PlanningTrip Planning 101

11 Rookie Mistakes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom is a theme park unlike any other, and it helps to know a little bit about it before you arrive. Animal Kingdom isn’t a zoo, but it does have wild and exotic animals, but it is also a theme park, just not necessarily in the traditional sense of the word. Here are eleven rookie mistakes we hope you’ll avoid when heading to Animal Kingdom.


11 – Not Considering the Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane Options

While it’s not right or even necessary all of the time, on busy days, you might want to consider purchasing access to the new Lightning Lane. There are two Lightning Lane paid options that include different attractions, and it’s important to understand what you’ll be getting with each option. First, you can purchase Disney Genie+ for the day of your visit. This costs anywhere from $15-$35 per day, per person. With Genie+, you can access the Lightning Lane at many Disney’s Animal Kingdom attractions. See the list below for the Genie+ attractions at the park. Keep in mind that if you park hop, you do get access to the Genie+ Lightning Lane attractions at the new park adding more value to your purchase.

Disney Genie+ Attractions:

    1. Festival of the Lion King
    2. Expedition Everest
    3. Dinosaur
    4. Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond!
    5. It’s Tough to be a Bug!
    6. Kali River Rapids
    7. Kilimanjaro Safaris
    8. Na’vi River Journey
    9. The Animation Experience
    10. Feathered Friends in Flight!
    11. Meet Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost

A second option for purchasing Lightning Lane is the a la carte method. The two attractions below are NOT included with your Genie+ purchase and must be purchased separately. Prices range anywhere from $7-$25 per person per attraction. So a family of five may end up paying $125 just to ride Flight of Passage. If you plan to park hop, remember you only get two Individual Lightning Lane purchases a day–not per park! Keep that in mind when choosing which attractions to purchase. 

Individual A la Carte Lightning Lane Attraction:

    1. Avatar Flight of Passage

Keep in mind that you do not have to purchase either of these options to enjoy these attractions. Most of the attractions listed above have moderate wait times, and some regularly have low wait times. 

10 – Missing Out on Characters

Editor’s Note: Not all characters have returned to their original location greeting spots. You’ll still see many characters come through on special cavalcades throughout the day on the Discovery River or at locations in the park. Check the My Disney Experience for up-to-date locations and greeting times. 

Mickey and many of his friends can be found at all four theme parks, though Animal Kingdom is the only park you’ll find them in their safari costumes. Animal Kingdom also has a number of character meet and greets that cannot be found anywhere else on Disney property. Guests can meet Pixar favorites Dug and Russell, as well as Pocahontas and Scrooge McDuck. These characters each have their designated spot and appear at scheduled times. You can find the locations and times online, on the My Disney Experience App, or in a times guide at the park.


9 – Not Using the Single Rider Line

Expedition Everest can have very long standby waits, but there is a way to get around that, especially if you don’t want to purchase Lightning Lane access for the attraction. Expedition Everest usually has a short single-rider line that moves very quickly. Cast members take guests from this line to fill in the empty seats on the tea trains. You won’t be able to sit next to your friends or family, but it’s a great way to ride this attraction a few times without wasting time in a long line.

8 – Skipping the Shows

Some of the best entertainment offerings are at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… And Beyond or Festival of the Lion King each have numerous performances throughout the day, and the theaters can accommodate a lot of people. For example, one performance of Finding Nemo can seat 1,500 people. If you arrive 20-30 minutes before a show time, you will get a good seat at either show.

Festival of the Lion King-3

7 – Missing Out on Wilderness Explorers

Wilderness Explorers is often thought to be just for kids, but it’s fun for the whole family and adults who just want to discover more about the park and learn a few new things. There are numerous self-guided activities and challenges to complete throughout the park, and you collect badges each time you complete a challenge. You can continue to do this with each visit to Animal Kingdom. Make a new tradition out of it, and complete one challenge per visit.

