Ah, Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s that sweet spot between zoo, theme park, and botanical garden. An amusement park that’s meant to be savored. It’s also really, really big. We’re talkin’ 580-acres big—the largest in the world. So, just how is one supposed to get everything done in the largest theme park in the world while still taking time to truly enjoy it? No worries! We’re here to help with our Animal Kingdom One-Day Itinerary. (Updated September 6, 2023)
About Our Animal Kingdom 1-Day Itinerary
This comprehensive walkthrough will guide you through our Park Savers-tested-and-approved, 1-Day Animal Kingdom touring plans, including itineraries for families traveling with small children and those who opt to add on Disney Genie+ or the Lightning Lanes. With our simple tips, you should be able to tackle the park’s most popular attractions, plus a few extras, and still have time to explore some of the beautiful trails the park has to offer.
A Note About Disney Genie+ & the Lightning Lanes
Keep in mind that with FastPass+ out of the picture, the only way to skip the crowds and jump to the front of the line at Disney World is to pay for access to the Lightning Lanes either with Genie+ or Individual Attraction Selections. Now, as you can imagine, people aren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of needing to pay to skip the lines at Disney World, a service that was previously free.
At $15 per person per day for Genie+ and between $7 to $15 for each Individual Lightning Lane Attraction, the line-skipping service doesn’t come cheap. Fortunately, over at Animal Kingdom, splurging on Lightning Lane access isn’t really necessary since there simply isn’t as much to do or as many highly in-demand rides as at parks like Hollywood Studios or Magic Kingdom. So, in the spirit of all those Genie+ skeptics, we’ll largely approach this Disney Animal Kingdom itinerary as if you aren’t really investing in anything extra. However, we will still make some suggestions should you choose to play it safe and pay up for Genie+.
For our last trip, we were able to see Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, Festival of the Lion King, Feathered Friends in Flight!, DINOSAUR, Kali River Rapids, and It’s Tough to Be a Bug, plus Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, Maharajah Jungle Trek and Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond! For those keeping track, that’s a ton of rides and shows, along with some good, old-fashioned wandering—all without paying for Genie+. With a bit of planning and the help of our 1-Day Animal Kingdom itinerary, you’ll be able to do the same.
How to Approach Your Visit
Fortunately for guests, the sheer size of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is also its strength. Because it is so big, it’s also able to comfortably hold more people than its smaller counterparts. In other words, even if the park is relatively full, there is still a lot of room to go around. That being said, all that space can translate into a whole lotta walking, especially if you don’t plan right and are forced to backtrack a ton.
Furthermore, as we previously mentioned, Animal Kingdom is a theme park that is meant to be savored. The winding passageways through forests and past animal overlooks invite you to slow down and really soak up what is around you. The stage shows and street performers ask you to sit and stay awhile, while the rides transport you to a completely different place and time. Even the buildings you walk past try their darndest to immerse you in Africa one minute, then Asia—with even the tiniest details having you wonder, just for a second, if you’re actually there. That is, as long as you let them.
That being said, it can be an incredibly tricky thing to find the right mix between doing it all and taking your time to stop and smell the Flame Tree Barbecue. It’s our hope that this itinerary, along with a bit of thought and planning on your part, will help you strike the balance that is right for you. Our 1-Day plan is a pretty good mix of rides, shows, nature trails, and general exploring. However, if there’s an area that you’d like to experience more, make a note of it so that you can return once you’ve seen everything else.
Typically, when you want to get a lot done, the most important thing is to stay ahead of the crowds throughout the day, which is what we try to do, then fill in the gaps or follow up with things you’ve missed or especially enjoyed. If you fall behind or start to notice big crowds during the day, don’t stress—just keep moving through the plan. Alternatively, given that Animal Kingdom is a bit trimmed-back entertainment-wise, many guests tend to arrive and finish early. This results in blessedly short lines during the few hours before park the closes for the night.
