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Brian Bennett

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Touring Disney's Animal Kingdom


Disney's Animal Kingdom, the newest jewel in the Walt Disney World crown, is a blend of nature and adventure packaged with all of the exotic atmosphere that the Imagineers could muster.  The park is visually astounding.  The entire environment of the park envelopes you into the wild jungles, savannas, and rainforests of the world.

Park Layout

The park is laid out somewhat like the Magic Kingdom, but only loosely so.  There is an entryway (analogous to "Main Street USA") called the Oasis.  This area is a lush jungle environment with plants and rock formations scattered about.   There are several species of small animals and birds on display in very natural looking enclosures (you don't realize, in fact, that the creatures are "caged" because they're not...they're simply inhibited from leaving their habitats.)  The large, obviously man-made (odd that they didn't do a better job of making it look natural) waterfall to the left is the backside of the Rainforest Cafe.   You can enter the restaurant from the plaza side or the park side.  As you make your way beyond the Oasis, you end up on Discovery Island (formerly Safari Village), a group of buildings and attractions arranged roughly in a half-circle around the Tree of Life.  Radiating away from Discovery Island clockwise from the left most is Camp Minnie-Mickey (a character greeting and show area), Africa, Asia, and Dinoland USA.

Touring Suggestions

I suggest that you tackle Animal Kingdom very carefully.  Keep the following ideas in mind as you plan your time in the park:

  • When you arrive at Animal Kingdom on show day, get a copy of the park brochure.   The map will be worth it's weight in gold until you get your bearings down...and the brochure also includes a daily show schedule that you'll find valuable.

  • Take a good look at the map in the visitor's guide...and keep it handy as you walk about.  You'll find that the it's much harder to find your way around the park with a "hub" that is designed to not look symmetrical.  There are many winding paths that can take you far from your intended destination if you're not careful.

  • Unlike the Magic Kingdom or Disneyland, Animal Kingdom is not laid out with access from one "land" or realm to another.  The only way to get from Dinoland USA to Asia is to walk through Safari Village.  The only way to get from Camp Minnie-Mickey to Africa is through Safari Village.  It tends to make getting from one place to another a bit tedious.

  • Since the park is so physically huge, you'll want to minimize walking...and crossing and re-crossing your path as you cris-cross from one side of the park to another should be avoided if at all possible.

  • I recommend that you focus your initial efforts on the scheduled shows about the park.   During the day, when a gap opens up in the show schedule, you can fill in with the other attractions in the park.

  • I also recommend that you hold off on visiting Kilimanjaro Safaris until the end of the day.  All reports indicate that the animals are much more active in the evening than they are during the morning or afternoon hours.

  • The other continuously loading attractions, Countdown to Extinction, It's Tough to be a Bug, Kali River Rapids, and so on can be enjoyed whenever you're in the neighborhood...and the queue isn't excessive.

  • The Wildlife Express to Rifiki's Planet Watch, Rifiki's Planet Watch itself, and the exploration trails are definitely worth visiting, but I would plan on enjoying them either early in the day or toward the end.  The size of the crowds that form in these areas at the back of the park peak during the mid-afternoon hours.

No matter if you plan to see and do everything in the park, or simply to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and wonderful horticulture of this park, you won't go away disappointed.

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