Vacation Planning: Animal Kingdom Itinerary
Of every Disney World theme park, Animal Kingdom is the largest. It’s also the most complicated! They have all of the problems of a major theme park and a major zoo. They’ve got animals, shows and roller coasters. It’s dear to my heart, so when we come to that, I’m going to gush over it a little bit. Despite the size, Animal Kingdom can be easily managed in one day. This Animal Kingdom itinerary can help you plan the perfect day, plus I’ve got a FREE Printable Animal Kingdom Park Guide to help you out!
The Perfect Day: Your Animal Kingdom Itinerary
Why Animal Kingdom Offers Amazing Photo Opportunities
One of the best things about Animal Kingdom is not just how big it is, but also how beautiful. The Animals are beautiful, the walking trails with the animals are beautiful; the habitats and the built environments to simulate other continents are also beautiful!
Whether it’s weathered ruins or remote African Outposts, Disney has the most articulate way of suggesting authenticity while simultaneously conceptualizing and idealizing the subject matter. Imagineers are like instagram filters that no one notices, but they make everything look perfect.
A drab, neglected, dirty shed serving food should have you frantically browsing yelp reviews for an alternative, but nobody bats an eye. Even the filth is beautiful… It’s all theming. No one is better than Disney at showcasing new worlds and presenting them in the most appealing way, while maintaining the illusion of authenticity. In Animal Kingdom we get to sample Africa, Asia, America and even Pandora from the world of Avatar!
When planning your Animal Kingdom itinerary, be sure to just add time for photography. The park has beautiful backdrops for family photos or stylish Instagram looks.
How To Plan Your Animal Kingdom Itinerary
Since Animal Kingdom is so large you should start with understanding the terrain. There is a lot of ground to cover and your approach can mean the difference between getting it done and leaving some unexplored territory behind. There are three parts to Animal Kingdom to explore. Navigate these correctly and your single day Animal Kingdom experience will be a huge success.
Can’t Miss Attraction: The Kilimanjaro Safari
The Kilimanjaro Safari is the number one attraction of Animal Kingdom. Technically Flight of Passage is the new and exciting ride with all the great technology, but the Safari is where you get to see many of the animals, which is what you most likely came to the park for. The capacity for this attraction is pretty huge, but the wait times still get long. It’s a good idea to secure a Fastpass for this one.
Our family likes to make this Fastpass the first one for the day. The animals are most awake in the morning and you’ll see more activity from them. It’s still a great ride in the afternoon, but you won’t see as much from the animals – they’ll be asleep.
Major Park Attractions For Your Animal Kingdom Itinerary
The Safari is in the back of the Africa section of the park and it drives you off into a whole other section that is separate and inaccessible from the rest of the park. Animal Kingdom has an island in the middle of it with bridges that extend to other areas, much like the hub extends to other “lands” in Magic Kingdom. Aside from using these bridges to move easily from one area to another, you can also move around in a circle in either direction to get to each of the sections. The four main sections– besides Discovery Island— are Dinoland USA, Asia, Africa, and Pandora.
The Major Attractions around the Animal Kingdom are Dinosaur in Dinoland USA, Expedition Everest in Asia, Kilimanjaro Safari in Africa, and Flight of Passage in Pandora. There are also shows, such as Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo, and It’s Tough to Be a Bug.
I suggest planning the major rides early in the day. You’re allowed three Fast Passes and you can always grab more after you’ve used them (just use your My Disney Experience App or visit a park kiosk).
Pro Animal Kingdom Itinerary tip: If you visit the safari first, there isn’t much of a line for Expedition Everest – head straight there.
Recommended Animal Kingdom Dining Choices
In addition to all of the major attractions, there is a substantial selection of dining. For quick service, I recommend Satu’li Canteen at Pandora. If you have time for a signature dining experience, Tiffins and the Nomad Lounge is an amazing dining experience (requires reservations and costs 2 points per person on the Disney Dining Plan).
Restaurantosaurus is a fun quick service location for regular park grub, but you can enjoy more exotic cuisine at Yak and Yeti, or in the character dining buffet Tusker House. Harambe Market is a fantastic quick service location for smaller bites with big flavor.
