Things only Disney Pros Know about Animal Kingdom
Sure, everyone knows about Avatar Flight of Passage. By now, you’ve visited Kilimanjaro Safaris many times, too.
However, you may not do some park stuff because you’re not a frequent visitor.
Here are eight things only theme park pros know about Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
Did you watch the recent viral video of the gorilla family encountering a snake?
The entire reaction demonstrated that humans aren’t so different from their simian counterparts. None of us likes snakes.
Of course, you could have caught the live show of this if you’d timed it right. The encounter played out at one section of Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.
Many people tend to skip this offering because it’s right beside Kilimanjaro Safaris. So, they think they’ve watched enough animals in their natural habitats.
The Disney veterans know better! The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail exemplifies the spirit of Animal Kingdom, a place where humans admire nature.
Festival of the Lion King
I get genuinely frustrated with friends who visit Disney, only to return and indicate that they skipped this show.
Yes, Disney operates a modified version during the pandemic, but who cares? It’s still a show based on the story of The Lion King!
In fact, the current version has dropped the tumbling in favor of more Broadway performances. In some ways, that’s better!
Have you ever checked how much Broadway charges for The Lion King? You can watch similarly talented performers sing the same classics at Animal Kingdom!
Later, the tumblers will return and dazzle us all with their remarkable gymnastic skills.
This show’s brilliant, and you should watch it every time you visit Animal Kingdom.
The Bird Show
Right now, the park calls this show Feathered Friends in Flight. Before the pandemic, Disney had integrated a themed component.
Back then, UP! A Great Bird Adventure starred Russell and Dug from Up. You may recall that Russell is a Senior Wilderness Explorer.
The bird show helped him gain enough knowledge to add more badges to his already impressive collection.
That show, in turn, replaced A Great Bird Adventure at the start of 2018. So, that’s a lot of turnover.
Part of the chaos stems from COVID-19 policies, which prevented character interactions in 2020 and 2021.
Nonetheless, the bird show has always proven a hard sell for whatever reason, as park officials noted its sparse attendance when adding the Up theme.
That’s unfortunate because this bird show is delightful, a remarkable demonstration of all the trust and training that goes on each day at Animal Kingdom.
Disney veterans know to take a few minutes and catch this show. It’s always worth the time.
Adopt a Banshee
I don’t need to tell you about the greatness of Pandora – The World of Avatar. It’s arguably the best themed land on the planet.
Both attractions at Pandora garner plenty of attention, but you cannot take them with you when you leave the park.
However, you can adopt a “pet” in Pandora that won’t mind going home with you.
At Windtraders Shop, you should walk over to The Rookery, a section of the story where a Naturalist from Alpha Centauri Expeditions will help you make a friend.
You will pick one of the Banshees sitting on tree branches and attempt to bond with it. Then, presuming everything goes well, you’ll have a new friend!
We adopted a Banshee in 2017 and still play with it! So, it’s definitely worth the $70 price.
Speaking of Russell’s hobby, did you know that you can get your own grape soda pin merit badge?
Okay, that one probably costs $12.99 at one of the stores. But that’s just a (bad) example.
I’m referencing the Wilderness Explorers game that you can play at Animal Kingdom. You should look for a cast member wearing a Russell-like outfit.
Ask them for a Wilderness Explorer handbook. It’ll include several self-guided activities you can do during your park visit!
Disney rewards kids who collect over 25 badges. They get to do the Wilderness Explorer call!
Seriously, the handbook will help your child focus during the trip and a bit of organization to an otherwise potentially chaotic park day. It’s magic!
Digging in the Dirt
Animal Kingdom skews very young. On top of that, the park usually feels warmer than the rest of Walt Disney World due to the climates needed for animals.
Also, Animal Kingdom covers the most acreage of the four theme parks. So, parents wear down, and kids get bored.
Thankfully, Imagineers thought of everything. They introduced a play area at DinoLand U.S.A. that will entertain children while parents recharge.
The Boneyard includes slides, climbing sections, and caves to explore. Also, many interactive elements teach kids about dinosaurs while they dig in the dirt.
The make-believe design causes children to believe that they’re archeologists, and they’ll love it so much they may not want to leave.
Alas, the high-touch nature of The Boneyard prevents its operation during the pandemic. It should be back soon, though!
Dole Whip and Street Corn
Harambe Village at Animal Kingdom holds a wealth of secrets for those willing to explore.
I previously mentioned the gorilla habitat, and you already know about Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Well, what do you do when you get hungry in this themed land? Your instinct may be to visit Tusker House, which hosts the park’s lone character meal.
You certainly cannot go wrong in doing so. However, you can also grab a snack to satisfy your hunger before you move on to other parts of the park.
At Tamu Tamu, Refreshments, you’ll find everyone’s favorite Disney snack, the Dole Whip! It’s the only place at Animal Kingdom that sells this treat.
In fact, it’s only one of two theme park restaurants in Orlando that do! The other is Aloha Isle at Magic Kingdom. So, it’s a big deal that you can get a Dole Whip here.
Sometimes, you may want something heartier and healthier, though.
Harambe Fruit Market can hook you up with African Street Corn, my choice for the best savory snack at Walt Disney World.
Visiting Animal Kingdom Lodge
Tourists visit Animal Kingdom for two reasons: the rides and the animals. Well, if the crowds ever overwhelm you, Disney offers a solution!
You can jump on a bus for a five-minute ride to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, even when you’re not staying there.
Now, I understand why you may wonder about the value of doing this. Here’s the thing. The majestic lobby of Animal Kingdom Lodge will relax you.
The multi-level facility marries the charm of African lodges with the serenity of American national lodges. As a result, you’ll feel peaceful when you visit.
More importantly, once you exit the lobby on the far side, you’ll discover savannahs where roughly a dozen animal species live.
Yes, you can interact with animals at this hotel in a calmer setting than at the park!
Disney pros know to go here for half the Animal Kingdom experience, only without the stress.
PS: The restaurants here are better than the ones at the park, too! So, grab a meal during your visit!