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  • Katie Brittle

Disney's Animal Kingdom 1 Day Itinerary

Updated: Apr 25

There's a place where the magic of Disney and the wonder of wilderness converge—a place where families, adventurers, and animal lovers unite under a canopy of themed lands. Welcome to Disney's Animal Kingdom, the heart of passion, adventure, and nature at the Walt Disney World Resort. Here, we are all part of 'The Circle of Life,' surrounded by the elements that connect the human world with the animal world. And with this 1-day Animal Kingdom itinerary you are in for a safari of excitement!

Visitors thronging Animal Kingdom with the iconic Tree of Life in the background on a sunny day, showcasing the bustling atmosphere of the popular outdoor attraction.

Any day at Disney World requires some planning, strategy, and a sprinkle of pixie dust for good measure. This comprehensive guide is your compass, leading you through a planned 1-day itinerary, sprinkled with insider tips and enchanting experiences designed to maximize your fun while minimizing stress.

Here's a sample itinerary for you, but be sure to read below for tips about the park because this itinerary may change based on who you're traveling with and what you enjoy doing! Sample Itinerary

🌞 Morning: Start Your Adventure

7:00 AM - Book Individual Lightning Lane Passes if applicable

7:30 AM - Arrival at the Park

  • 🚗 Transport: Consider your transportation options; if staying at a Disney resort, use the free buses for ease.

  • 🎫 Park Entry: Aim to arrive before the park opens to take advantage of the lighter crowds in the morning.

8:00 AM - Head to Pandora – The World of Avatar

  • 🌌 Attraction: Directly go to 'Avatar Flight of Passage' for a breathtaking ride through Pandora.

  • 🌊 Ride: Next, enjoy the 'Na'vi River Journey' to experience the serene beauty of this alien landscape.

9:30 AM - Explore Africa

  • 🦁 Safari: Don't miss the 'Kilimanjaro Safaris' for a chance to see African wildlife up close.

  • 🥁 Show: Watch the mesmerizing 'Festival of the Lion King', a vibrant, musical performance.

🌤 Mid-Morning: Continue Your Exploration

10:30 AM - Visit Asia

  • 🐉 Ride: Experience the thrill of 'Expedition Everest', a rollercoaster adventure through the Himalayas.

  • 🐅 Trek: Take a peaceful walk through the 'Maharajah Jungle Trek' to see tigers and other Asian wildlife.

12:00 PM - Lunch Break

  • 🍴 Dining: Enjoy lunch at 'Yak & Yeti Restaurant', offering delicious Asian dishes in a Nepalese-style setting.

☀️ Afternoon: Immerse in Diverse Attractions

1:30 PM - DinoLand U.S.A.

  • 🎢 Ride: Have fun on 'DINOSAUR', a thrilling ride back in time to the age of dinosaurs.

  • 🎡 Play: Explore the whimsical 'Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures' area, perfect for younger guests.

3:00 PM - Discovery Island & Tree of Life

  • 🌳 Walk: Wander around Discovery Island, viewing the majestic 'Tree of Life'.

  • 🦜 Encounter: Enjoy 'It’s Tough to be a Bug!' a 3D film and attraction under the Tree of Life.

🌥 Late Afternoon: Return to Favorite Spots or Relax

4:00 PM - Back to Pandora or Relaxation Time

  • 🌌 Revisit: Return to Pandora for another ride or to see it in a different light.

  • ☕ Relax: Alternatively, take a break at 'Pongu Pongu' with a refreshing Night Blossom beverage.

🌒 Evening: End Your Day with Magic

5:00 PM - Evening Entertainment

  • 🎆 Show: Prepare for the 'Rivers of Light: We Are One' show, a beautiful nighttime experience.

  • 🌌 Pandora at Night: Experience the bioluminescent flora in Pandora after dark.

6:00 PM - Dinner at Tiffins

  • 🍽️ Fine Dining: Enjoy a sophisticated dinner at 'Tiffins', offering gourmet dishes inspired by global cuisine

7:00 PM - Catch one last look at the Tree of Life on your way out.

Animal Kingdom and Disney World

The Magic of the Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom is more than just a theme park; it's an ode to the natural world and a message of conservation. Opened in 1998, this park covers 580 acres and is home to over 1,000 animals, representing 300 species. It's divided into seven lands, each offering a unique experience that blends entertainment, education, and environmentalism.

