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Best Animal Kingdom Rides & Attractions Guide

This post is a guide to the Best Rides and Attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park in Walt Disney World. We cover the complete list of attractions, which ones you absolutely must-do while visiting, and which ones are better to skip.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Rides

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is anything but a normal theme park, and its attractions are just as unique. There are traditional rides here, some of the best in Walt Disney World, but the park is so much more. Many of the attractions are walking trails and self-guided exploration and focus on nature and animal conservation.

Some of the rides are smaller and slow, good for the whole family, but there are also some thrill rides for teens and adults who like excitement. The entertainment options are top-notch, with two of the best Disney World shows found here.

There are enough rides to fill a full day at the Animal Kingdom, so if you are going to make the best use of your time, it’s important to know which ones are the best and what to prioritize.

In this post, we are going to rate all the attractions from best to worst, each with a rating from 1 to 10. A 1 means it’s a terrible attraction, while a 10 means it’s one of Disney’s finest. (Spoiler warning, there are 3 rides rated a 10 at the Animal Kingdom, the most of any Disney World park).

Disney's Animal Kingdom Attractions

Of course, these ratings are our own, and you might have a completely different list. Make sure to let us know if you agree with our top rides or if your list looks different.

If you are wondering what has changed since reopening, check out our Animal Kingdom Reopening Guide for more info.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for our FREE Weekly E-Mail Newsletter. There we bring you the latest updates on all the newest additions to the park as well as vacation planning tips. You can sign up here: Join our E-Mail Newsletter

Full List of Animal Kingdom Attractions

Best Rides at Disney's Animal Kingdom Disney World

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is not your typical theme park, so don’t come expecting to ride 30+ rides like over at the Magic Kingdom. While there are some amazing rides here, the park is known for its animals, physical beauty, and extreme attention to detail.

If you like rides, the Animal Kingdom has 20 different attractions including traditional rides, shows, walking trails, and experiences. It doesn’t have the most attractions in Disney World, but what it has is very high quality.

Here is a list of all the attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom…

Discovery Island

  • Discovery Island Trails
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • Wilderness Explorers

Africa

  • Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Festival of the Lion King

Asia

  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • UP! A Great Bird Adventure

Dinoland U.S.A

  • The Boneyard
  • DINOSAUR
  • Fossil Fun Games
  • TriceraTop Spin
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical
  • Primeval Whirl (Permanently Closed)

Pandora: The World of Avatar

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Na’vi River Journey

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

  • Affection Section
  • The Animation Experience at Conservation Station
  • Wildlife Express

How Many Rides are there at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

There are only 8 actual rides at the Animal Kingdom in Disney World. There are a total of 20 attractions but there are only 8 rides in a moving vehicle. The rest of the attractions are shows, walking trails, or interactive experiences.

Is the Animal Kingdom a Half-Day Park?

For the longest time, many guests thought of Disney’s Animal Kingdom as a half-day park. This may have been true when the park opened in 1998, but since then they have added many new attractions, including some of the most visually stunning ones at Walt Disney World.

If you like to do all the attractions, we do not recommend visiting the Animal Kingdom for a half-day only. To see the entire park and do all the attractions you need at least one full day. That lets you relax and take your time to appreciate this truly remarkable place.

Best Rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Best Rides Disney's Animal Kingdom

Of course, as with any theme park, it’s important to know all the must-do attractions at the Animal Kingdom before you go. This will help you plan your day so you can concentrate on the best rides first. Then once you do those you can concentrate on the rest depending on the time you have left.

The best rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in order are:

  1. Avatar Flight of Passage
  2. Kilimanjaro Safaris
  3. Expedition Everest
  4. DINOSAUR
  5. Festival of the Lion King
  6. It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  7. Na’vi River Journey

If your visit to the Animal Kingdom is going to be a success, we think you should first concentrate on doing the above list first. Each of these rides is in the “must-do” category and they are easily the top attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Before your visit, make sure to read all the Disney World Height Requirements so you know ahead of time which rides your children can go on.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at all the Animal Kingdom rides…

Kilimanjaro Safaris (10/10)

  • Ride Type: Safari
  • Thrill Level: Low
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: Yes
  • Ride Length: 20 minutes
  • Height Requirement: No
Kilimanjaro Safaris Disney's Animal Kingdom

Kilimanjaro Safaris is a safari ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the back of the Africa area. Let’s face it, animals are the reason you came to this park, and this is the headliner attraction. This is as close to going on a real safari in Africa as you can get.

There are so many reasons why this is one of the best attractions at the Animal Kingdom. Guests board a giant safari ride vehicle and listen as an expert guide takes you through the savanna and explains incredible details about the animals. The way the “natural” environments are created is truly awesome, giving the animals barriers without being visible to the guests.

