Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is full of new adventures to experience around every corner. From thrilling coasters to multi-cultural cuisine—and of course, unforgettable animal encounters—it’s no surprise that this park is the biggest (by far) of any at WDW!

Tree of Life
Photo by Marisa Alvarado | Instagram: @behindtheearswdw

There’s something uniquely special about Disney’s Animal Kingdom that I find particularly difficult to put into words… Of course, at any Disney park, we expect to find “classic Disney” experiences—whether it be enjoying a Mickey Pretzel or adding to your Disney pin collection. But, at Animal Kingdom, the expectations you quickly build as you walk up to the main entrance are quite different (dare I say, “more”).

At this park, we get to initiate or develop our connection to nature. Here, it’s practically innate to heighten our appreciation for animals and feel moved to support conservation efforts—in the most magical way possible. Thanks to Joe Rohde, former Imagineer (and a life-long hero of mine), Disney’s Animal Kingdom continues to inspire its millions of guests to take a step (or several) closer to nature… and I don’t know a better environment than Walt Disney World to foster such an important, exceptional theme.

Animal Kingdom Entrance
Photo by Danny McBride

Oasis

I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate area to build the anticipation of our visits to Disney’s Animal Kingdom than the Oasis. This area gives us just a few opportunities to see some different animals and provides a preview of the type of beautiful landscapes we can expect throughout the park—easily making us ready for more!

If you were a fan of The Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Disney+, you’ll get to see the Anteater highlighted in this limited series in the Oasis (if you keep to the left-hand side of this area, right after entering the park).

As you browse all Oasis experiences below, please note that 🐭 indicates Danny’s top choices.

Oasis Attractions

  • The Oasis Exhibits 🐭

Oasis Dining

  • Rainforest Café

Oasis Shopping

  • Outpost
  • Garden Gate Gifts
Pandora Bioluminescence
Photo by Marisa Alvarado | Instagram: @behindtheearswdw
The Shaman of Songs
Photo by Marisa Alvarado | Instagram: @behindtheearswdw

Pandora - The World of Avatar

This might be a bold claim—but I’m going to make the following statement and stick by it… I believe Pandora – The World of Avatar is the best land in any theme park at WDW. Unlike anything Walt Disney Imagineering has ever created, Pandora simply surpasses the level of immersion that’s expected at a Disney park and provides some of the best visuals and experiences you can find anywhere.

CAUTION: The following fun fact might uncover a small piece of the magic that makes Pandora – The World of Avatar feel so real. If you’d like to keep the magic of the illusions in this area fully in tact, please skip the remainder of this paragraph. Next time you’re gazing at some of the waterfalls up in the floating mountains of the Valley of Mo’ara, take an extra close look at some of the highest waterfalls… Some of the smallest, highest “waterfalls” in the floating mountains of Pandora aren’t real “waterfalls” – they’re actually just a rotating texturized wheel that’s designed to look like a waterfall from afar.

As you browse all Pandora – The World of Avatar experiences below, please note that 🐭 indicates Danny’s top choices.

Pandora – The World of Avatar Attractions

  • Avatar Flight of Passage 🐭
  • Na’vi River Journey 🐭

Pandora – The World of Avatar Dining

  • Pongu Pongu 🐭
  • Satu’li Canteen 🐭

Pandora – The World of Avatar Entertainment

  • Pandora Drummers – Swotu Wayä
  • Pandora Rangers

Pandora – The World of Avatar Shopping

  • Colors of Mo’ara
  • Windtraders 🐭
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is Walt Disney World’s newest and biggest theme park. Yes, I did say this is the biggest of the parks. It’s true in terms of acres. The safari itself is the size of The Magic Kingdom. There is a lot of walking to be done here, so wear comfortable shoes. The Animal Kingdom is full of Animals (imagine that). There are also some good shows and a couple of really good rides. Let’s go …  
A ram staring out of the Tree of Light at Animal Kingdom
The Tree of Life comes alive at night – Photo by Cliff Wang

The Oasis

The Oasis is the entrance area to the park. All of the other Disney World parks have shops right inside the gate. Not here. The Oasis is a buffer between the outside world and the animals on the inside. It’s a great way to begin.

Pandora – The World of AVATAR

Festival of the Lion King in Animal Kingdom

Pandora: The World of Avatar is amazing. This new land is home to some of the newest technology and amazing effects Disney has ever invented. Come and see the world James Cameron created.   Attractions –
  • Flight of Passage – hop on the back of a banshee and soar through Pandora
  • Na’vi’ River Journey – take a boat ride through the bioluminscent forest

Dinoland USA

The Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom

Take a trip back in time to the period when dinosaurs roamed the earth.   Attractions –
  • DINOSAUR – take a trip back in time to retrieve an authentic dinosaur.
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical – See a Magical presentation taken from the original stage show.
  • The Boneyard – A play area for the small ones built around dinosaur fossils.
  • Fossil Fun Games – Carnival games fun for all ages.
  • Primeval Whirl – A spinning roller coaster.
  • TriceraTop Spin – An outdoor flying adventure. It spins real fast.

