I vividly remember my first time visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It was about a year after it opened on Earth Day in 1998.
I’d just finished 5th grade and was about to celebrate my 11th birthday. I was an animal lover and dreamed of becoming a veterinarian one day.
My family spent several days at Walt Disney World that year but Animal Kingdom is what I remember most about the trip.
When our guide on Kilimanjaro Safaris pointed out the Baobab tree, my dad asked if they were imported from Africa or grown cultivated in Florida. Looking back, I realize that even he was taken by the incredible immersive safari experience.
Certainly, Animal Kingdom has changed quite a bit since it first opened a quarter century ago.
However, some of the original attractions remain just as awe-inspiring as they were back in 1998. Plus, the new rides and additions have increased the appeal of Disney World’s largest theme park.
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Is Animal Kingdom worth a full day?
Yes, I would strongly suggest spending a full day at Animal Kingdom, especially if it’s your first time visiting or if you haven’t been in a while. You will want to have a full day here.
On the other hand, if there are only a few rides you want to check out, you might be able to get away with scheduling half a day.
How many hours should you spend at Animal Kingdom?
You can probably check most of the items off your list if you spend 6-8 hours at Animal Kingdom. In other words, this is a full-day park.
Personally, I like to have plenty of time to enjoy the park’s culinary treats.
For example, Animal Kingdom has several excellent quick-service restaurant options. Our favorite is probably Satu’li Canteen in Pandora. They have a menu with incredible protein bowls with lots of customization options.
However, the line can get long at this popular eatery. If that’s the case, try mobile ordering on the My Disney Experience app. There’s also Yak & Yeti in Asia and Flametree Barbecue on Discovery Island.
Does Animal Kingdom need 2 days?
In my opinion, spending two days at each of the Disney World parks is ideal. That being said, I realize that 8 days at Disney World is too much for most people.
So, your average person can probably hit the highlights of Animal Kingdom in one day. And there are plenty of entertainment options and trails to explore if you’re able to spend two days in this park.
Also, Animal Kingdom typically closes earlier than the other parks. This is in part because the park doesn’t host a traditional fireworks show at the end of the night.
If you have tickets that allow for park hopping, you may be able to transition to a different park for the end of the night after Animal Kingdom closes for the day.
When planning your Animal Kingdom itinerary, here’s a list of some of the top things to do:
1. Kilimanjaro Safaris
This original ride is probably the park’s most popular attraction.
Each ride is a bit different, but you’ll often see lions, giraffes, rhinos and elephants.
2. Avatar Flight of Passage
Located in the World of Avatar section, this ride takes you on a tour of Pandora from the back of a Banshee.
If the line is long, you may have the option to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane to experience this attraction. Importantly, there is a 44-inch height requirement.
3. Na’vi River Journey
Also in the Pandora section of the park, this bioluminescent boat ride is great for guests of all ages.
4. Kali River Rapids
Be prepared to get wet on this ride! Most of the family can experience this attraction with its 38-inch height requirement.
You’ll find lockers near the entrance just past Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe in the Asia section of the park.
5. Festival of the Lion King
Theater fans should not miss this Broadway-style show that features music from the award-winning animated film. Be sure to arrive early.
6. Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
Similar to Flight of Passage, this roller coaster has a 44-inch height requirement. Watch out for the Yeti as you ascend the slopes of Mount Everest.
7. It’s Tough to Be a Bug
This show is based on the 1998 Pixar film “A Bug’s Life”. It is a 4D show that is hosted in a theater underneath the Tree of Life.
Although it has no height requirement, it can be a little intense for young kids.
8. Discovery Island Trails
Explore the area around the trunk of the Tree of Life as you check out animal habitats on these trails. Additionally, these trails offer some of the best views of the intricate carvings sculpted into the tree.
9. Finding Nemo: The Big Blue and Beyond!
The updated version of this theater show features music from the beloved Pixar films. Youngsters will be delighted to see their favorite character brought to life by puppeteers.
10. Wilderness Explorers
This park-wide scavenger hunt is based on Pixar’s 2009 film “Up”. Here, guests can become a Wilderness Explorer like Russell and collect sticker badges for their handbook as they complete 30 challenges located throughout the park.
This is an excellent activity for families considering two days at Animal Kingdom during their Disney World vacation.
11. Maharajah Jungle Trek
This trail guides visitors through a series of animal habitats.
You’ll be able to see a variety of species from Asia, including tigers, Komodo dragons and flying foxes.
12. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
After you ride Kilimanjaro Safaris, look for the signs that lead you to the Gorilla Falls area. There are several viewing areas from which guests can observe Animal Kingdom’s troop of gorillas.
13. Wildlife Express Train
This train takes guests from Harambe Station in Africa to Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Here you can complete several Wilderness Explorer Challenges.
Also, be sure to visit the Affection Section. This is the only petting zoo in the Walt Disney World Resort. Plus it’s a great opportunity for some up-close animal encounters.
Despite its 40-inch height requirement, this intense dark ride can be frightening for little guys.
Fortunately, there are other entertainment options located nearby in Dinoland U.S.A. Consider taking small children on Triceratop Spin while the more adventurous family members ride DINOSAUR.
15. The Boneyard
This is one of my family’s favorite attractions at Animal Kingdom.
The dig-site-themed playground offers both big and little kids the opportunity to run, climb and explore.
This is much needed after hours spent standing in line or sitting in a stroller on a theme park day.
16. Tree of Life Awakenings
Even though Animal Kingdom doesn’t do fireworks, they do have their own quieter version of a nighttime spectacular.
Throughout the evening hours, guests can watch captivating animal projections tell their stories on the backdrop of the beautiful Tree of Life.
What is your favorite thing to do at the Animal Kingdom? Let us know in the comments!