Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, the fourth of Disney World’s four theme parks. Walt Disney had always wanted to do something with live animals, but obvious problems existed. The Jungle Cruise attraction, along with The Enchanted Tiki Room was as close as Walt was able to get in his lifetime. After Walt’s death in 1966, this idea was put on the backburner, what with Walt Disney World just in the early stages of planning. For many years after opening, the Animal Kingdom was considered a half-day park, especially in the summer when temperatures and the humidity rise. Just recently, nighttime activities have been added to make the Animal Kingdom a full one-day park. Here are my tips for How to Do Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1 day.
1. Fastpass – Before you leave home, make your 3 fastpasses for Animal Kingdom. Attractions you should consider for fastpass are Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Primeval Whirl and Dinosaur. Since you only have 3 choices, consider your traveling party ages, likes and dislikes. You can make fastpass reservations at 60 days out if you’re staying at a Disney hotel. Otherwise, make your fastpasses at 30 days before your trip.
2. Lay of the Land – The Animal Kingdom Park is set up much like the Magic Kingdom, with a central icon, the Tree of Life, and different “lands” surrounding it. Imagine the map as a big clock-the Tree of Life is on Discovery Island (in the center) which is surrounded by the Oasis at 6 o’clock, Africa at 11 o’clock, Asia at 1 o’clock and DinoLand USA at 5 o’clock. Discovery River runs around Discovery Island and out toward Asia.
3. Arrive early! – Arrive at the entrance to Disney’s Animal Kingdom 25 minutes prior to opening (40 minutes during the summer and during holidays). Pick up a park map and entertainment schedule. Stroller rentals are just past the entrance, to the right.
4. Oasis – If you have your 3 fastpasses, don’t feel the need to rush to an attraction. Explore the Oasis on Discovery Island, pointing out any unusual animals. There are several paths through this area-don’t worry, they all lead to the same place. You’ll have to be patient to see the animals, but they are there. There is a Rainforest Café at park entrance, with access both from outside and inside the park.
5. Discovery Island – Things to see here include “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” 3D show (located in the base of the Tree of Life) and Adventurers Outpost, where you can meet Mickey & Minnie in their safari outfits. Also, take time to get your picture with the Tree of Life in the background. It’s stunning! A good place to eat here is Flame Tree Barbeque.
6. Africa – One of Animal Kingdom’s premier attractions in located in Africa. You don’t want to miss Kilimanjaro Safaris, a 25-minute ride through the African savannah (or Disney’s version), where you will see live animals roaming near the road and your vehicle. Have your cameras ready! When you exit the safaris, take a stroll along the Pangani Forest Exploration trails to see more animals. If you’re up for a show, see the Broadway-style “Festival of the Lion King”. Africa also includes one of the best character meals at Disney World, Tusker House, where you can dine with Donald Duck and friends.
7. Asia – One of Disney’s most spectacular coasters is in Asia, Expedition Everest (You’ll see the mountain and hear the screams from all over the park). Also in Asia is Flights of Wonder, a fun live-bird show, Kali River Rapids (you WILL get wet) and Maharajah Jungle Trek, a self-guided tour of the jungles of south-eastern Asia. A good place to eat here is Yak & Yeti Restaurant, featuring Pan-Asian food.
8. DinoLand USA – Although there is fun here for all ages, DinoLand USA is mostly for kids. Your little ones will love the Boneyard (big sandbox) and TriceraTop Spin (think Dumbo). For the thrill junkies, try Dinosaur and/or Primeval Whirl. One of the best shows on Disney property is here-“Finding Nemo” the Musical. For burgers and dogs, try Restaurantosauras.
9. Rafiki’s Planet Watch – This area is, in my opinion, the one place you can most easily leave out of your touring. However, the train ride over is fun and there is a petting zoo for the kids. If you get lucky, you might observe animal surgery, if that appeals to you.
10. Evening activities – As mentioned earlier, the Animal Kingdom Park is now staying open into the evening. There is a nighttime show in the outdoor theater; you can take a nighttime safari ride and be sure to watch the Tree of Life illuminate every 20 minutes or so. It’s spectacular! Also, with the later hours, consider dining at Tiffins, the Animal Kingdom’s only signature restaurant. The menu celebrates the art of traveling and features foods from Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas, the locations that inspired Animal Kingdom.
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