Many people say Animal Kingdom is a half day park, and sure, if you want to skip a ton of the attractions and just do a brief overview then you can make it so. However, I’ve always felt it was a full day if not two day park. Why? because this is the park Disney has done the best job of theming in minute detail, and you could spend days discovering all the little things they did to make the park so perfect.
Kali River Rapids – While this ride requires a bit of planning (don’t forget to pack swimsuits and extra clothes/socks) it’s worth it during the summer months. You aren’t guaranteed to get soaked, but you will cool off either way.
Meeting Mickey and Minnie – This character meet and greet is consistently awesome. They take more time than any of the other ones I’ve been to and the characters are just fantastic with little kids and adults alike. The iconic characters are dressed up in their safari finest or holiday outfits if it’s that time of year, and the line is air conditioned. I have to say this is one of my favorite meet and greets in the whole of Walt Disney World.
Dinosaur – Go back in time to capture a dinosaur and almost get killed by the asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs. The thing I think I love the most about this ride is the motion of the car. If you’ve been to Disneyland it’s similar to the Indiana Jones ride in that you ride in a car on a hydraulic system which jerks you around as you travel through the dark ride. I loved this ride so much when the park first opened that I rode it 12 times in one day.
Expedition Everest – One of the best parts of Animal Kingdom park is the theming. It has, in my opinion, embraced it’s theme more completely than any other Disney park, with intricate detailing throughout. Expedition Everest to me is one of the places which really exemplifies this attention to detail the most. From the basecamp items to the Buddhist prayer flags, the theming is fantastic. Then comes the ride which is one of the most thrilling at Walt Disney World. My favorite parts? The Yeti and riding backwards.
Maharajah Jungle Trek – This attraction speaks to the heart of what this park is about, making it very special, especially as it expands to include things like Avatar which deviate a bit from it’s original mission. You can kind of thinks of this as a more traditional zoo experience, just exceptionally well done. The standout here for me are the Tigers.
Affection Station – Further expanding on my love of the more traditional animal centered activities at this park is the Petting Zoo. The fun starts when you get on the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. If your little ones are like mine the train in itself is a big draw. Once you make your way over to the petting zoo you’ll see variety of animals to interact with, from goats to pigs to cows. This variety of species is what makes it so much better in my mind than the petting zoos you find at your average zoo. It’s also the cleanest petting zoo I’ve ever been to.
Primeval Whirl – This ride is seriously under-appreciated. The theming is super charming and quirky, and the ride is so fun with drops and wild spins. The general premise is that you’re taking a spinning time machine back to the time of the dinosaurs and then coming back just before the big asteroid hits (are you noticing a theme with the dinosaur rides?) But that’s not what makes me love it, it’s the quirky theming and the fun of the unique spinning nature of the coaster.
Live Musicians in Africa – Make sure you take time our of your day to enjoy the variety of live music in Africa. From traditional drums to Afro-Pop, there’s always something fun going on. The performers dance with guests and it’s a ton of fun. I prefer to experience this with a nice latte from Kusafiri, iced coffee if it’s hot out, which it almost always is.
Kilimanjaro’s Safari – The star attraction of the park and most certainly NOT to be missed. The ride has evolved a lot since the park opened but two things remain the same. First, the guide “makes” the ride, the way they tell the story and describe the animals can make it unforgettable or just a cool ride with animals. So, make sure if you don’t like your guide, that you ride it again. Second, it is by far the best way to see animals in a park setting. The variety of animals you can see is staggering, almost an entire zoo’s worth, and you won’t have to walk around a whole zoo. You really do feel like the animals could come right up to the vehicle, and they sometimes do (the giraffes, not the Lions). I will say that the animals are much like me in that they don’t like being out when it’s super hot out, so go first thing in the morning and later in the afternoon. They now do a nighttime safari so you can experience the ride in a whole new, night vision kind of way. While it’s cool to see the animals in the dark, I’d make sure you got to see them in the daylight for the full effect.
Festival of the Lion King – This is, in my opinion, the best live show in Walt Disney World. The performers are what make this show so amazing. Sure it has awesome sets and cool acrobatics, but the singer/actors are fantastic. Tremendous voices and energy. I would highly recommend you make it a point of seeing this. I guarantee you will not leave disappointed.