In this post, I report on a Wednesday I spent at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in October 2018. The main purpose of this post is to give people who are planning visits an example of a one-day itinerary at Animal Kingdom.
I give times for pretty much everything I did, from getting in line to modifying a FastPass+, to give you the most detailed view possible of how you could spend a day at Animal Kingdom. At the very bottom of the post, I give my final itinerary in abbreviated form.
This was a beautiful Monday, with clear skies and temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees. It was a weekday, with crowds at a low 3 out of 10 according to Touring Plans. I don’t think the low crowds factored in too much, as I spent most of the afternoon (the busiest time of the park) hopping between entertainment.
Advance FastPass+ Reservations
I wanted to tie my hands a bit with my Animal Kingdom FastPass+ reservations and strategy for this day. I know from past experience that if I really go hard into my FastPass+ strategy, I can get through Animal Kingdom easily.
But not all families can or want to do that. On commenter recently asked if our FastPass+ strategy meant keeping your face in your phone your entire trip. The answer is honestly, on some days, yes.
That won’t usually happen at Animal Kingdom, but I also wanted to show that even a mediocre set of advance reservations is enough to have a good day at Animal Kingdom.
I booked these three slots about two days in advance: 12:40PM Na’vi River Journey, 2:35PM Kali River Rapids, 7:05PM Rivers of Light. I guess I was really excited about rivers that day.
I was naive and didn’t realize the Kali River Rapids reservation was a mistake (you’ll see why later), and I’ll be updating our Animal Kingdom FastPass+ post to reflect that.
Usually I advise against using a FastPass+ for Rivers of Light, but lots of people love night time shows and insist on grabbing that slot (and keeping it), so I made it my goal to hold onto it all day. (Sidenote: Those with the Disney dining plan can book the Rivers of Light dining package with their table service credits for great value. This saves you from having to waste a FastPass+ on it.)
Arrival and Rope Drop at Animal Kingdom
Your immediate goal for the morning at Animal Kingdom depends on what FastPass+ reservations you have. If you don’t have a FastPass+ for Avatar: Flight of Passage, your top goal for the morning is to get on that ride (your top goal for your FastPass+ planning for your trip should be to get this FastPass+, though). If you have a FastPass+ for Flight of Passage, your top goal is to get on Na’vi River Journey.
If you don’t have a FastPass+ for either, your goal is to get on both, starting with Flight of Passage. On most days, it’s easy to grab a Na’vi River Journey FastPass+ on short notice. Flight of Passage is still quite challenging to get, even 30 to 60 days out.
Even though it’s been over a year and Toy Story Land over in Hollywood Studios has opened and taken some crowds, you still need to get to Animal Kingdom very early to get a short wait on Flight of Passage.
On this day, I slept in and arrived at about 8:25AM for a scheduled 9AM open. The turnstiles were already open, though, and people were being let into the park and into line for rides. Based on line length, I think this was probably an 8:15AM open, but gates sometimes open as early as 8AM.
I was through the turnstiles at 8:27AM and in line at 8:33AM, when the wait was posted as 60 minutes. The Flight of Passage line is about 75% outdoors at this time of day, so you can be almost in Harambe even when the wait is under an hour.
Luckily, this wait was exaggerated (though it surely got to 60 quickly), and I was in the “decontamination room” of the ride by 9:03AM after a 30-minute wait. I was off Flight of Passage at 9:30AM and faced with a decision.
Once you’re out of Pandora (in this case I was done with Flight of Passage and had a FastPass+ for Na’vi River Journey), you need a plan to get through: Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids, Expedition Everest, and DINOSAUR. You’re going to want to aim to finish as many of these as possible, catching either an 11AM or 12PM stage show.
We advise having FastPass+ for two of these, including Kilimanjaro Safaris, but I decided to try my day with a Rivers of Light FastPass+ (and without Kilimanjaro Safaris). If, like me, you don’t have a FastPass+ for Kilimanjaro Safaris, you’ll have decisions to make about when to fit it into your day. Kilimanjaro Safaris is best ridden early in the morning or around dusk because those are the periods when the animals are most active.
