Walt Disney World/Animal Kingdom
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At Disney's Animal Kingdom, you can learn how tough it is to be a bug, dig for dinosaur bones, challenge the mysterious Himalayan yeti, and view hundreds of live animals in authentic settings.
This sprawling park in the southwestern corner of Walt Disney World is equal parts theme park and zoological park, with both aspects receiving a unique Disney touch. Nearby is the second-most-popular water park in the world, Disney's Blizzard Beach.
- "Welcome to a kingdom of animals, real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn." — Michael D. Eisner, April 22, 1998
Walt Disney World's fourth and newest theme park opened in April 1998, joining the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney-MGM Studios. When it first opened, park advertising used the faux-African word "nahtazu" ("not a zoo") as a slogan to emphasize that it was not just a collection of animals in small iron cages. The animals here spend their days in expansive habitats that are as close to their natural environments as possible, with subtle and camouflaged barriers keeping them away from guests (and each other). At night, they sleep comfortably indoors in the park's extensive housing area backstage.
Although the animals are nominally the main attraction, they may finally have been overshadowed by the park's newest thrill ride, Expedition Everest. Towering 200 feet over the surrounding terrain, this mini-mountain is visible from some distance away and even threatens to overtake the Tree of Life as the park's most visible icon. The Tree, perhaps by contrast, is most impressive up close, where its size and detail can truly be appreciated.
Welcome to Pandora
In partnership with James Cameron, the world of Avatar is coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom. The Imagineers will be creating a whole new land based on Cameron's groundbreaking film franchise, expanding the park into a true full-day activity. Camp Minnie-Mickey, an Adirondacks-themed meet-and-greet area, has closed to make way for the aliens of Pandora.
The other major rides and attractions include It's Tough to be a Bug, a 3-D movie based on the Pixar film A Bug's Life; Kilimanjaro Safaris, a jeep ride through the recreated African savanna; Kali River Rapids, a soaking raft ride; and Dinosaur, a time travel ride into the late Cretaceous. Two musical stage shows are also very popular: Finding Nemo: The Musical and Festival of the Lion King
Not far from Animal Kingdom is Blizzard Beach, a large water park themed as a melting ski resort.
Animal Kingdom used to close at 5PM, but current schedules show the park open until 6, 7, or even 8PM some nights. The animals generally won't be on display after 5PM, but feel free to go on Expedition Everest as much as you like! The park also participates in the Extra Magic Hours program (both morning and evening).
Animal Kingdom is in the southwestern part of the Walt Disney World property. Head west on Osceola Parkway from World Drive. Parking is $15 per car, although Disney resort guests can park for free—just show your Key to the World card at the toll gate.
Blizzard Beach is on Buena Vista Drive between World Drive and Osceola Parkway. Parking is free.
By Disney transportation
Due to the security measures in place for the protection of the animals, you cannot walk to Animal Kingdom, not even from the Animal Kingdom Lodge. If you're not driving, you'll be taking a bus no matter where you're coming from.
From Downtown Disney
There is no direct transportation from Downtown Disney. Take the bus to any resort hotel (or walk to the nearby Saratoga Springs resort) and transfer to the Animal Kingdom & Blizzard Beach bus.
From all other parks and resorts
Just take the direct bus marked "Animal Kingdom & Blizzard Beach". From the Magic Kingdom, you'll need to get to the Transportation and Ticket Center first.
Animal Kingdom is a very large park, and most of the attractions are outdoors. You will be walking, and walking a lot, so prepare accordingly.
After going through the entrance gates, you'll be in the Oasis area. While there are no rides or shows here, there are two well-shaded paths that pass by a number of animal enclosures. The main purpose of the Oasis is to lead you into the park toward Discovery Island, which is the hub from which you'll explore the rest of Animal Kingdom. You can't miss Discovery Island, thanks to the humongous Tree of Life in the center. It's here you'll find most of the shops and a couple restaurants, along with the 3-D movie It's Tough to Be a Bug.
