The newest of the main Walt Disney World theme parks is Animal Kingdom, which opened on Earth Day in 1998. The over 500-acre park takes its inspiration from the wildlife around the globe. It’s located the furthest away from the other parks, including the Magic Kingdom, but is accessible from hotel buses.
The park is laid out among different zones themed geographically. There are also a few things to see at the entry gate including a gift shop, lockers, a butterfly habitat, a coffee cart, and an outpost of the Rainforest Cafe.
Because of the changing of the system from FastPass to Genie+, there aren’t many rides that you can skip the line for. Lightning Lane access includes rides and shows, including DINOSAUR, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Naʻvi River Journey. Expedition Everest is also included but also has a single rider lane.
And don’t forget about the animal habitats scattered throughout the park, including the chance to see otters, tigers, flamingoes, and more! The Wilderness Explorers is another feature popular with kids, where you can earn badges along the way.
There are also optional tours you can take of the park. Caring for Giants is an add-on tour of the elephant habitat. A Path Less Traveled Tour is a behind-the-scenes tour. Savor the Savanna is a luxurious lunch in the savannah habitat. Up Close with Rhinos is a tour of the rhino habitat. Wild Africa Trek is a three-hour trek through the animal habitat as well as lunch.
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The highlight of any trip to Animal Kingdom is a visit to the Africa area.
If you only do one thing in this area, make sure it’s Kilimanjaro Safaris. The incredible ride through the animal habitat provides visitors with an up-close look at African animals they might not otherwise see. Expect to wait close to an hour in line, but take in the animal facts on signs along the way.
There are a number of areas to explore, but the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is incredible. The street performances are also great, including the tam tam drummers of Harambe. Festival of the Lion King is a show that features colorful costumes and dancing inspired by the movie.
If you have time, take the Wildlife Express Train to the outer reaches of the park, home to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. At Conservation Station, check out the veterinary treatment rooms and reptile and amphibian habitats. There’s also The Animation Experience at Conservation Station, a class on animation and drawing.
Food and Drink
Harambe Fruit Market is the spot for a quick snack, including water, fruit, hot dogs, and soda. At Harambe Market, order the bowls and salads. Dawa Bar is Harambe’s cocktail bar with beer, wine, and margaritas.
Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery has pastries, breakfast sandwiches, flatbreads, and caffeinated beverages. Tusker House is one of the park’s character dining restaurants, with family-style food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dishes include curry shrimp, Moroccan-spiced beef, and delicious cocktails.
Tamu Tamu Refreshments has breakfast pastries, coffee, cocktails, and the beloved Dole Whip. Mahindi has popcorn and soda.
Tiffin’s Restaurant is one of Disney’s most acclaimed restaurants, with multiple rooms of African art. The menu is excellent, including shrimp and grits and butter chicken. Don’t miss the cocktails, either! A reservation is strongly recommended.
If you can’t get a table at Tiffin’s, Nomad Lounge has views of the lagoon and a similar menu like tuna poke and glazed pork belly.
The Asia area takes its inspiration from places like India and Nepal.
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is a thrilling roller coaster that winds through a model of the famed peak. Take advantage of single rider lanes to avoid having to wait too long. Cool off on Kali River Rapids, a thrilling rafting ride.
Maharajah Jungle Trek is one of many areas to see the animals. Feathered Friends in Flight is a daily show featuring birds of prey.
Food and Drink
Yak & Yeti Restaurant is one of the top-rated in Animal Kingdom with Nepalese-inspired decor. Chow down on Korean fried chicken, potstickers, and noodle bowls. If you’re short on time, Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes is a favorite for its quick-service Asian fare like breakfast bowls, burgers, and sandwiches.
Yak & Yeti Quality Beverages is another casual option with cocktails, draft beer, sangria, and grab-and-go options of the full restaurant’s menu. This includes chicken fried rice and egg rolls.
Drinkwallah is a drink cart with ice cream, chips, soda, and beer. At Trek Snacks, get popcorn and ice cream. Warung Outpost is the best spot for a margarita, along with chips, beer, and soda. Thirsty River Bar is a good spot to unwind with margaritas, craft beer, and wine.