We typically advise against riding early in the morning because the ride is long (about 30 minutes), so waits on other rides will have plenty of time to go up. Conversely, people still don’t hang out in Animal Kingdom very late, and dusk waits for Kilimanjaro Safaris tend to be short (15 minutes).
Regardless, I get a lot of questions about heading to Kilimanjaro early, and I know a lot of people are going to be tempted to get the ride out of the way. I thought the 25 minutes might be a bit exaggerated, so I headed to Kilimanjaro Safaris, getting in line at 9:30AM. I was on the ride at 9:47AM, so that 25 minutes was really closer to 15.
Just before I got on, I noticed the waits for Expedition Everest creeping up. Closer to my current location, Kali River Rapids had a late open at 9:30AM. I went ahead and modified my FastPass+ from Kali River Rapids to 10:50AM Expedition Everest. This was my only modification this day.
My mistake was booking Kali River Rapids in advance and heading to Kilimanjaro standby—if you’re going to standby Kilimanjaro early in the morning, it makes sense to walk over to Kali River Rapids next, when it should still have a short wait. Use that FastPass+ for Expedition Everest.
I was off Kilimanjaro Safaris at 10:15AM, and the biggest rides I had to fit in were Kali River Rapids and DINOSAUR (I now had the FastPass+ for Everest). I walked over to Kali River Rapids, which had a posted 10 minute wait at 10:22AM. It was actually a walk on, and I was on at 10:26AM and off at 10:32AM.
Despite 11AM shows creeping up, I decided to try for DINOSAUR so that I’d have the rest of the day pretty open. When I got in line at DINOSAUR at 10:42AM, the posted wait was 20 minutes. It was actually much shorter, and I was on the ride at 10:54AM and off at 10:59AM. I checked FastPass+ at this time, and saw that everything other than Flight of Passage had at least two time slots available.
Afternoon and Animal Kingdom
11AM isn’t quite afternoon, but phase two of your Animal Kingdom will start at 11AM or 12PM depending on how quickly you get through the morning rides. For me, I had ridden or had a FastPass+ for every major ride at Animal Kingdom, so it was time to start my afternoon.
You have a variety of options for how to spend your afternoon at Animal Kingdom. Let’s get this out of the way: Animal Kingdom is not a half-day park. You’ll be pressed to see everything Animal Kingdom has to offer in a single day.
Options for Afternoon at Animal Kingdom
For your afternoon at Animal Kingdom, you’ll want to plan for a combination of items from this list (you can read about all of these in our Animal Kingdom Rides & Entertainment Guide):
three stage shows, Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo The Musical, and UP! A Great Bird Adventure Show
one 3D theater show, It’s Tough to Be a Bug
five to ten “streetmosphere” shows occurring throughout the park (these are listed under “Entertainment” on the app and on the times guide
two walkthrough zoological exhibits, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek
Wilderness Explorers, an interactive game that takes place throughout the park (at your own pace)
Character Greetings throughout the park
two “kiddie” rides in Dino-Rama, TriceraTop Spin and Primeval Whirl
“Fossil Fun Games,” paid carnival games in Dino-Rama
one “kiddie” exploration area, The Boneyard
Exploring the wonderful park that is Animal Kingdom
Seasonally, Rafiki’s Planet Watch will be open (we don’t know what seasons yet). We recommend this space only for people who are hardcore into the zoological aspect of the park.
That’s a lot of stuff! I’ve bolded the items I was targeting this day, which included nine streetmosphere performances.
The three stage shows are about 30 minutes long. All have FastPass+, but it is rarely necessary to have FastPass+ for them, and most showings you can walk in right at the starting time. Showtimes are listed in the app and on the times guide.
The streetmosphere performances are listed in the app and (some, but not all) in the times guide and take about 10-20 minutes. The zoological walkthroughs are done at your own pace and take between 20 and 30 minutes.
Piecing Together Your Afternoon at Animal Kingdom
Once you have a rough idea of what you want to do at Animal Kingdom in the afternoon, pay attention to the last showtimes (so you don’t miss anything) and what items are nearby each other. And don’t forget to factor your FastPass+ reservations into your plan.
