Looking for some game-changing Animal Kingdom tips? We’ve got just the thing for you.

Animal Kingdom has so much to offer these days that it’s almost impossible to cover it all in one day. It can be challenging trying to figure out the most ideal way to plan your trip, whether it’s your first time or your twenty-first.

That’s why we created this list of tips to make your visit to Animal Kingdom the best it can possibly be. Dive into this extensive guide to get the most helpful advice on rides, food, navigating the park, finding attractions and other details on can’t-miss experiences!

#1. Enter the Park Before It Opens

Enter Animal Kingdom Early

Did you know that you can book breakfast reservations before Animal Kingdom opens? Several options are available at Walt Disney Resort for each park and we recommend breakfast at Tusker House to accomplish this in Animal Kingdom.

They have an enormous breakfast buffet featuring favorites like cinnamon rolls, croissants, fruits, scrambled eggs and cereals, along with exclusive Simba themed waffles.

We should also mention that Tusker House is Animal Kingdom’s only character dining restaurant where you can often find Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy and Minnie in their safari outfits.

You can find a complete breakdown of all of the best Animal Kingdom restaurants, snacks, drinks and more in our big guide to Animal Kingdom dining.

P.S. – If you’re planning on spending long days in the parks, take a look at our Disney World gear guide to see all of our favorite things to bring on a trip.

#2. See Mickey & Minnie Before Everyone Else

If you can’t snag early breakfast reservations, try getting to Animal Kingdom before the “Rope Drop” (official opening) to be one of the first to enter the park. Lines start to form up to an hour before the opening time.

Animal Kingdom’s first guests get the chance to enter lines for popular rides like Avatar: Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris with shorter wait times than you’d experience in the middle of the day.

Before you run to your first ride, Mickey & Minnie will be available to meet at the Adventurer’s Outpost. It’s better to see them early in the morning before the lines get longer throughout the day.

#3. Take the Secret Entrance to Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom Secret Entrance

If you’ve missed rope drop and you find yourself entering the park with hundreds of other guests, not to worry! There is a secret entrance into Animal Kingdom through the Rainforest Cafe.

You’ll find Rainforest Cafe off to the left of the main turnstiles as you prepare to enter Animal Kingdom. It’s a little hidden with some hanging trees and overgrown foliage, but there will be a large sign for it.

Walk through the Rainforest Cafe gift shop and exit the back doors to find additional turnstiles for a less crowded Animal Kingdom park entrance.


If you want to have the best time at Animal Kingdom, we suggest you plan which rides to choose. We urge you to use Lightning Lane on either Avatar: Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest or Festival of the Lion King.

All other attractions have relatively low wait times and are easier to get into. You don’t want to accidentally waste your precious Lightning Lanes on easy rides!

#5. The Best Quick Service Breakfast at Animal Kingdom

Colossal Cinnamon Roll at Animal Kingdom

A breakfast reservation at Tusker House isn’t the only way to do morning meals at Animal Kingdom. Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery, as well as Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafe have some of the best breakfast options in the park.

Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery has biscuits, croissants, muffins and quiche along with Colossal Cinnamon Rolls and Elephant Ear Pastries.

Yak & Yeti offers breakfast bowls and muffins, as well as a Bacon and Egg Sandwich and Hashbrown Bites for traditional American breakfast lovers. Kids will enjoy the Pancake and Sausage Stick or the French Toast here.

#6. Best Time to See Pandora: World of Avatar

Best Time to See Pandora at Animal Kingdom

While you’re in Pandora, be sure you visit this section of the park during the day to catch drum performances and the Pandora Utility Suit – an entertainer dressed in the robotic suit from the movie.

But also come back at night to see the park come to life with glowing water and plants, neon rocks and black-lit pathways, just like the ones featured in Avatar the movie.

Many of the rides, sights, and food in Pandora are top-tier features on our huge list of 110 Things You Must Do at Disney World. Check it out if you want the scoop on all of the best things to do at every Disney park, resort, and at Disney Springs.

#7. Using Lightning Lane in Pandora

It can be difficult to score, but you’ve got to wake up right at 7am on the day of your trip to get Lightning Lane for Avatar: Flight of Passage. Otherwise, you’ll want to come early for the rope drop, or you’ll likely wait for an hour and a half to ride this one anytime throughout the day.

If you do find yourself waiting in line, it’s actually fairly enjoyable with interesting artwork, strange creatures and landscapes from the Avatar movie to see while you wait.

You do not, however, want to stand in line for Na’vi River Journey. The ride lasts maybe 10 minutes, is very slow-moving and is admittedly a bit lackluster. Get Lightning Lane for Na’vi River Journey if you’ve never ridden it before, and save yourself the hour-long wait!

