I’ve come to believe that Animal Kingdom is one of those parks that’s a little misunderstood at Walt Disney World. Often labeled as a “half day park”, mostly due to it’s typically earlier closing time (than other parks) but also sometimes due to the perception that it lacks enough rides to keep you entertained for a full day. While it’s true the park will usually close earlier, it’s completely untrue that there is not enough to keep you busy there all day. I’ve put together these five mistakes that I find are common for people to make at Animal Kingdom (some of which I even made myself). Avoiding these could be the difference between a good half day at Animal Kingdom and a fantastic full day.
Mistake #1 – Arriving Late
Animal Kingdom’s biggest difference is that we’re talking about real life animals here. They have legitimate routines that dictate when they’re active and when they’re ready for a little snooze. The morning, by and large, is when these animals are most active. Thus, it’s important to arrive as soon as you can, usually 9AM on normal days. But, if you’re staying at a Disney Resort, then you are entitled to Extra Magic Hours, which means on certain days you can get in at 8AM. Which actual days this occurs for Animal Kingdom varies a bit, but if you want to synch up your trip, there is a good reference here at wdwinfo.com.
Mistake #2 – Taking in the scenery in too soon
The second mistake is directly related to #1 (arriving late). So, let’s assume you’ve heeded the advice and arrived early at 8AM. The first time I walked through Animal Kingdom, I was seriously distracted. The detail in this park is simply breath taking. It’s exceptionally easy to dilly dally through taking it all in once you first arrive (especially the first visit) but I would advise you not to do that just yet. When you first arrive, get the E-ticket attractions out of the way first and then once the park starts to fill up a bit more sit down for a nice meal. After that, when lines are longest, stroll around the park and really take in the scenery and enjoy all the exquisite details in the park.
Mistake #3 – Starting with a few rides of Expedition Everest
As you can see, these mistakes are actually somewhat linear. If you’ve avoided mistake #1 (arriving late) and mistake #2 (dilly dallying when you arrive) then mistake #3 is riding the wrong E-ticket ride as soon as you arrive. Now, this is obviously very subjective, but here are my thoughts. When you first arrive, walk (or run… safely) to Expedition Everest and get a FastPass but don’t ride it yet. Then, proceed immediately to Kilimanjaro Safaris.
The reason for this is two fold. One, the animals are most active in the morning, so the sooner you ride, the more enjoyable it will be. Second, Expedition Everest has the single-rider line, where Kilimanjaro Safaris does not. Thus, between your FastPass (and possibly even FastPass+) and single-rider lines, you should be able to get in some rides on Expedition Everest well before the line swells out of control, even with Kilimanjaro Safaris being a 30-minute ride.
Mistake #4 – Not exploring everything
There are two things that aren’t “thrilling” by any means but that everyone should do during their trip to Animal Kingdom. The first is riding the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. It may not appeal to everyone, but I am a big advocate of “try it and don’t like it” versus “don’t try it and never find out”. And, Rafiki’s Planet Watch also has a petting zoo (in the Affection Section) which is great for kids. Plus, it’s also a great way to escape some of the crowds that will accumulate in Animal Kingdom during the day, especially on an Extra Magic Hours day.
The other attractions that aren’t “thrilling” in a traditional way are the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. These offer a nice, relaxing stroll through immersive trails where you can see lots of animals up close. Two of my favorites were the Tigers and the Gorillas. A lot of people probably give these a skip, either accidentally or on purpose, and I’d say that’s a mistake, especially if you love immersive Disney theming and/or animals.
Mistake #5 – Not taking in a hearty meal
Every time I talk to people they’re convinced that Animal Kingdom lacks awesome dining options. I’m not really sure how it got this reputation, but maybe people assume that the fewer options equates to no quality options. This would definitely be a fallacy. Right off the bat, if you’re looking for good, quick, BBQ, then grab some grub at the Flame Tree Barbecue and enjoy great food and a great view of Expedition Everest. If you’re looking for table service, then you’ve got two other great options. The first is the buffet at Tusker House which, oh by the way, has Disney characters walking around in Safari-themed clothing while you eat. I found Tusker House both fun and delicious the last time I was there, so I’d highly recommend it if you like buffet dining. If you’re not into the buffet scene, give Yak and Yeti a try. It’s got great theming and some delicious food that’s a little exotic but not so much as to scare anyone off (myself included, and I am picky).
Did you make any big mistakes at Animal Kingdom? What are your tips for Animal Kingdom?? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments, too! And, if you’re craving more Disney insight be sure to check out these other fun articles:
- Five Food Tips for Dining at Walt Disney World
- Review of Liberty Tree Tavern restaurant
- Farewell, Backlot Studio Tours