With only about 18 attractions versus the 33 at Magic Kingdom and 26 at Epcot, it’s not actually super hard to do Animal Kingdom in one day. You may in fact only be able to fit half a day into your Disney World schedule like our last visit. But if you want to see and do everything in one day (and you definitely can!), then you need a plan.
- How to do Animal Kingdom in one day
- Animal Kingdom FastPass strategy
- Our Animal Kingdom itinerary
- Rope drop
- 7.45am Pandora – The World of Avatar
- 8am Asia
- 8.45am DinoLand U.S.A.
- 9.30am Discovery Island
- 10.30am Africa
- 1.15pm Asia
- 3.00pm Pandora – The World of Avatar
How to do Animal Kingdom in one day
Although Animal Kingdom lags behind Magic Kingdom and Epcot in the popularity stakes, this is Disney standards, so it is still an incredible park. It is home to Expedition Everest, the BEST ride in all of Disney World (in our family’s opinion!), plus the new Pandora area and rides are awe-inspiring.
It is also the most beautiful park. Green, peaceful and shady, it is an absolute pleasure to wander around, especially first thing in the morning when the sun is just starting to peek over the foliage.
And the theming is magnificent. Transporting you to the mountains of Nepal or the vibrancy of an African marketplace.
Time to get planning and the first thing you need in your Animal Kingdom one day plan is a FastPass+ strategy.
Animal Kingdom FastPass strategy
What are FastPasses?
FastPasses let you skip the ride and attractions lines. They are generally super effective, so you will often walk straight onto a ride or only wait a few minutes. Even when the standby line is hours long.
At Disney World FastPasses are electronic and can be booked 30-60 days in advance. If you’re not a planner, then this might be a challenge, but holding FastPasses for key rides will radically improve your park experience, so it’s worth giving them some thought.
When you can book your FastPasses depends on whether you’re staying at a Disney hotel (60 days) or not (30 days). For a new ride like Flight of Passage (FOP) I believe FastPasses are currently booked out 60 days in advance. As you can see in my screenshots above, no FOP FastPass means wasting a couple of precious rope drop hours stuck in a queue and then having to queue for longer all day. Whereas if you have a FOP FastPass you could hit super popular rides Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest in those same couple of hours at rope drop with no waiting.
There are other benefits of staying on-site like Extra Magic Hours when you have early access to the park. We are big fans, despite the relative expense. Find out more here.
You can book 3 FastPasses per person per day and they all need to be at the same park.
You will have an hour from the time you select to use your FastPass and these hour blocks cannot overlap.
To be ready to book your FastPasses, make sure your Disney World entry tickets are linked in My Disney Experience. If you have a Disney hotel booking, make sure that’s there too.
Now put your booking date in your diary. Just type “60 days before 3 April” or whatever your date is into Google. You can book on the My Disney Experience website or app, although the website is easier. And be ready at 7am Eastern (New York) time.
The most valuable Animal Kingdom fastpasses
FastPasses at Animal Kingdom are tiered. You can choose 1 from Tier 1 and 2 from Tier 2. The most valuable Animal Kingdom FastPasses are the Tier 1 rides.
Tier 1 rides –
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Na’vi River Journey
Tier 2 rides/attractions –
- Kilimanjaro Safaris (ride)
- Expedition Everest (ride)
- DINOSAUR (ride)
- Kali River Rapids (ride)
- Primeval Whirl (ride)
- Rivers of Light (show)
- It’s Tough to Be A Bug (show)
- Festival of the Lion King (show)
- Finding Nemo Musical (show)
- Adventurers Outpost Character Greeting (meet and greet)
The Tier 1 rides are in the relatively new Pandora – The World of Avatar area and whatever is newest at Disney gets CRAZY busy. However, we found a massive difference between the two rides when we arrived half an hour before official park open.
Flight of Passage’s wait time was already 90 minutes long (and was 150-210min all day), whereas we walked straight onto Na’vi River Journey.
So save yourself 3 hours standing in a queue and make your first priority getting a FastPass for Flight of Passage. Take whatever time slot you can get. If there’s none left, then book Na’vi River Journey.
For Tier 2, definitely book Expedition Everest unless you hate rollercoasters. This is our favourite ride in all of Disney World.
Kilimanjaro Safaris attracts big crowds, so make this your last FastPass.
Our Animal Kingdom itinerary
We chose to visit Animal Kingdom on a day that we were staying on property at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. With Flight of Passage so new and popular, this gave us access to Extra Magic Hours and 60 day FastPass bookings.
I booked FastPasses for Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest and DINOSAUR. We had been on Kilimanjaro Safaris last visit (lots of pics from this visit here) and didn’t intend to go on it this time. Kali River Rapids was closed for maintenance.
Looking back I probably should have followed my recommendations above and got a FastPass for Kilimanjaro Safaris. We didn’t need FastPasses for DINOSAUR or any other ride or attraction we went on, because we got there so early and had a FastPass for Flight of Passage. At least then we would have had the option to go on Kilimanjaro Safaris with no waiting if we had chosen to on the day. It is a beautiful experience.
We were at Animal Kingdom 7.30am-3.30pm. While we went on everything we wanted to, we didn’t do any character meet and greets because we spent a couple of hours having a character meal at Tusker House (get all the details here). We also didn’t spend a lot of time walking through the zoo area looking at the animals, because we felt our animal parks at home are just as good. We didn’t stay for the evening Rivers of Light show.
