Complete Guide to Disney Animal Kingdom Rides And Shows

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This is our guide to the rides, attractions, and entertainment at Disney's Animal Kingdom park. Our loyal fan knows that Animal Kingdom is our favorite park at Walt Disney World, and as a result this is our most detailed ride guide.

If you're looking for Fastpass+ information, we have a separate post covering our Walt Disney World Fastpass+ strategy and a post dedicated to Fastpass+ at Animal Kingdom.

We're going to cover traditional rides and attractions first (starting with the best, must-ride attractions), before we get to spaces to explore and then entertainment. It's really important to understand, though, that we think very highly of the entertainment and exploration offerings at Animal Kingdom.

Honestly, most of the time we visit we cover the four best attractions at the park and spend the rest of our day (our FULL day) taking in the entertainment and exploring the rest of the park. So don't ignore the bottom half of the list thinking it's just filler.

Some items are tricky to place. Festival of the Lion King is sort of an attraction (it has Fastpass+), but Disney lists it as "Entertainment." But we wind up listing it as one of our best "rides." Anyways, the way this list breaks down is...

Despite being really long, this list isn't totally exhaustive. There are several animal encounters that we don't list, some of which aren't even listed on the app or times guide, they just pop up. Similarly, characters can pop up, and if you're interested in seeing them you should check the "Characters" section of the My Disney Experience app.

Finally, while we're going to do our best to keep this guide up to date, the entertainment offerings at Animal Kingdom can change. You should always check the My Disney Experience app and the times guide for the most current offerings. The guide also doesn't list temporary closures or refurbishment.

The Best Rides at Animal Kingdom

There are three rides and two shows that we consider the best at Animal Kingdom. There are our "must-do" attractions for a day at Animal Kingdom.

 

Avatar Flight of Passage

Land: Pandora - The World of Avatar
Height: 44 in / 112 cm
Type: Thrill / Screen

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Until Star Wars Land (i.e. Galaxy's Edge) opens in 2019, Avatar Flight of Passage is indisputably the best ride at Walt Disney World. It isn't our favorite ride at Animal Kingdom, but there's no doubting its a marvel of modern ride design that captures perfectly the essence of the park.

Riding It: There are three ways to get on Flight of Passage. You can wait three (or more) hours in the middle of the day. You can arrive at the park 30 minutes before open for rope drop and keep your wait under half an hour. Or you can get a Fastpass+ reservation for it.

Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

Land: Asia
Height: 44 in / 112 cm
Type: Thrill / Roller Coaster

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Expedition Everest is a roller coaster experience unlike any other. While many will start by discussing the rides queue, the ride really stands out as you walk through the park, crossing bridges and catching sight of it in the distance. The Forbidden Mountain looms large even from a distance. And then there is the queue, which is filled with authentic design and artifacts reflecting the Nepalese and Tibetan relationships with the Yeti.

Finally, there is the ride itself. Despite featuring a "broken" Yeti effect that, let's face it, probably won't ever get fixed, the ride is one of Disney's best thrill rides. It's not for the faint of heart though, and notably is the only ride our thrill-hating friend said she'd never go on again at Walt Disney World.

Riding It: We typically head to Everest early in the day, after Pandora and Kilimanjaro Safaris. It can be a good use of Fastpass+, although the queue is worth up to a 20-minute wait. There's also a single rider line if you want to ride again without a long wait.

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Land: Africa
Height: Any
Type: Slow Ride

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Kilimanjaro Safaris is a truly unique ride: a meandering ride through the landscapes of Africa with real animal sightings along the way. At one time, Disney loaded it with a convoluted plot. They've since simplified the concept, although the remains of the old days are a bit scattered, mostly in the queue.

Either way, the chance to ride among the animals in their natural habitats is not to be missed. This is a ride that is different every time. Whether you get stuck for 10 minutes behind a zebra or have your guide awkwardly leave it to parents to explain what the giraffes were doing (er, "making a baby"), the ride will be beautiful and unexpected.

Riding It: Kilimanjaro Safaris is best early in the morning or near dusk (but not at night). The animals aren't as active with the sun beating down on them from 10AM through 4PM. Typically, we head here right after finishing our morning in Pandora.

It's Tough To Be A Bug

Land: Discovery Island
Height: Any
Type: 3D Show / Scary Moments

This is maybe a controversial pick for the best rides at Animal Kingdom, but the reasoning is straightforward. First, it's just a great attraction. While most probably expect a straightforward 3D show featuring Flick, the show comes with a few surprises sure to scare some and entertain all.

Beyond that, the show usually has a short wait of 20 minutes or less. The actual show time is 8 minutes, and your actual wait is rarely longer than 10 minutes. Finally, it actually has a nice lesson that it imparts without to much preaching.

