Animal Kingdom

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The Secret to a Laid-back Park Day

To keep from feeling overwhelmed, pick your top 3 attractions your family wants to ride.
Now pick 2 experiences. These are usually free and thoughtful things like, “see a real giraffe."
Finally, 1 dining reservation. Whether it’s breakfast lunch or dinner, having one reservation to anchor your day can take the stress out about deciding where to eat.

first, make sure you...

  • Download the My Disney Experience app and have all your tickets and party linked.
  • Have a credit card tied to your account so it's easy to purchase Genie+ and mobile order food.

and remember...

  • If you have a single-day ticket, you can still leave the park to take a break and come back later.
  • Kids under 3 are free! No ticket required.

01. Planning Your Day

What's the best day to visit?

Historically, Animal Kingdom's highest wait times are on Fridays, and the lowest waits are on Wednesdays.

is Animal Kingdom a full park day?

There's a lot of things to see in Animal Kingdom, but not a lot of rides. Especially for kids. 

For us, we like to get in around breakfast time and head back to our room around 2-3pm. This is plenty of time for us and I appreciate the early bedtime when most nights end up being late!

is Animal Kingdom a full park day?

There's a lot of things to see in Animal Kingdom, but not a lot of rides. Especially for kids. 

For us, we like to get in around breakfast time and head back to our room around 2-3pm. This is plenty of time for us and I appreciate the early bedtime when most nights end up being late!

Let's set up your morning. First, there are three things to nail down:

1. If you're using Early Entry or not

Guests of Disney Resorts and some other hotels are allowed into the park 30 minutes before the park opens, or "Early Entry". See if you're eligible here.

Do you have a family of early risers? Animal Kingdom usually opens the earliest out of all the parks. If you're game, go for it! If you like to sleep in, Early Entry won't be your jam.

2. What time you want to leave

Every Disney resort is going to use buses to get to Animal Kingdom. If you're worried about timing or staying at a resort with slow bus stops, this is an easy park to Uber, Lyft or Minnie Van to.

3. If you're buying Genie+ or an Individual Lightning Lane

Avatar: Flight of Passage is the only ride not included in Genie+, but can be bought on its own as an "Individual Lightning Lane" (ILL). I always buy an ILL for this because it's my favorite ride in all of Disney World but that doesn't mean I want to wait an hour+ for it!

02. Morning Timeline

The two rides that will average the longest waits are Avatar Flight of Passage at 92 minutes and Na'vi River Journey at 57 minutes.

If these are on your list of must-dos, head to whichever is a priority first. BUT ONLY if you're using Early Entry and get there before Early Entry even starts. 

I have good news and bad news. The good news, these rides and right next to each other which makes it easy to hit both in the morning, BUT...

...the bad news? This park has the least amount of rides. Which means if you're heading to either of these, so is everyone else. Your best options are:

1. Skip Genie+, buy an Individual Lightning Lane for Avatar: Flight of Passage, and ride Na'vi River during Early Entry or before park close.

OR

2. Buy Genie+ to use for Na'vi River AND buy an ILL for Flight of Passage, and get to the park whenever you feel like it (my favorite option 🙌🏼)
Attractions open during Early Entry:

  • Avatar Flight of Passage (44")
  • DINOSAUR (40")
  • Expedition Everest (44")
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • TriceraTop Spin

Note that Kilimanjaro Safaris is NOT open during Early Entry!!

My perfect morning with the kids is a Lightning Lane at park opening for Kilimanjaro Safaris.

After scanning in, I'll book a Na'vi River Journey for a return time between 12 and 2 so I'm close to my favorite lunch spot (more on this under "Dining Spots"!)

After riding Kilimanjaro Safari, we'll grab a quick breakfast from Kusafari Bakery right next door.

Pro Tip: if you have a hard time finding seating, walk down a bit to Dawa Bar for more tables and shade.




HEAD TO FIRST?"

"What ride should we

My morning

60-90 min before Park Opening

  • Book your first Genie+ selection.

  • If you're an on-property guest, you can buy an Individual Lightning Lane for Avatar Flight of Passage.

30 min before Park Opening

  • Early Entry for Disney Resort guests starts.

