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Animal Kingdom is the perfect blend of amusement park and animal park. It’s the youngest theme park at Disney World at just 20 years old, but it’s full of activities for adults and kids alike. While you can see the whole park in one day, the tiered FastPass system makes a two day visit more ideal. This is especially true if you have young kids. We found that two short days was a great way to fully experience Animal Kingdom without feeling rushed or waiting in long lines. This plan can easily be combined into one day, but you’ll need to get to the park for breakfast before opening and stay until closing after Rivers of Light.
2 Day Animal Kingdom Plan for Parents of Young Kids
- Na’vi River Journey with FastPass+
- 3pm Festival of the Lion King
- 4pm Finding Nemo – The Musical
- Expedition Everest with FastPass+ or Single Rider Line
- Dinner at Yak & Yeti Restaurant
- Rivers of Light with FastPass+
- Explore Pandora at night
- 8am Tusker House Character Breakfast
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
- Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch Station
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch
- Affection Section petting zoo
- Conservation Station including character greetings with Rafiki and Doc McStuffins
- Wildlife Express Train to Africa Station
- Snacks at Tamu Tamu Refreshment
- Maharajah Jungle Trek
- Lunch at Restaurantosaurus
- Triceratops Spin
- The Boneyard
- DINOSAUR with FastPass+
- Character greeting with King Louie and Baloo
- Flight of Passage with FastPass+
- Snacks at Pongu Pongu
- Discovery Island Trails
- It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
For our complete 5 Step Disney World Vacation Planning Guide, click here.
Tips, Tricks, and Notable Omissions
Allow Plenty of Time to View the Animals
One of the great things about Animal Kingdom is the number of animal exhibits they have throughout the park. With the exception of Kilimanjaro Safaris, most can be viewed along walking trails at your own pace. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore these areas when making a touring plan.
Other Options for FastPass+
Because Animal Kingdom is much smaller than some of the other Disney World parks, there aren’t a lot of rides that require a FastPass+. If you’re looking for additional options, consider Kali River Rapids which has a 44 inch height requirement. However, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get wet. Or, consider Primeval Whirl which has a 48 inch height requirement. This is located in Dinoland next to Triceratops Spin.
Or if you choose not to do the character breakfast at Tusker House and if your kids still haven’t met Mickey and Minnie, consider using a FastPass+ reservation to meet them at Adventurer’s Outpost. This is an indoor, air-conditioned character greeting that has two separate rooms to decrease wait times. It’s a great place for kids to meet Mickey and Minnie and for parents to stay cool.
We did not use our FastPass+ reservation for Rivers of Light. When we arrived, they were letting everyone in through the FastPass entrance. This would probably have been better used by one of the rides or attractions mentioned above.
Pandora: The World of Avatar
As you may know, in 2017, Disney opened Pandora: The World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom. This land brings the 2009 film Avatar to life in a way that only Disney magic can. Make sure to include time in your touring plan to see Pandora during the day and at night. Also, consider saving your souvenir budget until you’ve seen everything they have to offer in the Pandora store called Windtraders. (Your own personal Avatar or banshee, anyone?) The two rides in Pandora, Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey, still have extremely long standby queues. You can avoid this by getting FastPasses as discussed below. Finally, keep in mind that the Na’vi River Journey is a slow moving boat ride. It’s very similar to Pirates or Gran Fiesta Tour, but it’s a lot darker inside. Small children might not enjoy the dark even though the ride is not scary.
Animal Kingdom uses a tiered FastPass+ system. That means you can only select one advance FastPass+ for Flight of Passage or Na’vi River Journey. You can make two additional FastPass+ reservations in advance for the other rides and attractions throughout Animal Kingdom. This is the number one reason why you should spend two days at Animal Kingdom. Then you can reserve FastPasses for each Pandora ride in advance. Otherwise, be prepared to wait in line for at least an hour, if not more. The other option is to head straight to those rides at park opening.
Flight of Passage
Flight of Passage is seriously one of the best rides we’ve ever been on. It’s easily one of the best rides in all of Disney World. If you only visit Animal Kingdom for one reason, let it be for this. Same goes for FastPass+ reservations. Use your FastPass+ for Flight of Passage and evaluate whether Na’vi River Journey is worth the wait. Or use a FastPass for Na’vi River Journey on a different day.
The ride mechanic is similar to Soarin’ at Epcot or Disney’s California Adventure except you’re riding a banshee rather than hang gliding. The visual effects are incredible and put you right into the middle of the action. However, if you’re afraid of heights this might not be the ride of you. They’ve started giving out warning cards in the queue to make sure guests are aware that there are heights and drops involved. We were too enthralled by the action on the screen to look down, but apparently the floor drops out from underneath you.
Kilimanjaro Safaris is another must ride at Animal Kingdom. This ride appeals to visitors of all ages. It’s a slow journey on a safari vehicle through the Disney Savannah which is home to lots of awesome animals such as alligators, elephants, giraffes, hippos, lions, rhinos, and more. If you do breakfast at Tusker House before the park opens, you can easily beat the crowds to this ride. The animals roam freely throughout the ride. We saw giraffes close enough to touch. (DO NOT TOUCH THEM.) It was really a great experience.
