Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney Animal Kingdom, home of Kilimanjaro Safari, is Walt Disney World's newest and biggest theme park. Wow. Hey Uncle Walt, the boys (yes, and girls) are doing pretty good. You can see animals from around the world without even leaving Florida. The rides and attractions here are great, but the stars of this vacation paradise are the animals.
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.
A Zoo or a Theme Park?
Dad's not an expert on zoos, but this has to be one of the top zoos in the country. Yeah, other zoos have rides and other theme parks have animals, but, none have the great balance that Uncle Walt's boys have created here.
The Animal Kingdom is a thrilling, amazing, beautiful vacation destination. You can see animals in their natural habitat and get a feel for some of the challenges that the planet faces. All in one tiny trip to Orlando Florida and the Walt Disney World Resort.
What's in the Animal Kingdom
Like all the other Disney Parks the Animal Kindgdom is divided into sections. Each section has it's own theme. The sections are centered around the Tree of Life, but unlike the Magic Kingdom, you can't get to every section from the center point.
Here is a list of the sections and what's in each one.
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.
In the Oasis there are some animals that roam free and a couple of animal exhibits. You can also eat at the Rainforest Cafe.
Take a trip to the village of Harambe. This is Disney's reproduction of an African village. It's also the main reason to visit the park. In Africa you will find Kilimanjaro Safaris, and roam the African country side. (Most guests return safely.) Along the way you'll see giraffe's, lions, elephants, and lots of other safari animals. The story is a little hokey, but you get an up close view of the animals.
- 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.
Harambe is also home of Tusker House restaurant. A buffet that serves food with an African touch. You can also have breakfast with Donald, yes Duck, who did you think I meant? Trump? Yeah, right.
Rafiki's Planet Watch
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. To get to Conservation Station you must board the Wildlife Express Train for a short journey into the outer areas of the park.
- Habitat Habit - Exhibits that talking about sharing the planet with animals.
- 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.
Come to the Kingdom of Anandapur (place of delight) home of the Marahajah's Palace. The Palace is crumbling and inhabited by tigers and other creatures. The ruins are typically Disney and are very detailed and realistic.
- Flights of Wonder- Watch 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 - Disney's newest roller coaster is a thrilling trip into the land of the Yeti.
Asia is also home of the worlds tallest mountains, and it's also home to Walt Disney World's tallest mountain, Expedition Everest. This is a thrilling experience. Reading the exhibits in the line could take hours (and sometimes you have hours to read them).
Camp Minnie Mickey
The Camp Minnie Mickey area of the Disney World Animal Kingdom is full of places to get autographs from Disney characters and see a really top-notched show.
- Festival of the LIon King - Sing and dance with Simba and the gang.
Take a trip back in time to the period when dinosaurs roamed the earth. You can travel back in time on the aptly named DINOSAUR.
Nemo also makes a big splash several times a day in his off Broadway home. This live musical show is taken from the movie and is preformed with big puppets.
For a great time check out Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama midway area. It's a blast. The little ones will love The Boneyard.
- 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 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. Whopeee!
- 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.
The park hours differ from month to month. Basically the park opens at 9:00 and closes at 5:00. (Yes, the animals are all practicing to be bankers.) Check them out.
For years, Disney guests have complained (yes, Disney guests complain) that the Animal Kingdom was just a half-day park. When the park first opened there weren't enough attractions to fill a whole day, but now, especially with the addition of Expedition Everest, it will take a full day to see everything in the park.
Dining at the park
This park doesn't have a lot of dining options. For most of the year, the park closes at 5:00, so dinner isn't a big meal. (Dad and the family plan our 'Ohana dinner on Animal Kingdom day.) 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.
- Yak and Yeti - Chinese food in the shadow of Expedition Everest.
- Rainforest Cafe - Dine in a tropical rain forest.
- Pizzafari - track down some pizzas
Disney World makes Christmas time special. Even at Animal Kingdom there are lots of special touches that celebrate the holidays. One of the most imagative is Mickey's Jammin Jungle Parade. It takes the afternoon parade and turns it into a African celebration of Christmas.
See it for yourself
Aren't you excited? Are you ready to go to see Animal Kingdom for yourself? Let's go. All you have to do is go over and let Dad's friends at Destinations to Travel help you get started planning your Perfect Vacation.
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.
There are some great things in Disney World Animal Kingdom. 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.