Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The youngest of all the Disney parks at Walt Disney World speaks to three kinds of guests. Let’s look at each:

1. Nature and Animal Lovers. At the heart of this park is a zoo-style experience that surpasses pretty much any kind of zoo visit you’ve had before. That’s because this park has done away with the traditional cage and confinement experience zoos have been known for. From the moment you enter Oasis, the park’s entry point, you feel one with nature, as you see scores of different animal species. All of this is wrapped in a setting that is so tropically landscaped, it is almost impossible to think that this was once orange groves and cattle pastures. Especially when you come upon The Tree of Life.

Disney’s Tree of Life, centerpiece to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The signature attraction is Kilimanjaro Safaris, a big trek experience that visits lions, elephants, rhinos, and more. But you can’t help but see animals from the moment you enter the park. The Oasis offers two trails with animals on both sides, so make sure you check out each while traveling in and out of the park.

Do not miss the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail with gorillas, hippos, and exotic birds. In Asia, there is the Majarajah Jungle Trek with its tigers, Komodo dragons, and fascinating bat display. Conservation lovers will want to take the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch to get a closer look behind the scenes of how Disney cares for its animals. And Flights of Wonder pays homage to the aviary world in a show that is perhaps one of Animal Kingdom’s best-kept secrets.

A lioness on her throne. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

2. Disney/Pixar Fans. It’s a Disney park, so it should deliver right? Perhaps not as much as Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but there are some superb experiences. Festival of the Lion King is considered the best entertainment experience anywhere in all of Walt Disney World. It is a must do experience. Similarly, Finding Nemo the Musical is on par with a musical show done with brilliant puppetry. Carve time for that as well. Speaking of carvings, you will be astounded by the carvings of animals on the Tree of Life as you venture to the 3D show, It’s Tough to be a Bug. The experience, based on Pixar’s A Bug’s Life will definitely offer you surprises. Add to that a number of great Disney character meet ‘n’ greets and you’ve got a park worthy of the name Disney.

Festival of the Lion King. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

3. Thrill Seekers. Surprisingly, this park now offers thrills probably greater and more unique than any other theme park. The obvious one is Expedition Everest, a soaring mountain with a runaway train that goes forward and backward.

The grandeur of Expedition Everest. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Primeval Whirl has the appearance of a traditional carnival-style coaster, but the twist on it is that it spins. Kali River Rapids delivers spins as well as an attraction that almost guarantees to soak you. It’s great fun, as is the Dinosaur attraction, which takes you back to the pre-historic age of the primeval world in a motion simulator vehicle.

Kali River Rapids. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

And yet, if there is one above all of this it would be Flight of Passage, found in Pandora: The World of Avatar. Its lengthy queue is a testament to its popularity. This is Soarin’ on steroids. It’s so amazing and intense that it has perhaps become the most popular attraction in all of Walt Disney World. You truly will feel like you are riding on the back of a banshee.

The queue to Flight of Passage showing an Avatar. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

If you fall under any one of these categories, you will find value in visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If you are more than one of these, then this is definitely worth visiting. Indeed, just visiting the new Pandora: World of Avatar may be worth the price of admission. Not only is the new Flight of Passage and the bioluminescent Na’vi River Journey amazing, but the land itself, with its floating mountains, is near jaw dropping. Add the unique tastes of the Satu’li Canteen and the popular merchandise, and you have a complete experience.

The Shaman of Songs welcomes you to Na’vi River Journey. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

Indeed, though the youngest of the Disney parks, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has arrived at being a total one-day experience. There is dining, shopping, and entertainment that can only be found in this park. Still, you can further complete that experience by staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, which offers rooms looking over a savannah filled with zebras, giraffes, and other animals. It is a beautifully designed, jaw dropping resort. It can complement your visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and provide a perfect escape in the heat of the day, when you want to return to your room, rest, or take a swim.

The Great Hall at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Then, return to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to see it at night. Pandora takes on its own bioluminescent tone. The Tree of Life comes to Life, with musical and visual depictions and crowds gather to witness Rivers of Light: We Are One, a unique waterfront spectacular that celebrates all things in the circle of life.

Imagery by Disney of the new “Rivers of Light: We Are One” show.