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Are you looking for a perfect 1-Day Animal Kingdom itinerary to outsmart the crowds and get the most out of your Walt Disney World vacation?
Need a summary of rope drop tips and info on how to plan your day in the park
Our 1-day Animal Kingdom itinerary highlights all of these topics and offers a step-by-step touring plan for an ideal day at Animal Kingdom.
For an absolutely perfect one day at Animal Kingdom, be sure to utilize these practical tips while taking time to enjoy the Disney ambiance that makes Animal Kingdom so special!
Important Notice: This 1-day Animal Kingdom itinerary has been updated many times over the past few years to reflect its ongoing changes.
It represents the permanement suspension of the Disney FastPass system and Disney Magical Express, as well as the additions of the Disney Genie, Disney Genie+, and Lightning Lane services.
The overall layout of the park has not not changed, however.
Therefore, our popular 1-day Animal Kingdom itinerary continues to serve as an excellent resource for planning your upcoming Disney World vacation!
Animal Kingdom Itinerary: Important Considerations
You can’t just wing it when it comes to planning a Walt Disney World vacation.
You can try to go without a plan, but you’ll probably end up being disappointed, especially if it’s your first visit.
Our Animal Kingdom itinerary makes it easy for you to get the most out of your visit by outlining the order you should visit rides and attractions.
It is the perfect strategy for those visiting Animal Kingdom for one day.
If you are visiting the park for a longer period of time, you may still take advantage of this plan, however.
When customizing your Animal Kingdom touring plan, be sure to stick to the general idea of having a solid rope drop strategy and overall itinerary that compliments the layout of the rides within the park.
This will maximize efficiency and decrease the amount of time spent standing in long lines.
My Quick Thoughts on Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane
Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) passes are Disney’s new ‘skip the regular’ line options that can be purchased in addition to your regular theme park entry.
Though it seems confusing at first, they’re actually quite easy to use if you do your research ahead of time.
When you only have one day at Animal Kingdom, I recommend that you purchase both Disney Genie+ and an Individual Lightning Lane pass for Avatar Flight of Passage (if your funds allow).
I also 100% recommend purchasing Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) passes when visiting the parks during the peak seasons of Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring Break, and 3-day weekend holidays such as President’s Day and Memorial Day – unless, of course, you don’t mind standing in line for 2 hours!
For guests who want to get on as many rides as possible, Disney Genie+ and Individual Lighting Lane purchases are well worth the added cost to avoid spending hours waiting in line.
With that said, let’s take a look at the first important steps required to plan a successful day at Animal Kingdom!
Animal Kingdom Itinerary: Initial Steps
- Check Animal Kingdom reservation availability.
- Purchase your theme park tickets.
- Make Animal Kingdom theme park reservations.
- Know Animal Kingdom’s park hours for the day of your visit.
- Consult an Animal Kingdom crowd calendar.
- Review the Animal Kingdom map.
- Make a list of ‘must-do’ rides and shows.
1. Check Theme Park Reservation Availability
Along with purchasing a theme park ticket, you need to make a theme park reservation for each day you’d like to visit any of the Walt Disney World theme parks.
This includes needing to make a reservation to visit Animal Kingdom.
It’s important that you start by checking Disney’s theme park availability calendar to see if the date(s) you plan to visit have availability before purchasing your ticket, Annual Pass, or vacation package – as park reservations do run out during peak seasons.
2. Purchase Theme Park Tickets
After ensuring reservation availability, purchase your Animal Kingdom tickets.
In my opinion, the easiest way to purchase a ticket to Magic Kingdom (or any of the Disney World theme parks) is to buy them directly from a Disney Travel Agent or from the Disney World website.
Others choose to buy them from an authorized ticket seller or discounted ticket site.
Be sure to stick with reputable third-party sellers, however, and verify that there are no hidden usage rules that apply.
Check here to read about the three different types of park tickets available: 1 Park Per Day, Park Hopper Option, and Park Hopper Plus Option.
3. Make Theme Park Reservations
Then, due to the limited availability of theme park reservations, make your reservation immediately after purchasing your admission ticket in order to guarantee your spot.
Theme park reservations can be made online on the Disney World website, or via the My Disney Experience mobile app.
4. Review Animal Kingdom Hours
Animal Kingdom hours vary by day, by month, and by season.
It is very important to check the Animal Kingdom hours for the day that you plan on visiting the park so that you can plan your Animal Kingdom itinerary accordingly.
The Animal Kingdom park hour calendar shows early entry hours and park hours, as well as the times of events, parades, fireworks, and nighttime entertainment.
Also, note that pretty much everything involving live animals at Animal Kingdom closes before sunset.
