With an early closing time of 6 pm, getting up bright and early is key to making the most of a wild day at Animal Kingdom.
As Disney hotel guests we were able to take advantage of morning Extra Magic Hours to access the park an hour before the general public. That meant a 6:45 am wake-up call, and on the bus around 7:30 to make it to the park for 8 am.
Over 500 acres in size, Animal Kingdom is the largest Disney park in the world. The centerpiece of the park is the Tree of Life, with seven differently themed areas surrounding it.
1) Kilimanjaro Safari was at the top of my to-do list, so upon arrival we immediately made our way to Africa. I was hoping to see a lot of animals as I had read that they are most active in the morning. This was a great plan! Here is just a small sample of the wide variety of animals we saw throughout the 100-acre savanna.
Two antelopes, five wildebeests, and one giraffe in a single photo.
We did the safari ride again in the afternoon, which would have been a big disappointment if it had been our only experience, as we saw nowhere near as many animals as the morning tour. There was one big fella worth paying attention to though...
And a lady friend...
2) Pangani Forest Exploration Trail
- This self-guided walking tour featured fish, birds, hippos, meerkats, and the okapi - a creature new to me. It also provided our best opportunity to see a number of lowland gorillas in action.
Okapi - related to the giraffe (not the zebra, as you might guess from the stripes).
Meerkat - aka "Timon"
3) We then made out way to Asia to tackle Expedition Everest
. Rides weren't really a major focus of our Animal Kingdom visit, but this was our first outdoor roller coaster and it offered some impressive views of the park when I managed not to freak out about how far from the ground we were.
4) Kali River Rapids
- A raft ride down the churning Chakranadi River. A sudden drop down a waterfall will ensure that you get wet, if not completely soaked!
5) Finding Nemo - The Musical
- A top quality production that guests of all ages will enjoy. Nemo's journey back to the ocean is set to music and you can't help but root for the little guy along the way!
6) Festival of the Lion King
- So yes, I am a fan of musicals but I can objectively say that this show was soooo good! Performed in the round, this spectacular show of music, dancing, and acrobatics will blow you away. All your favourite characters take part - Simba, Timon, Pumba and Rafiki.
7) It's Tough to be a Bug!
- Accept Flik's invitation to don your 3-D glasses and become an honorary bug. But watch out - when you're discovered as a bug's worst enemy you'll be under attack. This is often a little too scary for wee ones, but really cool for bigger kids and grown-ups.
8) Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade
- Interested in starring in a Disney World parade? Hang out near the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safari shortly before parade time. That's where we got nabbed to marshal the parade. We were in the very first vehicle with a driver, and Rafiki from the Lion King dancing up a storm in the back.
9) An African beer at Dawa Bar was the perfect ending to a fantastically wild day at Animal Kingdom!