Located in Pandora, Pongu Pongu serves drinks and snacks right outside the Windtraders store. The drinks include both the alcoholic and the non-alcoholic variety. We tried the non-alcoholic Night Blossom which is a blend of apple and pear limeade topped with boba and the Pongu Lumpia which is a pineapple cream cheese spring roll. Both were delicious!
Tamu Tamu Refreshments
Can I just say that Dole Whip + Coconut Rum = Yum? Adults, make sure to check out this awesome version of the Disney classic. Even the Dole Whip without rum seemed to be more flavorful than others we’ve had. Tamu Tamu also has chocolate waffles which looked amazing although we didn’t try them. It’s located in Africa near the entertainment stage.
Tusker House is one of the few restaurants at Disney World that allows you take make breakfast reservations as early as 8am. This is often an hour before the park opens. We had an 8:15am reservation. This was one of the best character breakfast buffets we’ve eaten at between Disney World, Disneyland, and Disney’s Aulani in Oahu. The food was fresh and delicious. There were some unique African inspired specialties as well. The characters rotated around the room in a set order. Cast members will tell you long it takes for them to get to your table. And they invite little kids out for a dance parade through the restaurant when the characters go on break. We saw Donald, Daisy, Mickey, and Goofy all dressed up in their safari attire. This is a highly coveted reservation so keep that in mind when you reserve dining 180 days in advance of your visit.
Yak and Yeti
Yak and Yeti is one of the few restaurants at Disney World that is not run by Disney. It’s part of the Landry restaurant group that also includes Bubba Gump and Rainforest Cafe. (And T-Rex in Disney Springs.) The cuisine is Southeast Asian food that fits its location in the Asia section of Animal Kingdom. I was too sick from Expedition Everest to enjoy dinner, but my pineapple upside-down cake was phenomenal. My husband loved the specialty seafood dish they were serving at the time, and he ate all of my leftovers for a late night snack. Again, this is a highly coveted reservation so try to get it right when it becomes available.
Shows and Entertainment
Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo – The Musical
If you have young kids, these shows are not to be missed. The Festival of the Lion King is a little more interactive where each section of the audience is assigned an animal to impersonate throughout the show. Finding Nemo faithfully tracks the movie in just about 40 minutes with giant fish and turtles controlled by human actors. Between the two, Finding Nemo is probably more difficult for young kids to sit through, but Declan managed both just fine. (Okay, we may have bribed him with snacks to sit still during Finding Nemo.) Make sure to check show times in advance because they end in the late afternoon.
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
In Africa, you’ll find the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. The entrance is near the exit of Kilimanjaro Safaris. We had a great time slowly exploring all of the animals throughout the trail including fish, hippos, meerkats, zebras, monkeys, and others. And, of course, gorillas! They have a smaller family pod consisting of a mom, dad, and babies. Plus, there is a much larger group consisting of adult male bachelor gorillas. Like I said before, give yourself plenty of time to explore. The daddy gorilla beat on his chest right in front of us in one of the viewing areas. It was awesome to see.
Maharajah Jungle Trek
In Asia, you’ll find the Maharajah Jungle Trek. The big attractions here are the baby tigers and their mother. But, they also have bats, komodo dragons, monkeys, and lots of colorful birds. We missed seeing the tigers on our first day because the trail closes around 5pm. The next day we went there around noon on the advice of a cast member. It’s a beautiful place to explore so take your time.
Rivers of Light
The newest nighttime spectacular at Disney World is Rivers of Light in Animal Kingdom. (Although technically, the fireworks show in Magic Kingdom was recently updated, but it’s still fireworks, right?) Rivers of light is incredible. For people who have been to Disney’s California Adventure, the concept will look a bit familiar. It’s largely digital projection on streams of water like World of Color. But those streams of water are shot out of moving “boats” that look like animals and lotus blossoms. And some of the projections are in 3D. They’ve also built a great stadium seating viewing area so you can sit down and still have a great view.
The only reason this ride makes this list is that I was not prepared for it. I’ve suffered from motion sickness my whole life and despite the fact that I took Dramamine, this ride still made me sick. Don’t let the fact that it’s Disney lull you into a false sense of security. It’s an extreme ride that goes forwards and backwards in the dark at high speeds. Ride with caution. Honestly, I probably would have loved it if I was wearing a motion sickness patch. The height requirement is only 44 inches, but make sure your kids are mature enough to ride. Also, consider using the Single Rider line rather than FastPass+ and rider switch. This is one of the few rides in all of Disney World with a single rider line.
Final Thoughts on Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom is easily our second favorite theme park at Disney World after Magic Kingdom. It may be a small park, but it has so much to offer for people of all ages. We also loved the ambiance and the scenery and the performers found throughout Africa and Asia. It’s a nice escape from all of the hustle and bustle of the other theme parks. We suggest visiting Animal Kingdom in the middle of your trip for a little “down” time.