Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom is over 2 decades old now, but there is so much in this park that makes it feel modern and new.
Animal Kingdom is of course as it’s name suggests, completely surrounded around animals. The park is accredited with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums. That means they meet or exceed standards in education, conservation and research. As such, there is no plastic straws, lids or balloons, as well as there are no fireworks in the nightly show, Rivers Of Light.
There are 5 different lands within Animal Kingdom; Discovery Island, Pandora – The World of Avatar, Africa, Asia & Dinoland USA. Each one is themed spectacularly and really does transport you to that location in the world. Simply amazing how the Disney Imagineers are able to do this with artificial elements mixed in with natural elements.
When you first walk into Animal Kingdom, guests are greeted by the Oasis, a street similar to Main Street, USA. It serves as a main thoroughfare to the animals and lands beyond as well housing a variety of shops and restaurants.
The Discovery River waterway surrounds it, making Discovery Island a real island. The Tree of Life, a 144-foot artificial baobab tree, stands atop it, crowning the island. The tree has 325 different animals carved into the trunk. The tree also houses a theatre that shows a 3-D movie inspired by A Bug’s Life called It’s Tough to be a Bug!
Also here are a couple gift shops and two of it’s major restaurants. There are also lots of trails and animal enclosures here that are perfectly empty if you check it out in the early morning!
Pandora – The World of Avatar
Avatar is a fictional story from James Cameron about aliens on a distant planet and moon. The land here at Animal Kingdom makes you forget you are in Florida and transports you to the moon of Pandora with the Na’vi inhabitants. It’s beautiful and breathtaking.
The park’s newest ride is here as well in Avatar Flight of Passage. It is a 3-D simulated ride on the back of a banshee over the Pandora landscape complete with breathing banshee under you and smells of the landscape before you. It can see waits of up to 6 hours depending on when you are visiting, so be sure to try your hardest to get a FastPass for this one!
The home of the fictional town Harambe, Africa is home to several animal exhibits, different restaurants, marketplaces, and an outdoor bar with live entertainment!
Africa is also home to Kilimanjaro Safaris which takes trekkers on an open air safari to see species in savanna, rocks and river habitats. The safari features hyenas, cattle, rhino, giraffes, lions,cheetahs, elephants, zebras, crocodiles and several species of birds.
This land is also home to the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. It is a self-led expedition to view numerous different animals such as monkeys, gorillas, hippos, okapis as well as an aviary.
Also located here is the Festival of the Lion King, a stage show based on the movie that is beautiful, and definitely not to be missed.
Another fictional locale is the setting for Asia. The kingdom of Anandapur and Serka Zong make up this land. The decor and buildings transports guests to the foothills of the Himalayas and includes traits of India, Indonesia, Nepal and Thailand. You can actually find a map of the kingdom and it’s location in the Disney Vacation Club spot here.
The focal point in this land is Everest. While it looks like the towering mountain in the Himalayas, it’s actually home to a pretty sweet roller coaster (my family’s fave actually!). Expedition Everest is set in the Himalayas and takes riders through the mountains encountering the mountain protector, the Yeti.
Kali River Rapids is here as well. I would highly encourage taking a spin on this wet ride! It’s a lot of fun and there’s a chance you won’t get drenched…maybe!
You’ll also find the Maharajah Jungle Trek here which will lead through more animal enclosures such as geese, tigers, gibbons and komodo dragons. Up! A Great Bird Adventure Show is housed here where bird researchers can learn with Russell from Up! about bird behaviors and the effects of habitat loss and conservation efforts.
Moving to Dinoland USA between the two lands is the Rivers Of Light, a nightly show featuring lanterns, music, water fountains and lighting. There are no fireworks located in Animal Kingdom as to not scare the animals who call it home.
Hence the name, DinoLand U.S.A. is themed around dinosaurs and other extinct prehistoric life. Inside the Dino Institute, you’ll find Dinosaur, a dark ride through the late cretaceous period that is based on the film of the same name. It can be a little scary for little ones and contains sharp turns and drops, but we loved it!
The Boneyard is located nearby as well. It is a multi-level playground nearby in case your littles need to burn off some energy!
Nearby is Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama. It seems like a sideshow attraction with carnival games and silly rides. Primeval Whirl, a steel coaster with individual carts that spin while moving, is here also. Also here is the TriceraTop Spin carousel ride.
On the edge of the land is the Theatre in the Wild, home to Finding Nemo! The Musical based on the movie of the same name.
There are so many cool themed restaurants here in Animal Kingdom! Rainforest Cafe (yes, the chain) is accessible from inside and outside the park, the only one that is. Yak & Yeti is one of the best. Located in Asia, it is also operated by the same chain that owns Rainforest Cafe, but is definitely a different cuisine. Not only that, but there is a quick service version of this one right around the corner from the table service restaurant that offers a similar menu at a lower cost.
Tusker House is in Africa and is a buffet. It also is a character breakfast and lunch where you can meet Donald Duck and other Disney characters. It also is an option to book breakfast here before the park opens to be one of the first to be in the park!
Tiffins is located on Discovery Island. It is a table service restaurant and features the Nomad Lounge nearby.
There are other quick service restaurants around Animal Kingdom and numerous carts and locations offering snacks and beverages. One of the best is Flame Tree Barbecue. Located on Discovery Island, it’s a real deal bbq joint. Trust me, I’m from Kansas and I know bbq. This is delish! I had the pulled pork mac and cheese and it was fire.
What’s your favorite part of Animal Kingdom? Let me know in the comments!