Many people under-value Animal Kingdom as a glorified zoo but I strongly disagree. This is the park that I spend the most time in besides Magic Kingdom because of the amazing food, plethora of entertainment and unbelievable Imagineering that makes every nook and cranny photogenic.
- Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
This is nothing like Disneyland’s Matterhorn except for the snowy mountain theme. It is one of the most extreme thrill rides in the four parks and has an incredibly well-themed and educational queue. You can ask to wait for the first row and it is worth it for first-timers; for every other time, consider splitting up your party by taking the single rider line.
- Festival of the Lion King
I wish this show was at Disneyland because the singing and staging are excellent. You really feel like you are part of the show in this circular theater. Do try to get in line about 10 minutes before a show so that you can get a closer seat even though the only bad seats in the house are behind people who are obnoxiously holding up their phones or cameras. If you are at a show where the monkeys do not do their acrobatic tricks, you aren’t missing out on much. Do try to ask a cast member before going into a show if they know whether the monkeys performed at the last show or not because they sometimes alternate one show on and off during the day.
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
Like Jungle Cruise with real animals and factual and corny commentary. The recommendations to go first thing in the morning or during the hours around sunset are good to follow. I also had a wonderful safari when I went right at park close on the last safari – the lions roared! Please DO NOT use flash.
If you’re craving Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, head towards this gem of Dinoland. It has the same track but doesn’t really feel the same and actually gets me to let out screams regularly. This also has a great photo op if you were to keep any ride photos!
- Discovery Island Trails
This is usually not highly recommended but there are several hidden animal exhibits, beautiful views of the rest of the park, and these trails allow you to get up close to check out all of the amazing carvings on the roots of the Tree of Life.
- Maharajah Jungle Trek
Two tiger cubs were born in late 2017 and can be seen with their mother or father near the end of this trek. But before you get to the excellently Imagineer-ed habitats for the tigers, take time to watch the Komodo dragon and go in the bats habitat. These bats are truly impressive even while sleeping and there is always a cast member ready to answer all of your or your kids’ questions. The aviary after the tigers is also worth taking a leisurely stroll through because there are so many different birds; grab a spotting guide on the way in and apply some hand sanitizer on the way out.
- Wilderness Explorers
If you have kids, definitely schedule this educational scavenger hunt into your itinerary. Even if you don’t have kids, you’ll get a free souvenir booklet and some memories from the experience learning about different cultures, conservation, and animals.
- Pocahontas Meet and Greet
This Disney princess has a pretty hidden area near the bridge from Discovery Island to Dinoland. She doesn’t meet in Disneyland so take advantage of this if meeting characters is your thing!
- Tarzan Meet and Greet
Another character not usually available to meet in Disneyland, Tarzan is sure to leave you smiling as he sniffs or eats bugs from your hair.
- Tree of Life Awakenings
These are some pretty magical and touching projections on the Tree of Life. You’ll probably get a better, less-crowded view on the back side of the tree from the walkway between the Africa and Asia areas than from the main viewing point in Discovery Island. There are different animated stories every 15 minutes or so.
- Explore Pandora during the day and at night
Even though you may not have time or necessarily need to ride the two attractions in Pandora, walking around, experiencing the Imagineering and getting photos is an attraction all on its own because it is absolutely stunning with and without sunlight. Be careful that you don’t lose members of your party in the darkness at night, though!
Food & Drink
- Dole Whip with Rum or Night Blossom with Rum
You can get the classic Disneyland treat spiked from Tamu Tamu in Harambe or try the delicious and very sweet pear-flavored Night Blossom frozen drink in Pandora, which has recently been offered as an alcoholic option.
This is one of the more expensive restaurants in all of WDW but everything is delicious. You can also push yourself out of your comfort zone to try more adventurous things. The cocktails and wine selection are also excellent; you can get the cocktails in the Nomad Lounge without a reservation if you’d rather do that.
- Tusker House brunch
This might be my favorite character buffet because you can get the classic and delicious Mickey waffles as well as more unique African dishes. Going for brunch around 11 but before 11:30 will allow you to get both breakfast food and the lunch options. Just be sure to get the bread pudding dessert before breakfast ends!
- Quick-service breakfast in Asia
Yak and Yeti is one of the few places that does a quick-service breakfast in the parks that has a shorter wait than many of the food courts at the resorts. The hash brown bites are particularly scrumptious but there are breakfast sandwich options as well.
- It’s Tough to Be a Bug
This is the same as the Disneyland version (although the Disneyland version is now closed permanently) and can be quite scary for kids and adults alike. The movie and show posters in the queue are pretty spectacularly punny though.
- Dinoland, U.S.A including Triceratop Spin and Primeval Whirl
These are cheesy carnival rides with poor theming. Triceratop Spin is like Dumbo if you feel like flying. Primeval Whirl is like Goofy’s Sky School but even more dizzying and uncomfortable.
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch
You have to take a long train to get here and there aren’t that many things up here that merit going out of your way. You can meet Rafiki and Doc McStuffins, go to a petting zoo and learn more about the animal care-taking efforts if that’s something you’d rather spend time doing though.
- Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
You can see most of the animals on this trail on the Kilimanjaro Safaris. If you’re really interested in watching gorillas, do so upon exiting from Kilimanjaro Safaris. There is a view into the back of the gorilla habitat where you can often see male gorillas eating or playing in a waterfall.
To Do Time-Permitting
- Flight of Passage
The reason I did not put this on things that are must-do is because this is a glorified version of Soarin’ Around the World in California Adventure. I would not recommend waiting any longer than 2 hours (120 minutes) for this. If it is a shorter wait time or you have a FastPass+ then go for it.
- Na’vi River Journey
This is a very very short boat ride and the effects were underwhelming for me. If this is the only Pandora ride with FastPass+ available, go for it. Otherwise, do not spend more than 45 minutes to an hour waiting. The animatronic shaman is quite stunning so try to sit on the right side of the boat for a better view.
- Kali River Rapids
This is the same ride as Grizzly River Run in California Adventure but with different theming in the queue. There are free lockers to place any valuables to the left of the queue entrance if you need to.
- Oasis Exhibits
There are several animals hidden among the pathways that most people blow past as they power walk to Pandora at rope drop. If you’re leaving Animal Kingdom in the middle of the day to parkhop or for a dining reservation at Animal Kingdom Lodge, take a few extra minutes to stroll through to see macaws and anteaters.
- Stage shows in Harambe
There are singers, drummers and acrobats that show up right in front of Tusker House across the bridge in Harambe. Spend ten minutes watching or join in on the dance party!
- King Louie and Baloo Meet and Greet
These two characters are not regularly found at Disneyland but they are fur characters and are more limited in their interactions.
- Russel Meet and Greet
This guy is adorable and will love interacting with anyone that has done at least one of the Wilderness Explorers activities. Check out the dog translation machine near his queue as well.
- Flik Meet and Greet
I personally love Flik and his location on the Discovery Trails makes for great, lushly green photos. It’s usually a pretty short queue, too.
- Finding Nemo – The Musical
This is a longer show and the large quantity of strollers can be intimidating but the puppetry and songs are delightful. There isn’t a bad seat in the house.
- Rivers of Light
This isn’t the most exciting nighttime show but it is beautiful and has lovely music and is great for animal lovers. You can get special seating by doing a dining package at Tiffins or Tusker House but you can always try to get seats stand-by as well with little difficulty.