Best Animal Kingdom Rides and Attractions
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Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the newest of the four Florida parks, first opening it’s gates in 1998. The unique 580 acre space is home to hundreds of animal species as well as the original Mickey Mouse crew, and is now a destination for 12 million visitors. In this article we’ll go over the best Animal Kingdom rides and attractions, and provide you with insider tips so you can get the very best experience out of your visit to the Animal Kingdom.
Divided into six different themed areas, Animal Kingdom offers over 41 rides and attractions for guests. With such a large space and all the Animal Kingdom has to offer, preparing to use FastPass+ for the tier 1 rides first and avoid the longer lines is the best strategy. Below is the breakdown of which attractions are in which lands as well as which tier they fall under.
- Kilimanjaro Safaris (Tier 2)
- Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
- Wild Africa Trek
- Festival of the Lion King (Tier 2)
- Wildlife Express Train
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
- Expedition Everest (Tier 2)
- Kali River Rapids (Tier 2)
- Maharajah Jungle Trek
- UP! A Great Bird Adventure (Tier 2)
- DINOSAUR (Tier 2)
- Finding Nemo – The Musical (Tier 2)
- The Boneyard
- Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama
- Primeval Whirl (Tier 2)
- TriceraTop Spin
Pandora- The World of Avatar
Best Animal Kingdom Rides and Attractions
The list below is what we consider to be the best five rides and attractions at Animal Kingdom. In fact, they’re some of the best in all of Walt Disney World. Make sure to keep reading until the end to see which rides you should use your FastPass+ selections on. It’s free, so don’t forget to take advantage of it!
1. Avatar Flight of Passage
The World of Avatar opened late May of 2017, marking the newest and most spectacular addition to the Animal Kingdom. Flight of Passage is the more popular of the two Avatar themed rides (see Na’vi River Journey below) and so is by far the most crowded. Lines can easily reach three hours in length, but the wait is most definitely worth it.
Flight of Passage is a virtual ride on a banshee, described by many passengers as a mix between Epcot’s Soarin and Hollywood Studios Star Tours. From words alone, it doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s nothing you’ve ever experienced before. The full immersion is unique in that the ride utilizes 3D and simulation, with very little room to remember that you’re actually just on a ride.
It’s different in that each rider has their own banshee, amplifying the realistic feel. You sit on the banshee as you would a bike and are restrained into the ride from the back. Being more of an individualized ride, if you’re claustrophobic or have children that are easily afraid if separated, you may want to give them forewarning. The ride requires you be 44” to ride, which is typical for a 6-10 year old, meaning it’s definitely age appropriate.
Luckily, there is a banshee you can test out right outside the attraction line, so you can see if it’s for you prior to waiting on the line. Taller or larger people can have some difficulty fitting on the banshee.
You should also be prepared for two pre-shows during your wait. One of them matches you up with the virtual banshee you’re about to ride and the other explains the backstory of Pandora itself. It can feel a bit dragged out, but the atmosphere is incredible, so take it in.
Once you’re on your banshee and have your 3D glasses on, you enter into a new world. Just like Soarin, you’re riding in layers but you won’t notice it until the ride is over. You can’t see other riders feet and definitely can’t look around and see the ground. It’s an experience that’s unlike any other and why it’s the number one recommendation for use of your tier one FastPass+, if you can’t get it, it’s worth the long wait.
2. Expedition Everest
Expedition Everest is one of the most underrated coasters in Disney World. While it’s fairly new, opening back in 2006, the ride never gets old. It’s a tier 2 ride, so you can book both the Flight of Passage and Everest in the same day. The wait is usually give or take an hour depending on how packed the park is, but you can usually get lucky if you head straight there when the park opens since Pandora is taking some of the attention away from the originals.
The ride has decent waiting engagement with artifacts from the Himalayas and yeti findings. It’s actually pretty cool temperature-wise on the line as well. With the yeti theme comes some suspense and thrill, especially at the peak of the ride when the coaster travels upwards and reaches a dead end track with a yeti shadow overhead and a quick backwards drop. You then travel at full speed down the mountain, back first, for about 20 seconds; an exhilarating 20 seconds to say the least. The ride moves extremely smoothly, so if you’re worried about getting jostled around, let that go.
Protip: If you can, try to get your FastPass+ selection at night. The mountain that the coaster lies within is a centerpiece of the park, lit up beautifully once the sun goes down. Because a large part of the coaster takes place outside the mountain, the experience is highlighted at night.
3. Kilimanjaro Safaris
The Animal Kingdom Safari is once of the most traditional attractions in the park. Partially designed by Walt Disney himself, the safari itself is bigger than the entire Magic Kingdom park. For a ride that isn’t exactly thrilling and has been around since opening day, the line can get very long. Waiting for the safari is also one of the least scenic waiting experiences in the park, however if it’s hot out, there’s usually a booth to buy snacks or water halfway through the wait.
