Animal Kingdom Itinerary | How to Plan Animal Kingdom in One Day

Are you planning a visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom? If so, this Animal Kingdom Itinerary is for you! We recently returned from a Disney World vacation and are sharing all the Animal Kingdom Tips and how to plan your one day at Animal Kingdom.

animal kingdom itinerary and tips

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Animal Kingdom is located at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It is a unique theme park because it has rides and attractions, as well as animal exhibits. These exhibits are woven throughout the park making it a good mix of exciting rides and animal encounters.

It is important to mention that visiting Disney World during Covid has brought a lot of changes and health measures to the park. These change often and you should check the Walt Disney World website before arrival.

We really enjoy Animal Kingdom although I think people are split on how they feel about it. Some say it is a glorified zoo which I can understand where they are coming from but I think it is so much more.

If you can take your time to explore and really appreciate the work and creativity that has gone into creating the immersive lands and attractions, you will understand why Animal Kingdom is loved by Disney fans.

With that being said Animal Kingdom does have a big focus on animals. You can learn more about them by including the Wilderness Explorers activity into your visit. This is a free activity that is perfect for kids of all ages.

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Map of Animal Kingdom at Disney World

Before you visit Animal Kingdom take a look at the map of the park to get an idea of the layout as well as where the attractions, characters, and dining are that you want to see.

Map of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom Layout

Animal Kingdom layout is much like Magic Kingdom. It has a central area and the lands branch out from there. The difference is that Animal Kingdom is huge and you will do a lot of walking.

If you are planning to do Animal Kingdom in one day be prepared to do a lot of walking. It is a beautiful and immersive park that makes exploring it seem like you are at a park, and not a theme park.

There are 5 distinct areas at the park. They are Discovery Island, Pandora, Africa, Asia, and Dinoland U.S.A.

Discovery Island is the center where you will find the Tree of Life. Inside the Tree of Life there is a 3D it’s a Bug’s Life attraction.

Pandora-The World of Avatar has two of the most popular attractions at the park. Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. It also has one of our favorite quick service dining options, Satu’li Canteen.

Africa has Kilimanjaro Safari. This is a family ride for all ages that takes you on safari to see real animals. It is a must see during your visit. Africa also has Festival of the Lion King show and the Gorilla Falls Exploration Tour.

Gorilla Falls is a self-guided tour of gorilla, hippo, and exotic birds exhibits. Throughout Animal Kingdom you will find areas to learn more about the animals and get a closer look.

Asia has Expedition Everest which is a thrilling roller coaster through the mountain. There is also a water attractions Kali River Rapids and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Maharajah Jungle Trek is a self-guided tour to see tigers, monkeys, bats, and a Komodo Dragon.

Dinoland U.S.A has the Finding Nemo show, a kids playground called The Boneyard, and Dinosaur. Dinosaur is a thrilling dark ride to save dinosaurs.

Animal Kingdom Theme Park Tickets

I also suggest purchasing your tickets for Animal Kingdom before you arrive at the park. You can check discounted ticket prices here. You also must have a ticket and a reservation to enter the park.

Check the Disney World website for the park hours for your visit. These change depending on season. Animal Kingdom also has special after hours events that may have the park closing early. These can be found on Walt Disney World website as well.

One last thing to check is Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours allow on-site guests extra hours before or after regular hours to enjoy the park. This is one of the reasons we like to stay on-site at Disney World.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and all of the Disney parks, offer a Disney Private VIP tours that give guests exclusive access to the parks as well as a personal guide for your visit. Learn more in this article, What to Expect on a Disney Private VIP tour.

Need theme park tickets? Check out these deals!

Genie+ at Animal Kingdom

Genie+ at Animal Kingdom is the new program replacing Fastpass+ at Animal Kingdom. FastPass+ is being retired and a new system Genie+ is replacing it.

Disney Genie is a complimentary service offered through the My Disney Experience App that will allow guests to customize and create their visits to the Disney parks.

In theory this will help guests know the best times to visit attractions that they want to see and do. This is a new service launching in October 2021 and I am not sure how it will work in real world application.

In regards to replacing FastPass it will offer an add on service called Genie+.

Genie+ will be an upgraded service that will allow guests to make reservations for popular attractions one at time on the day of visit. This is very different than the 60 days in advance guests were used to with FastPass.

Guests will enter the attractions through the Lightning Lane. Once they have entered an attraction they can make their next attraction reservation. This will cost $15.00 per day per person.

