Animal Kingdom is Walt Disney World’s version of a zoo. The central focalpoint of Animal Kingdom is the Tree of Life. The birds eye view of Animal Kingdom shows that the park is set up to mimic Magic Kingdom in that there is a central hub and the lands are spokes radiating out from the hub.
Animal Kingdom consists of several lands. They include Oasis, DiscoveryIsland, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia, and Dinoland U.S.A.
As you enter Animal Kingdom you are immediately immersed in the lush, full landscapes. The Oasis is full of exhibits with smaller animals including anteaters, boars, and macaws. You really feel as if you are in the jungle as the trees, shrubbery, flowers and waterfalls are simply more beautiful than words.
The Tree of Life is a massive structure located on DiscoveryIsland smack in the middle of the park. The trunk of the Tree is carved with a multitude of animals and insects. I thought nothing would compare to the sight of Cinderella’s Castle at MagicKingdom, but then I saw the Tree of Life! It is really awe inspiring and breathe taking. Another structure looming over Animal Kingdom is Mount Everest. As you travel from Oasis to DiscoveryIsland you can stop on the bridge halfway through. Here you can view the Tree of Life to the front and as you look to the right you’ll see Everest looming in the distance. The Tree of Life houses It’s Tough to be a Bug!, a 3D movie featuring your friends from Bug’s Life. You can also find Discovery Island Trails on DiscoveryIsland where you can get up close and personal with the Tree of Life as well as more exotic wildlife.
Camp Minnie-Mickey is where you can find Festival of the Lion King. You can also find Minnie, Mickey, and some of their other pals here. We didn’t have time to explore Camp Minnie-Mickey so I can’t comment on it!
When you arrive in Africa you feel as though you just stepped off a safari bus! HarambeVillage happily greets you. In Africa you can find the Pangori Exploration Trails complete with birds, fish, gorillas, and hippos. This is a walking trail. You will also find Kilimanjaro Safaris. Kilimanjaro Safaris is one of the highlights of Animal Kingdom. You board a Safari jeep with your tour guide. The ride can be a bumpy one but it is well worth the view! You will travel through an African savannah seeing elephants, giraffes, crocodiles, and even a lion all roaming “free” around you! This ride is a must do!
Next you’ll find Rafiki’s Planet Watch. You have to take a train to get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. On the Wildlife Express Train you get to see where some of the animals are housed when not roaming the savannah. Our conductor was a lively jokester making our ride a giggle fest. Once at Rafiki’s Planet Watch you’ll find Habitat Habitat. Here you’ll walk through more lush gardens where you’ll find hints and tips on how you can save the planet and share our world with nature. Conservation Station is a large indoor exhibit where you can see live animal demonstrations, brightly colored murals full of Hidden Mickey’s, and a look into one of the veterinarian offices located at Animal Kingdom. Here you can ask questions and see how they care for the many animals at this lively, unique zoo called Animal Kingdom. There is also Affection Section, a small petting zoo. Do not make the trek out to Rafiki’s Planet Watch just for the petting zoo. It consists of nothing but goats and a cow. However Conservation Station is worth the trip and the train ride is fun in itself!
What’s next up on the tour of Animal Kingdom? Asia! Asia is teeming with hints of the Yeti that haunts Mount Everest. There are ruins of shrines to him. There are marks of his scratching on trees and in the concrete. Asia is reminiscent of a deserted hiking camp. All of the décor is full of backpacking gear and old, worn, faded flags. The tropical jungle feel is still present in this wondrous land. This is where you’ll find Kali River Rapids, a wild WET ride. You can walk through the beautiful Maharajah Jungle Trek full of exotic animals including our kids’ favorites: Komodo dragons, tigers and…BATS. You’ll continue on through the Flights of Wonder (you can exit the trail before entering the Flights of Wonder building). Keep on walking on the Asia trail and you’ll run into Expedition Everest-Legend of the ForbiddenMountain. Here you’ll buckle up, hold on tight (or raise those hands high), and blast through Mount Everest on the run from the GIANT Yeti. You’ll see his shadow on the run but you’ll be amazed with the sight of him! He’s not your average Disney animatronic! He looks frightening…but don’t worry, you have to look up to see him so if your little one shows signs of anxiety, just tell him to look to the side averting his attention!
