As an Annual Passholder at Walt Disney World for 20+ years, I've learned a lot of tips and hidden secrets over the years. I've decided to share my favorite secrets with you all in a series - each park has their own dedicated tips & tricks list as well as a master guide for Walt Disney World in general. Check out the other guides here:
Animal Kingdom Tips, Tricks, and Hidden Secrets!
1. Arrive Before Rope Drop
Animal Kingdom is not a park that you’ll want to sleep in and miss the mornings. The Safaris are the best in the morning AND it’s your best chance to get a shorter line for Flight of Passage if you didn’t get a FastPass+. Arrive 45 minutes before the park officially opens and walk (QUICKLY) to Flight of Passage to secure yourself a spot in line. Then, after riding FOP, head to the Safaris for an early morning ride!
2. Use the “Secret” Side Entrance
When you arrive for the rope drop at the beginning of the day, use the secret entrance. This entrance can be found through The Rainforest Café (on the left side after security). Walk through the gift shop and exit the restaurant to find additional turnstiles and entry points to the park. This will help you skip some of the craziness at the front of the park.
3. Kilimanjaro Safari
This beloved ride has so many tips to get the best experience:
To see the most animals, try to take more than one safari ride in a day! Don’t do them back to back, because chances are the animals haven’t changed much. My favorite is to do a safari mid-morning and again before the park closes.
Try to sit on the left side – this tends to have the most exhibits and best views!
Fun Fact: did you know that the safari is larger than all of Magic Kingdom?!
Fun Fact: Zebras are no longer in the park due to their aggressive tendencies.
4. Take Advantage of The Single Rider Line
Single Rider lines are few and far between at Disney World so be sure to take advantage of them when you can! Single Rider lines are a much shorter option for the ride in which you will fill an empty seat and not sit with your party. The single rider line at Animal Kingdom is Expedition Everest. I typically never wait more than 15-20 minutes in this line!
5. Use FastPass+ Wisely
Animal Kingdom has a few must do attractions that tend to have long lines (ie Pandora’s Flight of Passage). Use your FastPass+ wisely in order to make the most out it. The best FastPass+ at Animal Kingdom are:
Pandora Flight of Passage
Expedition Everest (not needed if you plan to use Single Rider)
Navi River or Dinosaur (depending on if you want a calm ride or a fun/crazy ride)
Never waste your fastpasses on It's Tough to Be a Bug, Nemo The Musical, River of Lights, or PrimevilWhirl. There’s also no need for a FastPass to The Lion King – just plan ahead and get there 20-30 minutes early.
6. Don’t Skip The Animal Trails
Many rookies think that the Safari is the only chance to see animals in Animal Kingdom. FALSE. There are 3 large walking trails with a wide variety of animals… bats, gorillas, tigers, hippos, and more! There’s never a line for these attractions so come as you please and walk through at your leisure.
Discovery Island Trails
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
Maharajah Jungle Trek
7. Kali River Rapids Lockers
Animal Kingdom has one water ride: Kali River Rapids. If you think you can avoid getting wet on this ride, think again… you’re almost guaranteed to be drenched. And that means your belongings too. Fear not – Disney has free lockers near the front of the entrance that you can use to keep your items dry! Also, don’t be afraid to pull out your poncho to wear on the ride. No one is judging, they’re just jealous.
8. Don’t Want to Get Wet on Kali River Rapids?
That’s okay – me neither. Instead, I opt to get others wet! On the bridge in front of Kali River Rapids yo’ull see a brown box with two buttons on it. Wait until a raft goes under the bridge and press it! The elephant statues will begin spraying the guests with water!
9. Meet Kevin!
Kevin is the gigantic bird from the movie UP! She is a roaming character that floats between Discovery Island, Asia, and Africa. You can spot Kevin between 9:30AM and 4:30PM typically (I have the best luck finding Kevin outside of the entrance for It’s Tough To Be a Bug).
10. Skip the "eh" rides
Unfortunately, Animal Kingdom has a few rides that aren’t worth your time – especially if you’re having a busy day! I’ve listed them here
Finding Nemo Musical (very childish, average experience)
PrimEvilWhirl (only make time for this if you want to be banged around)
Trisphartops (this is exactly like Dumbo in Magic Kingdom)
It’s Tough To Be A Bug (cute quick 3D show, great for when it’s HOT outside, but not worth wasting time if you’re in a crunch)
11. Rafiki’s Planet
Disney has recently revived Rafiki’s Planet and reopened it to the public. This is an area that you can only access by a train ride. Once there, you’ll walk to a building and a petting zoo. The building will show vets taking care of animals (sometimes even in surgery) and also offers drawing classes. However, getting out to this area, doing an activity, and returning takes a lot of time… expect to spend over an hour on this one activity alone.
12. Find The Best Instagram-worthy Walls
Animal Kingdom has some of the cutest Disney walls and picture locations. I’ve complied a list of my favorites here for you to explore!
One of my general Disney World Hacks & Tips is to buy a reusable popcorn bucket because it saves so much money at the end of the day. However, Animal Kingdom only has (1) popcorn stand in the entire park (say whaaat). This popcorn stand is in Africa so if you’re interested in filling your bucket, head that way. Otherwise, I will sometimes leave my popcorn bucket in the car and give myself a break from popcorn.
14. Visit Pandora during the day and at night
You’ll be in awe of Pandora from the moment you see it. However, you’ll be even more pleased when you see it glowing at night. It feels like a completely different experience when you visit it at night and see the irridcent lighting. Truly a magical place.
15. Try the “Safari Amber Ale” beer
This beer is exclusive to Disney and offered in Animal Kingdom at the various bars. The most popular bar, Dawa Bar, is in Africa in front of the Lion King.
16. Take a close look at the Tree of Life
The tree of life is the center of Animal Kingdom park. It is an enormous (artificial) baobab tree that features carvings of various animals in the trunk. How many animals can you spot? (Hint: there are over 320 different animals)
17. Know the Prohibited Items
Animal Kingdom is stricter on items you can/cannot have due to the large number of animals. For instance, guests cannot have balloons inside the Animal Kingdom park. If you forgot, they’ll ask you to check it at the front entrance and you can get it on your way out. This park also doesn’t have any plastic straws or lids.
18. See a Broadway-worthy performance
Disney has some of the best shows for FREE inside the parks. My all time favorite show is The Lion King in Animal Kingdom. This is truly broadway-worthy and will have you in awe for 30 minutes. Be sure to check the times at the beginning of the day so you don’t miss it. All seats are considered good so you can’t go wrong in any spot.