It’s hard to believe that Animal Kingdom is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2018. I remember when the park first opened; I was 13 years old! Animal Kingdom appropriately opened on April 22, 1998, Earth Day (and my husband’s birthday!). Crazy how in my mind it still feels like the ‘new’ park at Walt Disney World.
Two decades have passed, hundreds of different memories have been made, but some things at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park will never get old for me. While I could definitely go into a detailed list that far surpasses 4 Animal Kingdom must-dos, I decided to keep things simple for this post. Instead, I wanted to highlight my absolute favorite things to do in the park. With these four things accomplished, it feels like a successful day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!
Pictures in Front of the Tree of Life
Let’s start with the large ‘elephant’ in the park.
The Tree of Life!
Almost as iconic as the castle at the Magic Kingdom, the Tree of Life screams ‘Animal Kingdom’. As soon as you walk through the Oasis you will see the Tree of Life towering over Discovery Island. In actuality, it isn’t a tree at all, but an oil platform constructed by imagineers into the amazing structure we have come to love.
I love all the intricate carvings all over the tree. Each time I visit Animal Kingdom I feel like I find a new carving. Or at least it feels like I do. Did you know there are over 300 different species carved into the tree’s trunk system? I find I could spend hours staring at the tree. It really is that fascinating.
Instead of staring at it, I make my family take pictures in front of it! (This way, I can stare at it a little longer as I take the pictures.) The unique part about pictures in front of the tree? I think I have found a different picture spot of the tree at almost every Disney visit. Due to its location on Discovery Island you are able to get a large variety of different shots and angles of the Tree of Life. I probably have about five different angles plastered around my house. If not more…
Kilimanjaro Safari ride
It’s a dream of mine to make it to Africa (the real deal) one day. It doesn’t look like it is in the cards for anytime soon unless something crazy happens. So, for now I’ll pretend as though I am there while I take a ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris.
As I mentioned before, I remember Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened 20 years ago. I remember when I was able to go to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the first time and ride the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. It was, and still is, one of the hottest attractions in the park. Due to this, the line can get painfully long. It’s always a good idea to get a Fastpass+ for this ride.
Once in your safari truck, you’ll see the Kilimanjaro Safari is full of native African animals, trees and plants. Animals appear to be ‘free roaming’ and can come right up to the safari truck during different parts of your adventure. I’ve been in several trucks stopped by small herds of crossing animals.
Other animals, such as the Lions also feel as though they are ‘free roaming’. I find this to be a cool aspect of the safari ride. The imagineers have created the safari environment to appear as though the animals can go where ever they want. In truth, there are invisible ‘fences’ and ‘barricades’ that prevents animals from entering areas in which they could harm themselves or others. The imagineers have even developed tricks for getting animals to stay in certain places. For example, the large rocks in the lion area are actually heated in order to persuade the lions to stay where guests can see them.
One other little tidbit that I’ve always found interesting about this ride was the original inclusion of poachers. Back when the ride was first introduced, we (the guests) ‘chased’ poachers who had a goal of harming a baby and momma elephant. The poachers wanted their ivory. While I found the search to be an exciting (or, more honestly, a little freaky) part of the ride, that plot line no longer exists. Rather, the emphasis is on spotting the different safari animals making the ride super family friendly. Just watch out for that rickety bridge… (You’ll know the one once you take a ride.)
Boneyard Dig Site
The Boneyard with its dig site and playground have taken up a special place in my heart since having my boys. They love playing in the Boneyard, especially the dig site. There they have the chance to uncover fossils of large dinosaurs and dig until their heart’s content. The cool thing is the ‘sand’ they are playing in, isn’t really sand! It won’t stick all over your little one’s body and it’s easy to brush off and empty out of shoes. That means it doesn’t feel like we have spent the day at the beach after leaving the dig site!
If you know me, when I’m in Disney, I am go-go-go. I don’t sit down much in my normal day-to-day life anyhow, (a byproduct of having kids), so Disney puts me into hyperdrive. There is just so much to do and see!! I’m running on adrenaline most days and usually end up crashing at the end of the day. The Boneyard dig site helps, in a way, as it makes me sit down. The area is nicely shaded and has fans running to help keep guests cool. My two options while being at the dig site are to help uncover fossils or kick back and watch the pros complete the excavations. Either way, it gives me and my family a time to relax and unwind. (Much like Tom Sawyer Island at the Magic Kingdom!)
After doing some digging, we always have to make a pit stop at the playground portion of the Boneyard. There are a large variety of slides, climbing areas and activities to keep busy with. This area can get rather crowded midday. We’ve even seen lines form for use of the slides! The best time of day seems to be in the morning before things get too crazy over in DinoLand.
Finding Nemo Musical
Ever been to a Broadway play? How about a Broadway Disney play? If so you know how Disney puts on a spectacular show. While it might not be Broadway, Finding Nemo is a spectacular stage show that runs multiple times a day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I have seen it countless times and it never gets old.
As an adult without kids, I loved being able to sit back and enjoy the beautiful puppets, songs and scenery. Once the music starts, it really does feel like you are in the ‘Big, Blue World’. Once I had kids, I was excited to share the show with them. At first I was a little hesitant on how the experience would go. The show lasts 40 minutes and the theater gets rather dark during the performance. My fears were quickly silenced! The show is so lively and moves so quickly that my kids didn’t even have time to fathom being bored. The bubbles falling from the ceiling was also a huge kid crowd pleaser! Plus Finding Nemo is a favorite in our house, so I am sure that didn’t hurt.
There ya go! If I could only do 4 things while at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park, it would be the above listed. As always, it’s tough to narrow down my favorite 4 thing. I left out some of my other favorite rides such as Expedition Everest and the Kali River Raft ride and all of the amazing food at the park, especially Tusker House! I’ll just have to go into those in detail in future blog posts…