Green, walkable and very pretty. That's Animal Kingdom for you. Does it have rides? Yes. Will you see animals? Yes. Is it good for kids? Yes.
We visited three out of four parks at DisneyWorld on our most recent visit to Orlando. Read about our experiences at Magic Kingdom and Epcot. For tips on hotels, theme park tickets, Genie +, renting a car, Disney Springs etc., review the Magic Kingdom post.
If I had to rank the three of four theme parks that we visited on our last trip to Orlando, we would put Magic Kingdom first, then Animal Kingdom and then Epcot.
Read along for Animal Kingdom. Here we go!
In general, our family really enjoyed Animal Kingdom. At 580 acres, it is 5 times the size of Disney World's most popular park, Magic Kingdom. It certainly feels like an escape into wilderness.
It took us a long time to get to Animal Kingdom due to the traffic. But once we were there, it took us about 8 hours to get through most of it. Due to the trees and the shaded areas, we were less tired by the end of it. Also, we decided to avoid the spinny Avatar ride in the Pandora section of the park which had a ridiculously long wait.
Animal Kingdom is broken up into six 'lands'. Of these, the Discovery Island has the big tree of life which lights up and has an occasional sound and light show.
The Asian and African lands are the best. This is where your focus should be during the day. In the night, explore the Pandora area with its bioluminescent feel which makes every glow!
There are two rides in particular that you absolutely have to do. They are both in 'Asia'.
Expedition Everest is probably the best thrill ride across all three parks that we visited that week. Disney has done a fantastic job recreating a Nepalese town at the foothills of the Himalayas and I was so excited to be able to read signs in Hindi. As we waited in line, the posters and the scene were about the legend of the Yeti monster. The ride itself is amazing and slightly scary which was a real adrenalin booster!
Kali River Rapids
The Kali River Rapids was our last ride that evening and much to our delight, we got to go on it twice.
This is an outdoorsy water ride where you sit on round raft-like boats and go around, up and down the Kali River.
Despite our ponchos, we got totally soaked but it was so fun! It was a good thing to have put all our stuff at the free lockers across the ride, we even took our socks out.
Obviously, we put the phones away, so this is the only photo I have of the experience - Anya in her wet poncho!
You must do this ride at the very end because you will get wet.
Also, the Asia section will remind of you of South Asia, with boards reminiscent of small villages in Nepal or India. There was a gentleman playing the sitar which was so lovely to watch and listen to. We ate at the Yak and Yeti restaurant - food was expensive ($100+ for 3 dishes) and quite terrible btw.
On to Africa, the continent where Swahili is widely spoken. In 'Africa', of note are two experiences - The Kilimanjaro Safari and the Lion King Show.
For the Safari, we took a ride into the areas where Disney had housed different animal species. The animals are free and seemed comfortable so it is definitely better than a glorified zoo. It also felt like Disney is taking good care of them.
The Lion King show is superb, it feels like an off-Broadway musical production. This show is indoors and there is stadium-like seating all around the center stage. It is well-organized and orchestrated.
There were other experiences too. The Dinosaur area is cool for Dino-loving kids. There is new kite show which is OKish. There is a small area where you can see a tiger or two. Then, there is a little trek to see the birds. As you can see below, I took a few photos but the pictures really do not do justice to what it was like being there, taking it all in.
Overall, this is a great park to visit at least once in your lifetime. Disney has created an exotic feel and experiences here are just wonderful. I know that my family is likely to re-visit Animal Kingdom again in this decade.