A serene group of pink flamingos wading through a tranquil pond surrounded by lush greenery and rocks, in a natural habitat setting within at Animal Kingdom

Brief History of Animal Kingdom

While Walt Disney himself did not play a part in the creation of Animal Kingdom, he was always interested in animals, and spent a lot of time on his family farm interacting with animals. We know that animals held a special place in his heart because of all the animal characters he incorporated into his movies. When Animal Kingdom first opened, the CEO at the time, Michael Eisner, introduced the theme park to the world, calling it “a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama and learn.” Today, Walt Disney's love for animals and their connection with humans is shown clearly, with Animal Kingdom's signature feature—the Tree of Life—standing tall as a symbol of that harmony.

The majestic Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom stands tall against a clear blue sky, its intricate carvings blending into the trunk and roots, set in a lush, tropical landscape.

Distinctive Features of Animal Kingdom Compared to Other Disney Parks

While all Disney parks share the magic, Animal Kingdom stands out with its emphasis on live animals, lush landscapes, and cultural immersions. It's a departure from traditional amusement parks, offering an experience that's both hands on, up close and personal, educational yet entertaining.

Overview of Disney World's Scope and Offerings

With four main theme parks and a bustling entertainment district Walt Disney World is a world within itself. Animal Kingdom, often called "The Park that Cares for Animals," embodies a spirit of altruism and adventure that you won't find at the other three parks. One of the biggest misconceptions I see people have with Disney World is that Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios are within walking distance to each other similar to California Adventure and Disneyland Park in California. These are four separate parks that are massive and I would typically recommend spending 1 day per park to get the most out of your stay, especially if it is your first time! I have created this 1 Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary just for that reason!

Animal Kingdom Itinerary: Initial Steps

Importance of Planning Ahead

A trip to Disney World is a holiday in and of itself, but maximizing your experience at Animal Kingdom requires a plan. Think of this planning phase as part of the adventure; preparation is key, while some people are good with winging it, having an idea of what you want to see and do before you go is great for keeping it low-stress. Theme parks can get crowded and if you have never been before then having a strategy before you go, even if it's one you loosely stick to, will help you so much!

Tools and Resources for Planning

From online guides to official Disney planning tools, there's a wealth of resources at your fingertips. Start by exploring the official Walt Disney World website, where valuable information about attractions and park offerings can be found. Use the My Disney Experience app to get acquainted with ride times, maps, food ordering, Genie+, and the best part, the countdown to your Disney vacation! I'm also a resource available to you at no cost. As a complimentary travel agent, when you book your vacation through me, I'm able to act as your personal assistant throughout all your travel planning process and can really give you personalized tips and tricks based on your family needs since I have been to Disney World so many times and take yearly trainings.

A joyful moment captured as Katie Brittle and her young friend, both dressed in adventure-themed outfits, stand next to an old-fashioned blue safari vehicle in Animal Kingdom surrounded by lush tropical foliage.

Consult an Animal Kingdom Crowd Calendar

Understanding expected crowd levels for your visit date can significantly impact your approach to touring the park. Higher crowd days may require more strategic planning, while lower crowd days offer greater flexibility and potentially fewer wait times. I'm partnered with Pixie Vacations, and the crowd calendar here is something I am constantly using for my clients when deciding what weeks to stay and what weeks to avoid!

Planning a visit to Animal Kingdom is akin to navigating a weather pattern—historically light crowd days on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for instance, offer a better chance to simplify your day's itinerary and experience more attractions.

Purchase Your Theme Park Tickets or Vacation Package

Securing your entry to Animal Kingdom is as simple as selecting the right ticket package for your needs. Consider multi-day passes if you plan to visit more parks, and I'll explore vacation packages for the best value. I recommend booking in advance to save the most money. If you book your vacation as a package and well enough in advance deposits are only $200 and you can make flexible payments. Also, if a better promo comes out, I can apply that promo for you so you don't have to keep looking for special deals.

Know Animal Kingdom’s Park Hours

Park hours can fluctuate with the season, park maintenance, or special events. Always check the latest hours to ensure you have the most accurate information. Evening activities and certain attractions may be exclusive to extended hours, so knowing the schedule in advance is crucial.

Sample 5-day calendar of Animal Kingdom hours from Walt Disney World's website

The My Disney Experience app or the official Walt Disney World website are your best bets for up-to-date hours. Keep in mind that the park may open earlier or close later for resort guests, and special events can affect regular operating times.

