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Disney Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park: Experience Nature Like Never Before

Animal Kingdom Entrance

Disney’s Animal Kingdom combines traditional zoo elements and incredible theming into a magical mix that only Disney could come up with. As you enter the park, you’ll get lost in the winding jungle pathways of lush foliage before reaching the Tree of Life, the park’s centerpiece. The tree is surrounded by live animal exhibits and is hand-carved with thousands of different animals. Speaking of animals, Animal Kingdom features Kilimanjaro Safaris, a safari ride that is about the closest you’ll get to a real Safari without having to fly to Africa. The safari is so big, the entire Magic Kingdom Park could fit inside of it!

There are more animals to be encountered throughout the park, but there are also incredible rides that top the “best of Disney” list.  These rides are scattered throughout the park’s immersive lands, including Africa, Asia, and Pandora: The World of Avatar, which do an amazing job showing the culture of their respective origins. Disney Imagineers spent time traveling the globe to obtain culturally relevant information and artifacts to include in the park, which is why it feels so rich and authentic. The park combines aspects of both real-world and mythical creatures and cultures which results in an amazing blend of experiences. Let’s take a deeper look into the different lands and offerings of Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

Discovery Island

Discover Island Tree of Life

Serving as the entry to the park and its central hub, Discovery Island’s main point of emphasis is the Tree of Life. The tree, actually constructed from a recycled oil rig, features It’s Tough to Be a Bug, a 3D show inside the base of its trunk! The characters from Pixar's Bugs Life movie showcase their talents in an entertaining show, but one small part of the show can be a little intense beyond what some families expect, so be warned if your little ones are particularly sensitive! 

The main draw of the Tree of Life are its winding pathways which feature various animal exhibits, from kangaroos to tortoises. As you travel along these quiet paths, be sure to look up to appreciate all the amazing hand-carved detail in the tree itself.

Discovery Island also has some of Animal Kingdom’s best food options, both for quick service and full service. Flame Tree Barbecue is always a top pick for me, and its dining area behind the restaurant provides amazing views of Expedition Everest back in Asia. Tiffins Restaurant offers a full dining experience and more exotic flavors and is a great option for foodies. It also features the Nomad Lounge, which is a great place to stop and rest while enjoying an alcoholic drink.

At night, the Tree of Life lights up as part of the Tree of Life Awakenings show. Though not quite a nighttime spectacular like other parks, the projections mapped onto the tree cycle through short stories about animals, which can be a nice ending to the day.

Pandora: The World of Avatar

 Pandora World of Avatar

Journey straight into the world of James Cameron’s Avatar movie to arrive on Pandora. The story goes that a scientific research team has teamed up with a space tourism company called Alpha Centauri Expeditions to bring visitors from Earth to the alien planet. The land is filled with lush alien fauna and beautiful floating mountains that are sure to amaze. The land also features two different attractions!

Navi River Journey is a slow-moving dark boat ride that takes guests through the bioluminescent jungle rivers to meet the Navi Shaman, one of the most advanced animatronics ever created. The ride is a great fit for everyone in your party but is rather short ride compared to other Disney boat rides.

Flight of Passage is the best overall attraction at Disney World. Starting in the queue as visitors make their way through the jungle, past waterfalls, through caverns, and into the research facility, the experience is simply magnificent. The ride itself will take you on an adventure on the back of a flying banshee as you swoop and soar through Pandora to take in the sights and sounds. The ride itself features incredible movements, smells, wind, and water to make it truly feel like you’re flying. The experience is an absolute can’t miss – so don’t let a long wait time dissuade you from riding.

As icing on the cake, Pandora features some great food offerings. The Night Blossom frozen beverage is a fan-favorite, but the true gem is Satu'li Canteen. The “build your own bowl” style of dining is very fresh and tasty and is far higher quality than typical theme park food.

Pandora is just as beautiful during the day as it is at night. Make sure you stick around until after dark to see how every aspect of Pandora lights up from the ground you walk on to the floating mountains.


Venture into the African village of Harambe for a chance to encounter many of your favorite animals up close. Kilimanjaro Safaris takes guests on a guided safari through the multiple ecosystems with free-roaming animals. Lions, zebras, rhinos, and giraffe are just a few of the creatures you’re likely to encounter. If you didn’t get enough, you can head down the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail to see additional animals, including the Silverback gorillas.

