Disney's Animal Kingdom
|Animal Kingdom Attractions||Rafiki's Planet Watch|
Animal Kingdom Overview
by Pete Werner Founder, Webmaster
On April 22, 1998, Disney unleashed its newest theme park on the world in the form of Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Whatever you do, don't call it a zoo (they get touchy about that word around Animal Kingdom).
This newest venture marked a departure from what Disney had been turning out in the way of theme parks for many years. Any park banking its success on "edutainment" was bound to have issues, and Disney knew it. Epcot proved it was effectively kryptonite for children, and Disney was challenged to make sure that Animal Kingdom didn't suffer the same fate. In spite of some of its early preachiness (and some unfair press about animal care at the park)- Disney's Animal Kingdom opened to generally good reviews.
At a cost of nearly $1 Billion to complete, Animal Kingdom was an expensive theme park. In fact, one of the planned 'lands' for Animal Kingdom was eventually cut from development due to cost overruns in the budget. The never realized land was to be called the "Beastly Kingdom" and feature a myriad of rides themed around mythical creatures. The Imagineers who were laid off when the plans were scrapped, were eventually hired by Universal Orlando to build the Dragon Challenge coaster for Islands of Adventure - arguably one of the best roller coasters in North America. Oops.
Tip: If you are planning on taking pictures on the Safari, try to get a seat on the end of the row. That way you won't have peoples' heads in your pictures. Plan on riding it twice to get the animals on each side of the truck.
Animal Kingdom's 500 acres are home to some 1700 animals representing 250 different species throughout the park. A ride on the Kilimanjaro Safari will give you a chance to see many of them as they take you through the African Savannah (though the jeeps you ride in will rarely slow down long enough to allow you a good picture. This has led us to refer to this attraction as the "Kilimanjaro 500"). If you do want a chance to get better pictures, Animal Kingdom offers the Wild Africa Trek, a tour that gives you up-close views of the animals, sends you on a rope bridge over hippos and crocodiles and lunch in a private safari camp on the savannah. Of course, this is Disney, so these "extras" will come at a cost.
As the Park's perennial Icon, the Tree of Life is truly a work of art in the best Disney tradition. At 145 ft, this 14 story artificial tree has the images of more than 300 animals hand-carved into its trunk. The base of the Tree of Life is home to the 3D film "It's Tough to be a Bug." On your way to see the show, you will invariably encounter those holding up the line to stare at each and every one of the animals on the tree. Feel free to push those people to the ground and keep going :)
A good portion of Animal Kingdom's growth came with the opening of Asia in 1999. The Maharaja Jungle Trek - which is a walking tour that features bats, komodo dragons, bats, deer, birds, did I mention bats? The 'bat cage' is just plain creepy, and if you have an aversion to bats the way I do, you'll find this part of the walking tour uncomfortable. The second notable attraction in Asia is Kali River Rapids. If you have trouble finding it, just look for the people going on the water ride wearing big yellow ponchos (to this day I can't figure out why you'd go on a water ride wearing a poncho - isn't it just easier not to ride if you don't want to get wet?). As water rides go, Kali River Rapids is okay - like most attractions these days it's a bit too short, and keeping with Animal Kingdom's general preachiness, you learn about the evils of deforestation while riding on machinery and materials that will still be trying to biodegrade in 500 years. Gotta love irony.
Gracing the landscape in Asia is the incredible Expedition Everest. The attraction features a two way track system that takes guests forward, then backward when attacked by the mythical yeti that guards the "forbidden mountain". While technically a roller coaster, it's a roller coaster of the Big Thunder Mountain variety - which means it's family friendly. I don't do well on coasters at all, and I enjoyed this one thoroughly.
There are also some unique dining experiences at Animal Kingdom. The Flame Tree Barbecue remains one of my steady favorites. The St. Louis Ribs or smoked 1/2 chicken are both excellent. While the Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom falls under the category of "unique," it unfortunately seems to avoid consistency like the plague. This restaurant is a very 'hit or miss' experience.
Flame Tree BBQ [Discussion] [Menu]Some advice.... In an effort to keep the animals on a strict schedule, Animal Kingdom normally closes earlier then the other Disney theme parks. Arriving first thing in the morning is usually recommended during peak season. Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest get long lines very quickly, so be sure to hit those first, or at least get fast passes early in the day.
