• Caitlin McAninch

Escape to Animal Kingdom

Updated: Feb 16, 2019

Hands down, Animal Kingdom was by far my most favorite park at Disney World. I’ve been trying to put a definitive answer on why I loved it so much. I think it possibly has a lot to do with the fact that Magic Kingdom is basically like Disneyland, Hollywood Studios reminded me a lot of California Adventure, and nothing at Disneyland is like Animal Kingdom. But really, it’s probably because there’s just nothing like Animal Kingdom.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is defined as a zoological theme park, so yes, it is a zoo. But it’s more than that. It’s this Disney adventure land where one can see animals, walk by dinosaurs, and see magical shows. And because I’m obviously biased, I may as well say it: it’s a Disney Park. Of course it’s perfect.

Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom

Towering over the park, in the center of Discovery Island, is the gorgeous Tree of Life. Side note: you know my tattoo is the tree of life? Direct love correlation, yes. Disney’s Tree of Life includes carvings of 325 animals – both real and fantasy – but they’re all perfect and beautiful. It’s a photogenic backdrop for the entire park.

You can actually go all around the tree, too. Some animals live at it’s base, including kangaroos! We were able to walk around the tree and get some great pictures.

We didn’t go watch, but there is a theater under the tree that hosts the It’s Tough to Be a Bug show. From what I understand it’s a great show for kids!

Animals and Exhibits at Animal Kingdom

Like I mentioned, Animal Kingdom is a certified zoo. Total, the park is home to 1700 animals. Unlike many zoos I’ve visited over the years, their enclosures are massive. They have very large spaces for all their animals. Which isn’t surprising, seeing as Animal Kingdom covers 580 acres.

One of the exhibits is actually considered a ride, Kilimanjaro Safaris. The ride takes visitors in a safari vehicle and goes through the African savannah, allowing visitors to see 34 different species in their natural habitat. Many of the animals are together and interact naturally, such as the giraffes and elephants. Total, the ride spans 110 acres – to put that into perspective, Magic Kingdom is 107 acres. It’s a really cool experience. You get to see hippos, rhinos, cheetahs, lions – all the big African animals. It’s seriously cool. Just look at that baby elephant!!!

I know the growing concern for animals is a big ethics topic among travelers, but from what I understand Animal Kingdom is really big into conservation and studies many different endangered species. One of the stories that really caught my heart is about their work with the endangered white rhinos (one of my favorite animals!). In 1999, Animal Kingdom had their first white rhino birth. And in 2006, the mother, Nande, and her baby were moved to an animal sanctuary in Uganda. This was the first attempt to re-introduce white rhinos into the country. And in 2009, Nande gave birth to the first rhino born in Uganda in over 25 years. To me that’s really, really cool. I know their work with tropical birds is also incredible, read more below about the birds!

Rides and Attractions at Animal Kingdom

The best ride by far is Expedition Everest. It’s a rollercoaster ride that takes visitors all around the Himalayas. But beware of the Yeti! Ha! He’s actually really hard to spot, we had to watch for him a few times. But part of the ride you go backwards, it’s seriously cool!

I also really liked the Dinosaur ride. If you’ve been to Disneyland, it’s just like Indiana Jones. But with dinosaurs. The picture below is us on the ride the first time we get to see a Dino up close!

The Lion King show is the only show we watched during our trip. From what I understood, it was like a mini Broadway version of their big show. It wasn’t Broadway, but it didn’t disappoint. The dancing and singing was great! And the costumes looked amazing, too. I recommend you sit in the back row, because you still get a good view, and you get a back rest. Any of the shows are a great way to get inside, out of the heat and out of the crowds. Below is an image of the entrance to the Africa section of the park. Busy for a Monday!

Extras at Animal Kingdom

Okay I just have to talk about the birds. My most favorite part of the park was the damn birds! It isn’t like a real show, but when I asked the cast member, they told me it was about every hour on the :20 mark. But on Discovery Island, in the front, a cast member stands at the bird stand, and all the sudden like, 20 beautiful giant blue macaws fly in and land on the stand. They swoop around and fly right above your head! He says they live in a bird tower and get to come and go as they please, but they go where the food is! If you’re there right when the rope drops in the morning, they’re around then, too. These beautiful birds are so freaking cool.

Also keep an eye open for special characters that can only be seen at Animal Kingdom! I was dying to see King Louie – one of my most favorites – especially since I wore shoes with his face on them. Dylan and I posed with Louie and Baloo. Made my day. We also saw Russel walking around the park!

And last but NOT least, I can't leave this post without telling you about a snack that cannot be missed. Ok, ready? At Animal Kingdom, you can get, a dole whip, WITH RUM! And yes, it's delicious!

Animal Kingdom is just the coolest. I would be the happiest person if I could go there everyday. My love for animals plus my love for Disney all in one place. Nothing could be better!

Make sure to see all my Disney World blog posts! I have more coming!!

Animal Kingdom

Distance: 2,760 miles

Driving Time: 1 day 16 hours

#DisneyWorld #Disney