If you’re wondering what the best rides are at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we’ve got you covered! Disney’s Animal Kingdom is quite a unique theme park, blending the classic Disney magic seamlessly with the natural world and, of course, the animal kingdom. The park highlights the wonder of the animal world, but also celebrates nature, culture, and conservation. There are plenty of animals to see at Animal Kingdom, but let’s not forget that this is first and foremost a theme park. Let’s talk about the best Animal Kingdom rides.
Although Animal Kingdom may be relatively light on the number of attractions, compared to other parks in Disney World, there is still lots to do and experience. With many great options to choose from, it can be tough to prioritize your day at the park. That’s where we can help!
As we delve into this article on the best Animal Kingdom rides, we will explore each attraction, and see how it stacks up against the rest. This way you know the ins and outs of each ride to make your selections. There are plenty of rides at the park that will appeal to everyone in the family. From innovative technological thrills and high-speed roller coasters to rides that bring you up close to live animals, there is much to love about Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. Before we jump into the ranking best Animal Kingdom rides, let’s cover the basics of the park.
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Best Animal Kingdom Rides: About Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Nestled within the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, Disney’s Animal Kingdom stands out for its unique blend of entertainment, education, and wildlife conservation. The park opened in 1998 and covers over 500 acres. It is the largest Disney park by acreage and one of the largest in the world, mainly due to the safari ride and its expansive walking trails – more on those to come. Animal Kingdom is not just a park with rides and show entertainment, but a place that aims to inspire its visitors to appreciate and protect the animals and nature that share our planet.
Animal Kingdom Lands
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is broken into lands, similar to most Disney Parks, each with its own unique theme and spin on the animal world. These lands include the following:
- Oasis: This is the entry point to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and features tranquil gardens, waterfalls, and small animal habitats that provide a serene welcome for visitors.
- Discovery Island: The hub that serves as the central point of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, with the iconic Tree of Life.
- Pandora – The World of Avatar: A mesmerizing land where guests are transported to Pandora from the popular movie Avatar. Not only does this area have two popular rides, but it has immersive theming with bioluminescent flora and floating rockscapes that are breathtaking at night.
- Africa: This land explores the culture and animals of the African continent, offering a taste of the savanna with amazing wildlife attractions.
- Asia: From ancient temples to exotic wildlife, this land invites adventurers to explore the Asian continent.
- DinoLand U.S.A.: A whimsical land that features a dino-themed, carnival-style area. It also has a feature ride based on the Disney Movie, Dinosaur.
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch: A conservation-focused area dedicated to animal care and well-being. It offers behind-the-scenes glimpses into the park’s veterinary facilities and provides opportunities to meet favorite Disney characters.
Best Animal Kingdom Rides: How We Chose Our Rankings
Now that we’ve acquainted ourselves with the park, it’s time to dive into the heart of the article – exploring the best rides Animal Kingdom has to offer! For this ranking, we’ve looked at a few factors including popularity, thrill level, and overall fitting with the park’s theme. In addition to ranking the rides, this article will also take a look at the amazing show entertainment offered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, we won’t rank the rides against the shows, as this wouldn’t be too fair. So get ready and let’s jump into the first one up on our list of best Animal Kingdom rides!
Best Animal Kingdom Rides: The Rankings
#1 – Avatar Flight of Passage
Opening Date: May 27, 2017
Height Requirement: 44” (112 cm)
Coming in at number one is the exhilarating attraction, Avatar Flight of Passage, located within the land of Pandora – The World of Avatar. This groundbreaking ride takes guests on a breathtaking flight, allowing them to join the Na’vi and soar through the world of Pandora on the back of a banshee. Upon entering the attraction, guests are transported to the Avatar Program’s research facility, where they undergo a transformation into their own Avatar. Riders are then equipped with 3D glasses and straddle a seat, specially designed to simulate riding their own banshee. If you are someone who doesn’t like feeling constrained in a ride’s vehicle, I’d recommend trying the test vehicle outside the ride queue before waiting in line. The vehicle has you sitting in a motorcycle-like position and has calf and back pads that come up to lock you in place. This shouldn’t be a problem for most but is worth mentioning for those with fears of being constrained.
As the journey begins, you are swept away on a breathtaking flight through the vibrant and awe-inspiring landscapes of Pandora. The ride has you soaring over forests, by cascading waterfalls, and encountering the many “animals” that inhabit this mystical world. The immersive 3D technology, combined with the incredible motion simulation, creates an unparalleled sense of realism, making you feel every dip and dive as if you were truly flying.
