The internet is filled with lists and itineraries of what you should do at Disney Parks, including the itineraries we’ve created on this blog. Many of those plans mirror each other to a degree but it can still be overwhelming to have so many factors pulling in different directions. Most itineraries (again, including ours) pack park days to the brim with activities. We realize that isn’t everyone’s preferred route when it comes to going on vacation. With that in mind, we’ve started this series in which we give our top five things to do in each Disney Park that we’ve been to. Essentially, it’s a ‘can’t miss’ guide.
If you missed any of the previous installments from this series you can click here to catch up. Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Hollywood Studios, we now move on to Animal Kingdom. The theme park opened in 1998 and has become a stalwart among Disney World’s landscape. Over the past few years Animal Kingdom has added an excellent new land (Pandora – World of Avatar) and plenty of new entertainment. It remains a park that is best enjoyed at a slower pace but that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of options for this list.
My top five for all of these posts can consist of attractions, shows, dining, or anything else I think of (it will mainly be in those first three categories). The main caveat is that these top five lists have to consist of tangible things to go and do. That doesn’t mean you should hop from one thing to another at Animal Kingdom. Instead, take the time to enjoy the paths and beautiful lands in the area. The park is one of most immersive in North America and we recommend spending a good amount of time enjoying Pandora, Africa, Asia and Discovery Island without anything else on the itinerary.
I will stay away from just naming five attractions in any of these posts, instead opting for a more diverse lineup. At Animal Kingdom that’s not a problem. Of course, I’m in control of this series so I’ll happily bend the rules to fit my picks! We’re five posts into this series and not one of them has only included just five things… So, let’s get to it!
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
Disney is known for their ‘Mountain’ attractions. While Splash, Space, and Big Thunder are classics, Everest might be the most impressive. The mountain lingers over the park, with a foreboding yet beautiful presence. Once on this roller coaster, guests take a ride up the Forbidden Mountain before meeting a few unexpected challenges. This is an incredible ride with a great story to tell. Everest fits seamlessly in Animal Kingdom’s Asia as most of the land builds up to this great adventure. We especially love this ride at night with the darkness adding a little bit of mystery to the attraction.
Entertainment in Africa
The village of Harambe in Animal Kingdom’s Africa boasts some of the best entertainment, not just in Disney World but in any Disney Park. This starts with Festival of the Lion King, a stage show that features a variety of beautiful acts along with the timeless music from the movie. We’ve seen the show double-digit times and it is still a must do event on every trip. I don’t think Disney World has a more beautiful show.
There are plenty of other great acts just outside of the Harambe Theater too. In the middle of the town there’s a stage that features my favorite musical act in Disney World, Burudika. This live band puts on a lively and interactive show, inviting guests to dance along with the band. That’s all great but the main reason I stop for Burudika is simply because they sound really good. They are more than worth your time to stop for a 20-30 minute set. A few other acts play at this stage throughout the day and they’re all enjoyable. Take time to enjoy the entertainment in Africa as it is among the best in Disney World.
See the Animals!
This should be an obvious one, the park is named after animals after all. There are three physical attractions where you can see a variety of animals – Gorilla Falls Trail, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Out of the three, we’d call the latter two must do’s with Gorilla Falls not far behind. Kilimanjaro Safaris is the flagship attraction of Animal Kingdom, taking guests through a safari where you can see an amazing number of animals up close and personal. Just the scale of the ride alone is impressive, not to mention the encounters with the animals.
Maharajah Jungle Trek and Gorilla Falls Trail are more along the lines of a zoo walk through exhibit, except on a large scale and with some beautiful details. Gorilla Falls features, you guessed it, gorillas along with hippos and several other animals. Maharajah’s star is the tiger. We prefer the Maharajah Jungle Trek because of the beautiful artwork and story throughout the walk. Animal viewing doesn’t have to stop there as the Tree of Life Gardens and other paths in Discovery Island offer some fun animal viewing areas. Make time in your itinerary, not just for a safari ride but for a few of these beautiful paths.
Flight of Passage
Animal Kingdom’s latest attraction is one of the best in Disney World. Residing in Pandora – World of Avatar, Flight of Passage takes guests on a wild ride while sitting atop a Banshee. The ride itself is an absolute blast and has some stunning moments. The queue for Flight of Passage is also impressive, featuring some beautiful landscapes and incredible attention to detail. Flight of Passage will have the longest lines of anywhere in the park so get a FastPass, arrive early or be prepared to wait for a while. It’s worth it though. After your ride through, take time to enjoy the beautiful Pandora.
Count on Quick-Service
I had to include one food related item on this list but it’s hard to choose just one. Animal Kingdom has excellent food but what stands out the most is the counter-service scene. Flame Tree Barbecue serves some of the best barbecue in Disney World. Satu’li Canteen is a healthier alternative and is also delicious. Those two options land in our top five counter-service places in all of Disney World. Not far behind is Harambe Market and Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafe. Basically, if you stay away from Pizzafari and Restaurantosaurus at Animal Kingdom (does wordplay and food not go together?) then you’ll be eating well. Along those lines, Animal Kingdom also has two of my favorite bars in Disney World in the Nomad Lounge and The Dawa Bar. Both are excellent spots to post up for a drink and enjoy the ambiance.
With apologies to the excellent Tiffins and Tree of Life Awakenings, those are our top five things to do in Animal Kingdom. Honestly, those two should be making the list but I couldn’t squeeze them into a broader category. Blogging about Disney is full of extremely hard decisions…
What would be in your Animal Kingdom Top Five? Let us know, along with any questions you might have, in the comments below.Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Check out our Disney World Trip Planning Guide to help you out. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!
Categories: Top Fives