The Ultimate Animal Kingdom Rides Guide

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park has got it all: rides, Broadway-esque stage shows, nature trails, animals, and immersive lands all tucked into something that feels a bit like a really elaborate botanical garden or some next-level zoo. It truly is a family-friendly destination unlike any other. A grab bag of a theme park with a little something for everyone. 

So, what Animal Kingdom rides, shows, and other attractions can you look forward to on your next visit? Keep reading as we break down all the attractions available, including the very best rides at Animal Kingdom.

COVID-19 & Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

Just like the rest of Walt Disney World, things are a bit different around Disney Animal Kingdom Park because of COVID-19. Like many places in the United States, masks must be worn throughout the park – with the exception of when you are stationary and eating, drinking, or taking pictures. This last one is an addition that we, probably a lot of other people, are very happy to see. Remember that you must still wear a mask even if you have had the COVID-19 vaccine. Social distancing markers are also in place throughout the park, and you must pass a temperature check before being able to enter. 

Animal Kingdom Entrance
Animal Kingdom Entrance

When it comes to attractions specifically, almost all are open. The only attractions currently closed at Animal Kingdom as a result of the pandemic are The Boneyard, the stage shows featuring live performers (Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo the Musical, and Up! A Great Bird Adventure), and character meet-and-greets. This also includes the live performing acts in Africa, Discovery Island, and Pandora – The World of Avatar. Rides that are open are operating at a reduced capacity due to social distancing. This, along with social distancing in the queues, has been adding up to lines that look a lot longer than they really are. On top of that, FastPass+ has been suspended until further notice.

Although character meet-and-greets are on hiatus throughout Disney World, there are miniature character boat parades happening sporadically throughout the day which are a lot of fun to watch. We are also looking forward to summer when Festival of the Lion King is said to be returning, however there hasn’t been a date officially announced yet. 

Best Animal Kingdom Rides & Attractions

Wondering what are the best rides at Animal Kingdom? Disney’s animal park might not be the first theme park people think about when they think of Walt Disney World, but this zoo-meets-theme park actually has some of our favorite attractions on Disney property. Without any further ado, here are the best Animal Kingdom rides and shows:

Avatar Flight of Passage

Various Tree Branches and Greenery Inside Avatar's Pandora

Not only is Avatar Flight of Passage one of the best rides at Animal Kingdom, we’d argue it’s also one of the best rides in all of Walt Disney World. From immersive details like the sides of the ride vehicle ‘breathing’, making you feel like you’re actually sitting on an alive animal, to the literally breathtaking views and feeling of flight, this Pandora ride has us gasping with amazement every time we ride. In fact, this writer may have even gotten a bit misty the first time she rode. Totally worth the long wait in line. 

DINOSAUR

With jump scares, an immersive story, a cute dino in need of rescuing, and plenty of twists, turns, and bumps, DINOSAUR is thrilling dark ride for kids of all ages. Will some guests find it too jerky or scary? Certainly. If you and the rest of your group aren’t those people, however, then you’ll definitely want to give DINOSAUR a go. Aside from being a must-do for dinosaur fans, it really hits the sweet spot of being just exciting enough for the adults and teens while not being too scary for the little ones. 

Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

Large Pond Below Expedition Everest Mountain

Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is yet another Animal Kingdom ride that really seems to fall in the Goldilocks zone for guest happiness. Think of it as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad on steroids: Not too fast or too scary but with just enough thrills to keep adults guessing, it’s just right for guests of all ages. It also has one of the best queues, with tons of intricate details spread throughout. 

Festival of the Lion King

For a theme park that’s all about animals, Animal Kingdom has some entertainment that truly can’t be missed. Chief among them is the Festival of the Lion King. In fact, we’d argue that Festival of the Lion King is one of the best shows at Disney World. With eye-popping performances given by the dancers and acrobats and powerful live vocals, Festival of the Lion King is sure to have kids and adults alike singing along. 

