12 Best Animal Kingdom Rides and Attractions, Ranked

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We don’t really think about it now, but isn’t it a little odd that Walt Disney World execs – back in the middle 90s – decided it would be a good idea to build a zoo? 

Who was the first person who sat down and thought, “There are some great zoos in the world, but you know what they all lack? Roller coasters!”

Stephen Spielberg tried to warn them in “Jurassic Park”. He’d seen the future back in 1993 when he put the following words into Samuel L. Jackson’s mouth: “We have all the problems of a major theme park and a major zoo.”

Heck, they even put Dinoland USA in the park as a signal to Spielberg they’d gotten the message. 

Still, today Disney’s Animal Kingdom holds a special place on the Walt Disney World campus. But its hybrid mission sometimes feels odd. For example, it’s odd to me that the Maharajah Jungle Trek and some very real tigers are right next to the Kali River Rapids ride.

I’d argue that it remains to be the park with the most potential for improvement. 

Disney’s Hollywood Studios has had its two major expansions and while there is talk to add another land to the Magic Kingdom, it’s not clear that an expansion will happen at all.

But at Animal Kingdom, the future is ripe with possibility.

What will happen? Will it be Zootopia-themed? Will it be some kind of Indiana Jones adventure which would fit – at least a little – with the dinosaur theme? We don’t know. But change is coming.


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Is Animal Kingdom worth a full day?

I say yes, but it really depends on what you’re asking with this question. 

I think that even though Animal Kingdom is probably fourth in most people’s ranking of the main parks at Walt Disney World, it doesn’t mean the park is unworthy of your time. 

If nothing else, you need a full day to sample the various cuisines of Pandora, Africa and Asia without gorging yourself to the gills. 

But it is a park at which if you are there at rope drop, you can get everything you want to be accomplished and leave late in the afternoon or in the early evening to do something else. 

For example, we have used Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park days as an opportunity to leave earlier than we would at other theme parks to go back and swim in the hotel pool or go to Disney Springs.

We do this sometimes simply because the park closed earlier than the other Walt Disney World theme parks. I don’t ever pay for park hopper, but I think you could park hop and still get in everything you want to do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. 

Read Also: Is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Closing in 2024? Addressing the Rumors

Tree of Life Animal Kingdom
The Tree of Life is an iconic feature at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

What should you not miss in Animal Kingdom?

There’s quite a bit. 

Pandora is exceptionally cool. Soak in as much of it as you can. Get a steamed cheeseburger pod and an exotic beer at Satu’li Canteen. Ride the rides. 

The Na’vi River Journey isn’t exactly a thrill ride, but I love the vibe. It’s like the Small World boat ride if it were run through a black-lit alien forest instead of the World’s Fair.

Avatar Flight of Passage is one of the best rides in the world.

This is where you can get immersed in that World of Avatar, which I hope is going to expand now that the second movie has arrived and was a big hit. 

Also, you have to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris. If you can catch it while the animals are out and active, it’s a fantastic experience. 

If you like roller coasters, you have to ride Expedition Everest, one of Disney’s best coasters.

For meals, I recommend a character breakfast at the Tusker House in Africa with Mickey, Minnie and Donald, lunch at the Yak and Yeti in Asia and finish with dinner in Pandora for the full experience. But shake it up however you feel is right. 

The Festival of the Lion King show is an absolutely don’t miss with its production values, talented performers and acrobats. 

The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is also a don’t-miss experience. A walking trail with great apes? Count me in.

I’m not a huge fan of the in-park scavenger hunts like Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorers program, but there are some families that swear by them.

What is the number 1 ride at Animal Kingdom?

It’s got to be Pandora’s Flight of Passage. Like an updated version of Soarin’, this ride takes you on a simulator ride over the land of Pandora.

It is the best of the Animal Kingdom attractions and – before Rise of the Resistance and Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind – was the best ride Disney has to offer. 

Today, Flight of Passage remains among the best rides in Orlando. Still, let’s rank the best Animal Kingdom rides and attractions just to make sure.

entrance to its tough to be a bug at animal kingdom
It’s Tough to be a Bug is a 3D film and live show (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

12. It’s Tough to be a Bug show

This 3D film and live show is built in the underappreciated “A Bug’s Life” universe.

It’s fine, I suppose, down there among the Discovery Island Trails and under the Tree of Life, but it lacks the charm and wit of the movie and absolutely freaked my daughter out with the effect that makes it feel like bugs are crawling underneath you in your chair.

She’s 17 and still scared of bugs. Now Disney knows the bitter taste of repercussions of crossing the Gullions. Mess with my family and I’ll rank you 12th in a blog more than a decade later. Take that, Isner!

The Boneyard Entrance Animal Kingdom
The Boneyard is fun for the kids but may not be a top priority for most guests (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

11. The Boneyard Fossil Fun Site

This is a fun little playground area for kids.

The area is probably better than what you have in the parks at home. However, you didn’t drive all the way from Iowa and pay what you paid for rope bridges, caves and slides. 

