Tips For Visiting Animal Kingdom For The First Time

Planning a day at Animal Kingdom park takes on a different form when comparing your planning to the other theme parks such as Magic Kingdom. This is largely due to the fact that currently Animal Kingdom used to close a lot earlier than other parks, around 5pm.

As of Summer 2016, the park has been staying open through the evening to showcase the Tree of Life Awakening, Rivers Of Light show, and the opportunity to see the Kilimanjaro Safari at dusk. Here are my tips for visiting Animal Kingdom park for the first time.

2017 also saw the introduction of Pandora land, based around the popular film Avatar. The addition to Animal Kingdom brings two new rides, Flight of Passage and Navi River Journey, additional food choices and amazing scenery.

tips for visiting Animal Kingdom for the first time


What Can You Expect To See At Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom park is the biggest of the Disney theme parks at around 500 acres. The Kilimanjaro Safari itself is the size of the Magic Kingdom which is a mind blowing piece of information to get your head around when you have spent hours and days walking around the Magic Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom is home to a wide variety of animals, and honestly you could spend all day being distracted by the huge variety on offer. My main tip would be to decide what you want to spend the day doing at Animal Kingdom. It is viable to see animals, go on rides and soak up the sights but you will have to be disciplined if you want to take in some shows as well.

I found Animal Kingdom park to be the hottest of the parks during our holiday. I thought this was because we visited on a hotter day, however I have since found out that due to the foliage in the park, Animal Kingdom can appear hotter and more humid to the other parks. This is a great excuse to cool down on some of the rides.

When Should You Ride Kilimanjaro Safaris?

A lot of people I have spoken to recommend the Kilimanjaro Safaris are better when seen first thing in the morning. Personally we went on the safari at 2pm and we saw lots of activity from the animals. I have also been told on many occasions that every time you ride the safari, it will be different. I can’t wait to go on it again on our next visit. From the three times we have ridden the Safari, each has been different.



If you do decide to start your day with the Safari, then you will be at the back of the park. In this instance, I would recommend working your way slowly towards the front of the park. If you’re wondering where to eat in Animal Kingdom and looking for a character meal, then I can recommend Tusker House restaurant (based in Africa close to the Kilimanjaro Safaris). You can meet Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey in their safari gear at a buffet style meal.

Animal Kingdom Shows

Something I wasn’t expecting at Animal Kingdom was the quality of the shows. We caught The Festival of the Lion King (also based in Africa) whilst there was a storm outside. The theatre seats hundreds of guests and is a great place to go to avoid a storm or the afternoon heat.

I highly recommend a visit to the show which lasts around 30 minutes. I have seen the Lion King in London’s West End, and I was equally impressed with Disney’s version.

tree-of-life animal kingdom

Characters In Animal Kingdom

There are plenty of character meet and greet opportunities within the park should you choose to seek these out such as Baloo and Louie between Africa and Asia (as you walk between the Harambe theatre watching Festival of the Lion King towards Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest.

Chip and Dale can be found outside Rafiki’s Planet watch just past Africa, Pochahontis on the Discovery Island Trails (between Africa and Oasis near the entrance of the park), as well as other opportunities to see Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

What To Fastpass In Animal Kingdom

I definitely recommend the following for your Fast Pass options

    • Kali River Rapids (just don’t wear white shorts like I did, although I did dry out quickly).
    • Expedition Everest

  • Festival of The Lion King (If you want priority seating nearer the front)
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris (although the line does move quickly as each truck takes a lot of guests)
  • Flight Of Passage is definitely one of the best fastpass options for Animal Kingdom, especially with long wait times that haven’t decreased since the new area was opened in 2017.
  • Navi River Journey is the other new ride in Pandora, however given the choice I would opt for Flight Of Passage.

Photo Opportunities in Animal Kingdom

There are some amazing photo opportunities in Animal Kingdom with great background scenery that you won’t find anywhere else. Of course there is a the great photo opportunity that is in front of the Tree of Life. There is also a great photo backdrop on the bridge in front of Expedition Everest. I highly recommend taking these opportunities for once in a  lifetime photos.

Expedition Everest Animal Kingdom

Magic shots are great in Animal Kingdom if you have the Memory Maker option in your package. Ask the photo pass photographers if they have magic shots and you may find butterflies, balloons, stitch coming out of the ground and more in Animal Kingdom.

And Finally

Animal Kingdom isn’t a park to visit to meet princesses and see all the sparkle and glitter that comes with Disney Magic, but it’s really a park not to be missed for plenty of history, culture and amazing sights. I hope you have enjoyed reading my tips for visiting Animal Kingdom for the first time, and have a lovely visit when you go.

If you’re reading this and you’ve already booked your holiday, then check out ways to surprise the kids with your holiday, and if you’re wondering whether Memory Maker is worth the money then check out my post covering what I thought. Our 2014 Disney holiday diary starts here. We stayed at the Caribbean Beach resort during our first holiday and can highly recommend it as a Disney hotel. Read our thoughts here.

I learnt a lot from my first holiday to Disney.If you’re planning your first Disney World holiday then I can highly recommend this book to help you with your planning.

Want more great Disney World hints and tips? Follow my Pinterest board which is added to daily

Follow The Life Of Spicers’s board Disney World Florida on Pinterest.


visiting animal kingdom





  1. Susie Wilkinson
    November 9, 2015 / 12:16 am

    The biggest thing I remember from Animal Kingdom when I visited 8 years ago was the photo opportunity with Eeyore, Pooh, Tigger and Piglet (who I found very scary!). I don’t remember the park closing so early, I wonder if it changes with the time of year?

    • spicers1976
      November 10, 2015 / 7:35 pm

      I think the daylight hours has a lot to do with it during the Winter.

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