Needless to say, if you’d prefer a lazy start to your day and some time in the hotel pool (or by the pool bar), feel free to arrive a bit later and save the most popular attractions for last. Whichever option you choose, you should be able to get just about everything done in a comfortable amount of time. Having said all of that, don’t be surprised if once you get to the park, the whole thing seems a little daunting. From all the Animal Kingdom rides and their overwhelmingly long lines to the park’s sheer size, not to mention your carefully laid plans, it can be a lot.
But, as long as you do your research and follow the plan (while also being okay with saying “whatever!” to said plan and letting Disney magic take over), you should be able to:
Accomplish the best the park has to offer and the things that mean most to you, and…
Still have time to wander around and enjoy the beauty of nature – which, let’s be honest, is what Animal Kingdom is all about.
If you think that sounds like a tall order (and we don’t blame you), keep reading to see our perfect one-day itinerary for Animal Kingdom. But first…
Most Popular Animal Kingdom Attractions
Animal Kingdom might not be the first park people think about when they think of Walt Disney World, but this zoo-meets-theme park has some of the best attractions on property. If you were anything like us, you may have even done a virtual walkthrough during a moment of weakness (i.e. a severe depletion of pixie dust) during quarantine. While some of these are new favorites, others have probably held a place in your heart for a while. Whatever the case may be, you can bet your bottom dollar that these attractions will always have some of the longest lines in the park.
Avatar Flight of Passage
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
Na’vi River Journey
Festival of the Lion King
Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond!
While these next rides and shows are still very much worth a visit, they aren’t as popular as those above and, as a result, usually have shorter lines. This makes them the perfect “in-between” attractions if you need to find something to do or if you’ve already seen everything else on your list.
Feathered Friends in Flight!
Kali River Rapids
The Animation Experience at Conservation Station
Discovery Island Trails
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
Maharajah Jungle Trek
Tree of Life trails
Wildlife Express Train
And much more!
Animal Kingdom One-Day Itinerary – 3 Options
Option 1: No Height Restrictions or Lightning Lanes
This first plan is meant for early risers, especially groups without any height restrictions (AKA no small kiddos). It has been designed to hit the most popular attractions in the park without using Disney Genie+ or Individual Attraction Selections, making it perfect for those who don’t want to pay for the service, while still allowing some free time to explore the park more deeply.
Similar to our 1-day plans for Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we suggest you arrive at the park one hour early. This helps you get ahead of the pack early and stay there. Plus, it also allows you to capitalize on the recent trend of Disney allowing entry into the parks about 45 minutes to an hour before they officially open. For anyone who doesn’t know the craziness of a Walt Disney World rope drop, that’s a huge head start.
If you’re staying on Disney property and are tempted by the ease of Disney’s bus system, don’t give in. At least not for park open, as it’s likely that, due to traffic and stops, you’ll get there only 30 minutes early instead of our suggested 60 minutes. Save yourself time by taking an Uber or Lyft or driving your own card instead. Once you’re in, avoid the temptation of the trails through the Oasis at the front of the park. You’ll have time to look at some amazing animals later. Right now, you need to focus on getting to your first ride.
Now, common sense says you should make a mad dash for the most popular ride in the park first and, in this case, one of the best rides at Walt Disney World: Flight of Passage. But, since that is exactly what everyone and their brother is going to do, it is not what you are going to do. The only exception to this is if you are staying at one of the Disney World hotels and doing Early Theme Park Entry—then, by all means, crack on.
If you can’t enjoy Early Park Entry at Animal Kingdom, then take the road slightly less traveled that early in the morning and make your way to Asia for an early-morning ride on Expedition Everest. There, your encounter with the mysterious yeti awaits. Expedition Everest is a perennial favorite, as is evidenced by its Lightning Lane access, with consistently long lines. Which, we admit, are actually quite pleasant to wait in if you do get caught in one, thanks to some incredible, story-building details. Still, take advantage of the shorter lines and save some cash in the process by doing it first.
From there, head over for some animal adventures in Africa with Kilimanjaro Safaris. Experiencing this attraction early on in the day is crucial, as the animals tend to be more active since the temperatures are cooler. (The same goes for the evenings, so if you’re still around once the sun goes does, feel free to return for an encore trip.) And bonus, you’ll even be able to snap some gorgeous photos in the golden hour light.
