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The Ultimate Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom

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The Ultimate Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom

For as long as I could remember people have always said that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a half day park but, what people don’t realize is that even though there may not be that many rides, there is so much more to the park then meets the eye. Hi, I’m Sara and I am here to give you the ultimate guide to not only the Walt Disney World’s underrated and largest park but, their most beautiful park! So, let’s start from the beginning of this WILD adventure!

Getting to the Park

The start of our journey: Getting there! Getting to this park, there is only a few different ways. If you are staying on Walt Disney property at a Disney resort, you can only catch one of the busses headed toward this park. If you have your own vehicle, you can drive or you can get an Uber or a Lyft. It will drop you off right in front of the park, facing the entrance.
Pro tip: If you don’t want to wait to caffeinate yourself until you get into the park, you can stop at the Joffrey’s stand right when you get out of the security tent! My favorite coffee is an iced Irish cream! Super yummy!

The place where you enter the park is called the Oasis. It’s lush with greenery and trees and even a woman who blends in with the trees and walks on stilts. Her name is DiVine. Try to spot her. Most of the time you can’t even tell! She is beautiful! When you first scan your magic band or ticket, I encourage you to look back and up, at the back of the ticket tag center. I don’t know who does Disney’s gardening but, the flowers that are on top of there are absolutely gorgeous!

Aside from the ticket tag center you will find your Guest Relations, scooter and stroller rental, a gift shop and restroom. Once you enter, you can go either left or right. There are animal exhibits on either side. You can see some giant anteaters, babirusas, barking deer, wallabies and spoonbills. Going through all these lush pathways and tunnels will lead you to a bridge and the incredible, photogenic view of The Tree of Life.


Discovery Island

Some of the greatest views in this park are from the top of that hill overlooking the Tree of Life. It is a great engineering feat that Disney’s Imagineers created. It is an upside-down oil rig. There is also over 300,000 leaves placed on that tree as well. Along with those leaves, there is over 300 animals carved into the trunk of the tree! Try to find your favorite animal! No cheating either ;)

Now going over the bridge if you look to your right a little more than halfway down the bridge, you will see a little tent. Stop by! Say hello! Here you can have the cool chance of being alongside Russel and become a Wilderness Explorer! You can take the oath and you get a booklet where you can earn badges around the park. Just look for the Cast Member that has the uniform on and in their little tent. “The Wilderness must be explored!”

After you collected your booklet and are officially a wilderness explorer, let’s talk about what you can see and experience on Discovery Island. Some of the entertainment on the island is you can see “Animal Encounters: Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight”. This is an awesome thing to see. You can witness a free-flying flock of colorful macaws! They fly from various points all around the park and come together at one point, in front of the Tree of Life. It truly is a sight to see in the skies!

Along with the beautiful macaws there is a ton of different character sitings you can see in this area. If you go to the right of the Tree and keep circling to the right, you will come a building on your right called the “Adventure Outpost”. Here you can meet the main mouse himself, Mickey and his best girl Minnie in their safari outfits! You can also get a lightening lane for this meet and greet when you purchase Genie +.

After you meet Mickey and Minnie, going back towards the Tree and to the left diagonal from Flame Tree Barbecue, you can meet your favorite way finder, Moana of Motunui!

While walking around exploring the Island you may see a tall, colorful, friendly bird flitting around. Kevon the exotic bird from Paradise Falls tends to make an appearance with her Wilderness Explorer friends. So, keep your eyes peeled. She can be sneaky!

After meeting some great characters, I think we should head back over to towards the other side of the Tree. On our way back towards the Tree, were going to rapid fire the shops and food spots:

Flame Tree Barbecue

Java Isle

Smiling Crocodile

Eight Spoon Café

Discovery Trading Company

Island Mercantile


Pro Tip: The Smokehouse Chicken Salad is my favorite on theFlame Tree menu.

Pro Tip: If you can’t find a piece of merchandise that they sellproperty wide, you more than likely can find it in one ofshops at the front of the park, Discovery Trading Companyand Island Mercantile.
Before getting to the other side of the Tree, were going to make a pit stop at “It’s Tough to be A Bug”! This attraction is located inside the Tree of Life. It is an exciting 4-D show with our favorite creepy, crawly friends from “A Bug’s Life”. Be careful though, you might have a visit or two from an unwanted friend.

When you exit from visiting our “A Bug’s Life” friends, you surprisingly end up on the other side of Discovery Island, right in front of Pizzafari. As you continue to your right, you will see Creature Comforts. Now, if you didn’t caffeinate before, now here’s your chance. Creature Comforts is the park’s Starbucks location.

We’re going to take our Pink Drinks and Matchas down a cool path that happens to be right across from Creature Comforts. This path leads you to the Discovery Island Trails. These paths wind all around the Tree and there are even a few animal exhibits to see! These exhibits include kangaroos, flamingos and tortoises. This is a great way to spend the first hour of the morning just having a coffee and enjoying the lush gardens and wildlife that’s throughout these trails. Sometimes when you’re near the rivers, you may catch a friend or two that pass by on the flotillas. My favorite to see is Pocahontas and Meeko! It’s my favorite way to spend the morning in Animal Kingdom.

