Our series on The Walt Disney World Theme Parks after reopening continues with Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. Like the other parks, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is going to be a different experience in 2022 than what you are used to, but it may be our favorite park to visit during this time.
In this post, we are going to explain everything new and changed in Disney’s Animal Kingdom since reopening on July 11, 2020. We’ll let you know which attractions and rides are open, which restaurants you can eat at and what’s going on with the various entertainment choices in the park.
There are a lot of new basics any visitor has to learn before going, like how to get park pass reservations and all the new safety measures that guests have to follow.
Since we’ve had a chance to visit the Animal Kingdom already, we wanted to give you a guide that you can use while visiting and we’ll include as many new photos since the reopening so you can see firsthand what to expect.
Before we get started with the tour, we want to ask you to have patience while visiting the Animal Kingdom at this time. Some attractions and restaurants aren’t available, plus the guidelines you need to follow keep changing every week.
It hasn’t been easy from a trip-planning perspective on our end, and it’s not easy for you as the guest either. If you go into the experience knowing this, you’ll be able to handle the frustrations that come up much easier.
Before we get into our look at the Animal Kingdom for 2022, make sure to read our Complete Walt Disney World Reopening Guide which will answer any questions you have about anything going on during the reopening period in the parks, hotels, and restaurants.
Also, don’t forget to sign up for our FREE Weekly E-Mail Newsletter. There we bring you the latest updates on all the latest Animal Kingdom updates as well as our best Disney vacation planning tips. You can sign up here: Join our E-Mail Newsletter!
Point us in the direction of Everest or the Floating Mountains of Pandora and let’s go!
Table of Contents
What to Know
The first thing you need to know right now during the reopening phase is all the new safety measures Disney has put into place. The only reason Disney is able to operate during a health crisis is because of the extreme care they take to protect guests and Cast Members.
*Many of the safety guidelines have slowly been eliminated in 2022 and things are getting back to normal.
The most basic ones are:
- Increased cleaning and sanitation
- Wearing face masks (this has been eliminated)
- Physical distancing in queues (this has been eliminated)
Currently, face masks are no longer required in any Disney theme parks, including Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Vaccinated & Unvaccinated Guests – At one time, masks were required in indoor areas, including on indoor attractions like Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage and on all Disney transportation. That is no longer the case and they are optional.
Face masks are not required for any guests in outdoor areas or when consuming food or drink.
You also need to be aware that distancing has been eliminated from the parks, including in the attraction queues. In recent weeks Disney has removed the protective barriers and ground markers from the lines.
Disney makes sure guests follow the guidelines and will warn people if they aren’t following the rules. Read our post on all the New Safety Measures at Disney World which explains them all in more detail.
In all 4 Disney World theme parks, the maximum guest capacity for each park has been reduced, meaning fewer people can enter the parks each day compared to normal park capacities.
Under normal circumstances, Disney’s Animal Kingdom park has a maximum capacity of approximately 60,000. Right now the maximum capacity is more than 50%, and from our experience, it’s often closer to 75% or more on a normal day.
From what we’ve seen, this keeps increasing and could be well over that during the holiday season and into 2023. Read our post on Disney World Theme Park Capacity for more info.
Not Everything Open
Even though Disney’s Animal Kingdom is currently open, not everything in the park is open right now. Some attractions are not running and a few of the restaurants and food carts are not open. Also, entertainment options are not fully running with some shows not operating.
We do have to say that this is much improved since the beginning of 2021 when it felt like half of the restaurants and entertainment options were missing. It’s also much improved over earlier in 2022. Things are coming back slowly, but they are coming back.
Recently Closed Attractions
One of the bigger surprises after the Animal Kingdom reopened was that Disney has canceled 2 attractions, and they will be closed for good.
First, we knew that the River of Light nighttime spectacular wouldn’t be running, which is the same thing happening in all parks. The big news was when Disney said the show is not coming back even after the current health crisis, and it will eventually be replaced by a new show.
Secondly, Disney announced that Primeval Whirl in Dinoland USA has also closed for good. Before the closure, the spinning roller coaster started having problems and moved into “seasonal operation.” It didn’t take long for Disney to pull the plug altogether.