Animal Kingdom has four themed "lands" that surround Discovery Island. The first one was originally Camp Minnie-Mickey but is now the location where the World of Avatar is being constructed. Next is Africa, where the Kilimanjaro Safaris take you into the park's savanna. Asia has the Kali River Rapids and, at its far end, Expedition Everest. Finally, DinoLand U.S.A. is where you'll find Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama and the Dino Institute.
Rafiki's Planet Watch, a "backstage" area with information on the park's research projects and animal maintenance, is accessed via a short train trip from Africa.
Although Discovery Island is the hub, there's a bath that lets you walk from Africa to Asia to DinoLand U.S.A. without returning to the center.
See and Do
Animal Kingdom has a broad mix of attractions, from simply looking at the many animals on display, to tuneful stage shows, to high-energy thrill rides. There's a little something for everyone here, but families with divergent tastes may want to split up, so Grandma and Grandpa can take a stroll through the animal enclosures while the kids go on Expedition Everest for the third time.
There's one very important thing to keep in mind if you want to get good views of the animals. Remember that it can get very hot during the day, and it's not just tourists who seek shade when the sun beats down. The animals will be more active and more visible first thing in the morning and at the end of the day, and that means closer looks and better pictures for you.
As you walk around, you may spot an animal handler exhibiting one or two small animals up close to a small crowd of guests—these encounters occur randomly throughout the day at a variety of locations, so keep your eyes peeled. There are also several character greeting locations; these will be marked on your guide map and schedules will be listed in your Times Guide.
FastPass, the system that allowed you to go to an attraction and get a ticket to come back later and skip the standby queue, is no longer available. All Animal Kingdom guests will be using FastPass+, where you choose your own return time for each of three attractions. FastPass+ queues are available for virtually every ride in the park, along with some shows and character greetings.
FastPass+ kiosks are located at Island Mercantile and Disney Outfitters on Discovery Island, Kilimanjaro Safaris in Africa, Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest in Asia, and Primeval Whirl and Dinosaur in DinoLand, U.S.A. As FastPass+ is new, cast members are stationed at nearly every major attraction; they have tablets and can help you schedule your FastPass+ reservations if the kiosks are too confusing, or not convenient. If you're staying at a Disney resort, you can also use a smartphone with the My Disney Experience app to schedule your FastPass+ reservations.
For parade and stage show performance times, which change daily, please see the Guide Map and the Times Guide you'll receive when you enter the park. You can also check the Wait Times Board on Discovery Island, which lists current wait times for rides and show times for shows.
The denotes rides with safety restrictions. See Stay safe in the main Walt Disney World article for more information.
The Oasis is just the entrance area of the park, taking you from the gates to the central hub of Discovery Island. It's a wooded setting, with several animal enclosures; look for the giant anteater, capybaras, macaws, and many others. Make sure you take both the left and the right paths; each has different animals.
Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is one of Disney's most complex creations—that's right, creation; it isn't even a real tree. Its trunk and branches are made of fiberglass, hung over an inner steel framework, and its leaves are polyvinylidene fluoride. On a more interesting note, the tree's surface contains sculpted images of 325 animals - see if you can identify them all.
Discovery Island is the central hub of Animal Kingdom. The Tree of Life is located here, as are the majority of the park's shops and a couple of very good restaurants. "Discovery" isn't just a name, either; if you wander off the main drag you'll find yourself in the Discovery Island Trails that wind around the base of the Tree. There you'll find a number of birds and other small animals on display. You'll also be able to take a look at some of the Tree of Life's animal carvings up-close, although the queue area for It's Tough to be a Bug provides the best vantage points.
- Adventurers Outpost (character greeting). Come on in to the air-conditioning and meet Mickey and Minnie in their safari gear.
- It's Tough to be a Bug!. This is a 3-D film featuring Flik and other characters from the Pixar film A Bug's Life. You'll meet grubs, stink bugs, wasps, and other creepy-crawlies, complete with special effects both tactile and olfactory. Some scenes may be a little frightening for kids, or for anyone with an aversion to insects.
Welcome to Harambe, or as they say in this fictional east African town, "Jambo!" The detail here is incredible, from the consistent overarching storyline (of a town on the outskirts of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve) all the way down to a faded Coca-Cola advertisement painted on a wall. Take some time, if it's not too crowded, and see if you can't convince yourself you're in Africa.
