We have a confession to make.
Both as a family vacationing at Walt Disney World, and as travel agents we tend to…well… almost forget about Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom is Walt Disney World’s newest and largest park.
It’s also decidedly different from Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios in it’s approach – slower, fewer theme-park-style-rides, more educational. And as North Carolinians, we saw Animal Kingdom as a Disney-themed duplication of our own North Carolina Zoo, which we think is the best zoo in the world – both for visitors and for animals.
During our most recent visit to Walt Disney World, we decided to challenge our assumptions and dive a little deeper into Animal Kingdom.
We’re glad we did.
Animal Kingdom may be different from the other Walt Disney World parks, but it is well worth the time, and may appeal particularly to those who enjoy a little slower pace.
We set out from our home base at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort in the Epcot Resort Area.
Animal Kingdom is accessible by car or Disney’s own transportation system – in this case a bus.
It was a late-September day, the weather was perfect, and we came away with 3 not-to-miss experiences.
But first, the kids got into the Disney spirit with a little character action!
Like all of the Disney parks, one day was simply not enough.
If one day is all you have, consider focusing your time on:
1. Wilderness Explorers
Like Epcot’s Kidcot Fun Stops, Animal Kingdom has the Wilderness Explorers stations throughout the park.
From the official Disney site:
…Jaunt across jungles, furrow into forests and make way through the woods while you set out on a series of fact-finding challenges.
Think you know the wilderness? Prove it! Dozens of self-guided activities await your arrival, with missions ranging from animal observation to learning all-too-important nature skills.
Each of the challenges has been scattered somewhere altogether different, so start exploring and get ready to experience Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in an all-new way!
…To get started, grab a field guide from headquarters—located on the bridge between the Oasis and Discovery Island—or drop by Wilderness Explorer stops in Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia and Dinoland U.S.A. to pick one up there.
Complete the animal activities on your own, or take on each nature-based task as a group—either way, this is one adventure that’s fun for the whole family. Start the exploration today!
Our kids loved it!
They also took the challenge quite seriously.
Take a look:
The cast members posted at the Wilderness Explorers challenge stops were top-of-the-line.
They knew the subject matter perfectly, and were some of the friendliest cast members we’ve encountered anywhere at Walt Disney World.
Ours kids had a ball and it gave the day some structure and direction as we moved around Animal Kingdom.
Don’t miss it!
2. Kilimanjaro Safaris
When we rode Kilimanjaro Safaris for the first time back in 2011, I was a little disappointed as it had a very scripted theme, pretending the ride was a real African safari fraught with less-than-believable peril.
This time around nearly all of the script was gone, and we focused on the animals.
Along with the roller coaster, Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris is the cornerstone attraction at Animal Kingdom.
If you have to choose though, we recommend going with Kilimanjaro Safaris, as it fits well with the more leisurely and educational spirit of Animal Kingdom.
3. The Details
Disney always attends to the little touches, but I found Animal Kingdom’s details exceptional in some cases, and fun/smile-provoking in others.
While not as spectacular as Cinderella’s Castle or Spaceship Earth, Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life, is a huge man-made tree, and the focal point of the park.
You can catch views of it from different angles throughout the park, and you’ll be surprised with carvings like the one above that seem to change with each glimpse.
In Africa, the Baobab tree can live to be hundreds of years old. This one can be seen on Kilimanjaro Safaris, and it would appear to be centuries old.
Like the Tree of Life, it’s actually a reproduction.
This inscription shows up on many of the benches around Animal Kingdom.
Small wildlife exhibits can be found frequently throughout the park.
Even the exit signs are interesting.
To recap, if you just have a day at Animal Kingdom, concentrate on Wilderness Explorers, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and catching the details.
Reach out and we’ll give you all the info on what to see, and we are happy to help you plan your next visit.
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