I’m strange. My favorite park is Animal Kingdom. It has been since my very first trip to Walt Disney World. This always comes as a bit of a shock to most people. They say they just don’t “get” Animal Kingdom. I often hear that most people consider Animal Kingdom to be the park they least want to visit. Some people don’t even bother to visit the park at all. I just don’t understand. While I love every Disney park, Animal Kingdom is so different and invokes such a unique feeling that it remains my favorite. Here are the top eleven reasons why I love Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
11 – The Anti-Theme Park
I think part of the problem of people not caring for Animal Kingdom is expectations. Animal Kingdom is just different. It’s not at all like a “normal” theme park, and that’s one of the reasons I love it. Some super fans of Disney often refer to Walt Disney World as a bubble. You enter, and you are in another world, free from our normal daily stresses. Animal Kingdom is a bubble within the bubble. It feels completely different than any of the other parks. It’s a retreat from the norm, and that can be very refreshing.
10 – They say it’s “Nahtazu,” but actually “Izazu,” — an Awesome One
Early Disney campaigns for Animal Kingdom wanted us to know that Animal Kingdom was, “Nahtazu!” (not a zoo). See this old clip: Early Animal Kingdom Ad. I’m not sure why Disney tried to distance themselves from being associated with zoos, because actually “Itzazu,” (it’s a zoo), and an awesome one! One of the reasons I love visiting Animal Kingdom is the animals. Animal Kingdom boasts more than 1,700 animals across 250 species. Warning: One visit to Animal Kingdom and all other zoos will pale in comparison. It’s just no fun to see elephants living on concrete pads. But to see a family herd of elephants enjoying roaming across acres of land, well, that I can enjoy.
9 – Lions, and Tigers, and Gorillas. Oh, My!
If you love animals, then Animal Kingdom is the place to be. The sheer size of Kilimanjaro Safaris is impressive. The Safaris, at roughly 110 acres, is almost the same size as the entire Magic Kingdom Park. That size allows guests a way to observe and interact with animals like never before. At the end of the Safaris, you’ll be treated to a Pride Rock type habitat with the lions. You may not see a lion every time, but when you do, it’s a real treat. Kilimanjaro Safari exits into Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail where you explore and interact with many, many more animals. Finally, Maharajah Jungle Trek specializes in animals found on the Asian continent, including many beautiful tigers. My favorite spot is visiting with the gorillas at the end of the trail. I could stay and watch the gorillas for hours (and I have).
8 – Learning Abounds
When you think of learning opportunities, many people jump to Epcot as the place to be. While Epcot is an obvious choice for physical science and cultural studies, Animal Kingdom is the place to be for all things biology and conservation. A field trip to Animal Kingdom is no joke. A great program to participate in is the Wilderness Explorers program. Children of all ages can become Wilderness Explorers by collecting over 30 badges by completing dozens of self-guided activities and missions. It’s a great way to include some learning in your day!
7 – It’s for the Birds
Bird lovers rejoice. Bird watching is first-rate at Animal Kingdom. Find birds at Up! A Great Bird Adventure, The Oasis Exhibits, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, Discovery Island Trails, and Maharajah Jungle Trek.
6 – Best Water Ride to Get Completely Soaked
Warning, you WILL get wet. While Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom is probably considered the best water ride at Disney World, Kali River Rapids has to win the ‘Most Soaked’ award. During the scorching Orlando summers, this ride provides wonderful relief by getting you completely drenched. I’ll never understand people who wear rain ponchos on water rides. Do you?
5 – Great Anti-Theme Park Food
Animal Kingdom was built in 1998, so it’s the youngest of the parks. I believe when it comes to dining, that youth shows excellently. The food is refreshingly different. Yak & Yeti boast delicious Asian-inspired meals, while Tusker House in Africa adds an intriguing African flare to its courses. Satu’li Canteen in Pandora – The World of Avatar has fresh food with amazing flavors and combinations. Don’t fret though. There are plenty of standard Disney fare such as burgers, chicken, and fries for your picky eaters. For the more adventurous, there are a wide variety of different food items that you won’t find at the other parks. This is a bonus.
