Until the Animal Kingdom recently unveiled nighttime hours, David and I considered it our least favorite park. We love the theming of the park, and the way they stick to it throughout – (we’re looking at you Epcot), but the park always felt a little unfinished. For such a large park, there always seemed to not be enough to do come later in the afternoon. We’re so excited about the new additions that are coming to the park, especially when Rivers of Light is finally unveiled (not that we’re still upset about the delay of the show or anything). Avatar Land, if the floating mountains in the distance are any indication, will also add significantly to the parks attraction deck and overall ambiance of things. Today, we’re putting together a 1-Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary for the park with how the park is now. Fair warning, this blog will be updated soon though, with how much the park is adding and changing.
1. By now, you have to know what we’re going to say, right? Yep, get there at least 20 minutes before the park opens. We harp on this all the time, but getting to the park early genuinely makes for a better day. You get a better parking spot, you wait in shorter lines, and you experience more. Especially now, with security being tighter, and it taking longer to get into the actual park, it’s important to get there early.
2. Head to Africa as soon as you get into the park, as you’re headed on an early morning Safari! Kilimanjaro Safaris is one of our favorite attractions at Walt Disney World, as it allows you to experience a recreation of something most people will never get to do during their lifetime – a African style safari. We love to do this ride first thing for several reasons. For starters, we think it’s the best ride in the park. Secondly, we think you see the most animals during the early morning hours.
3. After you finish your safari, head to Asia, to ride the big roller coaster, Expedition Everest. Expedition Everest is a fantastically themed, Mt. Everest inspired ride, complete with a legend of a Yeti. You can grab a Fastpass+ for this ride, but if you get a chance to ride when lines are short, walk through the regular line – the queue here is incredibly detailed, and an experience in and of itself.
4. Need a caffeine fix? (God knows I always do.) We love two places for our morning pastries and coffee. In Africa, head to Kusafiri Coffee Shop. If you can’t live without your Starbucks, the one in Animal Kingdom is near Discovery Island, and is called ‘Creature Comforts’.
5. After you finish caffeinating, head over to DinoLand U.S.A., and ride DINOSAUR if your back can handle it.
6. Check your times guide to make sure you catch a showing of ‘Flights of Wonder’. This bird show is not only impressive, but really funny, and worth checking out.
7. For lunch, we recommend grabbing food at one of two places. Flame Tree Barbeque has long been heralded as one of the best quick service restaurants in all of Walt Disney World, with it’s great food offerings, incredibly reasonable prices, and huge portions that are easily shared. We love to grab food here, and sit down by the lake for some relaxing views with our meal. Our second option for lunch would be the new Harambe Market. This place is just plain cool – and even if you don’t eat here, we recommend stopping by to check out how great a job Imagineers did in theming this place. We love the food here as well though, and the experience of eating in the open air market place. You can check out our full review of The Harambe Market here.
8. Spend your afternoon hours, when the heat is building, to walk the shady trails of the maharajah jungle trek. This is one of the coolest areas of the park, and really exemplifies what sets The Animal Kingdom apart from a zoo. When walking the jungle trek, you feel like you’re stumbling upon ruins of old buildings in Asia, while (safely) seeing wildlife along the way, including Tigers!
9. We also think the late afternoon hours are a great time to see The Festival of The Lion King. Florida can get really hot the later the afternoon goes on – or even worse, this is the time of day when rain showers tend to hit.
10. If you don’t mind getting wet, head to Kali River Rapids. We love Kali River Rapids – it’s honestly a ton of fun, but this isn’t a Splash Mountain kind of wet. This is a ‘just stepped out of the shower’ kind of wet, and I personally will only ride this ride if I’m wearing a poncho.
11. For dinner, we hands down recommend trying out Disney’s newest in-park signature restaurant, Tiffins. We absolutely love Tiffins, and think it’s almost perfect as far as theming, and fantastic food. It is a little pricy, but is great for a treat or romantic dinner. You can check out our full review of Tiffin’s here.
12. After dinner, the real fun at The Animal Kingdom begins, with the new extended nighttime hours. We love Disney Parks at night, as we think the parks are textured and layered, and meant to be experienced at night, with the complexity of different lighting. For your first stop, head back to the Safaris, to try to catch a sunset Safari. The new night time safaris don’t offer as many animal sightings, but seeing everything during sunset is really cool, and you do get to see certain animals, like lions, being much more active.
13. Expedition Everest is another ride that you should ride again after the sunsets, as it’s a great ride to experience at night.
14. We actually really liked the Discovery Island Carnivale. The show combines live music with dancers wearing colorful costumes that illicit a lot of crowd participation. It’s a lot of fun, and we recommend seeing one of the shows that happens through out the night.
15. For now (and we repeat, for now, as it is temporary), The Animal Kingdom is running a show in place of Rivers of Light called ‘Jungle Book: Alive with Magic’. How you feel about this show depends entirely upon your attitude going into it. If you go into it expecting it to be the love child of World of Color and Fantasmic, you will be angry, disappointing, and leave wanting to kick the side of the closest building repeatedly. If you go into it expecting it to be more akin to Festival of The Lion King, or Voyage of The Little Mermaid, you’ll be much happier. We recommend seeing it, but not booking a dining package, or waiting in line for hours.
16. The real crown jewel is the Tree of Life itself, as it comes alive at night with color, light, and projections. It’s absolutely transformed, and beautiful to behold. We saw people standing and watching it for hours, as if it was an attraction itself (and it kind of is, in our opinion.)
17. Go home and get some sleep! You have another full Disney day tomorrow.