Animals include giraffes, zebras, crocodiles, elephants, hippos, rhinos, and of course, lions. This attraction has everything, and no two rides are ever the same. This ride is what makes the Animal Kingdom what it is, and it is a must-do for guests of all ages.

When to Visit: Kilimanjaro Safaris is best visited early in the morning when the park opens up. The animals are much more active before the temperatures heat up and they also feed during this time which means they will be close to the action. Sunset safaris are also incredible and you can use a Genie+ to make that happen.

Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain (10/10)

  • Ride Type: Roller Coaster, Big Drops
  • Thrill Level: High
  • Good For: Kids, Teens, Adults
  • Genie+: Yes
  • Individual Lightning Lane Selection: No
  • Ride Length: 4 minutes
  • Height Requirement: 44 inches (112cm)
Expedition Everest Animal Kingdom

Expedition Everest is a steel roller coaster in the Asia area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Walt Disney World of course is known for its mountain coasters, and in our opinion, this is the best one of them all.

The story behind the ride is you are taking a trip through the Himalayan mountains on the “Anandapur Rail Service” when things go wrong and the train is derailed by the infamous Yeti. The magic begins in the ride queue, one of the most detailed and story-driven queues in any park.

The ride itself is unmatched among other Disney coasters and it runs very smooth with little bumpiness. There are no loops here, but Everest has plenty of thrills with a backward drop going into a 250° turn at high speeds, and another 80ft forward drop.

Expedition Everest is an unbelievable coaster with A+ marks for theming, thrills and fun. It’s no doubt one of the best attractions anywhere and you will have a blast. Just look out for the Yeti!

When to Visit: We tend to ride Expedition Everest in the late morning or afternoon. The line isn’t usually super long and is often 30 minutes or under. We don’t recommend paying for an Individual Lightning Lane here as the wait times for Expedition Everest are usually not that bad. Single Rider is also an option and is normally less than 10 minutes wait. For a unique experience and to up the “scary factor”, try riding at night.

DINOSAUR (8.5/10)

  • Ride Type: Dark Ride, Thrill Ride
  • Thrill Level: Medium
  • Good For: Kids, Teens, Adults
  • Genie+: Yes
  • Ride Length: 3 minutes 30 seconds
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches (102cm)
Dinosaur Ride Disney's Animal Kingdom

DINOSAUR is a dark ride in Dinoland U.S.A which brings you back to the age of the dinosaurs. This is another one of our favorite rides at the Animal Kingdom, and it’s great for thrill-seekers. It’s a motion simulator ride, very similar to the Indiana Jones Adventure ride in Disneyland.

Your mission is to go back in time and capture and bring back a dinosaur with you for scientists to study. The only problem is getting out before a giant meteor strikes and wipes out most life on the planet. The chase in this ride is gripping and definitely not something you will fall asleep on. Expect loud sound effects and big show scenes with huge animatronic dinosaurs.

Even though this ride has been around since the park opened, it’s still one of Animal Kingdom’s best! Just be aware small children might be frightened by this ride.

When to Visit: Late morning is best for Dinosaur, before the crowds pick up too much. Genie+ is also an option here, but not to be used over Kali River Rapids or Nav’i River Journey. It is an option for your third one or one of the shows.

Avatar Flight of Passage (10/10)

  • Ride Type: 3D Flying Simulator
  • Thrill Level: High
  • Good For: Kids, Teens, Adults
  • Individual Lightning Lane Selection: Yes
  • Ride Length: 6 minutes
  • Height Requirement: 44 inches (112cm)
Avatar Flight of Passage Animal Kingdom Rides

In our opinion, Avatar Flight of Passage is the best ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, hands down. This is a 3D flight simulator attraction that takes you flying over the landscapes of Pandora. Think of it as Soarin’ on steroids.

A “flight simulator” doesn’t do this ride justice, as it really makes you feel like you are flying on the back of a banshee. The attention to detail is incredible and you can even feel the banshee breathing with your legs. The water sprays in your face, the music, and even the scents are all great.

It also has one of the best ride queues in Disney World, and it takes you through the ancient Na’vi caves, into a bioluminescent forest, and eventually into the Alpha Centauri Expeditions research facility.

The screens are done perfectly, and you only are taken out of the experience if you look to the far left or right. Flight of Passage is a pure thrill ride and can only be understood by living through the experience, and it is arguably the best ride in Walt Disney World.

When to Visit: This ride has the longest wait times at the Animal Kingdom and is a priority Individual Lightning Lane reservation. If you don’t want to pay for or are not able to get a Lightning Lane reservation, we highly recommend getting there before the park opens at rope drop and making this the first attraction of the day. Lines are regularly 2-3 hours long and you definitely don’t want to spend all that time waiting.

