Walt Disney World’s newest park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, is also its biggest, to the tune of 540 acres. Naturally, it’s impossible to see and do everything in this behemoth of a Park in just one day. But if that’s all the time you have to spend here, you can still cover a lot of ground.
Here is what you won’t want to miss, even with only one day in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park.
Na’vi River Journey
Avatar Flight of Passage is the most popular ride in Pandora – The World of Avatar, with lines that have famously exceeded five hours. It’s not included in Disney’s Genie+ attractions, so if you want to ride, you’ll need to take your chances in line or purchase Individual Lightning Lane Access.
To save time and money, you can always ride Na’vi River Journey instead, which is covered by Disney’s Genie+, and will have far shorter lines anyway. Na’vi River Journey is a beautiful rainforest river ride featuring the glowing flora and fauna of Pandora, plus the most advanced animatronic ever created by Disney.
After the iconic Tree of Life, the towering mountaintop of Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is probably the most recognized icon in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This roller coaster brings you face-to-face with the legendary yeti, and it’s one of the most terrifying thrill rides in the Park.
Note: Expedition Everest is closed for refurbishment from January 4 – mid-April 2022.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience an African safari, but your bank account (or the pandemic) got in the way, Kilimanjaro Safaris is the perfect ride for you! More than 30 animal species live on the vast plains of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and you’ll be introduced to many of them on your guided 20-minute trek.
One of our favorite quick service restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, if not on WDW property, is Satu’li Canteen in Pandora – The World of Avatar. Themed as a repurposed RDA mess hall now decorated with Na’vi cultural artifacts, this eatery offers delicious meals that somehow manage to be creative, good for you and other-worldly!
A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King
Disney’s live shows are second to none, and happily many of them have returned to Disney Parks (though we’ll have to wait till later this year for the debut of Finding Nemo: The Big Blue and Beyond). Get lost in a Broadway-style musical that brings Simba and pals to life through song, dance, and larger-than-life puppets.
There aren’t many reasons to spend time in Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s DinoLand USA if you only have a day in the Park. But this is one of them! DINOSAUR is a thrill ride that takes Guests through the Cretaceous in a time rover, where you’ll meet a variety of dinosaurs, including the terrifying Carnotaurus. Keep an eye out for celebrity cameos!
Take a Hike
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a great theme park to go for a walk. Get up close and personal with the Park’s icon, the magnificent Tree of Life, by walking the Discovery Island Trails. How many of the Tree of Life’s more than 300 carvings can you find?
Embark on the Maharajah Jungle Trek or Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail for a self-guided trek on which you’ll encounter dozens of animals (including meerkats, gorillas, tigers, zebras, Malayan flying Foxes, Komodo Dragons, and dozens of bird species).
Cinnamon Glazed Nuts
You’ve probably been smelling the glorious sweet scent of cinnamon-glazed nuts throughout your day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, so why not pick some up for a snack (if you order extra to enjoy back at your Resort Hotel, no shame!). We’ve previously found this tantalizing treat at Drinkwallah in Asia, and Mahindi in Africa.
Yak & Yeti Restaurant
Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Asia is one of the most visually stunning lands in any Walt Disney World theme park, and it’s worth walking around the soak up all the details sourced from Imagineer trips across the globe.
When you get hungry, head to Yak & Yeti Restaurant, one of our favorite table service restaurants in the Park. It not only boasts delicious pan-Asian dishes (the fried wontons are amazing!), it’s a feast for the eyes, too, with its Southeast Asian décor.
Pandora at Night
There aren’t any nighttime spectaculars at Disney’s Animal Kingdom currently, but this doesn’t mean there’s nothing worth seeing after dark. Pandora – The World of Avatar is one of our favorite places to wander around because there’s so much amazingness to stumble upon. Once darkness falls, this area of the Park becomes even more thrilling, because the Valley of Mo’ara comes alive with bioluminescence.
Bioluminescent tracks glow on the ground, flowers and leaves spring to life in various colors, and even the waterfalls and mountains are richly lit, making spectacular photo opps. Pandora – The World of Avatar is at its most magical at night.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park is perfect for Guests with animal lovers in their party, but there’s so much more than animals to see here. While you won’t get to experience everything this colossal Park contains in one day, you can pack in a sampling from across the lands of the Park. But, while you’re checking items off your list, do take the time to truly savor the beauty and ingenuity of this unique Walt Disney World theme park.