On our way into Pandora – The World of Avatar, on your left you will see an entrance to two places: Tiffins and Nomad Lounge. Tiffins is a signature restaurant where you can enjoy the fusion of Asian, African and Latin flavors. Let your taste buds take an adventure as well as your feet and enjoy a signature meal here. Nomad Lounge is an extension of Tiffins. Here you can enjoy small bites and signature cocktails and a selection of beer as well. You can relax on the outside patio and enjoy the view. You even have a great view of the character flotillas pass! So, pull up a chair and relax, enjoy the view, because we have a long adventure ahead of us!

Pandora – The World of Avatar

This part of the park will leave you speechless. Animal Kingdom’s newest addition is based off James Cameron’s successful global blockbuster, Avatar. The feat of engineering and the sounds and the landscape will leave you picking your jaw up off the ground.

Let’s continue to go straight into the Valley of Mo’Ara. The first attraction of this land is Na’vi River Journey. This is a slow moving, dark boat ride thru the lands of Pandora at night for the whole family to enjoy. Bioluminescent lights the ride up and you enjoy the nature of this beautiful planet. The Shaman of Songs makes an appearance at the end of your journey.

As we exit this attraction we’re going to go to our left and you will start to see the Hallelujah Mountains, or floating mountains. The Na’vi often call them Thundering Rocks. Underneath these beautiful rocks you will see the entrance to, I have got to say, one of the most immersive and incredible attractions you will ever get the chance of experiencing: Avatar: Flight of Passage. This attraction has a 44 in height requirement and will give you the chance to ride on the back of an ikron, or what the humans call a banshee. You will then take flight and see all that Pandora has to offer. You can even feel the banshee breathe on your legs. So, CIVAKO! Rise to the challenge! A must do. You won’t regret it!

Now, you must have worked up an appetite from exploring all of Pandora and flying on the back of banshee! I sure would too! You have your choices between Pongu Pongu and Satu’li Canteen. My personal favorite is the cheeseburger pods. It will fuel you up to keep going on our journey to the next land!
Pro Tip: If you can, try to see this area during the dayand at night! When the land lights up with bioluminescentit is probably even more beautiful than the land duringthe day!

This part of the park holds so much adventure. There is so much entertainment and so many attractions to explore. Our first stop on this journey through the little village of Harambe is the “Festival of the Lion King”. This is not a retelling of the beloved Disney film “The Lion King”, this is a festival and celebration of the music from the film. This show always brings me to tears. As a Disney Renaissance kid, myself, this hits home and is probably one of the best shows on property!

Right next to the “Festival of the Lion King”, is the Dawa Bar and Tusker House. Here you can relax and grab a drink, watch the Harambe Village Acrobats, enjoy the sights and sound of the village. Tusker house is where you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner with Donald and his friends in their safari outfits. Fuel up for our next big adventure on Animal Kingdom’s flagship attraction: Kilimanjaro Safaris. This attraction is for the whole family to enjoy. It will take you on journey through the African rivers and savannah. You will get to see elephants, lions, giraffes, hyenas, warthogs and so much more! You might even learn a word or two in Swahili!

When you exit the safari, you will have the chance to go down the Gorilla Exploration Trail! Down this trail you’ll have the chance to see not only gorillas, but you will see snakes, hippos, meerkats. If you’re lucky you might see some of the gorilla babies!
Pro tip: Watch the National Geographic special onDisney + called “National Geographic: Magic ofDisney’s Animal Kingdom”. You might be able tosee some animals you can recognize by name!
Next to the Gorilla trail there is an opening to take a train ride to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Here you can take an animation class with an actual Disney animator and draw some of your favorite Disney characters inside at the Animation Academy. You can also take the time to give some lovin’ to the goats and pigs of the Affection Section. Inside the Animation Academy you also have a real live veterinary clinic. You may be able to catch an animal or two getting some tender love and care in through the windows.

When you come back from Rafiki’s Planet Watch, it might be time to fuel up before you head on our next adventure of the day. Here in Harambe Village you have the Harambe Fruit Market and Harambe Market, Zuri’s Sweets Shop as well as Tamu Tamu where you can get the famous Disney Dole Whip. For my adult friends, you can even get it with a little rum for the little extra boost of energy to get thru the rest of the journey!


Heading on our way east towards our friends in Asia. Here we can find a multitude of carts to grab a treat from or you can eat at their sit-down restaurant called Yak and Yeti. If you don’t feel like having a full sit-down meal, you can go to their quick service side where their offer similar dishes that they have on the menu inside. Making our down the row, there is the famous “Feathered Friends in Flight”. This is an incredible show that you can witness all our feathered friends of all shapes and sizes and learn how important they are to our environment.

