1-Day Animal Kingdom “Daily Trip Blueprint”

Asia in Disney's Animal Kingdom at night. Pretty rad.

If we were going to spend a “perfect” day in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the plan in this post would be how we would do it. These are the attractions we would do, the restaurants at which we’d dine, the zoological exhibits we’d see, and the trails we’d explore. This post continues our series of single-day itineraries designed to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do if you only had one day in ____ Disney park?” We call this series our “Daily Trip Blueprints,” or DTBs for short.

Animal Kingdom is a pretty divisive park, and I’ve already covered how I was wrong about Animal Kingdom, and have come around to appreciating the park. I won’t rehash all of that again, but this post is basically the practical application of that–a day of balancing different types of attractions in Animal Kingdom to have a fulfilling experience.

In this sense, Animal Kingdom is unique, and probably the park where you’ll need a “balanced” plan like this as opposed to one that aims for efficiency. Unless you’re visiting during a busy time of year, Animal Kingdom doesn’t require all that much efficiency. You’re more likely to experience “animal fatigue” than you are to run out of time to do everything you want at Animal Kingdom. As always, we aim for a fun, well-rounded day as opposed to crossing as many attractions off “the list” with this plan, and we think a well-rounded day is the key to a great time at Animal Kingdom.

It’s interesting how Animal Kingdom’s pending expansion (to be fully completed around 2017) will play into this. I think it will have a greater impact than most people anticipate. The ~2 attractions AVATAR Land brings to the table will undoubtedly be popular, but just as important is that these will be “regular” theme park attractions. I think that more normal attractions will further help to balance out the zoological attractions, making people less likely to experience animal fatigue. So, in addition to doing the 2 AVATAR Land attractions, they will be willing to do more zoological attractions because of the balance. The Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular will give guests a reason to stay late, too. All of this doesn’t really affect the here and now, it’s just random thoughts about the future.

This post assumes moderate crowds at Animal Kingdom and the park being open until 5 pm on the day of your visit; actual crowds and park hours vary. Consult our When to Visit Walt Disney World post to determine how bad crowds might actually be, or to plan your visit. If you’re looking for something more comprehensive to plan every aspect of your Walt Disney World vacation, from where to purchase discount tickets to transportation to what to pack and more, read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.

FastPass+ complicates our other 1-Day DTBs, but not this one (read more about FastPass+ in our MyMagic+ FAQ). We aren’t saying you shouldn’t use it for Animal Kingdom, but by arriving at park opening and staying until park close, you can easily accomplish everything in this plan without issue. Use FastPass+ at your discretion to experience more or change things up.

One of the biggest hassles about Animal Kingdom is its proximity to everything else. Staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge is very convenient to Animal Kingdom, and it’s an incredible hotel that will put you in the right mood for Animal Kingdom, but it is worth noting that this hotel is remote to every other park. We view Animal Kingdom Lodge as the perfect place to stay for a leisurely vacation during which you’re going to spend a lot of time in the hotel (if you don’t factor in location, Animal Kingdom Lodge is arguably the best hotel at Walt Disney World), but it can be a hassle if you’re spending a lot of time in the parks. Animal Kingdom Lodge is also on the cheaper end of the Deluxe Resorts, and you can save even more money on a stay here by Renting Disney Vacation Club Points.

Once you wake up from whichever hotel you choose, here’s what to do… (more…)

Yak & Yeti Restaurant Review


Yak and Yeti Restaurant is a table service dining spot in Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World serving Pan-Asian cuisine. This review covers the lunch and dinner menu at Yak & Yeti, and includes photos from our meal at the restaurant. Here’s some standard background info about Yak & Yeti: it participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a one credit table service meal, but does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. Yak & Yeti does, however, offer a 10% Annual Passholder discount. If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, it is a moderate pick in terms of value if you’re looking to maximize your bang for buck on the Dining Plan. It also participates in Landry’s Select Club. If you don’t know what that is, good for you.