- Festival of the Lion King. Acrobatic, colorful, and tuneful, this theater-in-the-round features the characters from The Lion King. This ain't Broadway, though; don't expect the elaborate costumes and choreography of that famous show. Still, kids will enjoy seeing these favorite characters on the stage, and the music is still just as good as it was in the movie. On hiatus, waiting for new theater to open later in 2014.
- Kilimanjaro Safaris. According to the story of this attraction, you're headed out on a two-week safari through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. Board your well-equipped (and very large) safari jeep, and your driver/guide will point out the animals along the route. This area of the park covers more than 100 acres (40 ha.), with habitats representing wetlands, forest, and savanna. Lions, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and many more species can be seen during your trip. Absolutely fantastic for photos; many of the herbivores will hang out just feet from the jeep's path, and there are no windows or fences between you and them. (Note: Although Disney has posted safety restrictions for this ride, it is relatively mild, especially compared to rides like Dinosaur and Expedition Everest.)
- Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. A walk-through area near the exit of the Kilimanjaro Safaris. This forested area is home to hippos, meerkats, and gorillas, among other animals. As you walk through, keep an eye out for research documents from the Harambe Reserve researchers and their student visitors, which serve to both maintain the fictional setting and provide information about the animals.
- Wild Africa Trek (tour). Multiple expeditions daily. Reservations are now being taken for a three-hour guided expedition into the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, including areas not normally seen from the Safari or the Trail. Guests will trek through vines on a bushwalk, cross a rope bridge over a river, peer over cliffs at hippos and crocodiles, and enjoy a private elevated safari camp right in the middle of the animals' habitats. You must be at least 9 years old and 48 inches tall, and you must weigh between 45 and 310 pounds. $189 (price varies by season); park admission required.
- Wildlife Express. This train ride is the only way to get to Rafiki's Planet Watch. The route takes you past the animal houses, where the animals get fed and spend the night. Trains depart every 5–10 minutes.
Rafiki's Planet Watch
Rafiki's Planet Watch is accessible only via the Wildlife Express train from Africa. This is an interactive learning center documenting wildlife conservation efforts around the world. Best of all, it includes a petting zoo!
- Affection Section (Just outside Conservation Station). This is the aforementioned petting zoo, featuring some exotic but still domesticated species from around the globe.
- Conservation Station. This is the main attraction at Rafiki's Planet Watch, housed in part of a large building that includes many of the park's animal treatment facilities. Large glass windows even let you look in on some of the procedures as they occur. Other exhibits focus on conservation and attempts to protect endangered species of animals. You'll also find some character greetings in here, in particular Rafiki himself.
- Habitat Habit!. This is the walkway between the train station and Conservation Station. You'll find cottontop, golden lion, and emperor tamarins here, as well as tips on steps you can take to preserve animal habitat, no matter where you live.
Much like Africa, the Asian section is meant to represent a fictional community somewhere on that continent; in this case, it's Anandapur, a South Asian village on the edge of a jungle and not far from the Himalayas. Again, the attention to detail is incredible and worth some exploration if you have the time.
- Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. Located in the fictional village of Serka Zong. Defy local wisdom and book a train ride through the heart of yeti country, crossing the Forbidden Mountain to forge a path to Everest. Don't say you weren't warned, however, when you find the tracks are out and your train starts careening backwards! This roller coaster is exciting and includes a number of neat twists and special effects. The queue is also worth seeing; it takes you through an expedition-supply shop and a museum purporting to hold conclusive evidence of the yeti's existence. Very popular ride, so you might want to consider a Fastpass, especially if you've been through the standby queue once already.
- Flights of Wonder. See exotic birds up close in a small but shaded amphitheater. Show mixes clever humor along with facts about birds and other animales, and includes some very close up encounters with some of the birds who fly narrowly close to the audience in all sections of the amiptheater. See the Times Guide for show times.
- Kali River Rapids. This is a wild whitewater ride through a tropical forest. Not much educational content here; it's just a fun, very wet ride. You will get soaked, guaranteed, not just from the ride but from the water guns controlled by guests on the surrounding walkways. Closed for refurbishment December 2–13, 2013.
