Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 1. Avoid Entrance Lines by Using the Gift Shop Entrance
- 2. How to See the Most Animals at Disney's Animal Kingdom
- 3. Take More than One Safari Ride
- 4. Pandora Is Cooler at Night
- 5. Rafiki's Planet Watch
- 6. The Tree of Life is Full of Secrets
- 7. More than 2,000 Animals Live at Disney's Animal Kingdom
- 8. Super Soaker Secret
- 9. Komodo Dragons Live There
- 10. Take Your Time in the Expedition Everest Line
- 11. Yak & Yeti's is the Best Bang for Your Snack Buck
- 12. Tusker House is the Place to Find Disney Characters
- 13. Get a Dole Whip Without the Wait
- 14. Listen for Single Ride Opportunities
Since opening on Earth Day in 1998, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has blossomed as a full-day park within Walt Disney World. After all, it’s both a theme park with thrilling rides AND a zoological park. Covering more than 500 acres, it’s actually the largest theme park in the world. Perfecting this park requires many visits, so we’re here to help. Here are tips for discovering even the most elusive Animal Kingdom secrets. Heads up! It’s a jungle out there!
First fun (and bonus) secret fact: The highway sign in Dinoland USA reads “Route 498” which is a hidden reference to the park opening date, April 1998.
These are the best expertly-curated tips and magical secrets for your next visit to the Animal Kingdom Disney experience, with or without kids.
1. Avoid Entrance Lines by Using the Gift Shop Entrance
See that crowd gathered before rope drop? Pass ’em by. There is a second, less frequented entrance to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the rear of the Rainforest Cafe gift shop. The Rainforest Cafe is to the left of the theme park’s main entrance and has a small gate to the park.
After you get through bag check, just enter Rainforest Cafe and walk through the gift shop to the back entrance. Exit through those doors and travel to turnstiles straight into the Animal Kingdom park.
2. How to See the Most Animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The animals residing in the 110-acre oasis are mostly crepuscular — active at dawn and dusk. Ride the 18-minute (give or take) Kilimanjaro Safari jeep ride early or late, not mid-day. That will increase the chances you’ll catch some animal action.
Afternoon safaris are less popular; the lines will be shorter then. Optimize for low crowds by scheduling your safari when the other bipedal animals in the park (the humans) are eating.
And take time to check out this secret: The pond where the flamingos flock is a hidden Mickey!
Another fun fact: Did you know that the safari space alone is almost big enough for all of Magic Kingdom to hide inside?
SheBuysTravel Tip: Stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to ease your migration from lodging to park. Even if you don’t stay there, here’s a little out-of-park secret at Animal Kingdom Lodge: Seek out the viewing areas and make restaurant reservations near the 5 p.m. mark. It’s feeding time for animals too – perfect for dining with a view!
3. Take More than One Safari Ride
Speaking of the Kilimanjaro Safaris, don’t just ride once. This ride transports you from sunny Florida to the sweltering African savannah. Each tour guide shares different stories and jokes and you can see different animals at different times. It’s nice to start and end your visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom by going on this amazing up-close and personal African animal trek.
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But here’s a secret: The ride (and the savannah) is completely different after dark. You won’t find the hidden Mickeys or spot some of the intricate daytime details, but alligator eyes shining in the headlights is quite thrilling! Lions who snooze through the day are also more active – and vocal – after dark.
Here’s the secret to “Pride Rock” lion sightings: Disney Imagineers hid an air conditioning vent there to lure lions into cool air comfort. It significantly increases the chances of spotting these majestic cats!
The animals bed down in pens in the nighttime. They are sound-conditioned to simply walk to their respective homes when they hear the nightly cue. Restrooms in this theme park have outer doors – this is a safety secret! Should an animal be at large, guests can shelter in the restrooms until the animal is apprehended.
4. Pandora Is Cooler at Night
If you opt for the World of Avatar, Pandora can be enjoyed by day, but is far cooler at night — and we don’t just mean the temperature drops. Once the lights of Pandora glow, the whole land takes on a magical quality. If you visit during the day, spend your time waiting in line to ride our favorite ride, Avatar Flight of Passage. It’s an indoor, and air-conditioned, ride. The same goes for the Na’vi River Journey. Go in the heat of the day as a means of escape.
If you’ve been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom several times, plan to wander around Pandora – The World of Avatar until you’ve gotten your fill of the Na’vi and Night blossoms!
5. Rafiki’s Planet Watch
I have a special place in my heart for Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Look for super cute sections like the Affection Section and even animation classes where you can learn to draw Disney characters.
This is also home to the Conservation Station where you can see how Disney cares for the animals at Animal Kindgom, inlcuding how they’re fed and what happens when they visit the veterinarian.
SheBuysTravel Tip: You have to take the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. The last daily train departs from Harambe Station at 4:30pm, so plan to visit before the end of the day.
