If you’re headed to Orlando for a Disney World vacation, I hope your plans include a day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. This post will give you a great overview of what to do, see, and eat at the park, along with a full breakdown of every ride and the best order in which to ride them.
Let’s get wild!
I have a confession to make. I was resistant to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for a long time. I figured I could go to a zoo anywhere! But the Animal Kingdom is way more than a zoo and has some of our all-time favorite Disney rides, shows, attractions, and activities. I can honestly say that Animal Kingdom is now one of my all-time favorite theme parks.
Read on for our list of Animal Kingdom rides, activities, and shows, and start planning your visit!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park Rides
Like most Disney parks, Animal Kingdom is made up of several lands. You’ll enter through the Oasis and onto Discovery Island. From there, you can head into (from southwest and going clockwise) Pandora – The World of Avatar, Africa, Asia, or DinoLand U.S.A. The final section, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, is accessed via the Wildlife Express Train in Africa.
Discovery Island Rides & Attractions
Tree of Life
While it’s not a ride, there’s no doubt that the Tree of Life is the iconic symbol of the Animal Kingdom, and it’s worth taking some time to admire it from all angles. Over 300 animals are carved into the trunk!
Be sure to snap a photo with the Tree of Life and return after sundown to see it all lit up. If it’s running, you can also watch the nighttime show, Tree of Life Awakenings.
It’s Tough to be a Bug!
Height requirement: n/a
Thrill factor: 1/5
It’s Tough to be a Bug is a 3D show where you’ll get up close and personal with a variety of bugs. Don’t worry — the bugs are all animated — though the show does incorporate some smells and other “4D” effects to give you the full bug experience.
This show used to also be found in It’s a Bug Land (R.I.P.) at Disney’s California Adventure, so if you’re mourning the loss of that cute, kid-friendly land on the opposite coast, you can still experience part of it here!
This attraction is perfect if: You enjoy 3D shows, bugs, and/or you just want to sit and be entertained for a bit.
Theme Park Must-Haves
Pandora – The World of Avatar Rides & Attractions
Avatar Flight of Passage
Height requirement: 44”
Thrill factor: 3/5
Flight of Passage is a thrilling simulator ride, where you get to ride on the back of a banshee and experience the beauty of Pandora. Think Soarin’ but you’re sitting on a motorcycle.
When it’s time for your ride, you’ll enter a room with eight personal ride vehicles and take your spot. While the ride powers up, you can look down into a small screen where you’ll see your face as you “link” with an avatar.
Before long, your “motorcycle” comes to life and you’ll feel as if you’re really riding a banshee, soaring through the beautiful landscapes of Pandora. Add in some music and real wind against your face, and you’ve got one incredible ride experience.
This ride is perfect if: You appreciate a beautifully-crafted, exciting simulator ride experience and want to feel like you’re flying through the world of Pandora.
Height requirement: n/a
Thrill factor: 1/5
Na’vi River Journey is a slow boat ride that takes you through Pandora, the mystical world from the Avatar movies. Don’t worry, you won’t get wet on this ride!
You’ll enjoy the beautiful bioluminescent atmosphere, the unique plants and animals you’ll encounter, and the calming music and forest sounds played along your way. At the end, you’ll meet what some consider to be Disney’s best and most realistic animatronic, the Shaman. You’ll probably leave singing his song!
This ride is perfect if: You want a calming and beautiful river ride through the world of Pandora.
Africa Rides & Attractions
Height requirement: n/a
Thrill factor: 2/5
Hop aboard the Kilimanjaro Safaris to see and learn about tons of fascinating wild animals! Your tour guide will narrate the adventure and share lots of great information about the animals.
The safari tour is about 20 minutes so make sure you have plenty of time before the next thing on your agenda. But don’t miss this unique ride that takes you through the heart of the Animal Kingdom — since the animals are free to roam within their areas, every tour is slightly different!
This ride is perfect if: You love zoos and animals and would love a chance to see them at Animal Kingdom!
Wildlife Express Train
Height requirement: n/a
Thrill factor: 1/5
Board the Wildlife Express Train in Africa to get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. You’ll enjoy a relaxing, 7-minute trip past some of the backstage areas of Animal Kingdom where they house and care for the animals.
This ride is perfect if: You’re headed to Rafiki’s Planet Watch or just want to enjoy a relaxing train ride!