- Maharajah Jungle Trek. Similar to the Pangani Forest trail, this is a walk through ancient "ruins" showcasing Asian wildlife. The Bengal tigers are the stars, but don't miss the giant fruit bats, or the countless birds inside the aviary.
Here and there, you'll see hints of what once was to be. The original vision for Animal Kingdom included not just live animals but extinct and imaginary ones as well. The extinct dinosaurs got their own section of the park, of course, but what about the legendary creatures of myth? They were to be found in a land called Beastly Kingdomme, located where you'll now find the World of Avatar being built. With the appearance of the mysterious yeti in Expedition Everest, creatures of legend have begun appearing in the park, but will they ever get a land of their own? As they always have, the dragons, griffins, and unicorns simply bide their time, waiting....
Dinosaurs play a dual role in popular culture, representing both ancient mystery and thrilling fantasy. Both aspects are represented in DinoLand U.S.A.. As the story goes, when the Dino Institute, a dinosaur research facility, opened up along a dilapidated stretch of highway, the local service station owners, Chester and Hester, had a brilliant idea. They collected material from the junkyard nearby and created a roadside attraction called Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama! The Institute represents the educational, realistic side of dinosaur enthusiasm, while the carnival atmosphere of Dino-Rama represents the sense of fun and excitement dinos can generate.
- The Boneyard. At the entrance to DinoLand U.S.A. is this play area for pre-schoolers, where they can dig around in the sand for "bones" and otherwise climb and jump and play.
- Cretaceous Trail. A walking path that shows you some static dioramas of dinosaurs, as well as some live animals and plants that have survived from the Mesozoic Era.
- Dinosaur (Dino Institute). Head back in time to the late Cretaceous, come face-to-face with a variety of dinosaurs, then race against time to escape the asteroid impact that ended their reign. Pretty rough but fun. Very dark and probably too scary for little kids, with lots of "gotcha" moments.
- Finding Nemo: The Musical (Theater in the Wild). This popular show adds inventive music to an abbreviated version of the story from the film. Acrobatics and puppetry give a feeling of being underwater. Check the Times Guide for show times.
- Fossil Fun Games (Dino-Rama). This is Dino-Rama's midway, with all of the impossible games and plush prizes you'd expect from any self-respecting carnival.
- Primeval Whirl (Dino-Rama). This is a pair of identical spinning-car roller coasters, themed to display Chester & Hester's creativity in adapting automobile parts to thrill rides. Can be a rough ride, especially if you're sitting next to someone with a lot of mass to spin around, but it's fun.
- TriceraTop Spin (Dino-Rama). A Dumbo-like ride with Triceratops-shaped vehicles that spin around a central axis and move up and down with a joystick. Great for kids too small to go on Primeval Whirl.
- Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade. This afternoon parade celebrates the animal spirit that is the reason for Animal Kingdom, featuring plenty of Disney characters, abstract animal puppets, and other visual surprises. As with all Disney parades, if you want a good vantage point, stake one out early; likewise, plan to be far from the parade route if you want to avoid the crowds. Check your Times Guide to see when the parade will occur. Becomes Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade in November and December.
- Wilderness Explorers. Stop by the main station on the bridge to Discovery Island to pick up your handbook and take the Wilderness Explorers pledge, inspired by the Disney/Pixar film Up. Then wander the park and keep an eye out for the activity stations and interpretive exhibits scattered throughout. There are thirty "merit badge" stickers to acquire, and getting them all would be a true accomplishment. The cast members at each station are friendly and have tons of information to share; even adults will be engaged and interested in the discussions they lead.
What's a ski resort doing in central Florida? The Disney Imagineers who created Blizzard Beach claim that they built it after an unusual freak winter storm blanketed the area, only to have it experience a massive meltdown shortly thereafter. When a stray alligator splashed down the former ski jump on his belly, they realized the area would make a swell water park!
Blizzard Beach is the second-most-visited water park in the U.S. (behind only its sister park Typhoon Lagoon), and the incredibly inventive theme is a big reason why. It's almost eerie to see guests walking around in swimsuits while there's snow everywhere. Enjoy the cognitive dissonance by going on some great water slides, including the tallest and fastest body slide on the continent.