Avatar Flight of Passage has quickly become one of the most popular attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and it is easy to see why. Its cutting-edge technology and immersive storytelling make it one of the most enjoyable and thrilling rides. For me, The World of Avatar Land does blend Disney intellectual property with the Animal Kingdom theme well, even if the world of Pandora is make-believe. The movies promote the same message of natural and animal conservation that the park centers around. So for all the reasons above, it tops the list of best Animal Kingdom rides. Given its popularity, expect long wait times, which can sometimes reach two to three hours during peak seasons. So be prepared to get to this one early or purchase a Lightning Lane pass. However you do it though, this ride is not to be missed!
#2 – Kilimanjaro Safaris
Opening Date: April 22, 1998
Height Requirement: None
Next up we have the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride, located in the African land section of the park. This expedition has guests board an open-air, off-road vehicle that takes you into the heart of the African savanna. This is truly a unique opportunity to encounter the wildlife of Africa up close, all while still in central Florida.
During the Kilimanjaro Safaris, you will have the chance to see a variety of animals from different regions of Africa. Among them are elephants, giraffes, lions, hippos, ostrich, and antelope, each with their own unique habitat that mimics their natural surroundings. The safari guides, who are highly knowledgeable and passionate about wildlife conservation, provide commentary throughout the journey. They share interesting facts about the animals, their behaviors, and the conservation efforts taken to protect the different species. Each ride can be quite unique, as the animals roam freely throughout the reserve. This unpredictability makes for an attraction that is fresh each time you ride along. If you can, try to ride early in the morning or early in the evening for animals at peak activity.
Given the ride is relatively slow, has no height requirement, and has live animals, it makes for the perfect family-friendly attraction. Everyone in your party, especially kids, will love seeing the animals up close and personal. Kilimanjaro Safaris is also the only ride that features live animals and therefore fits the theme of the Animal Kingdom perfectly. For those reasons, it ranks very high on our list.
#3 – Expedition Everest
Opening Date: April 7, 2006
Height Requirement: 44” (112 cm)
In the Asia section of the park, Expedition Everest stands tall and comes in at number three on the list of best Animal Kingdom rides. This attraction is a high-speed, high-trills rollercoaster that takes you on a journey through the Himalayan mountains to find the legendary Yeti. The ride’s exterior facade is a marvel and the queue immerses you in the story of the mythical Yeti. It contains prop artifacts and a museum showcasing that details the urban legend of the monster. Once you board the train vehicle, you will be taken on a wild ride through the mountain, with dark tunnels and many twists and turns. You may even run into some unexpected trouble along the way and encounter a surprise at the end!
Expedition Everest has become one of the most popular attractions in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Its thrilling nature makes it a must-do for anyone that loves roller coasters and big thrills. The immersive theming and storytelling is exactly what you’d expect the Imagineers at Disney to cook up. The popularity of the attraction can result in longer wait times, especially during peak seasons. But, the wait is well worth it for the exhilarating experience that awaits. Expedition Everest is a standout attraction in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s for those reasons that it ranks in the top 3 of best Animal Kingdom rides. Plus, if you want to see how all the coasters in Walt Disney World rank, be sure to check out our guide for that, too!
#4 – Dinosaur
Opening Date: April 22, 1998
Height Requirement: 40” (102 cm)
Dinosaur is a fast-paced dark ride located in the DinoLand U.S.A. section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This prehistoric adventure takes guests on a mission to rescue an Iguanodon from extinction. As you board a Time Rover, you will be transported back in time to the Late Cretaceous period. There you encounter a variety of dinosaurs in their natural habitats. The ride is filled with suspense, as you navigate through rough terrain and come across some friendly and some not-so-friendly dinosaurs.
One of the standout features of Dinosaur is its intense and fast-paced nature. The ride system is a large, ruggedized land rover that travels through different prehistoric scenes looking for the dinosaur of interest. There are thrilling elements such as sudden turns and near misses that keep guests on the edge of their seats. The dark environment and special effects add to the sense of adventure and danger. However, Dinosaur has gained a reputation as one of the more intense attractions in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While it offers a thrilling experience, it can be quite jerky and may not be suitable for certain individuals. Specifically, those who are sensitive to sudden movements, are prone to motion sickness or have a fear of dark spaces. The ride may also be a bit scary for young children.
Regardless, the combination of thrilling moments and lifelike dinosaurs makes Dinosaur a ride that should be relatively high on your list.
