Updated to reflect the addition of Pandora – World of Avatar. Today we continue our attraction rankings series, moving on to Animal Kingdom. If you missed any of the series thus far check out the Disneyland, California Adventure, and Hollywood Studios posts by clicking on the coinciding park. Before we get to the rankings, let’s quickly brush up on the rules.
- No Meet & Greets. These are impossible to rank as each experience is unique. Also, I don’t particularly like them.
- No Live Shows. Nighttime shows are almost always better than rides, in my eyes. Also, big stage shows are impressive and don’t fit the profile of a typical ride. I will include 3D movies though. Basically you have to physically ride or walk through something. I’ll include walking trails at Animal Kingdom because I think they are vital to the park and are more attractions than entertainment (unlike live shows). I won’t be including any of the Rafiki’s Planet Watch ‘exhibits’ as I don’t think they’re exactly rides or walk-throughs.
- These are all my opinion. Lou Mongello constantly says that “every attraction is someones favorite.” While that is corny and seems a little silly, I think the sentiment is mostly true. I can’t account for other people’s memories in these rankings and will try (probably unsuccessfully) to take some of the nostalgia out of my views of these attractions. You’ll likely disagree with these rankings. Please let me know what you disagree with in the comments.
Like Hollywood Studios, this post will be shorter than the Disneyland and California Adventure posts because there are fewer attractions. Animal Kingdom has legitimate reasons for this as there aren’t many theme parks like it in the world. The park isn’t about racing from attraction to attraction but instead is best experienced taking a leisurely pace and exploring the vast grounds. If you’re just doing attractions at Animal Kingdom and are skipping the live entertainment (especially at night), the trails, the smaller animal exhibits and just soaking in the atmosphere, I’d highly recommend you adjust your touring plan. While I’m sure the park isn’t for everyone, I think slowing down would make any experience at Animal Kingdom better. That is the reason why attraction rankings at this park don’t tell the full story and I even hesitate to do this post in the first place.
With all of that being said, Animal Kingdom could use a few more attractions to ride. Pandora certainly helped. Another expansion, an upgrade at Rafiki’s Planet Watch or a quality replacement for DinoLand would do wonders and make this maybe the best theme park in the country. Hopefully that comes in the future.
On to the rankings!
12. Primeval Whirl – One of my least favorite attractions in any park. This is the roller coaster in DinoLand where your ride vehicle spins as you go along the track. It fits the theme of the land in looking like something that could be set up at a pop-up carnival. While fitting the theme is typically a good thing, it’s not a compliment here. I’ve seen better looking roller coasters at the county fair. It’s an eye sore and the ride is bad while also having ridiculous wait times. Even more negative points are headed its way because of spinning while on a roller coaster. No one wants that. Kidding about that last point, sort of. If you couldn’t tell already, I despise Primeval Whirl.
11. TriceraTop Spin – A dumbed-down version of Dumbo. Instead of elephants though there are Triceratops. Triceratops are really cool, but that can’t offset the feeling like this could be ridden at your local fair just like Primeval Whirl. I don’t have much against this spinner ride but the attractions take a significant jump up in quality after this one.
10. Na’vi River Journey – Pandora’s second attraction is largely a disappointment. With having said that, there is a gigantic jump from number 11 to number 10. Na’vi River Journey certainly looks impressive, unfortunately there isn’t anything more to the attraction. Guests ride down a river and look at Pandora’s bioluminescent forest. There are worse things to look at but the attraction is not very interesting. Still, this makes for a very solid top-10 in the park.
9. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail – This would be a near perfect trail in a zoo. There are a ton of animals to showcase. The trail loops around nicely and is a great length. The animals here are interesting, blending some obscure ones with favorites. With that being said, this attraction comes in 8th place because there isn’t the beautiful theming we see in other areas of the park. While I think this is definitely worth your time, I don’t think Gorilla Falls transcends being anything more than a walking trail to see some cool animals.
8. It’s Tough to be a Bug! – A wild, weird 4-D movie featuring characters from A Bug’s Life. The queue is wonderful, taking you under the Tree of Life. Loyal readers know that I’m terrified of this ride/movie. It’s the ride I’m most scared of at Disney Parks. No, this isn’t justifiable but I don’t go on this anymore. All that aside, I do think this is a wacky and fun attraction that’s pretty strong overall.
