Is Animal Kingdom Worth It? 7 Best Parts, What To Consider

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When I was young, I got to go on a 10-day European vacation. We visited four countries. I knew a little something about Amsterdam and the Netherlands. I was ignorant of Brussels and Belgium. Even so, I ended up utterly charmed by Belgium. Looking back, I think my ignorance was an asset. For example, I didn’t have an agenda. There was time to breathe, explore and experience. 

And so, I find Animal Kingdom at Disney much the same. There are things in Animal Kingdom I want to do. But – generally speaking – if I plan the day well, those things will get done and we’ll have a little time to breathe. I can spend more time enjoying a Dole Whip in a shady spot or enjoying a performer or a view. There’s more time – I find – to appreciate the experience. 

Should I skip Animal Kingdom?

It depends. Do you only have three days to visit Disney World? Probably. As much as I enjoy Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it ranks behind the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios for me right now. However, it does appear Disney is gearing up for some more major improvements in the park that could sway things. If you have four or more days, you probably shouldn’t skip the park. The Animal Kingdom – even as the fourth-best Disney park – remains pretty stellar. 

I’m a big Star Wars guy so if we had tickets for four days and I missed Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios, I would consider scrapping the Animal Kingdom day for a bit of the apple. Otherwise, I think you should hit all four parks if you have four-day tickets. 

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

What age group is Animal Kingdom for?

I don’t think of the park as specifically for any age group, But there’s probably less to do for smaller kids in terms of rides and attractions. However, the shows and the zoo aspects make up for that. In my experience, smaller kids love the zoo and they love the Discovery Island trails. 

Is Animal Kingdom for older kids? 

Not specifically, but we took a group that had three teenagers in it on our last trip, and they had a blast. They enjoyed the animals, the big rides and the shows. Expedition Everest and Flight of Passage were among their favorite rides of the trip. 

Yak & Yeti Animal Kingdom
Adults will certainly enjoy dinner at the Yak & Yeti (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Is Animal Kingdom worth it for adults?

Yeah, I think so if for nothing else than the vibe. I love chilling in Africa and Asia, dinner at the Yak & Yeti and an alcoholic Dole Whip for dessert. At this point in my life, I’ve got to come to terms with the idea that I’ll probably never make it to see Africa and Asia. Even though the Disney versions are far from the real thing, I still dig it. 

Menu at Satu'll Canteen Animal Kingdom
Satu’li Canteen at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Why do adults go to Animal Kingdom?

Why do they go to EPCOT or any other Disney park? For my money, the Africa and Asia lands in Animal Kingdom are just as good or better than the various pavilions around the world. Plus, there are gorillas, zebras and more. The flavors of Africa are also great at places like Jambo House. 

On our recent trip, the kids wanted to go jump in the queue for Flight of Passage even though we didn’t have Genie+ or Lightning Lane. I didn’t have the long wait in me, so the other dad on the trip and I went over to Satu’li Canteen. We enjoyed some of their signature alien beers and cheeseburger pods while sitting outside in the shade. The fans moved the air above us as the sun fell. It was the perfect way to end a Disney day. 

What is great about Animal Kingdom?

Let us count the ways.

baby zebra with mom zebra with balconies in background
Resort guests may have a chance to see wild animals prancing around the savanna at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (media photo by David Roark/Disney World)

7. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

If you want a great Disney World Resort with real access to the park, you could do a lot worse than the Animal Kingdom Lodge on your Disney World vacation. Sure, it’s pricey. A savanna view room is even more pricey, but it’s a great addition to any trip. 

Animal Kingdom's Maharajah Trail Signage
The Maharajah Jungle Trek is fun and educational as well (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

6. The trails

Between the Maharajah Jungle Trek and the Gorilla Falls Exploration trails, you get to see the animals of the world in a first-class exhibit as part of your Disney vacation. It’s fun. It’s interesting and it’s educational. And best of all, after you’ve worked up a powerful thirst trekking through Disney’s jungles, you can go over to Africa for a Dole Whip or an adult beverage. 

Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest
Expedition Everest is one of the best rides in Disney’s parks (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

5. Expedition Everest

There was a time – before the arrival of Galaxy’s Edge and the Guardians of the Galaxy and Ratatouille and Frozen Ever After – when Expedition Everest had a claim on being among the best attractions in Walt Disney World. It still ranks among the best thrill rides around. It’s fun and interesting and you get to see Big Foot or a Yeti, I suppose, if we’re being correct. It’s a great roller coaster

performers at the lion king show at disney world
Festival of the Lion King is a popular, high-energy live musical (media photo by Ryan Wendler/Disney World)

4. Festival of the Lion King

This favorite is the best stage show in Disney. Bright and colorful, the music is great and each year the performers remain inspired and engaged. It’s a treat. 

a gorilla at the safari ride in animal kingdom
You can see several types of animals on the safari including gorillas, lions and cheetahs (photo by Beth Campbell/HeyOrlando.com)

3. Kilimanjaro Safaris

The safari ride is pretty great. I’ve been to several zoos – including the one in London where I suffered an unfortunate incident in the nocturnal animals exhibit. Certainly, the experience of riding through Disney’s savannas is unique and pretty awesome. I particularly like the giraffes where they feel free enough to roam right up to the vehicle. Throw in lions and tigers and cheetahs and rhinos and elephants and more. It’s a great experience for all ages. 

Disney World's Pandora
In response to seeing Universal’s runaway success with The Wizarding World, Disney built a similarly immersive experience with Avatar’s Pandora in Animal Kingdom (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

2. Avatar’s Pandora

I liked the first “Avatar” movie. Watched it a few times on TBS over the years on reruns. But I wouldn’t say I was an Avatar buff. But when Pandora opened in Animal Kingdom, I was all in. From the rides to the food to the overall experience, I like being immersed in another world. And I find Na’vi River Journey so calming and peaceful, I wish it were 10 minutes longer. I haven’t seen “Avatar Way of Water” yet – I’ll catch it on Disney+. However, I’m hoping that it and the next movie do well enough that Disney expands Pandora in the park. 

pandora at night in animal kingdom
Pandora at night is just one of the many cool things to experience at the Animal Kingdom (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

1. The Animal Kingdom vibe

I just dig it. It’s the Belgium of the Disney World. 

How many days should you spend at Animal Kingdom?

I think of all of the Disney theme parks, Animal Kingdom is the one you can pretty well knock out in a single day. The only reasons to do more than one day are missing out on Avatar Flight of Passage in Pandora – which is a truly great ride – or you just love the park. 

tree of life at night in the animal kingdom at disney
The Tree of Life is a 145-foot sculpture of a baobab tree (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

What else should we know about the Animal Kingdom?

The Animal Kingdom is almost four times bigger than the Magic Kingdom. It’s the largest theme park in the world. That said, much of the park’s 580 acres is behind the scenes and not accessible to the general public. A large part of it is dedicated to the animals, of course. Animal Kingdom’s iconic Tree of Life is a 145-foot sculpture of a baobab tree – which is always fun to say but is especially fun if you add a Chicago accent. It’s got more than 8,000 branches of varying sizes and about 102,000 artificial leaves.

And finally, something is afoot at Animal Kingdom. We don’t know what is happening yet but something’s happening. Animal Kingdom is ripe for expansion and it appears Disney is about to do something over in Dinoland. Some reports have indicated an area inspired by the tropical Americas and Indiana Jones. But stay tuned.

Is Animal Kingdom worth it?

Yes. It’s not the same experience offered in the other Disney parks, but in some ways, that’s to its credit. It’s unique. Are you planning a trip to Disney? Check Tripster for deals as you make your plans.

Do you think Animal Kingdom is worth it? Let us know in the comments!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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