Disney's Animal Kingdom is a classic theme park and a zoo/wildlife preserve all rolled into one exciting adventure. Put on your explorer's hat and prepare to have an up close and personal experience with nature.
The park itself covers about 500 acres of land, making it the largest of the Disney World parks. Most of this land however, is reserved for the stars of the park: its wildlife. The physical layout of Disney's Animal Kingdom is a lot like that of the Magic Kingdom. It has a central hub and six distinct lands connected to the central location.
Just like Main Street, USA is the entrance way into the Magic Kingdom that leads to the central hub of the park, Cinderella's Castle, The Oasis is the entrance area of Disney's Animal Kingdom that leads to the central area called
Discovery Island is the central location of the park and is home to the park's icon, The Tree of Life. The island is surrounded by water, so the different areas, or "lands" of the park, are accessible by footbridges.
These bridges cross over Discovery River leading in different directions and transport quests into the different sections of the park. These sections represent several continents from around the globe and a few imaginary lands that only Disney could have created with such creativity and appeal.
is the first area you will encounter after going through the entrance gate of the park. This area is a beautiful, lush, green jungle of sorts that is home to a wide variety of vegetation and exotic birds and animals. Cast members, usually college interns, are on hand early in the day (until around 11:00 a.m.) to answer any questions quests might have. I have also seen some of the cast members carrying around small display aquariums containing small creatures like spiders.
The Oasis is somewhat like a nature trail in that you walk along the paths looking for the various animals housed in the area and admire the setting. The animals are contained in areas that are more like their natural environments, so you might have to hang out a while to see some of them as they often blend into the scenery.
The Oasis is often crowded in the early morning just after park opening and in the evenings just before closing. Therefore, you may want to visit this area in the middle of the day to have a little breathing room and space that make this area more enjoyable. This jungle-like environment also provides shelter from the hot sun at midday.
If you travel clockwise around the hub of Discovery Island the first section of the park that you will encounter is
This area is popular with families with small children who want to meet and take pictures with some of Disney's most famous animals. Camp Minnie-Mickey has several greeting trails that allow families to wait in line to visit with characters such as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Chip and Dale, and even Pooh and some of his friends. At the end of the trails, you can meet the characters and have pictures taken with them.
You might be tempted to think that Camp Minnie-Mickey is only for little children. If you do, then you would be pleasantly surprised to find that this area is also home to several shows. This is where The Festival of the Lion King and Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends are preformed several times each day.
The next land reaching out from Discovery Island moving clockwise is
This is where you will have the opportunity to go on a African safari. Kilimanjaro Safaris take quests on treks through the African plains to get a closer look at the animals in an environment similar to their native lands.
Africa also has a walking attraction called Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Take your time to wander through the trails and remember to take your camera because you will likely see beautiful birds, Gorillas and even a few hippos swimming around.
The next area of Disney's Animal Kingdom does not connect directly to Discovery Island. It is accessible only from within Africa. It is known as
Rafiki's Planet Watch.
To get to this area, board the train from the depot in Africa for the quick 5-7 minute trip. This area is dedicated to the conservation of the planet and teaches how we as humans can safely share the world with animals. There is a small petting farm in this area, too.
As you move on around the hub, the next section of the park is
Asia has two thrill rides and two areas for animal exploration and observation. You can see real animals on the Maharajah Jungle Trek and audio animatronics animals like the Yeti on Expedition Everest. There are also several restaurants, cafes and gift shops in Asia too, which is good because if you chicken out and decide not to ride Kali River Rapids you will have a nice spot to sit and wait for the rest of your group.
is the last section of the park that can be reached either by the footbridge from Discovery Island by crossing over the river from Asia. Just from the name of this section you might think that this area is only for children, but there is something in DinoLand for every age. Kids love to use up some of their endless energy supply playing on the playground at The Boneyard. This play area is built around cool dinosaur fossils. Kids also like the fun carnival style midway games and taking a spin on the Primeval Whirl or Triceratop Spin ride. Adults on the other hand can be found waiting in line to catch the next show of Finding Nemo - The Musical or at the Dinosaur Ride.
Kid commentary will be available for Disney's Animal Kingdom and can be identified by the above characters. Don't forget to check out what the kids have to say about this unusual theme park.
Animal Kingdom Tours
Backstage Safari - This tour is held every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. and lasts around three hours. Guests get a special tour of the Kilimanjaro Safari and learn about conservation as they tour the animal nutrition center, the veterinarian hospital, and the animal care areas. The cost is $70 and you must be at least 16 years old to participate. Park admission is required.
Wild By Design - This three hour tour allows guests to learn how storytelling, art and architecture were combined to create the Animal Kingdom. This tour takes place inside the park, not behind the scenes. You will explore the different sections of the park and learn how Disney handles the challenge of caring for animals in their habitats. The cost is $60 per person and includes a continental breakfast at the halfway point in the tour. Park admission is required and you must be at least 14 years old to participate.
Animal Kingdom Entertainment
African Entertainment - Storytellers perform animal tales and the sounds of a African band fill the air in the village of Harambe.
Animal Encounters - Guests can get an up close look at some of the parks smaller animals as the animal keepers carry them around the park for guests to get a closer look.
Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade - See your favorite Disney characters as they celebrate the animals of Disney's Animal Kingdom in this high energy parade. Stilt walkers, colorfully decorated Jeeps and Land Rovers, dancers and music combine in a performance that celebrates the harmony that exists between animals and man. Check a Daily Times Guide for the parade schedule.
As you can probably tell by just by the little bit of information that has been given here that Disney's Animal Kingdom has a lot to offer.
The amount of time you spend at Disney's Animal Kingdom depends on what you want to get out of your visit. If you only plan on riding the rides then you will not need a full day. If you plan on taking in all the rides, shows, exploration trails and enjoy yourself and commune with nature at the same time then you will need at least two days.
If you would like to see some more of Disney's Animal Kingdom's general park information to help in planning your next visit to the theme park, click
At any rate, I think you will enjoy your time that is spent in Disney's Animal Kingdom. It really is a beautiful way to spend a day at Disney. Click on the link provided if you would like to view a
park map and guide.
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