It’s time for another visit to Animal Kingdom. For this Walt Disney World report, we head to the park on another chilly weekday during the winter off-season to check out crowds, wait times, and the latest changes. This Walt Disney World update features photos, tips & info, our experience with crowds, end-of-day Pandora – World of Avatar, and more!
Let’s start by revisiting our day of the week recommendation for Animal Kingdom. Previously, we advised a Friday or Sunday for Animal Kingdom, with Hollywood Studios on Saturday and Magic Kingdom on the other weekend day. At least, for those with Walt Disney World trips encompassing a weekend. (Avoiding Saturdays and Sundays altogether is the best strategy.)
That was predicated upon a few factors, including the longer operating hours at Animal Kingdom, which closes at 5 pm most weekdays but later on weekends. It was also due to the sunset time and entertainment disparity during the Christmas season. Unfortunately, the latter two elements are mostly non-factors now. There are no longer Tree of Life Winter Awakenings and sunset is now after 6 pm, which means staying after dark isn’t an option except on a few scattered weekends and holidays…
Accordingly, our approach for Animal Kingdom has shifted a bit, depending upon your priorities. Weekends are still a good option–especially those rare 7 pm or 8 pm closings. There’s also potential upside to lower crowds on weekdays–especially in the afternoon when crowds really clear out.
Let’s begin on that note, with a look at crowds and wait times during our afternoon in Animal Kingdom…
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has seen one of the sharpest drops during that time, with wait times down 56% at the time we crunched the numbers. Wait times have actually dropped further since then.
In our visit, pretty much every attraction outside of Pandora – World of Avatar was a walk-on or close to it.
If something had a 5 or 10 minute posted wait, that typically reflected the time it would take to walk through queues. Even some rides that initially appeared to have lines were mostly just backed up at the entrance, and then smooth sailing from there.
It took us roughly 10 minutes to walk through the Kilimanjaro Safaris line, but that was mostly because we were behind a slow party in this lengthy queue.
The ride vehicle in front of us ended up dispatching empty, whereas ours had every other row filled.
A fairly representative look at Animal Kingdom’s afternoon crowds.
With that said, there were some pockets of people. Nowhere was necessarily congested, but there were some blips.
That appeared to be partly driven by large groups.
There are clearly some youth sporting events happening right now, as we saw a couple groups of cheerleaders. Nothing even remotely on par with the normal numbers this time of year, though. It’s difficult to tell what’s up with these events; many are still on the ESPN Wide World of Sports calendar, but they’ve presumably been scaled back.
We’ve heard from some youth sport participants that Walt Disney World has not been accommodating group bookings. Some have indicated they were independently planning annual visits regardless; others have cancelled because attending is cost-prohibitive.
This is purely anecdotal, but it comports with what we’ve observed and would also help explain what happened with Pop Warner moving to Universal. (If you’re part of a youth sport group that has been impacted, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.)
The largest crowds we encountered all afternoon were actually on Discovery Island and as we exited around 5:30 pm.
We had lingered in Pandora – World of Avatar post-closing for photos, but there were still a lot more people just loitering around the front of the park when we got there. It shouldn’t be a huge shock that people aren’t exactly racing towards the exit and eager to end their day at 5 pm.
Back to the crowds and wait times, the biggest difficulty you’ll have right now is filling an entire day at Animal Kingdom.
Be sure not to overlook the exhibits like the glorious Otter Grotto, where you can marvel at the sage creatures playing in their latrine. Our favorite trail by far is Maharajah Jungle Trek, which is criminally underrated and beautifully designed.
Or you can do Avatar Flight of Passage repeatedly like the kid in front of us in line, who exclaimed that he had already done it 6 times that day.
That’s a feat reminiscent of Animal Kingdom After Hours, which was a major selling point of that event. The same numbers (or better) are actually easily achievable during a weekday right now. In checking My Disney Experience, we rarely saw the posted wait time for Flight of Passage go above 20 minutes.