After your death defying journey through Everest head on over to Dinoland, U.S.A. Dinoland is full of bright colors and flashing lights. Though there are still trees and lush landscaping, Dinoland left me feeling a bit concreted in. You will be greeted by a giant, smiling dinosaur leading your way. This is the place for kids. There are friendly dino pals watching over the festivities. There is even a dinosaur that the kids can climb on. The first attraction in Dinoland (and it actually feels like it’s outside of Dinoland) is Finding Nemo-The Musical. This Broadway style show is phenomenal. You’ll see the familiar Nemo storyline set to all new songs and dances. All your favorite friends are there…and even some not so favorite people..ahem..Darla! This play utilizes not only the stage but the aisles as well. There are no bad seats in the house! It’s worth the 40 minutes it takes to watch the show! Other attractions in Dinoland, U.S.A. include The Boneyard- a play maze with a digging area, Fossil Fun Games – carnival style games, Primeval Whirl – a (slightly) spinning quick coaster, TriceraTop Spin – Dinoland’s version of Dumbo, and Dinosaur. There is a walking trail located near Dinosaur where the kids can climb on a dinosaur and sit on a bench and watch a Triceratops eat (it doesn’t move but you can’t climb on this one-it’s all about your imagination). Dinosaur’s entrance is an attraction in itself. There is a T-Rex skeleton and a couple of iron raptors. The building feels as if you are entering another time. This ride is a bumpy journey to the time of the dinosaurs. You are on a mission to save a dinosaur from the dreaded Carnatasaurus. This ride can be very intimidating and scary for little ones. Our 4 year old, who is obsessed with all things dinosaurs, was anxious to ride. As soon as it got dark he closed his eyes and trembled the whole ride!
Dining at Animal Kingdom is rather tricky unless you all can agree on where to eat. There are several options scattered all over the park. Rainforest Café and Tusker House are two table service restaurants (see separate reviews of each). Quick service restaurants include Flame Tree Barbecue and Restaurantosaurus (see separate reviews of each). Other options include Pizzafari, Kasafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery, Harambe Fruit Market, and Anandapur Ice Cream Truck. Each land has some form of restaurant or snack cart except for Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This has one cart selling drinks but that’s it.
Animal Kingdom’s parade is Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade. This parade is full of uniquely made animal floats, several characters, but mostly World visitors. Instead of having princesses on the floats you’ll see random guests. If you are chosen to do this parade I’m sure it’s a blast, but watching it is a bit of a let down (no offense to those on the floats). There are several characters walking in this parade including King Louis, Baloo, and Timon. Headliners include Mickey, Donald, Pluto, and Goofy and, of course, Rafiki. If you need a break then the parade is a good stopping point. But if you are revving to go, skip it and explore Animal Kingdom. There is no nighttime spectacular at Animal Kingdom. Respect and reverence for Mother Nature is the main theme at this Ecological park, and as animals are abound, the noise of the fireworks would simply be too much for them.
Our overall opinion of Animal Kingdom is that it’s a great place to visit. It is simply beautiful. It is hard to put into words just how lovely the flowers, trees and bushes are. The water simply melts into the landscaping. It feels as though this tropical rain forest is natural to Walt Disney World. Then you add animals to view on top of it all and it’s a wonderful paradise. The Animal Kingdom is HUGE. There is an immense amount of walking here. Take your time and absorb it all in. Take breaks and rest so you have the energy and stamina to continue on. Be sure to bring your camera! Do not miss Animal Kingdom in all it’s beauty and glory!
This review was contributed by Mynde, aka Esmeralda on the DisneyMouseLinks forums. Thanks Mynde!