Disney’s Animal Kingdom houses 500 acres to over 1,500 animals that represent over 200 species! It truly does live up to its name. But does it warrant a full day with your toddler crew?
The short answer: yes.
Read on for the breakdown of what the Must Dos are for you and your toddler in Animal Kingdom!
Must Do Animal Kingdom Discovery Island:
Like Magic Kingdom (check out the toddler guide here!), Animal Kingdom is divided into lands. Discovery Island is the hub of AK’s vast expanse.
The Tree of Life
There is show inside the Tree of Life, which is Animal Kingdom’s most iconic image. Listen, I took Caleigh to It’s Tough to Be a Bug (she is 3.5) and it was a mistake. The buzzing, faux-stinging and larger-than-life grasshopper were too much for her. She hid with her face pressed into my shoulder the whole time. What we did like was the walk to and from the show. The carvings in the tree were fun for her to identify and touch and it helped me teach her a lot of new animals!
Go for the stroll. Skip the show (until they are older!).
Honorable Mention: Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party
New as of this year, this dance party takes place in the streets of Discovery Island. It’s not something we’d wait for, unlike specific parades in Magic Kingdom. If your babes LOVE The Lion King, this might be something you seek out. Partake in it because it’s happening; you and your dancing kiddos will have an awesome time!
Honorable Mention: Kevin Sighting
While we haven’t exposed Caleigh to Up yet, she was psyched to see a colorful, happy, large bird walking through the crowds. Kev was a sight and even felt believable to me!
Must Do Animal Kingdom Africa:
Festival of the Lion King
This is a live-action show that feels more like a musical. There is a cast of characters representative from the film and actors dressed as animals. Some of the characters are even on parade floats as large “puppets”! As a show goes, it’s a little loud and there are some darker parts. One of the singers features “Be Prepared” with fire dancers.
Caleigh doesn’t like going to the movies because it’s too noisy, so we thought we’d be leaving this show as soon as we sat down. She watched, straight-faced, the whole time and when we asked her if she liked it, she told us she did. Her favorite part was “the bird” – a ballerina who soars through the sky on a harness as a bird. Honestly, this is my favorite part, too.
If you’re unsure, sit on an end. The cast members will help guide you out if you and your little need to leave. It’s an awesome show, so it’s worth a shot!
This could be the SOLE reason to come to Animal Kingdom. Safari trucks take you on a cruise through 100 acres and you’ll never see the same thing twice! Your safari driver also serves as a guide to the animals you can see. It’s an awesome experience with animals you may never get to witness in the wild!
Pro Tip: If you want awesome animal photos, sit on an end!
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
The passive parts of Animal Kingdom are what I like best. There are two specific walkings trails, and Gorilla Falls is one of them. This is edutainment at its best! Like in Epcot, Disney does a really lovely job of infusing the beauty and excitement of the jungle with information about the species that live there and conservation efforts.
This walking trail is under a canopy of trees, which is especially nice on hot days! The gorillas here are really special. You feel like you are seeing them up close, but in a safe environment. Often there are babies and their mamas walking or rolling around. Caleigh really liked watching the littlest gorillas with their hands on the glass. She told me they looked like fuzzy kids.
Must Do Animal Kingdom Asia:
Maharajah Jungle Trek
This is the second walking trail. This is much more rainforest-like with different animals. The bats are a huge hit as are the tigers! They are most active in the earlier hours, before it’s hot, so if you want to see them movin’ and groovin’, get into Animal Kingdom when it opens!
Must Do Animal Kingdom DinoLand USA:
This is an epic playground. In fact, before we had children, we have spent time here because of how awesome it is for kids and adults alike! There are “construction” zones for kids to play in, including sand pits, activities, ropes, and slides. We spent at least 20 minutes here and could have spent longer. Definitely a stop to check out!
This may be a controversial opinion, but the area next to the Boneyard isn’t a favorite of ours. It’s kid friendly for sure, but it feels like a carnival (I know, it’s supposed to). We don’t come all the way to Disney for this type of a vibe. The rides are simple, not well themed, and feel “cheap”.
Honorable Mention: Finding Nemo the Musical
If you can get your kid to sit through a 45 minute show, then please go to this! It’s Finding Nemo, but in a true musical form. Honestly, this is worthy of a bigger platform than Disney. The music is beautiful, the artistry is spectacular, and the effects are really wonderful. We did go to this, but after about 25 minutes, Cal wanted to stand in the aisle or sit on a lap. We made it through, but I’m hoping she’ll be more engaged next time we go!
For Adults Only: Pandora
Pandora is the newest land to Animal Kingdom and has AMAZING attractions, but there isn’t much happening for kids here. Yes, Na’vi River Journey is a slow moving boat ride, but it’s going to require a Fast Pass and I guarantee your toddler can’t appreciate the intricacies of how this feels like the film, Avatar. Have extra adult only time? Wait in line. Both this and Avatar Flight of Passage are worth it!
I hope this was helpful! You can grab the freebie for this list here!