You're Not Visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom, But You Should Be

Brooke Schuldt

By Brooke Schuldt, Jul 28, 2016

WDWMAGIC Contributor

What do you think about when you think about visiting Walt Disney World? Cinderella’s Castle at the end of Main Street, USA? Seeing all of the new Star Wars attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Drinking and eating your way around the world at Epcot?

The answer is different for everyone, but I am willing to bet that your first thoughts of Disney World have nothing to do with Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It may not even be one of your second or third thoughts. Heck, you may have never even been there before.

Whatever your reason is for skipping it in the past, not visiting Animal Kingdom is one of the biggest mistakes you can make while on a Disney vacation. Not only is it a whole theme park of Disney magic that you are missing out on, but there are experiences here that you can’t find anywhere else. These are all of the reasons why Animal Kingdom should be at the top of your vacation to-do list instead of in the back of your mind.

Tree of Life Awakenings

It’s a Calmer Atmosphere

There may not be as many things to do and see in Animal Kingdom as there are in the other parks, but that is a feature of the park that you will come to appreciate once you visit. Since you don’t have to run around all day to make sure you aren’t missing out on any attractions, you are free to leisurely stroll through the park. Plan to visit Animal Kingdom during the middle of your trip, so that you can spend a day in the parks but not have to run around from ride to ride. You’ll feel like you are being active while still getting a much needed opportunity to rest after racing through the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios crowds.

Kilimanjaro Safaris

There Are Plenty of Shade and Resting Spots

This may not seem like an important thing at first, but think about it. There are hardly any trees in the Disney parks, and Florida is essentially mid-July weather all year round. You’re out in the sun all day with no time to rest because you have three FastPasses to use, a show to make, and a dining reservation all before the morning is even over. At Animal Kingdom, there are trees all over the place, providing cool, shady places to rest. Also, there are plenty of places to sit down and relax while still enjoying nature. We recommend hanging out in the Oasis section or one of the self-guided animal walking tours, so that you can relax while watching tigers lay lazily in the sun or okapi run around their forest enclosure.

If you’re looking to relax in style with some delicious food, stop by Tiffins, DAK’s new high-end restaurant that combines the park’s African atmosphere with an out-of-this-world menu that you’d expect from Disney. Not that hungry but still looking to relax in style? Grab a couch at The Nomad Lounge, Disney’s version of an upscale African bar lounge complete with small plates, cocktails, and indoor/outdoor seating.

Tiffins at Disney's Animal Kingdom

You’ll Find Amazing Shows and Attractions

Kilimanjaro Safaris
True, there are only a handful of rides at Animal Kingdom, but they are some of the best on property. There is Kilimanjaro Safaris, a 30-minute open air truck ride through the African grasslands to see real life African animal roam freely. If you are a frequent visitor of Kilimanjaro Safaris, make sure to stick around and ride Kilimanjaro Safaris After Dark, a new night version of the ride featuring all new animals. For thrill seekers, there is Expedition Everest, a heart-pounding roller coaster that goes both backwards and forwards. If you’re looking to beat the heat, Kali River Rapids is a water ride that is fun for the whole family. There is also a dinosaur themed carnival area for kids and DINOSAUR, a prehistoric thrill ride for the older kids.

When you run out of attractions to visit, there are plenty of new shows to keep you in the parks after dark. Tree of Life Awakens is a new projection show that takes place on the tree of life, allowing the carvings on the base of the tree to move and interact with one another. After seeing the tree, make your way over to The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic, DAK’s new night show that is inspired by Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios but with all of the music, fun, and animals from The Jungle Book.

The Jungle Book Alive with Magic

On top of the great attractions and brand new shows, there is The Festival of the Lion King, a musical show featuring all of your favorite characters from The Lion King. This show is the highest rated show on property and the seats are always packed. Honestly, most people come to Animal Kingdom just to see this show, that is how good it is. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll learn what sound a giraffe makes, and you may even end up a part of the show. There are other musical shows in the park as well, but if you can only make one thing, it needs to be The Festival of the Lion King.

You Don’t Even Need a Whole Day

This may be changing soon thanks to the new Rivers of Light night show being added to the park, but most people can typically get through all of Animal Kingdom in half a day since there aren’t as many attractions and fewer food options. That way you can head back to the hotel room to relax, race over to the Magic Kingdom for more rides, or spend the night shopping and dining at Disney Springs. Animal Kingdom is easy to fit into your vacation itinerary if you only need to schedule a few hours to visit. There isn’t anything at Walt Disney World that you should skip, but realistically you can’t fit everything that they have to offer into one vacation. Animal Kingdom is a beautiful, peaceful, unique park that you will not regret visiting, and it should be one of the first places you stop by when you’re there. Even if it’s just for The Festival of the Lion King (seriously, that show it awesome).

Brooke Schuldt

Brooke Schuldt

Brooke Schuldt is a former Kilimanjaro Safaris cast member and current freelance writer and web producer in New York City. Her Disney obsessions are EPCOT's Food & Wine Festival, The Great Movie Ride, and funky Disney Parks mugs. When she's not day dreaming about Walt Disney World, you can find her brainstorming new articles, making plans to travel the world, or binging on beauty podcasts. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter, or visit her website.
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