Review the Animal Kingdom Map on My Disney Experience

Navigating the App

The My Disney Experience app is an invaluable tool for your time at the parks. Familiarize yourself with the app before your trip—practice navigating the map, look for dining options, and make reservations or place mobile orders for quick service locations.

Screenshot of the My Disney Experience App showing the map layout of Animal Kingdom with ride wait times

Key Locations to Identify on the Map

Notable areas like the Tree of Life, Pandora – The World of Avatar, Africa, and Asia are the anchor points of your itinerary. Plotting these points on your map will give you a geographical advantage as you plan your route.

Make a List of 'Must-Do' Rides and Shows

Top Attractions at Animal Kingdom

From the rip-roaring escapades of Expedition Everest to Flight of Passage, to Kali River Rapids, Animal Kingdom definitely has some must-do attractions and the lines can get LOOOONG for some of them. Maybe the family prefers a gentle boat ride on the Na'vi River in Pandora, or perhaps the adrenaline junkies aim to nab a spot on the Wildlife Express train to ride the Kilimanjaro Safaris—whatever the preference, make sure to prioritize your favorites.

Passengers riding Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom, a thrilling adventure for kids and adults

How to Get to Animal Kingdom

Transportation Options from Different Locations

Whether you're staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, off-property, or elsewhere on property, various transportation options exist. Shuttles, Minnie Vans, and ride-share services can shuttle you to the doorstep of adventure.

Tips for Arriving Efficiently

Arrive before the park's official opening to take advantage of the early morning with lighter crowds. A well-timed arrival can also position you near the front of the line for rope drop!

Disney's Animal Kingdom is tucked away in the southwest corner of Walt Disney World, right off Osceola Parkway. Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is the closest resort, with All-Star and Coronado Springs being the next closest.

Parking is easy with a lot right on site; it'll set you back $25 for the day. There are spots close to the entrance for disabled guests, and you can either stroll to the gates or catch a quick tram ride.

If you're staying at a Disney resort, you might want to skip driving and hop on the complimentary Disney bus system, especially if you’re heading in early. Just a heads up—the Disney Skyliner doesn’t run to Animal Kingdom, only to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

One-Day Itinerary at Animal Kingdom

Morning Activities

Suggested Starting Point

Begin your day with Pandora – The World of Avatar for one of the park's most popular areas. It's really good to start in this area during the day and then come back at night because it looks totally different at night time with all of the bioluminescent decorations.

Pandora the World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom against a blue sky with clouds in Disney World in Orlando, Florida

Key Rides and Attractions to Target

Make a beeline for Avatar Flight of Passage or Na'vi River Journey, the marquee attractions in Pandora. Utilize the Genie+ service or Individual Lightning Lane (these should be booked ASAP at 7:00 AM if possible) selections to secure a timeslot, ensuring you get to experience both rides without the wait. Alternative Tip: Most people will be headed to Pandora for these rides. You could head to other areas of the park that will be less crowded since Pandora is popular for the morning crowds.

Timing and Genie+/Individual Lightning Lane Strategy

Understanding the new Genie+ system and Individual Lightning Lane attractions can save you precious time. Use your smartphone to book your first attraction as early as 7:00 AM, strategically planning the rest of your day.

Afternoon Exploration

Dining Options for Lunch

Whether it’s the quick service delights of Satu’li Canteen in Pandora, the Mediterranean flavors of Restaurantosaurus, or the zoo-munchies of the Harambe Market, lunch options abound. Make a reservation or plan your mealtime wisely to avoid the midday rush. Or use MDE to place a mobile order and the food will be ready when you arrive.

Satu'li Canteen Tuna Bowl at Animal Kingdom

Recommended Shows and Less Crowded Attractions

Take in the mythic storytelling of ‘Finding Nemo—The Musical’ and the cultural pageantry of ‘Festival of the Lion King’ for a theatrical afternoon. Smooth sailing at the TriceraTop Spin and thrilling flights at Kali River Rapids offer reprieves from the midday buzz. All Shows Currently Offered as of 4/20/2024:

  • Donald's Dino-Bash!

  • Festival of the Lion King

  • Finding Nemo: The Big Blue... and Beyond

  • It's Tough to Be a Bug

Areas to Explore for Rest and Relaxation

The lush pathways of the Maharajah Jungle Trek or the contemplative koi ponds at the Conservation Station serve as tranquil sanctuaries. Use this time to re-energize for the evening’s festivities.