Now the ride has been completely leveled and the area where it used to stand is empty. Disney has not yet commented on what they will be doing with this space but we’ll keep a close eye on it.
We aren’t super upset about these cancellations, but losing a show and a ride does hurt. It’s not a huge problem for Rivers of Light since they can’t run it anyway and maybe gives them a jump-start to working on the new show. Primeval Whirl was not a “must-do” in our touring plan, but being down one ride is not ideal.
Suspended Services and Experiences
While visiting the Animal Kingdom and the rest of the Disney theme parks right now, many of the normal services and experiences you are used to are not currently running.
Early Theme Park Entry
During the reopening phase, there will be no Extra Magic Hours in the Disney Parks, including the Animal Kingdom. This is less important at the Animal Kingdom than in other parks since the new opening time is the same as the old Morning Extra Hours time.
“Early Theme Park Entry” now replaces Extra Magic Hours. It lets all Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests access the parks 30 minutes before the scheduled park opening for that day. It is available at all 4 theme parks, every day of the week.
We’re happy you can still get an early jump when visiting the Animal Kingdom since we like to go on the Kilimanjaro Safaris early in the morning when the animals are most active and it’s a good time to go on Flight of Passage.
Disney Genie+ & Lightning Lane
Disney Genie+ is a pay-to-ride option and the FastPass+ queues have been turned into Lightning Lanes for guests who choose to pay for quicker boarding. If you choose not to spend the extra money then you will have to wait in a standby queue for whatever attractions you want to go on.
Of course, this totally changes how you go about touring the parks as stand-by queues are now not the only way to ride the attractions, and Genie+ helps for guests short on time. This also means you won’t have to wake up early 60 days before your trip to get those coveted Flight of Passage FastPasses anymore.
Read our Guide to Genie Plus and Lightning Lanes for a better understanding and a specific strategy for touring the parks.
There have been quite a few changes to dining in the Animal Kingdom and the other theme parks:
- No Disney Dining Plan – This has been suspended for the rest of 2022 and no info on when it’s coming back. That means no more snack credits for a while and guests will not have the option to pay for meals ahead of time. The Disney Dining Plan is coming back, we just don’t know when yet.
- Dining Reservations – The Advanced Dining Reservation booking window has been reduced from 180 days to now only 60 days.
- Limited Dining Options – Not all restaurants are open right now, but most of them are.
- New Technology – For safety reasons, Disney is using new technology in its restaurants including contactless menus, Mobile Ordering, Mobile Dine Check-In, Mobile Dine Waitlist, and cashless payment.
Special Experiences & Events
For most of the reopening phase, many special experience bookings, tours, and events were canceled in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In 2022 however, many of those have come back, including the popular Wild Africa Trek. 3
Most Disney After Hours events in the Animal Kingdom are not running, however, there are some Moonlight Magic dates scheduled in July and August.
However, the good news is more tours are coming back to Disney World and we will have more information about booking these special events soon.
How to Get Into the Animal Kingdom in 2022
If you like waiting until the night before to decide which park you are going to visit the next day on your vacation, I have some bad news for you…that’s not possible right now. In fact, you can’t even show up at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and buy a ticket for the day. Also, all guests must use Disney’s new Park Pass Reservation system to get access.
The first step to getting into the Animal Kingdom is getting your park tickets. For a couple of months, Disney had blocked new ticket sales in order to give priority access to the parks to guests with existing tickets.
Now theme park tickets are back on sale and you can purchase single and multi-day tickets to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for dates in 2022 and 2023. Tickets are available right now through December 31, 2023.
If you have an annual pass that will also still work, though there are some blockout dates depending on what level of annual pass you have so make sure to look at the dates before planning anything.
Getting Park Pass Reservations
Once you have your regular park admission, the next step is to get a Park Pass Reservation. This is Disney’s new reservation system designed to help manage crowds and help keep the parks to a limited capacity.
There are some restrictions on how many park pass reservations you can have at once.
- Disney World Resort guests can have reservations for each day of their hotel stay.
- Annual passholders are limited to up to 5 at a time.
Even though park passes are limited, the Animal Kingdom is not very hard to get a reservation for and unless you try booking at the last minute, it should be easy to get into.
