With so much to see and do in every Walt Disney World Park, it can be confusing what you should prioritize. Though different families will prioritize different experiences, it’s always good to have a game plan of which well-known and lesser-known experiences that are most worthy your time. In Animal Kingdom, there aren’t as many overall attractions as other parks, so you should have no trouble seeing and doing everything. Here’s a list of my must do activities in Animal Kingdom.
#1. Avatar Flight of Passage
The hype around this attraction is one of the few around the Disney resort that is fully deserved. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is NOT the best attraction at the resort – Flight of Passage is. It contains all of the elements needed to be an incredible experience. The first mark is, of course, the queue itself. It’s a beautiful journey through multiple areas with tons of different things to look at. You’ll start outside, winding up the mountains and past the waterfalls. Then, you move into the caves with Na’vi art. Next, you’ll move inside and get your first views of the bioluminescent fauna. Finally, you’ll enter the Pandora Conservation Initiative research base. The research area includes an impressive full-size avatar animatronic. The immense amount of attention and detail put into the entire area deserves to be appreciated.
Next up is the preshow. It’s something that most guests don’t think twice about, but it’s a great way for Disney to set up the context of the attraction. The way Dr. Stevens talks as if he’s speaking into a webcam, the way the sound adjusts as he moves away from the microphone, and the in-chamber effects really sell the story and immerse you in the plot.
Finally, of course, is the ride experience itself. The sensations of flying, driven by the air and water effects and complex movement, are truly exceptional. Add in the effect of your banshee breathing under you as you ride, and it’s a completely one-of-a-kind experience. Though the wait times can be massive, this is an attraction you simply cannot skip.
#2. Satuli Canteen
While we’re still in Pandora, it’s important to mention Disney’s best quality quick service restaurant: Satuli Canteen. The canteen offers customizable bowls with rice and beans, potato hash, vegetables and more topped with grilled meats. You get to pick your base, meat (or non-meat topping), and sauce! The quality of the food here is far beyond most of the other quick service restaurants across property, so a stop here for a meal is well worth it. As a bonus tip, instead of getting a drink here, grab a Night Blossom at the stand next door for a nice frosty treat!
#3. The Tree of Life Gardens
As a must-do experience most guests completely overlook, be sure to check out the multiple paths around the base of the Tree of Life. They are full of animal exhibits including kangaroos, otters, and tortoises. More importantly, they offer amazing views of the thousands of intricately hand-carved animals in the trunk of the tree. These carvings are amazing works of art, and well worth taking the time to appreciate. As an added bonus, the areas around the tree have many great photo opportunities and shade!
While we’re still on the topic of no-wait atmospheric experiences, make an effort to see Chakranadi, the sitar player at the entrance to Asia (if coming from Africa). He has been at Animal Kingdom for a very long time and offers an awesome mix of traditional and rock sounds on the stringed instrument. It’s a great way to set the atmosphere for the Asia section of the park, and he’s well worth stopping to watch for a few minutes. He performs intermittently throughout the day, so be sure to pay attention and watch him! He’s also friendly if you have any questions for him after a performance.
#5. Kilimanjaro Safaris
Though it’s a major attraction in the park (and a huge part of the park’s creation in the first place), there are many visitors who opt to skip out on the Kilimanjaro Safaris. Those guests are making a big mistake. The ride is as close as you can get to taking a real safari without flying halfway around the globe to Africa. There are Zebras, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Lions, Rhinos, and more all freely roaming the savannah area for you to see. Since the animals are allowed to (mostly) roam freely, every ride offers a different experience. Many times, you’ll have the chance to get up close and personal with a giraffe as they walk right by your safari truck. Other times, you might have the opportunity to hear a lion roar. Regardless of what the animals happen to be doing during your ride, it’s an awesome experience and well worth your time spent in the park.
#6. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek
As part of your Animal Kingdom experience, it’s important to see all the animals! Gorilla Falls, located in Africa behind the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Maharajah Jungle Trek, located behind the entrance to Kali River Rapids in Asia, are both must-dos. They’re relatively short walking trails which multiple animal exhibits. Both also include aviaries! Walking the trails only takes a few minutes if you’re looking to move quickly, but you can spend much more time talking with animal care cast members if you desire.
#7. Nomad Lounge at Tiffins (for adults) and The Boneyard (for kids)
As a must-do for our adult visitors who enjoy a good drink, be sure to check out the lounge at the Tiffins restaurant. There are many unique and tasty cocktails in an awesome and relaxing atmosphere. It’s a great way to enjoy a drink and take a minute to step away from the busyness of the rest of your park day. Try the Hightower Rocks on a hot day to feel refreshed or opt for anything in their beer selection. The Nomad Lounge also offers quite a few small plates as a snack or meal, most of which are based on African or Asian flavors. You can’t go wrong with the wagyu beef sliders!
As a sort of #7.5, since we have an adult oriented experience, we should have a kid-oriented experience too! Younger visitors will surely enjoy the chance to dig up some dinosaur bones at the Boneyard play area. It’s a fairly large playground and also has a spot across the bridge where kids can brush away the dirt and serve as archaeologists as they dig up bones.
#8. Pandora at Night
Depending on the time of year you visit, you may not get as much of an opportunity to see the world of Avatar light up at night. Since the park tends to close earlier than the other parks, and it’s the easiest to complete in a single day, many visitors don’t end up revisiting the land in the dark. However, you definitely should! Nearly everything in the land lights up just like in the movie, and it creates a truly surreal experience. Even if you just walk through on your way out of the park at the end of the day, be sure to see it if you have the chance!
The entire experience of Dinosaur is truly exciting. The attraction starts with its museum elements in the queue, which includes the T Rex cast outside. This is one of only 3 casts of the real bones from Dino Sue, the most complete T Rex fossil ever found. Inside the queue, all the museum displays include real fossils. The Carnotaurus in the middle of the room, for example, is a combination of real Carnotaurus and T Rex bones, in addition to some plaster elements, since a full Carnotaurus fossil has never been found. The Carnotaurus animatronics inside the attraction were actually made over 20 years ago, and science has since confirmed many of the visual details of the dinosaur that were unknown at the time! The ride itself it thrilling in a unique way, and makes it a must-do for everyone that can meet the height requirement.
#10. Festival of the Lion King
This mixed-art performance of favorite characters and songs from the Lion King films is our final must-do experience in the park. The show is always fun to watch and has something that will wow everyone – whether it’s singing, dancing, acrobatics, or fire-twirling. The Festival of the Lion King is very popular, so be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes before the showtimes, which are usually on the hour.
Honorable Mention: The Expedition Everest Single Riders’ Line
Anyone who likes a good roller coaster should already be experiencing Everest, so I figured it didn’t need to be included on the list. However, one of the major perks of the ride is that it has a single riders’ line located in a somewhat hidden spot next to the gift shop exit of the attraction. This line is often VERY short, and anyone can re-ride by themselves in under 10 minutes! It’s a great way to please your coaster-loving members of the group without making everyone else wait very long.