This is the newest addition to the Walt Disney World Theme Park family and it is an assortment of goodies. It’s not really a ride park, it’s not really a zoo, it’s a bit of both and much more. I always recommend that this be the first park you see once you land in Florida. Why? Well, for one thing it’s a good way to ease into things. It’s smaller than the other parks in terms of walking. There are fewer rides and you can see everything in a day. It will also suffer in comparison to other parks such as Epcot.
This does not mean that Animal Kingdom is bad. In fact, it is a very cool park but you have to understand that it is a very different experience than the other parks with their high action Disney-thrill rides and tons of characters. It’s a mellow park. This changed a bit in 2005 with the opening of Expedition Everest, Disney’s first thrill coaster that will go forwards and backwards with the steepest, fastest flume drop to date. Until that time, the high speed thrills were non-existent so appreciate it for what it is, leisurely family fun. So let’s get started with these few pointers.
That says it all. The animals are more active in the morning so get here before the park opens. It is also cooler and you can easily be done by 3:00. This leaves plenty of time for a Jacuzzi back at the hotel before you ramp up for dinner and evening fun.
Disney World is an overwhelming, sensory overload. If you don’t have a plan of attack for each park, you will be stuck at the entry hub with a map in your hand and a glazed expression on your face, trying to figure out where to go and what to do. Don’t be those people. Mock these people as you haul butt to the Safari first thing or if rides are your passion, make a right turn to Dinosaur! or Expedition Everest.
First and foremost, don’t look at the Tree of Life. I know it’s tempting but it will suck you into its gravitational pull and then all the lemmings heading for the Safari will beat you. Don’t let that happen! You will have plenty of time to look at the tree while you are waiting in line for the Bugs Life ride, look then.
There are many places to view the various animals in this park. However, you should understand some basic manners regarding viewing. Yes, the windows are the best places to stand, especially the little porthole windows. Remember that you make a better wall than a window and people behind you can’t see if you decide to camp out there for the better part of a half hour. This goes for kids as well. Just because you are under 12 does not give you the right to pig the portholes either. All guests should practice the Kindergarten concept of SHARING. Go to the porthole, look at the animal, take a picture and MOVE ON! There should be no reason that you should be there more than 3 minutes tops unless the park is slow and there are not many people around you.
Also please be considerate to your fellow guests that are mobility impaired (in a wheelchair or motorized cart). They can’t get as close to the wall, especially with all these opaque bodies in the way. When you are done looking, make room for them to get close and enjoy the animals too. They will appreciate it and not run over your toes later for being rude. (See my 2003 Trip Reports for more details)
If you stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge on the concierge level, you can sign up for the Sunrise Safari. This includes a trip on the safari early in the morning before the park opens. This fortunately does not include the poacher back story so you get more wide awake animals, guide tidbits and a small breakfast afterwards. People who have been on this have given it high marks.