Rafiki's Planet Watch at Animal Kingdom
The Affection Station is basically a petting zoo (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

10. The Affection Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch

I get the charm of a petting zoo. I do. And I don’t mean to brag, but I can put my hands on a goat or a pig or a cow or a sheep just about any time I want to.

One phone call and I could be petting a goat tonight. So I don’t pay what I pay and drive all the hours I drive just to come to Orlando and spend part of my day trying to avoid stepping in goat poop.

Triceratop Spin Animal Kingdom
The TriceraTop Spin is similar to Dumbo at the Magic Kingdom and is great for the kids (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

9. TriceraTop Spin

I have no bitter memories of this perfectly pleasant little kids’ ride.

Like Dumbo in the Magic Kingdom or The Magic Carpets of Aladdin or any other dozens of similar rides across the country, this is a fine ride but in no way memorable.

DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom
Encounter life-like Dinosaurs on this ride at the Animal Kingdom (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)


The ride theme is something out of a Ray Bradbury novel – quite literally check out “A Sound of Thunder” – but without all the 60s sci-fi tension.

Scientists from the future send you careening into the past where you encounter “life-like” dinosaurs. It’s a whole deal. Jump scares and darkness and roaring ensue.

Honestly, it seems like something better suited for Universal’s Jurassic Park section. Maybe the two theme parks could work out a deal. 

7. The Big Blue … and Beyond!

There’s a part of me that wishes Disney would keep the non-main characters in a single park.

Nemo and all Nemo-related attractions and shows should be at EPCOT. But, there’s no denying this show with live actors and puppets is fun, colorful and entertaining.

It’s not quite as good as the Festival of the Lion King, but still a good time for all.

Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom
Kali River Rapids can be refreshing on a hot day (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

6. Kali Rivers Rapids

This rapids ride isn’t that different from others like it in theme parks around the country, but the theming is great and there’s a reason it’s a popular ride style.

It’s fun and can be refreshing in the oppressive Florida heat. 

The Lion King Musical Stage
Festival of the Lion King immerses the audience in theatrics and classic songs (media photo by Ryan Wendler/Disney World)

5. Festival of the Lion King

This is a great and entertaining Disney theme park show with cool songs, performances and more. It may be my favorite non-fireworks show at Disney World. 

Read Also: The Lion King Show at Animal Kingdom: Show Times, Location and More

Animal Kingdom's Na'Vi River Journey
The Na’vi River Journey is a relaxing ride (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

4. Na’vi River Journey

Now we’re into the cream of the Animal Kingdom attraction crop. Yes, I know this ride isn’t for everyone, but again, I dig the vibe.

I like being transported to another place, especially a place that is this zen. I could take significant naps inside this Pandora world being softly sung to by the giant Shaman of Songs animatronic. I could go lap after lap in the back of one of the boats just getting my sleep on.

So much of a Disney vacation is about maximizing the experience. It’s nice to be able to chill out and get taken to another place – even if that place only exists in James Cameron’s imagination. 

expedition everest in animal kingdom at disney
Look for the Yeti on the Expedition Everest coaster (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

3. Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

I like roller coasters. I love Bigfoot and his Himalayan cousin the Yeti. What’s not to like about this ride?

Over the years, Disney has been dinged mightily for its relative lack of roller coasters, but this is a good coaster that would be a worthy addition to any theme park’s collection of thrill rides. 

Child on safari ride in Animal Kingdom
A baby elephant makes an appearance during the Kilimanjaro Safari experience (photo by Kirby Russell/HeyOrlando.com)

2. Kilimanjaro Safaris

I like the open concept of the large sprawl of land that gives the animals more freedom than in a traditional zoo. Certainly, I enjoy seeing the giraffes and zebras wandering where they’d like. Or at least more than they’d get to at another zoo.

I like getting to see the wide variety of animals and bumping along Disney’s version of an African plain.

Maybe one day I’ll get to take a real African safari, but in the meantime, this will have to do. 

an avatar in the ride queue of flight of passage at disney
Flight of Passage is one of the best rides in Disney World (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

1. Avatar Flight of Passage

I’ve already written about this fantastic ride. It is incredible and possibly worth the price of admission alone. It’s that good.

What rides have the longest lines at Animal Kingdom?

Not surprisingly, the most popular rides are the above-mentioned, can’t-miss rides.

If you want to ride the banshee on Flight of Passage, use the Disney Genie system to buy an Individual Lightning Lane pass or be prepared to wait. 

Everest lines are better now that Pandora is open, but the last time we rode the Safari, it may have been the most ridiculous queue experience of my life. 

The published wait time wasn’t bad, but the line wound in places I’d never imagined such as backstage and portions of the park not open to the public. However, it moved more quickly than any line I’ve been in. 

We were marching at a brisk pace just to keep our place in line with Disney cast members spurring us on like fans at a marathon. I kept looking for tables with water and Gatorade. When we made it to the front, I half expected to have to break a ribbon and pose for pictures. 

At one point, I was pretty sure we were in EPCOT. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they put us on the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch only to make us walk briskly through another line through Conservation Station, get back on the Wildlife Express Train and line up again. 

The My Disney Experience app is a great tool when checking ride times. It may just save you from bad line experiences.

What is your favorite Animal Kingdom ride? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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