Blizzard Beach is not far from Animal Kingdom, and the two parks share bus routes. The park is usually open from 10AM–5PM (closing for a couple of months each winter and, ironically, whenever the temperature dips close to freezing), and admission is $52 for adults or $44 for kids ages 3-10. Admission to the water park counts as one of your "Fun Visits" if you've added the Water Park Fun & More option to your Magic Your Way tickets—and note that just one admission almost pays for the cost of the option.
- Chairlift. What's a ski resort without a chairlift? You can use this to get from the park entrance to Summit Plummet, Slush Gusher, Teamboat Springs, Toboggan Racers, and Snow Stormers.
- Cross Country Creek. A relaxing inner tube ride around the whole park.
- Downhill Double Dipper. A pair of racing speed slides on which you ride inner tubes.
- Melt-Away Bay. The park's largest pool. Has some gentle waves, but nothing remotely like Typhoon Lagoon's wave pool.
- Runoff Rapids. Three "ski slopes" into a pool of melted "snow".
- Ski Patrol Training Camp. A play area for older children.
- Slush Gusher. Go over two "moguls" down the mountainside.
- Snow Stormers. Three slalom-style mat slides, designed for racing.
- Summit Plummet. At 120 feet (37 m) high, this is the second-tallest and second-fastest water slide in the world. Guests who dare will plummet at over 55 mph (89 km/h) straight down an 85-degree angle. Exhilarating, but creates monster wedgies.
- Teamboat Springs. A family water slide, with 4- to 6-passenger rafts.
- Tike's Peak. A play area for younger children.
- Toboggan Racers. Ride a "toboggan" down a slippery, melting slope, racing up to seven other sliders.
Disney's Winter Summerland
- Winter Summerland, 1548 W Buena Vista Dr, ☎ . 10AM-11PM. Just outside the Blizzard Beach gates is this inventive pair of miniature golf courses. Winter Summerland makes good use of the snow and ice theme; as the story goes, Santa Claus and his elves have created a vacation resort-away-from-home here in Florida. Half of the elves wanted something resembling home, so they borrowed winter-themed elements from Blizzard Beach to create the "Snow" course; the other half wanted to feel like they were actually in Florida and created the "Sand" course. There are sight gags galore, and the courses are great for kids and adults alike. Be warned: you can take the Blizzard Beach bus during that park's operating hours, and bus service to the All-Star Resorts and Epcot continues until 9PM, but after that you'll need to have a car handy. Adults $12, children $10 per 18 holes (second round, same day, is half price). Before 4PM, a Water Park Fun & More option can be used for one round of golf.
Animal Kingdom is decidedly not a shopper's paradise. Oh sure, there are stores around, mostly on Discovery Island, and they do sell a variety of animal-related merchandise. But that's pretty much it; you won't find foreign specialties like you do in Epcot's World Showcase, or extensive licensed merchandise as found in Hollywood Studios.
- Chester & Hester's Dinosaur Treasures (DinoLand U.S.A.). Well, this might be the one exception. If you or your kids love dinosaurs, this is the place to go. Pick up toys, games, puzzles, knick-knacks, and virtually anything else dinosaur-related.
At the resorts, Zawadi Marketplace at the Animal Kingdom Lodge does have unique African merchandise not available elsewhere, not even at World Showcase. It's definitely worth a look if you're interested in handcrafted goods from exotic locales.
The Beach Haus, the largest of three stores at Blizzard Beach, is primarily a place to find swimwear, sundries, or other items you may have forgotten to bring for your visit.
Food at Animal Kingdom has improved in the last few years, with two table-service restaurants opening up inside the park. Added to a small selection of fairly good counter-service restaurants, you now have a decent variety of options for dining. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, be sure to drop by the Animal Kingdom Gardens kiosk on Discovery Island; cast members there are available 9AM-3PM to discuss dining options within the park, and you can purchase gluten-free, dairy-free, and other allergen-free packaged foods.