Rope drop is the term given to when they let people onto the rides. It is typically up to half an hour before official park open time. They let you into the park and close to the rides, but hold a rope up which is dropped at the magic time.
On the day of our visit, official park open time was 9am, Extra Magic Hours open time was 8am, so we arrived at 7.30am (we got up at 6am and were at the bus stop at 6.45am). There were already a lot of people there and the park was already open. EVERYONE was headed straight for Pandora – The World of Avatar. 90% to Flight of Passage and 10% to Na’vi River Journey.
7.45am Pandora – The World of Avatar
Na’vi River Journey
We walked straight on but were a bit underwhelmed by this gentle boat ride. It’s like It’s a Small World at Magic Kingdom, just with different scenery to float past. Having not seen the Avatar movie it was probably wasted on us.
There is no doubt Animal Kingdom is Disney World’s most beautiful park. Its lush, shaded walkways and natural vistas make this a most peaceful place. Especially as the sun is just peeking above the tree line.
Take the time for some photos before the crowds descend. Or do what I do and barely stop walking while you snap, then run to catch up. I’ve got freezing mid-stride for a quick pic down to a fine art!
No queue at Expedition Everest meant the kids got the front seats. A rare privilege! We rode it twice in a row.
This is still the best ride in all of Disney World in our opinion. We all love it. It’s a fabulous coaster with plenty of thrills, but not too extreme. Gorgeous Nepal/Mt Everest theming, smooth, suspenseful and builds to a thrilling climax.
More pics from our previous visit here, including Hamish’s hilarious expression on the ride pic. That still makes me laugh.
8.45am DinoLand U.S.A.
We didn’t even make it into this section last time, but really it’s not nearly as wonderful as the rest of the park. It looks more like a traditional fair ground with plenty of concrete and little vegetation.
DINOSAUR was disappointing. None of us loved it. Fortunately there was no queue, so we headed straight on and I changed our later FastPass to Finding Nemo – The Musical.
It’s a jerky journey in a car past some dinosaurs. Alannah found the dinosaurs scary, David and I found it a bit boring and Hamish quite enjoyed it. A bit of a meh ride really.
But the souvenir shop was super cool. Disney is amazing with the consistency of its theming. Every shop creates an atmosphere and is fun to wander round, whether you buy something or not.
If you see something you like though, buy it! Every shop has different stock depending on its theming, so if you leave it thinking you’ll buy on the way out of the park, you may be disappointed.
For example, when we were on our way out of Magic Kingdom, having a last look in the Main Street shops, Hamish wanted a Baymax cuddle toy. Unfortunately the one he wanted was only stocked in Tomorrowland, so off we went to track it down. He got his toy and loves it to within an inch of its life, but our feet didn’t thank us for the extra walking.
Primeval Whirl was quite a fun ride. I guess you’d call it a rollercoaster, but the thrills were more in the quick turns than in steep drops.
Alannah liked this one so much she went back for a second go on her own. Still no queues.
Alannah and I went on this little kid ride just ’cause we could.
It’s similar to many other rides – Dumbo and Magic Carpets at Magic Kingdom for example – where you go around and around and can move the lever to go up or down.
Disney does tend to bring out the kid in you.
9.30am Discovery Island
Discovery Island is lovely and green, surrounded by a river and is home to the Tree of Life.
It’s Tough to be a Bug!
This is a cute animated 4D movie narrated by Flik from A Bug’s Life.
The shows are always a good opportunity to sit down in the shade and give your legs a rest, but this was quite educational and entertaining.
It was getting noticeably busier now.
The village of Harambe is inspired by locations such as Kenya and Zanzibar and has a fun, energetic vibe. The Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe were particularly entertaining. It was music to get you dancing and some volunteers did.
Tusker House character meal
We had a brunch character meal at Tusker House with Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey. We did this last visit as well and love it. The (buffet) food is better quality than most and there’s a relaxed vibe – they don’t seem to mind how long you stay. Full review here.
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
There’s quite a large zoo aspect to Animal Kingdom, housing animals such as lions, giraffes and elephants. Many can only be seen if you go on Kilimanjaro Safaris, but we had a wander through this picturesque trail and enjoyed the antics of the gorillas.
Expedition Everest (FastPass)
After two rides on this early this morning, we returned to use our FastPass.
This part of the ride is where we find that the Yeti has destroyed the track up ahead. Oh no! What will happen?
Any ride that goes backwards fast in the dark is a winner in my books.
Finding Nemo – The Musical (FastPass)
Last visit we enjoyed the colourful spectacle, acrobatics and incredible songs of the Festival of the Lion King show (read about it here), so thought we’d try something different this time.
FastPasses to shows typically mean access to better seats and we were definitely close to the stage here.
I really loved this show. It managed to capture the emotion of the movie and I found the puppetry and singing very impressive. It is 40min long and basically an abbreviated musical version of the movie. The kids would always prefer a ride to a show, so they enjoyed it less than me.
3.00pm Pandora – The World of Avatar
Avatar Flight of Passage (FastPass)
This ride gets plenty of hype and even longer lines, but Flight of Passage is brilliant. As previously mentioned, we haven’t seen the Avatar movie so perhaps it would be even better if you had.
It is a 4D simulation ride that makes you feel like you’re flying. Your seat is like sitting on a motorbike (see Hamish demonstrating below), so it’s not dissimilar to riding a broomstick on Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey at Universal. But longer and more thrilling.
It’s like Soarin’ at Epcot or Disneyland on steroids if you’ve been on that.
Absolutely loved it.