Neither of us had been to Animal Kingdom since we were little, and we were both really looking forward to experiencing it again and discovering Pandora - The World of Avatar.

Jess can't seem to go to Disney without going to Magic Kingdom, but since we were only going to be in Orlando for a weekend, we opted for one park and decided on Animal Kingdom.
 After our visit this time around, the park comes in at number ONE on Dave's ranking of Disney Parks and number TWO on Jessica's.  We both really loved Animal Kingdom!

Any time we go to Disney, there is a lot of planning to ensure we maximize the experience.  We woke up early 30 days out from our visit to try our best shot at getting the fast passes we wanted because you really do need them to make the most of your day!
If you are staying on Disney property, you are able to secure your fast passes 60 days before your visit.  If you don't stay on property (like us) then you're able to secure them 30 days before.

There are certainly perks to staying on property like magic hours, advance fast pass reservations and the convenience of transportation however, it's not for everyone or necessarily every visit.  We'll share our experience from the day in hopes that it helps you make the most of yours!

We visited on March 30 (a popular spring break time) which also fell during their peak time.  On the day we visited, Animal Kingdom was open from 8 AM to 11 PM and there were NO magic hours.  This was important to us, because we knew we'd be heading to Flight of Passage first and if there had been magic hours, the wait time would have already been pretty decent.

Na'vi River Journey (8:00 AM - 9:00 AM)
Dinosaur (9:55 AM - 10:55 AM)
Expedition Everest (11:20 AM - 12:20 PM)

When making your fast pass selections, you need to know which rides are your top priority.  From there, you need to try and get them as early in the day as possible.  Once you use all three of your fast passes, you are eligible to more (one by one) throughout the day.  

We left our condo at 6:45 AM to ensure that we'd be at the park by 7:00 AM (an hour before it opened).  Allow time to park ($22 per vehicle) and then either catch the tram or walk to the gates.  This takes more time at Magic Kingdom with the ferry and monorail.

Typically, they end up opening the parks earlier (this day is was around 7:20) for people to get to the rides and begin waiting.  Then, they begin operating once the park officially opens.

Our plan was to RUN (with everyone else) to Avatar Flight of Passage.  We know that running is not allowed in the parks, which an employee so kindly reminded Jess of.  However, the normal wait time for this ride is usually about THREE hours. THREE#aintnobodygottimeforthat

We knew we might miss the window to use our fast pass for Na'vi River Journey, but waiting in line for Flight of Passage first thing was the best chance we had of a shorter wait time.

The only thing we were thinking was "GET TO AVATAR!"  Seriously, though.  Once we shuffled through and found our place in line, we were able to stop and take in the beauty around us.  

Pandora - The World of Avatar is absolutely majestic.  We were in line by 7:35 and the way the sun was hitting everything was stunning.  Jess said it felt like another world to which Dave reminded her that in fact it was... it was Pandora, The World of Avatar.  #nopunintended

As we waited in line and approached the ride, it became obvious from the people in front of us who had ridden it before that we would have plenty of time to make our first fast pass.  

By 8:03 AM we were in the chambers preparing for flight and by 8:05 AM we were ready to ride.  We had waited in line for Flight of Passage less than 30 minutes... a great way to kick off the day!

And, now we know why people wait in line that long... it was absolutely incredible!

From Flight of Passage, we went directly to Na'vi River Journey to use our fast pass that was good until 9:00 AM.  Before 8:30 AM we had rode both Flight of Passage and Na'vi River Journey.  There is NO WAY this would have been possible if we visited on a day with magic hours. 

We had more than two hours before our next fast pass window, so we went straight to Kilimanjaro Safaris in Africa.  We weren't able to get a fast pass for this and were told that the morning was the best time to ride as the animals are likely more active than in the heat of the day.

The wait time was 10 minutes at the very most.  We realize that every day at Disney is different, but we were thrilled that so far we literally couldn't have been timing things more perfect.  

Kilimanjaro Safari is so fun!  The ride simulates a safari ride through the savanna of East Africa.  Each time you ride this, it's different because the animals are in their own habitat.

We both remembered this ride, and it was still just as neat getting to see all of the animals this time around as adults.  We got to see everything (minus the animals no longer there!). 

 Since waiting for the Safari didn't take much time, we stayed in Africa and checked out the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.  The exit of the Safari leads you right to it.

This was like walking through a tropical rainforest inhabited by African wildlife including gorillas, hippos and lots of exotic birds.  It's like being at the best zoo you can imagine!

There are several experiences like this around Animal Kingdom that are all really fun and educational.  There truly is something for everyone at every age.

We needed a little pick me up, so we stopped at Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery and tried the elephant ear pastry (which we still don't exactly know what it was) along with sugary iced coffee. 

Our next stop was Festival of the Lion King to catch the 10 AM show.  When you go to Disney Parks, even if you are familiar with them, it's best to grab a Times Guide (usually with the maps) so you can make yourself aware of the show times for everything the day you visit.  