Finding Nemo the Musical

Featuring unique theatrical puppetry that recreates life under the sea and an all-new score written by the same songwriting team responsible for Let It Go and other Frozen earworms, Finding Nemo the Music is about as close as you can get to a Broadway show at Disney World. 

Kilimanjaro Safaris & the Disney Animals

Off-road vehicle surrounded by forest

It’s no wonder that at a park that’s all about the animals, one of our favorite Animal Kingdom attractions is all the wildlife, whether it is Africa’s Big 5 (minus the leopard and the water buffalo) or domesticated creatures from a bit closer to home. So, it should go without saying that one of the best Animal Kingdom rides is similarly animal focused. Whether snapping photos of giraffes on Kilimanjaro Safaris or petting pigs at the Affection Section, we love showing animals some love. 

Animal Kingdom Rides & Other Attractions

Animal Kingdom is stocked with experiences inspired by Mother Nature, from stage shows and thrill rides to wildlife trails and a petting zoo. Disney’s animal theme park also boasts one of the most family-friendly collection of attractions of any Disney World park thanks to its well-rounded blend of thrills, educational experiences, slower paced rides, animal cuteness, and can’t-miss stage shows. Even wandering has been built into the park in the form of nature trails and animal exhibits. 

Of course, not all rides are friendly for the littlest Disney guests. Luckily, that’s why Disney offers the Parent Swap (or Rider Switch) program. Intended for guests that aren’t tall enough to ride, a parent swap lets one parent ride while the other sits back with the little one, then they switch so that the other parent can ride. Simply let the cast member know that you’d like to do a rider switch at the entrance to any ride with a height restriction. 

Tree of Life with foliage

Disney character experiences can be found throughout Animal Kingdom. Meet-and-greets are available at Adventurers Outpost for Mickey and Minnie in their safari gear, while you can catch Timon and Rafiki at Discovery Island. You can even party with Donald Duck and those rascally chipmunks Chip and Dale at Donald’s Dino-Bash!

Affection Section | Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Do you and your little ones want to hands-on with some soft and fluffy four-legged friends? Channel your inner Snow White as you frolic among a variety of adorable, domesticated animals at the Affection Section, Walt Disney World’s only petting zoo. After cleaning your hands at the sanitation station, get up close and personal with animals like goats, sheep, and pigs. They love getting calm, gentle pets, rubs, and scratches! And while you can’t touch them, a cow and donkey are also close by. As you explore, animal care experts are on hand should you or your kiddos have any questions. Add in the ride on the Wildlife Express Train to get here and we think this is an excellent way to relax a bit and get a breather from the rest of the park.  

Height Restriction: None

The Animation Experience at Conservation Station | Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Those who feel more comfortable drawing stick figures instead of actual living things and art lovers alike will enjoy The Animation Experience at Conservation Station. Sit back and relax as Disney animators bring beloved Disney animal characters to life right in front of your eyes. But don’t get too comfortable, as you’ll be learning how to draw them too during this 25-minute class with real life animals for inspiration. Don’t worry if art wasn’t your best subject in school, however. Disney’s animators use basic shapes and simple instructions so even the most art-inept will find themselves creating something they can be proud of. Similar to the Affection Section, we think this is a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the park.

Height Restriction: None

Avatar Flight of Passage | Pandora – The World of Avatar

Pandora Foliage and Mountains

Without a doubt, Avatar Flight of Passage is the most popular ride at Animal Kingdom – and with good reason, too. One of the park’s newest rides, Avatar Flight of Passage takes guests on a truly exhilarating and incredibly immersive 3D adventure through the world of Pandora on the back of a flying mountain banshee. And yes, it is as cool as it sounds. Although the lines can get very long here (2 or 3 hours isn’t unheard of), the queue does wind its way through some very detailed theming including the waterfalls and floating mountains of the Valley of Mo’ara, ancient caves, a research lab, and a military compound which looks like it’s been reclaimed by nature. Once you’re through the queue, you’ll be matched with your very own avatar with the help of your “DNA” (actually your facial features) before hopping onto the motorcycle-like ride vehicle for a ride unlike anything else at Disney. 