You can make reservations on the Disney World website, just remember, you’ll need to have a valid park admission before making a park reservation.
Read our post on How to Make Disney World Park Reservations for a detailed walkthrough of the new system.
Park Hopping is Back
One of the things we are most excited about is that park hopping is now back at Disney World. For many months guests were limited to one park per day but that is now over and you can go to one park in the morning and a different one in the afternoon or evening if you like.
There are still some restrictions however as the parks still have capacity limits. To understand the latest changes read our post on Park Hopping at Walt Disney World where we break it all down.
We are obviously happy to have this option back and it’s great for Animal Kingdom since we tend to rope drop this park and then go to another one like EPCOT in the evening.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has never been the park that stays open the latest in Disney World, and during the reopening phase, hours have been reduced even further. In 2022, the park has started to stay open longer, the longest we’ve seen in years.
Upcoming Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park Hours:
- From Now through July 30 – 8:00 am to 8:00 pm daily
- From July 31 through September – 8:00 am to 7:00 pm daily
Park hours for Disney’s Animal Kingdom schedule right now vary slightly and range from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm daily.
On most of the days in June and July, the park closes at 8:00 pm, but there are a few dates at 7:00 pm as well. In August and September park hours are reduced slightly and run from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm daily since it’s the slow season. Of course, Disney could extend the hours at any time so we’ll keep an eye on things and see if there are any changes.
TIP: Disney’s new Early Theme Park Entry for Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests allows you access to the theme parks 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled opening time. Make sure to take advantage of this if you are staying on-site as it will help get on Flight of Passage with less wait time.
So far wait times have been so low that the reduced operating hours haven’t been an issue. We’ll let you know if the opening or closing times change over the next weeks and months.
When arriving at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, entering the park is a breeze. We honestly thought it would be much more difficult but there are much fewer rope drop crowds like usual even when arriving in time for the park opening.
There were hardly any waits and everything moves very quickly from the toll booth in the parking lot to the bag check and finally at the turnstiles.
Like in the other parks, not all of the attractions in Disney’s Animal Kingdom are currently open. Right now there are a total of 19 open attractions on the list. Let’s show you what’s open, what’s not open, and then how some attractions are different after reopening.
- Affection Section
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- The Boneyard
- Discovery Island Trails
- Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
- Fossil Fun Games
- Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
- It’s Tough to be a Bug!
- Kali River Rapids
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Maharajah Jungle Trek
- Na’vi River Journey
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch
- The Animation Experience at Conservation Station
- The Oasis Exhibits
- TriceraTop Spin
- Wilderness Explorers
- Wildlife Express
- Primeval Whirl (Permanently Closed).
At this point, almost everything is open at the Animal Kingdom. All of the “important” E-Ticket attractions are currently running including Flight of Passage, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, and Na’vi River Journey.
It does however feel somewhat empty without some of the big shows and you can do all of the park’s 19 attractions in one day, with plenty of room to spare. It’s one thing when you visit the Magic Kingdom and there are close to 30 attractions running, but here 19 is very doable, especially since many of them are exhibits you can do at your own pace and don’t have wait times.
As you may have heard, Primeval Whirl has closed permanently, which makes Dinoland USA even more barren. Really, this whole area of the park needs to be taken down and built from scratch because the place always looks empty land every time we walk through.
Walking through Pandora is even super quiet, and great for snagging some photos of the Floating Mountains with no people around I might add. It’s too bad though that the park isn’t open later right now because we really love watching the bioluminescent lights.
More Reading: Best Animal Kingdom Rides & Attractions Guide
Attraction Reports and Wait Times
Wait times in Disney’s Animal Kingdom have been creeping up to normal levels once again after spending most of last year at all-time lows. Out of 19 attractions currently running, they have an average wait time of 40-50 minutes each! That’s the lowest of all 4 Walt Disney World theme parks but still higher than we’d like to see.
Even though the actual wait times are a few minutes less than the reported times, but are pretty accurate altogether. This is a far cry from the 15-20 minute wait times when the park first reopened.
Here are some of our thoughts on the changes to the Animal Kingdom attractions and what you can expect as far as wait times when experiencing them.
