Okay, so like many folks, I heard about Animal Kingdom and thought “oh, Disney has a zoo?” If you read just bits and pieces about Animal Kingdom, you may think the same thing. But, Animal Kingdom has a lot of fun to offer (just don’t go when it is pouring rain- I’ll get to that later!).
So, let’s get to the basics here. Animal Kingdom is the fourth Disney World park and it is the largest Disney Park in the world. Yup. It’s big! It opened in 1998 and was themed around the subject of animal conservation. This was a cause that was very important to Walt Disney. This park is all about the education, conservation and research of animals and is even accredited by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
But it is NOT a zoo.
No, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has animals, shows, shops and dining, and rides and attractions. It is also the future home to a new land that will probably be very popular (Avatar Land).
What are some of the best things about Animal Kingdom?
1) The Tree of Life/ Discovery Island Trails
This amazing 145 foot tall structure is 50 feet wide and represents the circle of life. On this amazing piece of artwork are the carvings of a dolphin, a bear, a tortoise, a monkey, a deer, an eagle…and the list goes on and on. The animal shapes are carved into the tree with amazing precision. It is a site to behold and one you will not want to miss at Animal Kingdom. Diva Tip: Be on the lookout for one very special mouse.
Around the tree is beautiful landscaping with some live animal friends: kangaroos, lemurs, tortoises, and flamingos to name a few. Take a stroll on the trails surrounding the tree to get some better views. Diva Tip: There are some great “hidden” and shady spots on the trails, and I suspect this is the coolest place in the park.
2) Expedition Everest Excellent queue theming? Check. Fast roller coaster? Check? Yeti? Check. Thrill factor? Double check. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best rides at any Disney theme park. It is a do not miss ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Diva Tip: If you get motion sick, take Bonine or Dramamine at least a half hour before getting on the ride. This worked even for D’land Diva hubby who gets motion sick very easily.
3) Kilimanjaro Safaris
This is one of the more popular rides at Animal Kingdom and it is easy to see why. The ride puts guests in a jeep “off roading” on their own jungle safari. Each time, the ride is different and you never know what animals you are going to see. Diva Tips: Get there early for this one. The animals tend to be out earlier and after rain storms.
4) The Details
Animal Kingdom has the most amazing details. From the architecture of the buildings, to the specific cultural names of shops, and the artifacts in each of the different sections of the park, guests will be amazed. Diva Tip: There seems to be little protection from the elements in this park. Plan accordingly. D’land Diva family was visiting on Christmas day one year and it was STORMING. We were completely soaked in minutes, even standing in the doorways of stores.
5) The Animals (Duh)
Look in the trees, all around the Tree of Life, go on a safari and even look on the ground to find creatures (yes, we really did see a LIVE snake crawling around near a cart once). Guests also get a special look at animal husbandry at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Diva Tip: The Wildlife Express Train will pass by some behind the scenes animal housing and care facilities.
6) Festival of the Lion King
If you want to see a Broadway caliber show at Disney, look no further than this show. Blessedly inside a large 1,000 seat theater, this show is complete with dramatic lighting, dancing, music and acrobatics. The best part? The audience gets to participate in it! Diva Tip: The first and last shows tend to be the least crowded. Sit in the front or on the end of an isle.
7) Finding Nemo Show
Finding Nemo the Musical is a fantastic stage show that has Broadway caliber puppetry and original songs by a Tony Award composer. The theater is air conditioned and covered. Look for lots of dancing and acrobatics. Fun for all! Diva Tip: The queue is not covered and the theater opens 20 minutes before the show…so you may be in the sun for a half hour or more waiting to get in the theater. Bring your water!
8) Camp Minnie-Mickey
I really do wish that all the Disney parks had a camp like this one. There are four jungle themed trails that lead to Mickey, Minnie and other Disney characters. Best of all? SHADE! Diva Tip: This is one of the least stressful places to get character autographs anywhere in the theme parks.
Board a Time Rover vehicle to travel into the past to get a dinosaur? Yes please! The theming and story in this thrill ride are spectacular. Even more spectacular? The ride vehicles. Much like the Indiana Jones Adventure ride at Disneyland, the vehicles can offer guests a different ride each time you ride. The thrill of this ride, is of course, encounters with dinosaurs. It’s loud, it’s dark and things pop out at you. It’s awesome! Diva Tip: There is a 40 inch height restriction and this ride is not for those prone to motion sickness.
10) The Flame Tree BBQ
I’m not totally sure what makes this such a great place to eat- it could be the barbecue pulled pork sandwiches. It could be the shaded location. It could be the views. It could also be a combination of all those things. This is just a wonderful, low key place to grab a bite. The meat is smoked and there’s hot dogs for kids! Diva Tip: We like to sit on the water.
So how about giving Animal Kingdom a try on your next trip?