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Often times, I notice people asking “which park should I skip on my trip to Disney World?” Animal Kingdom was once known as a “half-day park,” but it has evolved quite a bit since opening over 20 years ago. I no longer consider it a park to skip out on!
Animal Kingdom first opened their doors on Earth Day in 1998. The dedication to Disney’s Animal Kingdom is:
Welcome to a kingdom of animals… real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs, and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony, and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.
— Michael D. Eisner, April 22, 1998
The concept of this park is about embracing nature and promoting conservation. Although many people overlook Animal Kingdom as either a zoo or a theme park, it is so much more!
Animal Kingdom has six different areas, or lands: Oasis, Discovery Island, Africa, Asia, Dinoland, U.S.A., and Pandora-The World of Avatar. All of these lands and the attractions within them are about nature and what we can learn from it. Here are 8 reasons you’ll love Disney’s Animal Kingdom
1. Kilimanjaro Safaris
Animal Kingdom is NOT a zoo! However, it is a park with live animals! Animal Kingdom features a whole area dedicated to Africa.
When you arrive in Harambe Reserve in the Africa section of the park, you can board a jeep and take off on an adventure! You’ll feel as though you are on a real African Safari with your guide as they point out and educate you on several different animals.
We never miss an opportunity to experience the safari and each time the experience is a little different. Some of my favorite experiences are hearing the lions roar, having a girrafic-jam stop our jeep for an extended time, and seeing an elephant give itself a shower! Have your camera ready, you’re sure to catch some amazing pictures!
2. Other animal experiences
Besides the safari, there are other live animal experiences. You can take a ride over to Rafiki’s Planet Watch on the Wildlife Express Train. This area is focused on conservation and the environment. You may even catch some veterinarians treating an animal!
Little ones will love the Affection Station, where they may be able to pet some smaller animals. Another fun experience is UP! A Great Bird Adventure, where you can be entertained by and learn about various birds.
Lastly, you can explore the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek and spend forever looking at the different animals on both.
3. Thrill Rides
Animal Kingdom has perhaps some of the most exciting thrill rides Disney has to offer!
In Dinoland, U.S.A., guests can experience Dinosaur, a time-traveling trip back to explore the time when dinosaurs walked the Earth.
Next up, in Asia, guests will find Kali River Rapids, which is a 12 person raft ride that sends you down a river. Prepare to get soaked!
A favorite of my family is Expedition Everest, a roller coaster that takes you up Mt. Everest and gives you a glimpse of the ever-elusive Yeti!
4. Unique Characters
Currently, Animal Kingdom is the only place you can meet both Minnie and Mickey together, and they are dressed in their safari outfits!
You can also meet Pocahontas, Russell and Dug from UP!, Launchpad McQuack and Scrooge McDuck, among others.
Animal Kingdom has some of the most incredible entertainment in Disney World. Finding Nemo-The Musical is a fun show for little ones and fans of Finding Nemo alike. This show blends familiar characters with new songs to tell Nemo’s story.
No Disney Park would be complete without a nighttime show. Animal Kingdom offers Rivers of Light, which combines music and special effects to explore nature.
For us, a trip to Disney would feel wrong if we didn’t see “The Festival of the Lion King.” This is my daughter’s all-time favorite show, and I can not watch it without crying. This is easily the best show in all of Disney World. The show combines acrobatics and dancing with the hilarious characters and familiar songs of The Lion King.
The sights around Animal Kingdom are breathtaking. From the beautiful glow of Pandora’s floating rocks at night to the stunning view of the Tree of Life, the details are really some of the most intricate in all of Disney World.
Disney’s Imagineers really put in some of their best work with the theming of each area of the park, and it feels that you are truly immersed in the experience they worked to create.
Animal Kingdom’s centerpiece is the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is a massive, stunning tree that has beautiful animals carved into the sides. It is a true icon representing different animals and our relationship with nature.
7. Delicious Dining Opportunities
Flame Tree BBQ is a must for me on every Animal Kingdom day. With delicious options and mobile ordering, it couldn’t be easier to get a great meal quickly! My favorite is the French fries with pulled pork. I usually hold the cheese, but I know many people love it that way!
Tusker House is a buffet-style restaurant offering character dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here you can meet your favorite Disney characters (typically Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy) in Safari outfits. Read more about Tusker House here.
Satu’li Canteen in Pandora is a great quick service restaurant featuring a delicious combination bowl with beef, chicken, and your choice of base and sauce.
If you ask my husband, Pandora alone is the single best thing to experience in all of Disney World. Pandora is visually stunning with Floating Mountains, exotic creatures, glowing landscapes. It is absolutely beautiful.
Na’vi River Journey is a beautiful boat ride, where all guests can enjoy a beautiful trip through the Na’vi land.
Avatar Flight of Passage is by far one of the best attractions in all of Disney World. Flight of Passage immerses each guest in a new land, as you fly on a banshee over the breathtaking views of the beautiful Pandora. As you fly with your banshee, you can feel it breathing as you soar through the forest past the mountains, and over the sea. There are also amazing 4D effects such as smells that add to your experience. You can read more about how to experience Pandora here.
There is so much to love about Disney’s Animal Kingdom and you won’t regret spending a day (or more!) here. What is your favorite thing about Animal Kingdom? Drop me a comment below and let me know!
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”-Walt Disney