This means that Kilimanjaro Safari and all nature trails can close 2 – 3 hours before the rest of the park depending on the daily sunset.
Additional planning tip: Early theme park entry is a benefit for registered Guests staying at Disney Resort hotels and other select hotels.
It involves getting to enter Magic Kingdom and riding select rides 30 minutes before the park’s scheduled opening time.
5. Consult the Animal Kingdom Crowd Calendar
Our 1-day Animal Kingdom itinerary assumes moderate to high crowds at the park when lines are long.
In fact, this exact plan was utilized when crowds were rated 9/10 according to Touring Plans.
In order to accomplish this itinerary in a single day, some less popular attractions are skipped.
No matter when you visit, however, this Animal Kingdom touring plan is optimized and ordered so that walking and your waits in line are minimized.
Additional planning tip: If you are planning on visiting several Disney parks during your Orlando itinerary, we highly recommend alternating park days with non-park days.
Disney World non-park days offset the busyness of the crowds and help keep you fully energized!
6. Review a map of Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom is huge, in fact, it is four times bigger than Magic Kingdom and almost twice the size of EPCOT.
In order to prevent wandering around aimlessly, I recommend that you always review a park map and have a general idea of the park’s layout before going.
Animal Kingdom comprises six “lands” that form a large circle, with Discovery Island in the middle (as shown in the visual below).
The Animal Kingdom lands include:
- The Oasis
- Discovery Island (Home to the Tree of Life)
- DinoLand U.S.A.
- Pandora: The World of Avatar
When planning your Animal Kingdom itinerary, be sure to know what ‘must-do’ rides and shows are in which land, as the overall goal is to do as many rides as possible in each land before moving on to the next one.
This decreases the amount of time you will waste zig-zagging within the park.
It also cuts down on the amount of walking you will do throughout the course of the day.
Additional planning tip: In addition to this itinerary, don’t forget to consult helpful know before you go Disney tips to avoid preventable touring mistakes.
And last, double-check your Disney packing list to be sure that you have not left behind the top 9 most forgotten items to have with you in the park.
7. Make a list of ‘must-do’ rides and shows.
Animal Kingdom is a combination of rides, shows, nature trails, animal exhibits, and character meet-n-greets.
Though it is Disney World’s largest park, Animal Kingdom can definitely be done in one day when using a solid touring plan. (Some people with Park Hopper tickets only spend 1/2 day at Animal Kingdom – but I definitely recommend a full day if it is your first time visiting.)
Talk with your family or whoever you’re visiting with and make a list of your ‘must-do’ rides and attractions and be sure to allow time for them in your Animal Kingdom itinerary.
The most popular rides include Avatar Flight of Passage, Navi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safari, DINOSAUR, and Expedition Everest.
1 Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary
This app, which has always been helpful, is now essential.
You’ll use it to look at wait times, order quick-service food and make dining reservations, as well as access all Disney Genie digital services.
I also highly recommend installing the free Play Disney Parks app, as there are some great attraction-themed games, activities, and trivia that will keep kids busy while waiting in line.
Animal Kingdom Arrival
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is located off Osceola Parkway in the southwest corner of Walt Disney World.
It’s not far from Blizzard Beach, Coronado Springs Resort, and the All-Star Resorts.
Animal Kingdom has its own parking lot ($25/day parking fee) with close-in parking for the disabled.
Once parked, you can walk to the entrance or catch a ride on one of the parking lot trams.
The park is also connected to other Walt Disney World destinations by the Disney bus system.
If you’re staying at a Disney resort and plan to arrive at Animal Kingdom before the official park opening, definitely plan on using Disney transportation rather than taking your own car.
Note: Disney Skyliner is only available from various resorts to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios and does not service Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom Park Entry
We recommend getting to the park turnstiles 45-60 minutes prior to the scheduled park opening, especially on projected busy days.
The act has long been known as ‘rope drop’.
Rope drop involves getting to Animal Kingdom before it begins operating for the day so that you can be among the very first guests to enter and enjoy the attractions.
It essentially means only having a small wait at your first ride, and then having 1 hour to ride rides with the shortest lines of the day.
In other words, the same four rides you experience in 1 hour upon rope dropping can take as long as 5 hours after 10:30 AM.
The following tips will help you make the most of rope drop at Animal Kingdom:
AnimalKingdom generally allows guests through the turnstiles anywhere from 30-60 minutes prior to its official opening depending on the time of year and expected crowd.
- After walking through the Oasis there will be a rope manned by cast members preventing guests from entering the different entrances into each of the lands.
