A lot of thrill seekers tend to skip Animal Kingdom thinking this theme park has nothing to offer them. In reality, Walt Disney World in general, and Animal Kingdom in particular, are full of options that are sure to please even the most dedicated thrill seeker. Animal Kingdom is a groundbreaking new park, which shattered stereotypes of both theme parks and zoos. Animal Kingdom is an adventure park, where excitement lurks around every corner.
Animal Kingdom, like all Disney parks, is divided into a series of themed lands. The lands are: The Oasis, Discovery Island, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Asia, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and Dinoland USA. Each of these areas contains a variety of attractions that will appeal to the active thrill seeker. Virtually every land contains walking trails as well, which lead to animal habitats. Take the time to explore the trails.
This area serves as the transition from the real world into the exotic. Check out the winding paths for close encounters with a wide variety of animals. Eventually you will find yourself in Discovery Island, which serves as the hub of the entire park.
The major attraction here is Its Tough to Be a Bug, housed inside the iconic Tree of Life. This 4-D attraction takes you into the world of insects. Be prepared for some surprises!
*Tip* Take some time out for a closer look at the Tree of Life. Rumor has it that 320 distinct animals are carved into the Tree.
Camp Minnie Mickey
At first glance, this summer-camp themed area appears to be nothing more than a character greeting locale. Looks can be deceiving, however, as this land is home to one of Disney’s most spectacular shows. Do Not Miss the Festival of the Lion King. Part Broadway-quality song and dance, part Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics, this tribute to the film is one of the top 5 must-do attractions in all of Disney.
The must-do attraction here is Kilimanjaro Safaris. This two-week safari adventure (which is so exciting it feels like only 20 minutes) takes you inside the Harambe Wildlife Preserve. Sit in the back of the jeep for maximum thrills.
*Tip* The animals are most active early in the morning and late in the afternoon. They tend to retreat into the shade during the hot afternoons, making them harder to spot.
*Tip* Many of the animals stampede just prior to a thunderstorm, and the effect is quite thrilling to see. If you can time it right, you may just catch a stampede. Be prepared though, if the storm starts while you are on the trail, you WILL get wet.
This land is home to two of Animal Kingdom’s premier thrill rides, the Expedition Everest coaster and Kali River Rapids. Both rides offer Disney’s signature blend of exciting high-speed thrills and a seamlessly integrated storyline.
*Tip* Expedition Everest Fast Passes are extremely popular, and on busy days may be completely gone by 10 am. If you want Fast Passes, head to Everest early to get them.
*Tip* Expedition Everest, like most coasters, offers the most extreme G-forces and air time in the back row. However, the views are by far superior in the front row. Ride both if you have the time.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Though no traditional thrills are offered here, Rafiki’s is still worth a visit if you have the time. This area, accessible only by Wildlife Train, provides a behind the scenes look at animal care. If you are interested in animals and how they are provided for at the park, take the time to visit.
*Tip* Medical procedures from routine physicals to surgery can be viewed through a glass wall, and are fully narrated by a Cast Member. Procedures usually take place in the mornings, so arrive early.
*Tip* The animals in the Affection Section petting zoo have an interesting back story. Ask a Cast Member for more information.
*Tip* If you like Hidden Mickeys, be sure to check out the elaborate wall mural in the main building. Literally dozens of Hidden Mickeys are hiding within.
This land is home to two of Animal Kingdom’s legendary thrill rides, Dinosaur! and the Primeval Whirl. The land is divided into two distinct sections, Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama midway area, and the more research-oriented Dino Institute.
Primeval Whirl can be found in the midway section. This wild-mouse style spinning coaster is deceptive, as on first glance it appears to be a kiddie coaster. Looks are again deceiving, however, as the coaster actually rivals the thrills of the Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain.
Dinosaur! is housed inside the Dino Institute. This technologically advanced thrill ride combines a track-based ride layout with elements of motion simulator and animatronic technologies, in a race against the clock to save a dinosaur from asteroid impact. This ride is one of the most thrilling in all of Disney World.
Animal Kingdom is a different type of theme park, and must be considered from that perspective. Some dismiss it as a half-day park, claiming that it is not worth the price of admission. However, some of Disney’s best thrills can be found here. The wildlife habitats are among the best in the world. If you are interested in animals, nature, and the cultures of the world, as well as in riding some of the premier thrill rides in the Orlando area, Animal Kingdom will surprise you. Spend a day exploring the park, and you will find that the thrills and excitement are well worth your time.