We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. Please click my disclosure policy to learn more.
Whenever families are planning for their trip and have less than 4 park days, Animal Kingdom often seems to be on the chopping block, which is a real shame. While I do think that Animal Kingdom is worthy of a full day, we’ll also explore a half day Animal Kingdom touring plan.
Updated on 4/21/2021: Well, things definitely look different at Disney World right now, and Animal Kingdom is no different. Right now, you can spend a full day at Animal Kingdom and not get everything done or you can be done in a matter of hours. It really does depend.
And this is with several of the attractions still closed! The culprit is the shorter hours, and admittedly, a much slower pace for us than normal.
Before you go any further, make sure you understand what it’s like at Disney World during a pandemic, as well as all of the new procedures you have to follow during your Disney trip.
Table of Contents
Animal Kingdom Touring Plan 2021
This section is here first to give a summary of important changes which will impact your Animal Kingdom itinerary in 2021. I plan to leave all of the original information in the body of the post. That’s my way of being optimistic that eventually things will return to at least semi-normal sometime soon.
It is unclear how far into 2021 some of these changes will remain. At this point, assume it will look very similar to this through end of September 2021.
Animal Kingdom Hours 2021
Right now, Animal Kingdom has reduced operating hours. On most days, Animal Kingdom is open from 9:00a-5:00p.
This can vary depending on projected crowd level. When Disney anticipates higher crowds, they’ll often extend the park hours closer to the actual date. Animal Kingdom has had hours ranging from 7:00a-7:00p (over Christmas break), 8a-6p, and 9a-6p.
Make sure you check the posted hours just before your trip to make sure you know the operating hours while you’re there.
In addition to reduced hours, there are no Extra Magic Hours at this time.
Closed Animal Kingdom Rides 2021
With the reopening of Disney World, not all of the attractions opened back up.
The attractions currently closed at Animal Kingdom are:
- Finding Nemo: The Musical
- Festival of the Lion King
- Primeval Whirl
- Rivers of Light
It came to light (and was kind of officially confirmed by Disney World) that both Primeval Whirl and Rivers of light are permanently closed.
Having Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King closed is a major bummer. Both of these shows are amazing and provide good breaks during a long day. Hopefully they open again soon. However, I’m not holding my breath since singing is a major spreader of viruses.
Animal Kingdom FastPasses 2021
At this time, the Disney FastPass system is not in use. The wait times on most of the rides are low enough that FastPasses as necessary. There is no indication when, or if, FastPasses will return.
Animal Kingdom Itinerary 2021
Here’s what you should plan for if you go to Animal Kingdom in 2021. In terms of an Animal Kingdom touring plan right now, you need a bit more of a plan than you did a few months ago, but perhaps not as rigid as prior to the closing.
Considering how much strategy and planning typically go into a Disney trip, this is unprecedented.
Out of all the parks, Animal Kingdom has been the slowest. My family rode Flight of Passage twice in one day. The first time we basically walked on. The second, we waited just over 30 minutes. This is truly unprecedented.
This level of low wait is happening less and less as the crowds start to build up, but with a clever Animal Kingdom touring plan, you should avoid most of the lines.
All of that being said, things are definitely not as slow as they were back in the summer and early fall. Do not show up expecting to walk on everything, because you won’t.
Also of note, you can get everything done in the park in much less time than normal. This is due to both the short lines and the reduced lineup of activities.
The best time of day for all the parks seems to be towards closing. The downside to this with Animal Kingdom now closing at 5:00p there’s not as much time to take advantage of this.
Park Hopping and Your Animal Kingdom Itinerary
With the reintroduction of park hopping in 2021, Animal Kingdom is going to become a major park hopping destination.
Truly, there’s just not enough for most people to do to take up an entire 8 hours. My family is the exception to this rule as we love Animal Kingdom and can easily fill 8 hours, even now.
I think Animal Kingdom will become a half day park (or technically a 3/4 day park). My hunch is that people will go to Animal Kingdom in the first half of the day since it opens at 9:00a.
Park hopping isn’t allowed until 2:00p, giving people a solid 5 hours at Animal Kingdom. At that point, I think the vast majority of people will start hopping to one of the parks that is open later in the evening.
This new dynamic is going to change things up a bit, and might actually increase the need for a better Animal Kingdom strategy.
My current prediction: wait times and crowds will be heavier in the morning and early afternoon before dying off for the last 3 hours of the day.
Time will tell if this is actually the case. I will definitely update this as soon as I see a pattern emerging.
Animal Kingdom Touring Plan Basics
This Animal Kingdom touring plan makes a few assumptions. The first is that you want to make the most of your day, and therefore, will be there from open until closing. Of course, this will vary during the summer and busy times of year when the park is open later and it gets dark later.