Animal Kingdom Opens!

7:00am EST

  • Disney transportation to Animal Kingdom starts running.
  • If you're staying off property, you can now purchase an Individual Lightning Lane for Avatar Flight of Passage.
our favorite ride!

"Rope Drop" is lingo for when the park opens for the day. (A lot) of people will line up at the rope until they're allowed in.

This is only really possible if you can use Early Entry. Otherwise, on-property guests are 30 minutes ahead of you and wait times are starting to climb.

I don't recommend rope-dropping unless you know you can get there early -- at least 45 minutes before Early Entry even starts (!)

For a more laid-back morning, we buy Genie+ and an Individual Lightning Lane for Avatar: Flight of Passage. This is an added expense, but it's worth the peace of mind for us.

Depending on the time of year, Animal Kingdom can open EARLY. If your family isn't the early-to-rise type, don't feel pressured to rope-drop. 

My feelings on "rope-dropping"

Cool. Will you be using Early Entry?

YES

NO

Will you be using Early Entry?

YES

NO

DOWNLOAD NOW

Here's your itinerary!

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DOWNLOAD NOW

Here's your itinerary!

START OVER

 Download and print your itinerary to use as a baseline to craft your own laid-back day, or follow step-by-step!

03. Itineraries

04. Tips for Little Kids

BEST RIDES

RIDER SWITCH

DINING

Skip ahead to:

PLAYGROUND

CHARACTERS

SHOWS

Get $15 off my favorite stroller here!

BEST RIDES 

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Kilimanjaro Safaris

The whole family can ride this one, even teeny little babies! You'll see more animals before it gets hot in the afternoon, just keep in mind this is NOT open during Early Entry.

Na'vi River Journey

Don't worry, your kids don't have to sit and watch the 3 hour Avatar movies to appreciate this ride. A serene boat ride with nothing scary, even a tad boring (in a good way.)

TriceroTop Spin

You know the DUMBO ride in Magic Kingdom? This is the Animal Kingdom version. Anyone can ride this, and will always have a short wait. Woot!

When you're using the standby line for Kilimanjaro Safaris, you're able to bring your stroller with you until about halfway through the queue. From there, a Cast Member will park it for you. 

If you're using the Lightning Lane, you'll park your stroller before getting in line.

Safari Tip

THE BONEYARD

This is a full-blown playground in Animal Kingdom and a great spot to blow off some energy. 

Find it in the Dinoland USA area, and bonus points for Mom & Dad when you grab a margarita from the
Restaurantosaurus bar nearby.

a toddler's dream

The Wildlife Express is a 7-min train ride that will take you to Rafiki's Planet Watch. There's a drawing experience, a care facility, and  a little petting zoo that kids love. If you have a toddler that's desperate for a stroller break, it's great!

This does take up a big chunk of your day, so only do it if you're not in a rush! If you're okay with leaving your stroller, there are Disney-brand strollers for you to use when you get there (single & double). If not, you can fold your own stroller and bring it on the train.

Isn't there a train?

1/2



To find your favorite character, open your My Disney Experience app > hit map > filter Animal Kingdom > characters



Tap "show list" and to see where they are on the map and what times they'll be there.



Tap "show list" to see aaaall the characters you can meet, you can even find them on the map!



Tap "show list" and to see where they are on the map and what times they'll be there.

2/2

Chip 'n Dale
DinoLand, USA by the DINOSAUR ride
Donald
Tusker House + DinoLand Welcome Center
Daisy Duck
DinoLand, Daisy's Design Studio
Goofy
Tusker House + Dinoland near Chester & Hester's
Kevin
roams Discovery Island
Moana
across from Isle of Java
Mickey
Tusker House + Adventurers Outpost
Minnie
Adventurers Outpost
Pluto
DinoLand near Chester & Hester's
Pocahontas
The Oasis
Russell
Wilderness Explorer's Club House

CHARACTERS TO MEET

Best SHOWS

  • Festival of the Lion King
    It's cute, it's fun, it's a solid 30-min break off your feet. Shows are usually hourly from 10am-5pm, but confirm times in the Disney World app. This one is popular, so get there 30-ish mins before to guarantee a spot! (The first show of the day will be the least crowded.)