Rainforest Cafe [Discussion] [Menus]
It should also be warned that Animal Kingdom is, for some unknown reason, the hottest place on the face of the earth. The park is suspiciously devoid of shade, and while I'm all for authenticity in theming - it really doesn't need to be "Africa hot." If you can, avoid this park during the summer season - it's just an unpleasant experience. If you have to go when it's hot - HAVE A PLAN (and lots of water). The layout of Animal Kingdom is such that you're often forced to back track in order to navigate the park. This adds a lot of walking to the list of things to be aware of before going. A good pair of comfortable shoes will be your best friend at Animal Kingdom. You should also be sure to adjust your expectations to get the most out of this park. Most of what you will experience here will have a general message of conservation. While that's a good thing, and worthy of support - some arrive expecting a more traditional theme park experience and are invariably disappointed. It's important to appreciate Animal Kingdom for what it is - do that, and you'll have a very enjoyable time in this very unique park.
- Animal Kingdom Animals
- Dinoland USA
- Expedition Everest Photos
- Festival of the Lion King
- Jammin Jungle Parade
- Tree of Life
Click Here for a No-Obligation Disney Vacation Quote
from Dreams Unlimited Travel
- Times updated for events at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - The Party is a specially ticketed event at the Magic Kingdom that begins September 1.
- Villains' Sinister Soiree add-on available for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - This special add-on will give guests preferred viewing for Mickey's Boo to You Halloween Parade (8:15pm) and the Happy HalloWishes fireworks show. Lady Tremaine will host a dessert soiree at Cinderella's Royal Table Restaurant for you and some of her friends.
- 5 Elements from the Disney Parks that You'll Find on a Disney Cruise Ship - You have been to the Disney Parks, and you love them. You keep going back for that pixie-dust rush. You can’t imagine a vacation apart from Disney Parks, yet somehow the “old and familiar” is getting a bit old and familiar. This is where the Disney Cruise Line enters. It’s a Disney vacation of a different variety. The dissimilarities are a bit obvious. You’re on a ship in the ocean, visiting foreign places. This is nothing like being landlocked in a park, surrounded by coasters and kiosks. So what can you expect from the Disney Parks to carry over to your cruise?
- Blog - "Villains Unleashed" needs leashing up - Disney's overcrowded hard ticket event leaves guests in long lines most of the night
- Mickey's PhilharMagic refurb extended - The end date has been moved from September 19 to the 28th. The attraction will go down September 8.
- Enchanted Tiki Room going down for refurb in late September - The Magic Kingdom attraction will be closed from 9/27 - 10/3/2014.
- Two Epcot New Year's Eve dining events released - More New Year's Eve events are yet to be released.
- Blog - Beyond Aulani
- Updated operating schedule for monorails - The monorail will have a different operating schedule than normal as an automation upgrade takes place.
- Charging stations for electric vehicles added to Epcot parking lot - Disney has added four Level 2 ChargePoint charging stations to the Journey parking lot at Epcot. Electric vehicles will be charged $.35 per kw/h, with a minimum charge of $1.50.
- Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets sold out on 10/31/14 - Tickets are still available for all other dates.
- New Move it! Shake it! Dance and Play it! Street Party to debut at Magic Kingdom this fall - Stitch and Phineas & Ferb will join the party and Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy will ride on top of giant gift boxes. The soundtrack will feature remixed classic party songs and guests will vote for one of three current hits to be played.
- VIDEO: What's New at Aulani - Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa has many new offerings. Quick service at Ulu Cafe, kids splash zone at Keiki Cove, two new pools, and much more.
- MagicBands can now be purchased without ticket media - The bands are now available for purchase across property.
- Changes to boat schedules at Downtown Disney - Schedules have been changing recently due to construction.
- Blog - The Good and Bad of the "Muppets Most Wanted" Blu-ray
- Ultimate Day VIP Tour available at Epcot Food & Wine Festival - This daylong tour begins at the Festival Center's VIP Lounge and includes champagne, a beverage tasting, six-course tapas-style lunch, wine, private backstage tours, time on Epcot attractions, food and beverage pairings with Disney chefs, VIP seating at the Eat to the Beat Concert Series, and reserved seating for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth fireworks spectacular.
- Blog - New Golden Oak Outpost Menu is Waffle Fry Heaven
- Sunrise Safari at Animal Kingdom ending 12/28/14 - This tour is exclusive to Animal Kingdom Lodge Kilimanjaro Club Level guests.
- American Idol Experience to close August 30 - No plans have been announced for the space.
- Florida residents save $40 on Cirque du Soleil tickets - Through September and October, Florida residents will save $40 on adult Cirque du Soleil tickets purchased at the box office.
- VIDEO: The Refurbished Capt. Cook's at Polynesian Resort - After a long refurbishment, Capt. Cook's has reopened at the Polynesian Village Resort. Major changes include artwork in the seating area, a new menu, no more ordering off of touch screens and the tragic loss of the Dole Whip self-serve machine.
- American Film Institute at the end of Backlot Tour to close - As of August 17, the American Film Institute Showcase exhibit at the end of the ride will be closed. This exhibit features props and costumes from various films. The gift shop will also close.
