Disney’s Animal Kingdom has expanded and changed so much over the years, that you may not be used to thinking of it as a “full day park.” With the recent Pandora expansion, there is so much to see and do! Check out these 12 tips for a great day at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.
1. Arrive early
To get the most out of visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you may want to arrive in the morning when the park opens. Many of the animals are more awake (and therefore more active) in the early morning hours, which means your best chance of seeing as many of them as you can would be during this time. If rides are more your speed, getting to the park early means you can experience some of your favorite attractions with little or no wait.
2. Plan when to visit Pandora – The World of Avatar
The recent opening of Pandora: World of Avatar has taken some of the stress off the other areas in the park. As you’d imagine however, Pandora is often very crowded, which leads to long wait times for the land’s two attractions. Ideally you should visit Pandora both in the morning and in the evening as the land takes on a totally different look. But if getting on the rides is a priority, it may not be a bad idea to run over to Pandora first thing in the morning.
3. Make FastPass selections for rides in the middle of the day
Even if FastPasses for Flight of Passage are not available, you should still reserve FastPasses for rides like Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Kilimanjaro Safaris, or Kali River Rapids. You’ll want to have some FastPasses ready to go for the middle of the afternoon when the park is at its busiest. Additionally, be sure to use them for rides and not shows, as the benefit in using it towards a ride is much greater than for a show. Keep in mind Animal Kingdom is now on a Tiered FastPass System, meaning you can only select one Tier 1 FastPass and two Tier 2 FastPasses with your initial three Fastpass selections. Tier 1 includes Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.
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4. Plan a spot for lunch
Animal Kingdom has so many incredible dining locations that narrowing down to one option can actually be a bit tricky. Browse the menus using the My Disney Experience App before your trip, and plan to sit down and have lunch somewhere in the park. If you go with a quick service option, you can even save time by mobile ordering your food in advance.
5. See the animals
Explore the animal walking trails to get the most out of your visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Though not so much now with the opening of Pandora, guests used to believe that Animal Kingdom was a “half-day park,” and this notion may be the result of guests who visited the park for the rides and nothing else. Take some time to explore some of the walking trails around the park.
6. Check the entertainment schedule
So much of the atmosphere of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is made up by street performers. Pick up a times guide or check the My Disney Experience app to see which performances are happening during your visit. Taking in some entertainment can also be a good time to grab a drink and relax a bit from walking through the park all day.
7. Don’t miss the shows
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is home to some excellent shows like Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Musical. While you have your times guide or phone handy, review the showtimes for them and pick out which ones you’d like to experience. For a later show, check out Rivers of Light, the park’s newest nighttime spectacular.
8. Bring some spending money
The shopping game has really stepped up at Animal Kingdom in recent years, so if you tend to do some damage during your Disney vacations you’ll want to prepare your wallet before you arrive. The park sells authentic artisan goods in Asia and Africa, along with uniquely-themed Disney merchandise, and of course the infamous shoulder Banshees in Pandora.
9. Talk to the cast members
Animal Kingdom is similar to Epcot in that many cast members come from other parts of the world. The park staffs cultural representatives from Asian and African countries who would love to share their country’s history and culture with you. For more cast member interactions, pick up a Wilderness Explorer booklet to learn about different cultures and about the various animals represented in the park.
10. Meet characters
Animal Kingdom is home to some unique characters that you won’t find in any of the other parks. If you love meeting characters, you won’t want to miss Russell and Dug from Up, Pocahontas, and more. Check the My Disney Experience app or the times guide for meet and greets during your visit.
11. Experience Pandora at night
Whether or not you have dinner at Satu’li Canteen, or ride (or re-ride) any of the attractions, no visit to Animal Kingdom is complete without experiencing Pandora after dark. The land takes on an entirely new look at the bioluminescent scenery lights up the land.
12. See the Tree of Life Awakenings
Don’t rush out of Animal Kingdom when you’re ready to live. Stick around Discovery Island long enough to catch at least one of the Tree of Life Awakenings. These beautiful projection shows take place after dark until park close and should not be missed.