Dinosaur – Wait times here aren’t too long and the average is about 40 minutes for most of the day.
The Dinosaur pre-show is now running again. This is a big addition as more pre-shows are now coming back to the Disney World rides which add a ton to the experience imo.
The other great news is that the plexiglass dividers on the ride vehicles are gone now, making the ride experience much more enjoyable.
Avatar Flight of Passage – Wait times have been steadily increasing here over the last few months and now they are on average between 90-150 minutes at any given time. Normal wait times before the closure were as high as 120-180 minutes, so we aren’t far away.
When the park first reopened it was incredible to be able to ride Flight of Passage and only have to wait 20 minutes. It was basically enough time to walk through the entire queue up until the pre-show areas and you got straight on the ride. Ah, the good ole days.
The ground markers telling guests where to stand are now gone and it’s back to its pre-closure state.
Plexiglass was installed in the switchbacks in the queue, but these too are being removed.
We didn’t actually run into crowds until the last part before the pre-show rooms.
Na’vi River Journey – Finally, the Na’vi River Journey returns to having shorter wait times than Avatar Flight of Passage does. Expect to wait 60-70 minutes in the morning and about 50 minutes later in the day.
Plexiglass and ground markers have been removed from the queue.
The plexiglass has also been removed from the ride vehicles, offering a better view of the bioluminescent forest.
Expedition Everest – This usually has the shortest wait times of all the E-Ticket attractions in the park at the moment, and the first couple of hours per day it is only averaging 25 minutes. Even when it increases later in the day it’s been maxing out at around 45 minutes.
Kilimanjaro Safaris – 50 to 60 minutes is what you will wait right now for Kilimanjaro Safaris.
The safari ride vehicles were been fitted with plexiglass dividers between each row of the vehicle, but they have now been removed. Even though a large part of the action happens on the sides of the vehicles, we found it kind of distracting and it gave you a ‘closed-in” feeling so we are happy they are gone.
Kali River Rapids – Kali River Rapids has increased wait times right now with the scorching hot temperatures. On average you’ll be waiting 50-60 minutes to ride. Cast members are also now completely loading the rafts and not spacing out the seats.
It’s Tough to be a Bug – The wait is not longer than 15-20 minutes, just enough time for the show in progress to finish.
The theater is no longer sectioned off with many of the seats blocked so more guests can fit for each show, decreasing wait times.
Maharajah Jungle Trek – There are no wait times for the Maharajah Jungle Trek and we think it’s a great attraction to visit at the moment since it is mostly outdoors.
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail – The same thing with the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. It’s great because of the open-air factor, besides the fact that we love to watch the gorillas! We recommend doing this right after Kilimanjaro Safaris since you are right there.
Check here for the full list of Walt Disney World attractions that are currently open.
As you might have heard already, during this reopening phase, there are very few character meets in the parks and few ways to see the characters. If you have kids this might be a big problem since the character meets are extremely popular with children.
In the Animal Kingdom, meets like Donald’s Dino-Bash and the characters on Discovery Island are not available at this time.
Some of the popular Animal Kingdom entertainment has returned such as the street band in Harambe village. Some stage shows have also returned with Festival of the Lion King now back. Also a new daytime show “Disney KiteTales” has opened in the Discovery River Theater.
- “Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond” – This is the new replacement for the old Finding Nemo show and it is now open.
Here is a list of the Animal Kingdom Entertainment you can expect to see during your visit and also what’s not opening at this time…
- Animal Encounters: Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight
- Character Cruises throughout the day, with Guest-favorite Disney friends appearing in boats around Discovery River—including the following:
- Discovery River Character Cruise
- Discovery Island Drummers
- Donald’s Dino Boat Bash!