Keep in mind that, under AZA animal safety policy, Animal Kingdom's restaurants do not provide lids for drinks. However, paper straws are now available. The local duck and ibis populations like to stroll around looking for handouts, especially around Flame Tree Barbecue's outdoor seating areas. It's best if you resist the urge to oblige; human food just isn't healthy for them.
See Eat in the main Walt Disney World article for information on the Disney restaurant pricing system, character dining, dietary restrictions, and advance dining reservations. The telephone numbers below are for extraordinary circumstances only; for reservations and most health or diet issues, call the main Disney Dining number at +1 407 WDW-DINE (939-3463).
Please note that exact opening and closing times may vary with the park hours; check your Times Guide for official restaurant hours. Breakfast is usually served until 10:30AM, and dinner usually starts between 3:30PM and 4:30PM.
- Flame Tree Barbecue (Discovery Island). 10AM-park close. Don't let the fact that this is a cheap counter-service joint inside a massive corporate theme park fool you—this is some of the best barbecue for miles. Choose from chicken, pulled pork, or a massive half-rack of ribs, all slow-cooked and slathered in Flame Tree's very good tomato-based sauce. If you like your barbecue super-spicy (or if you're a vegetarian), you'll be disappointed, but otherwise these are the best ten-dollar meals in all of Walt Disney World. The seating is al fresco—take a stroll down to the terraces closest to the water for a nice view of the river and Expedition Everest in the distance. $7-11.
- Picnic in the Park (Tier 1: pickup at Dino Bites near Restaurantosaurus; Tier 2: pickup at Kusafiri Coffee Shop near Tusker House). Open seasonally, place orders until 2:30PM. This isn't a restaurant, actually; it's a service that lets you order a bagged picnic (with food for two to six people) and take it to one of several picnic tables scattered throughout the park. You can either choose from a selection of sandwiches or get several pieces of rotisserie chicken and a slab of ham to share. Side dishes, desserts, and water are included, as are plates and utensils. A fun and very different option for dining at Disney. $8-11.
- Pizzafari (Discovery Island). Park open-park close. If the kids are complaining that they haven't gotten to eat pizza in days, bring 'em here. Okay, so you get no choices beyond "cheese or pepperoni?", but the pizza is good and the decor is whimsical and unique. Each room has its own colorful theme, from the Nocturnal Room to the Upside-Down Room... and don't forget the Bug Room. Pizzafari is open for breakfast; you can go traditional if you want, but the adventuresome should try the house specialty: breakfast pizza. $7-9.
- Restaurantosaurus (DinoLand U.S.A.). 11:30AM-park close. Nothing special here, just your standard fast food meals. The theming indicates that this building is serving double-duty as a dormitory for the local archaeology students; keep an eye out for fun little reminders of the storyline. $6-9.
- Yak and Yeti (Anandapur Local Food Cafes) (Asia). 10AM-park close. Right next door to the sit-down restaurant is this counter-service location with similar but slightly less exotic (and lower-quality) options. Sweet-and-sour pork, Kung Pao beef, that sort of thing. Seating is outdoors and not well shaded. $8-11.
- Rainforest Cafe (just outside the main entrance), ☎ . 8:30AM-park close. One of two WDW locations for this chain restaurant, which features animatronic animals, thunderstorms, and good food. There's a big gift shop packed with Rainforest Cafe logos, too. There are dedicated turnstiles you can use to leave the park and re-enter after eating or shopping. One word of warning—the animatronics can be a bit startling, as they sometimes come to life suddenly; some kids might find them unsettling. Note: even though it's not a Disney restaurant, the Disney Dining Plan is accepted here. $13-32.
- Tusker House (Africa). Park open-park close. A family buffet with Africa-influenced flavors, and some standard American options as well. It's also the only restaurant at Animal Kingdom with character dining: Donald's Safari Breakfast and Donald's Dining Safari Lunch. $20-30.
