By Disney’s own advertising, Animal Kingdom is notazu (not a zoo). However, it sure feels like it sometimes. It’s our least-favorite park – mostly because it’s about 3x the actual acreage of the other parks – and blacktop and jungles galore… so it just FEELS hotter and more humid than the others. But kids love it.
The Jungle Trek puts you up close (just a pane of really thick glass separating you) with large cats. Kilamanjaro Safaris has you in a propane-powered truck going through the savannah looking for “game” on a wildlife preserve (you’re virtually guaranteed to see animals, as they put food in places that make them visible – but going in the morning is the better bet to see more of them). And if you need a cool-off, Kali River Rapids is your standard large-innertube-with-5-point-seat-harnesses attraction, guaranteed to get you soaked.
For school-aged kids, there’s DinoLand… and you will want to see the Nemo Musical – it’s REALLY well done and not traditional at all. AK is also home to WDW’s newest roller coaster: Expedition Everest (ExE). ExE is on a metal track… but while it will never invert, at times it will go backwards… and there’s a scary part, too. I’m not going to give it away, but let’s just say that you should remember what creature of yore hangs out in the Tibetan area. 😉
There’s also Rafiki’s Planet Watch (Rafiki, if you don’t recall, is the wise old ape from the Lion King who holds Simba up at the beginning). You take a train out to it, which is kinda’ cool… and like Kidcot, there are child-specific activities about saving the planet and making wise sustainability choices. Also, there’s a petting zoo.
The icon for AK is the Tree of Life – an artificial work of art. Get up close to see the animals carved into the side… and listen to the leaves rustle. But realize that the leaves are ALL fake. It’s pretty impressive. You can look online to see the superstructure and how they made it (basically an inverted oil rig platform). And inside the tree is “It’s Tough to be a Bug” – a 3D movie starring the characters from “A Bug’s Life“. In 2015, Disney started a project to replace all of the leaves with ones that have built-in fiber-optic lights in them to be a part of a new evening AK show (a first for AK), called Rivers of Light. It looks like it’s gonna’ be pretty cool.
During the day, there is at least one Jammin’ Jungle Parade per day. But there are NO fireworks at night (would scare the animals)… and AK generally closes at dusk. So with your PH option MYW passes, AK is great during the day, and at night, you’d be able to go somewhere else to see a fireworks show that you missed or something similar. BUT, as I just said, they’re working on a night-time show (and a night-time safari to showcase nocturnal animals). Stay tuned for details.
As of 2014, Disney is adding a new themed land to Animal Kingdom – based on the movie, Avatar. This is an interesting development, not only because of the James Cameron angle, but because it’s kind of like an extension of one of the original land concepts for Animal Kingdom, Beastly Kingdom. Scant details are known about what will be found within this new area, but it’s under construction now and should be finished in 2017.