- Mickey & Friends Flotilla
- Festival of the Lion King
- Feathered Friends in Flight
- Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond (A replacement for the old Finding Nemo show)
- Disney KiteTales (Debuted October 1)
- Street Entertainment
- Kora Tinga Tinga
- Tam Tam Drummers
- Tree of Life Awakenings
There were also special Christmas Character Cavalcades (“Festive Flotillas”) going on during the holiday season with characters in their holiday outfits:
- Donald’s DinoBash Festive Flotilla (Chip, Dale & Goofy)
- Festival of the Lion King
- Mickey and Friends Festive Flotilla (Mickey, Minnie & Pluto)
- Timon & Rafiki
- Santa Claus Festive Flotilla (Santa Claus & Reindeer)
- Discovery Island Drummers Festive Flotilla
- Pandora Drummers
- Pandora Rangers
- Rivers of Light (Permanently Closed)
- UP! A Great Bird Adventure
Entertainment options are hurting right now in the Animal Kingdom, much like all the Disney World parks, though we are getting some relief now with the new Finding Nemo show and character meets coming back.
During the holiday season last year, Disney is running the Tree of Life Awakenings, as well as the new Beacons of Magic lighting. These should all return in 2022.
The other big show, Rivers of Light, is gone for good. The show never really gelled with audiences and Disney already is working on a replacement show. Since we can’t have any nighttime spectaculars right now anyway, it was a good time to pull the plug and start working on the next one.
We are happy that The Festival of the Lion King is now back and that Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond finally made its appearance. These are arguable the two best stage shows in Walt Disney World and getting them both back would make the park feel much more complete than it feels right now.
Even though there are no character meets currently, we love the uniqueness that the Discovery River Character Cruises bring to the park over the traditional parade floats or cars in the other parks.
To get the best view of the characters, we recommend watching them pass by from one of the Flame Tree BBQ outdoor seating areas. The area is spacious and usually not too crowded. We also spent some time at the Nomad Lounge and this gets you really close to the characters too.
Our favorite characters in the Animal Kingdom are Donald, Daisy, and Launchpad McQuack who have moved from Dinoland to Donald’s Dino Boat Bash! Really all of them are fun though. For something completely different, be sure to check out the Discovery Island Drummers who bring a ton of life to the park, which right now feels a bit dull.
Read our detailed guide for more about how to find characters in the Disney Parks now.
As we mentioned earlier, not all dining locations are currently open in the Animal Kingdom, though right now we think it offers one the best selections of restaurants, especially quick service.
Right now there are 32 restaurants open in Disney’s Animal Kingdom including table service, quick service, lounges, and snack carts.
- Anandapur Ice Cream Truck
- Caravan Road
- Creature Comforts
- Dawa Bar
- Dino-Bite Snacks
- Dino Diner
- Eight Spoon Cafe
- Flame Tree Barbecue
- Harambe Fruit Market
- Harmabe Market
- Isle of Java
- Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company
- Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery
- Mr. Kamal’s
- Nomad Lounge
- Pongu Pongu
- Rainforest Cafe® at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Satu’li Canteen
- Tamu Tamu Refreshments
- Terra Treats
- The Smiling Crocodile
- Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks
- Tiffins Restaurant
- Tusker House Restaurant
- Warung Outpost
- Yak & Yeti™ Local Food Cafes
- Yak & Yeti™ Restaurant
Right now there is only 1 restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom that is not open:
- Restaurantasaurus Burger & Sundaes
Of these, the one missing is Restaurantasaurus Burger & Sundaes. That’s a shame as we really liked the new format it had. We hope it comes back soon but Disney hasn’t said anything yet.
Thankfully, most everything has come back including quick service locations and snack carts located throughout the park. Many of these still don’t open during the low season, so keep that in mind if visiting in August, September, January, or February.
Thankfully, Tusker House is back open again and we consider it one of the best character meals in Walt Disney World. We’re happy to see it open, even if the character experience is in a reduced format.
Make sure to consult our post on the Best Animal Kingdom Restaurants so you know exactly where to go and what to order.
Overall we think Animal Kingdom has the second-best selection of open food locations in Disney World. The only one that beats it is EPCOT, and we’d say the Animal Kingdom is definitely ahead of the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, though they are catching up.
Dining in the Animal Kingdom was fairly enjoyable and we noticed that even the most popular locations like Flame Tree BBQ and Satu’li Canteen are running fairly efficiently despite the challenges.
We’d definitely recommend using Disney’s Mobile Ordering system when you go as it will save you a bunch of time and spare you the experience of waiting in line.
Some technologically challenged guests were still getting in line, but the others were all being encouraged to use Mobile Ordering.
