Planning a trip to Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom?  Here’s the best Disney Animal Kingdom Tips and Strategies for 2024.

If you aren’t familiar with Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it’s basically a zoo that is also a theme park.  

It’s made up of 6 themed lands, and believe it or not, it’s the largest in size of the 4 parks that make up Disney World!

It’s the largest in size due to all the space needed for the animals because sadly, Animal Kingdom has the least amount of rides and attractions of the 4 Disney parks…so it’s often called a “half day park” compared to the other Disney theme parks.  

Many people say there’s really only a half day’s worth of rides and things to explore. 

Best tips for Disney's Animal Kingdom - lion shown resting on a rock

Personally, I agree that you could see this park in half of a day if you are just hitting the highlights, but our family has also spent many full days here exploring all the rides, shows, and attractions.  

So, that said, Animal Kingdom is what you make of it and you can definitely spend a whole day here!

Alright….let’s dive into the best tips for visiting Animal Kingdom!

1) Rope Drop Avatar Flight of Passage

avatar flight of passage

If possible, I recommend rope dropping the most popular ride in the park: Avatar Flight of Passage.  (Rope drop means getting to the park early so that you can enter as soon as it opens and be one of the first ones in line for popular attractions).  

Avatar Flight of Passage continues to be one of the best attractions at Animal Kingdom and the wait times for this one can soar throughout the day.  Your best chance to ride with a shorter wait time is to rope drop this ride. 

If rope drop is not a possibility for you, you might also find lower wait times after 2pm when many of the other guests are leaving to park hop over to another park.

Alternatively, you could also purchase Individual Lightning Lanes for this ride.  This will save you time, but you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the additional cost to avoid the long lines.

2) Don’t Miss the Tree of Life

tree of life at discovery island

Be sure to check out the Tree of Life on Discovery Island up close!   

There’s over 300 animals carved into this amazing piece of art.  Obviously, it’s a great photo op, but if you take a walk around the base of it, you can see some of the amazing carvings up close.  

If you stay late, you might get to see the Tree of Life Awakenings, which is a light show that projects images on the tree at night on certain nights.

3) Best Time to Ride Kilimanjaro Safaris 

kilimanjaro safaris entrance

If you want to get the best ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris, be sure to ride it in the morning before it gets too hot.  

Note that this ride doesn’t always open first thing in the morning, it might have a delayed opening.  

But do try to ride this amazing ride before it gets too hot out because the animals are more active in the morning and you might also hit their meal time which means the animals are out and about where you can easily see them.

4) Get a Locker for Kali River Rapids

Kali River Rapids entrance

If water rides are your jam, be sure to check out Kali River Rapids.  This boat ride has the potential to soak you….so be prepared for that.  

Our family likes to put our phones and bags in a locker just around the corner from Kali River Rapids.

Another tip:  wear quick dry clothing to the park!  I often have my kids wear a rashguard shirt, quick dry shorts, and water sandals (just make sure that they are comfortable sandals as you will walk a LOT!)

5) Gluten Free Churros

​If you are gluten free, you won’t want to miss the gluten free churros at Nomad Lounge.

This is the ONLY place you can find gluten free churros in the parks.  

To grab this tasty treat, you can either make a reservation to eat at Nomad Lounge or just simply walk up to the cast members at the door and tell them that you are there to get gluten free churros from the bar and they will let you in.  

These gluten free churros are legendary among the gluten free community.  Don’t miss these!

6) Skip Rafiki’s Planet Watch

backside of buildings on Rafiki's Planet watch train

I’m going to let you in on a secret….Rafiki’s Planet Watch is kind of a disappointment. I mean, you might be into it….but not likely.

To get there you’ll board an open air train, which is super hot and there isn’t a view. As in, there is absolutely nothing to look at except fencing, walls, the backsides of buildings. Truly, there’s nothing to look at….and I’m not picky!  No Disney magic here.

Once you get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, there really isn’t much to do there.  To be completely honest, it’s hot, very sunny, and filled with cranky kids.  LOL  

There is a small petting zoo, but nothing super exciting or worth the boring hot train trip there and back.  

So….yeah….it’s a bust and personally, as a mom of 4, I won’t be wasting part of our day doing it unless Disney decides to improve it!

7) Satu’li Canteen is the Best!

If you are looking for a quick-service restaurant with nice cool air conditioning to get a bite to eat, don’t miss Satu’li Canteen over in Pandora – The World of Avatar!

It will surprise you.  It is REALLY good.  

The theming of this restaurant is a RDA mess hall decorated with Na’vi art.  More importantly than theming is that this quick-service restaurant serves up amazing food!

 We love the gluten free build your own bowls.  You can choose a base, a protein, and a sauce and honestly, you can’t really choose wrong.  Everything is delicious!  

We make a point to eat here every time we visit Animal Kingdom.  

8) Free Water

Something to remember as you get ready for your visit is that Disney quick service restaurants offer free water.  

You don’t need to bring a water bottle with you!  

