Animal Kingdom

Sunday, 20 February 2011 22:21

Animal Kingdom Logo



At Disney's Animal Kingdom, you can dig for dinosaur bones, challenge the mysterious Himalayan yeti, and see hundreds of live animals in their natural habitat.  This sprawling park in the southwestern corner of Walt Disney World is equal parts theme park and zoological park, with both aspects receiving a unique Disney touch. 

This park seems more laid back, as it seems the animals make us stop and ponder a bit.  There are so many fun things to see and do here!


History Traveling Park Info Discovery Island Camp Minnie-Mickey Africa
 Rafiki's Planet Watch Asia DinoLand USA Entertainment Shopping Dining

Park History

Walt Disney World's fourth and newest theme park opened in April 1998.  It joins the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney's Hollywood Studios.  When it first opened, park advertising utilized the faux-African word "nahtazu" ("not a zoo") as a slogan to emphasize that it was not just a collection of animals in small iron cages.  The animals right here invest their days in expansive habitats which can be as close to their normal environments as you possibly can, with subtle and camouflaged barriers retaining them away from guests (and each other).  At evening, they sleep comfortably indoors inside the park's substantial housing area which is backstage.

Even though the animals are nominally the main attraction, they might lastly have already been overshadowed by the park's newest thrill ride, Expedition Everest.  Towering 200 feet more than the surrounding terrain, this mini-mountain is visible from some distance away and even threatens to overtake the Tree of Life as the park's most visible icon.  The Tree, maybe by contrast, is most impressive up close, where its size and detail can really be appreciated.

The other major rides and attractions include It's Tough to be a Bug, a 3-D movie based on the Pixar film A Bug's Life; Kilimanjaro Safaris, a jeep ride through the recreated African savanna; Kali River Rapids, a soaking raft ride; and Dinosaur, a ride through time into the late Cretaceous.  For the youngest visitors, Camp Minnie-Mickey is a special space where they will have an opportunity to meet and greet their favorite characters.

Find out more facts about Disney's Animal Kingdom.


Unlike the other parks, Animal Kingdom usually closes early because it is harder to view the animals and there is no evening entertainment such as a fireworks show because of the animals. 

By Car

Animal Kingdom is in the southwestern part of the Walt Disney World property.  You will need to travel west on Osceola Parkway from World Drive.  Parking is $14 per car.  Once you pay for parking at any of the theme parks for that day, you can go and park at another one without having to pay again.  Disney resort guests can park for free.  You will need to show your "Key to the World" card at the toll booth.

By Disney Transportation

In order to keep the animals safe, no one can walk into Animal Kingdom; not even from the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  If you're not driving, you'll be taking a bus no matter where you're coming from.

From Downtown Disney 

There is no direct transportation from Downtown Disney.  You will need to take the bus to any resort hotel (or walk to the nearby Saratoga Springs resort) and transfer to the Animal Kingdom & Blizzard Beach bus.

From all other parks and resorts

Board the direct bus marked "Animal Kingdom & Blizzard Beach".  From the Magic Kingdom, you will need to go to the Transportation and Ticket Center first and then board a bus to Animal Kingdom there.

The Park

Animal Kingdom MapAnimal Kingdom is a large park, and most attractions are outdoors.  Be prepared to walk and walk some more.

After going through the entrance gates, you'll be in the Oasis area.  There are no rides or shows in this area, but there are two well-shaded paths that pass by a number of animal areas.  It is a very peaceful walk into Discovery Island, which is the hub from which will lead you to explore the rest of Animal Kingdom.  You can't miss Discovery Island as the huge Tree of Life dominates it.  There are many shops and a couple restaurants in this area, along with the 3-D movie It's Tough to Be a Bug.

Animal Kingdom has four themed "lands" that branch out from Discovery Island.  The first one, if you move clockwise from the Oasis, is Camp Minnie-Mickey.  Next is Africa, where the Kilimanjaro Safaris take you into the park's savanna.  Asia has the Kali River Rapids and the very popular Expedition Everest.  Finally, DinoLand U.S.A. is where you'll see Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama and the Dino Institute.

To explore at Rafiki's Planet Watch, a "backstage" area with information on the park's research projects and animal maintenance, you will need to take a short train trip from Africa.

You can walk from Africa to Asia to DinoLand U.S.A. without going back to Discovery Island, but Camp Minnie-Mickey doesn't have those connections.

What to See and Do

Animal Kingdom has a broad mix of points of interest, from merely taking a look at the numerous animals on exhibit, to tuneful stage shows, to high-energy thrill rides.  There's a small something for everyone here, but households with diverse tastes might need to split up, so Grandma and Grandpa can consider a stroll through the animal enclosures although the kids go on Expedition Everest for your third time.

There's one extremely crucial thing to help keep in your thoughts if you would like to get great views from the animals.  Remember that it could get extremely scorching for the duration of the day, and it's not only tourists who look for shade once the sun beats down.  The animals are going to be a lot more lively and far more visible very first thing inside the morning and at the end from the day, and that will allow you to view the animals better and get lots of good pictures.