We also noticed that the tables and chairs are spaced out well, with plenty of distance between you and the next table. We recommend the Flame Tree BBQ since there are plenty of outdoor spots to choose from.
Remember that Disney is requiring guests to wear a mask at all times unless they are eating and drinking. However, you cannot do that while walking around the park and need to be stationary to do so. Most guests we saw complied with this rule and we’ve even seen some asked to cover up.
For more info about the changes to dining right now, read our post about Disney World Restaurants after reopening.
The following shops are open in the Animal Kingdom:
- Africa Hub Cart
- African Heritage Wood Carving
- Baby Care
- Chester and Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures
- Discovery Trading Company
- Garden Gate Gifts & Strollers
- Kilimanjaro Safari Cart
- Mandala Gifts
- Mombasa Marketplace
- Out Of The Wild
- Serka Zong Bazaar
- The Dino Institute Shop
(UPDATE) Disney has since discontinued the relaxation stations in the parks.
Since there are not too many guests excited about wearing face masks in Disney World, there are designated areas in each park called “Relaxation Stations” where guests don’t have to wear a face covering.
Distancing is strictly enforced in these relaxation stations, but guests can kick back and get a break from the heat of wearing a mask all day. Outside these designated areas approved face coverings must be worn at all times, except when consuming food or beverages.
In Disney’s Animal Kingdom there are 2 Relaxation Stations in the park. They are located at:
- Upcountry Landing (Asia)
- Pizzafari (Discovery Island)
Of the 2 areas, we prefer the Upcountry Landing relaxation station due to its open-air location which makes us feel a bit more comfortable if we are going to take off our face mask around other guests. It also has a great location right on the river.
Pizzafari is indoor which is great for air conditioning, but not great from a safety perspective if you are in a full room with other people taking off their masks. This is just a personal preference and if we want to get some air conditioning, there are plenty of other places in the park to go.
Construction in the Animal Kingdom in 2022
Construction in Disney’s Animal Kingdom right now is very minimal as most of the big projects over the past few years have already been completed.
The only thing of real interest right now is the revamped entrance to the Animal Kingdom. All the theme park entrances either have got or are getting their entrances updated including new bag check areas which will allow for better traffic flow.
The Animal Kingdom’s entrance is also now finished. The addition has resulted in a large bag check area closer to the parking lot, and a revised tram loop. The new bag check area is faster and doesn’t require guests to stop to have bags searched, but it is done electronically. That’s good for long lines that can form during this phased reopening.
Transportation to the Animal Kingdom
There is only ever one way to get to Disney’s Animal Kingdom by using the Disney World transportation system and that is by Bus. Buses are one of the slowest ways to get around property, but in this case, it’s our only choice.
Overall bus capacity is back up to normal which has helped with travel times. Dpending on which resort hotel you are staying at, we would still plan on leaving your hotel 45 minutes to 1 hour before your desired arrival time at the Animal Kingdom.
Your only other Disney-run transportation method of getting to the Animal Kingdom is Minnie Vans, which are just coming back now. You can also use a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft.
Read our post on Disney World Transportation changes where we explain everything you need to know.
Best Hotels to Stay for Going to the Animal Kingdom
There is no question that the best Disney World Resort hotel to stay at for visiting the Animal Kingdom park is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
So far during the reopening phase, the Animal Kingdom Villas, both Jambo House and Kidani Village are open and taking reservations. Both of these locations are perfect for getting to and from the Animal Kingdom quickly.
The next closest hotels are Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and the Gran Destino Tower, along with all the All-Star Hotels. Unfortunately, these are not an option at the moment and you’ll have to wait until they reopen.
Honestly, if you are going right now, we don’t think it’s necessary to stay close to the Animal Kingdom park. There are so few things to do there right now that you can easily do the entire park in one day.
We love staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and if you want to stay there for the hotel then by all means. If you want to make the most of the parks then I would stay closer to Hollywood Studios or Magic Kingdom right now, which is what you should be booking multiple park pass reservations for.
Read more about the Disney World Resort Hotels after reopening in our recent post where we explain everything you need to know.
