What You Need to Know for a Great Day at Animal Kingdom
Updated: Feb 26, 2020
Our family loves to visit all of the #DisneyParks and we want to share what we’ve learned over the years to help other families plan the #BestVacationEver. In this blog, we’re going to talk about our best #DisneyTips for #AnimalKingdom in Walt Disney World (WDW). You can also check out our blog about 10 essential things to pack for a day in the Disney Parks while you are here. And don't forget to download our free packing list for Disney Parks at the end of this blog.
Your visit to Animal Kingdom will start with planning the day that you will visit the park. We recommend going to WDW during the least crowded times, which are generally late fall, early December and late January thru early March. Steer clear of summertime and school breaks like Christmas Break and Spring Break if you want to avoid crowds. When you buy your tickets you will want to consider if you really need the park hopper option or if one park per day will work for your family. We suggest a minimum of 4 days total and visiting one park per day since it is less expensive to buy non-hopper tickets. We believe 4 days is not long enough so if you can stay longer you should absolutely do that. On our most recent trip, we did 7 days in the WDW parks. We spent 2 days each at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. We also spent 1 day at Epcot. If you click the affiliate link below or on the side for CityPASS and search Orlando you will find ticket deals for WDW and package tickets for other attractions in Orlando too. CityPASS is a great way to #SaveMoneyOnTravel in all major cities around the world.
Book Fastpasses 30 to 60 Days Before Your Visit
Your next step in planning a great day at Animal Kingdom will be to book your fastpasses. If you stay on Disney property you can book these 60 days before your visit and if you stay off-property you can book fastpasses 30 days before your visit. We have put together our list of the #BestFastpasses to help you navigate these important decisions. You can book 3 pre-selected fastpasses per day of your trip but when you have completed those 3 you can book more fastpasses from your mobile device while you are in the park if there are any still available.
Tier 1 Fastpasses – You can choose one of these
Avatar Flight of Passage – We would have loved to book this as a fastpass but at 30 days out this one was not available. Perhaps you could book this if you stay on Disney property and have the ability to book fastpasses 60 days prior to your tip. We have also heard you can rope-drop this attraction. That means you arrive about a half hour before the park opens and begin waiting in line prior to park opening to beat the crowds. For our family getting up early and being tired is not the best way to experience a magical day, ha! Some friends of ours recently visited Animal Kingdom and were able to ride Flight of Passage by getting in the regular line around 5:30pm. They said the wait time posted was 105 min but they actually only waited 60 min. They felt the one hour wait was worth it for this awesome new ride.
Na’Vi River Journey – Yes, we booked this as a fastpass both days at Animal Kingdom. We loved the new Pandora World of Avatar and we were blown away at the huge thing that seems to hang in the air (whatever that thing is called I don’t know). We were very excited to ride the Na’Vi River Journey but we were a bit underwhelmed by it. It was sort of like Pirates of the Caribbean since you ride in a boat. There were some neat plants along the way but it lacked a story and the huge creepy lady singing a song and waving her arms over us was not our cup of tea. So on our second day at Animal Kingdom, our kids said they would rather skip the Na’Vi River and go to the Dino Dig Boneyard instead of using our Na’Vi fastpasses. We all agreed that that was a good plan. We’ve included a portion of the ride in our video below (after the affiliate links at the bottom) so you can decide for yourself if it’s great or just okay.
Tier 2 Fastpasses – You can choose two of these
Kilimanjaro Safaris – Yes, we booked this for everyone in our party for both days we visited Animal Kingdom. This is one of our most favorite attractions at Animal Kingdom and the line can be very long so fastpasses were a must for us!
Expedition Everest – Yes, we booked this for the roller coaster riders in our party for both days we visited Animal Kingdom. Everest is the best roller coaster in Animal Kingdom in our big kid's opinions; they love it!
Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost – Yes, we booked this for the non-roller coaster riders on the second day we visited Animal Kingdom. Our youngest son and I enjoyed a short wait and an excellent visit with Mickey and Minnie. The adorable photo without a long wait was definitely worth a fastpass.
Festival of the Lion King – Yes, we booked this as a fastpass for the non-roller coasters riders in our group on our first day in the park. This is a sit-down show attraction so we got closer seats than the non-fastpass holders but it’s probably not worth a fastpass unless you have young kids and/or you don't care to ride roller coasters. This is a great show and we have watched it every time we have visited Animal Kingdom. Our boys especially enjoy the monkey gymnasts that you can see in our video below (coming soon).
