Animal Kingdom is the newest of the Walt Disney World parks. Although animals do reside at the park, it is not a ‘zoo’ so don’t get thrown off by the name. Animal Kingdom has a variety of attractions and shows to keep all members of your group (no matter their age) happy.
PARKING: If staying on property (meaning at a Walt Disney World Resort), your parking fee is free. You also have the option of taking buses from your hotel to the parks. Many offsite hotels also offer a bus ride to the parks. If driving, follow the ‘Disney’s Animal Kingdom’ signs.
ARRIVAL: Buses will be dropped at the bus area. Proceed to the security check points. If driving, park and look for a tram – but also look for the front of the park. Sometimes, it might be easier to walk to the front rather than waiting for the tram. Plus when you arrive at the entrance to go through security, you arrive with your family – not hundreds of others who have ridden over with you. Then again, if you are walking and arrive at the same time as a tram, it equalizes things plus you have extra mileage on your feet. If you have bags of any kind (yes even that small camera case) you must go through the security check points. If you do not have any bags, proceed to the ‘No Bags’ line. This line is usually empty! If you haven’t already purchased tickets, you can do so past the security area and before you enter the park. Customer service, a couple of kiosks, and restrooms are also located outside of the main gates. The Rainforest Cafe has an entrance before you enter the park to the left, as well as an entrance inside the park. If using the ‘inside the park’ entrance/exit of the Rainforest Cafe, you will have to have a ticket for Animal Kingdom.
ENTRANCE: Upon entering Animal Kingdom, guests are divided into two pathways. One to the left is closest to customer service (guest relations). The one on the right goes past the stroller rental, camera shops, and rest rooms. Both paths have assorted small animals/birds to keep guests occupied as they walk. This is “Oasis”. Don’t slow down and look when you first get here. If you truly want a view, wait until the end of the day when your feet hurt less and the pause in the walk is more appreciated. The animals here (macaws, wild boar) are basically in a ‘zoo’ setting. As you come out of the trees (the entire pathways are covered) you’ll officially be on the path to the front of the park. There will be Disney photographers waiting to take your picture (see Disney Photos) and others just stopped along the way trying to get a picture of ‘the tree of life’. This is the focal point of Animal Kingdom and it should be directly in front of you. As you cross over a bridge, stay to the right. You’re goal here is to find the tip board (all parks have tip boards in the front) showing the schedule of shows, and the wait times for attractions. This area is called Discovery Island.
GENERAL: There are seven areas within Animal Kingdom: Oasis, Discovery Island, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia and Dinoland, U.S.A.
DINOLAND: When we get to the tip board, my family looks for two things – the wait time on the Dinosaur ride and the wait time at the Triceratops Spin. The Triceratops Spin ride is like Dumbo but a dinosaur shape. If the lines are long here, it means the park is crowded. Strange to see it that way but that rule normally holds up. We look for the Dinosaur ride because it is my family’s favorite. Also in Dinoland, a combo teacup ride/roller coaster, better known as the Primeval Whirl. Smaller kids can ride Everest and not this one because there is no over the shoulder harness. However, this is a fairly easy ride as far as coasters go.
ASIA: The big pull here is for Expedition Everest. This single lane, forward and backward roller coaster is a thrill ride, pure and simple. Some people actually love this ride and will ride again and again (the rest of my family for instance!). For me, this ride is too jerky and hurts afterwards. My favorite part of Asia is the Kali River Rapids. This is an exceptionally good rapid river ride. No matter where you seat – you will get wet!
CAMP MICKEY and MINNIE: This is where most of the characters are at Animal Kingdom. A bunch of obscure characters, too! The bear Ko
AFRICA: The big selling point here is the Safari ride. Jeep type vehicles are used – if they made a Jeff that seats 50 – while exploring the many areas of the ‘safari’ in Animal Kingdom. Lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and all sorts of deer-type creatures. I’m not sure why – but they treat this sort of like a ‘Jungle Cruise’ ride (from Magic Kingdom). The guests are on a journey to ‘save’ a baby elephant from a poacher. However, the last time I rode this – the spiel was gone. And, I actually missed it!
RAFIKI’s PLANET WATCH: Like Oasis and Discovery Island, I’m not sure this should be a named ‘area’ of the park. This used to be called ‘Conservation Station’ – or at least it was in my mind. Guests take a little train ride to the other side of the island, to learn more about the animals you see on the Safari ride. They house baby animals, and there’s a snake demonstration, and a petting zoo.
HINTS: Like all Disney parks, one shop usually leads right into another. To bypass a busy section – look for a a shop and keep walking in the direction you need to go. You’ll usually end up farther along than you would have if you stayed in the masses.