Animal Kingdom has 11 attractions with Genie+ access, which is the fewest of any park at Walt Disney World. On top of that, only a handful of those are actually worth using the Lightning Lane to skip the line. This guide ranks the rides in terms of time-saved and how quickly each reservation books up. (Updated May 7, 2023.)
Most of the time, we don’t recommend buying Genie+ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (DAK). However, most of the time is not all of the time–hence this guide. There’s about ~25% of the time when buying Genie+ at Animal Kingdom can be advantageous.
This applies during both peak season and when Park Hopping, two scenarios occurring with some frequency at DAK. Walt Disney World has experienced busy days that have “stress-tested” the system, so we know exactly what’s in demand among the Genie+ attractions at Animal Kingdom and what isn’t.
When it comes to crowds, wait times, and Genie+ availability, Animal Kingdom tends to be more laid back, which is in large part due to fewer guests buying Genie+ here. This is especially true on lower to moderate crowd days. In those scenarios, only a couple of Genie+ attractions will have notable wait times, and even those aren’t that bad.
On high crowd days, the wheels can fall off–and that’s when Genie+ is most useful. The park does a poor job of absorbing crowds, and lines spike significantly, with Animal Kingdom often averaging the longest wait times of any park at Walt Disney World on 9/10 or 10/10 crowd days. The difference–and reason for this–is that Animal Kingdom doesn’t have as many rides, so guests are concentrated among a handful of attractions.
Consequently, whether Genie+ will save you a lot of time or almost no time at all really depends upon the crowd level. This isn’t really a profound statement–it’s true at all of the parks–but it’s most pronounced at Animal Kingdom. On a low to moderately busy day, you won’t save enough time to make the purchase of Genie+ worth the money unless you’re Park Hopping after DAK. It’s also arguably not worth the time, as Genie+ will force you to criss-cross the sprawling park rather than doing things as you naturally arrive to them while navigating normally.
During peak season, it’s a different story as 5 of the Genie+ Lightning Lane attractions can have significant wait times throughout the day that are worth skipping. That’s still not many attractions, but it can amount to time-savings of ~4-5 hours, which is pretty good for the $16 purchase. This isn’t to say you should buy Genie+ on those days, but rather, that you should only buy it on days with peak crowds or, again, when Park Hopping elsewhere after finishing Animal Kingdom.
On any of these days, it’s possible to tackle Animal Kingdom without Genie+ or Lightning Lanes. For that, our 1-Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary covers how you can accomplish everything even if you’re staying off-site and don’t want to spend anything extra on Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes. It also offers great “zig when they zag” advice to flip the script on Pandora – World of Avatar and the other side of Animal Kingdom.
If you’re staying on-site, the one thing we recommend is Early Entry at Animal Kingdom. If you can’t swing getting up and out the door before park opening and are not buying Park Hopper tickets, consider arriving late to Animal Kingdom. It’s rare that we don’t recommend rope dropping a park, but Animal Kingdom experiences significantly lower crowds in the last 3 hours of the day–because people run out of things to do and head towards the exit early.
With that said, the goal of this post is to give you the tools and info you need to create your own Animal Kingdom touring plan with Genie+, rather than relying on our 1-Day Animal Kingdom Genie+ and Lightning Lanes Itinerary. You could also adopt “a best of both worlds” approach, consulting that pre-made plan and the rankings here so you understand the why of it, and can adjust the plan to account for your ADRs, showtimes, walking distances, etc. Due to the abundance of animal exhibits and walking trails–all of which have no wait times–it’s pretty easy to put together an Animal Kingdom Genie+ itinerary without a ton of backtracking.
Additionally, see our Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQ for all of the foundational need-to-know info about this replacement for free FastPass+. This whole system is confusing and convoluted, so you might have a question or two-dozen. That answers all of the most common ones we’ve been receiving from readers.
Finally, this offers ride priorities for Lightning Lanes via Genie+ and not Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL), which are pay-per-ride. At present, the ILL attraction for Animal Kingdom is Avatar Flight of Passage. Previously, Expedition Everest was the other ILL attraction, but it has been dropped from the lineup due to lack of popularity.
Conversely, Avatar Flight of Passage is potentially worth the money. We are not keen on buying a la carte front of line access, so we do (and recommend) Flight of Passage first thing in the morning, during the lunch rush, or towards the end of the night–but those with the resources might consider buying an ILL for Flight of Passage. On moderate crowd days or below, that’s probably the better use of the money than purchasing Genie+ for Animal Kingdom.