When is “I didn’t hate it” praise rather than a thinly-veiled insult? Well, here it is praise. I fully expected to dislike Yak & Yeti, or at least expect it to not live up to my low expectations for it. This is because Yak & Yeti is part of the dreaded Landry’s restaurant group. Not that every restaurant in the Landry’s portfolio is awful (far from it), but it seems Landry’s has a habit of buying out successful independent restaurants, and…to keep this succinct…let’s just describe it as reducing their quality. Suffice to say, I’m not a fan of Landry’s.

“That restaurant got a lot better after Landry’s took over” is one of those ‘said no one ever’ type of quotes. Some Landry’s restaurants, like Rainforest Cafe, succeed with their interesting premise, but often fail when it comes to cuisine. Other Landry’s restaurants are former fine dining locales that still offer good food, but have dumbed down their menus to offer something less sophisticated or of lower quality than it was previously.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Yak & Yeti, but I wasn’t expecting much. My expectations were exceeded as soon as a I walked inside to find an incredibly detailed restaurant… (more…)

Tips for Finding Good Beer At Disney World


Walt Disney World offers a number of craft beers and microbrews in its parks and resort hotels. This post offers tips for finding delicious beer at Walt Disney World, which can be a bit of a challenge. In addition to the normal BMC options you can find just about anywhere (besides the Magic Kingdom), there are some exceptional beers throughout Walt Disney World…you just need to know where to look.

Unlike wine, which (I’m told) Walt Disney World does pretty well–even touting things like their selection of South African wines at Animal Kingdom Lodge–the same effort isn’t put into having high quality beers. Most outdoor vending carts that serve beer at Walt Disney World have Bud Light, plus maybe a token alternative. Nothing against Bud Light–they are great at convincing people their beer is worthwhile with their astronomical marketing budget–but Bud Light is awful. Okay, so everything against Bud Light. BMC are sort of like the fast food of beers: okay options in a pinch, but probably few beer drinkers’ favorites if they had to choose. If Bud Light is your favorite beer, I’d encourage you to try a variety of other beers and give them a chance.

If you haven’t gathered from the remarks towards BMC, I’m sort of a beer snob. Coming from Michigan, I came of drinking age right around the time of the big explosion in craft brewing, with Bell’s opening its brewery ~10 miles from my house about a decade ago. Add to that other great options like Founders (every craft beer aficionado should attend a Kentucky Breakfast Stout release party at some time in their life), Arcadia, New Holland, Dark Horse, and many more, and my opinions of beer have really been shaped by living in one of the greatest beer state. Not really sure how this is relevant to the topic of the post, but I like giving props to my home state when I have the chance. Moving on…

When we first started visiting Walt Disney World as adults, there was a serious dearth of craft beer options, and the selection was laughable. If you wanted a good beer, you pretty much were stuck going to Le Cellier for some Unibroue. While that’s still a great option, Walt Disney World has recognized the growing discontent with BMC, and has incorporated better options into their menus. Things have improved substantially almost every year for the last ~5 years, and continue to get better. So props to Disney for that.

If you’re looking for great beer at Walt Disney World, here are some tips… (more…)

Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 6


On the last day of our Walt Disney World Memorial Day trip, we elected to go to Animal Kingdom. I had wanted to go there earlier in the trip, as the park was open until 8 pm over the weekend, which meant potential night photography there. That didn’t work out, so we were left with a half day in the park. We were both hoping for more time there, but it seems Animal Kingdom is often the park that draws the short straw from us, even if that isn’t our intention.

As you may know, I had a change of mind about Disney’s Animal Kingdom after spending more time than normal there last year, which I wrote about in the article “I Was Wrong About Disney’s Animal Kingdom.” That post was surprisingly popular (I think you all just like it when I’m wrong, but as Sarah will tell you, that’s fairly often) and I spoke more to the topic on the Animal Kingdom-centric podcast, Radio Harambe. While I no longer view Animal Kingdom as a half day park, it feels incomplete for me, and it’s missing that special something that I can just do over and over again to kill time.

