Top 9 Things to Do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Before Animal Kingdom got a boost with the (fairly) new arrival of “Pandora: The World of Avatar”, it was largely regarded as the “park to skip” if you were in a time crunch. While I can agree that Pandora has become the “main attraction,” so to speak, there are plenty of other great things to do during your visit to the park.
Without further ado, here are my “Top 9 things to do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!”
- Expedition Everest – While it’s probably a little hard to rank many of these attractions, and I’ll be going mostly with the “in no particular order” strategy of listing, there really is NO DOUBT what is number one. Expedition Everest is a thrilling roller coaster ride themed to, what else, Mount Everest. The coaster goes up, down, and even backwards as you try to avoid the Yeti, who appears in both shadow and animatronic form. This ride is not only the best at Animal Kingdom, but is also a definite contender for the best ride in all of Walt Disney World and should not be skipped by anyone during their visit.
2. Dinosaur – Another of our favorite rides is located, fittingly, in a section of the park called “Dinoland U.S.A.” The ride’s premise sees a rogue paleontologist sending you back to the Cretaceous Period to retrieve a Dinosaur known as the “Iguanadon.” What follows is a fun, albeit bumpy, dark ride where you encounter many elaborate Dinosaur animatronics while trying to complete your mission. Also, though I am a pretty big Indiana Jones fan, this ride dwarfs its Disneyland counterpart (Indiana Jones Adventure) in both fun and theming.
3. Restaurants – Though there are several to choose from, I’ll narrow this section down to three (yes, I’m cheating a little here).
- Flame Tree Barbecue – I had heard about Flame Tree Barbecue being one of the more popular quick-serve restaurants at Walt Disney World for quite some time. Somehow, I had gone several years without giving it a try. I’ve never really seen myself as big barbecue fan so this place always has been put on the back burner. BIG MISTAKE. I finally dined on some of their delicious ribs on our most recent trip and, needless to say, I’m hooked. Just take a look at this video of making a mess and not even caring! This dining experience will definitely big a staple of all future trips to Animal Kingdom.
- Satu’li Canteen – Located in “Pandora – The World of Avatar” is a new restaurant that is truly a revelation. On our last two trips, my wife and I have eaten there multiple times on each vacation. They are well-known for their “Cheeseburger Pods,” but so far my wife and I haven’t been able to deviate from their delicious Tofu Bowls. She’s a vegetarian and I’m not, so that should tell you how good these things are if I’m going veggie every visit.
- Dawa Bar – Dawa is an African-inspired bar that serves African beer and any specialty cocktails. As a Blood Mary enthusiast, I was very interested to try theirs and they did not disappoint (even though I had to go with just a regular offering because they were low on ingredients). I would say they were the best Bloody Marys I had ever had up to the point. Unfortunately, quality dipped on a subsequent visit, but I’m hoping that was just a one time thing and not the new normal.
4. Kilamanjaro Safaris – This is a safari-themed tour which takes you on a ride through the Disney constructed replica of an African landscape featuring animals indigenous to that area. It really is just a simple ride through (there was used to be a “theme” that had you going after poachers, but that was dropped) where you get to see animals that may or may not be visible depending on the time you journey through. It’s a relaxing ride that allows you to enjoy the African wilderness without detriment of long plane ride.
5. The Tree of Life – The “Tree of Life” is an artificial tree located near the entrance of Animal Kingdom, that serves as the park’s icon. It’s a site to behold due to its grand size and the intricate carvings of various animals in the trunk. No Animal Kingdom visit is complete without taking a photo in front of it! (And there is a new nighttime projection show on the Tree of Life called the Tree of Life Awakenings that shouldn’t be missed as well.)
6. Finding Nemo: The Musical – This is a condensed, approximately 45 minute version, of the Finding Nemo tale. If I’m being honest, this is probably my favorite of all of the mini stage shows that are performed across Walt Disney World’s parks. You would think that seeing performers running around holding up puppets on sticks would take you out of it a bit. It doesn’t. That’s how good these people are at what they do. This show is a lot of fun and, although it’s not a must-do for EVERY visit, it’s definitely worth checking out.
7. Pandora – The World of Avatar – Though it’s still relatively new, Pandora has already become one of the more popular attractions of Walt Disney World. Their signature ride, “Flight of Passage” is considered by many to be the best theme park ride in Florida, not just at Disney. That may be farther than I’m willing to go, but I will admit that it is thrilling and does not at all disappoint. Its sister ride, the “Na’vi River Journey” is a simple boat ride, but it’s also well done and fun for what it is. The aforementioned Satu’li Canteen is also located here. I’m not a huge Avatar fan, so the scenery surrounding the attractions doesn’t excite me as much as it may others, but this area is still worth the price of admission all by itself.
8. Walking Trails and Animal Exhibits – While I’d hesitate to liken Animal Kingdom to a proper “zoo” there are plenty of opportunities to just walk around and look at the animals. The Discovery Island Trails, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and my personal favorite – the monkeys near the Asia section of the park (just to name a few) give you a great sight-seeing experience.
9. Character Meet and Greets – My wife and I are probably not the age demographic for meeting the costumed characters around the park, but we don’t care. It can be a blast if you know how to interact with them. There are often characters that you can not meet at any other park (Russell from “Up!,” Flik from “A Bug’s Life” and Tarzan just to name a few), but you can also meet the classic characters such as Mickey and Minnie in safari attire. I highly recommend the character meet and greets for great photo ops and fun!
So there you have it! Did I miss anything? Let us know what you would add or subtract or any recommendations that YOU may have for US!