Now, on with the ride rankings for Genie+ at DAK…
The Best of Genie+ at Animal Kingdom
1. Na’vi River Journey – This is the objective, consensus #1 Genie+ Lightning Lane selection at Animal Kingdom. If you’re planning on rope dropping Flight of Passage and want to knock out both Pandora – World of Avatar attractions first thing, it’s a savvy selection that also will give you quick turnaround time on your next choice.
2. Kilimanjaro Safaris – The argument could be made that, qualitatively, Kilimanjaro Safaris is actually the better #1 pick for Animal Kingdom. This is due to the fact that wildlife on the safari is most active first thing in the morning (and late in the afternoon), making an earlier return time subjectively preferrable. However, the standby line is short early in the morning and late in the afternoon, so using the Lightning Lane then is usually pointless.
Personally, I’d go for Na’vi River Journey without hesitation and “play it by ear” with Kilimanjaro Safaris. While standby wait times for both attractions can be long midday, they tend to be short for Kilimanjaro Safaris early and drop off a cliff by mid-afternoon–the two best times of day to do the safari, anyway. By contrast, there’s no subjectively “better” time for Na’vi River Journey since the experience is an artificially-staged indoor boat ride. (Sorry for the spoiler that you don’t actually visit an alien planet.)
3. Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost – When it first returned, the explorer Minnie & Mickey Mouse meet & greet shot up the rankings due to elevated demand and staffing limitations. As of May 2023, it has improved considerably and now has much improved Lightning Lane availability–and usually shorter standby wait times.
With that said, you can also pretty easily beat the crowd at Adventurers Outpost by doing it before 10:30 am or after 3:30 pm. Between those hours, we strongly favor using the Lightning Lane to see the globetrotting couple as they prepare themselves for their next grand expedition. The standby line moves slow, and although it contains some fun references, it’s not a pleasant experience.
4. Expedition Everest – Now a permanent part of the Genie+ lineup, Expedition Everest can have decent wait times during the middle of the day. However, it’s relatively common to find Genie+ Lightning Lane availability well into the afternoon…and there’s also a single rider line.
5. Kali River Rapids – This is another a tricky one. During the colder months of the year, Kali River Rapids is pretty unpopular and won’t have much of a wait, making Genie+ totally pointless even on 8/10 or 9/10 crowd days. However, once warm weather hits it becomes popular once again. On the hottest days of the year, this leapfrogs Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris into the #3 spot.
6. Dinosaur – Here’s where we enter “only necessary in high crowds” country. On a low or moderately crowded day, Dinosaur will have a short or nonexistent wait and Genie+ won’t be necessary. On busier days, having a Lightning Lane time reserved could save you 60 minutes here.
The Rest of Genie+ at Animal Kingdom
It’s Tough to Be a Bug – We have yet to see a day when this attraction has run out of Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations.
The Animation Experience at Conservation Station – Same deal here. Having this as a Lightning Lane option strikes us as a way to “trick” unsuspecting guests to take the train out to Conservation Station. Don’t get us wrong–we enjoy the relaxing ride, goat farm, and whole area…but it’s not exactly popular with regular guests nor does it normally need line-skipping access.
Stage Shows – At Animal Kingdom, this means Festival of the Lion King, Feathered Friends in Flight, and Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond! (Formerly Finding Nemo: The Musical.) While Genie+ offers priority seating, which can amount to a better view, it’s typically not all that advantageous for shows.
To the contrary, booking a Lightning Lane for this is just going to amount to needless backtracking or clicking in the app, and the opportunity cost of not booking something else. The vast majority of guests should simply do shows via the standby lines.
Ultimately, you should be able to knock out every single Animal Kingdom attraction via Genie+ using Lightning Lanes on the vast majority of days. The biggest problem you’ll run into on busier days is booking both Na’vi River Journey and Kilimanjaro Safaris, which may not be possible on 10/10 crowd days.
The majority of guests staying the whole day at Animal Kingdom won’t need Genie+ except on those 10/10 crowd days…and even then it’s not strictly necessary. Wait times drop a lot in the last 3 hours of the day, and we’ve yet to have any problem accomplishing every major ride at Animal Kingdom via standby in a full day. (The trickier part is occupying the middle of the day when lines are at their worst.)
Where Genie+ is most useful for Animal Kingdom is when arriving late and leaving early before bouncing to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or Magic Kingdom for the evening. Since Genie+ offers minimal value at both DAK, it makes a ton of sense to combine a Genie+ day here with the other parks.
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How would you rank your ride priorities using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes in Animal Kingdom? Surprised by any of the rankings in our top 5, that the explorer Minnie & Mickey Mouse meet & greet ranks so highly, or is this all pretty obvious? Are you planning on buying Genie+ or skipping it? Will you use it on a DAK-only day, or exclusively when Park Hopping to Epcot? Do you agree or disagree with our rankings? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!