Watching It: Squeeze it in at any point in the day. If the wait exceeds 10 minutes, try to grab a day-of Fastpass+.

Festival of the Lion King

Land: Africa
Height: Any
Type: Live Performance

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Festival of the Lion King is an awesome, 30-minute musical and acrobatic Lion King show. We're big fans of this show, not only because of our nostalgic connection to The Lion King, but because of the great acrobatics the show offers.

Watching It: You can sometimes squeeze into a show right at start time and you'll have seats in the back. Using Fastpass+ is a good way to get premium seating. Alternatively, grab some food and get in line 20 - 30 minutes before the show. You can eat in line as long as you finish before you enter the theater.

 

The Rest of the Rides at Animal Kingdom

Na'vi River Journey

Land: Pandora - The World of Avatar
Height: Any
Type: Boat

Confession: last time I rode Na'vi River Journey I just about cried. It is that beautiful. It's an all-ages offering in the form of a boat ride through Pandoras wildlife. The imagineering involved is absolutely stunning, and really no full day at Animal Kingdom would be complete without the ride.

So why doesn't it make our "best-of  Mostly on technicalities and practicalities. The wait can be a bit excessive for a boat ride, even a beautiful one. As a Tier 1 Animal Kingdom Fastpass+ ride, you'd have to sacrifice a Flight of Passage Fastpass+ to schedule it ahead of time. Typically we advise all Animal Kingdom visitors to visiting one Pandora ride at rope drop and get a Fastpass for the other.

Riding It: Use a Fastpass+ for one Pandora ride and rope drop the other. Na'vi River Journey is usually easier to get a Fastpass+ for, even while in the park, but the wait for Flight of Passage gets up to an hour right when the park opens some days.

DINOSAUR

Land: DinoLand U.S.A.
Height: 40 in / 102 cm
Type: Thrill / Dark

If there's a ride in Animal Kingdom that just hasn't aged well technologically, it's DINOSAUR. The technology is borrowed from the Indiana Jones ride in Disneyland. A 12-person vehicle powers through the bumps and jerky turns of the jungle in search of a specific dinosaur, hoping to track it down before a meteor strike kills most life on the planet.

It's worth riding, but the ride feels dated. The timing is very clunky. Animatronics that once shocked and awed now seem like they'd be more at home on the Jungle Cruise. Things just feel a bit...off.

Riding It: Along with Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris, ride DINOSAUR in the morning time after you've finished Pandora while the ride is mostly a walk-on.

Kali River Rapids

Land: Asia
Height: 38 in / 97 cm
Type: Thrill / Water Ride

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Kali River Rapids is probably the worst of the Disney raft rides worldwide. You will get wet, so be prepared for that. If you want to know how wet, there are bridges that overlook the ride both near the start of the queue and at the ride's exit (past the Kali River Rapids entrance, take a right at Maharajah Jungle Trek).

The queue is great and lays the foundation for a story that sort of makes its way into the ride, but beyond that there's little to speak of. The ride itself is actually painfully short, especially for the two-hour wait time you'll occasionally see.

Riding It: In no circumstance would we wait more than 30 minutes for this ride. If you have to ride it and cannot get a Fastpass+, head toward it at the end of the day. If you want to beat the heat, try and use a Fastpass+ reservation in the middle of the day.

UP! A Great Bird Adventure

Land: Asia
Height: Any
Type: Live Show

This show recently replaced Flights of Wonder. We actually haven't had a chance to see it yet, but we've heard it's a little worse than Flights of Wonder is, but the same concept: birds performing some tricks as part of an otherwise uninteresting narrative. If you've seen it, let us know what you think in the comments!

Finding Nemo - The Musical

Land: Dinoland U.S.A.
Height: Any
Type: Live Show

We have friends who love Finding Nemo - The Musical and swear it is better than Festival of the Lion King. We don't really see it. If your kids love Finding Nemo, they'll probably have a great time at this show of music and (large-scale) puppetry. 

Primeval Whirl

Land: Dinoland U.S.A.
Height: 48 in / 122 cm
Type: Thrill / Kiddie Coaster

Primeval Whirl is one of those rides that kids will want to ride over and over and over while adults have to alternate or take lengthy breaks to recover. It spins, it jerks, it drops. We don't know many adults who genuinely love the ride. It's usually not too hard to get a Fastpass+ to this one at any point in the day. Fun fact: the ride is actually intended to be a spoof or carnival version of DINOSAUR.

TriceraTop Spin

Land: Dinoland U.S.A.
Height: Any
Type: Dumbo

This is a standard, Dumbo-type ("aerial carousel" is the technical term) ride. You sit in a Triceratops, spinning around a center as your vehicle moves up and down.