#8. Best Time to Ride Kilimanjaro Safaris

The Best Time to Ride Kilimanjaro Safaris

This popular safari trek takes you on a journey through Harambe Wildlife Reserve to see lions, elephants, hippos and more. It’s one of our favorites by far!

Truth be told, there’s never a “bad time” to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris, but some parts of the day can be better than others. For instance, the cool of the morning is great for shorter wait times.

We recommend going for the sunset safari (times will vary throughout the year), to see the African sunset on the savannah. The animals tend to be more active around this time.

Take a look at our post on the best times to go on Kilimanjaro Safaris for a detailed breakdown. It covers everything you need to know for getting the most out of the ride experience.

#9. Get Shorter Wait Times on Expedition Everest

If you don’t have Lightning Lane for Expedition Everest, skip the line quickly by using the Single Rider lane when it’s available. Oftentimes, this line is far shorter and a party of two is likely to get on the same train together.

However, if you’ve never ridden Everest before, we recommend you choose the regular queue to experience the mini museum while you wait. We have more details explained in our recent post about Expedition Everest.

#10. Best Photo Spot for Expedition Everest

Speaking of Everest, it makes for a spectacular photo op. The mountain is massive and the details that imagineers put into the decor is impressive enough to remember.

If you want a photo with Expedition Everest in the background, don’t stand directly in front of it. Instead, capture it on the other side of the lake.

As you enter Asia from Discovery Island, turn right heading past Yak & Yeti Restaurant toward Expedition Everest. You’ll come to a big corner at the lake with Everest standing tall in the background. Sometimes there’s a Photopass cast member here. But if not, use your own camera to capture the memories!

#11. Score VIP Seating for Festival of the Lion King

Festival of the Lion King Front Row Seats

There is currently one option for VIP seating at Festival of the Lion King: Be in the right place at the right time. Here’s what we recommend:

There are 7 shows for Festival of the Lion King every day and the VIP Seats are not always claimed at each one. To give yourself the best chance at scoring one, you’ll need a few small children.

Hang out around the back side of the theater where the stroller parking is located about 15 minutes before the show starts. Cast members will often select families from this area to sit in the VIP front rows if they’ve not been filled.

#12. Meet Kevin

Disney makes no mention of this on their website, but you can see Kevin, from the movie UP!, at Animal Kingdom. Kevin comes out several times a day to meet guests and walks around near Flame Tree Barbecue. She is really impressive to see in person and loves to interact with guests. 

Animal Kingdom brings her out throughout the day as a roaming character between 9:30am – 4:30pm and she walks the route from Discovery Island to Asia, then Africa and back to base.

So keep a lookout, because she can be anywhere in those areas in that timeframe interacting with guests and cast members!


Simba and Pumba Animal Kingdom

Discovery Island is often overlooked. This beautiful area is home to the Tree of Life and most people don’t realize they can walk right up to this magnificent structure. You can enter special trails on either side of Discovery Island to see a variety of freshwater habitats that include giant catfish, flamingos, ring-tailed lemurs, red kangaroos and more. 

Upon closer examination of the Tree of Life, you’ll marvel at all the different creatures carved into the trunk of this iconic tree. It makes for unique photos!

#14. Get an Animal Kingdom Dole Whip

Dole Whip Animal Kingdom

This pineapple-y goodness was made popular in Magic Kingdom, but did you know that it’s available at Animal Kingdom, too? Find your Dole Whip at Tamu Tamu, a quick service counter in Africa.

They have the usual Dole Whip Pineapple Cups & Floats, but the truly special variations are the alcoholic choices.

Here, you have the option of adding dark rum or coconut rum to your Dole Whip Pineapple Cup or Float and we can say from experience that either option is excellent!

#15. Find Allergy-Friendly Food Options

There are three restaurants in Animal Kingdom serving up delicious food with multiple allergies in mind. They are Harambe Market, Pizzafari Counter Service and Restaurantosaurus.

All three offer menu options for people with allergies to Gluten/Wheat, Eggs, Fish/Shellfish, Milk, Peanut/Tree Nut, or Soy.

Find Harambe Market in Africa across from Zuri’s Sweet Shop, Pizzafari is located on Discovery Island and Restaurantosaurus is in Dinoland U.S.A.

#16. Find “Fichwa Fellow” & “You Are Most Beautiful” Walls

Fichwa Fellow Wall at Animal Kingdom

This one’s for our insta friends who love to find the photo walls at Disney parks. “Fichwa Fellow” is actually very simple to locate in Africa. It’s just outside Harambe Market traveling up towards Rafiki’s Planet Watch entrance. It’s got a bike and cart parked in front of it, so it’s easy to spot.