- D23 Expo 2015 tickets are now on sale - Tickets for next year's D23 Expo are now on sale. The D23 Expo will be held August 14-16, 2015 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
- Constantine the Frog to attend Villains Unleashed! event - The "Muppets Most Wanted" villain will be at the Stage One Company Store location near Muppet*Vision 3D.
- Blog - Polynesian Resort's Capt. Cook's quick service restaurant reopens after refurbishment
- Golden Oak Outpost now serving specialty waffle fries - This walk-up stand is located on the backside of Frontierland on the walkway to Adventureland.
- Tower of Terror On-ride videos available with Memory Maker - After riding The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a video of the guest's ride will be added to their My Disney Experience account. This video is only available to guests who have purchased Memory Maker.
- Win a 2 Night / 3 Day stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin! - Answer 3 questions about the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin on our contest page for a chance to WIN!
- Great Irish Hooley Festival to be held at Downtown Disney - "Hooley" is Irish slang for party or celebration. Celebrate with food, drink and dancing.
- Update coming to My Disney Experience - make dining reservations 20 minutes in advance - A new update will allow guests to make same day dining reservations only 20 minutes in advance.
- Performance times updated for Night of Joy - Disney’s Night of Joy is a hard-ticket event at the Magic Kingdom that features contemporary Christian performers.
- VIDEO: Disney Park Bench - Polynesian Resort Lobby - Lobby Waterfall - Take 5 Minutes to Relax at the Polynesian Resort.
- Blog - Haunted Mansion Merchandise Continues to Materialize
- Refurb scheduled this winter for the Haunted Mansion - The attraction will be closed from 12/1 - 12/19/14.
- Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It Street Party reduces number of performances this month - Performance times will be 5:40 and 7:00pm on August 12, 13, 19, 20 and 29, 2014. Concrete work taking place on Main Street will limit the number of performances on those days.
- It's Tough to be a Bug refurb extended until 9/27 - This attraction was originally scheduled to reopen August 11, but will instead stay closed through September 27.
- Yankee Trader shop refurb extended through December - The shop is becoming a Haunted Mansion gift shop.
- VIDEO: Disney Park Bench - Adventureland - Swiss Family Treehouse Exit - Take 5 Minutes to Relax at the Magic Kingdom.
- Big Hero 6 characters coming to Walt Disney World - A specific date and location for the meet and greet has not yet been announced.
- Frozen Summer Fun extended at Disney's Hollywood Studios - This celebration has been extended through September 28.
- Top 5 Experiences at Walt Disney World That Don't Cost a Thing! - Walt Disney World can be a very expensive place — between park tickets, hotels, parking costs, meals and snacks, it all adds up very quickly. That’s why it’s important to remember that there are several fantastic experiences at Walt Disney World Resort that don’t cost a thing!
- Club Villain dance party planned for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - This will take place at the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon in Frontierland.
- Blog - New Disney Parks Inspired Coffees from Joffrey's
- Updated list of restaurants that accept Tables in Wonderland - Tables in Wonderland members save 20% off of all food and beverage purchases at the participating Disney restaurants.
- Video: Disney Park Bench - Polynesian Resort Dock - Polynesian Resort - Take 5 Minutes to Relax at Polynesian Resort Dock - Polynesian Resort
- Epcot After Hours Wind Down extended through November 9 - Stick around after IllumiNations for an evening at one of 4 exclusive lounges featuring food and beverages from award-winning Epcot chefs and sommeliers.
- Blog - Review: "Guardians of the Galaxy" combines humor, action, and a stellar cast to become the perfect summer blockbuster
- All-Star Music food court closes for refurbishment - The Intermission Food Court will be closed 8/1/14-12/20/14 for refurb.
- New events added to Epcot International Food & Wine Festival - Late Nights LIVE! and new Premium Package events added.
- Astro Orbiter rehab extended by one week - Originally scheduled to end September 19, the ride will now reopen September 28.
- Food & Wine Festival Premium events now available for booking - This includes seminars, signature dining experiences and other special events.
- Changes coming to Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It Street Party? - An update is rumored for this parade later this year, possibly around October. Possible changes are new music; Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald moving to the top of the floats; and Stitch joining the fun. Sebastian, Lumiere, and The Mad Hatter will leave the parade.
- During pool rehab, Polynesian guests will have free admission to Blizzard Beach - Originally, the resort guests were just going to be given one-day tickets to the water park, but that has been changed. They will now have complimentary unlimited admission to Blizzard Beach during their stay at the Polynesian.
- List of restaurants participating in the 2015 Disney Dining Plan - This list will be updated as more restaurants are added. Epcot and Downtown Disney restaurants don't normally finalize their participation until later in the year.