Asia Rides & Attractions
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
Height requirement: 44”
Thrill factor: 4/5
Expedition Everest is an exciting roller coaster that takes you on an adventure to the top of Mount Everest, where you’ll be chased by the Yeti who guards the Forbidden Mountain! Did you know that Expedition Everest’s fake mountain is the tallest artificial mountain in the world?
This ride has big drops and fast turns and is perfect for those who like the thrill of coasters! For those who are on the fence, I’d say Everest is slightly more intense than Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom Park and much less intense than Rock n Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or The Hulk Coaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
If you’re sensitive to backward movements, know that there is a pretty intense backward-riding portion of the ride.
This ride is perfect if: You love roller coasters and thrilling rides!
Kali River Rapids
Height requirement: 38”
Thrill factor: 3/5
Note: Kali River Rapids will be temporarily unavailable due to regularly scheduled maintenance from January 8–mid-March 2024.
Kali River Rapids is a water raft ride, with plenty of twists, turns, spins, and water! You’re sure to get wet on this ride, as your raft can turn at random, ensuring that everyone on the raft gets wet. I will say, though, that we didn’t get absolutely soaked like some water rides (*cough cough* Universal water rides *cough*).
This is a great ride to hit on a hot day when you’ll appreciate getting cooled off. There is one bigger drop near the end, but nothing too intense.
This ride is perfect if: It’s hot or you just want to get wet regardless!
DinoLand U.S.A. Rides & Attractions
2024 update: The future of DinoLand U.S.A. has been up in the air for some time. One of the major rides in the land, Primeval Whirl, was closed permanently in 2020, and Disney execs have said that they are planning to retheme the whole area in the near future.
It sounds like the plan is to retheme the land after the “Tropical Americas” and include an areas based on Disney’s Encanto and Indiana Jones. We are big fans of Encanto, so I’m really excited to see what they come up with for that area (“Hola, Casita!”), but I will be sad to see the DINOSAUR ride go. That’s one of my favorites at Animal Kingdom, so be sure to get there and ride it while you still can! Speaking of which…
Height requirement: 40”
Thrill factor: 3/5
DINOSAUR is a middle-range thrill attraction where you board a time machine jeep and venture into the past to save the iguanodon from death by meteorite. As you ride past all the different kinds of dinosaurs trying to find the right one, the countdown to the meteor crash is ticking away.
I’ve heard this ride compared to Indiana Jones at Disneyland (and, in fact, it sounds like there may be plans to replace DINOSAUR with that exact ride), and I think that’s a great comparison. There’s a lot of bumps and quick turns, but nothing extreme. Those with motion sickness might struggle with this one, but most should be fine. Young kids might find the darkness of the ride and the dinosaur animatronics frightening.
This is a great ride that’s a favorite of ours — the final moment is always a fun thrill!
This ride is perfect if: You love dinosaurs, enjoy a medium thrill, and can handle a little suspense!
Height requirement: n/a
Thrill factor: 2/5
TriceraTop Spin is the only real kiddie ride at Animal Kingdom, but visitors of all ages can enjoy a spin! It’s a Dumbo-style ride where you’ll board a triceratops dinosaur and ride around in a circle, flying high or low at your control.
Like I mentioned, DinoLand U.S.A is expected to undergo an overhaul or complete retheming soon, so if you want to ride Triceratop Spin, I suggest getting there soon before it goes the way of Primeval Whirl (R.I.P.)!
This ride is perfect if: You have little ones or prefer a calm ride experience.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch Rides & Attractions
The Wildlife Express Train in Africa brings you to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, a section of the park that’s far enough away from the rest of the lands that you must take the train to get there — no walking!
Other than the train, there are no rides in Rafiki’s Planet Watch, but it’s definitely worth the trip. You can visit Affection Section, a petting zoo, to meet some of the park’s tamer animals up close. Conservation Station allows you a peek into how the Animal Kingdom animals are cared for. Or explore Habitat Habit!, an outdoor discovery trail.
But we think the best part of visiting Rafiki’s is the Animation Experience! Several times throughout the day (check the My Disney Experience app for times), you can join a 25-minute drawing class where a cast member will guide you through drawing a Disney character. Even complete non-artists like myself can do an impressive job by following the step-by-step instructions!
Once you’re done at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, catch the Wildlife Express Train back to Africa and the rest of Animal Kingdom.
The best order to ride Animal Kingdom rides
Here’s the general order we suggest hitting the Animal Kingdom rides, but chances are good you’ll need to adjust based on any passes you have, ride operation status (sometimes rides close for a period of time during the day), current wait times, and of course, your own priorities.
