It’s been a while, but we’re back with at Animal Kingdom to check on increased fall attendance. In this Walt Disney World photo report, we’ll look at October’s afternoon crowds, posted v. actual wait times, strategy for Pandora, and share our step-by-step afternoon and early evening at Animal Kingdom.
As is emphasized in our recent 40% Crowd Increase at Walt Disney World analysis, wait times and attendance are up across the board primarily due to an increase in Disney Park Pass distribution (with some other contributing factors). Nowhere is this more apparent than at Animal Kingdom, where wait times were up 45% last month, and 103% since the park reopened.
In large part, this has been due to Animal Kingdom’s rock bottom wait times early on. With an average wait time of under 10 minutes for the first month, it’s easier for big percentage gains. While 100%+ increase sounds pretty bad on its face, I think most people would happily take an average wait time of 20 minutes in a constantly-moving line…
To be honest, our post-reopening experiences with Animal Kingdom haven’t even been that “bad.” Granted, we usually show up later in the day and our emphasis is often on the time-honored tradition of otter-watching, but Animal Kingdom has seemed less busy than Walt Disney World’s other parks.
In digging into Animal Kingdom’s wait times (via Thrill Data), we’ve found that our experiences here comport with general trends:
Above is a look at average daily wait time in September (red line) and October (blue line) for Avatar Flight of Passage.
As you can see, the peak posted wait time occurs at around 9:30 am, with wait times consistently decreasing over the course of the day after that.
This is why, in our recently-overhauled 1-Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary, we advised “sleeping in” on your Animal Kingdom day. Okay, not really sleeping in–but arriving shortly after park opening to avoid that rush for transportation and at the temperature screening, bag check, turnstiles, etc.
Some in the comments and on social media scoffed at our eschewing of conventional Walt Disney World touring wisdom. As we’ve said repeatedly, there’s nothing “normal” about the present circumstances. A lot of time-tested strategy that typically applies needs to be rethought.
With that in mind, we decided to take our itinerary’s advice to its extreme, testing that general approach but pushing it to its limit by starting our plan only 3 hours before park closing on the Friday of the Columbus Day holiday weekend…
Above are the posted wait times when we started. Already not too shabby, with manageable waits for the headliners.
We thus departed our pals at Otter Grotto (they were all ignoring us and playing in the “pee corner” anyways) and headed for Kilimanjaro Safaris…
When we arrived at the entrance, the posted wait time for Kilimanjaro Safaris was 20 minutes; our actual wait was 7 minutes.
Even though this was a tad earlier than we like to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris, animal activity was off the charts! Several giraffes came right up to the vehicle, rhinos crossed in front of us, and the big cats were not all sleeping. To the contrary, we saw two cheetahs wandering around and the lions also on alert. (In totally unrelated big cat news, here’s a heartwarming story of a rescued mountain lion cub who recovered her roar after being rescued from a wildfire.)
After this, we bounced to the complete other side of the park to do DINOSAUR. In hindsight, it probably would’ve been both faster and easier to start with DINOSAUR and circle the park in a logical fashion. Sometimes we forget that others don’t like to backtrack, or can’t do it as efficiently as us.
Posted wait time for DINOSAUR was 10 minutes; in actuality, it was a walk-on.
Hope you get a laugh out of this awful on-ride photo of us. Even having done these attractions tons of times, we consistently have the most awkward facial expressions in these pics. At least we’re consistent!
Speaking of awful, DINOSAUR was in pretty sorry shape. Several Audio Animatronics were “sleeping,” effects not working, and the lighting in a few spots being misaligned. For an attraction that is sparse on show scenes when at 100%, it can’t really afford to lose anything. Hopefully we just got unlucky, but that’s doubtful given this attraction’s longstanding woes.
We got done right around 4 pm, and these were the current wait times.
There’s actually an increase in the Pandora – World of Avatar headliners, which is not uncommon. Guests see the low posted waits and jump in line before heading home.
Our focus was that 15 minute posted wait time for Expedition Everest. Unfortunately, about one minute after getting in line, the wait jumped to 30 minutes.
This was unquestionably due to a cleaning cycle–I know that because I could see it happening from this view in the queue. Expedition Everest’s actual wait ended up being 22 minutes.
We had plenty a pretty decent buffer at this point, so we wandered around for a bit, enjoying the floating version of Donald’s Dino Bash and taking photos.
It was a beautiful afternoon, despite the heat and random rain showers.
At this point, the posted wait time for Kali River Rapids was 10 minutes, so we could easily done that. However, we had no desire to get soaked.
Plus, our priorities lied elsewhere…
This is the fantastic Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownie, currently available at Creature Comforts (the park’s Starbucks). We should probably update our List of the Best Halloween Snacks at Walt Disney World.
After that, we popped into Otter Grotto again to see if our pals were in view. No dice, still playing in the pee corner.
At about 4:55 pm, we queued up for Na’vi River Journey.
We had assumed the 55 minute posted wait was wrong, but the line was surprisingly long. It also wasn’t really moving at first.
In popping into My Disney Experience for our 5 pm screenshot, we saw that the reason was that the attraction had just gone down.
This had us a bit worried, as it seemed like our plan to do both Pandora – World of Avatar headliners in the last hour the park was open wouldn’t work out. That probably wouldn’t reflect well on our Animal Kingdom itinerary!
Rolling the dice, we got out of line for Na’vi River Journey and bounced for Avatar Flight of Passage. As you can see, that had a 50 minute posted wait time.
We were in that queue by 5:02 pm, and on the ride by 5:25 pm for an actual wait of 23 minutes. Even with Walt Disney World elevating wait times, we didn’t expect the line to be that short (especially with the other Pandora attraction down).
This gave us plenty of time to finish off at Na’vi River Journey.
At this point, the queue was no longer spilling out past the attraction’s entrance. The posted wait time was 25 minutes (dropping to 20 minutes very shortly after we got in line). Our actual wait was 27 minutes.
Above is one last look at wait times, right as Animal Kingdom closed.
Save for the Pandora – World of Avatar attractions, everything else in the park was probably a walk-on at this point.
When we exited Na’vi River Journey, there weren’t many people around Pandora – World of Avatar and the late afternoon light was giving a warm glow to the floating mountains.
I had wanted to attempt staying for sunset, but the likelihood of that happening seemed really low given how much the park had already cleared out. Plus, Walt Disney World had just added Christmas park hours and extended a ton of other dates, which I needed to write up.
Ultimately, an awesome afternoon at Animal Kingdom. We did every single ride that we wanted to do in a span of 3 hours, had a snack, and did some animal watching as well. Another couple of hours would’ve sufficed had we wanted to do either of the shows or more of the trails, making this a workable post-lunch plan even for those who want to do more.
Of course, that’s just for now. As we’ve repeatedly reiterated, crowds are continuing to grow–so don’t expect the same results come November or December. It’s also worth noting that even though this was a holiday weekend Friday, we would not expect the same success on a Saturday or Sunday. Whereas weekday tourists tend to arrive early, the local weekend warriors sleep in a bit more, and the wait times don’t drop as precipitously in the afternoon. Regardless, a pretty successful visit to Animal Kingdom!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have you visited Animal Kingdom in the last couple of months? Did you do rope drop, or a later arrival? Stay until park closing? What was your experience with crowds and actual v. posted wait times? Thoughts on any topic discussed here? Do you have any questions about the current modified Animal Kingdom experience? Will you be attempting to visit Walt Disney World this holiday season, or are you waiting until 2021 or beyond? 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!