Anandapur Ice Cream Truck has ice cream and other snacks to cool off. Right near the Tree of Life, Caravan Road has shaved ice and cocktails.
As the name implies, Dinoland is all about prehistoric creatures.
TriceraTop Spin is targeted towards younger visitors as the individual dinosaur cars go up and down as well as rotate. DINOSAUR brings guests in a rover through the prehistoric land with animatronic dinosaurs around every turn.
Don’t miss a chance to photograph Dino-Sue, a reproduction of the famous dinosaur skeleton in the Field Museum in Chicago. The Boneyard is a play area modeled after an archaeological dig site. Fossil Fun Games has carnival games that you can buy vouchers for.
Donald’s Dino-Bash is a fun show featuring Donald Duck and friends in dinosaur-inspired costumes. Or catch Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond, a show featuring your favorite fish from the Pixar film.
One of the best additions to Animal Kingdom is Disney KiteTails. The water show features large scale kites from The Lion King, pulled by jetskis. There’s an amphitheater with plenty of seating, but you can also see it from the Asia area.
Food and Drink
Restaurantosaurus is a quick service, casual restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. The lunch and dinner menu includes burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and the signature Safari Amber beer.
Dino Diner has Frito pie, hot dogs, beer, and soda. Cool off at Dino-Bite Snacks, an ice cream stand also with beer and soda. Trilo-Bites offers margaritas and buffalo chicken chips.
The Tree of Life is the most impressive feature in the park, right in the middle, with incredible animal carvings.
There are no rides in this area.
When you need to cool off, head to the area under the Tree of Life, home to the It’s Tough to be a Bug! show. The performance features 3D encounters with critters from A Bug’s Life but can be scary for young visitors. Animal Encounters: Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight is a show featuring mackaws.
The flotillas with your favorite Disney characters go down the river that runs around Discovery Island. They take place throughout the day. If you want to get up close for a photo, Mickey and Minnie can be spotted at Adventurers Outpost. There’s also a Caribbean street band performance.
Food and Drink
Creature Comforts has Starbucks coffee and other treats to get you through the day, like breakfast sandwiches and pastries. Grab a quick bite at Eight Spoon Café, which has baked mac and cheese and pulled pork donut sandwiches.
Flame Tree Barbecue is all about the meat, with smoked meat, baked beans, mac and cheese, and beer and wine. Pizzafari has five themed rooms to enjoy your meal. The menu features pizza, salad, and garlic knots.
The Smiling Crocodile is the perfect spot for tacos and a cocktail. Isle of Java has some delicious treats like coffee with rum and pastries. Terra Treats has pizza by the slice.
Pandora: The World of Avatar
Pandora is the whimsical world from James Cameron’s film Avatar, complete with tropical plant life.
Despite opening a few years ago, Avatar Flight of Passage is still one of the most sought-after rides in Animal Kingdom. Expect to wait for it, even if you are inside the park at opening. It’s also on the short side, an interactive screen with a moving seat that simulates riding on the back of a creature called a banshee.
Na’vi River Journey is a raft ride through a bioluminescent part of Pandora, full of exotic plants. This indoor ride is popular during the heat of the day, so go early.
There are no shows in this area.
Food and Drink
Satu’li Canteen is the best place to eat in Pandora. The menu has bao buns, chili garlic shrimp bowls, and fried tofu. Pongu Pongu has quirky drinks like the Rum Blossom, made with boba balls, and food including breakfast dishes and spring rolls.
Staying Onsite and Nearby Animal Kingdom
If you’re looking to be close to the action, the best place to stay is the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s one of the priciest as well, but you can’t beat the access to the park and animals that roam the grounds. You can take advantage of character dining and Starlight Safari, a nighttime trip through the animal habitat.
The property boasts a massive pool, multiple top-notch restaurants, and a variety of room options to choose from. There are studios and villas for even more space.
If you don’t mind staying off Disney property, the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek has unrivaled service and amenities. Located a few minutes from Disney Springs, this hotel has multiple restaurants (including a rooftop cocktail bar), a spa, access to golf, and a complimentary shuttle to the Disney parks. Rooms have views of the fireworks, along with bathtubs, plush robes, and coffee makers.