It’s Tough to be a Bug! (8.5/10)

  • Ride Type: 3D Film
  • Thrill Level: Low
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: Yes
  • Ride Length: 9 minutes
  • Height Requirement: No
It's Tough to be a Bug Show Animal Kingdom

“It’s Tough to Be a Bug” is a 3D film attraction in the Discovery Island area of the Animal Kingdom based on Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life” franchise. In fact, it’s located right underneath the base of The Tree of Life.

The premise of the show is bugs want to demonstrate to humans how difficult they have it and increase the understanding between these two animal groups. Bees, termites, ants, beetles, dragonflies, grasshoppers are just some of the insects featured. It’s a good use of Disney characters without making them feel forced.

We love this attraction and think the special effects are well-done, and even at times surprising. The 3D technology is over 20+ years old now and could use an upgrade, but we still have a great time. This is an attraction the whole family will enjoy so don’t miss it!

When to Visit: This show has a large capacity and low wait times. There is no need to use a Genie+ selection here. We recommend visiting during the afternoon to get a break from the sweltering heat.

Na’vi River Journey (7.5/10)

  • Ride Type: Boat Ride, Dark Ride, Slow
  • Thrill Level: Low
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: Yes
  • Ride Length: 5 minutes
  • Height Requirement: No
Na'vi River Journey Disney's Animal Kingdom Attractions

The Na’vi River Journey is a slow-moving boat ride in Pandora: The World of Avatar. It’s often overlooked as being “the other” ride in Pandora, and not nearly as popular as Flight of Passage.

The idea behind the ride is to take guests on a river cruise through a bioluminescent forest. Some of the effects here are top-notch and you will marvel at all the lights. Screen technology is used for some nice effects to create animals and the Na’vi.

Our biggest problem with it and the reason why it doesn’t contend with the best rides in the Animal Kingdom is because of its short length, and lack of an interesting plot or story. It starts off slow and you are waiting to get into the story, but there isn’t one, it’s just a ride down a river.

The audio-animatronic of the Shaman of Songs is very impressive, and it’s one of the most complex animatronic figures ever built. How it moves in such a lifelike way is beyond me.

This ride had way more potential and could have been one of the best rides at the Animal Kingdom. Ultimately, the short ride length and lack of a gripping story make the Na’vi River Journey fall just short of expectations.

When to Visit: If you can get a Genie+ reservation for Na’vi River Journey it’s a good choice. If you are going to do the standby queue, we suggest rope-dropping Flight of Passage and then you can make this your second ride of the day as lines shouldn’t be too long by the time you get out.

The Rest

Most of the rest of the attractions are still really good, but they shouldn’t be the focus of your touring plan. Do these if based on the amount of time you have.

Kali River Rapids (7/10)

  • Ride Type: River Rapids Ride
  • Thrill Level: Medium
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: Yes
  • Ride Length: 5 minutes
  • Height Requirement: 38 inches (97cm)
Kali River Rapids Animal Kingdom Rides

Kali River Rapids is a water raft ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and one that will get you absolutely soaking wet. The idea behind the ride is pretty cool, and guests ride through a deforested area in an Asian rainforest. There is a huge drop at the end and that’s where you get wet. Approximately half of the passengers will be soaked and it all happens at random.

Normally we love raft rides, but Kali River Rapids falls short of expectations. The original idea was to have free-roaming tigers watching guests from the side, but that never worked out. It’s way too short and lacks that extra something to make it special. The queue is amazingly detailed, and perhaps better than the ride itself.

TIP: Make sure to bring a poncho and even an extra pair of socks or shoes for this one.

When to Visit: Kali River Rapids has the second-longest lines at the Animal Kingdom, so we recommend getting a Genie+ for this. Going in the early afternoon is when lines are at their max. Make a reservation for the afternoon or end of the day so you don’t have to walk around soaking wet all day long.

Maharajah Jungle Trek (9/10)

  • Ride Type: Walking Trail
  • Thrill Level: Low
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: No
  • Length: Self-guided Walkthrough
  • Height Requirement: No
Maharajah Jungle Trek Animal Kingdom

The Maharajah Jungle Trek is one of two wildlife walking exploration trails at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (the other is Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail). The main attraction here are the tigers, but you will also find birds, bats, and other animals along the way.

The theming here is excellent and the temple ruins are realistic and made to look like they’ve been there for hundreds of years with the animals living around them. This really increases the experience for us and is one of the most enjoyable in the Animal Kingdom.