Height Restriction: 44” (112cm) or taller

The Boneyard | DinoLand U.S.A.

Is your kiddo in need of a break from all that waiting in line? Take some time out for them to explore The Boneyard, a sprawling, open-air playground packed with dino-themed activities. Play paleontologist over at the dig site, a sandpit filled with old ‘bones’ and ‘fossils’ just waiting to be unearthed by little hands. Once you’ve gotten your hands dirty, literally, take some time to wander through the caves and play on the ropes course, slides, and swings. Keep in mind that The Boneyard is quite large with lots of oversized bones and other things blocking sight lines. So, if you like having eyes on your child at all times, this may not be the play area for you. 

Height Restriction: None

Conservation Station | Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Exterior of station building with animals

Interested in learning more about what goes into caring for all the animals that live at Animal Kingdom? Then hop on the Wildlife Express Train and make your way to the Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This *air-conditioned* conservation center is home to several educational exhibits where you can see how the park’s resident veterinarians care for the animals, and maybe even catch a glimpse of a procedure in action, watch animal experts cook up meals, and ogle creepy crawlies like tarantulas and snakes. 

Height Restriction: None

DINOSAUR | DinoLand U.S.A.

Blast into the past on DINOSAUR, a scary search-and-rescue mission to prehistoric times. After winding through museum-like Dino Institute queue filled with fossils and skeletons and being debriefed on the task at hand (rescuing a dinosaur from its assured destruction), you’ll hop in a Time Rover for your trip to the brink of the dinosaurs’ extinction. Don’t worry, you’ll almost certainly make it back just fine. Keep in mind that while the dinosaur you and your crew are tasked with retrieving may be cute, this dark ride isn’t for those who may be prone to motion sickness, as the ride is very jerky and bumpy, or are likely to be afraid of jump scares dealt by huge, roaring, toothy carnivores. 

Height Restriction: 40” (102cm) or taller

Discovery Island Trails | Discovery Island

Close-up of Turtle carving

Looking for a serene escape from the Animal Kingdom crowds and some picture-perfect views? Then be sure to take a stroll along the Discovery Island Trails. These lush pathways wind around the base of the Tree of Life and feature close-up views of “wood-carved” and real-life animals alike. These trails also tend to be blissfully free of people, meaning you won’t have to worry about needing to creatively crop crowds out of your photos of the animals of the Tree of Life or your inevitable selfie. 

Height Restriction: None

Disney Animals | Parkwide

 We know, we know – animals aren’t a ride, but they certainly are the heart of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and one of the park’s main attractions. Animals can be found throughout Animal Kingdom, with the exception of Pandora, from viewing stations, along nature paths, and even on Kilimanjaro Safaris. As you explore the park, we highly recommend you take some time to stop and watch the many creatures that call the park home. Many animal exhibits will also have animal experts on-hand to answer any questions you have, so feel free to ask away and make the most of your visit. 

Height Restriction: None

Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain | Asia

Expedition Everest surrounded by trees

Unlock the mysteries of the mythic Yeti on Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. From the moment you step into the queue at Expedition Everest, you set out on an adventure through the Himalayan mountains. With past museum exhibits and shrines dedicated to the mysterious creature dotted along the winding queue, there are plenty of storytelling details to drink in as you wait in line. The ride itself is a rollicking voyage through snowy peaks and dark caves, and you even the towering Abominable Snowman makes an appearance. *Spoiler Alert* Although you don’t go upside down on this roller coaster, you do go backwards for a portion of the ride, so give Expedition Everest a pass if that sort of motion will upset your stomach enough to ruin the rest of your day. 

Height Restriction: 44” (112cm) or taller

Festival of the Lion King | Africa

Have you always wished you could see Lion King on Broadway but never had the chance? Then you won’t want to miss Festival of the Lion King. Located in the heart of Africa near Tusker House Restaurant, this must-see show features exciting acrobatics and dance set to rousing performances of the music of Lion King. We love every aspect of this show, from the impressive vocal performances given by the cast – and getting to sing along during parts – to the antics of the tumble monkeys. And of course, who can forget all that blissful shade and air conditioning? Unlike at Finding Nemo the Musical, seating is done in-the-round here, meaning that there really isn’t a bad seat in the house.

