April 17, 2008
The Four Hour Tour: Disney's Animal KingdomDisney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida [Map]
Theme Park Insider's "Four-Hour Tours" are designed to get you and your family to the top attractions in the world's top theme parks... before anyone can get tired and cranky. The attractions and restaurants selected for this tour are those most highly rated by Theme Park Insider readers.
When to go: Disney's Animal Kingdom is the newest of the four Walt Disney World theme parks. Like the others, it is open 365 days a year, although opening and closing times vary. If you are traveling without kids, try to visit on a school day to avoid the largest crowds. If you need to visit during a school vacation, try at least to avoid the week between Christmas and New Year's and the Fourth of July.
If you are not staying at a Disney World hotel, avoid visiting Animal Kingdom on its Extra Magic Hours days, as Disney's hotel guests get into those parks early on those days, inflating wait times for visitors who arrive at the park's normal opening time.
Before you go: Buy your Walt Disney World tickets online at Disney World's website. For advice on picking the right ticket, see our guide to Disney World tickets, keeping in mind that for the Four-Hour Tour, you will *not* need the park-hopper option.
When you get there: Plan to arrive at the park's front gate before the park opens in the morning, leaving yourself time to park and either walk or take a tram from the parking lot to the front gate. You can check Animal Kingdom's opening time via Disney World's website.
1. Turn right when you reach the Tree of Life and head into the park's Asia section, where you will start your day with a ride on Expedition Everest.
2. After Everest, head back through Asia and into the Africa section of the park, for a trip on Kilimanjaro Safaris.
3. Head back across the Discovery River into the Camp Minnie-Mickey section of the park and get in line for the next Festival of the Lion King show.
4. After watching Lion King, cut back past the Tree of Life to Dinoland USA. Here, you have decision to make. If you have one hour or less before the next performance of Finding Nemo - The Musical, quickly detour over to Dinosaur to pick up Fastpasses, Disney's rider reservation tickets, for that ride, then go back and wait for Nemo. If the next Nemo performance is more than one hour away, and the wait is less 45 minutes for Dinosaur, ride Dinosaur now.
5. If you saw Nemo first, now use your Fastpass to skip the stand-by line and ride Dinosaur. If you rode Dinosaur already, now is time for Finding Nemo.
6. Lunchtime. Neither of Animal Kingdom's two table service restaurants, Yak & Yeti nor the Rainforest Cafe, have earned an enthusiastic rating from Theme Park Insider readers. Therefore, we recommend that you choose instead to eat at Downtown Disney if you want a sit-down lunch. If folks in your group are hungry right now, though, TPI readers do recommend the counter-service Flame Tree Barbecue.
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What's it like to work in a theme park? Stories from a Theme Park Insider takes you inside the famous tunnels and backstage at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a look at how theme parks really work, sharing the funny moments and embarrassments that can happen when your job is someone else's vacation.
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