Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Visiting Animal Kingdom in One Day: Tips and Tricks
- Animal Kingdom Park Layout
- Lands of Animal Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom Rides and Attractions
- Animal Kingdom Touring Plan Strategy
- Animal Kingdom Attractions That are Currently Closed (December 2020)
- Dining at Animal Kingdom: Temporarily Unavailable Locations (December 2020)
Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World’s fourth theme park, opened in 1998 and spans a whopping 580 acres making it 5 times as big as Magic Kingdom. What does this mean for your visit? Well, your Animal Kingdom touring plan needs to be solid if you’re only visiting for one day. Our one day Animal Kingdom itinerary is the way to see as much as possible.
Part of the challenge if you only have one day at Animal Kingdom is that there are some truly amazing rides (Expedition Everest and Flight of Passage) at AK. They are also very spread out. Add some unique opportunities like Kilimanjaro Safari that take time (22 minutes) and areas that require a train ride to reach (Rafiki’s Planet Watch) and you’ve got to have a solid plan going in if you want to see it all.
When visiting years ago, I remember people always asking, “Is Animal Kingdom worth it?” Yes! Don’t skip this park.
I’m going to say it now, though: While this is a one day Animal Kingdom itinerary, it’s a challenge to see all of Animal Kingdom in one day.
I’m going to gear this specific post towards those with kids old enough and tall enough to ride the big rides. If you’ve got toddlers be sure to check out this post on 12+ things to do in Animal Kingdom with toddlers.
Before You Go to Animal Kingdom
Covid-19 Disney Reservation Rules
Coronavirus has changed Disney like it’s changed everything else. The parks at Walt Disney World are using a ticket AND reservation system. You will need a valid ticket for the park of your choice and a reservation for the day you’d like to visit. Face masks are required.
In addition, there is no park hopping so you will need to pick your park for the day and stick to it. I strongly recommend using a Disney travel agent or our partner Get Away Today for your tickets and vacation planning. The bonus is that if anything changes they will update you!
TravelingMom Tip: Until the Disney Parks return to full capacity post-pandemic, you must have a reservation to visit the park and you can visit only one park per day. We recommend buying discounted tickets through our partners at Get Away Today. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, but it also offers a best price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, the company will beat it. If you call to make your purchase, be sure to mention TravelingMom!
Visiting Animal Kingdom in One Day: Tips and Tricks
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a theme park, yes. But the feel of it combines a zoo, museum and it offers far more opportunities to dive deep and learn than the other parks.
Because of this if you focus on the rides only you miss out on the opportunity to learn some really cool things. One thing that the park offers is the opportunity to earn Wilderness Explorer badges. On entrance to Animal Kingdom, pick up a Wilderness Explorer booklet on the right side of the bridge between the Oasis and Discovery Island.
You may recognize the Wilderness Explorer program from the Disney movie “Up!.” In it, Russell is a Wilderness Explorer desperately trying to earn badges.
Your mission at Animal Kingdom is to earn 25+ badges during your visit to become an official Wilderness Explorer. The badges involve learning things at different stations around the park. The stations will give you stickers to paste in your book.
I have kids that currently range from 4 up to 16. In my opinion, this is one of the best things to do in Animal Kingdom. Not only does the booklet make a great (FREE) souvenir but it forces you to look deeper during your visit. It’s a real educational opportunity for kids and adults alike.
Animal Kingdom Park Layout
Since Animal Kingdom is such a large park, let’s talk about how it’s structured. You’ll enter through the main Animal Kingdom gates. To your left is a large gift shop and Rainforest Cafe. You can enter the park through that store as well.
When you’re doing your trip planning it’s good to look at some maps. You can waste a lot of time wandering around or trying to criss-cross the park too frequently.
When you head in the path splits to the left and right in the Oasis area.
TravelingMom Tip: Don’t fret, the two paths meet back up at a bridge that leads to Discovery Island. This is one of the spots where you can get that iconic picture with the Tree of Life in the background.
Lands of Animal Kingdom
If we work our way clockwise around the center, you would head left and hit Pandora, The World of Avatar first. Next comes Africa, home to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which you reach by train. Following Africa is Asia and last is Dinoland U.S.A.
Discovery Island does have attractions on it. The front Oasis section consists of animal viewing, shopping, and dining.
Animal Kingdom Rides and Attractions
Here’s a full list of rides and attractions (that are currently open) at Animal Kingdom to help you plan your Animal Kingdom itinerary.
With the addition of Pandora I’d say Animal Kingdom has the most of my favorite rides in one park.
