Disney World Animal Kingdom Two Day Touring Plan
Animal Kingdom is Walt Disney World’s newest park. Part zoo, part theme park, Animal Kingdom is truly one of a kind. The park is often maligned as a half-day “waste of money,” primarily by those who do not understand the history of Animal Kingdom. Low on thrill rides, but heavy on thrills of another kind, Animal Kingdom is actually the largest of the Walt Disney World theme parks in area. Those who understand the park and are open to the adventure often claim that they could spend weeks in Animal Kingdom without seeing and doing everything. Nonetheless, two days will allow you plenty of time to enjoy the major attractions as well as spending some time enjoying the smaller details that make Animal Kingdom such a special and wonderful place.
Day One – The Major Attractions
On your first day at Animal Kingdom, you will want to visit the attractions that you have doubtless heard so much about. The Kilimanjaro Safari was Animal Kingdom’s signature attraction until the arrival of Expedition Everest, and is still considered one of the premier Safari attractions in the United States. The Safari animals are most active in the early morning, so make your way directly to Africa following the morning Awakening show (which takes place 15 minutes prior to park opening at the front gates).
Expect to see a large number of animals in their natural habitat when taking an early morning safari. From hippos to cheetahs, small birds to large mammals, the Safari is a 20 minute adventure through a variety of natural settings. Your Safari could even end up longer than planned, should an elephant or giraffe decide to plant itself in the middle of the path!
After your Kilimanjaro Safari, you will want to make your way to Asia for the extraordinarily popular Expedition Everest. As one of Animal Kingdom’s only roller coasters and largest thrill ride, Everest regularly has extremely long lines. Grab a Fast Pass, then wait in line at Kali River Rapids (where you WILL get wet, and might get soaked), or take advantage of Everest’s single riders line if you don’t mind separating your party.
Next make your way to Dinoland USA. Dinosaur! is a rather spectacular next-generation track based ride in which your group attempts to save a dinosaur from an imminent comet collision. Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama is also in this area. Themed as a roadside attraction/carnival, Chester and Hester’s features the surprisingly exciting Wild Mouse-style coaster Primeval Whirl. Be sure not to miss this one!
As Animal Kingdom generally closes at 5 pm, you may find that the thrill rides take up your entire day. Should you find additional time in your schedule, go ahead and experience some of the other attractions, such as It’s Tough to be a Bug (housed inside the spectacular Tree of Life). If you have time, see Festival of the Lion King. Located in the Camp Minnie-Mickey section of the park, this Broadway quality show combines top notch song and dance with Cirque du Soleil style acrobatics and aerial tricks. If you do not see Festival of the Lion King on the first day, be sure not to miss it on the second! This is probably the best show in any of the four parks.
Day Two – Relax and Explore
Begin your day at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Accessible only by Wildlife Train, this area offers a backstage look at animal care throughout the park as well as several exhibits designed to spread the message of conservation. Medical procedures from checkups to surgeries take place daily between 9 am and 10 am. The procedures are fully viewable via a full size glass wall, and a Cast Member offers narration and answers questions throughout each procedure.
After you have your fill of Rafiki’s, make your way out to any of the miles of hiking trails. The trails give the appearance of truly going into the back country, and animals in naturalistic habitats appear around every corner. Keep your eyes and ears open, for you may just find yourself face to face with a bat, gorilla, or even tiger at any time.
Be sure to see the shows today. As mentioned above, Festival of the Lion King is the biggest and most Broadway production style. Nevertheless, all of the shows are top quality and highly worth your time. From the Flights of Wonder bird show to Pocahontas and her Forest Friends, animals are the stars across the board.
Be sure to spend some time simply wandering through the park. Pause outside the Dawa Bar and listen closely, you might just hear an African landlady trying to collect rent from some student researchers. Keep an eye out in the trees, and you may suddenly be face to face with Devine, a performance artist with an incredible act. Sit outside the Tusker House Restaurant and listen to authentic African music performed live. Whatever you do and wherever you go throughout the park, small surprises and amazement lurk just around the next corner.
On Day Two, you should not be tied to your park map. It is impossible to get hopelessly lost within Animal Kingdom, but quite easy to follow paths until you are not sure *quite* where you are. This adds to the mystery and excitement of this incredible park. In fact, when Animal Kingdom first opened to the public, guide maps were not distributed. The original intent of the park was to offer guests the feeling of exploration and new discovery. Allow yourself to follow this idea and the rewards will be immense.
Animal Kingdom is often misunderstood and dismissed. Yet to ignore this park, or see it in a half day, is to ignore the history of Walt Disney himself, whose greatest dream was to open a wild animal park in the vein of his True Life Adventure films. Rid yourself of any preconceived ideas and allow Animal Kingdom theme park to unfold before you, and you will be happily surprised by the things that you discover.