7. The Boneyard – The Boneyard is a playground on the outskirts of DinoLand. This is the best themed playground in any Disney Park and is fun to explore. The playground acts as an archaeological dig site with bones to uncover and little tunnels throughout. Now, if you’re on an adults-only trip then spending half an hour here isn’t advisable but I do think it’s worth walking through. If you’re a kid or a parent with a kid, I think spending a decent amount of time here is a good option. There’s much to explore while still offering what a standard playground offers.
6. Kali River Rapids – If the theming of the actual attraction met the standards of Kali River Rapids’ queue then this attraction would easily be in the top 3. Unfortunately, the ride is somewhat lackluster after the significant buildup of a beautiful queue. This river rapids ride has a few thrilling moments but the story falls a little flat, as do the visuals throughout the ride. Still, I have a soft spot for river rides and this is still a good attraction even if it could improve.
5. DINOSAUR – With an awesome ride system and a recent refurbishment, DINOSAUR is on the up and up. The story is pretty fun, going back in time to grab a dinosaur to bring back to the lab. Naturally, everything goes wrong before it’s solved. I thoroughly enjoy the attraction but it’s not without its faults. The attraction is a little bit campy and doesn’t have the thrills that comparable Indiana Jones Adventure (in Disneyland) has. Overall though, this is an extremely fun ride in a park that needs one.
4. Maharajah Jungle Trek – There is a pretty big jump from DINOSAUR to the top-3. Maharajah Jungle Trek isn’t your typical theme park attraction but it is magnificent. An animal trail tells the stories of a beautiful land that was eventually overrun with poachers. Over time, animals and the people of the area ousted the poachers and learned to live in harmony. All of these stories are told through sculpting and murals on old ruins throughout the path. Intertwined with these ruins are amazing animals that you can get really close to. The path culminates in a few great areas to see tigers. I think this path is one of the most beautiful areas Imagineers have ever developed. While I can understand people being more excited about thrill rides, this is an incredibly unique and beautiful attraction.
3. Expedition Everest – I always thought Expedition Everest was a great roller coaster that was a step below some of Disney’s classic mountains. Then I rode this at night and it became one of my favorite attractions anywhere. Mind you, this is all with an audio-animatronic in the middle of the ride that is broken. If they ever figure out how to get the yeti in Expedition Everest working again then this attraction will be one of the best in the world. As is, I still love this roller coaster that’s especially augmented by the queue and surrounding Asian themed area. The prayer flags throughout Asia, the queue, and the actual ride makes the experience feel more authentic. Many people could have Everest as number one on this list and I wouldn’t argue.
2. Avatar Flight of Passage – Flight of Passage is Walt Disney World’s newest E-ticket and is the best attraction addition there in decades. This ride takes guests on the back of a banshee (those flying creatures in Avatar, the movie no one remembers). The ride system is similar to Soarin’ but in a different vehicle. Flight of Passage is certainly more thrilling than Soarin’ though. Visually, the ride is stunning and that starts in the queue of the attraction. This attraction boasts the best queue I have ever been in. If you are more of a thrill seeker than animal lover then this is a pretty clear number one.
1. Kilimanjaro Safaris – I’ve written before about Kilimanjaro Safaris and how it’s my favorite attraction that I’ve ever been on. Not much has changed since. The scope of this attraction that takes you to see nearly 100 different types of animals is unheard of in theme parks. In fact, this attraction is nearly the size of some theme parks. Kilimanjaro Safaris takes guests to see more animals than are in most zoos and does so in about 20 minutes. It is the perfect blend of entertainment and education in a theme park ride, as the skipper has plenty of facts to go along with the sights. On top of that, the ride experience is never the same making this one of the most rerideable (if that’s a word I definitely didn’t spell it right) attractions around. Kilimanjaro Safaris is the flagship attraction of Animal Kingdom and has more than earned that title.
Animal Kingdom has 12 attractions and 10 of them are definitely worth your time. On top of that, there is some incredible entertainment and atmosphere throughout Animal Kingdom that’s not to be missed. All in all, Animal Kingdom could use a few more attractions but is becoming the most complete park at Disney World. Headlined by Kilimanjaro Safaris, Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest, the attraction lineup is very solid..
What did I get wrong in my rankings? Let me know in the comments below. Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney!