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Animal Kingdom is arguably the most underrated park in all of Disney World. And the best kept secret at Animal Kingdom is Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Most people either don’t know it exists or aren’t willing to make the trek out to it. But this is a big mistake! Keep reading to find out why you should visit this hidden gem during your next family vacation to Disney World.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is one of my favorite places in Animal Kingdom. We visit at least once on every trip to Disney World. And we always have a great time while we are there. It’s just so different from the rest of the park and Disney World as a whole.
What you’ll find at Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a fairly small land, but it has quite a few things to do, especially for kids. And most of them are educational, which is a bonus for parents. It includes:
Wildlife Express Train
There aren’t any actual rides at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, but you do have to take the Wildlife Express Train to get there. It is the only way to get to the land.
The train ride takes about 7 minutes. It is a lot of fun for kids, and it is a nice break from walking for adults. Just beware that the trip is the perfect amount of time for the gentle rocking of the train to lull some younger kids to sleep!
While aboard the train, you will get some fun facts about Animal Kingdom and its animals. You will also get a chance to see some of the backstage homes of the animals.
Conservation Station is the main attraction at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This large air-conditioned building houses several exhibits and a very impressive mural of animals. There are also several animal exhibits, mostly amphibians and reptiles, as well.
Inside the Conservation Station, you will find a vet’s exam room, a research lab, and a nutrition office. You can talk with the keepers about the nutrition of the various animals or the research they are doing.
In the exam room, you can watch any exams or procedures that are taking place. You never know what, if anything, you’ll see here. We have seen a goose getting its stomach pumped and a frog being examined during our past visits.
The Animation Experience
The newest attraction at Rafiki’s Planet Watch is the Animation Experience. This used to be located in Hollywood Studios, but is now held in the Conservation Station.
It is basically an animation class where you learn how to draw one of the Disney characters from a Disney animator. The class is 25 minutes long and is held multiple times each day.
Check the Disney World website for more information.
Periodically throughout the day, one of the keepers at Animal Kingdom will bring out an animal and give a talk about that particular species. You (or your kids) also have an opportunity to ask questions and interact with the keeper and the animal. Sometimes, you will get the chance to pet the animal as well.
These take place on the little stage in the center of the Conservation Station.
You can ask any of the cast members working at the Conservation Station when the next talk will start.
Affection Section is located just outside of the Conservation Station. It is Animal Kingdom’s petting zoo.
Here, you can pet, brush, and interact with goats, pigs, and other farm animals. This is always a favorite spot for kids.
After getting off the train at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, you will have to walk down a pathway to get to the Conservation Station. Along the way, you will pass several animal and educational exhibits that are all part of Habitat Habit.
These exhibits are all themed around how you can help save the planet in your own backyard. These exhibits are fun for kids to stop and explore as they walk.
Character Meet and Greets
My favorite part of going to Rafiki’s is the character meet and greets. Usually, the characters that appear here have some tie in to Animal Kingdom. Over the years, we have seen Jiminy Cricket, Pocahontas, and Rafiki here.
These meet and greets are better than others you will find in Animal Kingdom because they are indoors where it’s cool and they have really short lines!
How to get there
As mentioned above, the only way to get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch is by the Wildlife Express Train.
You will find the train station in the back of Africa, near the exit of Kilimanjaro Safaris. The only other stop is at Rafiki’s. From the station at Rafiki’s, your only option will be to take the path towards the Conservation Station.
When you are finished at Rafiki’s, take the pathway back to the train station and then ride the train back to Africa.
Why it’s such a hidden gem
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is one of the best hidden gems in all of Disney World, partly because of its out-of-the-way location. There are several reasons why it is worth your time to visit. These include:
- It is hardly ever busy here, so it is a great place to escape the crowds when the rest of the park is full of people.
- Most of the activities here are located inside of the air conditioned Conservation Station, which makes it a good place to get out of the heat and cool off.
- Because there are usually low crowds here, you can meet the characters who are out for meet and greet without much, if any, wait.
- You can have some unique educational opportunities here. My son once learned about all the things the researchers can tell about the animals by examining their poop.
- It’s not every day that you get to watch a vet performing a procedure on an exotic animal.
- It’s the only place at Disney World where you can get up close and personal with animals without an additional fee.
- This is a good place to let your kids burn off some energy if they get restless.
- The train ride out and back is very relaxing and may even rock your little one to sleep.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is one of the best kept secrets at Animal Kingdom. It may take some effort to get to it, but it is well worth it! A trip to Rafiki’s will provide you with a relaxing train ride, unique educational exhibits, and some relief from the crowds and heat.
Definitely take time to check out Rafiki’s on your next trip to Animal Kingdom!
For more things to do at Animal Kingdom, see my list of the best things to do at Animal Kingdom, the best hidden gems at Disney World, best places for photos at Animal Kingdom, where to find the animals at Animal Kingdom, and the best things to do for kids at Disney World.