The other assumption is that you want to do and see as possible. This makes for a very full and long day, so your mileage may vary depending on the ages in your party.
The order that you do the rides and attractions
From opening until around 10:30a you want to prioritize low wait times for the more popular rides (think Na’vi, Safari, Everest, FOP). Next, you’ll turn your attention to the animal exhibits and enjoying the nuances of Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom Rope Drop
I have an entire post that goes into extensive detail on how best to tackle Animal Kingdom at rope drop. Make sure you check that out if rope drop is something you plan to do.
Recently, rope drop at Animal Kingdom hasn’t been as necessary, but I suspect this might change with the return of park hopping. Since Animal Kingdom is one of the parks that opens earliest, people will head here first, then hop over to a different park to make a longer day in the parks.
And really, you should plan to be there at rope drop, especially if you only have a half day at Animal Kingdom. That alone will help you accomplish most of what you want to in that time.
Your basic decision is this: do you rope drop Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, or Expedition Everest? The answer to that will shape the rest of your Animal Kingdom itinerary.
Animal Kingdom Rides and Attractions
When planning your day at Animal Kingdom, I recommend looking at a map and familiarizing yourself with the general layout of the attractions. In size, Animal Kingdom is much smaller than Epcot, making it easier to get from one end to another.
While considering what order you want to do the Animal Kingdom rides in, consider whether your priority is an efficient plan in terms of walking, i.e. doing everything in one land before moving onto the next, or an efficient plan in terms of low wait times.
My family prioritizes the low wait times, but this also sends us crisscrossing the park many, many times throughout the course of the day. You know your family best, so go with the strategy that will work best for you.
Also, try to build some time into the day to simply take in the atmosphere of Animal Kingdom. The Imagineers truly did an amazing job of creating cohesive theming that makes you feel as if you are really standing in an African market.
Don’t miss out on these details because you are rushing through the day at warp speed trying to get “everything” done.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the specific attractions and strategies and make some important points (and a whole lot of opinions) to consider in your planning. The best attractions at Animal Kingdom will vary by family, but there are a few which are considered the absolute best.
One of which is considered one of the best rides in all of Disney World (I’m looking at you, Flight of Passage).
This is an absolute must do attraction. The best times to go on it are in the morning and at dusk when the temps are a bit cooler and the animals are more active.
I have heard mixed opinions about the Safari after dark but have yet to experience it myself. It is on my list of things to try in the future. So far, almost all of my favorite Safari experiences have been at dusk, so definitely give that a try.
Expedition Everest (44″ Height Requirement)
Another of the best attractions at
Ideally, this is a ride you should prioritize going on at least twice: once during the day and once at night (when the park is open at night again, that is). The feel of the ride changes completely once the sun goes down and is definitely not to be missed.
The queue for the ride is also very interesting and highly detailed, making your wait time a bit more bearable.
Tip: Wait until it is full dark if at all possible so the lights on the mountain are more prominent.
Flight of Passage (44″ Height Requirement)
Arguably one of the best rides in all of Disney World, Flight of Passage is a huge priority for most guests. The line for FOP can get extremely long during normal operation, so a good strategy is important if you want to ride it.
If your trip is during the time frame impacted by the pandemic, the lines won’t be as crazy, but you’ll still need to pay attention.
For people who are prone to motion sickness, this ride may not be for you. However, if you want to give it a try and it becomes too overwhelming, taking off your 3D glasses will help.
Flight of Passage is the first ride most people head to during rope drop. If you are in the first wave of rope droppers, you are set to pretty much walk on the ride. If you aren’t, you’re better off heading to a different ride at rope drop.
Because everyone heads that way, the line for Flight of Passage swells rapidly. Ironically, people who show up to rope drop late will end up waiting in the longest line of the day.
So, if you’re not in the first wave, wait until later in the day to get in line for Flight of Passage. You’ll likely wait less that way.
2 Ways to Ride Flight of Passage With Little Wait
There are two different ways you can attempt to get on Flight of Passage without waiting 2 hours. If FastPasses ever return, this list grows to 3.
- Rope Drop
- Get in line just before the park closes
I have personally used both of these methods with great success. In fact, I used all three techniques (you know, back when FastPasses were a thing) over the course of one awesome day. It was amazing!
Tip: If you decide to get in line for Flight of Passage right before the park closes, you will not be able to fully explore Pandora at night once you exit the ride, so do it before you get in line.
Na’vi River Journey
Na’vi River Journey is essentially It’s a Small World set to the theme of Avatar. It is a visually stunning ride and I think everyone should try to do it once. However, after that one time, you probably never need to go on it again.