Some attractions will be excluded from Genie+ and can be purchased on an individual basis. Prices will vary and attractions included have not been announced but expect Flight of Passage.

We expect Navi River, Dinosaur, Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids and Kilimanjaro Safari to be included in Genie+ but this is not confirmed.

Guests that don’t want to use the paid service can still use the regular lines or virtual que options. As you would expect some visits may warrant an upgrade and some visits, during low season, the upgrade will not be necessary.

On our recent visit all wait times were under 30 minutes, except for Flight of Passage. I would not suggest purchasing Genie+ on low crowd days.

More details can be found here.

Things to Know About Animal Kingdom

Is Animal Kingdom a Full Day Park?

Animal Kingdom can be a full day park if you plan on seeing everything and riding all the attractions. With the shows, rides, and animal exhibits you can spend a full day at Animal Kingdom.

How Much Does it Cost to Go to Animal Kingdom?

Animal Kingdom ticket cost start at $104.00 a day depending on the season you visit.

Are there scary rides at Animal Kingdom?

Some rides at Animal Kingdom may be scary for young children. They include Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest, and Dinosaur.

How Much is Parking at Animal Kingdom?

Parking is $25.00 a day at Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom One Day Itinerary

Where to Start Your Animal Kingdom Touring Plan

The most popular area at Animal Kingdom is Pandora and that is where most of the guests will start their day. If you want to ride the Pandora attractions you should plan on arriving early and go directly to them.

Flight of Passage is the most popular attraction at the park. If you are wanting to ride it you should consider using Genie+ or be one of the first to get in line. The line can often see 2-3 hour wait times.

If you are not planning on visiting the Pandora area you should start with Kilimanjaro Safari. After that we will typically walk to Asia to ride Expedition Everest and then stop for lunch.

We always try to ride our must ride attractions before lunch, even if it means a little more walking. We do this to limit our time waiting in long lines. If you would rather do less walking you can explore each land before moving on to the next.

entrance to animal kingdom in one day

Rope Drop at Animal Kingdom (Morning/Arrival)

Rope Drop is what it is called to arrive before opening. This doesn’t always involve an actual rope, it only means before the parks official opening time.

When I mentioned above to arrive early for Flight of Passage this means 90 minutes before park opening. On our most recent visit we were waiting for the resort transportation to Animal Kingdom at 6:30am. This was for a 8:00am opening time.

Buses are posted that they start 60 minutes before park opening but this is not always 100% true.

We were walking to the Animal Kingdom gate at 7:02am! They allowed guests into the park at 7:20am. We were stopped near the entrance of the Pandora area and began moving towards the attraction at 7:35am.

We were on Flight of Passage before the official park opening time of 8:00am. We were actually on Navi River (our second ride for the day) by 8:15am.

This is really important to remember when planning your visit. Arrive early!!

If riding attractions are a priority and you don’t want to wait in lines, arriving early is a must. We were ahead of the crowd for the rest of the day by being one of the first families in the park.

Afternoon at Animal Kingdom

After lunch we plan time to watch shows or explore more parts of the park. We try to get all of our must do attractions done in the morning but if there are any we missed we will ride them now.

Depending on the hours of the park you might want to go back to your room for some rest or an afternoon nap. On a recent visit Animal Kingdom hours were 8:00am to 8:00pm. We headed back to our resort around 2:00 and then returned for dinner and another ride on Flight of Passage.

Animal Kingdom at Night

If Animal Kingdom has night hours try to plan time in Pandora. At night the entire land glows with Bioluminescent lights and is really incredible.

There is also a projection show called the Tree of Life Awakenings. This runs every 10 minutes at dusk until close of the park.

Dining at Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom has many awesome dining options for your visit. It has one of the best quick service options at any of the parks. We always recommend using Mobile Ordering at the parks to save you time.

Animal Kingdom Counter Service

Our favorite counter service at Animal Kingdom is Satu’li Canteen in Pandora. We actually mobile ordered from our resort room and when we arrived back at Animal Kingdom used the My Disney Experience app to say we arrived.

This is the best way to order food at Disney’s quick service locations.

Satu’li Canteen offers rice and noodle bowls with a choice of protein as well as option for the kids. We always eat there when we visit Animal Kingdom.

More Animal Kingdom Counter Service includes:

  • Flame Tree Barbecue (Discovery Island Area)
  • Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes (Asia)
  • Restaurantosaurus (DinoLand)
  • Harambe Market (Africa)

Animal Kingdom Table Service

If you want to spend more time dining consider a few of the table service options at Animal Kingdom. Be sure to make dining reservations 60 days in advance.

