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10 Misconceptions People Get Totally Wrong About Disney's Animal Kingdom

6. It’s not as family-friendly as Magic Kingdom

Family in Pandora at night with small girl

Image: Disney

One of the biggest misconceptions about Walt Disney World in general is the idea that Magic Kingdom is the only park really worth visiting. No matter the age group in question, people seem to assume Magic Kingdom is the best park to visit—kids are supposed to love Fantasyland, teens are supposed to love Space Mountain, and adults are supposed to love the nostalgia.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom runs into the opposite problem. No matter the age group, people assume there is some reason they won’t like it. Is it too scary for small children? Will teens be interested in a park with so much educational focus? Will adults find it too whimsical or tiring from all the walking?

There is possibly no park at Walt Disney World more universally friendly to all ages than Disney’s Animal Kingdom. There is seriously something for everyone at this park. Part of this broad appeal is the beauty of nature—you don’t have to be a particular age to appreciate animals. Families with small children will love the park’s Wilderness Explorers scavenger hunt, the park’s many character encounters and shows, and the Boneyard at Dinoland USA, a huge hands-on play area. The park is also a popular favorite among teenagers. Avatar: Flight of Passage is a consistent winner with teen visitors as is Expedition: Everest—especially if you let them marathon ride it when the line is short! Kali River Rapids and Dinosaur are great choices too.

As for adults and seniors, there is so much to enjoy from the park’s eclectic attractions, to its peaceful trails, to its outstanding dining options. It could be argued that the food at Disney’s Animal Kingdom surpasses even much of the food at Epcot, especially at its primary restaurants, Tusker House and Tiffin’s. Tusker House pairs a buffet of mouth-watering African food with a family-friend character dinner, while Tiffin’s treats guests to a mature signature dining experience with international flavors.

7. It really hasn’t changed since opening except for the Pandora expansion

 Everest

Image: Disney

While the Beastly Kingdom expansion never came to pass, Disney’s Animal Kingdom hasn’t completely stayed the same since its opening. For example, in the park’s history, the story for Kilimanjaro Safaris was changed significantly. The original safari included a somewhat heavy-handed storyline about poachers hunting a baby elephant. This proved just a little too dark for such a lighthearted attraction, so the storyline was eliminated in favor of the more straightforward attraction guests are familiar with today.

The park’s first major expansion was actually the Asia section which opened in 1999. It’s two main attractions were the Maharajah Jungle Trek and Kali River Rapids. Expedition: Everest wouldn’t open until 2006! It can be hard to imagine the park without this mainstay attraction, but it was actually a phase 3 addition.

While most of the park’s lands have remained mostly the same, the only notable section that permanently closed was Camp Minnie-Mickey, a children’s area which closed in 2014 to make way for the World of Pandora. One much-loved addition that came with the World of Pandora (though not situated inside the land) was the signature dining restaurant, Tiffin’s. Themed as an art gallery celebrating the travels of the imagineers who founded Disney’s Animal Kingdom, this world class restaurant houses some of the best food in Disney parks. Try the Crispy Sadza or the Gobi Manchurian on your next visit!

8. Mount Everest really looks like that

Expedition Everest from a distance

Image: Disney

Geography aficionados may raise eyebrows at Disney’s depiction of Mount Everest. While it may make for some neat pictures, Expedition: Everest actually has more in common with Beastly Kingdom or the World of Pandora than it does its actual namesake mountain. The reason why is that Disney’s version includes an entire extra mountain that doesn’t exist in real life.

With the Asia pavilion set in the fictional kingdom of Anandapur (a sort of hodge-podge of India, Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Thailand), the story of Expedition: Everest includes a fantastical mountain that sits right next to Everest-- the Forbidden Mountain, home of the yeti. The real Mount
Everest doesn’t include this extra peak or a means to access its upper crags by mine cart. In this one area, Expedition: Everest fills its own role in helping Disney’s Animal Kingdom provide mythological thrills as well as natural ones.  

9. All of the animals you’ll see are captive

Mama duck on a pond with babies

Image: Neil Mullins, Flickr (license)

Florida’s local wildlife love Walt Disney World—to the point Disney has to work hard to make sure they behave themselves and stay safe sometimes. Florida’s birds are regular visitors of all Disney parks and especially Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Local storks and ibis blend seamlessly with the park’s flamingos and safari denizens. Great horned owls have been spotted nesting and fledging in the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Ducks frequent the park, along with local lizards, insects, and even the occasional snake (though Disney’s animal control teams are usually quick to remove these if they are spotted).

Disney’s commitment to conservation and care doesn’t end with their captive species. Visitors to the park’s Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch (when it is seasonally open) may on occasion get to view medical procedures done on local wildlife who become injured. On one visit, we watched as doctors repaired the injured foot of one of the local ducks, complete with giving him a waterproof duck-foot-shaped bandage!

10. One time is enough to see everything

Girl with mouse ears looking up at floating islands at Pandora

Image: Neil Mullins, Flickr (license)

There is no other park at Walt Disney World where this statement could possibly be more wrong. Disney’s Animal Kingdom isn’t just a full-day park—it’s a park you are going to want to visit more than once.

There is so much to see at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Between all of the park’s attractions, shows, and dining experiences, you would have to serious pack a day to experience it all. The park’s sheer size makes it difficult to explore in just one day, but the other element that will make you want to keep coming back is the animals.

You could ride Kilimanjaro Safari a dozen times and have a different experience each time. The same goes for the Gorilla Falls Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek—there is no telling what the animals will be up to, and each day brings new surprises. It’s a park where you don’t want to rush. The dining alone is worth visiting more than once. Disney’s Animal Kingdom houses some truly excellent restaurants. Beyond the two table service restaurants already mentioned—Tusker House and Tiffin’s— some of the excellent counter-service options available in the park include Yak and Yeti, Flame Tree Barbecue, and Satul’I Canteen.

What are some other misconceptions you’ve heard about Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Be sure and check out our first article in this series, 10 Misconceptions Every Gets Wrong About Disney’s Epcot!

 

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