If you’re heading to Orlando, Disney’s Animal Kingdom park is a must-visit destination. I’ve been to Animal Kingdom a half-dozen times with my family throughout the years, and each time we visit we find something else we love about it! My children LOVE animals, so for them in particular, it’s such an exciting place to visit and see (up close and personal) exotic animals.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
I had the chance to visit Animal Kingdom while in Orlando for the Zootopia press junket two weeks ago.
It truly is such a magical place and it was fascinating to learn from Zootopia’s Directors – Byron Howard and Rich Moore – that their research with Zootopia started by visiting Animal Kingdom. How cool is this? It really made Animal Kingdom that much more special to me.
As soon as I returned home, I had a few friends reach out to me who are planning trips in April, asking for some of the “must sees and dos” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Honestly – it’s filled with over 20+ incredible attractions, thrills, incredible entertainment, delicious eats, fun gift shops, treks and tours. You could spend a few days there and still discover new things! When we went with our sons this past May, I was in awe of how mesmerized they were by everything at Animal Kingdom… and that’s the exact kind of magic that you will experience.
Out of everything at Animal Kingdom, there are 5 things that REALLY jumped out to me that you just don’t want to miss. These are 5 things that you must put on your to-do list because you will absolutely love experiencing them.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
1) Tree of Life. It’s stunning in all of its stature and glory. The Tree of Life is truly the iconic centerpiece of Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.
When you first see it, you’re truly taken aback by its size, its beauty, its strength and its perfection. Photos in front of the Tree of Life are a must and it’s something that you will cherish and treasure as a keepsake from Animal Kingdom. We have a photo hanging in our living room of me, my mother and my 2 oldest sons – William and Alexander – in front of it… it’s such a peaceful photo to me.
This amazingly, beautiful sculpted tree expresses the intricate balance of nature. At an impressive 145 feet tall and 50 feet wide at its base, the Tree of Life is home to over 300 meticulously detailed animal carvings throughout its massive trunk, gnarling roots and outstretched branches—invoking the diversity, beauty and interconnected nature of earth’s many creatures. Animals that appear to magically emerge from the tree include:
You’re truly speechless when you first come upon it, it’s that unbelievable. And – of course – I needed to get a photo with my best friend Vera while visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom, too!
It’s a must-stop as soon as you arrive!
2) Kilimanjaro Safari. Hands down, an absolute must-do for you and your family. There aren’t any age or height requirements for this ride and it’s something that you will remember from your trips for years to come! You’re riding in an open vehicle into the “lush African savanna” where you actually see real-live exotic animals.
This was a ride that my sons were CRAZY over because you’re literally feet away from the most INCREDIBLE animals!
You see Antelopes, Baboons, Cheetahs, Crocodiles, Elephants, Flamingos, Giraffes, Hippos, Lions, Wildebeests, Zebras and more.
It’s a fun guided tour through the savanna, so you’re able to ask questions and hear all about the animals that you’re encountering and viewing. It’s a wonderful educational ride, too – you learn so much about these animals and their habitats. I honestly had to pinch myself when we were going by the LIONS! I had such a wonderful time, and this is something that’s worth the wait.
3) Conservation Station. In just a short (and fun!) train ride, you arrive at Conservation Station, one of the most interesting places to explore for hours.
This incredible wildlife conservation center is the home to animal encounters, interactive exhibits and a veterinary facility. You learn the important and the necessity of conservation awareness here. My sons William and Alexander would have stayed here all day if I had let them when we came in May. They loved listening and interacting and watching everything that was going on here. We were able to tour the veterinary facility while visiting during our Zootopia press junket, too. It was fascinating to see behind the scenes of how they care for the park’s animals. So much goes into the caring and prepping and love of these animals, it was just wonderful to experience this piece of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, too.
One of the extraordinary things about Conservation Station is that you actually get to view animals being tended to in their vet facility. There are windows that allow you to watch the process. It’s wonderful because it gives visitors such unbelievable access. I just love how you really have the ability to soak in so much knowledge here… and as only Disney can do, in such a fun and engaging way.
And! Right now there is a cool Zootopia exhibit that is worth visiting!! It shares behind the scenes photos of the team from Zootopia visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom and some very cool sketches and information.
4) Festival of the Lion King. One of my favorite Disney movies of all time is The Lion King.
I’ll never forget seeing it with my family in the theater as I just fell in love with it and Simba. As soon as I saw that there was a show at Animal Kingdom called Festival of the Lion King, I knew I wanted to see it. This 30-minute show is MAGNIFICENT! There was incredible singing, dancing, acrobatics, fire juggling — it was INCREDIBLE! The jungle actually comes alive around you and it’s big, bold and beautiful.
You sit and watch, awed and dazzled and even singing along to some of the songs because you instinctively know them by heart.
It really was an awesome celebration that I highly recommend you catch while at the Animal Kingdom. All ages will enjoy this show.
5) Expedition Everest. The biggest thrill of them all at Animal Kingdom, this is one you don’t want to miss! I’m going to be totally honest here, like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been to Animal Kingdom a half-dozen times, but I’ve only ridden this ONCE!
I’m not a huge fan of drops and thrill rides and going upside down, but I knew I needed to do it, at least once. I remember waiting in line and just getting more and more nervous as we inched closer to enter. Even when I was buckled in, I almost chickened out – but I didn’t! I stayed on and I did it! It was INCREDIBLE! It was fast, it was crazy, it was insane, it was a thrill – and I loved every second of it.
Why was I scared??? Hurl 80 feet down the base of the cursed mountain and swoop in and out of murky caves and along jagged rocky ledges as you race to escape the dreaded monster before he catches up with you.
BUT!! It’s one of those rides that when you finish, you pat yourself on the back. This is an ABSOLUTE MUST at Animal Kingdom.
Here’s the thing about Disney’s Animal Kingdom — there’s just as much fun at night, too. Even though these are my top 5 to experience while you’re there, also take the time to enjoy Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park Is Alive with Magic Nightly coming soon!
You can celebrate the kinship of all living things during a fabulous and special nighttime water and light show awash with breathtaking special effects.
You’ll be enchanted by a brilliant spectacle of glowing lanterns, magical fireflies, dancing fountains and animal spirits.
Animal Kingdom is a magical and enchanted park to visit. You will encounter numerous activities and rides and happenings that create such happiness for you and your family. Make sure you visit Animal Kingdom on your next trip to Disney!
Also, make sure you head to the movies to see ZOOTOPIA! It’s such a fabulous movie and one that is perfect for your whole family!!!
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Read all about the Magic Kingdom!
Disclosure: This was a Disney press trip. My travel was covered for this trip. All opinions are 100% my own.