Remember how we said backtracking was likely at Animal Kingdom, especially if you want to do it all? Well, don’t say we didn’t warn you. That’s right, we’re heading back to the other side of the park. If it’s an especially hot day, or you’ve never been before and don’t mind the possibility of getting drenched, feel free to stop back in Asia for a thrilling (and chilling!) ride down Kali River Rapids. Otherwise, head on over to DinoLand USA for a blast into the past on DINOSAUR.
After that, it’s almost time for an early lunch. But first, slow things down a bit and check out some of the animals that call Animal Kingdom home. Several walking paths crisscross Discovery Island, offering amazing up-close views of the Tree of Life along with animal outlooks. Enter the Discovery Island Trails between Pizzafari and Creature Comforts, then follow your chosen path either behind or in front of the tree back towards the road to Asia. After that, it’s lunchtime.
Given where you’re at and where you’ll be going next, we’d recommend you check out Flame Tree Barbecue. The portions are huge and the food is tasty, especially for a counter-service BBQ joint. Plus, the eatery’s covered outdoor seating pavilions are a secluded and shady spot to sit down and eat. Alternatively, if you have a bit more time and room in your budget, the nearby Tiffinssignature restaurant is one of the best meals in all of Disney World and the walkway winner at Animal Kingdom.
When lunch is through, pop on over to It’s Tough to Be a Bug. Tucked under the Tree of Life, it’s dark and blissfully cool, making it an excellent way to keep the good vibes flowing after a relaxing lunch. If the timing is right, be sure to squeeze in Animal Encounters: Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight, an awe-inspiring mini-show in front of the Tree of Life, before you join the insects.
With our bellies still full, this is an excellent time to take in some of the park’s entertainment and wander down more animal trails. Feathered Friends in Flight is just a short walk from It’s Tough to Be a Bug, so go there next. This bird show is both fun for little ones and fascinating for adults alike. Just remember that showtimes pop up throughout the day. If there isn’t a show starting right away, don’t worry! Just a short walk away sits the Maharajah Jungle Trek, an animal exhibit starring tigers and some truly stunning habitats.
Afterward, head back to Africa to catch the Festival of the Lion King, a feel-good celebration of the music from the movie and arguably the best show at Disney World. Even with all the seating, this incredibly popular attraction can also get quite busy. Stick to one of the late-afternoon showings to enjoy a shorter wait and fewer people.
While you’re over in Africa, this is the perfect time to take advantage of everything else in the area, whether it be the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, a twilight ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris or live music like Kora Tinga Tinga or the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe. When you’re done, it’s finally time for Pandora – The World of Avatar.
There’s another reason we save this land for last, and it isn’t just because of the crowds. With its “bioluminescent” flora and fauna, Pandora is absolutely gorgeous at night. And if you’re hungry, it’s also a great place to refuel for the rest of your evening. We love Satu’li Canteen, which serves up affordable eats that are both creative and healthy.
Once you’ve had your fill of both food and beautiful sights, it’s time to get stuff done. First stop: Na’vi River Journey, a slow-moving, technicolor boat ride through Pandora in full evening bloom. Finally, to round out your visit, finish up with Avatar – Flight of Passage. This gloriously inventive flight simulator is unlike any other, so don’t be surprised if you want to ride over and over again. Just remember that as long as you’re in line before the park closes, it’s fair game.
Option 2: With Genie+ & No Height Restrictions
As we mentioned earlier, splurging for Lightning Lane access—whether with Genie+ or Individual Attraction Selections—isn’t really necessary at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. For starters, there just aren’t that many rides at Animal Kingdom to begin with, which begs the question of whether it’s worth it to spend $15 per person.
Still, there may be some cases when you are tempted to pony up the cash for the service. For example, if you can only spend part of the day at Animal Kingdom or are planning to Park Hop to Epcot or another theme park later on in the day. If you are pondering the upgrade, here are the attractions with Lightning Lanes:
Feathered Friends in Flight!