  • Finding Nemo...Big Blue & Beyond!
    A 25-minute puppet-ish style show. Again, cute.

  • It's Tough to be a Bug...maybe??
    Ok, so. My girls love the Bug's Life movie and beg to see this show. But I will tell you: it can be terrifying. Like, there are spiders that come down from the ceiling. It's a nice A/C break, but unless your kid is older, fearless, or  obsessed with the movie...don't feel bad skipping this one.

"The best part of the 'Lion King Show' is the jumping monkey people."
-- Story, 7

RIDER SWITCH

What's Rider Switch and how does it work?

This is when 1 adult rides while the other stays back with the kid(s) not riding because they're either too little/scared!

Then they *switch* The adult that stayed behind can use the Lightning Lane instead of waiting in regular standby.

1. Find a Cast Member (they'll usually be holding a device) at the attraction with your entire family.

2. The adult whose staying behind will have their ticket/MagicBand scanned along with whoever wants to ride with them. You can bring up to 1 person back with you, which means someone can ride twice!




RIDES WITH RIDER SWITCH

Avatar Flight of Passage (44")
DINOSAUR (40")
Expedition Everest* (44")
Kali River Rapids (38")
Na'vi River Journey

*has a much faster single rider line, too!

  • If you're looking for a character dining, head to Tusker House. I love this for it's not-so-typical buffet food and the A/C break. Meet Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy.

  • My favorite place to eat with the kids is surprisingly a lounge: Nomad Lounge. Pro Tip: request a booth on the porch. It's 3-sided which makes it the perfect spot to contain wild, hungry kids.

DINING

Kinda like Chipotle, but Better

I love Satu'li Canteen because it’s essentially the CHIPOTLE OF PANDORA WORLD.

Choose your protein, base and dressing that comes in fun little tapioca-kinda-boba-balls that *pop* in your mouth. My daughter gets a kick out of these! They have a vegan option, too, just get the charred green onion vinaigrette.

Bonus points for being able to mobile order ahead of time. The best lunch!

BEST QUICK SERVICE

05. The Best Food Spots

My Favorite Upscale Dining Spot

Since the 2020 closures, Tiffins has fallen a few points but it's still the spot I'd hit if you're looking for something upscale inside the park, especially if you're a wine-lover.

If you have extra time or are heading out of out the park around dinner time, both Sanaa (my #1) and Jiko are excellent options over at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

BEST TABLE SERVICE

The Only Character Meal in the Park

The only spot to find a character meal in the park is Tusker House.

You'll meet Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy in their safari gear while dining buffet-style. This is one of the better buffets in my opinion for more flavorful, non-theme-parky food, but is a bit loud.

BEST FOR KIDS

Click FOR HOW TO Mobile OrdeR

For Cocktails & Gluten-free Churros

Nomad Lounge is so. Dang. Good. And the best part is there's no advanced reservation to eat here. Chat with a Cast Member to request the porch/booth, or hit “”join walk up list”” on your My Disney Experience app if you’re less picky about your seat. 

NOT-So-SECRET LOUNGE

TIFFINS

SATU'LI CANTEEN

TUSKER HOUSE

NOMAD LOUNGE

HOW TO MOBILE ORDER

Open your My Disney Experience app, click the "+" and choose “Order Food.” Pick the restaurant, and your arrival time, and then add to your order.

During your arrival window, select the “I’m Here, Prepare My Order” button (I like to do this while I'm walking over). The screen will turn purple and tell you exactly where to pick up.

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Notes on two popular dining spots...

1. Pizzafari

I get it, you have a picky-eater and you think, pizza! Great!

But this has proooobably the worst pizza in all of Disney World. 

If you're looking for more "kid-friendly" food, I'd go to Restaurantosaurus for good ol' chicken nuggets and fries. 

2. Rainforest Cafe

Only go here if you're looking for the worst-rated restaurant in Animal Kingdom and long waits for sub-par food. 😬

A little harsh? Yes, but Animal Kingdom has GREAT food! Don't fall for this reservation trap.

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS

PREV

NEXT

Na'vi Pretzel

The bavarian pretzel from Pongu Pongu in Pandora is great to grab with the kiddos while you're doing Rider Switch for Flight of Passage!