This trail is self-guided so you can take your time and check out the animals as much as you like. Be sure to ask the animal experts any questions you have along the way, they are more than happy to tell you anything you want to know.

When to Visit: Visit here after exiting Kali River Rapids since the two attractions are right next to each other. Set aside about 30 minutes for this attraction to go at a reasonable pace. Also, try to go early or at lunch, that’s when the tigers are eating and most active.

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (9/10)

  • Ride Type: Walking Trail
  • Thrill Level: Low
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: No
  • Length: Self-guided Walkthrough
  • Height Requirement: No
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail Animal Kingdom

The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is one of two wildlife walking trails in Disney’s Animal Kingdom park (the Maharajah Jungle Trek is the other). It’s a self-guided trail, so you can take your time and stop more to learn about whatever animals interest you the most. Animals include zebras, birds, prairie dogs, and of course, gorillas.

Getting to see the gorillas up close is a real treat, and if you are lucky, they will be interacting with each other which is a blast to see. Definitely one of the top attractions in the park and not to be missed.

When to Visit: The gorillas are more active during feeding hours which is early in the morning and at lunch. Try to come on a day when it isn’t brutally hot outside and you are more likely to see them walking around and interacting.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch (7/10)

  • Ride Type: Train Ride, Petting Zoo, Animal Observation
  • Thrill Level: Low
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: Yes (The Animation Experience at Conservation Station)
  • Length: Self-guided Walkthrough
  • Height Requirement: No
Rafiki's Planet Watch Observatory

Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a mini-land dedicated to animal conservation located in the back of Africa at the Animal Kingdom. It’s not one attraction, but many small attractions folded into one including a petting zoo and animal exhibits.

To get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch you must first board the Wildlife Express Train. This is a slow and easy ride. Once you get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, it’s up to you to decide what you want to see and experience. The petting zoo is the most popular attraction here and it lets you get up close to some of the animals.

Outside near the petting zoo, you’ll find animal experts and caretakers giving demonstrations and explaining about some of the animals here. Inside Conservation Station there are many exhibits with many species of reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

The area where medical procedures are performed on the park’s animals is also visible to the public, and if you are lucky you can see surgery being performed on a big animal like a zebra, crocodile, or lion. The last point of interest is the new Animation Experience, which shows the history of animals and Disney animation.

When to Visit: Rafiki’s Planet Watch is an interesting attraction at the Animal Kingdom. The only problem is how much time it eats up out of your day. A train is required to get there and back, and that alone could take up an hour of your day. If you are more of a “rides” person, we suggest doing those first and coming here if you have time left.

The Boneyard (6.5/10)

  • Ride Type: Kids’ Playground
  • Thrill Level: Low
  • Good For: Kids
  • Genie+: No
  • Length: Self-guided
  • Height Requirement: No

The Boneyard is a Kids’ playground area in Dinoland U.S.A. It’s a fairly elaborate play area themed after a dinosaur dig site complete with a rope course and other fossil finding activities. The best part is the fake, non-stick sand, so you don’t have to worry about your kids coming back completely dirty.

Obviously, adults are not going to be interested in this area, but for kids, it’s a pretty well-themed space and it gives them a little time to blow off steam.

When to Visit: Anytime your kids need a break. Keep in mind there is not much shade here so it might be brutal in the afternoon heat.

Fossil Fun Games (4/10)

  • Ride Type: Carnival-style Games
  • Thrill Level: Low
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: No
  • Length: N/A
  • Height Requirement: No
Fossil Fun Games Disney's Animal Kingdom Rides

The Fossil Fun Games are carnival-style games in Dinoland U.S.A. Games include basketball, a water-squirt game, the mallet game, and a goblet toss. These games cost extra money, but if you are good enough you can win a prize.

Needless to say, we hate the Fossil Fun Games and we would demolish the entire area if it were up to us. This does not belong in a Disney theme park and we hope it’s next on the list of attractions to close at the Animal Kingdom.

When to Visit: Keep in mind that if you win a prize, you’ll have to carry it around the Animal Kingdom all day with you. In that case, it’s better to wait until the end of the day to come here.

TriceraTop Spin (4/10)

  • Ride Type: Spinning Ride
  • Thrill Level: Medium
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: No
  • Ride Length: 1 minute 30 seconds
  • Height Requirement: No
TriceraTop Spin Animal Kingdom

TriceraTop Spin is a spinning ride in Dinoland U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s similar to Dumbo or Astro Orbiter at the Magic Kingdom. There is nothing special at all about this ride and you just spin around in a circle and go up and down.

Actually, it’s even worse than its Magic Kingdom cousins since the view of Dinoland U.S.A. around the attraction is plain ugly. Count this as the worst ride at the Animal Kingdom.