Festival of the Lion King
It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
Kali River Rapids
Na’vi River Journey
The Animation Experience at Conservation Station
Individual Lightning Lane Attractions:
Avatar – Flight of Passage
Should you opt to spring for Lightning Lane access, we suggest you skip paying for Flight of Passage and stick exclusively with Genie+. After all, there’s no sense in spending money on something you don’t really need. Then, follow this recommended timeline:
6:55 AM – Wake up to fire up My Disney Experience, buy Genie+ and book your first ride reservation. For Disney hotel guests, get a headstart on your day with Early Entry at Animal Kingdom.
7:00 AM – Reserve Na’vi River Journey as your first Genie+ attraction. Shoot for a return time of 8 AM to 9 AM.
7:30 AM – If you aren’t already in the park for Early Park Entry, race to Avatar – Flight of Passage to ride on standby.
8:15 AM – When you’re done, avoid the siren song of souvenir shopping as you exit through the gift shop and head to the Na’vi River Journey Lightning Lane for your reservation.
8:20 AM – After you’ve tapped in for the ride, reserve your next Genie+ slot at DINOSAUR. Aim for a return time of 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM.
8:50 AM to 9:00 AM – Next stop: Asia. Expedition Everest has one of the nicest standby lines at Disney World. Enjoy the details and face the yeti before dashing to DinoLand USA.
9:45 AM – Tap in for your Genie+ reservation at DINOSAUR.
9:46 AM – Reserve a Genie+ return time for Kilimanjaro Safaris. Try to book a window for 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM.
10:10 AM – Come face-to-face with Flik and the dastardly Hopper at It’s Tough to Be a Bug. In the standby line, take some time to marvel at the animal carvings on the Tree of Life.
10:40 AM – After the show, head back to Asia to explore the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Drink in the park’s natural beauty and admire some animals.
11:10 AM – If you’re feeling peckish, feel free to make a detour to Mr. Kamal’s for a snack of Chicken Dumplings or Mr. Kamal’s Loaded Fries. Then, take your haul to Feathered Friends in Flight to enjoy during the 11:30 AM show.
11:55 AM – Make your way back to Africa for the 1:00 PM showing of Festival of the Lion King. Depending on how long the standby line is, kill some time at the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail or by watching Kora Tinga Tinga or the Tam Tam Drummers.
1:30 PM – After Festival of the Lion King, head to Kilimanjaro Safaris for your Genie+ reservation. After you’ve tapped in, make another reservation, if you’d like, for anything you missed.
2:00 PM – Time for a late lunch! Head back to the front of the park to indulge in smoky, saucy meats at Flame Tree Barbecue. Or, for an even more relaxing interlude, unwind on the balcony at Tiffins Restaurant.
Once you’re done, Animal Kingdom is your oyster. Go on Kali River Rapids, check out more animals, park hop somewhere else or whatever you fancy. It’s all up to you!
Option 3: With Kids & Height Restrictions
Traveling with kids can be magical—the look in their eyes when they meet Mickey, the screams of joy as they get splashed on Kali River Rapids, the shouts of anger when they don’t get a Mickey balloon, the cries of despair as they watch said Mickey balloon float away. Ok, ok, you’re right. Sometimes traveling with kids can feel like anything but magic. But, it’s those perfect times, those we’re-making-memories-that-will-last-a-lifetime kinda moments that make all the other bits worthwhile.
Luckily, with our 1-Day itinerary for Disney’s Animal Kingdom with kids (and patience fortified by pixie dust), you should be able to do all the things the kids might want to do while still making sure the adults have fun too. Even better, most of the park’s kid-friendly must-dos also happen to be adult-friendly must-dos, too. So now, all that’s left to do is weave everything that’s not into the mix.
Thankfully, Disney makes it simple for each parent to enjoy rides their children still aren’t big enough to go on with their Parent Swap (or Rider Switch) program. Although this is a bit of a hidden secret at the parks, doing a parent swap is easy. Just let the cast member know that you’d like to do a rider switch at the entrance to any ride with a height restriction.
