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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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
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:
Large crowds will fill the parks on runDisney weekends:
In addition, crowd levels are high during:
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.
The Walt Disney World Resort now requires that all guests make date-specific reservations in advance to visit its theme parks. You can see which dates are available to reserve on Disney's "Park Pass" availability calendar.
Dates are listed up to about 15 months in advance, and reservations are available on a first-come, first-served basis. However, Disney maintains separate pools of available reservations each day for its annual passholders and its on-site hotel guests, as well as for regular ticket holders. So if a specific date is "sold out" for annual passholders, it might still be available for regular ticket holders.
If you want to visit more than one Walt Disney World theme park on a single day, you will need a "Park Hopper" ticket. You will make a reservation for the park you visit first on each date, then you can park hop to other parks starting at 2pm that day. After April 17, annual passholders also may visit any park after 2pm without a reservation, with the exception of the Magic Kingdom on weekends.
Once you have selected the dates you wish to visit and made your Disney Park Pass reservations, you may want to make dining reservations in advance of your visit, as well. 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.
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.