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Animal Kingdom - Not a Zoo!

The newest of the four Walt Disney World parks is Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This park adds an element that is not seen in the other three parks, the inclusion of live animals – lots of them.

This park is not a zoo, although some elements are similar, it goes way beyond any zoo, as it incorporates the Disney storytelling, attractions, and shows that you would expect at a Disney theme park.

The park is laid out like many of the others with an entry path (Oasis) leading to a central iconic landmark, followed by a series of lands that branch off from there.

The lands of the park are: Discovery Island, Camp Minnie Mickey, Africa, Asia, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, & Dinoland USA.

Discovery Island
The island is the central hub, dominated by the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life stands tall as the central landmark of the park. It’s massive size, combined with the detailed animal carvings worked into the tree’s design, make it a site to behold.

The primary attraction is “It’s Tough to be a Bug!”, which combines Animatronics, a 3-D movie and extra special features. A great attraction, allow it can be scary for younger children.

Camp Minnie Mickey
This area is home to one of Walt Disney World’s best live shows – “Festival of the Lion King”. This is a must see attraction that involves audience participation, wonderful costumes, acrobatics, and some of the great songs from this Disney Classic.

This is also the best area in the Animal Kingdom to meet Mickey and Minnie for pictures and autographs.

The recreated African Village makes you feel as if you’ve been transported across the globe. Peruse the shops and check out the talented street performers.

The Kilimanjaro Safari is a must see simulation of a two week safari to an African savannah. All of the animals are real and roam their natural habitats. Enjoyable for the entire family.

Also, take the time to walk the Pangani Exploration trail. Too often this trail is missed by the park commandos and it really is a shame. This is a great opportunity to see the animals up close and learn about them from the cast members.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch
This is another under explored area of the park. You take a train from Africa to get to this backstage area that includes a veterinary clinic and a petting zoo. This area is best suited for the youngest visitors and the animal lovers.

This area recently added the best roller coaster (in my opinion) in Walt Disney World – Expedition Everest. In building the attraction they created the tallest mountain in Florida and built an entire village for the back story and cue line. Truly a fantastic ride and reason enough to come to Animal Kingdom.

The Kali River Rapids are another thrill seeking favorite, especially on those hot Florida summer days.

Dinoland U.S.A.
This last features the creatures of the distant past. The Dinosaur attraction takes you on a thrilling time machine journey back to the times of the dinosaurs, hoping to escape before the meteors reach earth.

The newest attraction here is Finding Nemo – The Musical which is a wonder live action/puppet stage presentation with songs adapted for the award winning animated classic. This is a great show and the theater is enclosed and air conditioned.

Although some people rank the Animal Kingdom as their least favorite WDW park, it has thrill rides, incredible shows, fun attractions, and many live animals. The theming here is just incredible. This park is definitely a must see on each visit to Walt Disney World.

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