Much of the streetmosphere takes place in Africa, for example, so you can plan to watch back-to-back shows there, with visits to Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail or Festival of the Lion King bookending that time. Similarly, Expedition Everest, Finding Nemo the Musical, and Dino-Rama are situated in a row, making it easy to go through these together.
My Afternoon at Animal Kingdom
I was trying to get as much entertainment in as possible. Not every family is going to want to rush around as much as I did. I even cut a few streetmosphere performances short when I wanted to move on. As you’ll see, I had time at the end of my day, which could have been used for something extra, like a character greeting or two, or just to allow me to move more slowly in the afternoon.
From DINOSAUR, I hustled over the Finding Nemo The Musical and was let into the 11AM show at 11:02AM. The show finished at 11:37AM, and I headed over to use my Expedition Everest FastPass+. I tapped on at 11:42AM when the posted wait was 40 minutes, and I was off at 11:52AM. This was plenty of time to catch any noon show in the park.
I opted instead to head to Starbucks, planning to catch the 12:15PM Tam Tam Drummers (a must for any day at Animal Kingdom) and the 12:30PM performance by Kora Tinga Tinga. Starbucks surprised me with no wait, so I was able to enjoy my coffee and lunch for almost 45 minutes in Harambe.
After Kora Tinga Tinga wrapped up, I was heading for the 1PM showing of the Pandora Utility Suit. I had 15 minutes to explore Harambe and Pandora. These spaces are both stunning and worth taking a few minutes just to walk around and appreciate the details.
I wasn’t much into the Utility Suit, so I tapped into my Na’vi River Journey FastPass+ at 1:06PM when the posted wait was 65 minutes. I was off at 1:20PM in time to catch the Pandora Drummer Show. That show usually has a ton of daily performances, so I easily could have stayed for the full Utility Suit “show” and caught the drummers later.
I left the drummers a few minutes early to catch the 1:45PM Winged Encounters Show, another must-see for me on any visit to Animal Kingdom. That show doesn’t take the full 15 minutes, and I easily was able to walk over to the 2PM Festival of the Lion King performance, which let out at 2:33PM.
I had two options for 3PM—the Harambe Acrobats (in Africa) and Viva Gaia (over on Discovery Island). I headed over the Viva Gaia and gambled that I could fit in It’s Tough to Be a Bug. I was correct, and I walked almost directly into the theater at 2:36PM when the posted wait was 15 minutes. I was out at 2:51PM and able to go watch Viva Gaia’s 3PM performance.
Around 3:15PM, I decided to go cross off my last two rides in Dino-Rama. I got in line for Primeval Whirl at 3:19PM when it had a posted 10-minute wait. I was off at 3:28PM and headed to TriceraTop Spin, which at 3:30PM had a posted 10-minute wait. I was off at 3:37PM.
Having finished off all the rides, I went back over to Harambe for an hour of entertainment. I grabbed a spot at Dawa Bar and watched the 4PM performance by the Harambe Acrobats and the 4:30PM performance by Burudika (my final must see for the day).
I popped just around the corner into the UP! bird show at 5PM. The show was quite disappointing, and lots of people were leaving halfway through. I stayed until the show finished at 5:28PM.
The last thing I had to see for the day was the Dino-Riffic Dance Party back in Dino-Rama from 5PM to 8PM. I swung by it quickly, but there wasn’t much to see. (Along the way, I took a 9-minute diversion through the Expedition Everest Single Rider Line.)
Reflections on This Afternoon Plan
This was a pretty rushed afternoon plan, with a few items getting cut off five minutes early so I could make it to the next thing. With the extra time I had at the end of the night, I probably could have loosened up my afternoon a bit or thrown in a character stop.
Most families would want to fit in a visit to one of the zoological trails. If the kids aren’t into it, you’ll walk through it quickly and lose 15 minutes of the day. But if the kids love it, they’ll really love it. You could do this easily by pushing a few of the afternoon shows that run later into those 5:30PM to 7PM slots. You could do the same to fit in some character greetings.
