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Disney’s Animal Kingdom is an amazing theme park. It is part amusement park and part zoo. There are so many amazing things to do there. But, because of the design of the park, if you run from attraction to attraction, you will miss out on some of the greatest things it has to offer. At Animal Kingdom, you need to slow down and explore its nooks and crannies to discover its best. Here are 10 magical must-do’s at Animal Kingdom. (Updated September 21, 2019)
1. Kilimanjaro Safari
Located in the Africa section of the park, Kilimanjaro Safaris is set in the fictional Harambe Wildlife Preserve. Board a safari truck and set out across 100 acres to see some wonderful animals. Each time you ride, you get a new experience. There is nowhere outside of Africa where you can get so close to so many different animals. On one safari, a giraffe walked along the side of our truck close enough we could reach out and touch him!
You can now take a nighttime safari, which is much different than the daytime ride. While Disney has cleverly added lighting to the area, it is sometimes difficult to see the animals after dark. There aren’t as many animals on the night safari, but it is much more relaxing. If you have the chance, do both a day and night safari. If you must choose only one, go for the daytime one. Another tip: during the day, you can get some incredible pictures of animals. However, at night, it is almost impossible to get decent pictures. So, snap away while the sun’s out. At night, put away the camera and just enjoy the experience.
2. Expedition Everest
In the Asia section of Animal Kingdom, you will find Expedition Everest. It is a roller coaster that is incredibly themed. A large portion of the queue is dedicated to the legion of the Yeti who lives on the Forbidden Mountain. It creates excitement coupled with a small amount of nervous tension which continues to build until you board the train. The coaster goes in, through, and around the mountain. It is a great compliment to the Safari ride, located on the other side of the park.
3. Flight of Passage
Flight of Passage is located in Pandora, Animal Kingdom’s newest land. This ride completes the trifecta of amazing rides in this park. You absolutely should head directly to this ride at park opening! It is simply mind-blowing! After making your way through the detailed queue, you are matched with an avatar. You then board a banshee and go for a breathtaking ride through the skies of Pandora. Throughout, you will enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the environment while feeling the exhilaration of flying! You must experience this attraction! You will not regret it.
4. Tree of Life
The icon of Animal Kingdom is the Tree of Life. It is the first thing you see as you enter the gates. It is large and imposing, and you can see it from almost anywhere in the park. However, to truly appreciate the magnificence of the tree, you need to stop and take an up-close look at it. Carved into the truck, roots, and branches are hundreds of animals. The images blend and morph into each other to create a beautiful tapestry of creatures. It captures, in a very dynamic way, the diversity of the animal kingdom. And as a bonus, it contains an entire theater inside! The Tree is even more beautiful at night when it periodically comes alive with multicolored lights that highlight its carvings.
5. Festival of the Lion King
One of the best shows in all of Disney World is the Festival of the Lion King. You will find it in the Harambe Theater District of Africa. It is an interactive show that features the music of the Lion King and incorporates dancers, stilt walkers, beautiful floats, singers, and my personal favorite: tumble monkeys! This show has a way of putting a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
6. Maharajah Jungle Trek
One of the best kept secrets and one of the magical must-do’s at Animal Kingdom is the Maharajah Jungle Trek walking trail in Asia. It is a self-guided tour through some animal exhibits. The best parts of the trail are the bat enclosure and the tiger ruins. Save this for later in the day to escape the crowds for a bit.
The bat enclosure has an open-air and an enclosed exhibit. In the open-air exhibit, you can observe the bats with nothing but some spaced-out 2×4’s between you and the mysterious creatures. The enclosed area has some mesh surrounding the exhibit. A cast member is usually stationed at the enclosure to answer any questions you may have.
The tiger exhibit is a beautifully themed area further down the trail. It looks like ancient Asian temple ruins which have been taken over by tigers. Large windows give you wonderful views of the majestic cats.
7. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
Also on our list of magical must-do’s at Animal Kingdom is the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. It is in Africa, next to the exit of Kilimanjaro Safari. The gorillas are the highlight of this trail. There are several viewing areas, and you will find cast members posted at various points to answer your questions. Both trails are worth taking time to explore. The trails are usually not as crowded as other areas of the park.
8. Flame Tree BBQ
The best counter service restaurant on property is Flame Tree BBQ. The food is delicious, and it is a great value if you are using the Disney Dining Plan. Flame Tree offers several patios with gorgeous views of the river and Everest to enjoy with your meal.
9. The Boneyard
You will find the Boneyard in Dinoland USA. It is a play area for kids themed as a dinosaur dig site. It has the world’s largest sand box and an awesome playground. If your little ones need to burn off some energy after waiting in lines all day, this is the play to be! There are also places for adults to sit and rest while watching the kids.
10. Harambe & Pandora
The village of Harambe in Africa and Pandora are two of the best themed areas at Disney World. These are lands of the park instead of actual attractions. However, you should spend some time exploring both of them. There are so many little details. The cracked plaster, the faded paint, and the wires running from building to building all add a level of authenticity to Harambe, while Pandora is brimming with out-of-this-world vegetation. They both transport you from Central Florida to remote places. You can completely lose yourself in either. Every time I’m in Harambe, I feel drawn to stay longer. You can usually find live music in both areas, at various times too. Find some unique souvenirs in these lands as well.
Animal Kingdom is a special park with unique attractions. From the authentic feel of Harambe to the thrills of Expedition Everest, I hope you enjoy all of these Magical Must-Do’s at Animal Kingdom on your next trip. Check out the lists of Magical Must-Do’s for Epcot’s Future World and World Showcase, Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios too. Happy travels!
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