Check out any list of the most thrilling rides at Walt Disney World, and more than likely two of the top picks are going to be Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids. Lucky for you, these two rides are not only among the best rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, they also happen to be located practically right next door to each other in the Asia section of the park.
Much like the Magic Kingdom is defined by areas such as “Tomorrowland” and “Adventureland,” Disney’s Animal Kingdom is separated into areas with some titled after the continents. Asia is where you’ll find all things exotic – from the colorful gift shops reminiscent of a street bizarre, to the tantalizing flavors featured at the Yak & Yeti and other nearby restaurants. But the pinnacle of your experience in Asia is the rides – they are why everyone rushes to this section of the Disney park first!
Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom
On a hot day in Florida, nothing feels as good as getting a little wet. And the best place to get wet when you are at Animal Kingdom is on the Kali River Rapids.
Kali River Rapids is a whitewater raft ride. You will sit in a round, 12-person raft that essentially floats freely down the course of the ride. Expect to get wet. Actually, expect to get drenched! Because the river is fairly wide, the raft will spin and bob freely, so there is no anticipating where you will be when the splashes hit.
The ride itself is pretty short – less than five minutes – and the drops are not that steep. This makes it a fun and fairly fearless ride for kids. (With a height requirement of only 38 inches, even the little ones can enjoy this ride.) The real genius of this ride though are the visuals – it begins as you stand in line and weave your way through an intricately decorated Southeast Asian temple. The river raft ride itself starts off peacefully as you drift through a lush jungle, but then the waters get rougher as the ride progresses through a landscape ravaged by illegal logging, complete with fire and chainsaw sounds. The finale is a wet and wild 20 foot drop down the waterfall.
If you don’t have a FastPass expect the line to be long from mid-morning until late afternoon, because everyone knows this is the place to be to cool off! But even if you do have to wait in line, Disney’s great theming will help to get you in the mood for this Asian adventure.
TMOM Tip: If possible leave your belongings in a locker or with a friend who isn’t riding. There is a covered storage area in the center of the raft, but that is no guarantee your stuff won’t get wet. Also, while riding through the rough patches, keep your feet elevated off the floor or you will find yourself squishing around in wet shoes for the rest of the day! Unfortunately, I learned that lesson the hard way our first time out.
Make sure you work your FastPasses to optimize your time at the park, as well as your timing so you can ride the Rapids when you are most in need of a cool down!
Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom
Expedition Everest is a fast, fun and thrilling coaster ride – or what Disney might have called an E-Ticket ride back in the old days. Your train climbs high into the Himalayan mountains, twisting and turning through caverns and canyons and speeding past the ominous Abominable Snowman.
What makes this ride truly unique is that it not only goes forward, but backwards too. Backwards and up a hill. Up a hill, people! If you have never sped backwards and up a hill, it is a sensation you will not soon forget and one I can’t promise you will necessarily enjoy. It is a very different feeling but hey, different is good, right? And you came to Disney World to experience new things, right?
Expedition Everest is a very smooth ride, even at its peak speed of about 50 miles per hour, so you get none of the shakiness one sometimes experiences on an older or wooden coaster. It is a thrilling train ride in every sense. Check out this awesome video shot by Carissa Rogers, aka GoodNCrazy TravelingMom!
TMOM Tip: If the sensation of going backwards uphill leaves you as unsettled as it left me, try turning just the slightest bit sideways during that part of the ride, but keep your head back against the headrest for safety. Just this slight change in body position really made a difference for me and allowed me to enjoy the rest of the ride!
Inspired by the temples, architecture and legends of India, Thailand, Nepal and Indonesia, Animal Kingdom’s Asia is a beautiful tribute to this mythical land. The rides in this section of the park truly capture the excitement of the region.
Healthy Tip for This Destination
Like at any theme park on a hot day, staying hydrated is key. Carry an insulated water bottle with you and keep the H2O coming. Water is imperative to the body’s health, especially when you are sweating. So don’t wait until you are excessively thirsty or notice symptoms of dehydration before you find a drink! Actively prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.