This was especially handy at Animal Kingdom since a handful of the experiences are actual shows.  In addition, there are several things like Gorilla Falls Trail that close earlier in the day.

Festival of the Lion King is a 30 minute show filled with acrobats, animals and all of your favorite music from the movie.  Getting to appreciate the talent as adults was pretty cool, but all of the littles were loving it just as much.  The day we visited, the show ran on the hour from 9 AM to 6 PM.

After this, it was time to use our second fast pass of the day for Dinosaur.  We were looking forward to this ride because we both remembered it from visiting when we were little.  Someone was a tad more excited, though... he loves all things dinosaur!

We enjoyed the ride (especially Dave), but Jess remembered it being a little less jerky.  Ha! We both ended up taking some ibuprofen after this. #wearegettingold

This ride is in Dinoland U.S.A. where you'll also find some other fun things.  The Boneyard is a playground area where you can dig up dino bones.  We didn't participate in this fun, but it would be such a fun stop for littles.  We both remembered doing it as kids, too!

TriceraTop Spin and the Primeval Whirl are also located in Dinoland.  We didn't ride either of these as they are both geared towards younger kids, and Jess doesn't do rides that spin.

After Dinosaur, we headed to Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain to use our third fast pass of the day.  This coaster opened in early 2006, so neither of us had ridden it since our original visits to Animal Kingdom which took place closer to when the park opened in 1998.

Once we found our way in line, we went ahead and checked the fast pass status to see what else we could get for the day.  Normally, we look for the best ride with the next available time (so that we can get another fast pass once we use it).

 There wasn't anything else that we hadn't already rode with a pass available, so we went ahead and secured a 8:45 PM - 9:45 PM fast pass for Expedition Everest... while we were in line for it.

We had been told you absolutely have to ride it at night and that riding it during the day and at night is a totally different experience.  We were thankful we took note of this because we both loved riding it much more at night and it really did have a different feel.

By 11:24 AM we had gone through all three fast passes and checked the top things off our Animal Kingdom list.  Heck, some people were still in their first line of the day... Avatar!

 We were ready for something else to eat so we walked back over to Africa (Expedition Everest is in Asia) to grab something at the Harambe Market.

This is a cool outdoor area with quick service and soulful African-inspired fare.  We absolutely loved getting to try all of the different types of food at Epcot, and really enjoyed that Animal Kingdom had several areas like this serving food from the region of the park area you were in.

We had a beef and lamb gyro to share served with a black-eyed pea salad.  When we visit Disney, we like to grab things here and there to share so that we can try more... it works out great for us!

After this quick lunch, we stopped by the Tree of Life to grab a photo since we had rushed by it earlier in the day.  We didn't look up once on our way to Atavar... we were on a mission.

Then we headed to It's Tough to Be a Bug which is a short 3D film.  We waited in line for this a little over 30 minutes.  It is in Discovery Island which is in the center of the park and you actually exit from the Tree of Life as the show ends which is pretty neat.

We stuck around Discovery Island to check out the Discovery Island Trails.  There are many pathways to discover and lots of animals near the Tree of Life.

At this point, we were both ready for a little something else to eat so we checked out the menus of the counter service stands as we passed them walking around.

Dave spotted a shredded beef slider covered in teriyaki sauce with picked cucumber and had to try it.  We both thought it was one of the best things all day. #nowyouseemenowyoudon't

Next we headed back to Africa to catch the Wildlife Express to Conservation Station.  This area of the park is open shorter hours than the park and was open from 10 AM to 5 PM this day.

The coolest thing in this area (to us) was the Affection Section, a petting yard where you can interact with animals and their care experts.

We thought this was a really neat part of the park and can only imagine what the littles think of it.  You get to be up close and personal with the animals... just watch out for their poop!

The animals loved getting all kinds of attention, and we loved giving it to them.

Another neat thing in this area is the Conversation Station.  This entire area reminds and encourages people to take care of the world they live in.  There are all kinds of cool exhibits in this area including a space where you are able to view their veterinary facilities in action.  So neat!

Keep in mind The Wildlife Express is the only way to access this area.  The trains are quick and it's a short ride, plus it's also a great break away from the larger crowds in the main park.

By this time it was mid-afternoon and we were in need of a little caffeine, so we stopped at the only Starbucks in Animal Kingdom which is located on the west side of the park.  They seriously think of everything at Disney... how sweet is this!

We walked back over to Dinoland U.S.A. for Finding Nemo - The Musical.  This show is a must "sea" and really is spectacular.  The theater is HUGE, and the show runs 40 minutes.  

This day, the shows ran on the hour from 11 AM to 4 PM.  Again, you should grab a Times Guide while entering the park (or early in the morning) so you make sure not to miss anything.

After this, the only ride that we had left to do was the Kali River Rapids.  The wait time for this had fluctuated all day and was currently at 80 minutes when we decided to ride.  

This was a long wait, but it was the only thing we still needed to ride plus it was a little before 4 PM so we didn't want to wait much longer in the day in case we ended up getting soaked.  To our surprise, the wait only ended up being 40 minutes... and we didn't get THAT wet.

