Toddlers visiting Animal Kingdom will find plenty of interesting things for an entire day (the park is rarely open into the evening hours, even during the peak seasons), but they not share adults’ desire to return a second or third day. Much of the interest comes from exhibits and environments rather than rides, so kids may bore easily.
Rides At Disney World Animal Kingdom for Toddlers
An unnumbered list of “don’t miss” attractions might seem to make the most sense, since people differ so radically from each other that my experiences may not match your particular child’s preferences. But that would also neuter the utility of any list at all. Thus, here is my (admittedly highly subjective) list of rides for toddlers at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, presented in order of importance.
- Kilimanjaro Safari – an outdoor jeep ride, this attraction is the closest thing to a real safari you will find outside of Africa. All the recognizable animals are here, presented in enclosures so cunningly hidden you’ll swear they are free to roam around and attach each other. Kids will especially like the bouncy nature of the journey, and the artificially fast speeds our jeep travels in response to the overlaid storyline.
- Maharaja Jungle Trek – a nature walk, passing by several smaller animal exhibits before culminating in an impressively-themed tiger enclosure. Visitors really feel like they’ve slipped into Southeast Asia in this space. Depending on the exact child’s disposition, toddlers will either be entranced or bored by the animal encounters. That said, most kids like them.
- Pangani Forest Exploration Trail – a nature walk with smaller exhibits and encounters with silverback gorillas (either across a gorge or behind very thick glass). Definitely interesting for kids for a little while, at least.
- It’s Tough to be a Bug – a 3-D movie with theater-level effects. Boys especially will revel at the insectoid theme and the creepy-crawly effects, many of which poke and prod the audience members directly. The attraction is designed to startle, shock, and entertain visitors—in that order. One dark and loud sequence is especially scary, however, so some toddlers may wish to skip this ride.
- TriceraTop Spin – a classic “spinner” attraction like Dumbo, themed to cartoony dinosaurs. Fortunately, it seldom has a line. Small children always like these rides, despite their limited appeal to adults.
Older preschoolers may desire to take on the thrill rides: Expedition Everest (44 inches), Kali River Rapids (38 inches), Dinosaur (40 inches), and Primeval Whirl (48 inches). If so, move these rides to the top of the list. Expedition Everest in particular enjoys a sterling reputation as a Disney-type coaster with some kick to it: no inversions, but a backwards helix that will disorient and delight. There’s a big drop, several moments of tight turns rushing along the ground, and an encounter with a really incredibly large animatronic yeti. The next on the list for kids is probably Kali River Rapids, a standard family raft ride with an environmental message. Many raft rides claim you should expect to get wet, but on Kali the warning is actually true—you will get wet. Dinosaur is an indoor dark ride on a high-tech jeep that jostles around to simulate bumps and such, with the show being a time-travel adventure to see dinosaurs. Make no mistake: this attraction will frighten children with its close encounters and eardrum-piercing decibels. Children under five years old, regardless of their height, may become terrorized, or even traumatized, by this ride, so exercise extreme caution. Finally, Primeval Whirl is a “mad mouse” roller coaster, with cars executing such sharp turns that lateral forces hurl you to the side. Making things more fun (or worse, depending on your perspective) is that the cars also spin independently of what’s happening with the larger track. Once they are tall enough, kids should enjoy this one, even if parents don’t.
Two attractions generate most of the lines at this park: Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris. On hot days, Kali River Rapids also sports very long lines. Use FASTPASS liberally for these attractions. Many guides advise seeing the safari first thing in the morning, as animals are more active. That may be true, marginally, but the lines are much longer in the morning as a result, so much so that it would be worthwhile to visit this attraction later in the day, facing greatly reduced lines. Be aware, however, that the safari closes earlier than the park sometimes, if sundown approaches before the park hours end.
Entertainment For Toddlers At Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom makes liberal use of shows; use your own judgment if your toddlers are the kind who likes shows as much as rides. Here is my list of shows at this park, ranked in order of importance for toddlers:
- Finding Nemo: The Musical – a phenomenal Broadway-quality musical that will delight young and old alike. This is the only truly “don’t miss” stage show at Disney World. Even young toddlers will be just as entranced as adults.
- Festival of the Lion King – a rollickin’ indoor musical show, this offering vibrates with energy and kinetic activity, ideal for kids of all ages. Its mood is boisterous and uplifting, leaving visitors energized and entertained.
- Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade – a modest (and modestly successful) parade that combines plant and animal motifs into the floats, somewhat the same way plants and animals form the basis for all attractions at this park (seen most clearly in the carvings on the Tree of Life). The presence of Disney characters on each float, however, is all your toddler is likely to notice.
- Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends – a more intimate stage show that mixes live actors, theater effects, and live animals in a cute setting.
- Flights of Wonder – a standard bird show with minor tricks and somewhat heavy conservationist overtones. Attempts at cuteness and humor fall flat about as often as they hit.