#5 – Na’vi River Journey
Opening Date: May 27, 2017
Height Requirement: none
The Na’vi River Journey is the second ride attraction in the land of Pandora -The World of Avatar. This mesmerizing boat ride takes guests on a peaceful cruise through the bioluminescent rainforests seen in the movies. It offers a unique opportunity to connect with the Na’vi culture. The attention to detail is top-notch, as the ride brings to life the vibrant colors and ethereal ambiance of Pandora.
The highlight of the Na’vi River Journey is undoubtedly the animatronic Na’vi Shaman of Songs. This larger-than-life figure at the end of the ride showcases fluid movements and expressive facial features. The Na’vi Shaman is really neat to see and showcases how advanced the animatronic technology has become over the years. If you want to see other amazing animatronics in Walt Disney World, we’ve got the best ones for you here!
The one con about Na’vi River Journey is that it lacks much of a storyline. It’s true, the ride showcases stunning visuals and has an innovative animatronic figure, but a decent storyline would have pushed this ride much higher on this list. It seems like Disney was content to rely heavily on the visual spectacle and ambiance of the environment rather than a structured plot. Because of this, it hails in comparison to the other attraction in this land, Avatar Flight of Passage. However, if you’re a fan of the Avatar film, then Na’vi River Journey will surely please. Given the tranquil and captivating nature, the adventure is perfect for guests of all ages.
#6 – Kali River Rapids
Opening Date: March 18, 1999
Height Requirement: 38” (97 cm)
Another ride in the Asia area of the park is Kali River Rapids. This ride will have you board a circular raft before you set off down the river adventure. It starts out quite tame, passing by lush greenery, waterfalls, and rock formations set in an Asian jungle. The ride then picks up and enters white water rapids before heading to a final 20’ drop that will surely leave you wet.
The ride offers a welcome break from the Florida heat and is always a fun time. However, if you aren’t looking to get wet, the ride is certainly not a recommendation. But, there are lockers located across from the entrance for any items that you don’t wish to bring on board. You may even want to wear a poncho or consider having a change of clothes. Kali River Rapids will usually have a shorter line in the morning hours but will start to pick up as the day gets hotter.
Kali River Rapids is usually not a high priority on our trips to the park unless it is really hot and we are looking to get a little, to very, wet. Also, the ride lacks any animal-specific theming and is more focused on the natural elements of the Asian jungle. For those reasons, it ranks a little bit lower on the list of best Animal Kingdom rides.
#7 – It’s Tough to be a Bug!
Opening Date: April 22, 1998
Height Requirement: none
It’s Tough to be a Bug! is a 4D movie experience located inside the iconic Tree of Life. The attraction takes you on a humorous journey through the ups and downs of bug life, with Flik from Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life” as your guide. The show includes special effects, including 3D glasses, audio-animatronics, and sensory surprises. The show’s clever combination of humor and educational messages about the importance of bugs in the natural world makes it enjoyable for both children and adults.
The queue for the ride has you walking under the massive Tree of Life and around its trunk. It’s here that you can see the intricate craftsmanship. The tree has over 300 intricate animal carvings on its trunk and branches, each representing a different species. If the show itself isn’t much of a draw, this up close visual of the tree is totally worth it.
The show runs continuously throughout the day on a 10-minute loop. Because of this, and the large theater, this ride rarely has a wait time. At most, you are typically just waiting for the next showing. It provides a welcome air-conditioned, seated break in the middle of those hot Florida days. However, it is not something we typically prioritize and, therefore, falls toward the bottom of this list.
#8 – TriceraTop Spin
Opening Date: April 22, 2001
Height Requirement: none
TriceraTop Spin is a spinning ride located in DinoLand U.S.A. Designed with young children in mind, this attraction resembles other classic Disney spinning rides like Dumbo the Flying Elephant or the Magic Carpets of Aladdin at Magic Kingdom. Kids can climb aboard their own colorful triceratops and spin around in circles, enjoying the gentle up-and-down motion.
The ride offers a joyful experience for the little ones, as they get to control the height of their triceratops by pulling on a lever. The dinosaur-themed decorations and cheerful music add to the overall charm of the attraction. Triceratops Spin provides a great opportunity for young children to feel the thrill of a ride while enjoying a fun and lighthearted experience.
Obviously, TriceraTop Spin is not a must-do attraction for everyone. While it’s perfect for families with young kids, it is not worth prioritizing if you have limited time or are seeking more thrilling experiences. For that reason, it falls last on the list of best Animal Kingdom rides.