For example, let’s say you and your family want to ride Expedition Everest but you have a little one who can’t go. Just tell the cast member at the entrance that you want to do a parent swap. From there, one parent will stay with the kiddo while the other goes on the ride. Then, the parent who stayed behind will receive a return time from a cast member which allows them to use the Lightning Lane, along with two other guests, after the first parent is done with the ride.
We love a good Disney hack that saves both time and fun! You can parent swap on any ride with a height requirement, so remember that as you and your family explore the park. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, attractions with a height restriction include:
Avatar Flight of Passage – 44 inches (112 centimeters) or taller
DINOSAUR – 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain – 44 inches (112 centimeters) or taller
Kali River Rapids – 38 inches (97 centimeters) or taller
If you have at least one child who doesn’t meet the above requirements, here is our 1-day Disney’s Animal Kingdom plan for those with kids:
As you can see, of all the things there are to do at Disney’s largest theme park, only four rides have a height requirement. That sounds like a whole lot of family fun just waiting to be had. Since the park is already so kid-friendly, really all that’s left to do for our 1-Day Animal Kingdom itinerary with kids is add in a couple more rides.
To begin, get to the park an hour early. Once you’re in, make a beeline for Flight of Passage over in Pandora. This is our first parent swap of the day, so let the cast member know at the entrance that you’d like to do a rider switch. After each parent has gone, take a relaxing boat ride on Na’vi River Journey before leaving Pandora. There’s no height restriction for this ride, plus there are so many different things to see during the ride that your kids won’t know where to look.
Then, take the back path to Africa to go on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Again, there’s no height limit and your kiddos will love seeing all the animals’ early-morning antics. At the end of the journey, make your way next door to Asia and use rider switch to go on Expedition Everest. Don’t forget to let the cast member know at the entrance! Keep in mind that this is a rollercoaster that *spoiler alert* goes backward in almost complete darkness, creating the effect that you’re going upside down. So, even if your little one is tall enough, you may want to consider checking in with them first so they know it could get intense.
Once everyone has ridden, you’ll keep moving around the park to DinoLand USA. But first, let’s backtrack real quick to Africa to take the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Not only will your little ones love to come face to face with the adorable animals at the Affection Section, but adults will get a kick out of The Animation Experience at Conservation Station.
On your way, feel free to take on Kali River Rapids—and parent swap if necessary—to cool off before making your way to DinoLand. Keep in mind that getting wet (possibly soaked) is basically a certainty, so make sure you’re prepared with ponchos or plan on walking around to dry off.
Over in DinoLand, you’ll next go on DINOSAUR. This is our last ride with a height restriction, so remember to let the cast member know at the entrance. One thing we will make note of: Even if your kids are tall enough to ride, they could find the attraction very intense depending on how old they are. It’s mostly in the dark with flashing lights and a big, loud, scary dino that jumps out at you at the end. Oh yeah, and it’s kinda set during the time right before all the dinosaurs went extinct. So, it’s not just dark, but dark. Make your choices wisely.
Before you head out of DinoLand, shake off the screaming with a primeval whirl (You see what we did there? Too soon?) on TriceraTop Spin. While you’re in the neighborhood, you’ll next want to backtrack a smidgen—don’t worry, it’ll be worth it—to see Finding Nemo the Musical. Not only is this puppet-powered, Broadway-style stage show a ton of fun, but it’s the perfect way to unwind and catch some shade (and possibly a nap).
Afterward, it’s lunchtime. Although Restaurantosaurus is a tempting choice with plenty of kid-friendly options and tons of cute theming, we’d recommend sticking to our previous suggestion of Flame Tree Barbecue. You and your kids will love the food, but you’ll especially appreciate all the shaded outside space.
After lunch, head to the Tree of Life to see It’s Tough to Be a Bug. While there’s no height restriction, this is another attraction that requires a warning. During the attraction, Hopper, the big bad from A Bug’s Life, drops by for a visit; and let us tell you, some kids will be terrified. That being said, it’s also a ton of fun, as long as you and your kiddos are prepared.
