With crowds growing seemingly larger and our humid Florida summer days upon us, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and out of sorts when visiting the parks. I find myself trying to get to the root of what keeps me motivated to keep coming to Disney; seeking out the special moments in perhaps the sights and attractions not obvious to the crowd.
I visited Animal Kingdom this past weekend, the hottest and most humid theme park of them all, and truthfully I hadn’t visited it in months. While walking around the Discovery Island area, I noticed the sign for the Tree of Life Garden. Surely I had walked through here before, but in that moment, I could not recall from memory that I had, so I was excited to explore something new for myself.
As you walk through the paths, you’ll find some animal species, including lemurs, kangaroos, and other creatures. Along the way, you are led around the gigantic roots of the Tree of Life and can spot some guests shrinking down to the size of an ant for It’s Tough to be a Bug.
You begin to feel insect-sized yourself as you approach the emerging Tree of Life. Surrounded by lush plant life, towering trees, and massive roots curving your path, you know a sight to behold is just around the river bend- I mean corner.
Looking up at this mammoth tree with its various animal carvings, you can’t help but feel humbled by its sheer size and might.
Joe Rohde, former Imagineer for Disney and leader of the creative team behind Animal Kingdom, provides the following explanation for the park’s icon.
“In the middle of the park is the centerpiece and icon. The Tree of Life. Named for the old-fashioned 19th-century diagram of interconnected spread of life. Because the park is dedicated to the themes of animals and their relationships to humans, (good and bad) we needed a non-architectural icon… something “natural.” Since nature is everywhere anyway, we also need to signify that this place is exceptional… in some way “magical.” Thus… a strange tree. A tree whose body disappears under patient observation to become nothing but animals. A metaphor for the rewards nature can provide to the careful observer.”
Although it seems ironic as this tree was conceived through “Disney magic,” I felt deeply connected to my place in nature and my responsibility to take care of and respect this planet. Standing in the shade, listening to the nearby waterfall, I felt centered and at peace, forgetting any thoughts about the outside crowd. Next time you visit Animal Kingdom, I highly recommend taking a stroll through the Tree of Life Garden to center yourself and take a moment to clear your head… and snap some great pics!
Check out an overview of my Animal Kingdom day, including the Tree of Life Garden, through my Instagram link below.
Emily has a background in the arts and has been going to Disney World since 1992. As a more recent resident of Orlando, her theme park mindset has fluctuated from avid vacationer to local park goer. She enjoys sharing her love and knowledge for all things Disney and can be found on Instagram and TikTok @explorewithemilynicole