Height Restriction: None

Finding Nemo the Musical | DinoLand U.S.A.

Wanting another air-conditioned escape from the heat at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? If so, you’ll want to make time to see Finding Nemo the Musical. With beautifully choreographed theatrical puppetry and a lively score written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the same songwriting duo that penned the music for Frozen, this is Finding Nemo like you’ve never seen it before. Unlike Festival of the Lion King, this is traditional theater-style seating, so be sure to show up early to get in line if you want to make sure you’re close to the stage. 

Height Restriction: None

Fossil Fun Games | DinoLand U.S.A.

Mammoth racing game

Do you remember those games you used to play at the fair where if you knocked over enough things or popped enough balloons you could win a huge stuffed animal or other prize? You know, the ones where you usually ended up getting some flimsy plastic toy instead. Well, guess what?! Animal Kingdom has them too! So, take a break from all the rides and whack some moles instead! Being in DinoLand U.S.A., each of these carnival-style games comes with a dinosaur-themed twist. 

Height Restriction: None

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail | Africa

Come face to face with gorillas, hippos, and other African wildlife along the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. This lush nature trail neighboring Kilimanjaro Safaris is filled with animal encounters and is staffed by animal experts waiting to answer any questions you may have. This is one of the park’s more formal animal viewing experiences and a nice departure from the park’s other rides. Don’t expect a tranquil wildlife encounter free from crowds, however. The paths are narrow and can fill up easily with people and strollers. 

Height Restriction: None

It’s Tough to Be a Bug! | Discovery Island

Inside a bug theater

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a bug? As you’ll learn during this 4D film-meets-stage show, it’s tough! Hosted by Flik from A Bug’s Life, this fun show located in the base of the Tree of Life highlights just a few of the many talents of the world’s insects. That is, until Hopper, the big bad grasshopper from A Bug’s Life, drops in for what is sure to be a very scary visit for some small children. Seriously. Don’t let the family-friendly source material fool you – the show’s villain and the bugs he brings with him will be too intense for some kids. That being said, it’s a load of fun and otherwise shouldn’t be missed. 

Height Restriction: None

Kali River Rapids | Asia

A day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom can get hotter than the Serengeti in July. Fortunately, a trip down Kali River Rapids will take care of that no problem. You may just find yourself getting drenched in the process. On this river raft ride, journey past lush jungle and a barren wasteland razed by illegal logging – an educational message, to say the least, with more than a few refreshing splashes of water. As we said, chances are very good that you’ll get soaked here, so keep that in mind if you happen to visit on a cool day.

Height Restriction: 38” (97cm) or taller

Kilimanjaro Safaris | Africa

Safari Attraction

Set out on an adventure of a lifetime on Kilimanjaro Safaris, an open-air voyage across Disney’s own African savanna. Although there used to be a stronger storyline starring a couple of poachers and an adorable baby elephant, Kilimanjaro Safaris is now a completely animal-focused attraction. You’ll make your way through several different habitats that are home to an array of African animals including giraffes, elephants, lions, rhinos, and more. For the best experience, we recommend riding early in the morning or later at night when the animals are most active. During the ride, be sure to have your camera at the ready, as you won’t have much time stopped to take pictures. 

Height Restriction: None

Maharajah Jungle Trek | Asia

The Maharajah Jungle Trek is yet another wildlife trail, this time featuring animals from Southeast Asia. Stroll through a collection of “palace ruins” that are home to creatures like tigers, Komodo dragons, exotic birds, and more. Perhaps thanks to its more out of the way location, the Maharajah Jungle Trek tends to see fewer guests than its Gorilla Falls counterpart, making it the perfect spot to catch some animals in relative peace and quiet and dry of from your trip down Kali River Rapids. 

