Walt Disney World, the most magical place on earth! But it can be a total nightmare if not done correctly. We have held season passes for the last 2 years as well as lived within 8 miles of the park entrance and when in Orlando we go daily to the parks. Here is what we have learned and hopefully it will help you in your trip planning! I will write this in a series starting with my favorite park!
Animal Kingdom – oh the beauty of this park! It is visually just stunning. From the architecture to the plants. you truly feel like you are walking into other countries- dust, dirt, weather prayer flags, burnt out lights (on purpose) and all! It is magical!
Let’s list the must do’s and do not’s of Animal Kingdom
1) Don’t waste time standing in line for rides. Every time we have gone to Animal Kingdom to just let the kids go on rides we go 2 hours before close and make our way against the stream of those leaving the park to the back (where the rides are). For some reason the parks always clear out 2 hours before close (with minor exceptions). Animal Kingdom is the earliest park to close due to the animals sleeping schedules, (although they are about to launch a night time festival). But, don’t even waste time standing in a line go later to the rides and you will have much more fun. My kids have gone on Expedition Everest 12x in on evening just by going in the last hour. I swear. TRUST ME!
2.) There is a difference between Rafiki’s Wildlife Express Train and the Kilimanjaro Safari. I can’t tell you how many people we have talked too that were disappointed because they thought they were taking the Safari ride and ended up on the Wildlife Express Train. Let me take a second to explain the difference.
–RAFIKI’S WILD LIFE EXPRESS TRAIN: This is a train that takes you to a small science center. It is a working lab. It has a small petting zoo with goats that love to ram each other and be silly like goats are. It has some life bird shows. It is also a great place for a few meet and greet with characters without lines.
–KILIMANJARO SAFARI: This is what people think of when they think of Animal Kingdom and a must see! This is a ride in a big jeep like rig that takes you back through the “African Savanna”. Here you will see lions, giraffes, hippos, beautiful birds and other exotic animals. This is a MUST SEE.
NOTE: The animals go to bed early and the ride typically stops going at 4pm (and by then most of the animals are already put up for the night). So, go early and don’t miss this!
3) Eats: I can’t say Disney has the best food in the world. It is basically cafeteria style food. But there are deals to be had. I am a huge fan of eating at the parks vs carrying a huge backpack full of food. It really ruins a day hauling that stuff around. Here are some of our go-to eateries. NOTE: Animal Kingdom doesn’t allow lids on cup drinks nor do they have plastic straws, they use paper straws- it is to protect the wildlife. ALSO, water at ANY PARK is free. Just go up to any restaurant window and ask for a cup of water. Bottled water can range from $2.50-$4.00 for a SMART water. So get a cup of water!
–RESTAURANTOSAURUS: Located in DinoLand Restaurant”OSAURUS” is a huge inside/outside cafeteria style dining area. There are 2 awesome things about his location. First, it has unlimited refills. PERFECT for the heat of Florida. It is a great place to sit outside as the kids explore DinoLand and sip on some cold drinks. The second thing about this restaurant is that it has a “fixings” bar. If you get a burger or chicken sandwich or anything else, you can go to the fixings bar and load up on everything from grilled onions to mushrooms and tomatoes. I personally don’t like the hamburgers at Disney parks, but I will leave that judgment up to you. I go for the bean burger and take off the bun and load it up with fixings and have a bean burger salad.
–PIZZAFARI: As you enter the parks you will cross the river and be looking at the “Tree of Life” from here go left. Pizzafari is just down the path on the left hand side. They just redid this whole restaurant and I personally think the food was better prior to reno- but it is still a filling, cheap stop. Here you can get a personal pizza (4 small slices) and a side salad for under $10 plus you can add a pop for about $3. This location doesn’t have free refills, but we would go get 2 pizzas, one drink, 3 waters and the side salads and it would fill our family for under $25.
SPECIAL NOTE: Try to eat off hours. If you show up at Restaurantosours at noon you will wait FOREVER! If you show up at 1:40, you will walk up. This goes for all restaurants and for the more costly sit down ones, MAKE A RESERVATION that morning! They book up especially during the busy season but even in the off season.
4) The MUST SEE SHOWS: Remember Disney is a theme park, not an amusement park. This can lead to some being disappointed. Although Animal Kingdom has the best rides of the parks (IMO) it also has the best show of any park.
–FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING: I can honestly say I have seen this show no less than 40 times. It is by FAR the best show of any park. It has amazing costumes, amazing energy and amazing music. It last about 35 minutes and the theater is darkened. The music is loud and all songs are from the Lion King movie. It is brilliantly executed and choreographed. If you do NOTHING ELSE at Animal Kingdom, do this! There have been many times where we just went to the park just to go to the show, again. Even our baby loves it! Her first show was at 7 weeks and she has never looked back. She gets up and dances and claps and screams. It is fantastic.
-Street Shows: There are several areas around Animal Kingdom there are street shows of music and dance. You will see these just randomly passing by. Stop, watch, move on. They are great and lively and allow for a some culture education.
–Finding Nemo– The Musical: I don’t want to be a hater, but this is not my favorite show. Mainly because Nemo had no real soundtrack- so it doesn’t feel like you are part of anything energetic. It runs the basic story-line and the costumes and the stage are cool. But the music gets repetitive. If you have smaller children they will like it. I would suggest getting there a bit early and trying to sit down closer to the stage as the dancers will come into the crowd in the first sections and kids love that.
5) Must Do Rides: There are some really fun rides at Animal Kingdom.
– EXPEDITION EVEREST: Our 3rd daughter was actually named after this ride, well her middle name, Everest. My older girls just loved the name and the power and meaning behind it and it is just an awesome ride! It really isn’t too scary but if your child gets scared on rides, you may want to do it first before they puke all over the seats! It does go backwards and it does have a huge “big foot” reaching down to the track as you zoom by.
–PRIMEVAL WHIRL: This small roller coaster is located in DinoLand, but don’t let the size fool you- it is 100% fun! It zips you around and spins you crazy. It is a favorite of my whole family!
-KALI RIVER RAPIDS: Now we need to have a heart to heart here… If you are one of the people who think they need a poncho to do a water ride in Florida, you have something wrong with you! It is Florida after all!!! You will most likely get wet, possibly drenched. There is a waterfall you go down near the end (3/4 though) and if you are going backwards down the fall you will be WET! But this is part of it, and wearing a poncho just makes you look like a sissy. Enjoy the experience. I personally like to hit this ride more to the end of the day so I don’t have to walk around in wet clothes. It would be a good idea to wear quick drying clothes and maybe even a swim suit for kids. There is also a bridge that you can go on and watch the loading and unloading of the ride and spray the people getting off with water guns. Many times my husband and I just went to this bridge and the girls went around and around.