Going Wild at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

For two kids that love animals, Disney’s Animal Kingdom did not disappoint. I was confident in my choice to start Miss O and Mr. A’s first trip to Disney World here, but I wasn’t fully prepared for how much enthusiasm, energy and stamina these two had! We knew they’d have fun, but watching them discover everything made it extra magical for us and we learned more about these two explorers than I would have thought!

First off, we rope dropped the park on a morning with Extra Magic Hours. Read: Woke up at 6:00 AM, Miss O and I got our respective Fuli/Lion Guard and Simba/Lion King shirts on, ate a quick breakfast at Landscape of Flavors and got on a 6:45 shuttle. Yep. We’re those people. We knew it was the only way Hubs and Uncle B were getting on Flight of Passage without a FastPass. The rest of us planned on getting some photos of the Tree of Life and then having a little morning snack in Pandora while we waited and figured we’d explore the area. Sounds like a solid plan, right?

Nope. Miss O wanted NOTHING to do with Pandora World of Avatar. No Thanks. All Set. “It’s creepy, Mommy. Where are the animals? When can we do the safari?” Fair enough. She’s six. The gift shop helped a bit with the more cartoon “baby” versions of the movie animals, but even that didn’t last long.

Fortunately, the early start paid off, the boys were off the ride in under 20 minutes and we were on our way past a HUGE line for Flight of Passage towards the Kilamajaro Safari. We only waited five minutes before boarding a Jeep and getting some prime animal sightings.

After the safari, our plan was to go out to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, but the train didn’t start until 10 AM. Since we were in the Africa section of the park, we walked the Pagani forest Exploration Trail. I, of course, forgot to get a Wilderness Explorers Guide on the way in, so the kids missed some badge opportunities, but we had fun anyway. The animals are lively in the morning and the kids were having a ball!

Disney Animal Kingdom Elephant Lion Hippo Giraffe Cheetah Rhino Zebra Jackal Gator Safari

So. Many. Animals.

After our very peaceful train ride, we managed to pick up a Wilderness Explorer’s Guide upon arrival at Rafiki’s Planet Watch and the kids earned their first badges. More badge opportunities inside Conservation Station were pretty helpful for focusing their attention on exhibits they might not otherwise care for or understand. Doc McStuffins was available for photos, but Miss O wasn’t quite ready for a character interaction yet.

Disney Animal Kingdom Doc McStuffins Rafiki Planet Watch Conservation Station

We tried to make it back in time for the first Lion King show at 11 AM, but didn’t make it. Not to worry! Cast members at Kali River Rapids were very gracious and allowed us in a few minutes early for our 11:30 AM FastPass+ reservation. I was a little worried Miss O would change her mind once she saw the ride, even though she’s seen promotion footage of it, but you couldn’t keep her out of that raft if you tried. She went on it three more times throughout the day!

Our trip was timing out pretty well so far, even with missing the Lion King, and we checked in to Yak and Yeti for our Noon table service lunch reservation. There was about a five-minute wait, which I expected for a party of eight like ours and it was made much more bearable by the fact we had just been soaked on the rapids. We were led upstairs to a big round table in the corner and surrounded by the most amazing aromas and beautiful decor. I’m not gonna lie. I was already hungry before we sat down and that did not help.

Unfortunately, our luck with the five-minute wait didn’t last and we waited 15-minutes to get drinks. Then another 20 minutes to place our order. That was made more awkward by our server’s insistence that I speak to a chef or manager about my gluten-intolerance, even though I was holding an allergy friendly menu in my hands and knew what I wanted to order.

Gluten free gluten-free intolerance sensitivity skeleton cartoon

I try not to be difficult. I really do.

We finally ordered, requested the kids’ food to come out when it was ready, to help get them settled, and enjoyed our drinks. Then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. I realize we were a large party, but honestly, we waited for an hour and a half after placing our order to receive our meals. We were starting to think they forgot about us. No one came over to see if we’d like more water and our server was actively waiting on other tables around us. We started to wonder if we offended anyone on the way in.

When our food did arrive, it was amazing and more than welcome. I got the Grilled Shrimp Skewers, with chili plum sauce, jasmine rice, and steamed vegetables. I will remember that meal for the rest of my life. It was worth the wait, but I really wish we hadn’t lost so much park time. At least we got to sit in the air conditioning, right?!

The unexpected length of lunch messed up my park plan a bit, but we were prepared to be flexible and roll with it. Most of our group barely made it back to Pandora to catch the close of our FastPass window at 2:45 for the Na’vi River Journey. (I’m not kidding about that wait.) Since Miss O doesn’t do well with 4D, they also did It’s Tough to Be A Bug without us and the boys debated doing Expedition Everest. (They didn’t.)

That craziness gave Miss O and I plenty of time to try for our first Princess meet and greet with her autograph banner. After an amazing time with Pocahontas, we headed over to DinoLand to meet up with our family while they were using our last FastPass+ on Dinosaur.  After waiting out a little rain shower in the gift shop and a quick ride on the Triceratops Twirl, we were all together again. I was hoping to do the Primeval Whirl, but Miss O wasn’t having it and there were still things we wanted to see.

After a lovely walk through the Maharajah Jungle Trek for a few more Wilderness Explorers Badges, we managed to make it in to the last UP! A Great Bird Adventure Show and the last Festival of the Lion King show, which was really good. The kids were chosen to participate in the silly “opening number” as well and I never would have guessed Miss O would have done it!

We took one more ride down the Kali River Rapids with minimal waiting and did some quick shopping on our way to get a bite to eat at Pizzafari (Yay, gluten-free pizza!) before the Rivers of Light show. I wasn’t sure the kids would make it that late after a pretty intense day of walking in the heat and humidity, but they stayed awake through the whole show. We had amazing seats 5 rows back from the water across from Everest, so we had amazing views of the lights. It was really impressive and I’m so glad we stayed.

Disney Animal Kingdom Rivers of Light Expedition Everest Lotus Boat

There were two very tired kids on the shuttle back to Art of Animation, but some very pleased adults, too. I wish we could’ve seen Pandora glow at night and I wish I could have gone on the Navi River Journey and Dinosaur, but I wouldn’t trade my day for anything. I was feeling pretty great about our trip at the end of that first day and we all collapsed into our beds once we got back to the hotel so we could get up early for Extra Magic Hours on our first day at Magic Kingdom.

What did you love about Animal Kingdom?


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