9 Animal Kingdom Attractions That Are Worth the Wait
You want your Walt Disney World trip to be as smooth as possible, especially when it’s your first visit. The last thing you’d like is to waste time standing in lines for attractions that aren’t worthwhile. This statement is particularly true at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, easily the largest of all Disney parks. The walking time magnifies the mistakes. Don’t worry! MickeyBlog is here to help. Let’s examine which major Animal Kingdom attractions are worth the wait.
Animal Kingdom hosts many animal-related activities, all of which are worth your time. It has a couple of worthwhile shows that aren’t discussed here, either. You’ll need to decide whether these experiences appeal to you. At some point, I’ll do a follow-up article offering my thoughts on the subject. For now, I’ve stuck to attractions almost exclusively, with one significant exception.
Avatar Flight of Passage
Okay, this list is sorted alphabetically, which means that we start with the challenging topic. Avatar Flight of Passage is undeniably the crowning achievement of Pandora – The World of Avatar. It’s in the discussion for best theme park attraction of the 21st century and arguably the best ever. At a minimum, it’s a slam-dunk for most innovative ride design.
Avatar Flight of Passage is a slam dunk, right? Not so fast. The catch here is that everyone else recognizes its greatness as well. The lines for this attraction are the longest of any Disney ride on the planet. It’s generally at least three hours. As I type this, Animal Kingdom is currently open 14 hours daily.
Whether you’re willing to stand in line for three hours for the most exciting new ride at the park is up to you. What I will say is that I’ve done it. In fact, I’ve waited four hours before and, yes, I thought it was worth the time spent in line. Once. From this point forward, I’ll only ride it when I have a FastPass or the wait is less than 90 minutes, a rarity.
This ride is one of the toughest to judge. Sometimes, its wait approaches an hour. On other occasions, you’ll find that it’s 20 minutes or less. A lot depends on the time of day. Despite Animal Kingdom’s adoption of nighttime operations, many guests are still finished by 4 p.m. or so.
When they wander off to other parts of Walt Disney World, the lines for almost everything listed here shrink dramatically. The lone exceptions are the two Pandora rides. While I wouldn’t wait at DINOSAUR for an hour, I would happily stand in line for up to 30 minutes for it. I’ve ridden it a lot over the years and always find new aspects to appreciate. I think it’s one of the hidden gems of Disney’s four Orlando parks.
Some Disney fans state that Animal Kingdom is their favorite Walt Disney World park. I’m not one of them. In all honesty, it’s my least favorite place. Whenever I’ve had a bad time at Disney, it’s inevitably involved the heat and/or rain here. The other reason why I have a mixed opinion about the place is that it’s top-heavy. Some of the attractions are seriously excellent. Others are among the weakest that Disney has in its lineup.
Expedition Everest falls into the category of extreme greatness. It’s simply brilliant from start to finish. Imagineers were chomping at the bit to build it, and their passion shines throughout the roller coaster ride. Generally, a journey to the Forbidden Mountain comes with a wait of less than 60 minutes. At times, it’s barely half that. Since it’s a must-ride attraction during every Animal Kingdom visit, Expedition Everest is absolutely worth the wait.
Festival of the Lion King
I’m including this one show because it’s woven into the very fabric of an Animal Kingdom visit. Many annual Disney visitors don’t think of their trip as complete until they’ve participated in this festival at least once. Deciding whether to wait for Festival of the Lion King isn’t easy, though.
Many guests schedule FastPasses for this show. When you don’t have one, the “wait” isn’t easy to know. You’ll have to guess by lining up 30-45 minutes before the next presentation. Otherwise, you run the risk of having to wait for the show after that, which will kill another hour of valuable park time.
Regular park visitors believe that the best parts of the day to watch Festival of the Lion King are the first show and the final two shows of the day. Presuming that you can visit at one of these three points, it’s definitely worth the wait. When you have to wait 45 minutes or more, it’s not the best use of your park time unless you’ve never experienced it before. If it’s new to you, wait however long you must to see it.
Kali River Rapids
We’ve reached the point in the article where you turn on me, presuming that you haven’t already. I’m as pro-Disney as anyone you’ll ever meet, but there are three Animal Kingdom rides that bug me. Kali River Rapids is one of them.
As Disney diehards know, many elements on the ride are disabled and/or broken. And the ride itself is unexpectedly generic, especially by Disney standards. The attraction has a purpose at the park. It’s intended to cool off guests during hot Florida days. Unfortunately, everyone views it this way, which causes massive lines during the afternoon.
This nondescript rafting ride has lines of 90+ minutes or longer right when park guests need it the most. Kali River Rapids is absolutely not worth that long of a wait. I won’t even ride it when the wait is 45 minutes. Your mileage may vary dramatically on this one.
I’ve previously described Kilimanjaro Safaris as the heart of Animal Kingdom. It’s the ride that places a spotlight on Disney’s hallmark achievement. When you head out on this safari, you’ll see countless species of animals playing together. Some of them are mortal enemies in theory, yet they live harmoniously at Animal Kingdom. They’ve been raised in an environment where animals are friends. It’s wonderful.
Since Kilimanjaro Safaris is the signature attraction at Animal Kingdom, the lines are long. Many people book FastPasses for it, which leads to a weird phenomenon. When you get in the regular line, you’ll feel like you’re standing still while the FastPass line never stops moving. It’s a Catch-22. You can’t miss this ride, but a wait of 60+ minutes is expected.
You’ll definitely want to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris. My suggestion to avoid a lengthy wait is to visit it early in the morning or late in the afternoon. You should also keep an eye on FastPass availability through the My Disney Experience app. In lieu of that, just bite the bullet and stand in line. No Animal Kingdom visit is complete without a safari.
Na’Vi River Journey
This topic is the opposite of Kali River Rapids. I suspect that most Disney analysts would tell you that Na’Vi River Journey isn’t worth the wait. In fact, I recently told someone heading to Walt Disney World that they shouldn’t miss it.
This couple returned home and made it clear that they disagreed mightily with my opinion. They found this Pandoran boat ride rather ordinary…and they had a FastPass for it. You can imagine how they’d have felt if they’d waited 110 minutes. And yes, that is the standard time you’ll spend in line for the attraction.
I am passionate about the greatness of Na’Vi River Journey. I actually prefer it to Avatar Flight of Passage, which is about the most minority opinion that you can have on the subject of Disney. People look at me like I’ve grown a second face when I say it, but I believe it. So, I strongly believe that Na’Vi River Journey is worth the wait at least once. After that, you’ll have to draw your own conclusions about the ride’s lasting appeal.
Confession: I often get the last two rides confused. I perceive them as part of the same overall frustration that I have with DinoLand U.S.A., a place that has one wonderful attraction, DINOSAUR, and then a bunch of carnie rides.
Primeval Whirl is a roller coaster of a sort. Its ride cart spins, giving it an added Mad Tea Party effect. Some people love it. I’m not one of them, and I certainly wouldn’t wait 30+ minutes to ride it. For those of you who are fans, I have good news. It regularly has FastPasses available, sometimes even late in the day. Realistically, you should never have to wait more than a few minutes to ride it for this reason.
This genteel attraction is exceptionally child-friendly. It also has some of the shortest lines at Walt Disney World. You’ll rarely see a listed time over 20 minutes here. Generally, it says 15 minutes but winds up being half of that. Even the throwaway Disney attractions are worth such a trivial wait.