by Brittany DiCologero
7. It’s going to be hot
Of course, you probably already assume that all of the Disney theme parks in Orlando are going to be hot, but Animal Kingdom is often the hottest. The plants in Animal Kingdom are just part of the immense theming details that add to the overall feel of the park, however while they are beautiful to look at, the plants do actually give off heat. This means that even though you might be thinking of Animal Kingdom as the most shaded park, those plants that are shading you are giving off heat of their own. It’s difficult to remember how bad the heat is when you’re not standing out in the sun, but with everywhere in Animal Kingdom being so hot, it’s especially important for you to remember to drink lots of water throughout the day and to stay hydrated.
6. Some of the most unique characters are in this park
Animal Kingdom might not be the first to come to mind in terms of character meet and greets, but this park actually has a wider variety of characters that you will not be able to find anywhere else. Walking through Discovery Island, you’ll have the opportunity to meet Dug and Russell from “Up!” Wander through the park some more and you’ll come across Pocahontas, and Rafiki, just to name a few. The park is also home to some of the most classic characters, like Mickey and Minnie of course wearing their safari gear, and Goofy, Donald, and Pluto over in Dinoland.
5. There is so much to do besides rides
For many guests, the priority when visiting any Disney theme park is to focus on the rides. Animal Kingdom does have some pretty excellent rides—I’m looking at you Dinosaur and Expedition Everest, but it is important to slow down and take everything in too, especially in this park. Aside from seeing the animals, which I’ll get to shortly, the park offers a lot in terms of entertainment, whether it be street performers, bands, or even full-fledged musical productions, there is a lot to see and do without every visiting a single ride.
4. See the animals!
Whenever I talk to anyone about visiting Animal Kingdom, I cannot stress this enough. So many guests go to the park without ever going out of their way to check out any of the animals. Whether you think you’ve seen it all at your local zoo, or you don’t feel like doing the extra walking, there is honestly no excuse for skipping the animal viewing areas in a park called ANIMAL Kingdom. While Animal Kingdom is technically an accredited zoo/aquarium, seeing the animals in this park is entirely different than seeing them at home. And I don’t know what zoos you guys have where you live, but even the animals that live in Animal Kingdom are entirely different than what I could see at my local zoo.
3. Get there early
Animal Kingdom, at least for now with Avatar still far away, closes much earlier than the other parks do. This means that to get the most into one trip to the park, you’ll need to get there early. I always suggest arriving to Animal Kingdom when the park opens, so you can enjoy some of the busier attractions with little to no wait while the park isn’t crowded yet. If you have Fastpasses for some of those attractions, this also gives you a chance to ride them twice without having to wait in a long line. Arriving early gives you plenty of time to experience your favorite attractions, wander through the animal walking trails, and to catch some of the shows, without feeling rushed.
2. Don’t be afraid to learn something
One of the major problems with Epcot when it opened in 1982 was that guests, particularly kids, did not want to be educated on vacation. If you can get the idea of schoolwork out of your head, there is definitely nothing wrong with learning on vacation—in fact, it’s why you visit museums and historic sites when you travel, and by that logic, Animal Kingdom should be no different. Don’t be afraid to read up on the animals, ask questions, and view presentations by animal care staff. There’s nothing wrong with learning more about any given topic, especially when it’s fun.
1. Have a meal in the park
Animal Kingdom has so many diverse options for both table service and quick service meals, and so I always suggest having at least one meal at the park. Especially with the new Harambe Market in Africa, the park offers such a variety in terms of quick service meals, that is can be difficult to even narrow down what you want to try. For a more upscale option, you can also jump on a bus and head over to Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner at Jiko, or Sanaa. The food in Animal Kingdom is delicious, and so different from the usual theme park food, that it is worth having a meal here at least once per Disney trip.