Best Animal Kingdom Rides: Shows & Entertainment
Having explored the assortment of rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it’s time to shift our focus to the captivating shows that grace the park’s stages. These live performances showcase the talent, creativity, and storytelling prowess that Disney is renowned for. Unlike the rides, the shows have dedicated performance times and they are limited throughout the day. It is good to know which ones are a must-do for your traveling party and to plan rides and dining around the showtimes you wish to attend.
Festival of the Lion King
First up is the Festival of the Lion King, a 30-minute celebration of the Disney classic. The show takes place in the Harambe Theater in the Africa section of the park. The theater is set up in a square with four sections, representing Simba, Timon, Pumbaa, and the elephant herd. Each section features a large float with the aforementioned characters that come out at the start of the show. This high-energy spectacle isn’t just a live-action retelling, but rather a celebration of the movie with interpretive dance numbers, mesmerizing acrobatics, and fun audience engagement. This performance tops this list and should definitely be added to your Animal Kingdom itinerary.
Next, we take flight with Feathered Friends in Flight, a delightful bird show that showcases the beauty and intelligence of various bird species. Located in the Caravan Theater between the Africa and Asia sections of the park, the show introduces guests to a diverse array of feathered friends. It is awesome to see the birds in action as they perform on stage but also as they swoop down and fly over the audience. The demonstrations provide educational insights allowing visitors to gain a deeper appreciation for these incredible animals. Now this show was one I was not expecting to enjoy as much as I did. Given the show features live animals and is not just a standard Broadway style retting of a Disney classic, makes it more unique and memorable. Adults and kids alike will enjoy this one.
Finding Nemo – The Musical
Lastly, we dive into the deep blue sea to enjoy Finding Nemo – The Musical. Inspired by Pixar’s animated classic, this Broadway-style show takes guests on a musical adventure alongside Marlin, Dory, and, of course, Nemo! The show combines life-size puppets and colorful sets with catchy original songs, bringing the famous characters and heartwarming story to life. Although it is very enjoyable, we just enjoyed the first two shows a bit more. However, you can’t go wrong and fans of the movie will delight in this show.
Best Animal Kingdom Rides: There’s Even More!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom not only offers thrilling rides and captivating shows but also provides a chance to explore nature up close with its two zoo-like walking trails. These trails provide a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the park, allowing visitors to appreciate the wonder of wildlife and nature up close. Budget at least 30 minutes for each of these trails to have enough time to take in all animals. Plan for more time if you’re an animal lover, or have young kids that will want to soak in the experience for longer.
Maharajah Jungle Trek
The first trail, Maharajah Jungle Trek, takes guests through Asian ruins as you encounter animals from the region. These include Asian tigers, Komodo dragons, Malayan flying fox, and over 50 bird species. The carefully designed habitats create an authentic atmosphere, immersing you in the animal diversity of Southeast Asia. As you walk along the trail, be sure to learn about conservation efforts through the informative displays and knowledgeable cast members.
Gorilla Falls Exploration Train
The second trail, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, transports you to the heart of Africa, offering a glimpse into the world of gorillas, meerkats, hippos, and other African wildlife. Our favorite was watching the Gorillas up close. They sometimes have young ones that are very playful, reminding you that they are not so different from us! The trail also provides educational opportunities to learn about animal behaviors, conservation efforts, and the importance of preserving African ecosystems.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a unique and educational experience dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation for wildlife. To reach Rafiki’s Planet Watch you will have to take the Wildlife Express Train from the station located in the Africa section of the park. Once at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, guests have the opportunity to explore various exhibits. The Conservation Station offers a look at the veterinary facilities where animal specialists provide insights into the care of the park’s residents.
In addition to the educational experiences, Rafiki’s Planet Watch provides opportunities for guests to meet some animal ambassadors and learn about their behaviors, habitats, and conservation efforts. Rafiki’s Planet Watch is definitely worth the trip if you have time to spare and wish to deepen your understanding of the animals at the park.
Best Animal Kingdom Rides: Final Thoughts
As we conclude our exploration of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we’ve given you a lot to think about. From the captivating rides, shows, and trails, there is no lack of options to fill up your day. There are exhilarating adventures on thrilling rides like Avatar Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest. There are mesmerizing performances of shows like Festival of the Lion King. And, there are unique ways to become one with the animal kingdom on the exploration trails and Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
Remember, the rankings provided here are subjective, and each attraction has its own unique appeal. Different attractions will cater to different guests based on interests, thrill level, and traveling party. So, as you plan your visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, be sure to prioritize the rides, shows, and attractions that resonate the most with you. We hope that this list of the best Animal Kingdom rides can help you along the way!
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