Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a unique experience; very different from the other parks. It’s the park that I had to work the hardest to like because it felt the least like Disney to me. The zoo stuff I could take or leave, but I do really love the rides and there certainly is a feel about the park that makes it worth seeing.
The plan for the day with just the two of us included waking up at 6:00 am, packing our bags (for the park and for our flight the next day), grabbing breakfast at the hotel and hopping in an Uber at 7:30 am. We got to Animal Kingdom just after 8:00 am, and we got in line right away. We took a few pictures in front of the gates. When you’re waiting in line anyway this is a great time to grab some photos… you won’t feel like it, but you also won’t regret doing it.
We noticed at this park there wasn’t the same general sense of excitement that we found waiting in line at the other parks. There was far more “anxious” air in the main line-up. We soon figured out why… basically everyone in that line was there early to get in line for Avatar Flight of Passage in Pandora, the newest ride and the newest area of the park.
We thought that it was going to be the same as the other parks. They would open early, and corral you in the main hub, or there would be a rope at Pandora. We noticed that as soon as people scanned their Magic Band or ticket, most were FULL ON SPRINTING to Pandora. I really wish this was a time that I was exaggerating, but I’m really not. There were groups of people intentionally holding hands, so no one could get by. It was total chaos.
Thankfully, the Cast Members are used to it and had a plan. When you get to Pandora, they have a sign to line-up behind. We were in an hour line-up at 8:30 am (1/2 hour before the park officially opened at 9:00 am). The beauty of this is that we were in and out of the ride only a half hour after park opening… which was awesome. The ride is worth the wait for sure, but ideally get a FastPass and just avoid the left hand side of the park completely at opening… or head to Na’vi River Journey, which had no wait at all. But if you don’t have a FastPass for FOP, you’re going to want to do what we did.
We then had a FastPass for Expedition Everest that was coming up pretty quickly, but we wanted to get out of AK as soon as possible because we were going to be doing Hollywood Studios later that day. DINOSAUR was down when we checked the app, but we took a risk and went towards that area in the hopes that we could drop-in super fast once it reopened. We were hoping we would be able to skip the FastPass we had booked for later. We walked onto Primeval Whirl (really fun, but only wait 20 min or less for it) and watched the app to see if DINOSAUR was back up.
When we got off the Whirl DINOSAUR was open, so we popped over to it and still made our Expedition Everest FastPass for 10 am! It was pretty crazy to be done all of those rides by that time. We also ran into Kevin from “Up” along the way, which was a super fun bonus.
Everest was excellent, as always, and also a very big line at that point! (Thanks FastPass!) Next we headed over to Kilimanjaro Safaris, which was our last ride of the day at AK. On the way we found one of the “Walls” that have become a thing on Instagram. We of course had to take a picture, so we did that.
We walked around the Gorilla Exhibit because we had a little time to spare before our FastPass for the Safaris. It was really really busy and we found it hard because we noticed a lot of people felt the need to fill up the entire walkway (folks, stay to the right… it’s just the right thing to do).
Then we did the Kilimanjaro Safaris, which are always fun. The thing about the safari is it really is dependent on both your tour guide and the animals. They have great strategies so that you can see the animals, but they are obviously still quite unpredictable!
Lastly we headed over to Pandora again because we really wanted to try their food. We heard about a “cheeseburger” pod that sounded fun. We ended up splitting a quinoa salad and the cheeseburger pod kids meal from Satu’li Canteen.
Tips and Tricks
One of our best money saving tips is to split meals. Especially if you pack a lot of snacks (which we do) and if you like to have money for coffee (which again, we really do!). We loved the salad, and we really enjoyed the pod (although it was incredibly small). But what we liked the most was the refillable soda! (Haha.) We always just bring flavour enhancers for our water, so it was a nice treat. We then grabbed a Starbucks (of course) and headed for the bus loop. The Starbucks at Animal Kingdom is really different than the others and we really love the look of it!
The sad thing about only eating one meal in a park is we didn’t get to eat at the rest of our favourite places like Restaurantosaurus (with the loaded chili fries) and the Harambe Market. But at least there’s always a “next time!”
It took about 45 minutes to park hop over to Hollywood Studios.This can vary from 30 minutes to an hour. That largely depends on how far you are walking and how long the wait is for the bus. We also didn’t have strollers and whiny kids (obviously) which helped. Last time we didn’t choose park hoppers because we were a group of 19 and had 3 kids under 7. So it’s definitely something to consider if you want to save money and time.
Next time we’d go, I’d like to fit in some more things at Animal Kingdom. I wish we had time for the Na’vi River Journey in Pandora, and I’ve never seen any of this park at night, so that’s something I would love to experience. There’s a lot of neat shops in Animal Kingdom where you can get merch and food that’s not available at any of the other parks as well.
There are some great shows, including a new bird show featuring “Up” Characters. Other than in the Pandora area, this is a chill, relaxed day and there’s lots to see when you are going from ride to ride!
Have a magical day!