Night Time at Animal Kingdom
When evening rolls around at Animal Kingdom, many things will have started to close. Both the zoological trails close early (usually between 4PM and 5PM). Several shows have their last performances in the 5PM to 7PM range, and several rides close before 8PM.
On this day, I still had a FastPass+ for Rivers of Light. Emily came over and we grabbed dinner at Satu’li Canteen (mobile order) after watching a bit of Burudika’s 6:30PM performance.
We were a little late for our Rivers of Light FastPass+ (it closed at 7:30PM) and they let us walk in without tapping. The show began at 7:45PM and ended right at 8PM.
We were pleasantly surprised to find out we had a full hour left to enjoy at the park. Disney parks after closing hours can be hit or miss, with different lands getting roped off at different times. Walking along the backside of the park, we caught two Tree of Life Awakenings shows. While Cast Members were directing people away from the Africa and Asia lands, we were able to walk right into Pandora from the Discovery Island entrance.
We spent an hour enjoying Pandora at night, even getting to see an unlisted performance by the Pandora Drummers at 8:30PM. Around 9PM, we headed out of the park, grabbed a few shots of the Tree of Life, and hopped in our Uber.
Animal Kingdom One Day Itinerary - Conclusions
I intentionally tied my hands a bit on this day in order to mimic someone coming in with a bit less preparation. I did make one FastPass+ modification, but it was a straightforward change to a ride that had plenty of open slots during the day.
With tap/grab/modify, I probably would have more easily fit the major rides in by 11AM, or at least I wouldn’t have had to worry about fitting them into the morning.
Similarly, if I’d put the work into getting a Kilimanjaro Safaris FastPass+ in advance, I would have saved myself that early morning decision. Then again, I could also have just walked onto the ride at dusk.
Overall, I was very happy with how the day went. I had a good 90 minutes free at the end, but that just served to show that a more reasonably paced family can pack a comfortably full day into Animal Kingdom. This is definitely not a half-day park, but it isn’t a challenge to put together a satisfying, complete single day, either.
My Final Animal Kingdom One-Day Itinerary
Here’s my final itinerary for the day:
8:27AM Through Turnstiles
8:33AM in Flight of Passage Line (posted 60 minutes)
9:20AM off Flight of Passage
9:30AM in line for Kilimanjaro Safaris (25 minute posted)
Modify Kali River Rapids FastPass+ to Expedition Everest 10:50AM
9:47AM on Kilimanjaro Safaris
10:15AM off Kilimanjaro Safaris
10:22AM line for Kali River Rapids (10 minute posted)
10:32AM off Kali River Rapids
10:42AM arrive at DINOSAUR (20 minute posted)
10:59AM off DINOSAUR
11:02AM arrive at Finding Nemo The Musical (11AM show)
11:37AM done with Nemo
11:43AM tap onto Expedition Everest (posted 40 minute wait)
11:52AM off Expedition Everest
12PM to 12:45PM Lunch and coffee while watching Tam Tam Drummers and Karo Tinga Tinga in Harambe
1PM Pandora Utility Suit show
1:06PM tap on Na’vi River Journey
1:20PM off Na’vi River Journey
1:30PM watch Pandora Drummers
1:45PM watch Winged Encounters
1:57PM arrive at Festival of the Lion King (2PM show)
2:33PM exit Lion King
2:36PM arrive at It’s Tough to Be a Bug
2:51PM exit Bug
3PM watch Viva Gaia
3:19PM arrive at Primeval Whirl (10 minute posted)
3:28PM off Primeval Whirl
3:30PM arrive at TriceraTop Spin (10 minute posted)
3:37PM off TriceraTop Spin
4PM watch Harambe Acrobats
4:30PM watch Burudika
4:55PM arrive at Up! A Great Bird Adventure (5PM Show)
5:28PM leave up
Break time / dinner / explore park
7:32PM arrive for Rivers of Light (no tap required)
7:45PM Rivers of Light begins
8PM exit Rivers of Light
8PM Official Park Closing Time
8:05PM watch Tree of Life Awakenings
8:30PM watch Pandora Drummers
9PM Exit Park