Festival of the Lion King

Africa also features Festival of the Lion King, one of the best live shows at the Walt Disney World Resort. The show features mixed-media performances including dancers, gymnasts, and danger acts, all orchestrated by characters from the Lion King. Shows run about every hour or so, so be sure to stop by!  Of course the Finding Nemo The Musical is also up there as one of the best live shows, but Disney is currently reimagining the show and we're anxiously waiting to see what they came up with.

If you have younger kids, a visit to Rafiki’s Planet watch is a great option. You’ll hop on board the Wildlife Express Train and be whisked back to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, an area featuring a petting zoo, live animation classes, and an animal hospital. Vets will perform live procedures on animals that reside throughout the park in the view of guests. If that interests you, be sure to catch the first train of the day as procedures happen mostly in the morning, though it’s not guaranteed something will happen every day.


 Expedition Everest

Asia, located at the back of the park, contains a wide variety of rides, live entertainment, and animal encounters. The whole land is themed after different places in Asia but focuses on inspiration from Nepal, Bangladesh, and India. Standing as a park icon and the backdrop of the land is Expedition Everest, a roller coaster that takes you straight up the mountain for an encounter with the legendary Yeti. The theming on the coaster is awesome, and features multiple elements (including moving backwards!) that make it a unique thrill ride.

Speaking of thrill rides, you can test your luck on Kali River Rapids, a runaway family raft ride that will leave you wet and sometimes soaked. There’s a short plunge along the beautiful path of rapids that gives riders about a one in three shot of getting soaked, so plan accordingly.

Asia also has great live entertainment in the form of Chakranadi performed by a talented musician playing a sitar. There's also a more formal stage show called Feathered Friends in Flight that can be enjoyed by all ages. The comedic performance showcases various bird species and some clever tricks that sometimes require audience participation. If you want to be picked, be sure to be enthusiastic and sit towards the back of the venue.

Lastly, Asia also is home to Maharajah Jungle Trek, a walk-through path where guests can encounter tigers, monkeys, and various birds in the aviary. The whole path is very tranquil, so it’s a good spot to take a bit of a break from the theme park crowds.

Dinoland USA

Chester and Hester’s gas station was quickly turned into a roadside attraction once visitors started flocking to the area after dinosaur bones were found at the nearby Dino Institute (so the story goes). Though the land lacks a lot of the charm of other parts of the park, it is still home to a great attraction: Dinosaur. The bumpy ride will transport you back in time to save the last dinosaur from extinction. Along the way, you might pass some scary dinosaurs, so be aware if your younger kids are sensitive to fast moving rides primarily in the dark. Though this is the scariest ride on Disney Property, it also also one of the coolest.

Another perk of Dinoland that is often overlooked is the Boneyard play area, which gives kids a chance to burn off some energy in the playground and dig up some dinosaur bones at the dig site. Dinoland is also a great place to meet some characters, so keep an eye out for them!

Go on the Wild Africa Trek for the Ultimate Disney Experience

Wild Africa Trek

The Wild Africa Trek is a privately guided VIP adventure that gives you an up close look at the exotic animals in Disney's Animal Kingdom. Guests are able to explore the Harambe Reserve on foot and safari vehicle where they are likely to come across giraffes, lions, elephants, and other exotic animals in their natural habitats. The Wild Africa Trek is led by experienced guides who are passionate about both animals and conservation, and the entire experience is designed to educate and entertain guests. Whether you're looking for thrills or simply want to learn more about these amazing creatures, Disney's Wild Africa Trek is sure to be the highlight of your visit to Disney's Animal Kingdom.

It's important to note that this 3 hour adventure is not included in your theme park admission (required) and each guest will need to pay a separate fee to participate in this tour. There are a limited number of time slots and guest spots, so advanced reservations are required. Due to the nature of this adventure, there are age and other requirements each guest needs to know about before hand. Visit the official Walt Disney World Resort website for the most current information before booking this adventure.

Disney's Animal Kingdom is a Beautiful Park with Some of the Best Rides!

The entire Animal Kingdom park has an atmosphere that sets it apart from other theme parks. It's full of beautiful landscaping, quiet corners, and beautiful architecture that can be a relaxing oasis from the chaos of the tightly packed crowds in the Magic Kingdom. Though it doesn’t have as many rides as the other parks, the ones it does have are top tier. Add in all of the amazing animal encounters you can have on the safari and throughout the park, Disney's Animal Kingdom park could quickly become your favorite Disney theme park.  

Updated: August 2, 2022

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