The Animal Kingdom is one of Walt Disney World’s four theme parks in the Orlando, FL area. This theme park is the largest in the entire world, with an area that spans 580 acres. Much of the reason for the large size is the large zoological animal preserve that house hundreds of species of animals. The theme park is dedicated to conservation and animal preservation. The iconic symbol for the park is the Tree of Life, a 145-foot tall artificial baobab tree.

Animal Kingdom History

Disney began planning the park shortly after the opening of Hollywood Studios in 1989. Disney Imagineers were sent to Africa and Asia to study wildlife and landscapes. In 1995 the Animal Kingdom was announced at a cost of over 600 million dollars. Construction began in 1996. Seeds from 36 different countries were used in the park. By the fall of 1997, most of the park’s animals had been acquired and were housed in a temporary location in North Florida. The park was completed in 1998 and the first expansion to the AK was Asia, one year later, in 1999. In 2011 a second major expansion to the park was announced. Construction on Pandora begun in 2014 and was completed in 2017.

Animal Kingdom Areas

There are 6 main areas in the Animal Kingdom:

Discovery Island - This is the central hub of the park. Most of the other sections of the park can be reached from Discovery Island by bridges. The Tree of Life, two restaurants and one 3D film experience are on this island.

Dinoland USA - This section of the park is themed around dinosaurs. There are 3 rides, carnival games, and a large theater which houses the Finding Nemo musical. There is also a large dinosaur-themed playground where children can play.

Asia - This section of the park was completed one year after the Animal Kingdom opened. It’s based on the fictional land of Anandapur. According to Disney, this area was designed around the traits of Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Mongolia, and Cambodia. There are 2 large attractions in Asia, Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest. Asia also has the Maharajah Jungle Trek, which is a walk through a forest filled with live animals. Rivers of Light, the Animal Kingdom’s nighttime show, takes place on the river in between Asia and Discovery Island.

Africa - This area of the park takes place in the fictional village of Harambe. This section of the park houses the Harambe Theater, home of the Festival of the Lion King. Africa also has a Gorilla trail, where guests can see meerkats, hippos and gorillas. The major attraction is Africa is Kilimanjaro Safaris. This attraction takes you on a safari ride through a wildlife reserve. Guests will see many of the most popular animals from Africa. The animals that can be seen are elephants, lions, giraffes, monkeys, hippos, antelopes, and more!

Rafiki’s Planet Watch - You can’t walk to this part of the park. To get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, you will need to take a train from Africa. This part of the park has a petting zoo and a conservation station. In this area guests will get a behind-the-scenes look at how Disney cares for all of the animals in the park.

Pandora - This is the newest area of the park and was finished in 2017. This area is based on the Avatar series of movies. It houses 1 amazing restaurant and 2 major attractions. Flight of Passage has become one of the most beloved rides in all of Disney World with extremely high wait times and very high ratings. This area must be seen both in the day and at night. At night the area is lit up with bio-luminescent forests.

Animal Kingdom Rides

The Animal Kingdom has over 12 rides and attractions that guests can choose from. For an overview of what you can expect to find, please see our article Animal Kingdom Rides & Attractions.

Animal Kingdom Restaurants

The Animal Kingdom has 4 table-service restaurants that you can choose from:

Rainforest Cafe - This is a chain restaurant that is located near the front entrance. The inside of the restaurant is themed around….you guessed it, a rainforest! There are currently 24 Rainforest Cafe’s open around the world.

Yak & Yeti - This is an Asian-themed restaurant located in the Asia section of the park. Yak & Yeti also operates a counter-service restaurant.

Tusker House - This restaurant is located in Africa. It’s a buffet-style restaurant that offers Character Dining

Tiffins - Tiffins is a brand new table-service restaurant located on Discovery Island.

Animal Kingdom Map

For a larger version of the Animal Kingdom Map, please click the image.

Animal Kingdom Touring Plan

As mentioned earlier, the Animal Kingdom is the 6th most popular park in the world. In 2017 there were more visitors at the Animal Kingdom than Hollywood Studios or Epcot! That popularity has led to long lines. You’ll often wait over 120 minutes to ride Flight of Passage. If you want to stay out of lines and tour the park properly, we've got you covered. Please see our one-day Animal Kingdom touring plan. This free plan will help you tour the park effectively and help you stay out of long lines!

Animal Kingdom Fastpass Strategy

Animal Kingdom guests get 3 fastpasses a day. Guests can choose any of the rides and attractions for their fastpasses. But in order to get good fastpasses, you have to book as early as possible. What times should you choose? Which fastpasses should you try and get? We have you covered with our article: Animal Kingdom Fastpass Strategy. Combine this with our touring plan, and you’ll have a great day at this wonderful park.