“You Are Most Beautiful” on the other hand, is not quite as easy to find. It’s in the African Harambe Market, but you have to search for it in the back-left corner near a cast member entrance.

#17. Best Time for Maharajah Jungle Trek

The timing for this can vary depending on the outside temperatures and weather, but generally you’ll want to walk the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia close to sunset.

This beautiful trail is a wildlife attraction you can walk through at your own pace. It showcases native animals to Asia like Komodo Dragons, Malayan Flying Foxes and everyone’s favorite: Tigers.

You’ll want to take the trail late in the day close to sunset because the tigers are more active at this time and you’re more likely to see them roaming or playing in their Anandapur Royal Forest habitat.

#18. Watch Trainers Feed the Gorillas

Africa has a wildlife trail called Gorilla Falls Exploration, similar to Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia. It’s located near the exit of Kilimanjaro Safaris and tends to get busy.

The gorilla exhibit is very popular and usually crowded. When leaving this exhibit, the forest opens up as you cross a bridge to the exit. If you hear loud pots banging and cast members yelling, hang around!

Disney doesn’t expressly give the feeding times for gorillas, but we caught this scene late in the afternoon, between 5pm – 7pm. Cast members will toss vegetables and fruits to three male gorillas who expertly catch the snacks without fail. It’s truly remarkable and worth watching.

#19. Take the Hidden Walkway to Pandora

Animal Kingdom Secret Pathway to Pandora

This pathway is serene and quiet and you’ll thank us once you take it. Most guests enter Pandora the usual way from Discovery Island, which is a bit narrow and can get crowded.

The experience is much better if you enter Pandora for the first time from Africa. You’ll find the trail starting on the backside of Festival of the Lion King, passing a restroom building and going under a bridge.

It makes for beautiful pictures and takes you right to the center of Pandora.

#20. You WILL Get Wet on Kali River Rapids

Enough said! Most guests wonder if they’ll get wet on Kali River Rapids, but there’s almost no way of avoiding it on this water ride. You get splashed or even soaking wet no matter where you sit.

The ride features waterfalls, geysers, multiple splash zones and a 20 ft drop. If you’ve managed to avoid limited water exposure during the ride, take cover when you come to the bridge as passing guests can shoot water streams at your raft.

As a matter of fact, Disney recommends that you place your valuable items in the free lockers outside the ride. And we suggest that you wear water-friendly shoes, rain jackets, ponchos or swim trunks in order to dry off quickly when you’re done.

#21. The Best Animal Kingdom Quick Service Restaurant

Animal Kingdom Best Quick Service Restaurant

Speaking of Pandora, the best quick service meal can be found at Satul’i Canteen, Pandora’s only restaurant. Their bowls are perfect for a casual lunch or dinner and you can customize them to your liking.

Satul’i Canteen was the first restaurant to introduce mobile ordering to Animal Kingdom. So while you wait in line for Avatar, place your order through the My Disney Experience App and pick up your meal when you get off the ride.

#22. Order the Flat White Latte at Creature Comforts

If you like to order food that supports a cause, this one’s for you. Creature Comforts is actually Starbucks in disguise and their Flat White Latte supports the care of Cotton-top Tamarins.

The Disney Conservation Fund makes efforts to protect all wildlife around the world, like this critically endangered species. And opportunities to support the conservation fund are presented in shops around the park.

You can even see Cotton-top Tamarins in real life at Discovery Island in Animal Kingdom.

#23. The Best Dessert in Pandora

Pongu Lumpia Animal Kingdom

After your meal, head outside to Pongu Pongu for a cocktail and dessert. Pandora has the most interesting selections for food and drink that both children and adults will enjoy.

The favorite by far is the Pongu Lumpia, a fried spring roll filled with pineapples and cream cheese sprinkled with sugar.

#24. How to Find DiVine

DiVine is a not so well-known character you can find only in Animal Kingdom. She’s often lurking in the vegetation along the walkways between Asia and Africa or in the Discovery Island Trails.

This stilt-walker is camouflaged in dark green, leafy attire and can be spotted standing near trees, peering over bushes or crouched behind foliage. You have to be attentive to your surroundings in order to see her through all the green brush and she can be found any time throughout the day.

#25. Make Your Own Avatar

Make Your Own Avatar in Pandora Animal Kingdom

In Windtraders, right at the exit of Avatar Flight of Passage, you can visit the ACE section to make your own custom Avatar.

ACE (Alpha Centauri Expeditions) is where you become one with the Na’vi by creating an action figure avatar. The figure is based on your unique specifications calculated by a state-of-the-art hybrid digitizing system.