6. The Tree of Life is Full of Secrets
There are approximately 320 animals carved into the Tree of Life, which is not a real tree (no secret there!). Watching the images and lights from different angles can illuminate slightly different things from a new vantage point. The tree comes to life after dark and continues about every 10 minutes until the park closes. You will have many opportunities to steal a glimpse. Structural secret: the base of the tree is a repurposed oil rig!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom at night is really a whole new world, so make sure you don’t burn out before the sun goes down! The Animal Kingdom Tree of Life was built as the heart of the park with all paths leading past (or very near) the tree, for good reason. Even in the daylight, it’s an impressive sculpture.
The neatest daytime secret regarding the tree is found around the base, where there is a carving of the chimp David Greybeard with an adjacent plaque honoring the chimp’s friend, Jane Goodall.
7. More than 2,000 Animals Live at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Around 2,000 animals representing 300 species live at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Millions of trees, grasses and shrubs from all around the globe were incorporated to build the habitat.
When ride lines are long, take a break to walk the many paths that wind through the “lands” of Animal Kingdom. Often the tigers temple trail is cool and shady and even misty — perfect for afternoon sun shock therapy. Everyone gives a lot of attention to the African safari critters, but there are some Asian creatures residing in the trails of the theme park which are really quite remarkable as well.
Monkey Island is right along the main paths within Asia, traveling toward Kali River Rapids (where to go to get wet) and Everest (with its surprises beyond the infamous Yeti you may spy) from Africa, and is simply a hoot to enjoy while on your trek.
8. Super Soaker Secret
While on the bridge of the Kali River Rapids, be sure to press the button to make the elephant soak Kali riders even more!
9. Komodo Dragons Live There
Try the popular Maharajah Jungle Trek, a self-guided walking tour with Asian motifs along with the infrastructure. Perhaps you will spy a Komodo dragon or the Malayan Tapir. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is another can’t-miss opportunity for some environmental memories with animals that are endangered and endearing.
Between the two lands of Africa and Asia, you may walk by DiVine several times before you spy the secret character! She blends perfectly with the vegetation, so be on the lookout for the leafy stilt walker.
10. Take Your Time in the Expedition Everest Line
There’s a tendency to race to Everest, but if you do, you may miss all the secret details in the queue before the ride. Many of the props in the queue and the surrounding area are authentic items from real expeditions on the real mountain. Even the computers on display were bought from Nepalese vendors.
You may already know the secret past of the Everest animatronic yeti: It was damaged and the full range of motion for the critter disturbed, so now a strobe light makes him come to life.
11. Yak & Yeti’s is the Best Bang for Your Snack Buck
When you get hungry making your way from Kilimanjaro to Everest, here’s the secret to getting the biggest bang for your snack bucks at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: the fried rice at Yak & Yeti. It’s filling and affordable. You can also browse the Harambe region for some lunch specials. The meat kabobs with bean salsa are a steal! Black bean veggie burgers are another affordable favorite. The desserts at Pandora are decadent — some boasting essence of blueberry and edible adornments while also being beautiful to behold!
The Flame Tree Barbecue is a favorite among diners at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Pagodas provide shade, but those wanting to devour Disney secrets will enjoy the theme of predator and prey at each setting. Tables are prey and chairs depict predators – owls and rabbits, for instance. See how many your kids can find!
12. Tusker House is the Place to Find Disney Characters
Animal Kingdom restaurants are just part of the reason we unabashedly sing the praises of this adventurous park. An insider tip: book a seating at Tusker House and you’ll collect four main Disney characters during their lunchtime buffet. It’s typically Goofy, Mickey, Donald and Daisy in their safari garb. The food is fantastic, too! This is one of the best and most underrated character dining experiences, which means it isn’t too competitive for booking.
For a little secret fun, consider sitting outside. You’ll hear commotion in the kitchen and may shudder when you hear glass breaking! Don’t be afraid for your server’s paycheck. Those noises are an audio recording and are fun to enjoy while eating or people-watching!
13. Get a Dole Whip Without the Wait
EPCOT isn’t the only place to find a boozy slush drink or a good adult beverage with an other-worldly twist. You can get a grown-up version of the famous Walt Disney World treat – Dole Whip – with rum and without the wait. Just head to Tamu Tamu in Africa. It’s especially satisfying and refreshing on a hot day. This is a great opportunity to enjoy a refreshing fruity treat while you ponder the images dancing across the Animal Kingdom tree of life.
Over in Pandora, enjoy a brilliantly colored and boldly flavored Night Blossom at Pongo Pongo Lounge. The concoction consists of limeade with apple and desert pear topped with passion fruit-flavored boba balls. Meaning “Party Party” in the language of the Na’vi, this bioluminescent drink will quench your thirst after soaring through Flight of Avatar.
14. Listen for Single Ride Opportunities
Located in Pandora, the wait times for the amazing Flight of Passage ride can be 90 minutes or more. But here’s the secret to speeding things up a bit: pay attention! Occasionally, Disney cast members will pull single riders out of the main line to fill in empty seats. You’ll get on much faster if you listen for that call and volunteer.
This opportunity is only available when needed, so consider it part of the “Disney Magic,” not something you should count on.