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Brian Bennett

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Disney's Animal Kingdom Attractions

Before describing the attractions in Animal Kingdom, I think it's necessary to point out some issues regarding small children and the attractions in this park.  This park is much more "tame" than some of the others, however, you must remember that wild animals are wild...and not domesticated pets.  It's very likely that you and your children may see behavior among the animals that is perfectly natural, but disturbing.  Be prepared to explain, for example, why some of the animals are "dominating" others, don't be surprised to see mating activities, and don't be surprised to see other animal behavior that is different than the zoo-picture-book that your child is expecting.  Beyond that, of course, don't forget that young children will be restricted from some attractions due to height and age requirements and that some of the park's attractions are very intense.  Countdown to Extinction (realistic dinosaurs), The Legend of the Lion King and Tarzan Rocks (very loud presentations), It's Tough to be a Bug (realistic insect effects), and Flights of Wonder (low flying birds in close proximity) are examples of attractions that may startle children.  Beware!

There's a lot more information on this issue in the section entitled "Special Considerations for Park Touring" earlier in the planning guide, including a complete list of the height requirements and "fear factors" that you will want to be aware of for the various attractions.  There's also a description of the "baby swap" policy that will be helpful for families with smaller children.  If you have kids under the age of thirteen that will be going on your trip, I encourage you to read through that information in detail before leaving for Florida.  For disabled guests, there's a brief amount of information that you may find helpful on the page titled, "Touring the Parks with Disabled Guests."

Discovery Island (formerly Safari Village)

The Tree of Life dominates Discovery Island.  Click here to see a great photo tour of the Tree!

It's Tough to be a Bug

Besides being the icon of the Animal Kingdom park, a theatre is located inside the tree in which a spectacular 3-D film called "It's Tough to be a Bug", is shown.

Tree of Life Garden

The garden is an area surrounding the Tree of Life which includes habitats for several smaller animals and birds.  The landscaping is beautiful...and the area is well worth a stroll.

Camp Minnie-Mickey

"Festival of The Lion King" at Lion King Theater

Take a photo tour of the Festival!

Festival of the Lion King is a fantastic production that is based on the popular animated feature, but is NOT a retelling of the story of the Legend of the Lion King.  Instead, it is a colorful, musical, fantastic display of all the showmanship that the Walt Disney Company is famous for.  Don't miss this, you won't be disappointed!

"Pocahontas and her Forest Friends" at Grandmother Willow's Grove

Pocahontas and Grandmother Willow team up to solve some problems in this show.  As the Lion King show above, this is NOT a retelling of the story of Pocahontas.

Dinoland USA

The Boneyard

This is a dinosaur-themed childs playground, ala "Honey I Shrunk the Kids Set Adventure" at the Studios. Fun for all ages, but mostly designed for the younger set.

Dinosaur

This is one of Animal Kingdom's premier attractions.  As you enter the attraction building, you find that you are visiting a dinosaur research facility.  Frankly, the place looks just like a dinosaur museum display...and it's supposed to.  As you wind through the queue you can check out several displays and boards with information on the reptilian giants of years ago.

Eventually you enter a room in which you are told the secret of this institution.   Not only are you able to enjoy the displays, but through a modern breakthrough in technology you can go back in time to when the dinos dominated the planet.  The catch is that a renegade scientist wants you to bring a dino back with you when you return.   You exit the presentation room and make your way down a corridor and down some steel grid stairs into a laboratory in which the time vehicles are loaded...and off you go.

Obviously there is a good foundation for a lot of adventure here.  Unfortunately, I think that the setup for the attraction is all too much like Universal's "Back to the Future" attraction.  Frankly, Universal did a better job that Disney for once.   Also, although the technology of the ride vehicle itself is tops, I think that Imagineering could have been done a lot better with the visuals during the search for the dinosaur.  There is a lot of motion through black space in which there is nothing to see.  The other effects are great, but the overall experience is disappointing.

Having said that, be aware that this IS an extremely intense attraction with an advanced ride system...be warned.  Folks with health problems and easily frightened kids (and adults) might be wiser to refrain.

Cretaceous Trail

For those among us that need pacemakers (perhaps after riding "Countdown" we all will) this is a luscious, tropical walk populated with plants that ostensibly survived from the Cretaceous era.  Frankly, I was disappointed with the shortness of the walk and the lack of good labels on the plants.  The park designers seemed to be more interested in telling the story of the fictitious students and professors that are excavating the area that the advertised emphasis on plants was missed.

Triceratop Spin

This attraction is the second WDW knock-off of the Dumbo ride in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom (the other being the Magic Carpets of Aladdin in Adventureland).

