Planning a Day at Animal Kingdom

Planning a Trip ⇒ Planning a Day at Animal Kingdom

This guide to spending a Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom assumes that you plan on spending the entire day at the park.

The first thing to do when planning your day at Animal Kingdom is to select your Fastpasses. There are two scenarios I would suggest for making Fastpass selections.  The difference between the two is that Kali River Rapids might be closed in the winter or too cold to ride.

  • Winter
    • Expedition Everest – Early Afternoon
    • Kilimanjaro Safari – Sunset
    • Flight of Passage – Evening
  • Rest of the Year
    • Kali River Rapids – Early Afternoon
    • Kilimanjaro Safari – Sunset
    • Flight of Passage – Evening
Kilimanjaro Safari - Rhinos

Start the day by having breakfast at your hotel before heading to the Animal Kingdom as there are not a ton of breakfast options in the park and you don’t want to waste time eating breakfast at the park.  An alternative would be to make a breakfast reservation at the Tusker House for before the Animal Kingdom opens that way you can have a good breakfast and be in place for your first attraction in the Animal Kingdom.

The first attraction to head to when the park opens is Kilimanjaro Safari.  You might we wondering why since I suggested getting a FastPass for around sunset.  Because all of the animals in the safari are living things, they behave differently depending on the time of day.  For instance, the elephants may be more active during the day, while the lions are more active in the evening.  No two safaris are the same, so riding twice won’t feel redundant.  We would normally suggest going to the park’s most popular attraction first thing in the morning, but Flight of Passage will already have huge lines at park opening.

Gorilla Falls - Gorilla in Tree

Depending on what time you get off the safari, next, either head towards Festival of the Lion King or the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.  You’ll want to get to Festival of the Lion King about 30 minutes before the show starts.  If you don’t have time to walk the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (which can take between 15 and 30 minutes depending on your pace) before seeing Festival of the Lion King, then come back to it after the show lets out.  

Next, make your way over to Asia for UP! A Great Bird Adventure and the Maharaja Jungle Trek.  You can do these in either order depending on the timing of UP! A Great Bird Adventure.  Now might also be a great time to grab some lunch if you still have time before that Fastpass (either Expedition Everest or Kali River Rapids).  Yak and Yeti Local Food Cafes and Flame Tree Barbecue on Discovery Island are both nearby.  Then go ahead and use that Fastpass.

Finding Nemo - The Musical

After using the early afternoon Fastpass, it’s a good time to see Finding Nemo: The Musical, It’s Tough to Be a Bug, and explore the Tree of Life Gardens.  You’ll want to get to Finding Nemo: The Musical about 30 minutes before showtime.  You can also try Dinosaur if the wait time isn’t too long.

Your evening will consist of dinner and using our remaining Fastpasses.  You’ll want to get in line for your Kilimanjaro Fastpass about a half hour before sunset.  We’ve found that the animals are pretty active at sunset and riding then allows you actually to see them differently than during the day.  The night safaris can be hit or miss with the number of animals you can see because of the darkness.

Tiffins - Dining Room

You’ll want to schedule dinner around the two Fastpasses.  This is going to depend on the time of the year because sunset will dictate when you’re riding Kilimanjaro Safari and the times of Rivers of Light.  I’d recommend making a reservation at Tiffins or stopping by the Harambe Market or Satu’li Canteen at Pandora for a quick service dinner.

If you haven’t yet been on Expedition Everest, I’d suggest riding it either before or after Rivers of Light depending on how much time you have before Rivers of Light starts.  The line for Expedition Everest should not be more than 15 minutes at this time of night.

Expedition Everest

When you use the evening FastPass for Flight of Passage, check the line for Na’vi River Journey.  If the line is too long, come back just before park close to ride this one.  Similarly, if you were not able to get a FastPass to Flight of Passage, try riding right before park close.  This time of day is when the line will be the shortest.  Even if there’s a long wait time posted, the actual wait might not be as long since in our experience they overestimate wait times right at park close.  Even if the wait time is accurate, you’re not missing anything since the park is about to close. As long as you get into the queue before the park closes, you’re guaranteed to ride.

On your way out of the park make sure to stop for the Tree of Life Awakenings, a projection show on the Tree of Life.  Every 10 minutes, the Tree of Life comes alive with animated stories of animal spirits. 

We didn’t touch on character meet and greets, and Animal Kingdom has some unique ones such a Pocahontas, Timon, and Russell from Up.  I would try to fit meeting some of these characters between the other attractions and entertainment laid out above as time allows.  However, you might want to skip some shows such as It’s Tough to Be a Bug or Finding Nemo: The Musical if meeting characters are of more interest to you than these shows.

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