On this installment of our Walt Disney World Beginners Guide we will be talking about my favorite park in all of Walt Disney World. Animal Kingdom is Disney's largest park at over 580 Acres and while most of this space is used as habitats for the parks animals, Animal Kingdom can still be quite daunting for those who have never visited. With this guide we hope to make your first trip to the Animal Kingdom as stress free and as magical as possible!
Planning Your Trip:Planning your trip to the Animal Kingdom starts long before you ever get to the front gate. We cannot stress enough how important it is to start planning your Disney Vacation as early as possible! A little bit of planning and know how go a long way into making your first visit a success. The most important parts of planning your Animal Kingdom day are Faspass+, Extra Magic Hours and your dining reservations.
Fastpass+: Much like any other Walt Disney World park, having the right Fastpasses can make or break your day. Animal Kingdom happens to be home of two of the most popular attractions in all of Walt Disney World at the moment, Avatar Flights of Passage and the Na'Vi River Journey. This popularity also makes getting a Fastpass+ for them very difficult and with wait times regularly exceeding 3+ hours they are an absolute necessity. We highly recommend trying to book your fastpasses 60 days before your vacation (The Earliest Allowed Time by Disney) for the best odds of getting a Fastpass+ for these attractions. Because of the popularity of these attractions and Pandora in general, the wait times for most of the other attractions aren't that bad. If you do manage do secure FP's for one of the Avatar attractions you will be left with two extra slots in your itinerary (Your allowed to book 3 FP's in advance.) We recommend getting FP's for Kilimanjaro Safari's and either Dinosaur or Expedition Everest. These attractions will have the next longest waits next to the Avatar Attractions. If Fastpass+ still seems like you need a PHD to figure out, you can check out our Walt Disney World Beginners Guide to Fastpass+ to make yourself an expert on everything FP+
Dining Reservations: Next to Fastpass+, securing a Dining Reservation for the Animal Kingdom is the next thing you need to consider when planning your vacation. While you certainly don't need to make reservations to eat, if you're anything like us you'll get sick of Chicken fingers and fries eventually. Guests staying at a Disney Resort can make reservations up to 180 days in advance prior to the start of their vacation and we highly recommend you use all of those days.
Extra Magic Hours: The final but no less important thing to consider when planning your Animal Kingdom day is Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic hours are an exclusive perk only available to Walt Disney World resort guests and it allows them to stay in the park either 1 hour past closing or get into the park 1 hour early before it opens to everyone else. When it comes to the Animal Kingdom, they only offer extra Magic Hours in the Morning and as most people aren't very fond of waking up at the crack of dawn on vacation, there are almost no wait times for even the most popular attractions including Avatar:Flights of Passage and Na'Vi Journey. If you where unable to secure your party FP+ for those attractions this is your next best option. You can find the Extra Magic Hours schedule HERE.
Arriving At The Park: So you've planned the perfect Animal Kingdom day but now it's time to actually go to the park. We highly recommend arriving at the park for Rope Drop (Opening Time) or as early as you can. Arriving early will allow you to get the most possible done before the crowds start to pick up around noon. Most people think there is only 1 entrance to the park but there is actually a secret entrance to the Animal Kingdom. As your heading toward the main entrance, on your left you will see the entrance for the Rainforest Cafe. Because the Rainforest Cafe is technically located outside the park it has it's own separate entrance located just behind the restaurant. While this is hardly the best kept Walt Disney World Secret, the vast majority of guests do not know about this second entrance and it can make getting into the park much less of a hassle. Now that you're in the park, we recommend not stopping in the front to do things like look at the animal exhibits or taking a picture in front of the Tree Of Life. While it may seem like the perfect time to do these things, everyone else is also going to stop in the front of the park to do these things, especially in the morning and while everyone is at the front of the park taking pictures, the waits at the more popular attractions are going to be almost nothing. Instead of following the masses, make your way to Pandora,Expedition Everest or our favorite morning attraction, Kilimanjaro Safaris (The Animals are most active in the morning due to the cooler temperatures and fresh food) and enjoy wait free riding.
Dining: Much like the other Walt Disney World parks the Animal Kingdom has a vast array of different dining options. The Animal Kingdom features over 37 Dining Options including 4 Sit Down Restaurants, Multiple food trucks and quick service options. Our favorite dining options in the Animal Kingdom include the Tusker House Breakfast Buffet, Flame Tree Barbecue and Tiffins. You can view all of the Animal Kingdoms Restaurants as well as their menus HERE so you can choose which dining options would work best for your family but we would like to make one caveat. If you plan on eating at one of the 4 Sit Down restaurants you are almost certainly going to need a reservation and reservations for sit down restaurants can be hard to come by, especially for Tiffins. Guests staying in a Disney Resort are allowed to make dining reservations up to 180 days in advance of their vacation and we highly recommend using every single one of those days for the best odds of securing a reservation.
Attractions: Like I've mentioned above, Animal Kingdom is home to the most popular attractions in all of Walt Disney World, Avatar:Flights of Passage and the Na'vi River journey. Experiencing these attractions should be at the top of your Animal Kingdom to do list but if you made your FP+ reservations in advance than you have no worries. I've talked a lot about the importance of getting a Fastpass for Flights Of Passage and while i still highly recommend you get FP+ for this attraction, it has to be said that this attraction has by far the coolest, most elaborate queue or line in all of Walt Disney World and it is almost as amazing as the actual attraction itself. If you are a glutton for punishment or happen to arrive to the park early enough, we highly recommend hopping into the Stand By line, you will not be disappointed. Getting away from Pandora, the next most popular attractions are going to be Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest. Kilimanjaro Safaris are as close you're going to get to an African Safari without leaving the Continental U.S. While aboard your safari vehicle You will see everything from Warthogs and Gazelles To Elephants and Lions. Waits for this attraction regularly exceed an hour and a half and if you don't have a FP+ for this attraction the best times to ride are early in the morning or at night during the Rivers of Light Show. Expedition Everest is the parks only rollercoaster which is why it draws such a crowd. Thanks to the addition of the new Pandora Attractions, the Stand-By Times for Expedition Everest haven't been terrible as of late but they can still exceed an hour during the busiest hours of the day. We recommend waiting for the slower parts of the day to ride this attraction. Besides that, the park is pretty much wide open, the wait times for the other attractions in the park never really get over a half hour and with so many other things to do like the 2 Nature Walk Trails, wild animal exhibits and shows you will never run out of things to do.
Shows: There are Five main shows at the Animal Kingdom, The Festival Of The Lion King, Finding Nemo, It's Tough To Be A Bug,UP! A Great Bird Adventure Show and Rivers Of Light. The Festival of The Lion King and Rivers Of Light are the most popular but if you ask us, skipping Rivers of light is worth it for the decreased wait times at other attractions. The Festival Of The Lion King and UP! A Great Bird Adventure are excellent in our opinion but they have a set amount of shows per day so make sure you get a show calendar to make sure you don't miss these. Finding Nemo also has a set amount of show times per day but in our opinion this is another show that can be skipped by those without young children (Although we are a bit biased as we where huge fans of the Tarzan show that Finding Nemo replaced.)
Fun Facts and Extras:
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on on your next vacation or to make the most of your time, read our Tips for Saving Money and Time at Walt Disney World post. Our Fundamental Walt Disney World Packing List post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Resource Guides will help.
For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
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