What to Expect during a 2021 Animal Kingdom Visit
Plenty of uncertainty remains about Disney theme parks. Too much disinformation has spread, causing guests to misunderstand some stuff.
When you’re spending time at Walt Disney World, you must know what’s open and what isn’t.
Also, you should have a strong working idea of wait-times and the like. So, MickeyBlog is starting a new series to update you on what’s going on.
Here’s what you can expect during a 2021 visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
The Earliest Park
First, please know that you still need a Park Pass for your Animal Kingdom day. Disney appears likely to keep this practice in place indefinitely.
Also, FastPasses haven’t come back yet, and the current word is that they won’t, at least not in the way that we’ve always known.
Operating hours at Walt Disney World have worked like a moving target since reopening.
Park strategists face impossible circumstances and must adjust on the fly. They must determine how many guests will visit on a given day.
This exercise has proven particularly challenging with capacity limits in place. So, Disney updates park hours regularly.
On days when you will visit Walt Disney World, you should check operating hours on My Disney Experience. Otherwise, you may get caught by surprise.
This statement applies to Disney’s Animal Kingdom more than anywhere else. On many days in early 2021, the park has closed at 5 p.m. EST.
You can imagine how much this early closure could surprise you, especially if you’re flying or driving into Orlando that day.
As such, you shouldn’t pick Animal Kingdom on your travel day, at least not when you’re arriving. It could work for early birds on their departure dates.
You’ll enjoy the positive aspect of this development. Animal Kingdom could open at 8 a.m. or sometimes even earlier.
I’ve been in this park recently at 7 a.m., and I can say with complete sincerity that it was a ghost town. We, the early birds, got the worms that morning.
I’m speaking from experience when I say that you should arrive at Animal Kingdom 15 minutes before opening.
This extra time will allow you to take your temperature, pass through security, and be ready to sprint walk quickly at Rope Drop.
Speaking of Rope Drop
I presume that you’ll follow my advice about being at Animal Kingdom when it opens.
You’ll face a modest amount of competition at this time of the morning in that more than half the crowd will head in the same direction.
All these people are going to Pandora – The World of Avatar, the most popular themed land at Animal Kingdom.
Everyone wants to ride Avatar Flight of Passage and, to a lesser extent, Na’Vi River Journey.
During the middle portion of the park day, these rides will require wait-times of 40 minutes on average. That’s the baseline for early 2021 to date.
You’ll cut that time in half by visiting them during the park’s first hour in operation.
In fact, I fully expect that you’ll ride both within 60-75 minutes if you’re in the park the moment it opens.
Should you arrive 30 minutes later, that wait probably stretches to two hours. As I said, it’s where the crowd goes.
Still, the only significant waits you’ll experience at Animal Kingdom, at least on an average day, will occur in Pandora.
Everything else at Animal Kingdom is perfectly manageable. However, you shouldn’t rush to leave this themed land.
I’d strongly suggest that you explore the nooks and crannies right now.
The capacity limits work as your friend in 2021. You won’t have to struggle as much to investigate all the hidden secrets at Pandora.
Also, you should visit the restaurants and food kiosks here, as they serve “Pandoran” cuisine. I know that my traveling party adores Satu’li Canteen.
Other Rides and Attractions
Let’s start with the stuff that doesn’t work. Disney finally put Primeval Whirl out of its misery. The least popular attraction at DinoLand U.S.A. is fittingly extinct.
Speaking of which, high-touch areas remain a no-go due to Coronavirus. So, The Boneyard, the Fossil Fun Site for kids, hasn’t reopened yet.
Also, one of Animal Kingdom’s most beloved attractions, Festival of The Lion King, hasn’t returned yet.
Depending on when you visit, this performance may be running, though. Disney recently stated that it will come back in 2021 but failed to specify a date.
Other DinoLand U.S.A. attractions are running, though. You can virtually walk straight onto TriceraTop Spin most of the time.
DINOSAUR, one of the most underrated rides at Walt Disney World, has bounced around a 25-minute wait lately.
Please understand when I discuss average wait-times, I’m evaluating recent data. Still, a theme park visit counts as a chaos exercise.
Everything I say may prove totally different on your date, and I’m sorry if I unintentionally mislead you.
I strongly recommend that you monitor wait-times on MyDisneyExperience throughout your park day. It’ll save you lost tears.
However, the only two other attractions that come with potentially significant waits are Kilimanjaro Safaris and Kali River Rapids.
The glorious safari ride should earn a spot in your heart as one of your most memorable Disney experiences. You won’t wait long for it most of the time, though.
Thus far in 2021, the wait has been 25 minutes or less on average.
Kali River Rapids isn’t open, but the reason doesn’t involve the pandemic. It’s been freakin’ cold in Florida lately.
During the winter, Imagineers renovate this ride, often fixing broken effects. Disney indicates that Kali River Rapids will return on April 2nd.
If you want to ride it before then, you’re a crazy person anyway and must be saved from yourself.
Early 2021 Park Behavior
I should discuss park behavior so that you may avoid surprises.
Animal Kingdom tends to start slow during its first two hours in operation. It skews younger than other Walt Disney World parks, and kids are tough to get going.
In the third hour, business picks up, and you’ll face larger crowds until 90 minutes or so before closing. Animal Kingdom clears out then.
However, Disney allows Park Hopping again in 2021 (YAY!), which has kept crowds at Animal Kingdom more than during the fourth quarter of 2020.
Some guests will show up a couple of hours before closing. Usually, they have their eyes on Avatar Flight of Passage.
So, that’s additional incentive for you to visit earlier in the day.
Also, presuming you own Park Hopper tickets, you can and should take advantage of this amenity.
Since Animal Kingdom closes early, a smart strategy involves a two-park day with EPCOT. That park tends to close the latest of the four.
By taking this approach, you’ll maximize your park day, although it may tire you out.
Animal Kingdom Restaurant Information
With the parks running at roughly one-third capacity, Disney doesn’t need to operate two-thirds of its restaurants.
Please keep this in mind during your visit. For example, places like Pizzafari and Tusker House haven’t reopened yet.
Thankfully, reliable favorites like Restaurantosaurus and Flame Tree Barbecue are open.
Similarly, you can eat at Yak & Yeti, which is all my family cares about.
Check this page if you want to know whether a specific restaurant is open. Anything that displays Temporarily Unavailable hasn’t reopened yet.
Also, please be aware that some restaurants only open on the weekends.
For example, Harambe Market has changed its operating hours approximately 712 times over the past eight months.
When you visit on a weekday, use MyDisneyExperience to verify that your intended restaurant is open. It’s not something to take for granted right now.
Now that Disney has reopened places like Conservation Station, Animal Kingdom is effectively operating at full strength.
Yes, I miss Festival of The Lion King, and I’m sure someone somewhere wishes Primeval Whirl were still open.
Otherwise, you’ll notice nothing but upside to an Animal Kingdom visit during 2021. The parks are emptier than you’ll ever see them again in your life.
Also, Disney’s safety measures have worked more effectively than anyone could have anticipated.
To date, Florida health officials haven’t tracked a single outbreak at Disney theme parks.
So, Coronavirus concerns keep the crowds low, but Disney’s impeccable dedication to safety ensures your health.
As such, right now is a wonderful time to visit Animal Kingdom. In fact, I’m going this week!
Feature Image Rights: David Roark