Of the four parks in the World, I would have to say that Animal Kingdom is my favorite. A true animal lover at heart, I could spend all day just wandering the Pangani Forest. Ok, maybe not all day, especially not when Expedition Everest looms in the distance. Every time we have been to AK, we have meandered down a path we hadn’t seen before.
The winding trails of the Oasis lead you to The Tree of Life on Discovery Island. Here you will find numerous paths that wander the base of the Tree. Apart from the occasional animal habitat (hey, a porcupine!) it provides some unique photo opportunities of the beautifully crafted Tree of Life.
Discovery Island is also home to A Bug’s Life, restaurants, shops and if you’re lucky you’ll catch a performance by The Village Beatniks.
From this island you can wander into Camp Minnie-Mickey, over to DinoLand USA or back into Asia and Africa. Camp Minnie-Mickey is mostly the character greeting trails and a small stage where characters do dancing and sing-a-longs with the audience. Also tucked back here is The Festival of the Lion King, a wonderful large stage (floor) interpretation of the movie through songs, dances and audience participation. DinoLand USA is, in my opinion, for younger kids, (although the rather tame Primeval Whirl has a 48” height requirement), but the real draw of this area is DINOSAUR. Not for the faint of heart, this rough, jostling time-travel adventure has some surprising, somewhat scary moments. The result of which are probably the funniest, most candid ride photos I have seen in all of Disney. (Be sure to look at them all as you exit the ride, you may need the comic relief after what you just experienced!)
Also considered part of the DinoLand area is the show Finding Nemo – The Musical. What a fantastic display of color, talent and originality! This show is a not-to-miss in my opinion, even fidgety toddlers will be entranced enough to sit and enjoy.
Walking past the Nemo theatre will bring you to the edge of Asia and right to Expedition Everest. Everest may be my favorite ride in all of the Disney parks (although I’ve been known to say that about Tower of Terror too…) Even though the Fast Pass is commonly used here, in doing so you miss out on some of the best parts of this attraction. The regular entrance line winds you through a literal museum depicting a mythical Tibetan village and the tracking of the elusive yeti. The research and detail that went into this ride is incredible, (and lengthy, perhaps another blog post…) and worth the longer wait… at least once.
Asia is also home to Flights of Wonder, a humorous and engaging bird show, Kali River Rapids (go when it’s hot, you WILL get wet!) and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. This Trek is where you will find the beautiful Asian tigers. Don’t just look at the animals on this walk, be sure you take in all the surrounding ruins and the story that goes with them.
Between Asia and Africa is Rafiki’s Planet Watch, only accessible by the Wildlife Express train. This area focuses on conservation, the environment and houses the animal care center. If you keep a sharp eye out for the animal pens while on the train ride, you can sometimes spot the newest additions to the Animal Kingdom family before they are released onto the savannah.
Last, but definitely not least, is Africa where you will find the Kilimanjaro Safari ride and the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. The safari seems to be the place where the throngs of people pour as soon as the gates open. Unfortunately we have found that although the lines can be short if you get there early, the animals don’t seem to be up yet. Best bet is to grab a fast pass early, get in the regular line anyway (if it’s short) and if you’re lucky you’ll not only catch the few early, but also the late risers when you use your fast pass later in the day. The exploration trail is home to two of my favorite animal exhibits, the meerkats and the gorillas. The majority of the time there only seems to be the sentry meerkat, but I enjoy the fact that he seems just as interested in watching us as we are in observing him.
The gorillas tend to be a (crowded) favorite. You can always bypass the observation windows and still get great and usually more natural views of the intimidating creatures along the trail. Just remember to stay quiet, the male silverbacks become easily agitated by loud noises and will retreat to their hiding spaces.
I’ve read that many don’t consider Animal Kingdom to be a full day park. Although it does have a parade, it does not have any sort of evening fireworks. (Too disturbing to the animals). The key to this park is to slow down and take it all in. Don’t rush through the Oasis, take that little path off to the side, spend the time to see the shows, and ride the safari at least twice because it’s different every time. This Kingdom may not have a castle, but it certainly has its own kind of Magic!