The Simple Guide to Disney Planning

Animal Kingdom2019-08-06T19:52:10-04:00

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“Welcome to a kingdom of animals… real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.”   — Michael D. Eisner, April 22, 1998

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is a lush and exotic oasis in the concrete world of theme parks, home to wild beasts and storied imagery from around the globe–and beyond–with the introduction of its newest land, Pandora–The World of Avatar. 

At its center is The Tree of Life, a towering 145-foot work of art, crafted by 3 imagineers and 10 artists over 18 months.  With over 8,000 man-made branches and 102,000 leaves that rustle in the wind, it features over 300 intricately carved animals intertwined in its roots, trunk, and branches. Arrayed around this majestic icon are the lands of Africa, Asia, Discovery Island, Dinoland, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and Pandora, based on James Cameron’s film Avatar. Animal Kingdom is also a zoological theme park offering up-close views and educational experiences, including safari adventures and animal encounters. Learn where to view the wildlife.

Don’t Miss:

 Avatar Flight of Passage. Do everything in your power to get a FastPass+ reservation for the mind-blowing, immersive, 4D simulation where you soar through the gorgeous Pandora landscape on the back of a Banshee. Lines have been up to 3 hours long, and I’m not gonna say that it’s NOT worth it…

 Sign up the kids to be Wilderness Explorers like Russell from the Disney-Pixar film Up! and earn badges by completing quests around the park. When you sign up, you get a field guide that guides you through animal and cultural exhibits to gather insights that you might otherwise miss while strolling by.

 Animal Kingdom comes to life at night and offers spectacular sound and lightscapes in Pandora’s glowing waterfalls and luminescent rain forest, imaginative projections in the Tree of Life Awakenings display, and the Rivers of Light evening show, a tranquil celebration of light and sound on the lagoon.

Download Park Map

Discovery Island

The area surrounding the Tree of Life offers garden pathways that are home to exotic animal enclosures and close up views of the intricate animal carvings. This is where you access A Bug’s Life, a 4-D movie in a subterranean theater that combines cleverness with creepy, which might be a better option for older kids.


Pandora–The World of AVATAR is set in the luminous world created by James Cameron in the movie Avatar (look for many sequels coming to a theater near you soon!) It is simply a splendor of sensory experiences not found anywhere else, and transports you to a land where islands float, plants glow and you can ride on the back of a Na’vi mountain banshee.

Who You’ll See

  • Meet Crash the researcher, showcasing his Pandora utility suit, and ask him questions about his experience on Pandora.
  • You’ll see and hear the fauna of the Valley of Mo’ara.

What You’ll Do

  • You’ll try to capture this land in photos, but Pandora may be the one place where photos can’t capture the visual magic – especially at night. Definitely spend some time in this land at night to experience the ecosystem’s evening glow.
  • Ride on the back of a banshee in Avatar–Flight of Passage — a simulated experience, so technologically advanced that it will leave you breathless and wanting more. Lines for this attraction have been as long as FOUR AND A HALF HOURS. Get a FastPass+.
  • Glide along the luminous Na’vi River, listening to soothing melodies that soar while taking in the glowing splendor of Pandora’s vibrant ecosystem.
  • Join a Na’vi drum ceremony of the Swotu Wayä (Pandoran drummers) and hear the native rhythms calling the winged mountain banshee.

Treats You’ll Eat

  • A delicious lunch or dinner at Satu’li Canteen where you can build a hearty, layered bowl with choices of wood-grilled chicken, marinated, grilled beef, tofu, or sustainable fish, all topped with your choice of sauce, crunchy vegetable slaw, and boba balls. But you’ll have to choose between that and the creatively yummy cheeseburger pods in a bao bao bun. Try the whimsical blueberry cream cheese mousse for dessert. You can’t go wrong at this ornately themed oasis.
  • A visit to Pongu Pongu will reward you with Pongu Lumpia–crispy spring rolls with cream cheese and pineapple, and a Night Blossom (or Rum Blossom if you prefer) which layers apple and desert pear limeade slush and passion fruit boba balls–a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds.


Jambo! (or Hello in English) is just one of the words you’ll learn in Swahili while trekking through Animal Kingdom’s central African landscape. You may feel like you’re in Africa, thanks in part to the Floridian heat, but mostly to the creativity of the Imagineers that have created this vibrant, colorful, and musical land.

Who You’ll See

  • Simba, Timon, Pumba and friends performing at the Festival of the Lion King live stage musical.
  • Mickey and Pals at Donald Duck’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House restaurant.

What You’ll Do

  • Go on safari covering 110 acres of “African” savannah (that’s bigger than all of Magic Kingdom). See animals in the “wild” — antelopes, cheetahs, crocodiles, elephants, flamingos, gazelles, giraffes, hippopotamuses, lions, ostriches, warthogs, wildebeest, zebras, and even critically endangered black rhinos, on Kilimanjaro Safari.
  • Board the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and visit Conservation Station to learn about Disney’s ingenious conservations efforts around the world, in a variety of multimedia exhibits that target all of the senses.

Treats You’ll Eat

  • Dole Whip float with dark rum (yum!)
  • Glowing cocktails and delectable tapas at Nomad’s Lounge, adjoining Tiffin’s signature dining restaurant.
  • Passion fruit shaved ice and African-spice rubbed ribs at the open-air Harambe Marketplace.


Asia evokes the muted mysteries south of the Himalayas, offering an expedition for all five senses. Climb Mount Everest in search of the legendary Yeti on Expedition Everest, one of Disney World’s most thrilling coasters. Watch monkeys frolic on the ruins of ancient temples under Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. Listen to live sitar and dubstep while enjoying a cup of masala chai from the Royal Andandapur Tea Company.

Who You’ll See

  • Wilderness adventurer Russell and friends in UP! A Great Bird Adventure Show
  • Close-up views of Asian tigers, komodo dragons and other exotics on the Maharajah Jungle Trek

What You’ll Do

  • Get drenched on Kali River Rapids on a rafting expedition down the Chakranadi River.

Treats You’ll Eat

  • Enjoy Asian fusion delights at the Yak & Yeti restaurant, and treat yourself to sumptuous visual design.
  • Get something to sip as you stroll, at the Thirsty River Bend & Trek Snacks. Our favorites are the Fiery Dragon, blending Byejoe Dragon Fire, a sweet and spicy spirit, with Mango Pureé and Pineapple Juice

Dinoland U.S.A.

Welcome to DinoLand U.S.A! You’ve arrived in the minutes between domestic life with dinosaurs and meteoric mayhem.

Who You’ll See

  • Donald Duck with family and friends at the Dino-Bash — a character dance party celebrating the discovery that birds are dinosaurs.
  • Nemo starring in the live musical, Finding Nemo–The Musical.

What You’ll Do

  • Visit the Dino Institute facility and go back in time to the late cretaceous period to capture an Iguanodon on the thrilling ride Dinosaur.
  • Ride the whimsical Primeval Whirl curvy coaster and countdown to the end of the dinosaur era.
  • Ride the dinosaur version of Dumbo–but without the lines– on the TriceraTop Spin.

Treats You’ll Eat

  • Frozen treats at Dino-Bites Snacks featuring Häagen-Dazs® ice cream.
  • Dino-Bash cupcakes with lemon, white chocolate mousse filling at Restaurantosaurus.
  • Buffalo chicken chips and the Smoky Bones chocolate shake, with bourbon and candied bacon.
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