Animal Kingdom: An Overview

by 3/22/2015 09:51:00 AM 0 comments
It must be Animal Kingdom if someone snaps your picture in front of the big fake ficus.

Ok, it's time to stop ignoring the elephant in the room. As far as the 4 parks in Disney World go, Animal Kingdom is typically voted the least favorite. Which sounds bad at first but in reality it's like asking someone their least favorite way to be given a hundred dollars. Whether it's a pair of 50s, some 20s, a roll of 1s or a single bill, you still just got $100 dollars. Quit complaining. Animal Kingdom is kinda like that to me; of 4 amazingly awesome places, it's the least amazingly awesome. But still amazingly awesome.

Make a ROAR face he said, It'll be fun he said.

A lot of Disney World visitors like to think that there's just not a lot of things to do in Animal Kingdom, and going into it as a first timer I had to agree. After visiting the park, however, I realize I went about it all wrong. While there aren't a lot of things to do there, you can do a lot of things. Confused yet? Awesome, stick around.


Pluto's naked.

Animal Kingdom is kind of split up into four different themed regions. You enter into Discovery Island where the Tree of Life is located. To the north you have Africa, east of that is Asia, and in the southeast corner is Dinoland. These three areas branch off of Discovery Island, so it's pretty much the center of the park and is loaded with dining, shopping and lots of animals. Since everything branches off of it you will have to pass through it at least twice when you visit the park, so when you tell your kids "no, not right now" just remember you'll pass those same vendors on the way out. Hope you've still got that $100 we talked about before. Remember I said animals? Discovery Island is loaded with animal encounters if avoid the masses take the less crowded side paths like we did. Take your time walking around...unless you have a breakfast reservation.


Somewhere in Africa...
Since our breakfast reservation was in the African section of the park, when planning out our fast passes for the day I decided our first ride should be a trip on the Kilimanjaro Safari. I figured after having eaten our weight in waffles and sausage a less thrilling attraction would be in order. After the Safari I planned for us to make out way towards Asia and ride the most exciting ride of the park, the Expedition Everest roller coaster. Following Everest, and heading clockwise around the Island, we hit up Kali River Rapids twice and had soggy feet the rest of the day. All of this went according to my planning, as I got fast passes for all 3 rides before noon. They were about an hour apart so we would have time to explore the park on the way to our next destination. We finished out our day down in Dinoland with its "carnival midway" theme and rode the Primeval Whirl, Dinosaur and the Triceratops Spin. We left the park before dinner. We were hot, tired and jungle rot was setting in.


The poorest framed photo ever.

I know. I know. I said there wasn't a lot to do in Animal Kingdom, then I named off two roller coasters, an actual ride in an actual jeep through a simulated safari, a float ride through rapids, a triceratops themed clone of the Dumbo ride and a dark ride that sends you back to the time of the dinosaurs and leaves you with more back pain than a visit to an amateur chiropractor. All of that may seem like a full day, but let's talk about what we did in between those rides. Remember, Animal Kingdom is at its core, a zoo. So there are lots of animals to see. There are three different trails you can take located in Discovery Island, Africa and Asia. Each of these paved walking paths provide unique views of the park and its wild inhabitants. The Discovery Island trails are the first that everyone comes to. They interconnect and meander through the area under the big Tree of Life. Africa has the Pangani Forest trail. It circles through some of the land used in the Safari and is primarily known for it's gorilla viewing. Lastly, the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia is the best place to get a close up view of tigers. We hit up each of these trails throughout the day and there are many more critters to be seen and photographed than what I mentioned. Somewhere along the way I remember otters, gators, fruit bats and my wife being attacked by one of the hundred different species of free roaming birds. It's a lot of walking but totally worth it.

No, Keaton. You can't keep her.

While you're going on all these trails or just shambling about the different areas of Animal Kingdom you will see people dressed up like Wilderness Explorers out of the movie "Up". This Wilderness Explorer Program is another interactive experience to do in the park. As soon as you enter Discovery Island you will find an Explorer handing out little booklets. Then, scattered throughout the park, are 30 activities to complete with other Wilderness Explorers so you can fill your booklet with stickers. These activities range from listening to a stream of facts while your kids try to run off, to maintaining your sanity as an Explorer turns 6 kids loose on percussion instruments native to the region. Where's the badge for that? While we didn't get all the stickers (the kids were tired and had lost interest), if you start this earlier in the day you might have better luck.

Get a load of those choppers, will ya?

Now, let's look at what we didn't do at Animal Kingdom. The shows. Animal Kingdom has two of the best stage shows in all of Disney World. Nemo the musical, which I keep hearing is amazing, and The Lion King which from what I've seen seems to be part circus act and part broadway musical. There is also the 3D/animatronic Tough to be a Bug show. That one was down for refurbishment when we went or I would have insisted on seeing it. The last thing we didn't do was to ride the train. Located in Africa, not far from the Safari, is the Wildlife Express train that takes you off to Rafiki's Planet Watch. There you will find Affection Section, a small petting zoo type area, and you might even catch a medical procedure at Conservation Station. This is one that has to be planned into a trip as the time between trains can cause problems with reservations or fast passes. The one show we did make it to was the Flights of Wonder show featuring an assortment of trained birds and one severely untrained tour guide. It's educational, entertaining and depending on where you sit, terrifying! I absolutely have to recommend this show to everyone. It was probably my favorite experience in all of the park, and one I feel gets missed too often.

Boston with his hero, Dug.

So while there may not be as many things to do in Animal Kingdom, one can do many things there. From the thrill rides, to the walking trails, musicals, shopping, dining, and midway games in Dinoland, Animal Kingdom can be a full day's worth of fun if its done right. Which we didn't. Because of the jungle rot.




Mikey Whisenhunt

Pseudo-blogger, Dad, Husband, Disnerd

I'm Mike. I'm a married father of 3 boys. When not at work I spend my spare time talking my wife into Disney trips.

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