As you walk around, you may see an animal handler exhibiting one or two small animals up close—these encounters occur randomly throughout the day at a variety of locations.  There are many character greeting locations; you will find this informaiton Guide Map and schedules will be listed in your Times Guide.

Fastpasses are available for Dinosaur, Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Primeval Whirl.  Expedition Everest is by far the most popular of these rides, so make sure to get one for this ride.

For parade and stage show times see the Guide Map and the Times Guide that you can pick up when you enter the park.  The Wait Times Board on Discovery Island will list current wait times for rides and show times for shows too.

The Oasis, at the entrance area of the park, takes you from the gates to the central hub of Discovery Island.  It's a wooded setting, with several animal enclosures; look for the giant anteater, macaws, etc.  Make sure you take both the left and the right paths; as you will see different animals.


Discovery Island

Discovery Island is the central hub of Animal Kingdom.  The Tree of Life is located here, as are the majority of the park's shops and a couple of very good restaurants.  There are many Discovery Island Trails that wind around the base of the Tree for you to wander about on.  There you'll find a number of birds and other small animals on display.  Look for the Tree of Life's animal carvings up-close too, although the walking area toward It's Tough to be a Bug attraction will give you the best vantage points.

It's Tough to be a Bug! - This is a 3-D film featuring Flik and other characters from the Pixar film A Bug's Life.  You'll meet grubs, stink bugs, wasps, and other creepy-crawlies.  The show has many special effects both tactile and olfactory.  Some scenes and the darkness of the attraction may be a little frightening for kids, or for anyone who does not like bugs.


Camp Minnie-Mickey

Themed as an old-fashioned summer camp, Camp Minnie-Mickey is a great location to meet several Disney characters, mostly Mickey and Minnie and their friends. 

Festival of the Lion King - Acrobatic, colorful, and tuneful, this theater-in-the-round features the characters from The Lion King.  Kids of all ages will enjoy seeing these favorite characters on the stage, and the music is still just as good as it was in the movie.  



Jambo everyone!  That is "welcome" here in the town of Harambe.  The attention to detail here is incredible, from the consistent overarching storyline (of a town on the outskirts of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve) all the way down to a faded Coca-Cola advertisement that is painted on a wall.

Kilimanjaro Safaris - According to the story of this attraction, you will be heading out on safari for a two-week trip through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve.  Board your well-equipped safari jeep, and your driver/guide will point out the animals along the route.  This area of the park covers more than 100 acres, with habitats representing wetlands, forest, and savanna.  You will get a chance to view lions, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, etc. on this trip.  This is a great chance for some good picture taking.

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail - This is a great walk-through area near the exit of the Kilimanjaro Safaris.  You will have an opportunity to see hippos, meerkats, gorillas, among other animals.  As you walk through, keep an eye out for research documents from the Harambe Reserve researchers and their student visitors, which serve to both maintain the fictional setting and provide information about the animals.  

Wildlife Express - This train ride is the only way to get to Rafiki's Planet Watch.  The route gives you a glimpse of the animal houses, where the animals get fed and spend the night. Trains depart every 5–10 minutes.  


Rafiki's Planet Watch

The only way to get to Rafiki's Planet Watch is by way of the Wildlife Express train from Africa.  This is an interactive learning center documenting wildlife conservation efforts around the world.

Affection Section - This is a fun petting zoo that houses some exotic but still domesticated animals from around the world.  

Conservation Station - This large building is where you will find the park's animal treatment facilities, learn about conservation and animals, etc.  You will also find some characters in here, maybe even Rafiki himself.  

Habitat Habit! - Here you will find cottontop, golden lion, and emperor tamarins, etc. as you walk along.  This is located between the train station and Conservation Station.



As with Africa, the Asian section is meant to give us a representation of a fictional community; in this case, it's Anandapur, a South Asian village on the edge of a jungle and not far from the Himalayas.  Again, the attention to detail is amazing and worth exploring.

Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain - Take a train ride through the heart of yeti country, crossing the Forbidden Mountain to forge a path to Everest.  Be warned, when you find the tracks are out and your train starts moving backwards, you are in for a treat!   This roller coaster is exciting and includes a number of neat twists and special effects.  The waiting area is really detailed as well!  It gives a museum feel with information and props about these types of expeditions.  You will want to get a Fastpass for this attraction as it is super popular!

Flights of Wonder - See exotic birds up close in a small but shaded amphitheater. See your Times Guide for this show.  

Kali River Rapids - This is a wild whitewater ride through a tropical forest.  If you need to cool off from the hot Florida sun, this is a good way to do it.  You will get soaked, guaranteed, not just from the ride but from the guests squirting water at you from the surrounding walkways.

Maharajah Jungle Trek - Take a nice, relaxing walk through ancient "ruins" that showcase Asian wildlife.  The Bengal tigers are the stars, but don't miss the giant fruit bats, or the birds inside the aviary.  


DinoLand U.S.A.

This area is all about dinosaurs!  It is really popular for kids as there are lots of fun things to see and do.