The Trails of Animal Kingdom Park
Lastly, there are several hidden trails tucked away, waiting to be discovered and explored. These are found on Discovery Island, Asia, and Africa. The trails lead to animal enclosures for Gorillas, exotic birds, and even a Komodo dragon! The Maharajah Jungle Trek is beautiful.
They’re great if your kids want to take a nap in the stroller, or you’ve got little animal lovers. Cast Members around the trails are usually animal experts that can answer any questions. The trails are shaded and offer some of the most peaceful parts of the park. It’s a great afternoon option, post lunch, for your Animal Kingdom itinerary.
Planning Your Fastpass+ Choices
A big part of how you move around the park and shuffle your time will be contingent on the Fastpasses you get. You should try to keep in mind a route that makes sense while finding Fastpasses to fit into it. However, if Flight of Passage only has limited return times, you will need to make some adjustments to allow for it. It’s the hardest Fast Pass to grab. You truly have to be online immediately when your booking window opens.
If you can’t get a Fastpass for Flight of Passage, then don’t worry. Just expect to be an hour to an hour and a half in the queue. The good news is, it’s an amazing queue. One of the best!
For the Kilimanjaro Safari, try getting it for morning. Unless you have an early Fastpass for Flight of Passage, your first Fastpass should be for Kilimanjaro – then Expedition Everest.
Planning Your Animal Kingdom Itinerary
Morning Park Ideas & Must-Do Attractions
A lot of people don’t realize it, but there is a hidden entrance to Animal Kingdom with a smaller line, if any at all. Try to get to the park before it opens so you are among the first inside. If you arrive and there are quite a few people ahead of you, slip into the Rainforest Cafe gift shop and exit on the other side. There is a separate park gate that you can use.
Once inside the park, remember to grab a map and a show schedule for easy reference as you go. Assuming you have a Fastpass for Kilimanjaro Safari or Expedition Everest, with a return time between 10:00 and 11:00, go to Discovery Island and make a right toward Dinoland USA. This two pronged land features a science institute on one side and a gimmicky but charming roadside attraction on the other. It’s also an excellent spot for catching photos of characters!
You can grab a spot in the queue for Dinosaur, which is a fan favorite. Restaurantosaurus is a restaurant made from the students’ living quarters. Even if you aren’t hungry, take the time to look around. After Dinosaur you can take your time as you pass through the Dinoland rides and midway games.
On your way to Asia you will pass the theater for Finding Nemo. Make a note of the times if you plan to return for a performance. Next for your Animal Kingdom itinerary, in Asia, use your Fastpass for Expedition Everest.
When you are done with Everest, take the Maharajah Jungle Trek to see some neat animals. They have some great kiosks and bars if you head to the Africa area after the Trek. It’s a great spot for an afternoon drink. They have a variety of beer and cocktails and some very good small plates. One spot, the Tamu Tamu serves Dole Whips.
Afternoon Park Ideas & Must-Do Attractions
If you have time for a lunch break, then I recommend Tiffins. Your reservation should be made in advance of your Fastpass selections, so you can schedule them around each other. If you don’t have a reservation, that’s okay. Nomad lounge is first come first serve if there are no available tables at Tiffins. You get to Tiffins via Discovery Island by taking the bridge into Pandora.
If you still don’t have a Flight of Passage Fastpass continue to try for it on your My Disney Experience app. After lunch, head back to Africa to explore. There is another show in Africa, it’s Festival of the Lion King. It’s a short but very entertaining show for all ages, but don’t waste a Fastpass on it. Shows, in general, are not a good use of a Fastpass. In Africa you can also take the trail to see the Gorillas.
After Africa, you should head back to Pandora via Discovery Island again. Check the standby times on your app. If it’s an hour or less, you should go to it. Pandora is amazing after dark because of the bioluminescent plants (great for photos).
If you play it right, you can get a good eyeful of Pandora before and after sunset. Satu’li Canteen is a great fast casual place to stop for a meal after Flight of Passage. When you are ready to leave Animal Kingdom, be prepared to head back to Discovery Island in order to return to the entrance. Stop by Creature Comforts for a coffee and a treat on your way out!
Print Your FREE Animal Kingdom Park Itinerary Guide
Take all of this information with you in the parks! Just print out the guide to check of the can’t-miss attractions as you go. Just download, save and print.