Something like the PeopleMover, Country Bear Jamboree, or Carousel of Progress in Magic Kingdom, and American Adventure, Living with the Land, or Impressions de France in Epcot. About the closest thing Animal Kingdom has is eating Flame Tree BBQ ribs at the spot that overlooks Expedition Everest. This is probably largely because I haven’t spent enough time in Animal Kingdom to really feel an emotional attachment to anything in the park. It shouldn’t feel bad (assuming theme parks have feelings), as Disney’s Hollywood Studios is about the same for me. Although there I guess the Great Movie Ride sort of occupies that role. Sort of.

I am really hopeful that the boat ride that’s coming to AVATAR Land will fill that void. I remain in the approximately .5% of Disney fans who are actually optimistic about AVATAR Land. I’m by no means a fan of the movie (I thought it was mediocre at best), but it did have some truly beautiful environments that I think will transfer well to a theme park. This is why I’m looking forward to AVATAR Land. Like I’ve written countless times, I think ultimate quality transcends source material. Meaning, if the attractions are compelling and the land is beautiful, no one will care that AVATAR doesn’t really have a fanbase or wasn’t really that good of a movie. I’m not a fan of Cars, but I love Cars Land because the environment and main attraction are great. That’s not the best example because others love Cars, which could explain why the land is a hit. A better example is Splash Mountain. I wonder what percentage of guests have the slightest idea what the source material for it is, let alone how many have actually seen it. But I digress–I know I’m not going to change any minds with any of this, as AVATAR Land is one of those topics where you’re either ‘with us or are the enemy’.

We only had limited time in Animal Kingdom that morning and early afternoon, and that time included lunch at Yak & Yeti. Unfortunately, we hadn’t made FastPass+ reservations, so we jumped into the standby line for Kilimanjaro Safaris first thing. The posted wait was only 10 minutes…although that turned out to be more like 25. Oh well, it’s worth it. (more…)

Best Disney’s Animal Kingdom Attractions & Ride Guide

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is another park that is lean on attractions (and has unfairly earned a reputation as a half day park because of this), but has more than enough quality entertainment to fill a day. This guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom attractions contains short reviews and numerical scores for every ride and show in the park. If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, it’s a great place to start when determining what and when you want to do various Animal Kingdom attractions, as well as how you should use your three FastPass+ in the park. Preferences vary, but we’ve tried to keep this as objective as possible with enough description so you’ll know whether particular attractions will appeal to your group.

This guide for Disney’s Animal Kingdom includes headliners and smaller attractions, plus shows and animal exhibits. We don’t recommend skipping any attractions based upon the advice of others if you have the time to experience them all (except Dinorama!), but be warned that this meager list of Animal Kingdom attractions is only deceptively meager, and will take a long time to complete. If you go at a slow pace or stop for table service meals, you won’t be able to do it all in a single day. This guide will help give you an idea of which Animal Kingdom rides and attractions are must-see for you, and which ones you won’t have time to do.

Even more than our other attractions guides, you’ll notice that this one is very top heavy, with far fewer attractions on “The Rest” list. This is partly where the half day park reputation comes in, and it usually comes from those who don’t give Animal Kingdom’s shows or animal exhibits a chance (it took me a long time to discover the beauty of Animal Kingdom, but I finally admitted being wrong about Animal Kingdom in this blog post). Just because you’ve experienced animal exhibits elsewhere does not mean you’ve experienced anything like these. Same goes for the shows.

Beyond that, Animal Kingdom ranks right up there with World Showcase as an excellent spot to just relax and spend some time. The park has a great sense of place to it, and the thematic execution is top notch, save for some criticism that it has too much real world “grit” and not the same sense of whimsy you might find from other Disney parks. It’s truly an exceptional “ambiance park,” and although it could use a shot in the arm in terms of rides that aren’t predicated upon living animals, it appears that won’t occur until around 2017 when Avatar Land opens. Still, it’s a great park, and definitely will be appreciated by the animal lovers in your group.