Discovery Island

It's tough to be a bug sign from Animal Kingdom

Discovery Island is the center of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The Tree of Life dominates the whole island. This is the central hub of the park. Food, and shopping are everywhere, what’s that I smell?   It’s Tough to be a Bug! is the main attraction. You get to be an honorary bug for a day. Whoopee! Attractions –
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug! – A 3-D show (yes, you have to put on your “bug” glasses) about life as a bug.
  • Discovery Island Trails – Around the Tree of Life you will find several exhibits of different animals.

Africa

The Kilimanjaro Safari Logo from the Animal Kingdom

Take a trip to the village of Harambe. This is Disney’s reproduction of an African village. Attractions –
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris – This is the main attraction in Disney Animal Kingdom. Explore Africa, complete with live animals, on a Safari ride through the savanna.
  • Pangani Forest Exploration Trail – A walking tour where you’ll see birds, fish, gorillas and hippos.
  • Festival of the Lion King – Sing and dance with Simba and the gang.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Rafiki's Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom

Rafiki’s Planet Watch is the “green” section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You can actually see animals being cared for and there is a petting area for the kids. Attractions –
  • Animation Experience – Learn how to draw characters from the Lion King.
  • Conservation Station – See how animals are trained, fed and cared for.
  • Affection Section – A petting area for children.
  • Wildlife Express Train – The only way to get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

Asia

Expedition Everest is the big new ride in Animal Kingdom

Come to the Kingdom of Anandapur (place of delight) home of the Maharajah’s Palace. The Palace is crumbling and inhabited by tigers and other creatures. The ruins are typically Disney and are very detailed and realistic.   Attractions –
  • UP! A Great Bird AdventureWatch as the most majestic creatures perform wondrous feats.
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek – See tigers and bats and other animals in this walk through adventure.
  • Kali River Rapids – Take a trip down the raging rainforest river. Caution, you will get wet.
  • Expedition Everest – This roller coaster is a thrilling trip into the land of the Yeti.

Animal Kingdom at Night

Rivers of Light is a great way to cap a day at Animal Kingdom

In 2016, Animal Kingdom began to stay open after sunset for the first time ever! Experiences and attractions like Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids were open at night, and special rides on Kilimanjaro Safaris with magical lighting that mimics sunset on the savannah.   Attractions –
  • Tree of Life Watch as the park’s icon comes alive each night with special projections and lighting.
  • Wildlife Parti Harambe village is your destination for a spirited party street party with dance and music.
  • Discovery Island Carnivale Celebrate the natural world in this lively free form event.
  • The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic For a limited time, enjoy a stage performance inspired by The Jungle Book – complete with music and special effects.
  • Rivers of Light – The highly anticipated night time spectacular was set to open this spring but has been delayed. It’s going to have lights, floats, musics, and more. Dad hopes it opens soon.

Dining

Over the last couple of years, Disney has been adding dining options to the parks menus. Check out some of the offerings.
  • Tusker House – “Awaken the Day” at Donald’s Safari Breakfast buffet. You can also get a unique lunch and dinner buffet here.
  • Flame Tree BBQ – quick barbeque in a colorful setting.
  • Yak and Yeti – Chinese food in the shadow of Expedition Everest.
  • Rainforest Cafe – Dine in a tropical rain forest.
  • Pizzafari – track down some pizzas
  • Harambe Market – Little booths selling curried corn dogs, BBQ ribs, chicken skewers and little salads are available here.
  • Tiffins – A new signature dining location will feature an exotic menu
  • Restaurantosaurus – Burgers, salads, and more with a great toppings bar
  • Satu’li Canteen – Experience the exotic tastes of Pandora in the RDA mess hall

Dad’s Disney World Restaurants page

Dad’s Top 5 Attractions in Animal Kingdom

Want to know what top’s Dad’s list for fun at Animal Kingdom? Check out the video below:    

See for yourself

Come and see all the animals for yourself. They are calling your name right now. Just go over to Dad’s Destinations to Travel page and let my partners get you started on a Perfect Vacation. Get started today!  

Dad’s Destinations to Travel page

Dad’s Bottom Line

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is growing into a great theme park or the best zoo on the planet, I’m still not sure which. What ever it is it’s a great place to spend a day. The Safari is absolutely not to be missed.   Where else can take a trip around the World, see exotic animals, and see the culture of parts of the globe that are far away, all without leaving Florida? What a concept.
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