Can I ride every ride at the Animal Kingdom in one day?
Yes, definitely. If you want to also do character interactions, sit-down meals, and shows, you’ll be busy, but it’s very possible to do everything at Animal Kingdom in one day.
You’ll give yourself the best chance of maximizing your ride time if you visit during a less busy time of year (January, September, and the first half of November are our picks), go on a weekday, go on a day when the park is open early and closes late, and go early!
Arrive an hour before the posted opening time, at least. You’ll wait a little bit at the park entrance, but once you’re inside you’ll be able to get right on your first few rides, and you’ll be ahead of everyone else piling into the park a little later in the morning. If you are staying onsite and can get into the park an hour early, that’s a huge advantage so take it!
Go to the most popular rides first. Those lines will get long quickly and usually stay long throughout the rest of the day.
Sometimes it’s a good strategy to go to a big ride right at the end of the day, because Disney will let you get into line right up until closing time, which means you could be in the park (in line and on the ride) well after the official close time. But I like to save this tactic for reriding a favorite ride. That way, if it doesn’t work out, we still got to ride it.
FastPass, Genie+, Lightning Lanes, & Virtual Queue
Disney has changed up their ride reservation system a lot over the past few years, and it’s hard to keep up! I’ll explain what I know and do my best to keep this updated, but I strongly recommend researching the latest offerings and procedures directly from the Mouse’s mouth (a.k.a. check the WDW website).
FastPass and FastPass+ are gone. Kiss ‘em goodbye. Unlearn those words.
Disney Genie is a virtual planner in the My Disney Experience app that helps you schedule your day and ideally do everything you want to do with minimum wait times. It’s free, but it doesn’t allow you to schedule any ride reservations. That’s where Disney Genie+ comes in.
Disney Genie+ is a paid service that allows you to schedule reservations for certain rides and attractions throughout the parks. When you arrive at your reservation time, you’ll use the Lightning Lane to get on the ride quickly.
Not every ride has a Lightning Lane, but many do. You can book additional reservations after you’ve redeemed your most recent reservation, or 120 minutes after you’ve scheduled your most recent reservation.
Some of the most popular rides open up a Virtual Queue on the My Disney Experience app at certain times of day. This allows you to secure a spot in a boarding group that will get called to ride the ride at some point that day. These are free, but you have to have fast fingers to snag one!
At Walt Disney World in January 2024, there are two rides using Virtual Queue: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot and TRON Lightcycle / Run at Magic Kingdom Park.
Lastly, some attractions have Individual Lightning Lanes. These are popular rides that are not included in the Genie+ reservation system. Instead, you have to purchase an a la carte Lightning Lane reservation, and you’re limited to two per day.
The good news here is that if you aren’t able to get a Virtual Queue boarding pass for the ride you were just dying to experience, you might be able to buy your way on.
Exhausted yet? Well now you just have to remember that there are even more rules for when and where you can purchase/reserve these various ride reservations. For some you have to be in the park, some require the park to be officially open first, others you can book in the early morning before the park opens… It takes some research, but if you want to do all the things, it’s worth spending the time. You just read this overview, so you’re well on your way!
Enough of that nonsense — on to the ride order!
Animal Kingdom Theme Park ride order 2024
Below you’ll find what we consider to be the best order of Animal Kingdom rides in 2024, but there are so many factors that come into play that you’ll need to stay flexible. You may have different ride priorities, ride reservation times may cause you to switch things around, you might want to eat meals in certain locations that affect where you are and when, and line wait times and ride down times are never completely predictable.
Here’s our order recommendation, then read on for our explanation:
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Na’vi River Journey
- Expedition Everest
- TriceraTop Spin
- Kali River Rapids
- It’s Tough to be a Bug!
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Wildlife Express Train
Without a doubt, head to Pandora and ride Flight of Passage first thing. This is a breathtakingly beautiful ride and it’s very popular. You’ll want to get in line first thing, or else you’re looking at a minimum 45-minute wait, but possibly up to several hours. Then, head right over to Na’vi River Journey and complete your Avatar experience.
Then we recommend heading over to Expedition Everest in Asia. On quieter days, we’ve been able to ride the two Avatar rides first, then walk on to Everest half a dozen times in a row! This probably won’t be your experience on a busy day, but we still think making Everest your third ride is the way to go.
Then, take the path from Asia to DinoLand U.S.A. and head over to DINOSAUR. This ride also gets popular but if you head there for your fourth ride, you should beat the crowds. While you’re in DinoLand U.S.A., you might as well hit TriceraTop Spin.