- You’ll be able to tell which one is the path to Pandora because 95% of the guests will be there.
- If you want to Rope Drop Avatar Flight of Passage, you should arrive 60-75 minutes prior to opening as wait times accumulate immediately if you are not in the first 10% of the crowd.
- Avatar Flight of Passage often begins operating 15-30 minutes before the park officially opens, however, other attractions do not begin running until park opening.
- Immediately at park opening, cast members remove the ropes (hence the name “rope drop”) allowing you to walk briskly, but not run, to whatever land/attraction you desire.
- If you truly want to ride without a wait, be as close to the front of any waiting rope drop crowd as you can. After rope drop, instant waits of up to 60 minutes for popular attractions will form.
- The best Animal Kingdom Rope Drop Strategies can be found here.
Animal Kingdom Rides: Morning Plan
The following 1-Day Animal Kingdom itinerary assumes a 9 AM park opening without the early entry benefit for onsite guests.
We also do not factor in Disney Genie+ reservations as not everyone uses Genie+, and for those who do, every ride choice and return time is different making it impossible to create a universal touring plan.
Adjust the times accordingly if you’re visiting when there’s a different park opening time.
7:00 AM: Purchase Individual Lightning Lane Passes (if you choose). Set your alarm to go onto your My Disney Experience app to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane pass for Avatar Flight of Passage.
8:15 AM: Park arrival. Go through bag check and
9:00 AM: Official Park Opening. Head for your first ride as listed below.
Morning Rides and Attractions Schedule
If you get to Animal Kingdom around or before the official park opening time, the first stop of your day needs to be Pandora – World of Avatar.
Do Avatar Flight of Passage first, and Navi’ River Journey second.
(If you have time at the end of the day, head back to Pandora – World of Avatar to experience it at night.)
Once arriving in Pandora in the morning, ride:
1. Avatar Flight of Passage
2. Navi’ River Journey
Wait times for both World of Avatar attractions peak within the first two hours once the park is open, so if you aren’t entering right at the park opening, save both Pandora rides until the end of the day.
Next, head to:
4. Kali River Rapids (Beware. You will get wet on this ride!)
5. Feathered Friends in Flight! (35-minute outdoor bird show)
6. Maharajan Jungle Trek (A not-to-miss outdoor nature trail; explore for 30 minutes)
7. Expedition Everest
Animal Kingdom Rides: Afternoon Plan
Animal Kingdom does not have a daily parade, but instead, they have frequent ‘cavalcades’ of characters on the Discovery River (Animal Kingdom’s waterway that circles the center of the park.)
The cavalcades usually run about every 15 minutes or so and their exact times can be viewed on the app.
Cavalcades are a shorter version of a parade in which characters appear, wave, and entertain guests. At Animal Kingdom, the characters are riding on boats called “Flotillas”.
With that said, once you get off Expedition Everest and have lunch, rest your stomach while sitting on the gigantic bleachers (in front of Expedition Everest) and watch the floating Flotillas.
Then, catch an afternoon showing of A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King.
This is a very popular show and draws large crowds, so be sure to plan ahead and get in line early.
Afternoon Rides and Attractions Schedule
1. Watch the Flotillas from the bleachers near Expedition Everest
2. Watch Festival of the Lion King (30-minute theatrical experience)
3. Kilimanjaro Safaris (25-minute safari trek in a 36-passenger jeep)
4. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (An outdoor nature trail – explore for 20 minutes)
5. Rafiki’s Planet Watch (Board the Wildlife Express Train – 5 minutes each way – to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and visit Animal Kingdom’s Conservation Station. The last daily train departs from Harambe Station at 4:30 PM.)
6. Discovery Island Trail & Otter Grotto (An outdoor nature trail – explore for 15 minutes)
7. Visit the Tree of Life (Watch for the Winged Encounters that occur several times throughout the day near the Tree of Life – there are no set times.)
8. It’s Tough to Be A Bug (10-minute long animated film)
9. Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…And Beyond! (25-minute stage show)
10. Visit Pandora – The World of Avatar again at night!
There is no nightly fireworks show at Animal Kingdom.
The closest thing that Animal Kingdom has to a nighttime spectacular is the Tree of Life Awakenings, which is a light projection show that displays on the Tree of Life.
This usually starts around dusk each night and continues until shortly after park closing.
Animal Kingdom Dining
There are several amazing places to eat in Animal Kingdom that provide an opportunity to relax and refuel.
Between sit-down restaurants and quick-service walk-up counters, the choices are endless.
Our absolute favorite quick-service service restaurant (no reservations required) is Flame Tree BBQ located on Discovery Island. There’s tons of shaded outdoor seating overlooking the lagoon – and you absolutely have to try the Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork!
