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An Animal Kingdom Convert: Winning a Skeptical Spouse Over to the DAK Side

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I have got to admit that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the park we typically skip on our trips to Disney World. It’s a bit hard to pinpoint exactly why this happens. Maybe because our plan quickly fills in with at least two days or partial days at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, our must-do parks. Maybe because we also like to spend a day at one of the water parks and time visiting the deluxe resorts. Maybe because we love the thrill rides at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and have been enjoying the increasing number of Star Wars related offerings. Maybe because on the days we have visited Animal Kingdom, it has felt like one giant sauna by mid-morning.

© Sarah Graffam
Expedition Everest at dusk

In early 2016, however, there were hints that something was starting to happen at Animal Kingdom. There was talk of an incredible projection show coming to the Tree of Life, nighttime hours to experience Kilimanjaro Safaris plus Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids, a new lounge and signature level restaurant, new dancers and musicians, and a brand new nighttime water show with amazing effects.

© Sarah Graffam
Tree of Life Awakenings

In late spring 2016, many of these new experiences became available. Okay, so there were some overall delays, and the much-hyped Rivers of Light show was replaced with a decidedly less impressive show during the spring and summer. (Rivers of Light has yet to come on line, though there are some indications—and lots of hope on the part of park visitors—that it could do so soon.) Even so, I was certain that the new experiences that had already come to the park were worth giving Animal Kingdom another shot.

My husband, though—not so much. So, on our most recent trip, I was determined to get him over to Animal Kingdom. If you also have a reluctant tourist on your hands when it comes to Animal Kingdom (or are even one yourself), read on to see how one convert was convinced.

First and foremost, courtesy of later hours being offered at the park, we would arrive at Animal Kingdom in late afternoon and stay into the evening, thus mostly avoiding the heat that had tainted his memories from our previous visits.

© Sarah Graffam
Mix in some old with the new by visiting the Dawa Bar, where you can enjoy a drink while catching some of the new entertainment in festive Harambe village

Then, as the saying goes, the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. And so, my next tactic was to make a dinner reservation at the extremely well-received Tiffins restaurant.

© Sarah Graffam
Wagyu Strip Loin and Braised Short Rib at Tiffins, which offers a fantastic atmosphere with artifacts from African and Asia, dark woods, soft lighting, and attentive service


© Sarah Graffam
Hoisin-Glazed Halibut at Tiffins

I also exploited his love of Expedition Everest, the attraction that he had most enjoyed on previous visits by talking up how fun it would be to ride at night, more than once if possible. We would also have a new perspective on Kilimanjaro Safaris by riding at night. And then there were promises of some bar hopping through Asia, Africa, and other locales, including the new Nomad Lounge.

© Sarah Graffam
Nomad Lounge

Sufficiently motivated but still skeptical, my husband allowed me to plan a visit to Animal Kingdom trip, and I’m happy to say I can report success. I can’t say exactly when it was clear he was having not just a good—but a fantastic—time, although our multiple nighttime rides on Expedition Everest were definitely a highlight. And I think the Tree of Life Awakenings show sealed the deal.

© Sarah Graffam
The Tempting Tigress and Annapurna Zing at Nomad Lounge

But what does my husband say? Although he really liked many of the specific experiences, he reports that it was the overall nighttime atmosphere that will bring him back to Animal Kingdom. And I’d say that is an unqualified success because atmosphere is what I think Animal Kingdom is all about.

© Sarah Graffam
Reaching the top of Expedition Everest

With all the fun being in the park at night, Rivers of Life coming in the near future, and Pandora – The World of Avatar in the works for 2017, Animal Kingdom has earned a place in our repertoire when visiting Disney World.

Everest at night
Everest at night


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Sarah Graffam

Sarah gets that giddy feeling when walking down Main Street, U.S.A. (and sometimes in her own living room just thinking about her next trip to Disney World). She is a Disney Vacation Club member and has been a professional writer and editor since 1990. Other favorite places she has traveled include Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, England, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Alaska, Kenya, Tanzania, and Disneyland.

3 thoughts on “An Animal Kingdom Convert: Winning a Skeptical Spouse Over to the DAK Side

  • I too am not someone who ever wants to spend a day at the Animal Kingdom. I think that it is partially because I never really went here as a kid and I don’t have those nostalgic feelings for the rides at the park like I do for Peter Pan’s Flight or The Haunted Mansion. The last two times I have been to Disney World with my friend and her three kids, I have opted not to visit. Yet they always seem to have so much fun there and they never stop talking about Expedition Everest ride and the Yeti. I may have to stop by next time, as your pictures make it look more enticing!

  • Our family was able to visit Animal Kingdom at night in late August, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of our week at the world. Riding Expedition Everest in the dark is a very different experience. The view on the way up was amazing at night, and the Yeti was so much more visible since our eyes didn’t need to adjust from the blinding sun when we entered his cave. The whole family agreed that it was a much more terrifying experience in the dark.

    We also enjoyed the laid back vibe in the evening for both the Safari, and the park in general. The crowd was light, and the lighting around the park is fantastic at night – Enough to see where you are going, but not enough to overwhelm the exotic feeling of the park in the darkness.

    We also visited at rope drop one morning that week, and the evening experience was so much better than the daytime one. We can’t wait to get back and visit the park at night again.

  • Yeah Animal Kingdom is a weird place. There are lots of individual things that I like, but I spend the whole day feeling irritated. While every other park has smooth crowd flow and easy to navigate walkways, AK is just….hard. At AK, there is *always* either someone in my way, or I’m in someone’s way. When I stop to look at the animals, people behind me can’t get by on the narrow walkways. The walkways are so rough that pushing a stroller is a chore, and since they don’t allow drink lids, you can’t save your drinks and drink them all afternoon like we do at the other parks. This is really annoying given that it’s always hot and there are very few indoor spaces.

    I really hope that when they open Pandora, the engineers will win out over the artists when it comes to layout. If I can move around without constant irritations, it will leave me with a much better overall view of the park.


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