row with three rows. There is a pouch in front of you to hold items.
Finding Nemo – The Musical – Find Nemo during this 30-minute show featuring music and large-scale puppetry. This is a retelling of the Disney-Pixar movie set to music especially for the theme park. The show features a combination of puppets, dancers, acrobats, and animated backdrops. Stadium seating in a huge indoor location. ===>Note: Not currently offered.<===
TriceraTop Spin – A circular flying dinosaur ride. You can make your dinosaur rise and dive if you are sitting in the front row of the two-row dinosaur. Each row seats 2+. This is another in Disney’s non-innovative, cheap to produce Dumbo the Flying Elephant copies.
Fossil Fun Games – A dinosaur-themed midway featuring carnival type games of chance. These include Dino-Whamma, a classic mallet strength game; Mammoth Marathon, a racing derby; Comet Crasher, a goblet toss game; Fossil Fueler, a water-squirt game themed to a prehistoric gas station; and Bronto-Score, a basketball game. ===>Note: Not currently offered.<===
Restaurantosaurus – Table Service – LD $ – Burgers, sandwiches, hotdogs, and tossed salads.
Restaurantosaurus Lounge – Serving up prehistoric adult beverages and modern ones too.
Chester and Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures – Disney toys and souvenirs.
Animal Kingdom Entertainment
Due to all of the animals living in the park there is not a fireworks or fireworks type show at the Animal Kingdom.
Tree of Life Awakenings – Watch in wonder when the animal spirits within the great tree awaken during a mesmerizing showcase of color and light. Approximately every 10 minutes, flickering fireflies magically appear and stir to life the wondrous animals’ spirits carved into the tree’s towering trunk—bringing to light a stunning visual swarming with vivid color and animated imagery. ===>Note: Not currently offered.<===
Animal Kingdom currently has no daily parade.
Shows & Other Entertainment
Wilderness Explorers – Become a Wilderness Explores and win badges as you make your way around the park. This is a self-paced interactive adventure.
The Animal Kingdom features a variety of live performers who entertain periodically throughout the day at various locations. Check the park Times Guide for details! ===>Note: Not currently offered.<===
African percussion and dancers – Various bands can be seen throughout the day in various spots in Africa. ===>Note: Not currently offered.<===
Final thoughts on the Animal Kingdom
Since it’s opening, many people considered the Animal Kingdom to be a “Half Day Park.” They’d hit the big attractions in the morning and then move on to another park. While this was certainly one touring technique, for those kids (and big kids) who enjoy nature and animals it is possible to spend the whole day there slowly enjoying the wonders of nature that others are just whizzing by.
The addition of Pandora has created a huge draw and has increased Animal Kingdom attendance and put an end to the idea of AK being a half-day park.
Disney World’s Other Theme Parks:
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