Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The newest park at the Walt Disney World resort is Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  I’ve found that many people absolutely adore this park, and others don’t seem to like it at all. The reason for the discrepancy is still a mystery to me, but it’s our 2nd favorite park for many reasons.

The Animal Kingdom is far and away the largest park in the Disney World resort, however much of that acreage comes from the Safari which is over 100 acres itself!  Along with that large size, for some reason it can be easy to get turned around at the Animal Kingdom, as there aren’t always a lot of visible markers that tell you right where you are.  You must rely on the signs, and know ahead of time how the park is laid out.  Yes, there are maps, but today we want to explain the park, how it’s laid out and how to best spend your time here!

There are seven different sections.  We’ll detail these sections below.

Layout of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

You enter the park are immediately are in the Oasis.  You can walk around and look at a number of different animals if you desire.  However, aside from animal habitats there are no rides or attractions at this front section.  There are a number of different paths, but they all lead to Discovery Island

Discovery Island

disneys animal kingdom

Beware of the Yeti!

This is the “hub” of the Animal Kingdom.  From Discovery Island, you can go directly to five of the other six sections of the park.  It also is the only current route from inside the park to Camp Mickey-Minnie.  Discovery Island is also the home of many animals, especially around the “Tree of Life”, the large man-made tree that you can’t miss.

Discovery Island only has one real attraction, the popular “It’s Tough to Be a Bug”.  This is a show, but it’s quick and so you don’t have to really wait for specific times to watch it.  I’d also caution you about the intensity of the show.  It can scare kids.  If your kids are easily scared, sit toward the back!  Thank me later!

My favorite counter-service restaurant is also on Discovery Island.  Flame-tree BBQ serves BBQ ribs and chicken!  It’s a GREAT change of pace from burgers, fries and pizza!  No matter what our schedule is, we try to hit this for lunch on every trip!

While on Discovery Island, you’ll see signs to Camp Minnie-Mickey.  This area really houses two things: an area to meet characters and a wonderful acrobatic show on the Lion King, which we highly recommend.

Touring Tip:  When you arrive in the morning at the Animal Kingdom, you want to blitz past the Oasis and past Discovery Island.  You’ll either want to head to the left towards Africa, or to the right towards Asia! That is where the fun is!


Behind Discovery Island to the left, you’ll find the path to Africa.  Africa is home of the Kilimanjaro Safaris, which is basically a ride in a big truck through a 100+ acre nature refuge.  You’ll see many big animals on this ride, so keep your cameras ready!  Africa also has a lot of really neat shops and festivities happening.  You’ll often see music being played and people dancing!  Our kids love to take their turn on the drums and just dance!

Next to the Safari is a Exploration Trail.  You can see monkeys, hippos and gorillas, among other animals.  Finally, there is a train that takes you back to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.  This is an area that houses many different animals, a petting zoo, and a conservation station.  If you are in the mood to see MORE animals, head back to the Planet Watch.  If you want to ride rides, I’d recommend skipping it and coming back if you have time later.

Touring Tip:  As you’ve seen, we are four areas in and the park is all about animals!  This is one reason why some don’t really like the Animal Kingdom.  However, there are some great rides!  Stick with it!


From Africa, there is a back path to Asia.  Asia houses what some consider the best ride in all of Walt Disney World, Expedition Everest.  You probably want to make Everest an early stop in your touring day.  Another great ride is Kali River Rapids.  However, a note of caution, buy a poncho before you head to this ride!  You will get wet!  It’s a quick ride, but your kids will love it.



We recommend going to Asia and Africa first and second.  Which order depends on you.  Africa is traditionally seen as the first stop, as early in the morning seems to be the time when the animals are at their peak of activity.  But soon after your trip to the safari, take the long walk over to Everest and try and get that done before the crowds pile in.

Dinoland USA

From Asia, you can take a back path to Dinoland, which is an area dedicated to dinosaurs!  There is a really fun area for kids, with a number of things that small children can do.  There also are two very fun adult rides, Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR!  If you get sick on rides that spin, Primeval Whirl might not be the best ride for you!  But it’s a ton of fun.  DINOSAUR is a really fun ride that can also be quite scary for children.

Stage Shows

There are two stage shows that your family will love.  One is located between Asia and Dinoland, and is a broadway-style show that basically retells the story of Finding Nemo.  If your kids like that movie, they’ll love this show.  It’s also a great way to get out of the heat and sit down for 30 minutes or so.

Our favorite show in all of Disney World is “Festival of the Lion King”.  This show is an acrobatic/musical performance that involves your children as well!  Try to sit on the front rows if you have little kids, as they will often get used in the show.  If you don’t have small kids, it’s a good idea to sit a few rows up and allow families will children to sit closer to the action.  Our kids are absolutely amazed at the acrobatics in this festival, and we highly recommend it!

More Tips for Touring the Animal Kingdom

We’ve given you a rough idea of what to expect at the Animal Kingdom.  However, we’ve condensed this info into an easy-to-read touring plan that can give you a step-by-step guide to planning your day.  Head to our Animal Kingdom Touring Plan for the details!

Do you have any additional tips on the Animal Kingdom?  Please share below!



Avatar Land

In early 2017, the Animal Kingdom will be getting a massive upgrade when Pandora – The World of Avatar opens.  This new land will explore the world of Pandora, from the popular movie Avatar.  On this page, we’ll keep you up-to-date on all the latest news and information.  Naturally, there are a few questions that… Read More

Animal Kingdom Rides | Animal Kingdom

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