Favorite Parks Series: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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We’re at the half way point in our Favorite Parks journey! (Read about Disney’s Hollywood Studios here.) Before doing research for this article, I’ll admit that Disney’s Animal Kingdom was my least favorite park. However, the more I delved into the MAGIC* behind the park, the more I realized how spectacular and incredibly unique Animal Kingdom is.

Memorable Moments

Since Animal Kingdom is known for its hot environment, Kali River Rapids is just the attraction to cool you off. As the unpredictable rapids decide which way the raft spins, no one is safe from the surprising splashes and torrents. Once you’ve become thoroughly soaked, dry yourself off by enjoying two delightful shows; Finding Nemo – The Musical and the Festival of the Lion King. Adrenaline junkies will love running into the Yeti on Expedition Everest, while those looking for further adventure can experience DINOSAUR. An underrated attraction at Animal Kingdom worth attending is Flights of Wonder, an educational and entertaining exotic bird show. You’ll be ‘squawking’ about it for days!

How many animals can you spot?
How many animals can you spot?

Awesome Atmosphere

Any expectations you have about Animal Kingdom, Disney exceeds them. Animal Kingdom is not a zoo. It is not just an amusement park. It is an authentic experience. Immerse yourself in the splendor of the exotic locations of Africa, Asia and other far-off lands. As you walk past lush vegetation and landscaping, note the magnificent Tree of Life, the ‘hub’ of the theme park. Take time to find a few of the 300 animals flawlessly carved into the wood. (Fun Fact: The Tree of Life was made out of an oil rig. Let me know if you’d like a post about other Animal Kingdom facts!) As Disney’s largest theme park and five times larger than the Magic Kingdom, it houses more than 1500 animals.

Good Grub

Animal Kingdom may not have a vast array of eateries, but that’s certainly no reason to write off the park for your culinary cabarets (name that Disney film – hint: you’ll have a BEAST of a meal!). I had the opportunity to eat at the Tusker House Restaurant when I was at Animal Kingdom and it left quite a ‘taste in my mouth.’ The food was buffet style, so no one leaves there hungry. Arrive for breakfast or lunch, and Donald and his friends will be waiting with hugs and plenty of photo ops. If you fancy Asian cuisine, the Yak and Yeti Restaurant will satisfy your taste buds with its larger portions and Nepalese themed atmosphere. Don’t have time for sit down? Try the Flame Tree Barbecue or Restaurantosaurus!

Innovative Illumination

Harambe Nights celebrates the 20th Anniversary of The Lion King. This new event includes character meet and greets, unlimited food, dancing and an engaging concert featuring a celebrity narrator. After a feast sure to satisfy all the lions on Pride Rock, watch musicians and stage performers light up the stage in The Lion King: Concert in the Wild. This show features a live orchestra and large screens showing clips from the film. Following the concert, finish the night with a dance party and visiting centers displaying African culture. You’ll go home exhausted with a smile on your face. Take advantage of this exhilarating event as it ends August 9th!

Completely Captivating

Enjoying the Serengeti
Enjoying the Serengeti

Standing out among all the other attractions is Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safaris. See hundreds of animals from the ‘comfort’ (it can get a little bumpy. It’s a Safari after all!) of your jeep. Find the watering holes and you’ll see a rhinoceros. Look toward the rock foundations and you’ll spot a lion! Spreading out over 100 acres, you’ll travel through forests, rivers and the African Savannah seeing more than 250 different animal species. If you get the chance, book the Backstage Safari tour. This excursion gives you a behind the scenes look into how the animals are cared for and how Disney promotes wildlife conservation.

So how about it? Is Animal Kingdom your favorite park? What do YOU like about it? Let me know in the comments!

* M = Memorable Moments, A= Awesome Atmosphere, G=Good Grub, I=Innovative Illumination, and C= Completely Captivating


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Angela Dahlgren

Angela is cohost of the TouringPlans Podcast and regular contributor to the TouringPlans YouTube channel. When she's not talking about the happiest place on earth, she spends her time entertaining her own little Minnie and Mickey Mouse. You can find her on twitter @AngelaDahlgren or via email - angela@touringplans.com

14 thoughts on “Favorite Parks Series: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  • July 16, 2014 at 10:49 am

    I don’t get it. How is this series any different than the park overview pages found on this website and many other similar ones? Is it because this is structured around an acronym (which I admit I didn’t get the first time)? Where’s the insights into improving park touring and experiences? The unique perspective? The specific information that can’t be found elsewhere? That’s the stuff that makes this blog, and this website, interesting. Your first post (about your American Idol experience) had it. I’m hoping that with all the new writers, this blog will expand on these fronts, rather than devolve into simple Disney gushing interspersed with different ways of rehashing the old Disney World vs. Disneyland argument.

    • July 16, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Thanks for your input Steve. Everyone has a park that is their least favorite. The point of the series is to highlight the unique experiences each park has to offer. The hope is that by reading the series, the audience will give that least favorite park another chance.

      In addition, with new bloggers bring new readers who aren’t as familiar with the parks as we Disney junkies are. This is also to give them a crash course description of each park.

      I appreciate your feedback!

    • July 16, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      I completely disagree with your complaint. Not all posts need to improve park touring or have an “information that can’t be found elsewhere”. Even if “that’s the stuff that makes this blog interesting”, some posts that don’t follow these “rules” are always welcome.

      It’s like going to a restaurant and saying “people come mainly for the filet, so why do you make pasta? You should stop making it”. If you still get to enjoy your filet, what’s the problem about them also serving pasta? They won’t stop making articles like the ones you like.