When didn’t do Flight of Passage until ~15 minutes before park closing, at which point we didn’t meet up with the line until this room. Our total wait ended up being a little over 10 minutes, the vast majority of which was walking through empty queue.
The lower wait time here is in part owing to decreased attendance, and in part that Walt Disney World is now loading most/all seats. I’ll admit, for all of my chest-thumping in our EPCOT Report about the plexiglass in Frozen Ever After, being seated right next to a stranger in Flight of Passage is a bit unsettling.
I guess that speaks to the power and comfort of feeling safe. The rational part of me knows it shouldn’t be a concern. The duration of Flight of Passage is relatively short, the room is huge once the ride begins, and there’s constant air flow.
Additionally, even though Walt Disney World hasn’t spoken to ventilation or filtration at all, the latter is pretty good on Flight of Passage due to the scents that are quickly cycled in and out. (We did the Soarin’ backstage tour at DCA a few years ago that showcased that theater’s filtration system. I don’t remember the specifics, but it was impressive–and ~15 years older than this.)
Moving along to some updates, Kali River Rapids is currently down for refurbishment until April 1, 2021.
In walking around this area, there’s a decent amount of visible work happening. There’s hopefully even more that is not visible.
Walt Disney World also recently filed new permit for “construction” on Primeval Whirl. The Notice of Commencement lists Disney’s Buena Vista Construction Company as providing “labor, material and/or electrical for construction.”
Make no mistake, Primeval Whirl is not reopening. This is for removing track or dismantling the attraction entirely. Ride vehicles have already been removed, and it’s likely more of the off-the-shelf ride will be sold for parts to an amusement park. Fans of Primeval Whirl who mourn its loss are invited to check out their nearest Six Flags. (No disrespect to Six Flags–most of its ride slate is superior to Primeval Whirl.)
On a positive Dinorama note, the carnival games now offer themed prizes.
This is not a new development, but I’m not sure whether we’ve covered it previously. Given how much this blog trashes Dinorama (for good reason), it’s not the end of the world if we praise the same thing twice.
Speaking of things that aren’t particularly new, here’s a look at the Nigerian dwarf goats on Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Some might call this the new “grand finale” of Kilimanjaro Safaris, ending the journey on the Harambe Wildlife Reserve with a bang and going out on the highest note possible. Those people would not be wrong.
However, even as staunch Disney goat advocates, we’d still call the big cats section the climax of the attraction. (Although it can sometimes be a tad anti-climactic if they’re all asleep!)
This is more the satisfying conclusion to the attraction that neatly puts a bow on the themes and ride’s message with a visibly-Imagineered example of symbiosis between humans and animals. Plus, goats are the GOAT.
Outside the front entrance, a new photo op has been installed replacing the previous winter-themed one.
We love the style Animal Kingdom uses for these. Photos don’t do it justice, but there’s dimensionality and a substantive quality that’s lacking from similar displays elsewhere. Plus, the art is always top-notch.
That’s a wrap from Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Right now is definitely a great time to visit, whether you want to ride Avatar Flight of Passage a half dozen times in a day, enjoy multiple meals at table service restaurants, spend hours marveling at otters and goats, or just do a leisurely day in the park. Or, you could simply show up in the afternoon for a few hours and accomplish almost everything.
Of course, this is just for now. As we’ve repeatedly reiterated, the week of Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras will likely be much worse, as will Easter, and possibly Spring Break ‘season’ (to the extent that there is one this year). However, things are looking pretty good right now for those planning trips to Walt Disney World for the next few months outside of those weeks.
Have you visited Animal Kingdom in the last few weeks? Did you encounter similarly short lines? What are your thoughts on current crowds at Walt Disney World? What about Avatar Flight of Passage loading every seat? Think it’s worth doing Animal Kingdom on a busier weekend day to enjoy the longer hours and sunset/evening in the park? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!