When to Visit: If you absolutely must visit here, don’t do it in the morning when time is better spent doing the more popular rides. Do this toward the end of the day when you have nothing left on the list.

Discovery Island Trails (7/10)

  • Ride Type: Walking Trail
  • Thrill Level: Low
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: No
  • Length: Self-guided Walkthrough
  • Height Requirement: No
Discovery Island Trails Disney's Animal Kingdom Attractions

The most impressive feature at the Animal Kingdom is the 145-foot Tree of Life standing in the center of the park. On that tree are carvings of 325 different animal species, both living and extinct. The Discovery Island Trails are walking paths that let you get right up close to the tree for a better look, and one of the quietest places in the park.

When to Visit: This area is very peaceful, so come here when you’ve had enough of the crowds and need a few minutes away. If you come near sunset, you can catch the Golden Hour as it’s hitting the tree which makes for some good photos.

The Oasis Exhibits (6/10)

  • Ride Type: Walking Trail
  • Thrill Level: Low
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: No
  • Length: Self-guided Walkthrough
  • Height Requirement: No
Yellow Bird

The Oasis is technically the first land you go through after coming through the entrance of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s like the park’s version of Main Street U.S.A. only this time you are in the jungle.

Most people run straight through this area, but if you stop to explore you will find interesting exhibits filled with animals like birds and reptiles.

When to Visit: When you arrive you’ll probably be running through here to get in line for Flight of Passage. Make sure to stop by on your way out and take a look around before leaving.

Primeval Whirl (Permanently Closed)

Primeval Whirl Animal Kingdom status

Primeval Whirl in Dinoland U.S.A. was a steel wild mouse roller coaster. It was part of Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama, and the gimmick was that the ride vehicles would spin around while going through the usual maneuvers a roller coaster makes.

Disney closed down Primeval Whirl permanently in 2020, after several mechanical issues which forced the attraction to move into the “seasonal” category. Even when it was working properly, it was a terrible ride. There was hardly any story and its theming was outright lazy and uninspired.

The ride has since been torn down and the land is empty. Rumors are this whole area could eventually be replaced, though Disney has not made any plans it has public at this time.

New Attractions Coming to the Animal Kingdom

Zootopia Land Expansion Shanghai Disneyland Concept Art

At this time, there are no new attractions scheduled to be built at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Even though there will be some minor additions and refurbishments during the Disney World 50th Anniversary celebration, there won’t be any new attractions.

Recently, Disney finished its Pandora: The World of Avatar project, and they have since shifted attention away from the Animal Kingdom for now to the other parks. Does that mean we will never see a Black Panther attraction, a Zootopia land, or an Indiana Jones re-theme of Dinoland? That remains to be seen, but nothing is imminent.

For a more detailed look at more Disney attractions in the next few years, read our post on the Best New Rides Coming to Disney World.

Shows, Entertainment & Activities

Festival of the Lion King Animal Kingdom Shows

Besides the rides, there are many things to do and see at the Animal Kingdom, including a slew of entertainment options like shows, street performers, games, and activities for kids. This park has some of the absolute best shows in Disney World and makes a great opportunity when you need a break in the afternoon.

Let’s take a look at all the best shows at the Animal Kingdom as well as our ratings for each of them…

Temporary Entertainment

Disney's Animal Kingdom Entertainment

Unfortunately, at the moment, not all of the in-park entertainment is currently running due to the new safety guidelines Disney has been forced to put in the theme parks. Right now some shows and character meets have returned. Other entertainment has been put on hold for the moment. Fireworks have returned to the parks, but there is not a show at the Animal Kingdom.

Disney has however introduced some new temporary entertainment that guests can see. Since traditional character meets are not running, you can still see all your favorites in the new Character Cavalcades which are in all the parks.

There are 5 Character Cavalcades at the Animal Kingdom daily. Each features your favorite Disney friends passing by on cruise boats down the Discovery River including:

  • Discovery River Character Cruise
  • Discovery Island Drummers
  • Donald’s Dino Boat Bash!
  • Mickey & Friends Flotilla
  • Goofy & Pals Set Sail

Read the following posts for more info on the entertainment options at the Animal Kingdom right now:

Festival of the Lion King (10/10)

  • Show Type: Stage Show, Musical
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: Yes
  • Show Length: 30 minutes
Disney's Animal Kingdom Festival of the Lion King

This Broadway-style show is based on the Disney Animation classic “The Lion King.”  Talented performers dress in extravagant costumes, perform incredible acrobats, and dance to musical favorites from the film.  Classic songs include: “Hakuna Matata,” “The Circle of Life,” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”

Festival of the Lion King is quite possibly the best show in Walt Disney World and a must-see for guests of all ages. It’s a very artistic take on the original story, but all the costumes, music, and props work together in harmony.