Evening Adventures

Must-See Evening Activities

The nighttime comes alive with the Rivers of Light, infusing sentiment and grandeur under the setting sun. For something more rambunctious, head over to Asia to witness the majesty of the swirling mists and firelight of 'Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain.'

Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom in Disney World

Nighttime Rides and Unique Experiences

During extended hours, the enchanting ambiance of Pandora at night is a sight to behold. Return to take flight on the Avatar Flight of Passage, or delight in the gentle luminescence of the Na'vi River Journey for a tranquil close to an action-packed day.

Pro Tips for Visiting Animal Kingdom

Best Photo Spots

The picturesque waterfalls of Pandora, the iconic Tree of Life at golden hour, and the savannas of Kilimanjaro Safaris offer stunning settings for your vacation snapshots. Every section of Animal Kingdom is teeming with photographic potential—keep your camera ready and your eyes wide. A lot of time and effort has been put into the theming of each of the lands. Here are some of my favorite photo spots in Animal Kingdom. Don't forget to get a pic next to Fichwa Fellow! The not-so hidden Mickey!

Fichwa Fellow photo spot at Animal Kingdom in Disney World

How to Handle Weather Changes

Central Florida’s weather can be as unpredictable as it is beautiful. Pack layers or research the stroller rental options available in case of chilly morning hours. Be prepared for rain with ponchos or quick-dry attire to ensure you stay as comfortable as possible.

Dining Reservations and Recommendations

Make reservations for table service dining locations well in advance to secure a meal at Tiffins or the character-filled Tusker House. Dining reservations open 60 days out from your date of arrival, and this is something I can help you with if you've booked your vacation with me.

Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane and Lesser-Known Tips

Consider the value of the Genie+ service and the strategic use of Individual Lightning Lane selections for the most popular attractions. Don't overlook the lesser-known experiences like Affection Section the petting zoo area where you can get up close and personal with animals, as Animal Kingdom is rife with hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.

Wrapping Up Your Wild Adventures at Animal Kingdom

Authors Thoughts

Animal Kingdom is sometimes considered a half-day park but I feel that is because many people don't realize all there is to do within Animal Kingdom. You can easily spend a solid hour eating lunch at one of the awesome table service restaurants. And I can't tell you how many times I've talked to people who didn't realize there is a train that takes you to the Conservation Station in the back of the park! Magic Kingdom is considered the nostalgic favorite park by many due to its classic Disney vibes, but for a lot of newcomers Animal Kingdom quickly becomes a favorite because of its unique design, foodie atmosphere, cultural immersion, and animal encounters.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of my absolute favorite places to stay. Especially during Christmas time! This deluxe resort offers an extension of the park’s immersion and is perfect for an evening of indulgence in African cultures. It's not just a hotel—it's a cultural and gastronomic experience, complementing the wildlife and adventure of the day perfectly.

Interior of Animal Kingdom Lodge at Christmas time with large Christmas tree and lights

Request Your Complimentary Quote Today to Plan Your Dream Disney Vacation

Your Disney adventure doesn't have to stop at Animal Kingdom. Just email or text 404-909-4952 "Animal Kingdom" for a free quote. Whether your sights are set on EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, or beyond, the experts can help you create a magical itinerary that befits the whole family.


Are Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios Connected?

These parks are about 4 miles apart and you can reach each park by taking the bus, driving, or using Uber or my personal favorite Lyft because it allows you to earn airline and hotel points for every ride you take!

Can Animal Kingdom Be Done in Half a Day?

Technically, yes, Animal Kingdom can be done in half a day. However, to fully immerse yourself and experience all the park has to offer, particularly with popular and widespread attractions, you will typically need the full day. I recommend a full day for first timers, and then after that park-hopping between Animal Kingdom and another park is definitely feasible.

Can You Bring Your Own Food into Animal Kingdom?

Yes, you are permitted to bring your own food into the park. Coolers and large containers are not allowed, but small snacks and meals are fine. Picnic areas are available outside the entrance if you need to refill or have a larger meal.

How Close Is Animal Kingdom to the Rest of the Parks at Disney World?

Animal Kingdom is located in the southwest corner of Walt Disney World Resort, relatively close to Disney's Hollywood Studios (6 min drive or 10-15 minute bus ride) and with easy access to EPCOT (12 min drive) and Magic Kingdom (10 min drive) via car or complimentary bus transportation.

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