It was close to 4:30 PM and we had done EVERYTHING (that we wanted to) in Animal Kingdom.  We had literally rode everything and even taken our time exploring our way through the park.  

We didn't stop to visit anyone at Animal Kingdom, but Mickey and Minnie hang out in Adventures Outpost (their exploration headquarters).  Additionally - Pocahontas, Timon, Russell, Flik, Rafiki, Doc McStuffins, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Baloo and King Louie are all at Animal Kingdom.

We grabbed a drink and just sat by the water to hang out for awhile and take the day in.  Then we headed to Flame Tree Barbecue which Dave had spotted earlier to try the french fries with pulled pork and cheese.  We were either both really hungry again, or these were just that good.

Since we had rushed through Pandora when we were there in the morning, we wanted to go back over and check it out again.  There is so much just to see in that area.  Everything is so beautiful! 

While we were there, the wait time for Flight of Passage was 130 minutes which may still seem long, but it really isn't for that ride.  Plus, we had already done everything we wanted to do and had a fast pass to ride Everest later that night.  We had time to kill... what else were we going to do?

You guessed it!  We waited in line and rode Flight of Passage again.  Who knew that we would get lucky enough to ride it TWICE in one day and only have to wait two and a half hours combined.

We were really glad we did this.  The people in line behind us were also waiting to ride it for the second time after they had waited three and a half hours to ride it earlier that morning.

After riding, we headed back over to Asia to check out the Yak & Yeti Restaurant.  The wait time for two was over an hour, so we grabbed a pork egg roll and some chicken fried rice at their cafe which is right beside the restaurant.  We still got to try the food, but without the wait.

Like all Disney Parks, Animal Kingdom also has a special nighttime show.  Rivers of Light is a water show on the Discovery River that is truly unbelievable.  There were two shows (which is normal) the night we visited, one at 8:45 PM and another at 10:00 PM.

You can try to get a fast pass for this, but you don't need one as there is seating open for people who don't.  We decided to go to the 8:45 PM show since a rain storm was possible later that evening.  

Planning to do this earlier allowed plenty of time to find the "general" seating and get a decent spot.  We would recommend getting a seat in the designated areas to view the show as it really is part of the Animal Kingdom experience and there aren't great views from anywhere else in the park.

We would also advise to grab a drink/snack to munch on while you wait.  We made our way to the line around 8 PM for the 8:45 PM show.  This is the perfect time (especially if you have littles) to enjoy a little Disney treat at the end of the day while you sit back, relax and wait for the show.

It was time for us to use our fast pass for Expedition Everest afterwards.  Seriously, you HAVE to ride this at night.  We would suggest riding it both day and night, but the night time is best!

We checked to see if any fast passes were available for the remainder of the night and were able to get another one for Dinosaur.  When your time at the park is coming to an end, it's best to do anything possible to maximize it, plus you can make your way around much faster at night!

In between riding Everest and Dinosaur, we went back to ride Kilimanjaro Safari again.  This was another ride that we were told to ride early AND late in the day.  The lions were much more active in the evening than when we passed them in the morning.  It's always a different experience.

After riding Dinosaur, we went back to Pandora to see it in the dark.  It is seriously such a neat space.  You see something new each time you go to that area in the park.  

We also checked out the Tree of Life Awakenings which took place from 8:15 PM to 11:00 PM the day we visited.  Every ten minutes, the tree comes alive with color and light.  

The Tree of Life is iconic to Animal Kingdom.  It's certainly worth stopping to enjoy throughout the day and especially again at night when it comes to life.

11:00 PM was upon us and even though Dave absolutely loved it and named Flight of Passage his favorite ride ever, he did not want to get in line with a 350 minute wait to ride it one last time.  

However, if you hadn't had the chance to ride it now would have been the time to get in line.

We had the best day at Animal Kingdom and were sad to see it come to and end.  We rode all of the main rides twice and still felt like we had down time to walk around and take it easy.  

If you missed our visit to other parks, you can see them here:

Animal Kingdom really is the best of both worlds.  It has the ultimate ride and also has an easy going feel about it.  Some people do Animal Kingdom in a half day, but we would definitely recommend giving yourself a full day here.  It may be doable in half a Disney day, but certainly not as enjoyable.
If you get the slightest bit of motion sickness (Jessica gets it bad), plan ahead and take medicine plenty of time in advance before riding Flight of Passage.  Jess also needed it for Soarin' in Epcot. 

Order cups of water instead of bottled water (unless you only drink bottled water) to save money throughout the day.  You'll also want to make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated! 

Get your fast passes, grab the guide times and plan your day out!  Jessica uses the Disney World app to keep up with fast passes and check on wait times the entire time we are at the park.  Not in an overwhelming way, but in a way that allows us to make wise "what's next" decisions.

In our experience, it is best to get to the parks at least an hour before they open... always!

 Take a bag and pack whatever you need (that you're willing to carry all day).  You can take food and drinks into the park which can be nice to have readily available, especially with littles while waiting. 

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