Visitors Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom opened April 22, 1998 and is the newest of the four Walt Disney World theme parks. Featuring a large collection of live animals in recreated habitats, this Animal Kingdom also celebrates Disney's animal and nature-themed IP, including "The Lion King," Pixar's "Finding Nemo," and James Cameron's "Avatar," which Disney now owns through its acquisition of Fox. You can learn much, much more about the park's animals and animal care in the Disney+ series, Magic of Disney's Animal Kingdom.

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Our recommendations below come from our ongoing survey of Theme Park Insider readers. Locations with star ratings ranked especially highly among our readers. Vote here to take part in our surveys and submit your picks for top attractions.

What to Do

Top 10

  1. Flight of Passage ★ ★ ★
    A breathtaking "Avatar"-themed flying theater ride in Pandora - The World of Avatar. Height requirement: 44 inches
    Read Robert Niles' review of Flight of Passage

  2. Expedition Everest ★ ★ ★
    Vekoma roller coaster in Asia. Height requirement: 44 inches

  3. Dinosaur
    Motion-base dark ride in Dinoland USA. Height requirement: 40 inches
    Dinosaur ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom
    Image courtesy Disney

  4. Kilimanjaro Safaris
    Narrated driving tour of the park's live animal habitat, located in Africa
    Elephant on Disney's Kilimanjaro Safaris

  5. Festival of the Lion King
    Live musical celebrating the Disney animated film, playing in Africa
    Celebration of Festival of the Lion King
    Photo courtesy Disney

  6. Finding Nemo: The Big Blue... and Beyond!
    Live musical just outside Dinoland USA

  7. Na'vi River Journey
    Indoor boat ride in Pandora - The World of Avatar

  8. Kali River Rapids
    Rapids ride in Asia
    Kali River Rapids
    Kali River Rapids. Photo by Robert Niles
  9. Tree of Life Awakenings
    Projection mapping show in the evenings on Discovery Island
    Tree of Life Awakenings
    Photo courtesy Disney

  10. Animal trails
    Disney's animal habitats include Asia's Maharajah Jungle Trek, Africa's Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, and the Discovery Island Trails
    Discovery Island Trails
    Discovery Island Trails. Photo by Robert Niles

Other Attractions

Discovery Island
  • It's Tough to Be a Bug!: 4D movie
Dinoland USA
  • TriceraTop Spin: spinner
Rafiki's Planet Watch
  • Wildlife Express Train to Conservation Station: train ride to animal exhibit and petting zoo

Where to Eat

Recommended

  • Tiffins
    Table-service restaurant, featuring indigenous art and Imagineering memorabilia, located just outside Pandora on Discovery Island

  • Yak & Yeti
    Table-service Asian-inspired cuisine in the park's Asia land

  • Satu'li Canteen
    Counter-service dining in Pandora - The World of Avatar

Elsewhere at Walt Disney World, Theme Park Insider readers recommend Citricos, a Mary Poppins-themed, fine-dining dinner restaurant at Disney's Grand Floridian Hotel and Topolino's Terrace, serving French and Italian cuisine at dinner with a character meal at breakfast, in Disney's Riviera Resort. In Disney Springs, our readers recommend Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' for a Florida-inspired "farm-to-fork" table-service meal, and The Polite Pig for casual service barbecue.

Park Map

Disney's Animal Kingdom is part of the sprawling Walt Disney World Resort, located in Lake Buena Vista, Florida – about 25 miles from Orlando International Airport (MCO).

Note that Disney no longer provides free Disney's Magical Express bus service to and from the Orlando airport for its hotel guests.

If you are renting a car while visiting Orlando, you can save on toll road fees by getting a Visitor Toll Pass at the Orlando airport rather than renting a toll transponder from your rental car company: Toll Discounts Return for Orlando Theme Park Visitors

Best Time to Visit Disney World?

Disney's theme park ticket prices vary by day, so you can use Disney's pricing calendar [scroll down] to see which days have the highest expected crowds. The lower the price for a ticket, the smaller the expected crowd that day.

In general, you will find the lightest crowd levels at the Walt Disney World theme parks during these periods:

  • late April through the week before Memorial Day
  • after the first week of August through September
  • late October and early November

Large crowds will fill the parks on runDisney weekends:

  • February 22 - 25, 2024
  • April 18 - 21, 2024
  • October 31 - November 3, 2024
  • January 8 - 12, 2025
  • February 20 - 24, 2025
  • April 3 - 6, 2025

In addition, crowd levels are high during:

  • any holiday week
  • President's Day week through Spring Break in mid-April
  • the week of Thanksgiving through New Year's week

Whenever you plan to visit, you must make date-specific reservations in advance to use your tickets. You can see which dates are open to reserve on Disney's "Park Pass" availability calendar. See the next section, below, for more advice on planning your Walt Disney World visit.

Strategy

Before You Go

If you want to visit more than one Walt Disney World theme park on a single day, you will need a "Park Hopper" ticket.

Dining reservations can be made via the Disney World website, and each date's reservations open 60 days in advance, at about 5:45am Eastern Time. Disney's on-site hotel guests may make reservations for their entire stay (up to 10 days) starting 60 days before their check-in date. That gives Disney's on-site hotel guests an advantage in making reservations for the most popular restaurants.

Itinerary

Disney's hotel guests also get 30 minutes of early access to each of the resort's four theme parks every day. So hotel guests should plan on an early start each morning to take advantage of empty queues. Unfortunately for guests staying off site, this new early admission policy means that they no longer have any opportunity to be the first to enter any Walt Disney World theme park in the morning.

As for planning your day, Walt Disney World now offers a new tool on its official My Disney Experience app to create a custom itinerary for each day of your visit. In addition, Disney offers two ways for its theme park guests to pay to access shorter wait times for many popular attractions. You can learn more about these options in our posts:

The longest wait in the park is Avatar Flight of Passage. Since Disney's hotel guests fill its queue at park opening, we now recommend that non-hotel guests wait until after 4pm to ride this attraction, unless you want to pay up for Individual Lightning Lane access.

Start first instead at park opening riding its neighbor, the Na'vi River Journey, which is the next-longest average wait in the park. From there, head to Everest if you can get there before 10am, or to Dinosaur if you cannot. If you don't get to Everest in the morning, ride it after 5pm, when its wait times decreases substantially.

Kilimanjaro Safaris also is nice as the very first thing in the morning, when many animals are active. But if you are getting the other rides out of the way early, come back to the Safaris just before dusk. If you don't think you can squeeze it in then after the Avatar and Everest before the park closes, just go ahead and ride Safaris in mid-afternoon, after about 2pm, when the wait time is minimal even if many animals are asleep. If you do buy Genie+, go on Safaris first thing in the morning without a Lightning Lane, then pick up the other attractions.

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