Finding Nemo The Musical – No, you do not need a fastpass for this show. This is probably our favorite show in the park so we always go to see it but the theater is huge and the fastpass versus non-fastpass seats are not much different.
DINOSAUR – No, we did not book this as a fastpass. Our oldest boys did ride it the second day we visited Animal Kingdom. Later at night, close to the time for the nighttime show the line dropped and they rode this with a 20min wait time.
Primeval Whirl – No, we did not book this as a fastpass. Our oldest boys rode this the same night as they rode DINOSAUR. The wait time was only 20min because it was close to the nighttime show and people had gone over there to grab seats.
Kali River Rapids – No, it was early December when we went to WDW and it was cold that week so practically no one wanted to ride this water ride and get wet.
Rivers of Light – No, we did not book this as a fastpass. This is the evening show and we sat in the non-fastpass section and the viewing was good enough for us. Night shows aren’t our favorite attractions but this one was okay and we watched it the first night we visited Animal Kingdom and skipped it the second night.
It's Tough to Be A Bug – No, we did not book this as a fastpass. The wait time for this show is very short. We stood in line for a couple of minutes and sat near the front. This is a great little show so we recommend watching it. Just don’t waste a fastpass on it.
Our Favorite Attractions at Animal Kingdom
The Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest are definitely among our favorite attractions at Animal Kingdom. We also enjoy Finding Nemo The Musical and The Festival of the Lion King. The jungle trek in Asia and the exploration trail in Africa are neat and definitely worth checking out if you get a chance. These walk-through attractions are great when ride lines are long because the traffic keeps flowing and they don't seem crowded. Our boys also enjoy the DINOSAUR ride and Primeval Whirl so those coasters are both worth checking wait times and trying to ride them if you can. One of our favorite things to do for all ages is the Boneyard in Dinosaur Land USA. There is a playground on one side with huge slides and kids of all ages love it. The older kids play games of tag among the slides and steps. On the other half of the Boneyard, there is a huge digging pit where kids can dig up a fossilized mammoth. When our kids were babies and toddlers they enjoyed digging in the sand for hours and as they've gotten older they still love it. On our recent trip, our middle boys collaborated on building a big sand wall and then they enjoyed knocking it down together when the park was closing and we had to leave.
One thing we love on Disney days or other travel days is a large cooler bag and a tote bag for all of our stuff. If your kids have passed stroller age you might even carry a backpack with essentials for a Disney day. Amazon has some great Disney themed bags and if you click these links below we would be grateful! It will cost you nothing extra to shop from these link but we might earn a small commission to help us keep bringing you great Disney blogs. Thanks!
Great Food Deal and Where to Get Free Drink Refills
At most of the restaurants in WDW, the drinks you purchase are filled up behind the counter and then placed on your tray. So you can’t refill the beverages. However, there are a few special spots where the cast members give you empty cups and you get to fill up and refill your drinks during your meal. The drink refills are free at these restaurants for the duration of your meal so our frugal family of 6 took advantage of this deal and we wanted to share our secret drink spots knowledge. We also found a great deal on food in Animal Kingdom at the Eight Spoons Cafe in Asia. They serve Baked Mac & Cheese with Pulled Pork for only $6.29. It is an excellent and inexpensive meal that quickly became our meal of choice there. On our second day of consuming mac & cheese, my husband accidentally found free drink refills when he was hunting down a cheeseburger for our 8-yr-old son who will only eat cheeseburgers. Brian wandered over to the Restaurantosaurus in Dinoland USA and was pleasantly surprised to find a drink refill station. They also had great cheeseburgers but not baked mac & cheese so you’ll have to visit two restaurants for the best food and drink deals. My husband quickly came to tell us the good news about drink refills and my 16-yr-old son hightailed it over to Restaurantosaurus and enjoyed several refills of Coca-Cola while standing by the drink machine, ha!
For even more tips on saving money and cutting down wait times please check our 7 Secrets to Making the Most of a Disney Vacation.
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Free Packing List
We have created a free download with our Disney Parks packing checklist (see below). This list includes all of our 10 essential items for every family trip and our 10 essential items for Disney Parks. Some of the first 10 essential items will be necessary on your way to Disney such as movies and pool stuff (if you stay at a hotel) but those items can be left in the hotel on your actual park days. Some of the items on the essentials list like snacks, a great camera and first aid supplies should be on your list of things to bring into the parks each day. All 20 items are good to bring along on most any family trip but they are particularly great on a Disney trip.
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