Disney World’s Animal Kingdom park is the newest of Walt Disney World’s four main theme parks. Some have described the Animal Kingdom as Disney World’s version of a zoo, but it is unlike any zoo I have ever visited. The theme park consists of 5 main sections – Africa, Asia, Camp Minnie Mickey, Dinoland USA and Discovery Island.
Wandering through the Animal Kingdom, it’s easy to imagine that you’re in some far flung corner of Africa. Disney have made an outstanding attempt to base a themepark on the real world and the result is outstanding. Kilimanjaro Safari’s is the closest you could come to experiencing a real safari, outside of Africa.
There are fewer attractions here than at the other Disney theme-parks and to see it all, you should allow a full day or two half days.
Expect the park to be especially crowded if you’re touring during Easter onwards.
Transportation to the Animal Kingdom is available by bus from all on-site Walt Disney World hotels. It is also just as easy and quick to get to by car.
Animal Kingdom Attractions
Discovery Island – the area of Animal Kingdom which houses the Tree of Life.
It’s Tough to be a Bug
This unmissable attraction is housed inside the Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life. This is a spectacular 3D show, featuring the characters from the Bug’s Life film. Prepare to be squirted and stung by these little critters in this amazing show.
Scare Factor 3
Our opinion – This is a must do attraction for us, on every Walt Disney World trip. It’s not particularly scary for adults but some of the effects may be too intense for small children. My eldest went through a phase where he was terrified of this show between ages 5 to 6. Do take time to take a look round the breathtaking Tree of Life, after taking in the show, and don’t forget your camera.
Camp Minnie Mickey – In this area of the Animal Kingdom, you can find character greeting spots with Minnie, Mickey and some of the Lion King and Jungle book characters.
Festival of the Lion King
Another Disney World headliner – this twenty five minute show, is a spectacular display of singing, dancing and acrobatics.
Scare Factor 1 – not scary at all.
Our opinion – This show is truly unmissable. We paid a fortune for tickets to Disney’s Lion King show at the theatre in London when it first came out. Whilst it was brilliant – it did not top the show in Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Park. Word of warning – do check show times as soon as you get to the park, so that you manage to fit this show into your touring plans. Also, arrive around 30 minutes earlier than show time to ensure you get a seat.
Pochontas and Her Forest Friends
Cute show featuring Pochontas, some of her animal friends, including a racoon and a snake; and two talking audio-animatronic friends.
Scare Factor 1 – not scary at all, unless you’re completely petrified by snakes.
Our opinion: This is a nice show, but it’s not an unmissable attraction for us, each time we visit Disney World. Go once you’ve done all the headliners, or if you are die hard Pocohontas fans. Tip – don’t go right after leaving the Lion King show next door. Pochontas is housed in a much smaller theatre, and many people leaving the Lion King show will head straight for Pocohontas. Try to go when the Lion King show has just started.
Africa – Animal Kingdom’s version of a far flung African town.
Board the Harambe Express for Animal Kingdom’s stunning version of a real life safari. On this somewhat bumpy ride, you will see various animals, including, giraffes, lions and hippos. There are plenty of photo opportunities. Of course Disney does throw some fun into the event. Part way through the safari your guide takes you on a wild chase after elephant poachers. This part of the ride does get a little wearing after 2 or 3 visits, but the rest of the attraction is unmissable.
Scare Factor 1 – not scary at all.
Our Opinion – This one attraction is worth your park admission to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, and we suggest that you see it as soon as you arrive at the park, unless you are a coaster addict, and may want to do Expedition Everest first. Although the ride does have fastpass, don’t bank on using it as busiest times of the year. We got a fastpass during the busy summer holidays, and the Animal Kingdom was so crowded that we couldn’t even get near the ride.
Pangani Forest Exploration Trail – coming soon
Wildlife Express Train – coming soon
Conservation Station and Affection Section – coming soon
Asia – This section of Asia feels quite barren compared to the rest of Animal Kingdom. Before the opening of Expedition Everest, this section of the Animal Kingdom has always felt kind of half complete.
Expedition Everest – This huge replica of the famous Mount Everest, towers over Asia. The attraction is a rollercoaster – similar to Big Thunder Mountain in construction, but monsterous in size. The coaster reaches speeds of 50mph and goes forwards as well as backwards.
Expedition Everest is far wilder than Big Thunder Mountain.
Scare Factor 5
Our opinion: This ride has the potential to terrify young children, and many adults. If the height doesn’t put you off, you’ll probably be terrified when the ride begins to go backwards – downhill. My youngest daughter was 8 last time we tried to persuade her to try Expedition Everest. She likes Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster, but she won’t try Expedition Everest because of it’s height. My guess is, many adults will feel that way too. But it’s great fun and being scared wouldn’t stop us from riding it again.
Kali River Rapids: A white water raft ride which takes you through, jungle, temple ruins and even fire. Of course, it takes you down waterfalls too. Watch out for the big one at the end.
Scare Factor 3
Our Opinion: Maybe a bit scary for smaller children who are tall enough to ride, but not scary to must adults, unless you have a great aversion to getting soaked. Depending on where you are seated – and this changes each time – you will get quite wet, or absolutely drenched on this attraction.
Take my advice, and unless you are visiting in the heat of the summer, leave this attraction until you’re close to leaving the parks, unless you want to spend the rest of your day at the Animal Kingdom feeling wet and miserable – or take a poncho with you.
Maharaja Jungle Trek – coming soon
Flights of Wonder – coming soon
The beginning of the ride is quite deceptive, you get into your time vehicle with the impression that you’re going to have a prehistoric version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris. That impression departs quickly, as you are catapulted into prehistoric times, one one of the jerkiest track rides you are likely to experience. On top of that, you are are chased through time by an alarmingly realistic audio-animatronic T-Rex.
Our Opinion – Some folks love this Disney World attraction – but it has the potential to terrify young children, because the effects are so realistic. This ride is a headliner, and it is quite bumpy – although I think they’ve toned it down in recent years. The daredevils out there will love it, but don’t eat lunch before riding.
Triceratop Spin – coming soon
Primeval Whirl – this is a roller coaster with a Walt Disney World difference. Whilst your circular car navigates twists and turns, the car also spins.
Scare Factor 3
Our Opinion – Much less scary than many other coasters we have ridden. May scare younger children, but the visual appearance is more scary than the coaster itself. A Disney World must do. Get a fast pass for this one.
Theatre in the Wild – coming soon.
Young kids adore this huge elaborate playground, with various twisting slides, bridges and an excavation area for digging up bones in the sand.
Scare Factor 1
Our opinion – If you’re getting a little tired but your kids are full of beans take them to this cool Disney World playground. It will give you time to rest whilst you watch them dig up the dinosaur bones. Be warned though – it’s hard to see where the exit of some of the twisting slides will be, so keep a close eye on small children. Also, be aware that if you are visiting during the summer, the boneyard gets extremely hot in the mid afternoon.