Primeval Whirl

This is a "wild mouse" roller coaster attraction.  The one unique feature of the ride is that the cars spin as they move along the track.  The ride is thinly themed with 2-D dinosaur cut-outs.

"Tarzan Rocks" at Theater in the Wild

Another live action stage production, this one is based on the characters from Disney's latest animated Feature.  The show is a half hour of singing, dancing, gymnastics, and extreme sports that rivals "The Festival of the Lion King" for top honors as best stage show at Walt Disney World.

The jungle set, costuming, and music all set the mood for the high energy show.  Five songs from the movie are featured as the show is presented.

Africa

Kilimanjaro Safari

Take a photo tour of Kilimanjaro Safari!

This is the parks premier E-ticket.  I expected a San Diego Zoo-like tram ride and ended up exiting the ride totally flabbergasted.  To say that this is a half-hour tour of the African wildlife in the park is true, but a severe understatement.  More correctly, it is a fantastic experience. You'll see zebras, hippos, gazelles, giraffes, many birds, elephants, rhinos, and other inhabitants of the Serengeti (if you're lucky you might even get a glimpse of the lions that typically sleep twenty hours or so per day even though the odds are obviously against you). The last part of the journey gets a bit hectic as you and your guide drop the regularly scheduled tour to ensure that elephant hunters remain unsuccessful in their attempts to poach some ivory.

We enjoyed the safari twice...both times during the evening (after seven pm).  The animals were out and about in abundance.  In fact, we were held up by a giraffe that thought eating some leaves on the tree in front of us was more important that letting us pass.  The beautiful animal was no more than two feet away from us for five to ten minutes munching away at the foliage.

In discussing this attraction with other guests, we were told that early morning and mid-day experiences were much less enjoyable that the evening ones.  I have no personal experience to back that up, but our evening tours were definitely top notch!

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

This is a self-guided walking tour of many of Africa's animal specimens. An aviary and aquarium round out the land-lubbing wildlife with some air and water living creatures. Of course, the gorilla valley, with gorilla research station, is the gem of this attraction.

Wildlife Express to Rifiki's Planet Watch

This is a train ride through the behind-the-scenes-areas of the Animal Kingdom park. You'll also enjoy another view of the scenic Africa area on this excursion.  I thoroughly enjoyed the high level of themeing of the train...right down to the conductor's reminder that "absolutely no cooking is permitted on the train."  We ended up taking the train for a round trip without even stopping at Conservation Station, so you can enjoy the train by itself if you'd like.

Rifiki's Planet Watch

Rifiki's Planet Watch (formerly Conservation Station) is the park's research and education center.  Originally conceived as a new pavilion for Epcot's Future World (this idea was eventually rolled into the concept of an entire new park as Animal Kingdom was developed), this area includes several hands-on exhibits based on the overall theme, of course, of environmentalism. The approach is typical Disney.

Among the things to see and do are the "Affection Section," which is a a petting zoo with several smaller, and completely safe, animals; "Animal Cams," where you can operate remote video cameras so you can see the animal care staff of veterinarians, researchers, and animal keepers at work; and several interactive displays that teach about conservation and animals and their habitats.

Asia

Take a photo tour of Animal Kingdom's Asia!

"Flights of Wonder" at Caravan Stage

Bird lovers will enjoy the live shows presented here which is a drama feature overhead free-flights of our avian friends.

Kali River Rapids

This is a fun, but extremely abbreviated, white water rafting ride.  The queue might be the most impressive part of the attraction, since it is an extremely detailed example of South East Asian architecture.  The ride itself is very short.  You also have about a fifty-fifty chance of getting drenched.

After strolling through the temple, you walk down a flight of stairs to a rotating loading platform.  The rafts, which seat twelve people in individual seats, are very secure as you enter them.  There is a place in the center of the raft to place cameras and so on, but it didn't appear to be much more dry than the rest of the raft.

The ride begins with a leisurely voyage down a lovely rain forest enclosed river.  Mist floats through the air, ancient ruins punctuate the tranquil landscape, and a sense of serenity pervades the atmosphere.

A small area of rapids lends a bit of excitement just before you round the corner and find that a huge clearing has been made in the rain forest by loggers.  Burning timbers block  the river, the noise of chain saws scream through the air...then the drop occurs.  It's not a big drop, as flume rides go.  Certainly, it's nothing like Splash Mountain's tumble.  Rest assured, though, that the folks that are doomed to go down backwards will be enveloped in a wall of water.  Plan on it.  Take it to the bank.  It WILL happen.

Maharajah Jungle Trek

The jungle trek is similar to Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, but features animals that are native to Asia, including some wonderful Indian Tigers, a collection of bats, and a smattering of gibbons, antelope, and other creatures.

 
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