Again from Pongu Pongu, this drink is nice and cool to sip on for the walk on the secret path to Africa (more on this later!)

Mo'ara Margarita

Tacos. Need I say more? Just don't be like me and forget every time that the Smiling Crocodile closes at 3pm.

Street Tacos

Sometimes you just want FRIES. Find this booth in Asia on your way to Expedition Everest; the perfect snack spot for spicy fries & dumplings.

Mr Kamal's Fries

Genie+ will save you time in Animal Kingdom, but since there aren't a TON of rides, some people think you're not getting as much "bang for your buck."

For us, we buy Genie+ on our days spent here for two reasons:

1. Since this park opens so early, I don't want to have to get there for Early Entry.

2. Both Na'vi River Journey and Kilimanjaro Safaris get a decent wait, so even just having a Lightning Lane for these is 🙌🏼

If you want to skip Genie+, it's definitely doable if you are okay with using Early Entry and/or staying late.

Do you need Genie+ for Animal Kingdom? It depends.

06. Tips for Genie+

WHICH RIDES HAVE LIGHTNING LANES?

Individual Lightning Lane
Avatar Flight of Passage (44")

Included in Genie+
Festival of the Lion King
DINOSAUR (40")
Expedition Everest (44")
Feathered Friends in Flight!
Finding Nemo: The Big Blue... and Beyond!
It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
Kali River Rapids (38")
Kilimanjaro Safaris
Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
Naʻvi River Journey
The Animation Experience at Conservation Station

"WHAT SHOULD I BOOK FIRST??"

Book your priorities based on which ones sell out first. These are the top rides that have the average highest wait time and sell out the soonest:

1. Avatar Flight of Passage*
2. Na'vi River Journey
3. Kilimanjaro Safaris

*Not included with Genie+ but an Individual Lightning Lane can be purchased separately

My usual go-to is to book Kilimanjaro Safaris for the soonest return time possible, then grab Na'vi River Journey as soon as I scan in.

To help you visualize what to put your money towards, here are the average wait times for the top rides:

07. Secrets & Tricks

Take This Secret Path

When you're going between Africa and Pandora World, take this secret boardwalk-like path instead of the more obvious one. 

This path is along the water is less crowded, quieter, and the boards make it the perfect stroller-nap walk. Moms, you know what I'm talking about! 

Skip the Individual Lightning Lane

While I think the Individual Lightning Lane for Avatar Flight of Passage is completely worth the money, there is a time to ride where the wait will be the lowest. 

Here's your hot tip: get in line juuuust before the park closes. For example, if the park closes at 7pm, get in line around 6:55pm and expect a wait under 30 minutes. 

I'm usually in bed by then, but if you can swing it and want to avoid coughing up the extra $$, go forth!

Best time to ride the Safari

I prefer riding the safari in the morning for.a few reasons: it's next to Kusafari Bakery, making it a great breakfast duo, it's close to the entrance, and the kids love it.

You may have heard that the morning is the best time to ride the safari since that's when the animals are most active. But if this a priority for you, evening is even better.

Shoot for getting in line 30-45 minutes before sunset for the sweet spot of animal activeness. Roar.

Quiet Places to Nap & Rest

Most of the nature trails (like Gorilla and Oasis) have quiet spots and benches with shade, just get past the initial bottleneck of people where the trial begins.

I feel like Animal Kingdom is the best for stroller naps since the ground is perfectly *not so* smooth. It does get steamy though, so come prepared! (More on this under "What to Bring")

Another quiet place to relax is Flame Tree Barbecue. Walk to the left and you'll find covered canopies with lots of fans and shade tucked in the back.

This park is HOT. Even if it's not crazy hot in Orlando...it is here. My girls love these handheld fans in addition to a stroller fan.

You'll only find paper straws here. Ya know, Sog City. Throw a handful of these compostable-but-toddler-proof straws in your bag.

Animal Kingdom is the biggest park which means there's a lotttt of walking. I've been loving Vans and Rothy's for long park days.

I mentioned it was hot, right? Chugging water is one thing, but add an electrolyte powder to really feel a difference.

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08. What to Bring

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