Animal Kingdom is one of the four theme parks found at Walt Disney World. This is the second park we chose to bring our kids to when they were on their first trips. There’s so many great areas for families with young kids: DinoLand U.S.A.’s Boneyard, Africa’s Kilimanjaro Safari, the many animal viewing areas. We decided to head to Animal Kingdom on our very first day at Walt Disney World as a whole family. My husband’s family joined us for the second part of our Disney World vacation and we began it at Animal Kingdom. Our family of 5, their family of 4 and my mother-in-law made us a total of 10. We had a loose plan for the day with FastPass reservations for Na’Vi River Journey, Festival of the Lion King and Expedition Everest.
We decided we would get to the Animal Kingdom for 8am, an hour before the park open. Our plan was to head straight for Pandora with hopes of getting on Flights of Passage for the 9am park open. This is what we had done back in 2018 and it worked perfectly. Unfortunately, we made it for 8:30am. We followed the massive crowd heading for Pandora as we headed for the Flights of Passage line. The line was huge. We weaved our way around the area and were nearly in Africa, this is very very far from the Flights of Passage entrance. Jeff and I looked at each other, this was not the day to spend over 2 hours waiting for a ride we couldn’t all ride together. So we hoped out of line. We were in Africa, so we decided to head to Kilimanjaro Safari for the first tour. It was such a fantastic decision. We were on a safari bus at 9:05am. The animals were running all over the savanna. We were able to see giraffes up close, our bus had to stop because there were rhinoceroses on the trail. It was the best safari we had ever been on.
Once we got off the safari we headed for the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. This trail is located right beside the safari. With smaller kids in the stroller we wandered around this beautiful trail with animals big and small. On this trail you see gorillas, zebras, meerkats , all up close. There are several cast members along the way to answer any questions you may have about the animals you see along the way. Once we finished our trek I was ready to check a snack off my snack goal list. Elephant Ear Pastry at Kusafifi Coffee Shop & Bakery. This delicious pastry was dipped in chocolate, crispy and sugary. Definitely worth adding to your own snack list.
Our FastPass in Pandora was coming up. This was one of the few attractions we got to do as a whole family, all 10 of us were able to ride this together. Na’Vi River Journey is a boat ride, going through an area of Pandora from the film Avatar. It’s all glow in the dark effects, with so many things to take in and see, it’s a new experience each and every time. With a FastPass we were able to walk past hundreds of people and get right on. After disembarking from the ride we took a moment together at the drum area in Pandora, and while we were hanging around a show started. The performers got up at these massive drums and got kids to join in on the fun. It was one of those moments I love at Disney where it feels impromptu and unexpected, although it’s totally orchestrated.
With some time to kill before our next FastPass, one part of our family went one way while Jeff and I took our kids to wander around Discovery Island. We followed a few of the trails around the Tree of Life seeing flamingos, vultures and fishes of many variety. Winged Encounters, a bird show in front of the Tree of Life happened as we were wandering around the area, so we stopped to take it in. It was cool to see the birds take over the sky. This show happens a handful of times throughout the day and is filled with information on how we can do our part to take care of the birds featured in the show.
Festival of the Lion, in Africa, was next on our Itinerary. Festival of the Lion King is a fantastic stage show featuring all the songs from Lion King. The show has acrobats, dancers, flame throwing, and audience participation. We have fond memories of this show, our daughter was one of the featured audience members years ago. During this trip we were being escorted into the theatre and we were being led way up high in a section. I knew if we sat there our kids would have no chance of participating in the performance so I asked the cast member if we could move and she said no problem. We moved to another section where we were able to sit closer to the action. An unexpected bonus, there was more room for our little guy to wander around during the show. The show was fantastic as always, and our daughter was able to dance in part of the finale.
DinoLand U.S.A. was where we were heading next, grabbing lunch at Restaurantosaurus. We ordered chicken nuggets for the kids, and these came with buckets that we were able to bring over to the Boneyard. I snuck over to Eight Spoon Cafe to grab a snack style lunch of pulled pork mac and cheese. It was sooo good. And it was only a snack credit for those on any of the three dining plans.
The kids were delighted to spend some time over at the Boneyard. This outdoor playground has huge slides, a larger than life sandpit with buried bones, caves to explore and a toddler play area. We could spend so much time here letting the kids play and there’s really something for each of our kids ages: 7, 5 and 1. The challenge is keeping an eye on all of them. The kids were starting to crash so a showing of Finding Nemo seemed like the perfect thing to do next. To my surprise, this was Lincoln’s, our middle child, favourite part of the day. The Finding Nemo musical is a longer stage show than many of the other shows found at Walt Disney World, which can make it a little long for younger kids. But it is filled with fun songs, lots of dancing and incredible puppeteering. The show lasts approximately 40 minutes and plays several times during the day.
From here we had a FastPass for Expedition Everest. This was going to be the first thrill ride for our two older kids. MacKenzie had been on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad before but never a rollercoaster of this magnitude. We went on Everest with my husband’s brother and his family. So there was my husband, myself, our two kids, my brother in law, his wife and their two kids. Everest has two seats per row, which worked out perfectly for us. One kid per adult. I was very nervous taking the kids on this, it’s a very fast coaster, with big drops, big turns and it goes backwards. I wasn’t worried for their safety, I just didn’t want them to be too scared. If it hadn’t been for my nephew, who is 10, being with us, I don’t think we could have convinced our kids to go on it. But we all survived. I don’t think we could have gotten them to go on it again but they were glad to have done it the once.
At this point we weren’t quite sure what to do next. There was the other trek in Asia we hadn’t gone on. But the kids requested we get a family picture with Mickey and Minnie. This seemed like a very reasonable request, although we were very strategic with where we placed our 1 year old after his freak out with Mickey a few days before. For more on that click here. It was nearing dinner time so we headed out to the Rainforest Cafe to see if they would allow us to dine earlier than our reservation. They were very accommodating. All 10 of us were able to dine together. Rainforest Cafe is a great place for a large group. There’s so much on the menu to choose from there’s bound to be something for each member of your group. They have large seating areas to allow everyone to eat together. We did have a few issue with our server missing a couple items but considering the amount of requests we were throwing her way it wasn’t too big of a surprise. Yak & Yeti Restaurant is still my favourite sit down restaurant to eat at when at the Animal Kingdom but it doesn’t have the same amount of distractions.
All in all, it was a wonderful day with a variety of different things. Stage shows, animal encounters, character meetings, riding rollercoasters. We ended the day after our meal to prepare for our next day which had me racing the Disney World Half Marathon and all three kids participating in kids races. Looking back, there’s not much I would have changed about the day. I would have spent a little more time looking around the shops because I love looking at all the different items that can be found at the boutique stores found at each of the theme parks. Alas, I’ll have to do more shopping on the next trip. Happy Planning, Friends.