A One-Day Plan for Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom

tree of life
Credit: Disney Photo Snapper

Have one day to spend in Disney’s Animal Kingdom? With so much to explore in Pandora: World of Avatar, nighttime entertainment, animal walking trails, and more, you can easily spend more than one day in one of the most detailed Disney theme parks. If one day is all you have, use these tips to plan your visit so you don’t miss a beat at Disney’s Animal Kingdom:


1. Arrive before the park opens

Visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom before the park opens has lots of advantages that will help get your day off to the best start. If you weren’t able to get FastPasses for the most popular rides in the park (namely Flight of Passage in Pandora: World of Avatar) heading to this ride first thing in the morning is a great way to save some time in line. The only problem is lots of other guests will have the same idea, so your best bet is to arrive before the park opens to be at the front of the crowd. Not interested in Flight of Passage? Early mornings in the park are also the best time to see animals since it’s when they’re most active, so head to one of the animal walking trails or Kilimanjaro Safaris instead!

2. Start in Pandora: World of Avatar

Whether or not you have FastPasses for either Flight of Passage or Navi River Journey, it can still be a good idea to start the day on Pandora. If you’re spending the whole day in Animal Kingdom, you’ll want to see Pandora in the daytime and at night when this land comes alive with the bioluminescent lighting. If you’re looking to get some photos of Pandora, the morning is also a great time to do so because most of the guests in the land are rushing towards the rides, so the walkways and more scenic areas are a little bit less crowded. If Pandora isn’t a priority (perhaps you’re on your second Animal Kingdom day of your trip– start in DinoLand. Most guests are going the opposite direction so DinoLand U.S.A. has the lowest crowds in the morning.)

3. Use a FastPass for Kilimanjaro Safaris

One attraction you will definitely want to use a FastPass for is Kilimanjaro Safaris. It’s one of the most popular rides in the park, and it’s something that’s always fun to re-ride throughout your trip (because every safari can be entirely different) so it tends to have a long wait. And unlike other attractions with longer waits that may be primarily indoors (like Dinosaur) the Kilimanjaro Safaris queue gets quite warm and may move along slower than the time listed due to the unpredictability of the animals. 


4. Don’t skip the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail

After you use your FastPass for Kilimanjaro Safaris, you’ll have the option to go right back to Harambe or to walk through the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. We recommend taking the trail back so you can see some of the different animals that live there that you do not get to see from the safari. In addition to gorillas, the trail includes zebras and meerkats, and it’s only a short walk back to the rest of the park. 

5. To meet characters without the wait, dine at Tusker House

Meeting characters may not seem like the thing to focus on at this park, but it’s actually a really fun part of visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If you or the kids are looking for characters, you can save time in line (and have a delicious meal) by dining at Tusker House in Africa. The characters, including Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, and Goofy are all dressed in their safari gear and the food on the buffet is a delicious mix of African and American cuisine with something for everyone. 

6. Ride the rides in Asia but don’t miss Maharajah Jungle Trek

Some fan-favorite rides are located in Asia (Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest) but don’t forget about Maharajah Jungle Trek. This animal walking tour features a viewing area to see the park’s tigers, along with an aviary, Komodo Dragons, bats, and more. The route is especially scenic as you explore ruins that make up the different areas, and it’s definitely worth the visit to see some of the park’s most exotic animals.

7. Stay for Rivers of Light, but don’t use a FastPass

Rivers of Light is Animal Kingdom’s Nighttime Spectacular, which as the name suggests takes place along the river in the center of the park. The show features a stunning musical score, water projections, and lit up floats that move across the water. It’s the perfect way to end a day in the park, but it’s not a perfect use of a FastPass. If you do not spend the morning in DinoLand, save your last FastPass for Dinosaur or Primeval Whirl– Rivers of Light does not tend to fill up (especially if there are two shows scheduled) so it doesn’t make sense to use a FastPass at the end of the day and lose the option of being able to make more when you finish your first three. 

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."