- Avatar Flight of Passage 44″+
- DINOSAUR 40″ to ride
- Discovery Island Trails
- Expedition Everest 44″+
- Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
- It’s Tough to Be a Bug
- Kali River Rapids 38″+
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Maharajah Jungle Trek
- Na’vi River Journey
- The Animation Experience at Conservation Station
- The Oasis Exhibits
- TriceraTop Spin
- Wilderness Explorers
- Wildlife Express Train
TravelingMom Tip: While I normally encourage everyone to visit Animal Kingdom, some of the temporary closures have had a bigger impact on toddler-friendly attractions. It would be a good idea to assess your toddler’s interest in animals and the grown-ups’ interest in switching off for other rides before booking a day at Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom Touring Plan Strategy
Have we mentioned that Animal Kingdom is gigantic? Plan to spend the whole day here.
During the pandemic, Disney operations have changed. Animal Kingdom Fastpass+ is unavailable, so a rope drop strategy will help you to avoid long ride wait times.
This park opens early and the nighttime show, Tree of Life Awakenings, is currently running during the last hour the park is open. So if you plan to stick around all day to see it, pace yourself!
For the sake of efficiency, one of our Animal Kingdom tips is picking a direction to head in (clockwise, counter clockwise) and sticking with it. Without Fastpass+ there really isn’t a great reason to run across the park to jump on rides.
First off, plan to head over at park opening. Most folks used to book a Fastpass for Flight of Passage. With that unavailable getting there early is your best chance to reduce your wait time.
TravelingMom Tip: If your group is mixed ages, be sure to check out our post about thrill ride substitutions. It covers ride alternatives for those in your party who aren’t ready to scream their way through rides like Expedition Everest.
Animal Kingdom Itinerary: How to Structure Your Day
Here’s the Animal Kingdom Touring Plan you’re looking for. We’ve updated this to include only items that are open. Covid-19 has rendered some shows and food options temporarily available. There’s a full list of each at the end of this article.
Morning Plans at Animal Kingdom
Need coffee? There’s a Starbucks in the park located on Discovery Island. Head left at the Tree of Life. It’s located between Pandora and Africa and is called Creature Comforts.
When you arrive, make a decision based on your party’s interests and ages. Your first stop should be either Flight of Passage in Pandora or Kilimanjaro Safari in Africa. Flight of Passage has a minimum height of 44″ so keep that in mind. Kilimanjaro Safari is a great one to hit in the morning because the animals are more active earlier in the day. Photos will be better.
Rope Drop at Pandora
People waiting for rope drop (AKA, park opening) at the entrance to Pandora, will then proceed as a line all the way to Flight of Passage. It will be a long line, but it will move continuously.
Flight of Passage is consistently popular with longer wait times (and worth the wait!) which is why I recommend this method to get on it. If you have folks in your crowd who will need a midday break that is partially sheltered you can opt to move this to afternoon. The wait will be longer, but a large part of the queue is indoors. If you don’t mind slowing down midday, it can be a nice pause.
After you’ve ridden Flight of Passage take a peek at Na’vi River Journey. The wait time is usually high in the morning from folks riding Flight of Passage and trying to “finish” the land.
If you’ve got a party of able-bodied people who don’t mind trekking back across the park you can save it for later and plan for lunch at Satu’li Canteen (one of my favorites). You won’t be sorry.
Move on to Africa now. There are two main things you’ll want to do here. The first is to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris. Second, you’ll want to jump on the Wildlife Express Train. It leaves from Africa and heads to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
To be honest, there isn’t a ton to do here because of Covid closures. But it is still worth the trip. On the train ride you can catch glimpses of some of the animal “barns” where they often keep baby animals.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Once you get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch you have three things to do:
- Learn cartooning at the Animation Experience. I learned how to draw Simba. The cartoonist’s instructions are easy to follow and I promise you’ll be impressed with the outcome!
- Complete some badge work in your Wilderness Explorer book.
- Check out the live vet area. You’ll be able to see animals being examined and treated. We learned a ton about how Disney takes care of all the species on property.
Midday Animal Kingdom Touring Plan
Amazingly enough, by this time you’ll have hit midday! Told you this was a big park. Here’s the deal: If you are planning to ride Expedition Everest, do it before you eat lunch! You don’t want to be the cause of a “cleaning” related ride shutdown.
If your party is made up of adults or older teens, you can often significantly shorten ride wait times by joining the Single Rider line.
Lunch Spots in Animal Kingdom
Being in Africa will have you between Pandora and Asia. These are where some of my favorite food options are so you’re in luck.