If you want to splurge, try to snag advanced reservations at Tiffins – the most popular table-service restaurant at Animal Kingdom.
If you’re visiting Disney World on a budget, however, consider ‘snacking’ your way around the park, instead of spending big bucks on Disney dining.
Some of our favorites include the Night Blossom slushie and Pongu Lumpia from Pongu Pongu inside Pandora and of course, Dole Whip or the Simba Sunset from Tamu Tamu.
*Click here for our exclusive FREE Family Vacation Packing List and BONUS Disney Day Bag Packing List to complement your Disney vacation!
Best Hotels for Animal Kingdom
The proximity of onsite hotels to the theme park entrance, and the Disney theme and customer service that carries over to their hotels is a major enhancement to the overall Disney experience.
As with all major theme parks in Florida (Check out our review of on-property locations at Universal Studios), we strongly recommend staying at a Disney hotel or resort if you can afford the more expensive cost of their hotels.
It’s also very convenient if you have younger kids and might need to take a break in the afternoon for a nap or a swim in the pool.
For families with older children who plan for their day from rope drop to park closing, proximity to the park might not be as important.
Therefore, you might want to check out off-site hotels for lower nightly rates.
Hotel Types at Disney World
Hotels at Walt Disney World are broken up into three categories- Deluxe, Moderate, and Value.
This categorization is in relation to their amenities and their nightly room rates. (Deluxe being the most luxurious and expensive, Value being the most basic and affordable.)
Disney also offers onsite Deluxe Villas and campgrounds.
Most guests consider Disney’s Deluxe Hotels as being a bit more luxurious as they offer more amenities, beautiful rooms, and truly immersive experiences.
The perks of Disney’s Deluxe Resort hotels include additional Disney transportation options, location to the theme parks, and larger standard room sizes.
Disney’s Deluxe Resort Hotels include:
- Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Boardwalk Inn
- Contemporary Resort
- Grand Floridian Resort & Spa,
- Polynesian Village Resort
- Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Additionally, the new Riviera Resort is considered a Deluxe Resort.
- Other select deluxe hotels include: Disney’s Dolphin and Swan hotels, and Swan Reserve
Disney’s Moderate Resort hotels typically include a full-service restaurant in addition to food courts, a swimming pool with a slide and hot tub, recreation options, and some forms of Disney transportation.
Specifically, at the Caribbean Beach Resort, you can take the Skyliner to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and you can take a boat from Fort Wilderness Resort to Magic Kingdom.
Disney’s Moderate Resorts include:
- Caribbean Beach Resort
- Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- Coronado Springs Resort
- Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
Disney’s Value Resorts are known to be the most budget-friendly.
The standard rooms at the Value Resorts are typically slightly smaller in size, with fewer amenities than you’ll find at the Moderate or Deluxe Resorts.
Each Value Resort includes an onsite food court, two or more swimming pools, and Disney transportation via bus.
In addition, Disney’s Skyliner now offers aerial transportation from a shared station between Pop Century and Art of Animation to Caribbean Beach, where guests transfer to either Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Disney’s Value Resort Hotels include:
- Pop Century Resort
- All-Star Music Resort
- All-Star Movies Resort
- Art of Animation Resort
1 Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary: Conclusion
In conclusion, this Animal Kingdom itinerary was the perfect combination of rides, attractions, and shows.
We felt like we did it all!
Every parent knows their kids’ limits, as well as knows what touring plan is going to work for their family, however.
This includes deciding on attractions that you can skip, versus must-do rides.
In our opinion, this is the perfect Animal Kingdom touring plan…we hope you think so too!
If you liked reading our Animal Kingdom Itinerary, continue planning your Walt Disney World vacation with us!
Disney World Touring Plans:
- 1-Day Magic Kingdom Itinerary: 2024 Touring Plan
- 1-Day Hollywood Studios Itinerary: 2024 Touring Plan
- One Day Itinerary for Epcot: 2024 Touring Plan
Disney World Ride Tips:
- Disney World Magic Kingdom Wait Times (Longest and Shortest Lines)
- Top 5 Rides for Toddlers at Magic Kingdom
Disney World Planning Tips:
- The 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Our First Disney Vacation
- Disney Packing List: 9 Things You Can’t Forget
- 7 Things to do on a Disney World Non-Park Day
- Best Off-Site Hotel Near Disney World, Orlando
- Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue: Our Complete Guide
Disney World Cost:
- Disney World Cost Calculator: How Much Will it Cost?
- How to Save Money At Disney World: 15 Ways We Saved Big
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*