When we planned our first family trip to Walt Disney World many years ago, I was looking forward to our first visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I’d been told that it was definitely not a zoo, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. If you haven’t been to Animal Kingdom, or haven’t visited in a while, you may not know what fun you are in for. This park manages to combine animal experiences with some of the best rides in the parks. Here’s our guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom rides. Don’t forget to get your FastPasses as soon as you can.
Disclosure: I am a former member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel and have been on some complimentary press trips at Walt Disney World, but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us.
A Guide to Animal Kingdom Rides
Like the other parks at Walt Disney World, Animal Kingdom has several different themed lands. These include Africa, Asia, Dinoland USA, Pandora – the World of Avatar, and Discovery Island. Rafiki’s Planet Watch is currently closed, and will be reopening at a later date.
Pandora – the World of Avatar is the newest of the lands and is my favorite. It’s a completely immersive experience that is incredibly detailed. Because Pandora opened just a few years ago, it’s still extremely popular. Go early or late for the lowest crowd levels. It’s a completely different land in the dark, so you may want to walk through twice.
It’s best to download the My Disney Experience app to your smartphone so you can manage your FastPasses and see park maps while you are on the go.
Kilimanjaro Safaris: One of the best rides for the whole family, Kilimanjaro Safaris is a definite must-do on your Disney family vacation. We’ve been on it a number of times and always need to ride it when we are in Animal Kingdom. During this ride, you’ll board a safari vehicle and travel into the Harambe Wildlife Reserve savanna to see real live animals. It’s always a different experience.
Expedition Everest: One of my favorite thrill rides at the Disney theme parks, Expedition Everest is a roller coaster that travels backwards. It’s so much fun, and I definitely recommend riding it if you’ve got kids that meet the height requirement. There’s also a single rider line that can make the wait a little shorter.
If you can, try riding at night when it’s even more thrilling. Before my kids were old enough to ride it, my husband and I would take turns riding it through the single rider line. Now that our kids are teens, it’s fun for all four of us to ride together.
Kali River Rapids – On a hot day, this can be one of the best ways to cool off. This whitewater rafting ride is exciting but also appropriate for most kids (the height requirement is 38 inches). Just keep in mind that you will get wet while riding it! If you don’t have someone to hold your belongings for you, consider bringing some large ziplock bags to hold your more delicate items.
Pandora – the World of Avatar
Avatar Flight of Passage: The most popular ride at Animal Kingdom (if not all of Walt Disney World), Avatar Flight of Passage is a simulator 3D ride where you get the opportunity to ride a banshee. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, and it’s one of the most imaginative rides I’ve experienced. Get a FastPass reservation for this one, because the lines are always very long. If you get motion sick, you may feel a little bit dizzy on the ride. I sometimes do, but briefly close my eyes and feel much better in a few seconds.
Na’vi River Journey: On this dark river ride, you’ll float in a bioluminescent rainforest in search of the shaman of song. It’s a beautiful ride, but not nearly as thrilling as Avatar Flight of Passage. I’d definitely recommend going on Flight of Passage if you have to choose one when making your FastPass reservations.
This fun land is reminiscent of a kitschy roadside attraction. It’s very different from the other lands at Animal Kingdom, but it also has some fun rides.
Dinosaur: Tucked away off the main path is Dinosaur, a mild-ish dark thrill ride. On this ride, you’ll board a time machine vehicle to go back in time to view dinosaurs and even bring one back with you. It’s a unique ride, and my kids love it. While the vehicle is bumpy and the dinos can seem real, it isn’t as thrilling as the other thrill rides at the parks.
TriceraTop Spin: If your kids are fans of the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride at the Magic Kingdom, they’ll definitely want to go on TriceraTop Spin. It’s very similar to Dumbo, but instead of flying elephants, you’ll ride on Triceratops. There usually isn’t as long a line for this ride as Dumbo.
Primeval Whirl: This is the only Animal Kingdom ride that I haven’t gone on. These rest of my family always does, but I don’t like spinning motions. Primeval Whirl is a spinning coaster ride, and my kids always love it. It’s usually pretty busy, so get a FastPass or arrive early to ride with the shortest wait time.
It’s Tough to Be a Bug!: This is a 3D film, rather than a ride, but it’s still lots of fun. Located right in the tree of life icon in the center of the park, It’s Tough to Be a Bug is a film based upon the Pixar film, A Bug’s Life. It’s dark in the theater, and can be a bit scary for really little ones. But otherwise, it’s something kids will enjoy.
Other attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
In addition the rides mentioned above, Animal Kingdom is also home to animal encounters and shows that you’ll definitely want to experience. Here are some of the most popular:
Festival of the Lion King: Based on the Lion King, this stage show is a huge spectacle that is absolutely worth seeing. It runs for about a half hour and features music, bright costumes, puppets, and more. FastPasses are available.
Finding Nemo, the Musical: Like the Festival of the Lion King, this show features characters from Finding Nemo. It includes music, puppets, and more. It runs for about 40 minutes and a FastPass is offered.
Up! A Great Bird Adventure: Featuring characters from Disney Pixar’s Up, this show runs for about 25 minutes and FastPass is offered.
Rivers of Light: This nighttime show is gorgeous and worth seeing. You can purchase a dining package or get a FastPass for better viewing areas of the show.
There’s also the Maharajah Jungle Trek and the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, as well as many different animal trails and encounters. You’ll also find many different Disney characters at the park – check the My Disney Experience app or the printed Times Guide for specific characters, locations, and times.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Animal Kingdom Rides
What is the best ride at Animal Kingdom?
In my opinion, it’s Avatar Flight of Passage, which is actually my favorite ride at all of Walt Disney World. It’s unlike anything else I’ve been on, and is truly a unique and fun experience. Try to get a FastPass for it, because you’ll save a lot of time if you don’t have to wait in the standby line.
Thrill ride lovers will also want to check out Expedition Everest. It goes backwards so quickly that some people actually think they’ve gone upside down.
Are the Animal Kingdom rides appropriate for younger kids?
While there are definitely height restrictions for some of the rides, there are also things that will appeal to little ones. These include the shows. They are short, so they are great for younger kids to watch.
Can you visit Animal Kingdom in one day?
Before Pandora – the World of Avatar opened, Animal Kingdom was often thought of as a half day park. In fact, it usually closed pretty early in the evening. Now, however, I feel that the park is more of a full day experience. You probably won’t need more than one day, however.
How do I purchase a ticket to Animal Kingdom?
If you want to visit Animal Kingdom, you’ll need a park ticket. There are loads of different Walt Disney World park ticket options that you can learn about. Get Away Today offers discounted park tickets that you can purchase in advance if you need tickets. If you plan to visit more than one park in the day, you’ll need the park hopper option on your tickets.