Afterward, step out into the sunshine for a bit of hiking down one or two of the park’s animal trails. These are great opportunities for your little ones to get up close and personal with some incredible animals and are a highlight of the Animal Kingdom experience that you won’t want to miss. From there, keep the nature vibes flowing over at Feathered Friends in Flight before finally wrapping up your to-do list with the Festival of the Lion King.
The Festival of the Lion King is especially popular, so be sure to get there at least 30 to 40 minutes ahead of time to make sure you get a seat. Lastly, end your day back in Pandora with dinner at Satu’li Canteen and a non-alcoholic, super-fun, and frozen Night Blossom from Pongu Pongu. With fun ingredients like boba pearls and bao buns, your kids won’t be able to resist.
Tips & Tricks
Don’t Plan Your Trip to Death
Having a plan is crucial to getting as much done at Disney as possible, but it can also place a huge amount of stress on yourself if things don’t go the way you expect. Weather in Central Florida can be an absolute pain thanks to heavy rain, lightning, and extreme heat. So, just be ready to adjust your plan to go with the flow as needed. If lightning closes the next ride on your list, ride the next one and come back to it later. If it starts to pour, reach for the poncho and/or umbrella you packed and keep going while everyone else hides from the rain. You did… pack one of those, right? With a bit of creative thinking and a sense of humor, you can turn a bad situation into a positive memory.
Kids, bless their hearts, are another thing that can throw a wrench in best-laid plans. But trust us, no one is going to have fun if the little ones can’t enjoy naptime or mealtime. Luckily, each park is equipped with a baby care center, making finding a place to nurse or have a quick break easy.
At Animal Kingdom, the baby care center is on the left in front of the bridge that goes from Discovery Island to Africa. Of course, you are also free to nurse throughout the park as well. To really make the most of your time (multitasking, baby!), consider nursing during one of the shows. And if a kiddo needs a nap, just head to a ride that has a height restriction so the parents can ride while the child gets some sleep.
Dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
The rides may be what first come to mind when you think of Disney, but for us, where and what you eat are just as important for your experience. Why? Because unlike at other theme parks, the menu and theming at Disney restaurants usually help to immerse you further into wherever it is you are. That is especially the case at Animal Kingdom.
Similar to Epcot, one of the best things about eating at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the incredible variety. From African- and Asian-inspired dishes to barbecue, from sit-down to quick-service, there’s sure to be something for everyone. When you do want to take a break, your best bet is to find something that is as close to where you are as possible. You can also check out all your options ahead of time and plan your break accordingly if you find something that strikes your fancy. You might even consider bringing some snacks into the park with you to keep you satisfied until you’re ready to eat.
Around Pandora, Satu’li Canteen is a fun option if you want something quick and easy with a few out-there ingredients. In contrast, nearby Tiffins is excellent for unwinding with a cocktail and an adventurous bite or two. If you’re in Africa, Harambe Market has an array of African-inspired options in a very atmospheric setting for quick-service dining, while neighboring Tusker House offers character dining with Donald Duck.
Next door in Asia, the table-service Yak & Yeti has an assortment of familiar Asian-inspired dishes, as do a few other quick-service locations in the land. DinoLand, meanwhile, is filled with kid-friendly favorites like burgers and pizza. You’ll also have one final table-service option before you leave the park: a Rainforest Café.
Some Final Thoughts
Well, that concludes our one-day Animal Kingdom plan both with and without kids. Hopefully, you should have been able to accomplish quite a bit, all while making the entire family happy. Of course, for those who really want to maximize your day, you could also invest a bit in Genie+ or Individual Attraction Selections. Tough decisions, we know.
For all you Animal Kingdom fiends out there, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our plan. Is there anything we should change, add, or drop? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below or send us an email. If we like your ideas, we’ll be sure to add them. Looking for other Walt Disney World touring plans? Find itineraries for Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot here.