  • Tiffins (Discovery Island)
  • Yak & Yeti Restaurant (Asia)
  • Tusker House (Character Meal, Africa)
dining at animal kingdom
Dining at Satu’li Canteen

Shows at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

There are a few different shows at Animal Kingdom and all of them are great. The most popular shows are Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Musical. If you can see both you will not regret it. They are impressive.

Finding Nemo is currently closed for an update and refurbishment.

There is also a bird show themed to Pixar UP!. It is called UP! A Great Bird Adventure. We have heard great things about this show and if you enjoy birds you will really love it.

Animal Kingdom has a new show that will be running multiple times a day called Kite Tails. This will be located in the Asia section of the park at the Discovery River Amphitheater.

Characters at Animal Kingdom

There are no parades at Animal Kingdom to see characters but you can meet a few through the park. On a recent visit we met Scrooge McDuck and Launchpad. You can learn more in this article about characters at Animal Kingdom.

Character meet and greets have been on hiatus since covid but there is the Discovery River Character Cruise. Times are listed in the My Disney Experience App.

Another fun activity at Animal Kingdom is the Wilderness Explorers. This is a free scavenger hunt activity with stops through the park. It is easy to include this in your itinerary and is really fun. Read about our experience with the Wilderness Explorers.

Sample Animal Kingdom 1 Day Itinerary

This is an example of an Animal Kingdom itinerary for families with school age children. The night before your Animal Kingdom day pack your bag, lay our clothes, and decide on a time to leave for the park.

Check park hours to know when you should leave for the park.

6:30am: Arrive at bus station at resort.

6:45am: Bus arrives to take us to Animal Kingdom.

7:00am: Arrive at Animal Kingdom.

7:20am: Enter Animal Kingdom. Walk to Pandora Entrance. Guests are held here.

7:30am: Guests are walked to Flight of Passage. We are on the ride before official park open at 8:00am.

8:10am: Ride Navi’ River

8:30am: Grab a snack, use restrooms, explore Pandora. If you are ready to move on go to Kilimanjaro Safari.

  • Ride Safari
  • Gorilla Falls Explorations Trail (Animal Exhibit)
  • Pick up a Wilderness Explorer Guide if you plan to do the activities during your visit.
  • Expedition Everest
  • Yak & Yeti Quick Service
  • Maharajah Trek (Animal Exhibit)
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Expedition Everest
  • Dinosaur
  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug
  • Check showtimes for Kite Tails, The Lion King, or Finding Nemo(Currently Closed)

Animal Kingdom really allows for a flexible schedule after you visit Pandora. Keep an eye on the My Disney Experience app for wait times.

If rides are a priority do all of them before lunch and then explore the animal exhibits and shows. This requires more walking and back tracking though the park.

If rides are not a priority take your time in each area to explore, grab a snack, and see a show.

The Wilderness Explorer Guide book can be picked up at multiple locations through the park and we find it easiest to do it as we go through our day.

Animal Kingdom Itinerary for Toddlers

  • Include more time at The Boneyard playground.
  • Ride Triceratops Spin
  • Include a Character Meal at Tusker House to meet Donald Duck and friends.

Animal Kingdom Itinerary for Adults

  • Ride Expedition Everest and Dinosaur a few times.
  • Stay late to explore Pandora at night. It glows!

Animal Kingdom is an incredible park that offers so much for the entire family. The best part is every visit is different because it is always changing and there is so much to see. This Animal Kingdom itinerary will help you plan the best day for your group during your Disney vacation.

Animal Kingdom Tips

When planning Animal Kingdom in one day you should consider a few things before you arrive at the park.

Take a look at a crowd calendar to get an expected idea of how busy the park will be. If it is a busy day you may not be able to see and do everything as opposed to a less crowded day.

You should also look at the rides and attractions at the park before you arrive. Are there ones you want to skip? Does everyone in your group meet the height requirements? Check out our best Animal Kingdom rides to get you started.

The weather is also something to look at when visiting Animal Kingdom. It is unpredictable in Florida and can often rain unexpectedly. Summer is also very hot and humid, especially mid-day, you may want to plan an indoor attraction during these hours.

The best part about this Animal Kingdom itinerary is it can be customized to your travel group and is worth visiting during your Disney World vacation.

Read Next: Step by Step Disney World 7 Day Itinerary Planning Guide

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