Planning a Day in the Animal Kingdom with Toddlersby Kylie Chamberlin, contributing writer
In Disney's Animal Kingdom there are an abundance of rides, shows, and activities toddlers will enjoy. It is important to consider the amount of walking that will be done in the park, especially along many of the walking trails to see the animals. Toddlers will quickly tire out, so plan on bringing or renting a stroller. Every Walt Disney World park has stroller rentals, and, in the Animal Kingdom, the stroller rental is located at Garden Gate Gifts, just as you enter the park.
Another important consideration for families with toddlers is the Baby Care Center. This is an amazing resource, offering an indoor air conditioned place to rest (on couches and with a television); a place to change or take children to the potty; heat up food (in an oven or microwave) and feed children; use a full kitchen sink; and access a small shop selling diapers, wipes, children's pain/fever medicines and other emergency supplies. Also, in the event that your toddler wanders off, the Baby Care Center is where all lost children in the park are brought. Disney's Animal Kingdom Baby Care Center is located in Discovery Island, just between Creature Comforts and Terra Treats.
When traveling to any Walt Disney World park, it's important to keep in mind your own toddler's daily needs and schedule. Plan ahead to include time for a nap or rest (and consider if an in-park nap is easier than going back to your hotel).
There are many attractions throughout the park that will appeal to toddlers, and do not have a height requirement. In Africa, there is Kilimanjaro Safaris, which is for all ages and heights. It moves slowly, is outdoors and toddlers will love seeing the animals. Nervous toddlers might need reassurance that some of the more frightening animals, such as crocodiles and lions, cannot come up to the jeep, as a barrier isn't clearly seen. When taking a young relative on the ride, a friend of mine shared that the 2 year old began crying because she didn't see a fence barrier, like at the zoo, and thought the lion could "get" her. So, know your child's daringness and level of comfort with animals when considering this ride. It's worth walking the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, as toddlers will love seeing all the different animals and habitats.
Also in Africa, the Wildlife Express Train is perfect for the young train enthusiasts, and offers a slow ride on a train to Rafiki's Planet Watch, where the Affection Section is a must-do for families with toddlers who are not afraid of animals up close. The Affection Section is the only petting zoo at Disney's Animal Kingdom and toddlers will love the chance to see and touch animals. The Conservation Station offers many engaging hands-on areas to explore and see, including an animal clinic.
In Asia, most of the attractions are for older, taller guests. However, toddlers can enjoy the Maharaja Jungle Trek and see many Asian animals, including tigers.
Dinoland USA offers a lot of spectacular options for toddlers and their families. The Boneyard is an enclosed playground where toddlers can run off some energy and explore dinosaur "fossils," climbing equipment, slides, and sand, while adults enjoy a little time in the shade. Fossil Fun Games are also for all ages, and are your typical carnival-style games, including Fossil Fueler (squirt the water from the water gun into the target), Mammoth Marathon (a game where you slide balls up into holes to race your woolly mammoth to the finish line), Bronto-Score (shoot the basketball into the hoop game), Whac-a-Packycephalosaur (a dinosaur spin on Whack-a-Mole), and Comet Crasher (where you toss "comets" into moving cups in water). While many games will most likely be too challenging for young toddlers, older toddlers may enjoy them. They are an extra fee however. TriceraTop Spin is a Dumbo-style ride where riders of all ages and heights can ride a dinosaur around, but it is a flying ride, so toddlers who are afraid of heights may not enjoy it.
At Discovery Island, toddlers may enjoy going through the Discovery Island Trails and seeing animals. It is similar to a zoo, so toddlers who enjoy the zoo will love it. Also at Discovery Island is It's Tough to Be a Bug which is a 3-D show with audio-anomatronic bugs, scenes on screens, and effects such as water and smells. Toddlers who are daring and like bugs might enjoy it. However, there are scary elements to the attraction, including darkness, loud noises, things that jump out, and the illusion that bugs are crawling on the benches and floors. Toddlers will enjoy looking at the Tree of Life, however, and the many carvings in the tree.
The Oasis exhibits are also worth checking out, especially if your little one is an animal lover.
Disney's Animal Kingdom also offers several engaging entertainment offerings for toddlers. One of the most understated is the Up-inspired Wilderness Explorers program. Children, from toddlers through early-middle school, have a great engaging time with the program. In Wilderness Explorers, children join at any station and receive a booklet. While toddlers might not be able to read the words in the booklet yet, it has a spot to put stickers that they earn by going to each station. Wilderness Explorer stations offer hands-on activities thought the park. When I have traveled with children, the Wilderness Explorers has been a favorite for all. The stickers and activities are perfect for toddlers and children.
In Africa, toddlers will enjoy seeing the musical performance of Burudika, but it can be loud, so toddlers sensitive to noise might prefer to be a little further away. Also in Africa, The Festival of the Lion King is an engaging musical performance with live actors and puppets that features songs and characters from the movie. If your toddler enjoyed The Lion King, or is a Lion Guard fan, they will love it.
In Asia, most toddlers will like hearing and seeing Chakranadi, a musical performance. Additionally, Flights of Wonder is a bird show toddlers might enjoy. However, the birds do fly into and over the audience, so some toddlers may find this show frightening.
For all the Nemo, Dory and Crush fans, Finding Nemo - The Musical, is a stage show with live actors and puppets that will delight toddlers. Some toddlers might find a few scenes or characters frightening, however.
Disney's Animal Kingdom Park is one of my favorite places to meet characters, especially with toddlers. The park has many that are rarely or never seen at other parks. Toddlers can meet characters like Pocahontas, Baloo, Safari Mickey and friends, Russell and Dug (from Up), and Chip and Dale.
Disney's Animal Kingdom is an amazing park for toddlers, making it a must-do for any Walt Disney World Resort vacation, especially if you plan ahead.