Height Restriction: None

Na’vi River Journey | Pandora – The World of Avatar

While Avatar Flight of Passage explores the world of Pandora in the daylight, Na’vi River Journey takes guests on a relaxing boat ride through its lush rainforests at night. And oh, what an adventure it is! Don’t expect any thrills here – this mellow ride is all about the beauty of bioluminescence. Gently float past fantastical plants and animals as they bring Pandora to life in all its glow-in-the-dark glory. 

Height Restriction: None

The Oasis Exhibits | The Oasis

Wooden bridge through a cave

Think of the verdant forest of The Oasis and the exotic animal exhibits sprinkled throughout as a gentle, sustained entrance to Animal Kingdom. This collection of walkways is meant to slow you down and ease you into a more relaxed state of mind, one prone to wandering and the quiet contemplation of nature’s beauty (and also rides). As you enter the park, take some time to traverse the different pathways and enjoy the animals in the exhibits rather than making a beeline straight for Flight of Passage. It will put you in the right mind frame to do the same throughout the rest of your day. 

Height Restriction: None

Tree of Life | Discovery Island

The Tree of Life is the icon of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, and oh, what a centerpiece it is! Built around an old oil rig (talk about upcycling!), the tree is inspired by the African baobab tree or upside-down tree. The baobab’s other nickname? Why, the tree of life, of course. The trunk of Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life is covered with over 300 detailed animal carvings which can be viewed up close along the Discovery Island Trails and near It’s Tough to Be A Bug. At night, watch as the carvings burst into life for the tree’s awakenings. These start after dark and continue roughly every 10 minutes until park close. 

Height Restriction: None

TriceraTop Spin | DinoLand U.S.A.

Triceratop spinning ride

TriceraTop Spin is the last of the carnival-inspired rides at DinoLand U.S.A. Similar to Dumbo the Flying Elephant and The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, guests board bright green triceratops for a high-flying twirl above DinoLand. Gentle and slow moving, this is definitely a ride that small children will enjoy. Adults and teenagers? Probably not so much. 

Height Restriction: None

Up! A Great Bird Adventure | Asia 

Russell is hard at work trying to earn his Bird Badge for the Wilderness Explorers. Somehow, he and his trusty dog Dug find themselves in the village of Anandapur (that kid gets around!). While they’re there, they meet Troop Leader Jones, the leader of the local band of Wilderness Explorers, who introduces them to different kinds of birds from across the world. This stage show is the perfect combination of education, Disney characters, and place to rest your feet for a while, making it a must for families traveling with children. 

Height Restriction: None

Wilderness Explorers | Discovery Island

Large tree with animal carvings

As any Wilderness Explorer knows, “The wilderness must be explored! Caw-caw, RAWR!” Luckily, you can become a Wilderness Explorer too and work on earning your own adventure badges during your trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. Sign up to become a Wilderness Explorer at the booth on the right side of the walkway as you enter Discovery Island, then complete challenges as you explore the rest of the park. This free activity is an excellent way for kids and adults alike to enrich their Animal Kingdom experience. 

Height Restriction: None

Wildlife Express Train | Africa & Rafiki’s Planet Watch

The Wildlife Express Train is equal parts attraction and means to get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This rustic train ride runs for a relaxing 7 minutes and boasts behind-the-scenes views of animal housing and care facilities. Not really a ride in the same sense as the rest of the park’s attractions, the Wildlife Express Train is a simple attraction, but a must for getting to this part of Animal Kingdom and a nice break for achy feet. 

Height Restriction: None

That wraps up our guide to Animal Kingdom rides, shows, and other attractions. Wondering how to fit everything into one day? Be sure to check out our 1-Day Animal Kingdom Plan. And while you’re at it, why not save a some money on your Disney vacation with our discount Disney tickets? We also have a highly-rated Disney World Planning Guide to help you prepare for your vacation. Lastly, check-out our dining guide to Animal Kingdom for the best bites found at the park.

For all you Animal Kingdom fans, we’d love to know all about your favorite Animal Kingdom attractions. Leave us your thoughts in the comments below! 

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