Animal Kingdom Crowds
While crowds have increased in recent months, from our experience, the Animal Kingdom has always been the quietest park of the 4. The combination of there being fewer people than normal plus the park’s larger footprint makes it seem much less crowded in comparison to Hollywood Studios for example.
The Animal Kingdom is typically the last park to fill up in the Park Pass reservation system, and the excess inventory is often given to the Annual Passholder distribution group. I’ve rarely seen the park full during this period and even in normally high-traffic areas like Pandora or Harambe village, are less crowded than normal.
It doesn’t really matter what time of the day it is, all hours of the day have lower than normal crowds. From what we’ve seen, this is especially true in the late afternoon when many of the people have already left the park and wait times are significantly reduced.
How the crowds react now is partially up to Disney. The more they increase park capacity and the more out-of-town visitors feel safe traveling again, the more we will see the park fill up.
Disney had previously said it is throttling the capacity of the Animal Kingdom, and in our estimations, it’s somewhere north of 80%. On busy days it’s probably a bit more and during the off-season a bit less.
The bottom line is crowds at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are getting back to normal levels right now and they should keep increasing throughout the year. Still, it’s less crowded than visiting the other parks, so if you are looking for a more relaxing theme park experience, this is it.
Check our Disney Crowd Calendar for a closer look at crowd expectations for the rest of the year and beyond in all the Disney World parks.
Normally, we would have a bunch of touring tips for you when visiting the Animal Kingdom. We would tell you which rides you need to do first, which one second, and so on. We would lay out a touring plan so you could make the absolute most of your day and not miss a thing.
Honestly, right now, unlike the other parks, at the Animal Kingdom it isn’t as important as it usually is and you will have a much easier time getting on your favorite rides. Last year the wait times were so low that you could point your finger at the map with your eyes closed to pick attractions and it wouldn’t have made any difference in the wait times.
It’s not nearly as empty as last year, but still not as hard as a normal visit.
The weather is still a factor, however. You want to do the hottest attractions early in the day and save the ones with air conditioning for the middle of the day when the sun is the hottest.
As always, we recommend riding the Kilimanjaro Safaris in the morning, as early as possible. This is when the animals are the most active for the whole day and it will give you the best chance to see them.
This is a problem since Flight of Passage is our recommenced rope drop option. Wait times are reduced and not the normal 120 minutes. Still, we recommend making this your first ride of the day since it has the longest lines in the park. If you do wait until later in the day, at least it’s air-conditioned so the afternoon sun won’t fry you.
In a pinch, both rides in Pandora can be done in the middle of the day since there is plenty of shade. Dinosaur is also a great option from 12:00 pm to park close since the queue is mostly air-conditioned.
Kali River Rapids is a water raft ride, so another good option when it’s hot out.
If we were planning an itinerary for Disney’s Animal Kingdom right now, we’d do Flight of Passage first, then Kilimanjaro Safaris, followed by the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail while you are there, and then head over to the Maharajah Jungle Trek which is all outside. After that, you can pretty much just pick whatever you feel like riding and go for it.
If you do Kilimanjaro Safaris first and then find the queue too long to bear at Flight of Passage, you always can purchase the Individual Lightning Lane for it and skip the line. It’s around $11 per person to do so it’s not cheap, but if you are in a hurry and want to save time, it’s an option.
Overall we’ve had a great time at the Animal Kingdom in recent weeks and we’re enjoying this time of year despite the heat, and we are happy to see most attractions up and running again.
In general, this was the least-crowded park of the 4, though it no longer feels like we were alone as it did last year. One thing you can’t complain about is the reduced wait times. If you like attractions, this is a dream come true and you shouldn’t have an issue doing the most popular ones at most times of the day.
You can realistically do everything in the park and be done by late afternoon/early evening, which is great from a checklist point of view. The Cast Members were friendly, but we did notice slightly less enthusiasm than what we experienced over at the Magic Kingdom.
If you are a fan of the Animal Kingdom in general, this is a good time to experience it, and with the lowest crowds in Disney World, it offers the best guest experience. The low wait times from a year or two ago are not coming back, but you can still have a very enjoyable time.
I want to know what you think about the Animal Kingdom now after reopening…
- When are you planning on going?
- Which changes are you most happy/sad about?
Let us know in the comments section below!
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