The fourth Disney park in Florida, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, opened in 1998. While many initially thought it would be a glorified zoo with attractions, Animal Kingdom is so much more than that. It offers attractions, shows, restaurants, and so much more, in Disney World’s largest theme park.
Like other Walt Disney World parks, Animal Kingdom is separated into several different lands, including Africa, Asia, Pandora – the World of Avatar, Discovery Island, Dinoland U.S.A, the Oasis, and Rafiki’s Planet Watch. In the past, many thought of the park as more of a half-day theme park. However, with the opening of Pandora several years ago, you can definitely spend a full day at Animal Kingdom.
While there aren’t multiple Animal Kingdom roller coaster rides, there are several unique thrill rides you’ll definitely want to ride. In fact, some of my favorite Walt Disney World rides at located right in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s a good idea to have a plan before you arrive so you can optimize your time.
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Exciting Rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, along with other Disney theme parks in the United States, now utilizes the Disney Genie system for maximizing your day. The Disney Genie itself is a free program where you can get an optimized theme park schedule through the app. However, if you’d like to reduce your wait time in lines, you’ll need to pay for the Genie+ system.
Disney Genie+ can be purchased daily, for each member of your family. Once you have it loaded onto the app, you can book return times (one at a time) for the different attractions that use Genie+. When it’s your turn to ride, you can go through the Disney Lightning Lane, which should be a much shorter line.
Not all Lightning Lanes can be accessed with Genie+, however. For the most popular rides, there’s a separate service, Individual Lightning Lane, that can be purchased for these attractions individually. You don’t have to purchase Genie+ to buy an individual lightning lane, however. At Animal Kingdom, Avatar: Flight of Passage utilized the Individual Lightning Lane.
Some rides don’t have any lightning lanes. For those attractions, you’ll just have to wait in the regular standby line.
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
Expedition Everest is a thrilling roller coaster, located in the Asia section of the park. On this thrill ride, you’ll board the ride vehicle and travel through the Himalayan mountains on the way to Mount Everest. But, you’ll need to watch out for the mythical Yeti.
Expedition Everest is so much fun. While it doesn’t travel upside down, it does go backward, very fast.
Expedition Everest offers a single-rider line and a lightning lane that’s accessible through Genie+. Expect to wait in long lines if you don’t utilize one of these options. It has a height requirement of 44 inches and is definitely one of the more thrilling rides at Walt Disney World. Younger kids will definitely not want to ride.
Kali River Rapids
Animal Kingdom seems to be one of the hotter theme parks. While the climate isn’t different, there is less shade and it can definitely get hot. One great way to cool off is to take a ride on the Kali River Rapids ride, located in the Asia section of the park.
Board one of the circular ride vehicles and then you’ll be sent down the ride, through wild rapids as you spin. You, along with your belongings, will definitely get wet, so you’ll need to take some precautions with your electronics. Lockers are available, or you can leave them with a friend/family member who isn’t going to ride.
Some guests choose to wear a poncho on this ride (as well as Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom). However, I just prefer to wear clothes that I don’t mind getting wet. They generally dry pretty quickly in the Florida sun.
Kali River Rapids does offer an individual lightning lane through Genie+. It has a height requirement of 38 inches and isn’t especially scary. There is a small drop, and the ride does spin a little bit, but both are mild.
One of the most unique and best rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is Kilimanjaro Safaris. This 18-minute ride on an open-air vehicle takes you into the Harambe Wildlife Reserve to see all of the various animals that reside there.
During your safari, you’ll have the opportunity to see the 34 species in the reserve, including elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and more. These are real animals, in their living environment. As a result, what you see and experience can vary. On one of our safaris, animals blocked our path for more than 5 minutes as we just had to wait for them to move on. It’s so much fun, and a great way to experience and see the animals who call Animal Kingdom their home.
Kilimanjaro Safaris doesn’t have a height restriction, and while it’s a bit bumpy, it’s a very mild ride great for the whole family. It does offer a Genie+ lightning lane, and the lines can get long during the day. Guests often prefer to ride either first thing in the morning, or later in the day, when the animals are more active.
Avatar Flight of Passage
Avatar Flight of Passage is probably my favorite ride at all Walt Disney World. It’s a relatively new attraction that is located in the Pandora section of the park. In this simulator attraction, you’ll board the back of a banshee and sail over Pandora, looking at the gorgeous floating rocks, flora, and other landscape features.
This is a 4D attraction with a motion simulation, and the simulator can affect those who are prone to motion sickness. However, in my experience, closing my eyes for a few seconds when I feel a bit dizzy can help. It’s such a beautiful ride, and the experience is so realistic that it is absolutely worth doing.
Avatar Flight of Passage is such a popular attraction, and regular Genie+ isn’t offered. Instead, if you want to skip the standby line, you’ll need to purchase an individual lightning lane entrance. These are offered at an additional cost, that varies depending on the day. I’d recommend doing this earlier in the day, because they can sell out, especially during peak season.
This ride does have a height requirement of 44 inches. The ride vehicle can feel a little tight once it closes on your legs. There’s a sample banshee outside the entrance so you can try out how it feels before you commit to the attraction.
While DINOSAUR doesn’t get the attention of other Animal Kingdom rides like Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest, it really is a lot of fun and worth riding. It’s located in the Dinoland U.S.A section of the park but does feel a little hidden. It utilizes a similar ride mechanism as the Indiana Jones ride in Disneyland, with a different storyline.
In this ride, you’ll board a time-traveling vehicle with a hidden mission of returning with an Iguanadon. Of course, nothing goes as planned and you’ll end up jumping around avoiding meteors and other obstacles.
DINOSAUR does utilize the Genie+ lightning lane. It’s a dark ride and has a height restriction of 40 inches. It may be scary for some kids.
In addition to these thrilling and exciting rides, there are other attractions and rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom that you may enjoy. These include the following:
- Triceratop Spin – located in Dinoland U.S.A, this ride is very similar to Dumbo the Flying Elephant at the Magic Kingdom. Young children love it.
- Na’vi River Journey – located in Pandora, the World of Avatar. On this boat ride, you’ll travel through a bioluminescent rainforest in search of the Shaman of Song
- Festival of the Lion King – a stage show spectacular featuring the story of the Lion King with live performers
- It’s Tough to Be A Bug – a 3D movie located in the Tree of Life in the center of the park on Discovery Island
- The Affection Section petting zoo