- 2015 Magic Your Way Disney World packages released! - A Walt Disney World package is a resort room and theme park admission. The Disney Dining Plan may also be added.
- Happy 15th Birthday to Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith! - The attraction originally opened its doors at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on July 29, 1999.
- Victoria & Albert's will no longer accept Tables in Wonderland - This begins August 1, 2014.
- Summertime Pals Ink & Paint Cel release - This limited release will be available at the event, or pre-order by September 25 at 5:00pm EST.
- Haunted Mansion merchandise shop coming to Magic Kingdom - The former Yankee Trader shop will become a Haunted Mansion merchandise location in the near future. The decor will be inspired by Madame Leota and will carry items from the Haunted Mansion Authentic program, such as apparel, home goods, souvenirs and more.
- Merchandise Events and Artist Appearances/Signings for August - List of authors and artists coming to the theme parks for signings and merchandise releases.
- List of characters updated for Villains Unleashed! event - Over 50 Disney villains will be taking over the park until the 13th hour!
- Beginning today, PhotoPass print packages are no longer offered table-side at character meals - This includes Chef Mickey's, 1900 Park Fare, 'Ohana, Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show and Tusker House Restaurant.
- Disney Visa cardholders can book Food & Wine Festival events early - Disney Visa cardholders can book special events two days earlier than the general public - on July 29 and July 30 from 7:00am-11:00pm EST.
- Tables in Wonderland adds blackout dates for several restaurants - The Tables in Wonderland program offers Florida Residents, DVC members and Annual Passholders 20% off of all food and beverage purchases at the participating Disney restaurants.
- Information on Holiday sleigh rides at Fort Wilderness - This horse-drawn "sleigh" ride is a fun way to celebrate the season.
- Marketplace menus for Epot International Food & Wine Festival - List of menu items for the marketplaces set up around World Showcase.
- Rehab planned in November for Magic Carpets of Aladdin - The Magic Kingdom attraction will be closed 11/10 - 11/21/2014.
- Food & Wine Festival Special Dining Experiences released - Bookings for these experiences begin July 31.
- 10 Places to Wait Out a Thunderstorm at Walt Disney World
- Disney Castaway Cay Challenge added to Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Runners who are registered for any of the Disney races (5K or longer) during the Weekend have the option to complete the Disney Castaway Cay Challenge when sailing on the Disney Dream February 23-27.
- Fantasia Miniature Golf Course rehab planned off and on for the next two weeks - Gardens Course closed 7/22-7/25/2014, 7/28-8/1/2014, 8/4-8/8/2014. The Fairways will still be open.
- Blog - I Can Go The Distance: Deciding is one thing, registering is another
- Save up to 30% on a Room Only reservation at Walt Disney World! - Valid for stays most nights 10/4/14 - 11/25/14 and 11/29/14 - 12/23/14.
- 2015 WDW hotel discount released for U.S. Military - Valid for stays most nights 9/28/14 - 10/3/15.
- All 3 remaining weekends sold out for Harambe Nights - July 26, August 2 and August 9 are sold out.
- Annual passholder discount for Spice Road Table - Through 9/17/14, Annual Passholders can get a 30% discount on their bill.
- 2015 Military Ticket Discount info released - Members of the military can purchase 4-day Magic Your Way tickets with Park Hopper option for $177 each.
- Changes to reservation times for Wishes Dessert Party - Reservations are all being set for 6:00pm, no matter when Wishes is taking place. The dessert party will actually take place one hour before Wishes.
- Frozen Summer Fun Premium package is sold out for all remaining dates - This package gives guests at Frozen Summer Fun Live reserved viewing for several events.
- Wild by Design tour to be discontinued after 9/26/14 - This tour takes place at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
- Fantasy Football Convention coming to ESPN Wide World of Sports - The convention will give attendees access to ESPN talent, a live fantasy football draft and more.
- Wet 'n Wild employee trapped in pool; now in critical condition
- Star Wars mobile game app released by Disney
- Disney contract approved by part-time employees
- Citation banning whale trainers from water will not be appealed by SeaWorld
- Disney cancels 2014 Festival of the Masters art show
- Radio Disney to shut down stations and lay off employees
- Disney proposes new contract for part-time employees
- SeaWorld announces new habitats for killer whales
- "Frozen" behind-the-scenes special coming to ABC
- PANDORA Jewelry coming to Disney Parks
Today's Theme Park Hours
Epcot Future World:
Epcot World Showcase:
|9:00 - 9:00
9:00 - 9:00
11:00 - 9:00
9:00 - 8:00
9:00 - 8:00
10:00 - 6:00
10:00 - 6:00
Extra Magic Hours Morning: Animal Kingdom