At this point, you’ve hit most of the rides! It might be time for lunch, or you might want to see a show or explore an animal trail next.
If it’s warm, you might head back to Asia to ride Kali River Rapids. Then, on your way to Africa, stop by the Tree of Life and see It’s Tough to be a Bug!
Then there are just two more areas left to visit. Ride the Kilimanjaro Safaris in Africa, then catch the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and do all the activities there.
Once the sun goes down, be sure to head back to Pandora to see the land’s bioluminescence light up the night! And probably try to ride Flight of Passage again while you’re there!
What to do other than rides at Animal Kingdom Park
Animal Kingdom doesn’t have as many rides as some other theme parks, but it arguably has some of the best rides. Either way, there’s lots to do at Animal Kingdom beyond rides. This park has some of the best stage shows that Disney has to offer, great dining, and, of course, ANIMALS!
Animal Kingdom entertainment
There are several can’t-miss shows at the Animal Kingdom, so make sure to fit them into your day!
In Africa, don’t miss Festival of the Lion King which tells Simba’s story with impressive puppetry, dancing, and music.
In DinoLand U.S.A., catch Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond! Join your favorite fish and other underwater creatures as they retell the story of Nemo.
In Asia, you can watch animal trainers show off their skills and meet some truly majestic birds at Feathered Friends in Flight! This is one of our favorite shows and we always catch it when we visit the Animal Kingdom.
As you go throughout your day at Animal Kingdom, you’re bound to run into musicians playing the music and instruments from their cultures. And if you hang out along the river, you can see flotillas go by with some of your favorite Disney characters.
Be sure to end your day with Tree of Life Awakenings, a mesmerizing light and music show on the Tree of Life. This show usually only runs on nights when the park is open after sundown.
Animal Kingdom play areas & games
In DinoLand U.S.A., you’ll find carnival-style games at Fossil Fun Games. You’ll need vouchers to play which you can purchase at the nearby souvenir stand. Nearby, kids can play in The Boneyard and pretend to be paleontologists, digging up dinosaur bones and fossils.
Animal Kingdom visitors also have several opportunities to earn adventure badges and become Wilderness Explorers. Just pick up a Wilderness Explorer handbook and start completing the self-guided activities.
Animal Kingdom animals
All throughout the Animal Kingdom you’ll run into animal exhibits where you can see interesting, unique animals do their thing. There are also special animal trails you can walk along that take you through a series of animal encounters.
In The Oasis Exhibits, you can see giant anteaters, babirusas, barking deer, wallabies, and spoonbills.
On Discovery Island, take the Discovery Island Trails all around the Tree of Life and see otters, kangaroos, and tortoises, among others.
In Africa, walk along the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail to see zebras, hippos, and, of course, gorillas!
In Asia, take the Maharajah Jungle Trek to see komodo dragons, water buffalos, and tigers.
Animal Kingdom special events
Animal Kingdom offers several VIP tours that require an extra payment and offer exclusive experiences for guests. With Savor the Savanna, you’ll enjoy a private safari, tapas, beverages, and a view that you can only enjoy when you book the tour. On the Wild Africa Trek, a private guide will offer you close encounters with exotic animals and then you’ll enjoy gourmet snacks.
Other animal-themed add-ons include Caring for Giants and Up Close with Rhinos, which allow you to get closer and learn more about the park’s elephants and rhinos, respectively.
In addition to these Animal Kingdom exclusive tours, look for special food, merchandise, entertainment, and activities at different holidays and seasons throughout the year. Animal Kingdom celebrates Earth Day in a special way, so check Walt Disney World’s website for specifics as we get closer to April.
Animal Kingdom food
With all these great rides, attractions, entertainment, and experiences, Animal Kingdom probably skimps on food, huh? NOPE! We’ve had some of our best Disney meals at Animal Kingdom. Here are our favorites:
- Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit at Isle of Java, for a mid-morning breakfast power boost
- Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork at Flame Tree BBQ. The onion ring on top truly makes this dish by giving it a bit of crunch!
- Mickey pretzels with cheese at Trek Snacks
- Cheeseburger Steamed Pods – Bao Buns at Satu’li Canteen
- Dole Whips at Tamu Tamu Refreshments
- Pizza kids meals and cupcakes at Pizzafari
We hope this guide helps you plan an absolutely outstanding day at Animal Kingdom. Please come back and share your experience!
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