4 – Experience Jurassic Park without Being Eaten
I’ll never forget the first time I rode Dinosaur in Dino Land U.S.A. Never. The story is immersing; the ride amazing and realistic. Did I mention realistic? I remember thinking, “Didn’t you people ever watch Jurassic Park? Why would anyone think it’s a good idea to hang out with dinosaurs?”
Tip: While the height requirements allow young children to ride, parents may wish to wait for their little ones to ride. This ride is very intense. Many spots are in complete darkness, and it is very, very loud. If you ever want your children to ride other rides, you may want to delay this one. You know your child best, but we waited until we knew our children could handle the dark, loud noise and a scary situation. We HIGHLY recommend riding this once alone before bringing the kids!
3 – Pandora: The World of Avatar
The largest expansion in the history of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is based on Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron’s record-breaking box-office hit, Avatar, which was released in 2009. The land is an amazing spectacle of Disney Imagineering, creativity and story-telling. As you explore the vibrant terrain sprawling beneath mountains that appear to float in the sky, you’ll see waterfalls cascading down the mountainside into meandering streams and pools, and then you’ll discover two thrilling new expeditions: Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. There are so many amazing things to explore. Visiting Pandora an absolute must-do on your trip to Disney World.
2 – Best Entertainment on Disney Property
Editor’s Note: During the phased reopening of Walt Disney World, Finding Nemo-The Musical is temporarily suspended.
The Festival of the Lion King is hands down the best Disney show, ever. This is not an opinion, this is a fact. :) The stage production, dancing, and singing inspired a Broadway show, but this one is good enough to be on Broadway. There is something about that show that makes me cry almost every time we see it. ‘Amazing’ is just one word that sums it up. A close second, and also in Animal Kingdom, is Finding Nemo-The Musical. The puppetry alone is well worth a look. Animal Kingdom also has a spectacular nighttime show, Rivers of Light: We Are One, that is not to be missed! These three shows alone are reason enough to come to Animal Kingdom!
1 – TWO of the Best Thrill Rides at Walt Disney World
Animal Kingdom boasts two of the best thrill rides on the property: Expedition Everest and Avatar Flight of Passage! Expedition Everest was a welcome addition to Animal Kingdom in 2006. While the park had Dinosaur and the Kilimanjaro Safari’s, the park was still missing a major E-ticket ride; a roller coaster. Expedition Everest is Disney storytelling at its finest. It’s not just a ride, it’s a totally immersive experience. From the moment you step into the queue, you are swept into the story of trekking through Everest to find the mysterious Yeti. Does he exist? The attention to detail is amazing. You may not even mind waiting in line because there is so much to see. The roller coaster ride is the best at Walt Disney World. Best. I love Rockin’ Roller Coaster and Space Mountain, but they can’t touch the experience that is Expedition Everest. Twists, turns, drops and the Yeti himself make a fantastic ride. If you are a thrill-seeking, roller coaster lover, then this is the first line you get into.
Avatar Flight of Passage can be found in the land of Pandora – The World of Avatar. Fight of Passage launches each guest on an exhilarating, wind-in-your-face experience on a winged mountain banshee over the awe-inspiring world of Pandora. Guests will actually feel the banshee breathe beneath them as they soar through the forest and past floating mountains. This simulation type ride is thrilling, realistic and very intense. Guests sit on seats similar to a motorcycle that face an enormous projection screen similar to Soarin’. The projection is 3D so expect to wear 3D glasses. There are also numerous 4D effects and scents that add to the realism. Most guests will find it the most amazing simulator ride they’ve ever experienced. Guests rave about this incredible attraction. This attraction alone is well worth a visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
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