6 – Animal Kingdom Souvenirs

Like each Disney park, some souvenirs are only available at that particular park or at certain stores in the parks, and the same goes for Animal Kingdom. The mugs, t-shirts, or attraction-specific souvenirs can only be found here at the park, so don’t think you can just pick it up another day if you won’t be returning to Animal Kingdom.


5 – Missing Out on Counter Service Options

When you’re visiting Animal Kingdom for the first or second time, it’s easy to miss out on a number of things, including some excellent counter-service options. We’re not talking about the big ones like Pizzafari or Flame Tree Barbeque, but the smaller spots. For example, you can get a delectable Dole Whip with rum at Tamu Tamu Refreshments; Harambe Market has some great snack offerings. There’s a little hut called Terra Treats with some great snack options if you have dietary concerns. They even have a number of gluten-free baked goods. As you walk by the little food huts and counters, take a moment to stop and look at the menu, they might just be serving your new favorite snack! Also, be sure to check out the latest counter service restaurant, Satu’li Canteen, in Pandora – The World of Avatar. The food is fresh, delicious, and is a great value.

4 – Skipping the Trails

The trails aren’t just pathways through some shrubbery, and they’re so much more than that. They have that Disney-theming we love, but you can also see and learn about exotic animals while walking through a lush and jungle-like atmosphere. There are tigers and abandoned temples at the Maharajah Jungle Trek, gorillas and hippos at the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, and intricate carvings in the roots of the Tree of Life at the Discovery Island Trail.

Gorilla Babies Play

3 – Sleeping In

With the new Early Entry to Theme Parks benefits, which allows resort guests to enter the parks thirty minutes early, the parks are now a lot busier in the morning. If you are a resort guest, we HIGHLY recommend getting up early and arriving early. Arriving early will allow you to wander through the park without fighting crowds. If you ride Kilimanjaro Safaris early, chances are you will see more animals before they retreat to the shade mid-day. Hitting Pandora – The World of Avatar early in the day will also allow you to save time for other attractions later in the day. Still, more importantly, it allows you to enjoy the ride with a relatively low wait time without paying for Lightning Lane access. Even if you’re not a resort guest, get to the park at opening. The line will only get longer as the day goes on!

2 – Thinking It’s a Half Day Park (or even a One Day Park)

Some people have referred to Animal Kingdom as a ‘half-day park,’ and that just isn’t true! There are so many wonderful things to experience, and there are plenty of amazing attractions to see and delicious food to eat! A big mistake is not planning on spending your entire day at this park. Take your time and wander through the park, take in the details, examine the beauty of nature, watch the animals, indulge in the snacks and beverages, and stay for the new nighttime entertainment. Also, with the addition of Pandora – The World of Avatar, you’ll need even more time to explore this amazing park. We suggest spending two days in this park! Don’t underestimate this park; give it a chance, and we know you’ll see just how much Animal Kingdom has to offer.

1 – Not Staying for the Evening

When the sun goes down, you won’t want to miss out on all of the nighttime activities. The nighttime Safari is a totally different experience than during the day. The Tree of Life Awakenings is a must-do. These short projections on the Tree of Life are beautiful. Also, the last hour of the park’s operating hours usually sees much shorter wait times, as many guests have park-hopped over to the other parks. It’s a great way to end your day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

For a no obligation, FREE Quote on a Disney vacation package, please contact our travel partner Magical Vacation Planner at 407-442-0227 (407-442-0215 for Spanish). You can also request a FREE quote online by Clicking HERE.



Lauren lives in Hamilton Ontario, but dreams of one day moving to Orlando to be closer to the Magic Kingdom. In the meantime, she spends her days working for the family business as a barista and baker, being active in the independent theatre scene in Hamilton and working part-time as a professional personal assistant to a writer. Lauren’s most memorable Disney moment is by far when she became engaged in front of Cinderella’s Castle making it her best Disney vacation to date.
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