- Yak and Yeti (Asia), ☎ . 10AM-park close. Asian-style dishes served in a restaurant full of Himalayan trinkets. Unlike the counter-service area just outside, you can sit indoors here. You'll also be paying more, but the food is much better. Mahi-mahi, tempura shrimp, glazed duck, stir-fried beef, and even baby back ribs are among the entrees. The restaurant is run by Landry's, not Disney, but the Dining Plan is accepted here. $14-25.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Boma. 7:30AM-11AM; 5PM-10PM. African and American cuisine served buffet style. The menu is varied, with more than 50 different selections, including several kid-friendly items. A good choice if you want some African flavors but aren't ready to try Jiko. $19 breakfast; $30 dinner.
- Jiko. 5:30PM-10PM. This upscale restaurant, with its authentic African entrees, is very popular, attracting the many Walt Disney World guests looking for new culinary experiences. Kids used to hot dogs and pizza, on the other hand, will have a hard time finding something they consider edible. Don't let that keep you away, though—Jiko is considered one of the best restaurants at Walt Disney World. $19-36; Dining Plan requires two credits.
- Mara. 7AM-11:30PM. This counter service restaurant serves mostly American standards with just a few perfunctory nods to the African theme. $5-10.
- Sanaa (Kidani Village Villas). 7AM-9PM. This sit-down restaurant blends American, African, and Indian selections to provide a little bit for everyone. That includes vegetarians and vegans; Sanaa has an excellent vegetarian sampler for $17. Breakfast is also available. $17-30.
- Cafe Rix. 6:30AM-midnight. The salads and sandwiches are your standard fare, but the baked goods are fresh and the gelato is ice-cold. $8-11.
- Maya Grill. 7AM-10PM. Breakfast and dinner at the Maya Grill are table-service, but lunch is a buffet. All of the meals feature mostly American cuisine with just a hint of Mexican influence. $22-34.
- Pepper Market. 7AM-11PM. An expansive, airy food court with a large number of selections available. Stations include a Chef's Station (specialties), Market Station (sandwiches and salads), Grill Station, Pizza Kitchen, Pasta Kitchen, and Kids' Kitchen. Currently in testing is an all-you-can eat buffet format for breakfast ($15/$9) and lunch ($17/$10); it's getting positive reviews. $9-23.
Each of the three All-Star Resorts has its own food court, virtually indistinguishable from one another except for the bold, colorful decor (which is heavily themed to each resort). You'll find End Zone Food Court at All-Star Sports, Intermission Food Court at All-Star Music, and World Premiere Food Court at All-Star Movies. Each one is open from 6AM until midnight (although only the pizza stations are open past 11PM or so) and offers the standard burgers, salads, chicken, and pizza options for $7-10.
- Avalunch. Open seasonally, park open-park close. BBQ pork, hot dogs, even PB&J if you want it. Outdoor seating. $4-7.
- Lottawatta Lodge. Park open-park close. This is the main eatery at Blizzard Beach, and the only one open during the slowest parts of the year. It's also the only one with indoor seating, and the one with the most substantial entrees. Burgers, pizza, chicken, turkey, and fish. $6-9.
- Warming Hut. Open seasonally, park open-park close. Cheese dogs, burgers, taco salad. Outdoor seating. $4-8.
There's not much in the way of nightlife around Animal Kingdom, although that's not really surprising considering how early the park closes. If you want some after-dark entertainment, head to Disney's BoardWalk or to Downtown Disney.
The three sit-down restaurants do serve a limited selection of alcoholic beverages. There is one other locale of note inside the park, although not for alcohol:
- Royal Anandapur Tea Company (Asia). Park open-park close. In keeping with the Asian theme of this section of the park, the Tea Company offers a wide variety of Eastern teas for sale. Some of the choices include Indian masala chai, Longjing tea from China, and (breaking the theme a bit) South Africa's Rooibos "miracle tea". Coffee (including lattes, cappuccino, and espresso) is also available. $3-6.
The All-Star Resorts, being value resorts, are similarly devoid of nightlife, but Coronado Springs and the Animal Kingdom Lodge have lounges:
- Laguna Bar (Coronado Springs). until Midnight. An outdoor bar overlooking Lago Dorado. Great views to go with some light snacks and drinks.
- Rix Lounge (Coronado Springs). 8PM-2AM. One of the most upscale lounges on Disney property, located next door to the Cafe Rix. This is the place to go if you want to do some serious schmoozing while you partake of some very expensive drinks. No Disney characters here, that's for sure, but they do have a DJ and sometimes a live percussion ensemble. $8-15 mixed drinks, $200-600 champagne bottles.