When to Visit: We recommend going in the afternoon to get a break from the heat. Any seat is a good one so you don’t need to use a Genie+ here.

Finding Nemo – The Musical (9/10)

  • Show Type: Stage Show, Musical
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: Yes
  • Show Length: 40 minutes
Finding Nemo the Musical Animal Kingdom Rides

(“Finding Nemo the Musical” is closed and a new show “Finding Nemo Musical – Big Blue & Beyond” is replacing it in 2022.)

An elaborate musical re-telling of the Pixar classic “Finding Nemo.”  This show has extraordinary special effects, digital backgrounds, and uses human performers who act as giant puppets in the roles of the show’s characters. 

The Animal Kingdom comes through again with another one of the best stage shows at Disney World. The human puppeteers are incredible to watch and the way they glide through the air is utterly brilliant. They could have added some additional parts instead of a straight-up retelling of the film, but that is a tiny complaint in an otherwise stellar show.

When to Visit: Unlike the Festival of the Lion King, having a closer seat does matter here as you will have a much better view of the puppeteers. We suggest getting in line early for this or using a Genie+ if you don’t want to wait. Again, afternoon showtimes are the best to stay out of the heat.

Tree of Life Awakenings (7/10)

  • Show Type: Projection Mapping
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: No
  • Show Length: 5 minutes
Tree of Life Awakenings Animal Kingdom

Projection mapping technology has been all the rage in the Disney theme parks for the past few years, and in 2016 they came to the Animal Kingdom as part of a new nighttime spectacular, “Tree of Life Awakenings.” This is currently the only nighttime spectacular at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

This is a pretty cool show as you can watch luminous fireflies come to life on the tree to celebrate the beauty of nature found in animals. It’s not a huge show like Happily Ever After and there are no fireworks, but Tree of Life Awakenings are definitely worth a look as the effects are excellent.

Rivers of Light: We Are One (Permanently Closed)

Rivers of Light Show Animal Kingdom

In 2017, Disney opened the Rivers of Light nighttime show out on the Discovery River lagoon between Everest and Discovery Island. It included floating barges, colored fountains, lasers, lights, projection mapping, and more.

Even after a second version (“We Are One”) debuted in 2019, the show has been permanently closed. Rivers of Light never got off to a good start and was originally delayed for months due to technical and artistic problems with the show. It was mildly entertaining but never really had that “wow” moment to grip audiences.

We are waiting to hear what Disney’s plans are for the space and a potential replacement nighttime spectacular sometime in the future.

Feathered Friends in Flight! (6/10)

  • Show Type: Stage Show with Exotic Birds
  • Good For: All Ages
  • Genie+: Yes
  • Show Length: 25 minutes
UP! a Great Bird Adventure Animal Kingdom Attractions

“Feathered Friends in Flight” is the replacement show for “UP! A Great Bird Adventure” and is located in Asia, near Discovery Island and on the way to Africa. This space has been problematic in recent years and has recycled through a few shows before landing on this latest one.

The concept is always the same. Disney cast members help teach guests about bird species from around the world, instead of Russell and Dug from UP!. Trainers showcase 20 species of exotic birds and showcase their talents and you also get to see how these specialists care for and train these feathered friends.

Overall, we aren’t huge fans of this show. The former Flights of Wonder was a better show than both this one and the UP! version which felt like a way to shoehorn more IP into the park unnecessarily. It’s unclear what is going to stay here long term since the current show only came in since the park reopened in 2020. Let’s hope the next version gets it right.

Donald’s Dino-Bash!

Lively celebration in Dinoland that includes character meets, and a nightly dance party featuring a DJ. If you’ve ever wondered what Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Launchpad McQuack, and Chip ‘n’ Dale look like in crazy dino costumes, this is your chance.

Donald's Dino-Bash Animal Kingdom

Animal Encounters: Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight

An incredible display near the Tree of Life of 6 South American Macaw species with wingspans up to 48 inches long. Learn from bird experts and watch as they take off and swoop down over the on-looking guests.

Animal Encounters: Winged Encounters Disney's Animal Kingdom Rides

Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party

Fans of The Lion King will like this street dance party led by Timon and Pumba and other beloved Disney characters. Shows occur daily from 11:30 am to 5:30 am on the Discovery Island Stage.

Pandora Drummers

Also known as the Swotu Wayä, these drummers perform a traditional Na’vi drum ceremony.

Pandora Rangers

Equipped in a 10-foot-tall Exo-Carrier Utility Suit, these rangers wander the Mo’ara Valley to study the local wildlife and offer some comedic relief in the meantime.