Make sure you book a reservation for this experience, which cannot be done online. You’ll need to talk to a cast member inside WindTraders in order to reserve a spot for the day.

#26. Get Animal Kingdom Souvenir Popcorn Buckets

Each of Disney’s parks has special souvenir popcorn buckets released seasonally and Animal Kingdom is no exception. However, there’s only one popcorn stand here and it can be found in Africa.

Visit Mahindi as you head to Africa from Discovery Island for your popcorn bucket filled to the brim with classic buttered popcorn. You can also get cinnamon roasted nuts at this location – delicious.

#27. Be Prepared for Turbulence on Dinosaur

Dino Diner Animal Kingdom

Whether you’re a child, or child at heart, don’t forget to visit the Dinoland U.S.A. section of Animal Kingdom, specifically for this ride. It’s extremely fun, but can get scary at times with lifelike animatronic dinos that pop up very close to the ride vehicle.

The vehicle itself has a Jeep-like design, therefore you can feel every bump, pothole and turn that you take.

The ride takes you on an indoor journey through wooded areas and jolts, stops and accelerates quickly. Sensitive guests should probably skip this one, but if you do go, be sure to hold on tight.


Head over to Dinoland, U.S.A. in the morning or afternoon to catch several of your favorite costumed characters out and about. Donald’s Dino Bash is a fun little dancing event where kids are invited to dance along with Donald, Chip and Dale to remixed Disney songs. 

It’s a really cute opportunity to see the characters in unique dinosaur costumes! They won’t always stop for photos, but you can get cute pics of your little ones dancing with them.

#29. Don’t Skip Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Rafiki's Planet Watch at Animal Kingdom

Newly refurbished, Rafiki’s Planet Watch is an attraction that many guests disregard during their day at Animal Kingdom. If you find long periods of time between dining reservations and ride passes, take an hour to experience this.

The entrance can be found in Africa past Harambe Market, before you reach Kilimanjaro Safaris. Board the Wildlife Express Train through the African savannah and explore the fun of petting zoos, talk to animal experts and see different animal habitats.

The Animation Experience at Conservation Station is the newest ride pass option at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Learn how to draw your favorite Disney characters and how the animators used influence from real animals to create them.

#30. Become a Wilderness Explorer

Designed just for kids, your little ones will have fun collecting all 25 badges from different attractions around the park. This is a self-guided experience, so no cast member surveillance required!

Begin your day by visiting the Wilderness Headquarters, found on the bridge as you enter Discovery Island from the Oasis – it’s easy to spot on your way into the park.

All you need from this station is a handbook to get you started. Other Wilderness Explorer Troop Leader locations can be found in each section of the park if you need help completing the mission.

#31. Don’t Sleep on Finding Nemo – the Musical

Another great way to pass the time during a long day is by watching the Finding Nemo show. It’s easy to miss on the pathway from Dinoland U.S.A. to Asia, but a perfect way to cool off and sit for half an hour.

This musical introduces many new songs in a breathtaking performance of human-operated, lifelike puppets on a broadway stage. Lights, colors and sounds will entertain all ages.

Show times are once an hour between 11am and 4:30pm every day.

#32. Best Date Night Restaurant

Tiffins is Animal Kingdom’s only signature dining restaurant, located on Discovery Island just before you reach Pandora. It is by far the most upscale restaurant in the park, so if you’re celebrating an adults-only special occasion, this is your best pick.

The menu features creative dishes inspired by African, Indian and South American cuisines. And the decor is exquisite; each dining area is designed to look like an art gallery with authentic pieces from these continents.

If you didn’t get a reservation for Tiffins, the lounge is a great walkup option. Nomad Lounge has the best drinks & upscale bar food in a fancy treehouse patio setting.

Seriously, don’t overlook Tiffins if you want a great meal with great ambiance. There’s a reason why it ranks so highly on in our ranking of Top Disney World Restaurants for Adults.


Animal Kingdom has a few unique shops sprinkled throughout each section of the park, so it can be challenging to save shopping for last. However, if you didn’t find any must-have items in the smaller stores we suggest you wait to browse the main shops after the park closes.

The shops usually stay open past closing, which means you should get in line for one more ride at park close and browse the stores afterward. Plus, if you shop at the end you won’t have to carry or store bags throughout the day.

Still Planning Your Trip to Disney?

We are here to help! We recommend starting with our comprehensive guide to Planning a Disney World Vacation on a Budget.

After that, take a look at our massive list of 110 Things to do At Disney World. It’s a great way to see all of the top picks for rides, attractions, food, etc all in one place.

And if you’re looking for more posts just like this one, our guide to 30 Epcot Tips & Secrets will definitely do the trick!

Animal Kingdom Tips & Secrets