Satu’li Canteen in Pandora is a great choice for quick service food. You can get bowls with grain and meat. There are options for vegetarians here as well.
Nearby is Pongu Pongu, which carries mostly beverages. The nonalcoholic Nightshade Blossom Drink may be my favorite in any Disney park. It’s layers of Apple and Desert Pear Limeade topped with Passion Fruit Boba Balls and it’s delicious.
If you’re looking for a sit down meal I’d highly recommend Yak & Yeti in Asia. The menu is extremely allergy friendly.
Desserts in Animal Kingdom
After lunch is a great time to explore some of the walking trails in Animal Kingdom. I mean you need to make room for a great mid-afternoon dessert right? The Discovery Island Trails or the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail in Africa are good options.
After you’ve burned some calories and seen some animals, head into the Tree of Life to view “It’s Tough to Be a Bug.” Timing this for the afternoon is clutch for a few reasons. First, you’ll have the opportunity to cool down a bit indoors and second, you’ll stay dry if one of those infamous midday Florida downpours happens.
Speaking of staying dry, if you plan to ride Kali River Rapids do it in the afternoon. It will be hottest/sunniest then and you’ll dry off faster.
Late Afternoon/Evening Animal Kingdom Itinerary
After your little break head on over to DinoLand U.S.A. to ride DINOSAUR.
Heads up: This ride seems like it won’t be bad for kids, but it is dark, loud, and has flashing lights and imminent doom lurking around the corner for most of the ride. I’m not saying some kids won’t love it, I’m just saying be prepared. I took my tall daughter on it when she was about 4 and had forgotten how intense it was. She refused to ride the ride again for years. While in DinoLand you can also ride TriceraTop Spin.
If you’re sticking around for the Tree of Life Nighttime Awakenings show you may need dinner. Personally, I’m a sit down for lunch kind of gal. It’s the wallet friendly option. I leave dinner for quick service restaurants.
Everyone is different though, so if you’re looking for a table service meal, Rainforest Cafe, Yak & Yeti, and Tiffins are good options. The first two are more family friendly. Tiffins is on the fancier side of the spectrum.
For quick service options, Harambe Market has rib bowls and a pretty epic salad bowl with chicken. Yak & Yeti Local Cafe is also a great option with some faster versions of Yak & Yeti’s delicious menu.
After your meal, check out the Tree of Life. Check wait times on Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest if you’d like to ride again. While the light show is running sometimes the wait times are lower!
Animal Kingdom Attractions That are Currently Closed (December 2020)
Unfortunately, many of the shows and performances are temporarily unavailable at Animal Kingdom. Since a large number of the performers staffing them were recently laid off we don’t have a good estimate as to when (or if) they may be back up and running.
Character meet and greets around the park, from Pocahontas to Timon to Pandora Rangers, are also on hold. Instead, the characters float by on a river barge and wave, which is actually super cute but a little harder to plan for in your Animal Kingdom touring plan.
- Viva Gaia Street Band! Live Entertainment (Discovery Island)
- Pandora Drummers Swotu Waya Live Entertainment (Pandora- The World of Avatar)
- Festival of the Lion King Stage Show (Africa)
- Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe Live Entertainment (Africa)
- Affection Section (Rafiki’s Planet Watch)
- Bollywood Beats Live Entertainment (Asia)
- UP! A Great Bird Adventure (Asia)
- Donald’s Dino-Bash! (DinoLand U.S.A.)
- Finding Nemo The Musical Stage Show (DinoLand U.S.A.)
- The Boneyard (DinoLand U.S.A.)
- Primeval Whirl is permanently closed and the Rivers of Light show ended in early 2020.
Dining at Animal Kingdom: Temporarily Unavailable Locations (December 2020)
Animal Kingdom has 32 food service locations. At this time, 20 are open and the 12 listed below are temporarily unavailable. Be sure to plan your lunch break around an open restaurant when making your Animal Kingdom itinerary.
- Eight Spoon Cafe (Discovery Island)
- Pizzafari (Discovery Island)
- The Smiling Crocodile (Discovery Island)
- Terra Treats (Discovery Island)
- Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery (Africa)
- Mahindi (Africa)
- Tusker House Restaurant (Africa)
- Caravan Road (Asia)
- Warung Outpost (Asia)
- Dino Diner (DinoLand U.S.A.)
What is your favorite AK trick? Do you have a specific Animal Kingdom touring plan for your family? We share some more secrets and lesser known Animal Kingdom tips in this post.