I do bring one drink into the park with me, but after that, I don’t worry about it, because I know we can get free water when we need it!

9) Genie+ Isn’t Necessary

Genie+ is the “pay to skip the lines” service at Disney World.  We find that it really isn’t necessary in Animal Kingdom.  

If you have early entry perks for staying on Disney property, that is often enough of an edge to help you get on the most popular rides first thing in the morning.  

However, if you can’t make it to the parks early, you might want to grab Genie+ or an Individual Lightning Lane to make the most of your day!

10) Choose Restaurants with A/C

Lunch time is a great time to sit down and refresh…but not all quick service restaurants offer air conditioning at Animal Kingdom….we’re looking at you, air condition-less Flame Tree BBQ.

We like to head to Restaurantosaurus or Satu’li Canteen to cool off. Keep in mind that Restaurantosaurus closes early, so it isn’t open for supper.

11) Where to get Dole Whip

Dole whip in a cup

If you are a Dole Whip fan, you’ll be excited to find out that you can get Dole Whip at Animal Kingdom. It’s found at Tamu Tamu Refreshments the Africa section of the park.

What is Dole Whip? It’s an amazing pineapple flavored soft serve that is both gluten free and dairy free. You can often find other flavors or versions at the various parks….but pineapple is the traditional flavor you’ll find everywhere….and for good reason! It’s SO GOOD!

12) Delayed Ride Openings

elephant from Kilimanjaro Safaris

As I mentioned briefly above, Animal Kingdom is one of those parks that has delayed openings for different rides.

We have often experienced delayed openings of both Kilimanjaro Safaris and Kali River Rapids….meaning that these rides might not open until an hour or more after the park opens.

Be sure to check the My Disney Experience App before you walk all the way across the park!

13) Don’t Miss the Shows!

Animal Kingdom offers Broadway style production shows that you won’t want to miss.

You’ll want to use the My Disney Experience App to get the latest information on show times for Festival of The Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond.

14) Restaurants Close Early

Animal Kingdom often closes earlier than the other parks, which means that it’s restaurants will often close early as well.

There are actually only 3 quick service restaurants in the park that stay open past 5pm. These include: Flame Tree BBQ, Satu’li Canteen, and Yak & Yeti.

15)  Visit Pandora at Night

Yes, we do recommend hitting the most popular attractions first thing in Pandora, but if you find yourself at Animal Kingdom after dark, don’t forget to stop by Pandora.  

It’s absolutely beautiful as the whole land is lit up with colorful lights.  It’s a great option for winding down your day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Top Tips for Animal Kingdom - tree of life shown

Animal Kingdom Strategy

I wanted to share our family’s Animal Kingdom Park Strategy with you in hopes that you might find parts of this helpful!

We usually stay on site at a Disney hotel to get early entry into the park, and we find that Genie+ isn’t really necessary for a great day at Animal Kingdom.

To start, we try to arrive early at the park. So, if the park is opening at 8am that day, and we have early entry at 7:30am for staying on site at a Disney hotel, we try be at the gate at 7am (or earlier) if possible.

(This is super early, I know! If this just isn’t possible and your group needs extra rest, I’d advise you to pay for Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes).

We like to start with riding Avatar Flight of Passage first, followed by Na’vi River Journey.  Then we make our way to Dinosaur followed by Expedition Everest.

view of Expedition Everest

By then it’s about mid-morning and time to check out Kilimanjaro Safaris. From there we look into the show times for Nemo and/or Lion King and consider getting wet on Kali River Rapids.
Just remember that you’ll want a time buffer between getting wet and sitting in air conditioning as that can get miserably cold really quick.

We often head to DinoLand U.S.A. for the Triceratops Spin or the playground to dry off after Kali River Rapids and then enjoy a lunch at Restaurantosaurus.

In the afternoon, we check out animals, go to shows, and reride our favorites (usually the Safari and Kali River Rapids).

We end with supper in the park at Satu’li Canteen. Our kids are usually done for the day by then, but if you kids have more stamina you might do a few more re-rides, check out Pandora in the dark, and see if the Tree of Life has it’s Awakenings show.

This park isn’t usually open late, so be sure to check the closing time of the day you plan to visit.

More Disney Tips and Tricks

I hope these Disney Animal Kingdom Tips and Strategy ideas are helpful to you! If you are looking for tips for your Disney trip, be sure to check out our other articles.

You can find the Best Rides at Animal Kingdom here. Learn all about each of the rides and which ones are must-dos.

Be sure to check out the Disney Ride Height Requirements here. We’ve created an easy to read chart so you can quickly see which rides your child is tall enough to ride.

Heading to Magic Kingdom with little ones? Learn all about which rides are best for toddlers at Magic Kingdom here.

Need to be gluten free? Here’s all the best Gluten free Dining Options at Animal Kingdom.

Want to save these Disney Animal Kingdom Tips for later? Pin the image below to your Disney Vacation board on Pinterest.

Best Disney Animal Kingdom Tips - Tree of Life shown.

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