Wildlife Express Train

Land: Africa / Rafiki's Planet Watch
Height: Any
Type: Slow Ride

The Wildlife Express Train isn't so much a ride as it is the means of getting from Africa to Rafiki's Planet Watch (and back).

Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost

Land: Discovery Island
Height: Any
Type: Character Greeting

To see who is at this greeting, visit the "Characters" section of the app. Typically it is Mickey and Minnie.

Rivers of Light

Land: Multiple
Height: Any
Type: Nighttime Stadium Show

We think if you're willing to skip nighttime shows, you can skip Rivers of Light. We definitely don't think it's a "must skip," but we're aware of very few people who consider it a "can't miss." The show is 15 minutes, and although it's pretty it isn't really beautiful, and it certainly isn't thrilling. We have a general bias against nighttime shows, though, so don't make ours the only take you read.

If this were something you could simply stop and enjoy we'd be all about it. The problem, though, is that as a stadium show, lines will start to build long before the show begins and you often won't be able to get a seat without committing over an hour of time to the show. If you can catch a later showing on a "slow" day without having to wait in line beforehand, do that. Otherwise, just go enjoy the more impressive beauty of Pandora at night.

 

Exploration and Interactive Spaces at Animal Kingdom

As we emphasized above, we put these attractions down here for the sake of organization, not because we think they're worse than all the rides. We really find the highlight of Disney's Animal Kingdom to be the spaces to explore and the entertainment to watch, so we highly recommend setting some time aside for these attractions.

The Oasis Exhibits

Land: Oasis
Height: Any
Type: Exploration

Oasis is the first land you'll walk through at Animal Kingdom. Throughout are small animal exhibits. Since you'll probably be rushing to Pandora for your first ride when the park opens, we recommend coming back here for a quick stroll at some point later in the day.

Discovery Island Trails

Land: Discovery Island
Height: Any
Type: Exploration

We love the Discovery Island Trails. These trails surround the Tree of Life and most park visitors don't even notice them, except maybe when they pass through them leaving It's Tough to be a Bug!

While the trails do have a few animal exhibits throughout, the highlight is the tree of life and its roots, which are filled with animal engravings. On most days, the trails are quite serene, with only a few guests wandering about. This is a great place to come if you need a moment away from the crowds. 

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail

Land: Africa
Height: Any
Type: Exploration

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The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is one of two zoo-like animal trails in Disney's Animal Kingdom (the other is the Maharajah Jungle Trek). Gorilla Falls features gorillas, birds, zebras, and a few other animals. Plan about 30 minutes to get through this trail.

Maharajah Jungle Trek

Land: Asia
Height: Any
Type: Exploration

Another zoo-like trail, this time featuring tigers. You can probably get through this one a little quicker than Gorilla Falls, probably in about 20 minutes.

The Boneyard

Land: Dinoland U.S.A.
Height: Any
Type: Exploration / Interactive

The Boneyard is essentially a dig-site themed playground. Kids can run around, climb, go down slides, and even dig for a Wolly Mammoth in a sandpit (of fake, nonstick sand). It's worth a quick peek to enjoy some of the subtleties of the Disney design, though families might find it hard to pull kids away. 

Affection Section

Land: Rafiki's Planet Watch
Height: Any
Type: Interactive

Before we get to Affection Section specifically, let's talk about Rafiki's Planet Watch. As we said above, Rafiki's is connected to the rest of the park by the Wildlife Express Train. This means you're dedicating probably 30 minutes to waiting and getting to/from (30 minutes total) the land just to see any of the attractions there.

We're the type to fill a full day at Animal Kingdom without ever making it to Rafiki's Planet Watch. If the petting zoo really appeals to you, swing by. If you're not feeling Animal Kingdom enough to fill your day with the other offerings, it's unlikely that Rafiki's will offer you anything worthwhile.

Affection Section is a small petting zoo located in Rafiki's Planet Watch. 

Conservation Station

Land: Rafiki's Planet Watch
Height: Any
Type: Interactive / Exploration

Located at Rafiki's Planet Watch, Conservation Station is a real hit or miss. Basically, it's a small, conservation themed educational space. You'll sometimes see vets working or some cool animal encounters, but sometimes there's nothing much at all going on. 

Wilderness Explorers

Land: Park-wide
Height: Any
Type: Exploration / Interactive

Wilderness Explorers is a park-wide interactive attraction for guests of all ages. Basically, you get a book and visit different Wilderness Explorers stations throughout the park to earn badges from troop leaders (cast members). This is definitely worth the 5 minutes it will take to start, and if your family decides it's worth the time, it can be a great way to fill some down time in the park, especially when ride lines get long.