Pandora Rangers Animal Kingdom Rides

Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe

These guys get the entire Harambe village dancing with high-energy African music and rhythms. It also has an interactive element to it as guests can get involved in the show.

Dance party in Africa at Animal Kingdom

Viva Gaia Street Band!

A lively group of musicians leading a Caribbean Street Party on Discovery Island. The show lasts about 30 minutes.

Bollywood Beats

Fun and energetic Bollywood-style dance show. It lasts approximately 10 minutes.

DJ Annan

Street dance party in Asia including a DJ.

Genie+ and Lightning Lane Animal Kingdom Attractions

FastPass+ has been discontinued at Walt Disney World and replaced with the Disney Genie service. This has completely changed the way guests tour the Animal Kingdom and it has a big impact on wait times.

FastPass+ rides Disney's Animal Kingdom
  • There are now 2 pay-to-ride reservation services: Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane selections.

Genie+ is the same idea as FastPass+ and it lets you skip waiting in long lines all day, instead of moving you through the “Lightning Lane,” where the wait is minimal. Guest here get the priority and skip past the standby queue.

The My Disney Experience app lets guests make reservations for attractions they want to ride throughout the day and are then given a one-hour return time to come back and ride it. One big difference is you can only have one reservation at a time, instead of 3 like with FastPass+. Guests must also wait 2 hours in between making reservations.

Of course, the biggest difference is that Genie+ is NOT free and you must pay to use it. Disney Genie+ costs $15 per day, per guest and you can use it all day long, even in multiple parks.

Lightning Lane sign at It's Tough to Be a Bug

Besides Genie+, the other pay-to-ride service is Individual Lightning Lane selections. This is totally separate from Genie+, and with an additional cost. Unlike Genie+ which gives you access to many attractions, Individual Lightning Lane selections allow you to pay to ride just one attraction at a time.

There are only 2 attractions using the Individual Lightning Lane in each park. It’s not necessary to purchase Genie+ to make an Individual Lightning Lane selection as they are 2 different services. Prices for Individual Lightning Lane selections range from $7-$15 each, per guest.

Here are all the current attractions using Disney Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane at Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

Genie+ Lightning Lane Selections:

  • Celebration of the Festival of the Lion King
  • DINOSAUR
  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain (Until August 7, 2022)
  • Feathered Friends in Flight!
  • Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!
  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
  • Naʻvi River Journey
  • The Animation Experience at Conservation Station

Individual Lightning Lane Selections:

  • Avatar Flight of Passage

There are only 11 Genie+ attractions to choose from, but not all of them are worth one of your limited selections throughout the day. These should be saved for the most valuable attractions, the hardest-to-get ones.

The nice thing about Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane at the Animal Kingdom is there aren’t too many difficult choices to make when booking your rides. Concentrate on the rides that normally have the longest wait times and don’t worry about the less popular rides.

Kilmanjaro Safaris Giraffe

Of the Individual Lightning Lane rides, we recommend using a selection on Avatar Flight of Passage. This ride has the longest wait time in the park and can be in excess of 2-3 hours at busy times. If you don’t want to wait in line or show up early for rope drop, this should be your first priority. If you can’t get a Lightning Lane for it right away, keep checking every day and see if anything opens up.

Don’t waste your money on Expedition Everest when it is an Individual Lightning Lane selection. Most times of the year the wait won’t be more than 30-40 minutes and we are perfectly content waiting in line for it.

The best choices for your first Genie+ selections at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are these attractions in the following order:

  1. Kali River Rapids
  2. Na’vi River Journey
  3. Expedition Everest
  4. Kilimanjaro Safaris
  5. Dinosaur

Of the Genie+ rides, we recommend using a selection on Kali River Rapids, Na’vi River Journey, Expedition Everest, or Kilimanjaro Safaris. Kali River Rapids often has lines of one hour or more when it’s hot out so if you are going at that time use one here.

Lightning Lane sign at Expedition Everest

Is it Worth It?

Many guests are hesitant to pay an additional $15 per day for a service that used to be free and they wonder if it’s worth the cost. In our experience, of all 4 Walt Disney World theme parks, the Animal Kingdom is the worst use of the Genie+ service and not worth the $15 price.

While we cover it more in-depth in our post “Is Disney Genie+ Worth It?” there are so few attractions at the Animal Kingdom that if you are spending a full day in this park, you will have more than enough time to do everything just waiting in the standby lines.

If on the other hand you only have half a day or are pressed for time because you are park hopping, Genie+ could be worth it. When you buy Genie+, it’s good for the whole day, so you can use it on a couple of rides here, and then use it at the next park too.