The Boneyard - At the entrance to DinoLand U.S.A. is this play area for pre-schoolers, where they can dig around in the sand for "bones", climb, jump and play.  

Cretaceous Trail - This is a walking path that shows you some static dioramas of dinosaurs.  You will also get a chance to see some live animals and plants that have survived from the Mesozoic Era.  

DINOSAUR - Travel back in time to the late Cretaceous, come face-to-face with a variety of dinosaurs.  Your mission is to bring back an iguanadon before the  asteroid impact that ended their reign.  This ride is fun, but very bumpy and dark. 

Finding Nemo: The Musical - This is a very fun, inventive show that adds acrobatics and puppetry to hold the audience captive.  Check the Times Guide for show times.  

Fossil Fun Games - This is Dino-Rama's midway, complete with all of the carnival-like games.

Primeval Whirl - A fun spinning-car roller coasters.  This is a cute little coaster ride with lots of twists and turns.

TriceraTop Spin - A Dumbo-like ride with Triceratops-shaped vehicles that spin around a central axis and allow you to move up and down with a joystick.

Here is a complete list of Animal Kingdom attractions.



Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade - This afternoon parade celebrates the animal spirit that Animal Kingdom is presenting.  It features plenty of Disney characters, abstract animal puppets, and other visual surprises.  Like all Disney parades, if you will want to find a good spot for this parade and get it early.  Check your Times Guide to see what time the parade starts.

More Animal Kingdom entertainment here.



Animal Kingdom is decidedly not a shopper's paradise.  You will find most of the shopping on Discovery Island where you can purchase a variety of animal-related merchandise.

Chester & Hester's Dinosaur Treasures (DinoLand U.S.A.) - If you or your kids love dinosaurs, this is the place to go.  You will find toys, games, puzzles, knick-knacks, clothing, etc. all dinosaur related.

Here is a complete Animal Kingdom shopping list.



For advanced reservations call the main Disney Dining number at +1 407 WDW-DINE (939-3463) or you can hop on the internet at

Keep in mind that, under AZA animal safety policy, Animal Kingdom's restaurants do not provide lids for drinks.  However, paper straws are now available.

Counter Service

Flame Tree Barbecue (Discovery Island) - Don't let the fact that this is a cheap counter-service joint inside a massive corporate theme park fool you—this is some of the best barbecue for miles.  Choose from chicken, pulled pork, or a massive half-rack of ribs, all slow-cooked and marinated in Flame Tree's very good tomato-based sauce.  If you like your barbecue super-spicy (or if you're a vegetarian), you may be disappointed, otherwise this is the best ten-dollar meal that you will find at Walt Disney World.  The seating is outside—take a walk down to the terraces closest to the water for a good view of the river and Expedition Everest in the distance. 

Pizzafari (Discovery Island) - The kids will love the pizza here and the atmosphere is fun.  Each room has its own colorful theme, from the Nocturnal Room to the Upside-Down Room... and don't forget the Bug Room.  Pizzafari is open for breakfast; there are the traditional meals or you can be adventuresome and try the house specialty: breakfast pizza.

Restaurantosaurus (DinoLand U.S.A.) - The meals here are pretty standard fast food items.  The theming indicates that this building is serving double-duty as a dormitory for the local archaeology students.

Yak and Yeti (Asia) - This dining location is right next door to the sit-down restaurant with the same name.  You will find such favorites as sweet-and-sour pork, Kung Pao beef, ect.  Seating is outdoors with little shading.

Table Service

Rainforest Cafe (just outside the main entrance) - ☎ +1 407 938-9100.  One of two WDW locations for this restaurant, which features animatronic animals, thunderstorms, and yummy food.  There's a big gift shop packed with Rainforest Cafe items as well.   You will be able to leave the park and re-enter after eating or shopping.  Note: even though this is not a Disney restaurant, the Disney Dining Plan is accepted here. 

Tusker House (Africa) - This restaurant offers a buffet with Africa-influenced flavors, as well as some standard American options.  For breakfast, you will be able to enjoy Donald's Safari Breakfast, the only character dining in the park.  

Yak and Yeti (Asia) - ☎ +1 407 824-9384.  Asian-style dishes served in a restaurant full of Himalayan trinkets.  You'll also be paying more than the outside counter service location, but the food is much better.  Mahi-mahi, tempura shrimp, glazed duck, stir-fried beef, and even baby back ribs are among the entrees. The restaurant is run by Landry's, not Disney, but the Dining Plan is accepted here. 

Look here for more Animal Kingdom dining options.


The three sit-down restaurants do serve a limited selection of alcoholic beverages.  There is one other locale of note inside the park, although not for alcoholic beverages:

Royal Anandapur Tea Company (Asia) - In keeping with the Asian theme of this section of the park, the Tea Company offers a wide variety of Eastern teas for sale.  Some of the choices are Indian masala chai, Longjing tea from China, and (breaking the theme a bit) South Africa's Rooibos "miracle tea".  Coffee (including lattes, cappuccino, and espresso) is also available.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 November 2011 16:47
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