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Top 10 Experiences You Should Have at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is one of the most unique theme parks around, and it has gained even more to do recently with the addition of some late night attractions. While some guests might spend an entire day riding Expedition Everest over and over, there are some things that I believe you simply cannot miss:

1) Festival of the Lion King

Festival of the Lion King, located in a relatively new theater in Africa, has routinely been named the best show at Walt Disney World, and once you’ve seen it you’ll understand why. Although I am also partial to Finding Nemo the Musical, I think the Festival of the Lion King show is perhaps even more successful in drawing the whole family in with a fun show through an attachment to characters we all know and love. This show is a great way to start or end a visit to the park, and in my opinion is not to be missed.

2) Kilimanjaro Safari

One of the reasons why I love Animal Kingdom so much is because the animals appear to be out in their natural environment rather than behind some kind of enclosure like they would be at your local zoo. The safari attraction is in my opinion an excellent way to see some of the animals up close, and as close to their natural habitat as possible. If you’ve always wanted to roam the African savannah or make a quick visit to elephant country, this attraction can do that and more, even offering views of different animals with each trip.

3) Flights of Wonder

Flights of Wonder is one of my favorite shows at Walt Disney World in general, and in my opinion the most underrated experience at Animal Kingdom. I can only assume that many guests pass up this experience thinking it is a typical bird show that they would see at their local zoo or science museum, but it really is so much more. Think more bird show, combined with Disney design and thematic elements, storytelling, and an important and touching conservation message and you’ll have a little bit of an idea of what Flights of Wonder is all about.

4) Expedition Everest

As the most expensive rollercoaster ever built, it is no surprise that Expedition Everest is at the top of the list of things to do for many guests visiting Animal Kingdom. This thrilling journey brings guests forward, backward, and even face to face with the yeti. It is one of the most well themed, and thrilling rollercoasters, and is a must do for any coaster fanatic visiting the park.

5) Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

The Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is conveniently located right by the exit of Kilimanjaro Safari, which is usually when I would choose to walk it. Unfortunately many guests visiting the park tend to pass up any attraction that requires more walking, but they are truly missing out. This animal walking trail features so many fascinating animals that you are otherwise not able to see up close, my favorite being the gorillas, and is definitely worth taking a stroll next time you’re visiting Africa.

6) Maharajah Jungle Trek

Similar to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, the Maharajah Jungle Trek is located in Asia and features many unique animals like tigers, bats, and a variety of different bird species. I thoroughly enjoy walking this trail and seeing the tigers while visiting Asia, and am always shocked to learn from other guests that they’ve decided to skip this walk in favor of repeating some of the park’s rides.

7) Dinosaur

Dinosaur, one of my favorite attractions at Animal Kingdom, takes guests back in time to the Cretaceous Period to bring back an Iguanodon for the eclectic paleontologist, Dr. Seeker. This thrilling, high speed journey back in time brings guests up close and personal with dinosaurs like the Carnotaurus, and just might even get them back before a potential meteor shower strikes.

8) Finding Nemo: the Musical

Finding Nemo: the Musical offers a slightly different experience than Festival of the Lion King, but is equally as great of a show in my opinion. While Festival of the Lion King is more of a celebration of the hit film, Finding Nemo retells the non-musical story as a musical offering a unique twist on the story many guests know and love. I’ll admit I was skeptical of adding music to a story from a film that was not a musical, but this show works very well and I would highly recommend seeing it during a visit to Animal Kingdom.

9) Tree of Life Awakens

Throughout the evening at Animal Kingdom, the Tree of Life literally comes to life with different projections featuring the animal world and various scenes that add to the atmosphere of the park. While not necessarily an attraction in itself, the Tree of Life really does add to the nightly atmosphere of Animal Kingdom, offering a little something special for guests who are now able to visit the park in the evening hours.

10) Dining

Animal Kingdom has now caught up to, and possibly surpassed Epcot in terms of dining options. From the more safe options for picky eaters like the Rainforest Cafe and Pizzafari, to the new signature restaurant located on Discovery Island, Tiffins, this park offers a variety of unique restaurants that are sure to please everyone in the family. My favorite part about dining in Animal Kingdom is that there are so many different kinds of food that I’m simply not able to find while dining out at home, making my visit to the park all the more special.

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Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."

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