The last theme park on our trip to Disney World with little children is also the largest. Animal Kingdom with 500 acres dwarfs the other parks but not to worry about walking it, a large part of the park is taken up with a safari, a train ride and several lagoons so walking the park is not a problem. Animal Kingdom is not open as late as the other Disney World parks out of consideration to the animals. For that same reason there is no fireworks show at the Animal Kingdom.
As you make your entrance into Animal Kingdom be sure to have the kids’ picture taken with the South American tree frog outside the Rainforest Café. As a side note the Rainforest Café is not a Disney operated restaurant and if you are on a Disney dining plan it is not valid here.
Since we are traveling with little children we may want to make Camp Minnie-Mickey our first stop at the Animal Kingdom. But be forewarned you will be spending an inordinate amount of time there. Camp Minnie-Mickey is a character greeting paradise for little children. There are Greeting Trails for the kids to explore and each one takes them to an individual Disney character and it will be hard to pry the kids away from posing for pictures with and getting autographs from their favorite Disney characters. In addition there is an open air theater where there is a seemingly continuous series of shows that give the kids an opportunity to interact with and be a part of the show. On our trip in 2010 our grandchildren spent a full two hours in Camp Minnie-Mickey and even then didn’t want to leave it. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a large number of character greeting spots for the kids and you will likely spend a lot of time in them. Perhaps the reason there are a large number of character greeting spots in the Animal Kingdom is that there is only one character dining experience and that is for breakfast only at Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House restaurant.
After leaving Camp Minnie-Mickey stroll over to Discovery Island and the Tree of Life. 14 stories high and covered with carvings of 325 animals the Tree of Life and its trails will delight children who are fascinated with animals. Buried in the roots of the Tree of Life is a 3D movie - It’s Tough To Be a Bug. If your little children are freaked out by the 3D glasses and creepy crawly things this movie may not be for them.
Once the kids have tired of trying to identify all 325 animals on the Tree of Life head on over to Africa and the Kilimanjaro Safaris. This is the attraction in Animal Kingdom for which you will want to send your Fast Pass runner on ahead to get Fast Passes for your group. There are other Fast Pass attractions at Animal Kingdom but they are not well suited for little children. The Kilimanjaro Safari ride takes you through an African savanna where you may see all sorts of wild animals, including lions, elephants, giraffes, black rhinos and more. You most likely won’t see all the animals that make the Africa section of Animal Kingdom their home because they are pretty much free to roam as they please and may not feel like making an appearance when you are taking your ride through this area. But, at the same time you are likely to see different animals each time your take the safari and this adds an element of surprise to each trip.
As you exit the safari you will make your way through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. This was my favorite attraction at Animal Kingdom. I wanted to linger there and watch the fairly large troop of silverback gorillas, but my grandchildren kept nagging me to get moving so they could go to an under water viewing area where they could watch hippos swimming. There are many other animals and an aviary on the trail and it is a pleasant walk for young and old alike.
Next, board the Wildlife Express train which takes you to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. In Rafiki’s Planet Watch you will find Conservation Station which offers a behind the scene look at some of the animals and their care in Animal Kingdom. You may even get to pet a snake which I did for the first time in my life on our last trip. Also in Rafiki’s Planet Watch is Affection Section which not only features an opportunity for the kids to pet exotic animals but also listen to informative talks by many of Disney’s animal handlers. Also in this area is Habitat Habit where the kids will be entertained by the antics of cotton-top tamarins; a tiny and very active endangered primate.
While the Animal Kingdom doesn’t have fireworks it does have a rather nice afternoon parade: Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade. If you have somewhat followed my itinerary you might possibly exit Rafiki’s Planet Watch in time to see the parade as it winds its way around Animal Kingdom. It is a very nice parade and unlike the parades in the Magic Kingdom you don’t have to claim a spot two hours in advance. You do however have to be aware of just where you stand. Disney’s cast members who are handling crowd control for the parade actually tape off selected viewing areas for the parade. They are quite assertive about where you stand and may Mickey help you if you don’t stand within the lines.
After the parade the next land on our schedule is Asia. There are only two features in Asia that will be of interest to little children; the first of which is the Flights of Wonder show. It is an entertaining 25 minute show featuring exotic and some not so exotic birds performing a variety of tricks that will delight the kids. The show hours vary and the list of birds performing changes from show to show so check for show times upon entering the park.
The second item of interest to little children in Asia is the Maharajah Jungle Trek. It is a walking tour of southeast Asian wildlife. The most interesting of the animals that you will see on the tour are the Asian tigers and komodo dragons. It is not a long tour but it is a pleasant walk through some recreations of exotic southeast Asia ruins.
The other two attractions in Asia are thrill rides which are much too intense for little children. The first one is the Kali River Rapids ride which is a thrilling trip down a whitewater river in an oversized inner tube that seats eight. There is a 38” height requirement for this ride and almost everyone is guaranteed to get wet. You might want to think about putting on your Disney rain poncho if you do decide to go on the ride. You may look like a wimp but even though you might think it would be cooling to get wet on a day when the temperatures reach 100 degrees, I can tell you from experience that it is not fun to walk around in wet clothes the rest of the day. The other thrill ride in Asia is Expedition Everest-Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. It is a high speed, high altitude roller coaster that periodically plunges riders into darkness. With a 44” height requirement it is definitely not for little children. Both rides are Fast Pass rides with long lines during peak hours.
The last stop on our tour of the Animal Kingdom is DinoLand U.S.A.; the highlight of which is Finding Nemo - The Musical. It is a thoroughly entertaining stage show that will mesmerize little children and adults alike. Best of all it is air-conditioned which is a welcome treat on a hot summer day. I didn’t argue when my grandchildren wanted to see it two times in a row.
DinoLand has another treat in store for little children - The Boneyard. A fun filled play land for little children with a maze, slides and a dig site where the kids can uncover dinosaur bones. Best of all it has a shaded seating area for adults where you can rest as you keep an eye on the kids while they have fun.
Primeval Whirl in DinoLand is a spinning roller coaster ride with a 48” height requirement that is currently closed. It is scheduled to reopen in mid September of 2011.
Tricera Top Spin is a nice little ride for all ages that is quite similar to the Dumbo ride in the Magic Kingdom. Instead of going round and round in an elephant you get your thrills in colorful stylized dinosaurs.
DINOSAUR is an adventure ride in a time rover where riders are taken back to the cretaceous era and are confronted by dinosaurs at every turn: not for little children even if it didn’t have a 40” height limitation.
One final note before leaving the Animal Kingdom: I have found it to have the poorest food of any park in Disney World. On our last visit to Animal Kingdom we decided to just have a light breakfast and eat lunch at the park - big mistake! The fast food restaurant we chose for our meal was overcrowded, dirty, and the food was terrible. You might want to consider eating a good breakfast at your hotel or resort; just have a snack while in the park and maybe schedule a character dining experience at one of the other parks or go back to your resort for your evening meal.
This installment of my blog on Disney World with little children covered the last of the four theme parks in Disney World. In my next and final blog on our trip to Disney World with little children I will cover a couple other attractions briefly, go over some tips already presented and offer a few more tips that I hope will make your trip to Disney World with little children a memorable one.