- Victoria Falls (Animal Kingdom Lodge). 4PM-midnight. This is a much more casual lounge, overlooking Boma. Great place for some quiet drinks at the end of the day, or while you're waiting for your table at Jiko, as long as you aren't looking for something super-special.
Coronado Springs and the Animal Kingdom Villas also have pool bars: Siesta's at Coronado Springs, Uzima Springs at the Jambo House villas, and Maji Pool Bar at the Kidani Village villas.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
You'll find a full range of lodging options in this area of Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, none of them are connected to Animal Kingdom by anything but buses. Even at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, you'll need to hop a bus to get to the park. Don't let that hold you back, though; the All-Star Resorts and the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas are among the most popular hotels on the property.
On par with the Pop Century Resort near Hollywood Studios, the three All-Star Resorts are the cheapest hotels at Walt Disney World. That doesn't mean they're in any way bad; they just lack many of the amenities that have become standard at other Disney hotels. They're also among the most popular, as parents discover that they can pay reasonable rates for a Disney hotel and know that their kids won't even notice the lack of a sit-down restaurant or concierge service. If all you need is breakfast, a pool, and transportation to the parks, these hotels will do just fine.
Each resort has exterior-entrance rooms grouped into one of five sub-themes. The decor varies among the three resorts, according to their themes, but in all cases it involves larger-than-life icons and bold, colorful shapes. The gigantic decor is great fun for kids but may be sensory overload for adults. Aside from the whimsically-shaped pools, there's not much to do besides catch a bus to the parks, but that's why you're here, right?
Unlike most Disney hotels, check-in time at the All-Star resorts is 4PM (rather than 3PM).
- Disney's All-Star Movies Resort, 1991 W Buena Vista Dr, ☎ , fax: +1 407 939-7111. Experience the best of Disney films and animation in one of five themed areas: Fantasia, Toy Story, 101 Dalmatians, The Mighty Ducks, and The Love Bug. $80-160.
- Disney's All-Star Music Resort, 1801 W Buena Vista Dr, ☎ , fax: +1 407 939-7222. The magic in music. Themes are Country, Broadway, Jazz, Rock, and Calypso. All-Star Music also has some family suites; they sleep six. $80-160; family suites $184-330.
- Disney's All-Star Sports Resort, 1701 W Buena Vista Dr, ☎ , fax: +1 407 939-7333. Find your inner fan in one of five sports themes: Football, Tennis, Baseball, Basketball, and Surfing. $80-160.
- Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, 1000 W Buena Vista Dr, ☎ , fax: +1 407 939-1001. A lakeside resort with Mayan flourishes, Coronado Springs is very popular with convention-goers. Featuring the ritziest lounge on property and understated theming, the resort sometimes seems more tailored for adults traveling alone or with colleagues than for vacationers. That said, there is plenty for kids and families to do here, including a very nice pool complex that comes complete with a Mayan pyramid. Restaurants (including an extensive food court) and lounges are centrally located near the entrance. $150-300; suites $350-1300.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, 2901 Osceola Pkwy, ☎ , fax: +1 407 938-4799. Immerse yourself in a safari adventure at an African-themed lodge where you can view hundreds of exotic creatures on an African wildlife reserve. While it's not connected with the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at the Animal Kingdom park, the landscape outside the Lodge features a similar array of foliage and live animals. A large proportion of the rooms look out over one of three savannas, which means you can wake up to the sight of giraffes, ostriches, or zebras right outside your window. And you can view them deep into the night; the savannas are active and populated 22 hours a day. While the animals are obviously the biggest draw, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a luxury hotel in its own right, with one of the best restaurants at Walt Disney World, impeccable service, and all-encompassing African decor. $240-555; suites $735-1,840.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas. Condominiums themed as an African village, in two wings on the higher floors of the main Animal Kingdom Lodge structure (Jambo House) and an entirely separate building nearby (Kidani Village). These villas feature all of the amenities of the lodge, including the savanna views. $380-575; suites $525-2,215.