      For me the purpose of this series is to show the best stuff about each park in a single place. How many times I read “if you’ve been to zoos before, don’t bother going to Animal Kingdom”, or “only go there if you have a free morning but don’t waste a whole day going there”. People saying this kind of stuff (even my boss, who went there last year) almost made me change a day (in my October trip – the first time I’ll go to WDW) in Animal Kingdom into a day to relax in the hotel. Remember that it’s not only Disney fanatics that read these posts, so for people that are learning about Disney or planning their trips it is very fun and useful to read this kind of stuff.

      Even Disney fanatics like this kind of thing, see that in the post about Hollywood Studios, people used that post to talk about things they like about that park, or things that they don’t like, or rumors about its future… Making Disney fans interact with each other is also a great objective for a blog post.

      • July 16, 2014 at 6:20 pm

        Both of your responses only reinforce my point. I think a post dispelling negative complaints and misconceptions about the parks would be a great thing, since that would give an experienced perspective that would help people plan their trips better. However, this was not presented as such. This article, admittedly, does touch on that (in the Awesome Atmosphere section, but by that point, I had pretty much tuned out because…); there is little if anything to distinguish the previous (DHS) post from touringplans.com/hollywood-studios.

        There are other sites that allow Disney fanatics to connect and discuss things. Disboards is probably the biggest. But I don’t go there to seek information. With so many people posting there, it’s hard to know what to trust, and most posts don’t really give any valuable information or advice anyway. It would disappoint me, as a daily reader and subscriber, to see this blog end up anything like that other website, since too many articles that are simply gushy or else just a forum for argument will detract from the competitive advantage this site has over others. And that is where your analogy falls apart. Serving pasta doesn’t detract from the experience of people who want the filet, until the only filet you can get is stuffed with pasta. This site has lots of pasta, and it’s some of the best pasta out there, and I’ve certainly had my share, but when ya want a filet…

        Of course, I’m just one person with one opinion. Daisy Lauren’s series around World Showcase totally hooked me: the detailed perspective, photos, and veteran tips has had me thinking about my next trip to Epcot everyday since. On the other hand, too many “disboard-y” posts (e.g. the recent glut of DLR vs WDW thrown into the pit together articles) make me less likely to keep coming here. Perhaps the general community, the writers, the editors, the administration, and anybody else involved feel differently, and they’d be fine without me. As another option, perhaps adding a carefully constructed forum area to this site is something that would prove beneficial for everyone: a place where you could go just to interact, share your favorite things, or ask specific questions about the parks, resorts, etc. Just an idea…

      • July 16, 2014 at 10:42 pm

        This site does have a chat forum area called “Lines” where you can do exactly what you describe. Check it out and tell them Coolermama sent you. I will be sure to come by and welcome you.

      • July 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm

        Hi Steve! I was breezing through comments and saw my name. I think we all really value your feedback and appreciate you posting it here. You wouldn’t take the time if you didn’t want to stay with us, and we really want you here!! 🙂

        Do you have any suggestions? If you have any ideas of things you’d like to see we’d really like to bring it to you. I think sometimes that’s just what we need to keep things relevant.

        Thanks SO much for reading and commenting!! 😀

      • July 16, 2014 at 9:44 pm


        Are you going this October or was your first trip last October?

        I hope you enjoy your trip. Going to WDW is such an amazing experience. You will make so many magical memories.

        Let me know if you have any questions when planning your trip. I’m happy to help!


      • July 17, 2014 at 8:03 am

        I’m going there this October. For a long time I wasn’t into the idea of going to Orlando (it’s very expensive for brazilians and our undervalued currency), but I went to Japan two years ago and decided to visit Tokyo Disneyland, Disneysea and Universal Studios at Osaka, since they were all close to places I stayed. I loved them so much that it was more than enough to convince me that my next international vacation would be to Orlando.

  • July 16, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks for the post Angela! AK is the most under-rated park in WDW, in my opinion. This is the best park for food after Epcot, to be sure – Flame Tree is my favorite counter service restaurant anywhere. One thing I would mention – we have tried drying off at Finding Nemo-The Musical after getting soaked on Kali River Rapids, and it was miserable. It’s quite cold in that theater. Just a heads up! 😉

    • July 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Oh no, you’re absolutely right! Maybe the safari would be a warmer way to dry off 🙂

      Thanks for the heads up!

  • July 16, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    We took our kiddos to WDW last year for their first time. I haven’t been since Animal Kingdom opened. So many people told me to skip it – that there wasn’t much to do. I am so glad that I ignored the advice. Animal Kingdom, in my opinion, excelled in what I love most about WDW – an escape. This park excels at take you away from everything and immersing you in a whole different world. We were there from open to close and still didn’t get to see everything. I loved all the side attractions, the shops, and the food. The Lion King was one of my favorite experiences of our entire trip. There aren’t many rides but the rides they do have are really good. Expedition Everest is now my favorite coaster – ever. My only complaint is that the walkways are very narrow. We were there on a day that was listed as a 3 on your site and it still seemed incredibly crowded. Everything about this park was wonderful – my little guys (6 and 3 at the time) even loved it. It is a different park for sure but if you just enjoy it for what it is – than you will love it. Get immersed in Animal Kingdom!

  • July 16, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Your enthusiasm for Animal Kingdom is well placed. Since I have been on an actual safari in Africa as well as on Kilmanjaro Safari, I can honestly say that Disney offers a shortened but accurate version of a real safari.

    • July 16, 2014 at 9:46 pm


      Wow! That’s awesome to hear that the two were so similar….well as similar as a theme park and a real-life safari can be. 🙂 Sounds like Disney really did their research.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • July 17, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    We went on a safari last night and saw Lion King. How amazing is a park where you can pop in for a couple hours for an African Safari and a Broadway style musical? This was so fun to read. Thank you for it! 🙂


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