I can’t believe that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is turning 21. For one, it makes me feel really old. Animal Kingdom opened on April 22, 1998. My first visit was in 2001 and it was love at first sight. In honor of the occasion, I decided to list 21 things that I love about the park. It was hard making this list, I could have easily added so many more. But since I can’t include everything (that would have been a really long list) here is what I am loving at the Animal Kingdom right now.
1. Tree of Life
145 feet tall, 50 feet wide at the base, over 300 animal carvings, and absolutely beautiful. The Tree of Life welcomes you to the park and in the evenings comes to life to end your day. I discover a new carving all the time.
Makes sure to check out Nighttime Awakenings before you head out. Beginning at sundown, and every 10 minutes after, the carvings on the tree come to life and tell beautiful stories. There are several sequences so you’ll want to hang out for a while.
2. Expedition Everest
Expedition Everest is my favorite Disney coaster. I’m not going to lie, it scares me a little bit. But that is part of the fun! And the themeing is amazing. It’s also a great coaster to try if you use a wheelchair. It’s a pretty smooth ride and the back car of each train is accessible.
3. Eating at Satu’li Canteen
Satu’li Canteen is one of our new favorite places to eat at Walt Disney World. Located in Pandora, this quick service restaurant has so many unique options. Plus they have a meal that is completely vegan! The Chili-Spiced Crispy Fried Tofu Bowl is served with your choice of base and sauce. The only sauce that is vegan is the Charred Green Onion Vinaigrette but most of the bases are. You can get more info at Vegan Disney World.
4 . Rivers of Light
Rivers of Light gets mixed reviews. But we really enjoyed it. I think it is a beautiful show and I love the music. It also has great wheelchair seating.
5.UP! A Great Bird Adventure (Formally Flights of Wonder)
Flights of Wonder was always one of our must dos. We’re going to miss it but we are excited about the new show UP! A Great Bird Adventure Show. Mainly because it will feature Russel and Dug from the movie. While the characters of the show are changing I’m sure the heart of it will still be there. Some of the birds will probably still swoop above audience members so sit towards the back if you don’t want to experience that particular part of the show.
6. Flight of Passage
I was a Padora skeptic. But I have to tell you the new land is absolutely beautiful and Flight of Passage is now one of my favorite attractions. It is a wheelchair friendly attraction with a transfer device that makes experiencing the attraction easier. It’s hard to put into words how I felt about Avatar Flight of Passage. As a wheelchair user you become used to your movement being restricted and dependent upon your chair. Flight of Passage allowed me to feel like everyone else for a few minutes. It also gave me a sense of movement and freedom that I was not expecting. In the movie, when Jake first connects to his Avatar he can’t wait to move, run, and feel his feet beneath him. I never thought an attraction would allow me to have that same emotional experience. But there I was, flying.
7. The Beauty of the Maharajah Jungle Trek
If you haven’t taken the time to explore the Maharajah Jungle Trek you really need to. The details are just amazing. And right now you can visit the tiger cubs.
8. Safari Mickey and Minnie
Aren’t they adorable? Mickey and Minnie can be found in their cute safari outfits at the Adventurers Outpost on Discovery Island. FastPass+ is available.
9. Festival of the Lion King
This show makes you feel like a kid again. The performers are always amazing and I love it each time we see it. And the new area surrounding it in Harambe looks like it has been there since the park opened.
10. The Discovery Island Trails
The Discovery Island Trails were closed for a long time. But they are back open and ready for you to enjoy! There are some great views of the Tree of Life so have your camera ready. You’ll also see animals that you won’t find in other parts of the park.
11. Pineapple Dole Whip with Rum!
The adult version of this Disney treat can be found at Tamu Tamu Refreshments. You can get it with dark rum, coconut rum, or just plain in a cup.
12. Western Lowland Gorillas
The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is another must do. It is where you will find the Western Lowland Gorillas. I tear up a little every time I see them. The grace, curiosity, and gentleness of these guys always amazes me.
13. Finding Nemo – The Musical
This show is always so much fun. Just like Festival of the Lion King, the performers are always amazing.
14. The Seating Area at Flame Tree BBQ
We never eat at Flame Tree BBQ but the area around it is worth checking out. Just plan you visit between the lunch and dinner rush.
15. Close Encounters on Kilimanjaro Safaris
16. Harambe Market
One of the newest areas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Harambe Market, is beautiful. Inspired by the street foods in Africa, you can visit Kitamu Grill, Famous Sausages, Chef Mwanga’s, and Wanjohi Refreshments. It’s a great spot to take a break, watch the train go by, and listen to some great music.
17. The Details
18. Live Music & Entertainment
- Animal Encounters: Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight
- Bollywood Beats
- Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party
- Pandora Drummers – Swotu Wayä
- Pandora Rangers
- Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe
19. Relaxing at Nomad Lounge
Nomad Lounge is one of our favorite Disney bars. It is located next to Tiffin’s on the path into Pandora – The World of Avatar. Disney says it’s “where the globetrotting adventures of the Imagineers and animal experts who developed and built Disney’s Animal Kingdom park are celebrated, Nomad Lounge invites all to stake a claim in their own wanderlust over mouth-watering small plates and a large selection of beer, wine and mixed drinks.”
It is a great spot to escape the heat but there is also seating outside if the weather is nice. The theming is beautiful and I really like the options on the drink menu. Plus I’ve had some great gin and tonics here. And they have plant based eats! (Just chat with your server about the options.)
20. Holiday Decorations and Character Costumes
If you know me, you know how much I love Christmas at the Disney Parks. Animal Kingdom is always beautifully decorated and the tree out front is one of my favorites. Plus Mickey and Minnie get new outfits for the holidays.
21. Dining at Tusker House
When you eat a plant based diet buffets can be tricky. But Tusker House at Disney Animal’s Kingdom is amazing. There are so many great options on the buffet. Plus the chefs are wonderful and will bring you extra options to your table. Vegan Disney World has a few more details. Also, the character interaction here has always been great. It’s definitely a must do!
What are your favorites? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.