Rookie Mistakes to Avoid at Animal Kingdom
Rookie mistakes at the various Walt Disney World parks are never good. Each little mishap reduces the amount of time you have to relish in all the wonderful aspects of a visit to the Most Magical Place on Earth. When you make a mistake at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, however, you could regret it for days afterward. This place is more spread out than any other themed park in North America. Bad plans or the wrong improvisational decision could leave you out of time and out of breath. You want to avert such potential disaster. Here are eight rookie mistakes to avoid at Animal Kingdom.
You Don’t Look at the Map before Making Plans
There are several mistakes listed here, but this one is by far the most important. I want to stress it so that you are aware of the situation. Animal Kingdom is MASSIVE. Let me put its size in terms that you can understand. Magic Kingdom is 107 acres in size, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is 135 acres, and Epcot is the largest of the three at 300 acres. Animal Kingdom alone is 580 acres. In other words, you can fit the entirety of the other three parks inside of Animal Kingdom’s perimeters.
When you walk around Magic Kingdom or Epcot, you may get tired after a while. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you may find that you’re physically exhausted and at the opposite end of the park from the exit. That’s a demoralizing feeling, my friend. I sadly speak from experience on this one, folks. For this reason, you’ll want to put some thought into your plans.
Take a look at the current map of Animal Kingdom. Note the position of the entrance, which isn’t right beside any themed land. It’s the only park at Walt Disney World where you aren’t immediately in a themed land when you enter. I’m not counting Oasis as a themed land since there’s virtually nothing there other than stores.
You’ll have to walk to reach the lands that have rides. That’s no big deal as long as you appreciate the lay of the land. The Africa and Asia sections are toward the back of the park. You shouldn’t make plans at these two sections at the start or end of the day. Otherwise, you’ll have to walk directly to these themed lands, and it’s exhausting. Trust me on this. Along those lines, ALWAYS wear comfortable shoes at Animal Kingdom. Otherwise, you’ll develop blisters and sore feet, potentially ruining your day at the park.
You Don’t Plan for the Heat
The climate at Walt Disney World is generally pleasant, save for a few overbearing days during the heart of summer. You should know that Animal Kingdom is a bit different, though. Most of the attractions are outdoors, and Disney built little overhead cover from the elements. Their decision is pragmatic since the animals prefer the outdoors anyway. It’s their natural habitat. It can cause problems for you, though.
When you visit Animal Kingdom on a hot day, you’ll feel the sun beating down on you. You should dress appropriately to make the situation more agreeable. Wear loose, light garments and avoid dark colors. Black absorbs heat, magnifying your discomfort. Also, wear shorter socks, preferably ankle cut ones that don’t cover your shins. In other words, just dress smart.
You Don’t Get FastPasses for Pandora
Prior to your trip, you should book your FastPasses for Animal Kingdom. Historically, the choices were simple. You’d select Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, and a third option like DINOSAUR or Kali River Rapids. Today, it’s even easier.
You’re going to want FastPasses for Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’Vi River Journey. Unfortunately, Disney has set up their system such that you have to pick one or the other. They’re both in the top tier, meaning that you’re limited to a single option prior to arrival. You should take Avatar Flight of Passage, which has a wait time of up to three hours even now.
Na’Vi River Journey is a more manageable 60-90 minutes most of the time. During your time at the park, however, you can check My Disney Experience to see when a FastPass opens for Na’Vi River Journey. While they’re irregular, cancellations do happen. Nothing prevents you from getting another top tier FastPass once you’ve used your first one. By ignoring FastPasses, you’re choosing to wait in line for both Avatar attractions, which will take up most of your day.
You Don’t Use Mobile Order
In 2017, Disney introduced Mobile Order as a more orderly way for Mickey Travelers to purchase food. The first restaurant to offer this service was Sa’tuli Canteen, the Quick Service eatery with authentic Pandoran cuisine. Their pods are delicious, and you can grab one quickly. Simply load the My Disney Experience app and choose the Mobile Order section. You can dine on the most interesting food at Animal Kingdom without waiting in line! It’s an efficient way to eat lunch, maximizing your park time.
You Don’t Eat at Yak & Yeti
I thoroughly recommend a Quick Service meal for breakfast or lunch. At dinner, however, you should treat yourself to the best meal at Animal Kingdom. As I’ve previously discussed, that restaurant is Yak & Yeti Café.
What’s unusual about this eatery is that it’s neither owned nor operated by The Walt Disney Company. The Landry Inc. group, the same organization that owns Morton’s Steakhouse and the Golden Nugget Casino, is in charge of Yak & Yeti. They share Disney’s dedication to customer satisfaction, however, and their menu reflects it. While Tusker House and Tiffin’s receive a great deal of acclaim, Yak & Yeti is the clear choice when you have only one dinner to spend at Animal Kingdom. Eat here and thank me later.
You Ignore Single Rider Line
Some of the most crowded attractions at Walt Disney World have Single Rider Line. Rather than everyone in your party standing in the regular line, a single person waits to get in a coaster cart that’s not full. From Disney’s perspective, it increases occupancy and ride throughput.
For you, Single Rider Line is basically a stripped down version of the line queue for the regular attraction. For example, at Test Track at Epcot, you get to do everything except build your own car. At Animal Kingdom, Expedition Everest is the only attraction that currently participates in Single Rider. You want to use it, though. All you’ll miss is the theming, a series of antiquities imported from Nepal, Tibet, and other Asian countries. Sure, this part is great, but it’s intended as a diversion during the line queue. In Single Rider Line, you skip most of the waiting and get on the ride much faster. Once you’re onboard, there’s absolutely no difference. You can ride Expedition Everest two or three times in the same space that you’re ordinarily need for the regular line. Make sure to use Single Rider, especially if you love the ride!
You Don’t Arrive Early or Stay Late
I recommend arriving at rope drop for all Walt Disney World parks. The moment when the park opens is the best time to head toward your favorite attraction, as the lines aren’t full yet. At Animal Kingdom, that’s definitely true from the ride perspective. You could feasibly get in a shorter line for Na’Vi River Journey, use your FastPass for Avatar Flight of Passage, and have both ridden by 10 a.m.
The ride aspect isn’t the key to arriving early to Animal Kingdom, though. You also have an opportunity to beat the heat. The park doesn’t start to get warm until 11 a.m. or so. Those first two hours of park time are when you’re most comfortable. Maximize them by riding all your favorites while you can.
You should also either stay late or return to Animal Kingdom after dark. Disney also expanded the operating hours of Animal Kingdom in 2017. Now, you can see the attractions at night, when they’re most impressive. The Kilimanjaro Safaris experience in particular is totally different at night. Also, you’ll want to watch the Rivers of Light fireworks exhibition during your stay. By ignoring the nighttime hours at Animal Kingdom, you miss some of the best attractions.
You Don’t Interact with the Animals
The core concept of Animal Kingdom is a functioning zoo combined with regular theme park attractions. Due to your normal interactions at theme parks during your life, you may get so caught up in the rides that you forget about the other element of the park…the main one. Sure, DINOSAUR and Expedition Everest are wonderful attractions, but the aspect that differentiates Animal Kingdom from every other park on the planet is the zoo.
You want to interact with the animals as much as possible, prioritizing every show and attraction that has them. Also, Kilimanjaro Safaris is an absolute must. It’s basically the heart of Animal Kingdom as a theme park. Everything that Disney accomplished with this unprecedented park is on display here. Relish the experience by spending a lot of time observing the animals.
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