The Animal Kingdom is probably one of the most missed parks at WDW. Many times people only have a few days to spend and this park is knocked off the list in favor of the other parks. To attract more guests, Disney has added some spectacular rides to go along with their view of conservation education, along with Wilderness Explorers adventures for the kids/parents to complete various challenges throughout the park to win badges.
When you get into the park, be sure to pick up a Times Guide along with a map. This weekly guide (Sun-Sat) posts important information for various shows, restaurants, and other entertainment along with the daily hours when the parks open and close.
--to tell you the truth, I really, REALLY, REALLY don't like the current Disney maps for any of the parks. They are hard to read, hard to decipher, hard to even see what is what, and they face true north, which means if the entrance to a park is any direction other than south (at the bottom of the map), you have to keep turning the map to figure out where you are! The biggest problem is they numbered everything--shows, attractions, rides, food and stores--so if you need to find something you constantly have to consult the map legend. So instead of just looking for a knife and fork symbol on a page, you have to look at the legend and then back to the map to figure out where everything is.
If an old pro like me (visited WDW 10 times in the past 10 years) has a hard time finding things, I can't imagine how a newbie would fare!
Here's a current map of Animal Kingdom:
And here's an older version of the Animal Kingdom map:
The main thing to remember about the Animal Kingdom is that the Tree of Life is the center of the park. It is the hub to all the spokes.
When you enter the park, you cross the Oasis, which has lots of nook and crannies housing various types of animals from colorful parrots, to fish, to giant anteaters. Many times, cast members will be stationed throughout this area with various cages, filled with anything from small mammals to tarantulas, or bones, or other interesting educational things.
Once you pass over the bridge you enter:
DISCOVERY ISLAND : There are various trails you can wander, exploring hidden coves containing various critters off the beaten path (tamarin, otter, porcupine, or lemur), or simply play spot the animals carved into the Tree of Life.
It's Tough to be a Bug! -- is a must see 4-D show. If you have timid children, you might want to hold them in your lap since it's dark, and Hopper can be scary!
CAMP MINNIE-MICKEY: Mainly a character greeting area. BE WARNED! Some of the character greeting lines are just as long as riding Expedition Everest! There will also be various locations throughout the park that will have character's pop up from time to time. Yes, this info is on your times guide.
The Festival of the Lion King show is here, too, but I've never watched it.
Kilimanjaro Safaris -- Fast Pass -- must ride This line can seem very long, but each truck holds around 32-40 guests so it goes fairly quickly. Just make sure you take a potty break before going in line. The road is very rough--cement molded to make it seem like mud--which does make for a jarring ride if you have neck or back issues, but it's worth the ride. The truck traverses various parts of Africa and, in the Disney way, as a tourist you don't see the enclosures unless you look for them.
Pangani Forest Exploration Trail -- a walk-thru path that takes you past gorillas, hippos, various birds, etc.
Wildlife Express Train (5-7 min. ride) takes you behind the scenes of Africa to . . .
RAFIKI'S PLANET WATCH : After disembarking from the train, animals highlight an outdoor discovery trail to . . .
Conservation Station -- animal encounters, interactive exhibits and view the veterinary facility. Sometimes they are doing surgery/dental on an animal and will explain what's going on while they are doing the procedure--not for the squeamish.
Affection Section -- petting yard. Your basic goats and sheep, and sometimes something a little more exotic.
Flights of Wonder -- bird show. Never saw it.
Maharaja Jungle Trek -- a walk-thru path that takes you past tigers, bats, Komodo dragons, etc.
Kali River Rapids --Fast Pass -- must ride --VERY WET! -- turbulent river raft ride that takes you through parts of Asia. Personally, I would save this ride for the heat of the day when I'm about to leave the park. . . unless you brought a change of clothes and a towel. If you can get out of a wheelchair, you can ride this ride. It is rough, but there is a high back to help you protect your neck.
Expedition Everest --Fast Pass -- must ride -- seriously fun rollercoaster. It goes forward, backwards and forward again, but don't let that scare you! The best, and scariest, part of the ride is the ride up to the top of the mountain, as the track has no sides! The view is fantastic! You can see the Kali River Rapids ride and clear to Blizzard Beach. The ride isn't too rough, or too fast, but it's too much fun! There is a singles line, which is just to the left of the gift shop exit.
DINOLAND U.S.A. : Many parts of Dinoland are like a county fair with various games to play.
The Boneyard -- dinosaur dig-site playground. Let the kids get dirty while the parents recover!
Finding Nemo -- A musical show. We did see this and it's a pretty good show. It's in a black light dark for most of the time, but the various characters are fluorescent, which makes them glow. They advise you to get in line 30 minutes pre-show time, but if the park isn't crowded, then don't worry about it. The show is 40 minutes long.
Primeval Whirl-- Fast Pass -- four people per car. This ride will jerk the snot out of you. Personally, it isn't worth it, especially if there's a line.
TriceraTop Spin -- think Dumbo ride with dinosaurs.
DINOSAUR--Fast Pass -- must ride -- Each car seats three rows of four. You are sent back into time to retrieve a dinosaur, right before the meteor shower destroys life on this planet. It's a dark, and can be very scary, ride especially for little kids. If you have ear plugs, you might want to wear them--especially children. Very loud. Very dark. Very scary. Very jerky. Very fun. It can hurt your neck or back as the jeep evades dinosaurs and meteors.
Since we've ridden this ride numerous times, we've become a tad jaded . . . until this last year when we had a couple of newbie British girls behind us screaming the entire time. I don't think I've laughed so hard in years. It made the ride really, really fun.
And that's it for this particular park.
I'll do Hollywood Studios next . . . hopefully, I'll have it written by Thursday.