Make sure to read our full guide to Disney Genie+ and the Lightning Lane which includes more tips and strategies on how to use it at Animal Kingdom and in the other parks. You can also read about the free Disney Genie service which has some planning suggestions that are useful.

What Should You Ride First at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

Best rides at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Choosing what to go on first at the Animal Kingdom depends on which rides you are using one of the paid reservation services like Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane, or just doing everything standby.

If you got a Lightning Lane reservation for Avatar Flight of Passage, then we suggest going to Kilimanjaro Safaris first in the morning. This is the best time to see the animals all day as they tend to be more active first thing in the morning.

If you don’t have a Lightning Lane for Avatar Flight of Passage, then we suggest rope dropping that first thing in the morning. This ride has the longest lines in the park and early in the morning is the best time to beat the crowds there.

Best Family Rides

Family Attractions at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Most of the rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are family-friendly and can be enjoyed by the whole family. There are only three rides that some people might be hesitant to go on. Most of the attractions are slow-moving rides, and there are plenty of shows and walking paths to explore at your own pace.

Here are the best family rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in order:

  1. Kilimanjaro Safaris
  2. It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  3. Na’vi River Journey
  4. Maharajah Jungle Trek
  5. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail

If you have small children or you just don’t like thrill rides, each of the above attractions will be perfect for you and can be enjoyed by the whole family. Kilimanjaro Safaris is especially awesome if you like animals and the kids will have a ball.

Best Thrill Rides

Disney's Animal Kingdom Thrill Rides

Disney World in general is not known for big thrill rides, but the Animal Kingdom park does have a few that that will send shivers down your spine. They are on the same level as the Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster as far as thrills go.

Here are the best thrill rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in order:

  1. Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  2. Avatar Flight of Passage
  3. DINOSAUR
  4. Kali River Rapids

Expedition Everest is the best roller coaster in Disney World and even though there are no loops, you will be clinging to the grips once you feel those G-forces kick in. You may even spot the Yeti which is enough to scare anyone!

Avatar Flight of Passage is one of the most exhilarating experiences you will find at any theme park. Riding a banshee over the gorgeous landscapes of Pandora will likely bring you to tears, those sharp drops down also might do the trick.

DINOSAUR isn’t the fastest ride and doesn’t have any steep drops, but it makes use of heavy lighting and special effects that might be too much for your little ones. The Kali River Rapids isn’t super scary but there is a big drop and you might go down backward.

How to Avoid Long Lines for Rides at the Animal Kingdom?

Avoiding Lines at Disney's Animal Kingdom

There is nothing more frustrating when visiting a Disney park than waiting in long lines for the attractions. Here are our best tips to avoid wasting a lot of time waiting in line at the Animal Kingdom.

Use Genie+/Lightning Lane – You can pay to use the Lightning Lane for most attractions which will let you skip the lines for the most popular rides at the parks. Genie+ reservations can be made at 7:00 am on the morning of your visit and so can Individual Lightning Lane selections. We recommend doing this as all the best rides fill up early. This is the best way to save you some serious time in line as long as you are willing to pay.

Do Flight of Passage Early – If you can’t get a Lightning Lane reservation for Avatar Flight of Passage, we highly recommend waking up early and doing it at rope drop. This always has the longest wait times in the park, so doing it first thing in the morning before the crowds get there will save you lots of time. We recommend being there a minimum of 30 minutes before the official opening time of the park.

Animal Kingdom Entrance at rope drop

Go Early in the Morning – This is a good suggestion no matter which Disney park you are going to. The first couple of hours are always the slowest, so you will be able to get a lot of the big attractions done before the majority of the guests arrive for the day.

Take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry if you are staying on-site which gets you in 30 minutes before the general public. Then you can go slower in the afternoon when the park is sure to be hotter.

Go When the Crowds are Low – Another great way to avoid crowds is to go when there are fewer people in the parks. This is easier said than done, but if you use our Disney World Crowd Calendar it will give you a good idea about the dates when there will be fewer people in the parks. A general rule to keep in mind is weekdays are always less busy than the weekends and avoid going on holidays.

Make sure to look at the Disney World Attractions Refurbishment Calendar while planning your trip to see if any of your favorite attractions are scheduled to be closed while you are there.

For more attractions, be sure to check out our other Disney World Ride Guides:

If you are thinking about going to Walt Disney World in the coming future, make sure to read our Disney World Planning Guide. There you will find all the info and tips you need to plan your trip.

Your Thoughts

I want to know what you think about the Animal Kingdom Rides…

  • What is your favorite attraction at the Animal Kingdom?
  • Which new ride are you looking forward to the most?

Let us know in the comments section below!

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