Disney World Thoughts Part 5: Animal Kingdom

Here it is! The last post of the series discussing my thoughts on the Walt Disney World Resort in Orland, Florida. This time, it is Animal Kingdom.

I have to say, fist off, that this is the best looking park besides Magic Kingdom. They did an excellent job of creating a theme in every part of this park. There is a TON of vegetation everywhere and it was really nice in the hot June heat and humidity.

The entrance is disconnected from the rest of the park by a little ways. You can see this on any map of Animal Kingdom. It looks much worse than it actually is. The entrance area is referred to as “Oasis”. There are a couple of shops here and a Rainforest Cafe, but not much else.

Once you walk a ways and cross the Discovery River into Discovery Island, you come to the Tree of Life, which is pretty cool looking. At night there is a light projection show that brings it to life. There is a somewhat limited viewing area for that show, but is still certainly worth checking out.

Walking off to the left, there are a number of shops and areas where you can see different animals. It pretty much feels like a zoo in this area. This is also home to Pizzafari, a pizza restaurant that James was all to happy to eat at. As you walk, you will cross the Discovery River again and enter Africa. One of the park’s signature attractions, Kilimanjaro Safaris, is located here.

First, you pass the theater for the Festival of the Lion King. This is a fun, acrobatic, dancing and singing show that is really great. They use the old floats from the Lion King Parade back in Disneyland! Don’t miss this one when you visit.

When you leave the theater, head to the left to continue through Africa. If you go forward, you will end up in Asia and miss the other Africa attractions.

Kilimanjaro Safaris. This was on the top of my list to see on this trip, and I wasn’t too disappointed. It was hot out and most of the animals were laying down in the shade to avoid the heat and not moving around too much. We also went on this at night which was something new that they were doing. I would say skip it at night if you actually want to see anything. It was still a neat idea.

Right next to the safari is the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail which is another zoo like area that had some birds, tigers and other animals.

In this area, there is also the Wildlife Express Train that takes you out to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, an area where there are some more animals and some cool areas on how they take care of the different animals in the park and also talk about conservation.

As you continue on, you pass some more shops and restaurants and head into Asia. This is the home to two of the signature attractions; Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids. When you first come into Asia, there are more shops and my favorite place to eat the Yak $ Yeti Local Food Cafes. They have a teriyaki beef bowl that is AMAZING!

Kali River Rapids is like a tamed down version of the Grizzly River Run in DCA. There is no big drop, but the attraction was still a lot of fun, considering that we got to ride it in the rain!

Right around the corner is Expedition Everest. Probably the main attraction at Animal Kingdom. I would say that it is like the Matterhorn on steroids! You load in, travel up the mountain to the end of the track that has been ripped apart by the Yeti and then you head backwards through the mountain before eventually going forward again. This was one of the best attractions at the entire resort.

Right outside of Expedition Everest is the River of Light seating area, which was Jungle Book: Alive with Magic when we were there. The Jungle Book show was OK, but not really worth a return viewing in my opinion.

As you head back toward the front of the park, you enter the last of the themed lands, DinoLand, U.S.A. This is home to another attraction that I was really looking forward to, DINOSAUR. Spoiler alert: not that great. It was the same ride system and track layout as Indiana Jones at Disneyland, but lacked the great, immersive story to go along with it. In addition, it is surrounded by a bunch of carnival rides that just scream not Disney. Even worse than the original DCA Paradise Pier.

Oh, I almost forgot about Finding Nemo: The Musical. This was a pretty well staged show, but I found that the transition to a musical made it strange for me.

As you cross back over the Discovery River to Discovery Island, there are some more zoo like areas and the It’s Tough to be a Bug show under the Tree of Life. We skipped this one as we had both seen this show before.

That about sums up Animal Kingdom. It is a great park that Disney has added a few things to over time and will open “The World of Avatar” sometime in the next few years. I am not sure why Disney is taking so long to get this land opened. It was announced back in 2011! By the time it opens, the movie will be 10 years old. What happened to Disney opening things with movies and not YEARS later?

I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts about Walt Disney World.

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