Another tier 2 attraction, FastPass+ is highly recommended for your party. It’s a family-friendly attraction made for all ages and passengers of any height. While the open-air vehicle moves slowly through the habitat of the live animals, it can get rather bumpy. Now called the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, the 110 acre space includes 34 living species including hippopotamus, lions, giraffes, baboons, rhinos, cheetahs, crocodiles, elephants, hyenas and zebras.
Your tour guide will take you on an 18 minute relaxing journey where pictures are more than welcome. If you look up in your vehicle, you’ll find pictured paired with the names of each animal that can be spotted for easy identification.
Not for the faint of heart, the DINOSAUR ride is tucked in the back of DinoLand U.S.A. The tier 2 ride is often forgotten for its lack of Disney relevance, but is a thrill all the same. Riders need to be 40” tall and it’s recommended for kids, teens, and adults, however, if your little ones don’t like loud noises, flashing lights, and unexpected dinosaurs roaring in their face, it could be the ride to sit out on.
Disney describes DINOSAUR as a thrill ride with small drops and within the realm of a dark and scary experience. Before boarding your time rover vehicle, you’re filtered into a room with TV’s to explain the adventure. A paleontologist is trying to execute a secret mission to bring a 3.5 ton Iguanodon into present time, but it has to be done before a meteor shower hits. The time rover travels through dark pre-meteor shower forests and puts you up close and personal with different dinosaurs in search of the target. To find out if you make it out safe before the meteor hit, you’ve got to ride it yourself!
5. Na’vi River Journey
The Na’vi River Journey has been said to be a let down, but it’s not if you know what to expect. Many people think that because it’s new and it’s part of Pandora that it’s going to be thrilling and unique in the sense of it’s mechanics; that’s not the case. The River Journey is a traditional boat ride (actually a mystical river ride), but that’s not what you’re there for. The bio-luminescent rain forest is filled with sounds and effects that you’ve never seen in a theme park before.
It is definitely recommended to go for this ride at night because of the mystical vibe that the lights and colors give off, highlighting Disney Imagineering’s impressive design.
The wait for this line can be over an hour, so FastPass+ is recommended. Most people are usually disappointed when they wait for a boat ride, expecting a spectacular thrill, so just beware that it’s more of a visual experience than a physical one.
What is Disney FastPass+?
Using Disney’s FastPass+ system is free with park admission and can be used via the My Disney Experience app or the Walt Disney World website. Once you’re in the park you can use the kiosks to update reservation times. In the Animal Kingdom specifically, kiosks can be found near the Island Mercantile store in Discovery Island, near the entrance to Kali River Rapids in Asia, and near Dawa Bar and Tusker House restaurant in Africa.
Being a guest of a Disney World Resort has its perks when it comes to the FastPass+ system. Those who qualify can make FastPass+ reservations for their entire stay starting 60 days prior to their trip. Those who aren’t staying at a Disney World Resort can begin their FastPass+ selection 30 days in advance, booking one day at a time.
Regardless of your status as a resort guest, the maximum allotted reserve FastPass+ selections is three per day. Once they’re used, you can make new reservations. Remember that FastPass+ times can’t overlap, and there are restrictions when it comes to tiered rides. This is where strategy comes into play. Understanding what the best and most popular rides are in each park helps with your FastPass+ decision-making. Below you can find the top 5 FastPass+ attractions in the Animal Kingdom.
Which Rides Are Best to FastPass+ at Animal Kingdom
Without a doubt, the first ride that’s a FastPass+ reservation must is Pandora’s Flight of Passage. As a tier 1 ride, it’s one of the hardest to reserve and will most definitely be one of the longest waits. It’s possible that even with reserving your FastPass+ selections 30-60 days in advance that they won’t be available, so waking up early the first day they’re available is key to getting a good time slot. Even if you don’t get them the first try, keep looking online or on the app to see if a FastPass+slot opened up, it’s possible if someone cancels.
The Na’vi River Journey is also tier 1 and the way that the Disney FastPass+ system operates allows you to choose one tier 1 ride and two tier 2 rides in a day. That means you have to choose between the River Journey and the Flight of Passage. The Flight of Passage is much more unique and gives a better experience, but if you prefer a scenic (mystical) river ride, the Na’vi River is the better choice.
As for tier 2 options, Expedition Everest is a must ride. It’s highly recommended to use one of your two tier 2 choices on the coaster. When the lines are long, they’re long, so a FastPass+ is always a win. If for some reason you don’t have the FastPass+ option, Expedition Everest has a single rider line. If your party doesn’t mind riding separately, the single rider line is usually half, if not less, the wait of the normal line.
The Dinosaur ride and the Safari are so different from each other but are both tier 2, so it should make your decision a bit easier. If you’d rather a thrilling dinosaur search with darkness, flashing lights and loud noises, reserve for DINOSAUR. If a long, open-aired tour-guided ride to see animals in their natural habitats is more your speed, go for the Safari.
Most of the other attractions in Animal Kingdom don’t have terribly long waits. Even the more popular shows like A Bug’s Life get crowded, but they fit so many people in at a time that it’s typically not worth the use of a FastPass+.