It’s hard to believe that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is 17 years old. When I told my oldest son that fact he was taken aback. He is now 22 and his first visit to Animal Kingdom was with my parents back in either 1998 or 1999. It is the only Florida Disney park to be “born” in his lifetime, so it holds a bit of special meaning to him. It’s also funny, when you ask my parents or my boys about that first visit to Animal Kingdom, two things stand out to all of them, #1 they all miss the Discovery River Boats/Discovery River Taxis/Disney Radio River Cruise and #2 the Kilimanjaro Safari ride was very short. I never visited when the boats were running and I guess they weren’t very popular because they didn’t survive two years, even though they went through 3 name changes. I do remember the safari ride growing and morphing over the years.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is also a park undergoing major changes right now. Camp Minnie-Mickey is gone 🙁 and the Avatar/Pandora area is under construction and is set to open in 2017. In conjunction with this change the area around the Tree of Life is also surrounded in construction walls as preparations are underway fr Animal Kingdom’s first nighttime spectacular called Rivers of Light.
Top 10 Must-Dos for your First Visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom
If you want to know more about a specific attraction I have listed, click the link, it will take you to a more in-depth post about that specific attraction.
10. The Boneyard
If you are traveling with kids ages 2-10 I recommend planning a lengthy stop at The Boneyard. This play space is designed to look like a dinodaur dig site complete with:
- A giant, multi-level maze with covered slides
- An archaeological dig site where kids can excavate fossils from a Triceratops and a Tyrannosaurus Rex
- A set of hands-on musical bones set into the side of a hill
- A Jeep® for climbing and make-believe driving
- Interactive exhibits, including dinosaur footprints that make sounds
- A shaded seating area at the dig site with large fans and music
Located in DinoLand USA, The Boneyard is a great place for kids to get rid of some excess energy and have fun discovering dinosaur bones too.
9. Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Take a short train ride from Africa to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Along the way you will see some of the backstage area where the animals live, and spend the night! Once you arrive at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, wander the Habitat Habit! trail to the Conservation Station and Affection Section. The Conservation Station includes:
- The Animal Encounters Stage where knowledgeable cast members show off all sorts of animal friends throughout the day.
- Song of the Rainforest, a 3D audio journey through the rain forest, hosted by Grandmother Willow.
- Veterinary Treatment Rooms-watch the Animal Kingdom vets care for and examine the animals. On several occasions we have witnessed everything from surgeries to regular animal check-ups!
- Animal Cams-Control the cameras and look at what the animals are doing in their backstage habitats.
- Nutrition Center-Watch as the food is prepared for the animals and learn about their specific diets.
- Amphibian, Reptile & Invertebrate Exhibits-Snakes, frogs and tarantulas-oh my! Peek safely through the glass at some interesting creepy-crawlers.
- Character Meet and Greets-The characters here change occasionally so check your My Disney Experience app or Times Guide but we have met Pocahontas, Rafiki and Jiminy Cricket here.
- Affection Section-is the Animal Kingdom petting zoo. Come on in for a hands-on animal experience.
My boys and husband love this ride…I do not. It is a dark, scary, jerky ride into the primeval past aboard the CTX Time Rover. You are tasked with going back in time to retrieve an Iguanodon and bring it back to present time. of course this is all happening as a supposed meteor is hurtling towards earth. Will you find the dinosaur? Will you capture it and make it back in time? You’ll have to ride to find out. Riders must be 40″ or taller to ride this attraction and if you have neck or back issues I highly advise you to skip this one.
7. Maharajah Jungle Trek
Over in Asia you can wander along the Maharajah Jungle Trek to see majestic Asian Tigers as well as many other animals. These well-shaded paths are a great place to slow down a bit and enjoy some of the animal life that made this park famous.
6. Become a Wilderness Explorer
As you remember in the movie UP, Russell was a Wilderness Explorer-now at Animal Kingdom, you can be one too! As you enter the park go to the Wilderness Explorer’s Headquarters which is located on the bridge connecting The Oasis and Discovery Island. Meet your troop leader and get sworn in. As you travel throughout Animal Kingdom look for outposts where you can earn badges (stickers) and move of the ranks of a Wilderness Explorer. This really is fun for all ages. It is always great to learn as a family and this is so fun, the kids don’t even realize they are learning! “The Wilderness must be Explored!”
5. Festival of the Lion King
Last year Festival of the Lion King moved from Camp Minnie-Mickey to its new home in Africa, where it really belongs. This 30 minute show is full of all of your favorite Lion King music with the addition of my favorite Tumble Monkeys, colorful pageantry and dance. This show is fun for the whole family and the beautiful air conditioned theater makes it a nice respite from the Florida heat!
4. Expedition Everest
If you are a thrill ride enthusiast, then Expedition Everest is the ride for you. Riders must be 44″ tall to venture up the mountain in search of the elusive Yeti. This ride comes to a sudden stop at broken tracks and then careens backwards down part of the mountain! I highly recommend getting a fastpass for this attraction as it is extremely popular. This ride does offer a single rider option as well.
3. Primeval Whirl
I know a lot of Disney purists will disagree with me on this one. For my family this is a must-do every visit. Yes, you must be 48″ to ride this ride but for us this is a family coaster. We all love it and laugh throughout the ride. If you want a real laugh, visit my Primeval Whirl post which includes a video of me riding with my friend, John, who hates this ride.
2. Kilimanjaro Safari
The Kilimanjaro Safari is the signature ride of this park because, it is all about the animals. Unfortunately, IMHO this ride isn’t as amazing as it used to be. There are a lot fewer animals out on the Savannah and I miss Warden Wilson Matua. It is still a great ride to get up close to elephants, giraffe and other amazing animals. This is a must Fastpass attraction so please plan ahead.
1. Finding Nemo the Musical
Finding Nemo the Musical is my favorite live show in all four of the Florida Disney Parks. In all honesty, I like this show better than the movie! The musical version of Finding Nemo condenses the story into 40 minutes of colorful puppetry, storytelling and song. Located in DinoLand USA, this show is great for the whole family. There isn’t a bad seat in the theater but the best seats are in the front row, center of the back section of the theater.
I’d love to know what your must-do Animal Kingdom attractions are. Please let me know in the comments. Are you ready to plan your visit to Walt Disney World? Email Me for a travel quote, my travel planner services are free.