 

Entertainment at Animal Kingdom

We already covered the three main pieces of entertainment at Animal Kingdom, the live stage shows Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo - The Musical and the nighttime show, Rivers of Light. In this section, we're going to briefly cover the rest of the entertainment at Animal Kingdom.

This entertainment is overlooked way too often by Disney World guests, and it really is a lot of what makes Animal Kingdom a unique park. Since you can get through the attractions pretty easily in the morning, there is a lot of time available to enjoy the entertainment at Animal Kingdom, and we highly suggest you do so.

This section was last updated in June 2018. Offerings may change, and you should always check the My Disney Experience app for the latest offerings and schedule.

Entertainment in Africa

Africa is our go-to land for entertainment. If you ever need to track us down while we're at the parks to yell at us about telling you to skip Frozen and ride Gran Fiesta Tour, you can probably find us near Dawa Bar watching the shows in Africa. The stage in Africa is located directly in front of the bridge from Discovery Island, near Dawa Bar, Tusker House, and Tamu Tamu Refreshments. A secondary stage (currently used by Karibu Sisters) is located on the other side of Harabe, between Zuri's Sweets Shop and Harambe Market.

No day at Disney's Animal Kingdom is complete without watching the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe. We sometimes arrive in the middle of a show just to enjoy the walk from Discovery Island into Harambe, letting the sound of the drums grow as we get nearer.

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Besides the great show itself, you'll have awesome people-watching (or the chance to be watched) and the drummer pull people into dancing as part of their performance. The Tam Tam Drummers are a morning show, currently alternating performances with Kora Tinga Tinga, a performance of an African kora.

As morning turns to afternoon, the Harambe Village Acrobats and Karibu Sisters take over. If you're fresh off watching Festival of the Lion King, the acrobats might not impress that much, but they're still an impressive team with some fun tricks. The Karibu Sisters are an a cappella trio who like to get some musical help from the kids in the audience.

Finally, it's time to finish your night off with one of Animal Kingdom's best offerings: Burudika. Burudika is an Afro-pop group that always draws a huge, festive crowd with their lively beats and dance moves.

Entertainment in Asia

Previously, Asia offered a small stage performance similar to those available in Africa, but that has since been cancelled. In part, the lack of entertainment in Asia makes it a good area to relax away from crowds later in the day.

Entertainment on Discovery Island

The Discovery Island stage is located across from Flame Tree Barbecue, just before the bridge to Dinoland U.S.A. Currently, that stage is only home to afternoon performances by Viva Gaia Street Band. Viva Gaia is a very energetic group, earning lots of audience participation in their shows.

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Throughout the day, you'll be able to catch Winged Encounters in front of the Tree of Life, just off to the left. Prior to mid-2018, this was a true "hidden gem" at Animal Kingdom, as it wasn't even listed in the times guide or app.

The nice thing about it being listed now is that you no longer have to guess when it will happen. This show is very short, less than five minutes, and consists entirely of a flock of parrots flying to a perch and then departing en masse shortly thereafter. 

Have your camera ready to go, preferably set to slow-motion mode, to catch some awesome shots when the parrots take flight.

On Discovery Island at night is Tree of Life Awakenings. Awakenings occurs with no set schedule in the latest hours of the park. Using projections, the Tree of Life is made to come to life. It's a very short but very cool bit of imagineering.

Entertainment in Pandora - The World of Avatar

Pandora currently has two entertainment offerings. First, there is Swotu Wayä Na'vi Drum Ceremony. This show occurs throughout the day at the Pandora drum circle. We found this to be the second worst of Animal Kingdom's entertainment offerings. The drums ring as incredibly inauthentic (because, you know, they're plastic alien drums...) and the performance just falls flat for us.

Second, there is the Pandora Utility Suit, which we consider the worst piece of entertainment in Animal Kingdom. Maybe one day we'll hear a kid go "COOOOOL!" and it will bring tears to our eyes and change our view of things, but until then...just...why?

Entertainment in Dinoland U.S.A.

Dinoland U.S.A.'s entertainment offerings are in their infancy, and we haven't had the chance to experience them yet. They're also not given detailed schedules in the app, so you might need to check the times guide or ask a cast member if you'd like to catch them.

Currently, the app lists Donald's Dino-Bash! as entertainment. Really, this is more of a land overlay, encompassing some design changes, character greetings, and the true show, Dino-Riffic Dance Party! As of this writing, that dance party is just schedule from 4PM to 8PM, weather permitting. 

All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered

Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way. If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.

When it comes time to book, we've got you covered with posts on how to book cheap flights, how to get the best deal on your Disney hotel, and where to find discount Disney World tickets.

Don't forget to master your Disney World Fastpass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides!

Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.