As we keep making our way past the show, behind Yak and Yeti is the entrance to Kali River Rapids. This ride has a 38-inch height requirement. It will take you on a circular boat down the rapids in the lush jungles to help aid in the illegal lumber trade. Beware: You will get soaked on this ride. I would suggest bringing extra shoes to ride this ride.

As you exit this ride, a great way to dry off is going thru the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Here you can see the majestic Asian tigers. Along with these beautiful cats you can see water buffalo, Komodo dragons, Malayan Flying Fox, gibbons, elds deer, blackbucks and lots of different types of birds in the aviary! Now, there is a room for the bats that they have for the area. If you have a fear of bats, there is a separate pathway that will lead you around that set place and you can skip the room with the bats. But the definite highlight is the beautiful cats. Something you can’t miss!

Continuing down the pathway towards the mountains, I encourage you to look up and down. The attention to detail is incredible. The Imagineers put so much effort and research to make these areas of the park to look like that part if the world. Here you can see prayer flags, and even a shrine to the mysterious dweller of the Himalayan Mountains. Which brings us to our next stop on our journey, a nice train ride to the forbidden mountain: Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. There is a 44in height requirement for this attraction. Here you will take a train ride on a runaway train through the Himalayans. But please beware. There is a legend of a mythical Yeti that terrorizes the mountains there. Make sure you keep yourself safe, we still got to head into the past for the last part of our adventure!

DinoLand U.S.A

Oh good! You escaped the Yeti! Phew! I think we’re going to take a break and calm our nerves a bit with a great show with our favorite under the sea characters, “Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… And Beyond”. This is about a 20-minute musical that retells both Finding Nemo and Finding Dory with beautiful puppetry and melodic music that was written by the song writers for Frozen. I guarantee you will leave a smile on your face and ear worm of “Big Blue World” as well!

As we continue to head past “Finding Nemo: The Big Blue. And Beyond”, you will end up coming towards some big looking creatures from our past, DINOSAURS! Over here is Hester and Chester’s DinoRama! Here you can soar on the back of a triceratops on Triceratops Spin or you can take your chance on some of the fun, classic carnival games they have to offer in the area!

If you keep heading towards the gas station, you can buy some fun souvenirs on your way to the Dino Institute. Usually, you can find some obscure Disney merch in here. I have always found interesting things in this store. Now remember to hold on to your belongings, were about to head back in time! When you arrive at the Dino Institute, you will be able to experience DINOSAUR. This attraction has a 40in height requirement. Here on this ride, you will learn that “Our future is really in the Past.” Help Dr. Seeker find an iguanodon before the meteor hits Earth (This tends to be a little bit intense for the little ones, its dark, bright lights, dinosaurs, quick turns and twists - just to keep that in mind)!

Now that we have worked up a huge appetite again from heading back into the past, we have a couple different options to choose from. You have a Restaurantosaurus, Dino-Bites and Trilo-Bites. Pick up a few treats and bites there. You deserve it! You had a long day!

On your way out of DinoLand, if your kiddos need to get rid of some extra energy, there is a playground that is called “The Boneyard”. They have a replica dig site, slides, jungle gym. This is an excellent place for your kids to run around and get rid of all the extra energy before you had back out.

Our adventure finally has made a full circle back to Discovery Island. That was a great adventure! We saw and learned so much around this park! This park is my personal favorite, you can get so much done and have a chance to just hang out and relax as well. Unfortunately, this park does close earlier than the rest due to the care of the animals. But, with that, it does tend to open quite early. So, you can still spend the day there and still have an early night as well!This park is full of life and Disney’s biggest accomplishment with this park is the fact that it has raised so much money for conservation of wildlife worldwide! You help with that! At pretty much 95% of cash registers in the park, you can donate to Disney’s Conservation Fund and when you do you will be able to get a pin to commemorate your donation! You can have fun and give back to the world all in one place!

Now, this is where we split ways, friends. But remember, I am always here to help you to plan your perfect trip to the most magical place on earth, as well as most magical adventure through Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Email me at sara.rowlands@vincentvacations and let’s get to planning!

Magic, Love and Pixie Dust


Sara Rowlands

The Ultimate Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom

Dallas Travel Agent Near Me

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Disney can be super overwhelming to plan, am I right? From resorts, packages, tickets, the multitude of dining options, navigating Genie + and the My Disney Experience App, it would make the most organized person get a little uneasy. That's where I come in! My favorite destination on earth is the Happiest place and the most Magical place on Earth! I go as often as my bank account lets me and I would love to help plan, share tips and tricks and give the best opportunities to have the most incredible Disney vacation! Whether it be at Disney's beautiful Hawaiian resort in Ko'Lina, Oahu - Aulani, ...  Read More >>>

An expert destination wedding travel agent near me with five star luxury travel packages with a luxury travel company, Vincent Vacations.

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The Ultimate Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom

For as long as I could remember people have always said that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a half day p...

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