Welcome back to the next park in my Touring with a Toddler series. Today I’m going to walk through the Animal Kingdom One Day Touring Plan for Parents with Small Children and break it up, down, sideways, and crossways to help those of you with children under three.
It is often argued whether or not Animal Kingdom is a park that one can spend a whole day touring. I think that the theme of the Africa and Asia sections contain detailing work as good as anywhere in any Disney park. If you are willing and able to take your time and really explore these areas you can easily spend at least one day in Animal Kingdom. Of course, if you have a toddler with you the odds that you can slow down and poke around are slim (for some reason, my 2 year old daughter is wholly unimpressed by the authentic Nepalese touches).
If you do have a little one, you are most likely looking for a plan of attack…well, you’re in luck, because here comes one. As usual, please refer to the original plan if you want to know all the extra-special secrets of touring (disclaimer: plan may or may not contain extra-special secrets).
1. Arrive at Animal Kingdom Entrance 25 minutes prior to opening. This is always good advice when you can manage it. If you can’t, at least get there within 30 minutes of opening to avoid long waits.
2. Kilimanjaro Safaris – This is one of my daughter’s favorite attractions (mine too) because animals are awesome. Be aware that this ride is extremely bumpy (especially in the back of the vehicle) so you may want to keep a hand on the little one’s leg…they will get some air.
3. Kali River Rapids – I am not a huge fan of Kali for a few reasons, the chief one being that I don’t like to get soaking wet (yes, I know I am an old cranky man. I have accepted it). Some toddlers may feel exactly the same about being soaked to the bone and there is no chance that they’ll get the conservation theme. With there also being a 38” height requirement, a toddler being able and wanting to ride is iffy at best.
4. Maharajah Jungle Trek – This, along with the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, are fantastic with toddlers, especially if you happen upon them when they are not very crowded. The paths allow you to go your own pace and get reasonably good viewpoints of all the animals.
Now the downside: If the viewing paths are not crowded your toddler will most likely go through them at a jog (seriously…look at that picture –>), keeping animal appreciation to a minimum. On the flipside, if they are crowded, you will want to go through them at a jog after the fifth time you have to lift your child over your head to see the animals (even I’m not sure what I’m recommending here).
5. Flights of Wonder – Yes, it is a bird show but that does not mean that it is without its charms. I tend to skip this show a lot, but yet I never regret the times that I go. My daughter has only seen about 5 minutes of it because the “look honey, there’s a bird” wore off pretty quickly. If you’re toddler has a little more focus or really likes birds go ahead and try.
6. It’s Tough to Be a Bug! – I’ve been a little wishy-washy on the last two, so here’s some nice, decisive advice; No, don’t do it! It’s Tough to Be a Bug is a very cute show and a well done experience, but it will scare a toddler. If you haven’t seen the show, it involves bugs, darkness, and being jabbed in the back (yeah, really). I’ve seen kids much older than mine react to this show like the girl in The Blair Witch Project.
7. Tree of Life Exhibits – Another skip on my plan (meaning that you skip it, not that you start skipping. Actually go ahead and start skipping through the park here, that sounds hilarious). These exhibits are interesting and definitely worth seeing, but a toddler just won’t care.
8. Lunch – As the wise Homer Simpson once said; mmmmmm.
Now is a good time for a nap. Bellies are full, it is most likely hot, and you’ve seen quite a bit already. It is time to slow down and recharge for the afternoon. Under normal circumstances I would suggest going back to your hotel so that everyone can get a proper rest. While that would still be ideal, the problem with Animal Kingdom is that it closes as early as 5 p.m., meaning that you may only have an hour or two on the other side of the break.
What I personally do is go back to the resort for my daughter’s nap (she won’t sleep in a stroller) and then hop to a different park for the evening, only doing Animal Kingdom in the morning. If that is undesirable or undoable (feel free to insert your own un-word) for you, I would suggest either a short stroller nap (for the kid, although if you can fit in the stroller…) or no nap and an early bedtime. Remember, if the toddler doesn’t get proper rest you’ll all pay for it tomorrow (as will everyone in earshot and poor Dale…that’s another story).
Okay, back to the park…
9. Character Trails at Camp Minnie-Mickey – My daughter loves the characters, which is why we like to do multiple character meals. Dining with the characters allows me to skip the potential long lines in areas like this. If your child also enjoys characters, this is a good spot to knock off a bunch of greetings at once.
10. Festival of the Lion King– I really enjoy this show. My wife is less enthusiastic about it. My daughter was completely uninterested in everything except the big floats. I think many toddlers will enjoy the visual and aural overload here even if mine didn’t. I say give it a try although be warned that it is not easy to get out once the show starts, so be prepared to sit through the show in its entirety.
11. Finding Nemo: The Musical – I enjoy good musical theater (comments to yourselves please) and this show is good. Honestly, my daughter hasn’t seen it because she has a limit to the number of shows she will sit through in any given day. I’ll probably try it with her when we’re there in a few weeks, but in the meantime I would say that this depends on your toddlers penchant for sitting, shows, songs, sea creatures, and…uh, samba (ran out of alliterative gas there).
As I mentioned above, I would jump one of the last two steps up to the morning if for no other reason than to avoid doing two shows in succession. If you do Lion King in the morning, also try to do the Character Trails (number 9) at that time.
12. The Boneyard – I’m not a huge fan of this play area for a toddler, mostly because I’m a grumpy old man (we established that already). It’s fun and all, but it’s big and that makes it difficult to have an eye on your child unless you follow them around. If you are security paranoid like I am, that is not an ideal situation.
13. TriceraTop Spin – This is a boring, spinning, midway, Dumbo-style ride that most Disney fans will say has no place in Walt Disney World. Naturally, little kids will love it. On our last trip Dinoland was so empty that my wife and daughter rode this alone four straight times while I went to ride Expedition Everest…lucky them.
The next (and last) step on the plan is to watch the parade. Depending on what you decided about a nap, you may or may not be in the park. If you are it is nothing special, but still an enjoyable parade.
Attractions Not on the Plan:
– Expedition Everest – Not for the toddlers unless they happen to be 44” tall or more. This is a must ride for most parents though so I strongly suggest using rider swap or taking turns using Fastpass while the child is riding something else. Remember to look for the Yeti in the cave towards the end and also remember that it is Disney’s most advanced animatronic figure that you just had to search and squint to see (yeah, a touch bitter).
– DINOSAUR – Another height requirement, this time 40”. Even if the kids are tall enough I would avoid this. It is very loud and very rough. I have a headache just thinking about it.
– Rafiki’s Planet Watch – This is a tricky one. There is the petting zoo-esque Affection Section, and the behind-the-scenes Conservation Station, both of which can be very interesting. The problem is that, depending on when you go, there may be little or nothing happening. If you have extra time and feel like a short train ride it may be worth a look. Someone should invent a phone application that would tell you when something was going on back there.
Frankly, there’s not a lot to do at Animal Kingdom for a toddler since the park is more atmosphere and less attractions. I strongly suggest a visit just to see the fantastic work done on Africa and Asia as well as the few really great attractions and shows that the park offers. With a few excellent attractions and shows and some wonderful themes, Animal Kingdom can be very enjoyable (especially if you avoid Dinoland U.S.A. Sorry, I had to squeeze one shot in there).
Thanks for reading!