Festival of the Lion King (Currently Closed) – Reopens May 2021
Update 4/21/2021: Disney announced that a modified version of Festival of the Lion King will open this May. Called Celebration of Festival of the Lion King, it will implement safety protocol for both guests and performers. We don’t yet know what this means, but it’s a good sign that more shows are opening.
If you are able to do only one show during your day at AK, this is the one I would pick. It is highly entertaining and very dynamic. The crowd is given the opportunity to participate a bit, but watching the performers is the true highlight of the show.
Definitely try to time this for the afternoon when you can all use a break in some air conditioning.
Gorilla Falls Expedition Trail/Maharajah Jungle Trek
I love a good zoo, and these two attractions definitely give the feel of an awesome zoo. I know I’m a broken record, but again, the level of detail put into the trails and the exhibits
If you don’t have time to do all the animal trails, at least pick one of these to do during your day.
It’s Tough to be a Bug
This is a cute show which I tend to enjoy, however, it can be a bit scary for kids. It is a 4D experience, so there are surprises that jump out and scare you. When we went with our friends a few years ago, 3 out of the 4 kids (aged 4-7) were crying through most of the show.
Definitely something to keep in mind if you have kids who might not appreciate this. My youngest finally outgrew his distaste for 4D attractions and we were finally able to enjoy this show again.
Finding Nemo (Currently Closed)
This show is another great opportunity for rest in the middle of a busy day. It’s very cute and entertaining and most kids and adults alike will enjoy seeing it. It is on the long side, so be prepared before you go into the theater (i.e. bathroom breaks and such).
Dinosaur (40″ Height Requirement)
Dinosaur is the best ride in all of Dinoland. It’s an entertaining ride but can be scary for young ones. It is very dark through the whole ride and is VERY herky jerky. If you have any back/neck/body issues that don’t react well to being tossed around, you might not want to ride Dinosaur.
TriceraTop Spin is essentially Dumbo with dinosaurs, only less iconic. The little kids who are too short for some of the other rides will definitely enjoy it. It did spin faster than I would anticipate, squeaking out some cool points.
Up! A Great Bird Adventure (Currently Closed) – Feathered Friends in Flight (Open)
Update 4/21/2021: Instead of Up! A Great Bird Adventure, you can see Feathered Friends in Flight in the Up! theater. This is a cute and entertaining show for all ages. The theater does fill up, so get in line a little on the early side.
Up! A Great Bird Adventure is a cute and entertaining show and worth the time to see it. The birds are of course the true stars of the show. Frankly, the inclusion of Russel and Dug is more distracting than anything. I wish I had seen the original bird show this replaced.
Tip: Check the showtimes in the schedule. It doesn’t run as often as Lion King or Nemo, making it more challenging to fit into the day. The theater is also outdoors, so if it’s hot, just be prepared.
Rivers of Light (Currently Closed)
Rivers of Light has permanently ended. I’m really hoping this isn’t entirely true, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Kali River Rapids (38″ Height Requirement)
This is a ride I haven’t been on, mainly due to my distaste for walking around soaking wet. I do actually enjoy rides like this as they are always fun but as an adult my practical side kind of gets in the way.
There is the potential here to become absolutely soaked from head to toe. Or not. You just never know.
Tip: If you do want to ride it, consider bringing
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Rafiki’s Planet Watch was closed for about 6 months for a little sprucing up. It reopened in summer 2019 with some added touches from The Lion King.
There is still a train ride to get out there. Once there you can interact with some animal in the Affection Station (a petting zoo) and learn more about Disney’s effort towards conservation.
There is also a viewing station to see into the veterinary facilities at Animal Kingdom. If you are lucky, you might get to see one of the animals getting treated.
New to Rafiki’s Planet Watch is The Animation Experience. This experience allows you to learn step-by-step instructions on how to illustrate your own version of a Disney character. This is a 25 minute class.
Tip: A trip out to Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a huge time suck. Between waiting for the train, riding the train, exploring, waiting for the train again, and riding it again, it eats up a ton of time.
This is the main reason we weren’t able to get through all the animal trails during our last trip.
Animal Kingdom at Night
I’m going to leave this section here, just in case Animal Kingdom starts having later hours. The winter months might allow for some little bit of nighttime enjoyment at Animal Kingdom. Truly, Animal Kingdom at night is amazing.
When dusk arrives and the sun begins to set, there are some more opportunities that begin to arise. Nighttime is probably my favorite time at Animal Kingdom.
Depending on the time of year you are visiting, this could look a little different. From late spring through summer the sun takes its sweet time in setting, so clearly it won’t be dark until much later.
To compensate for this, the parks are typically open later into the night as well (think closing time around 10p or 11p). You will still be able to experience some after dark attractions, albeit you have to be able to stay up much later. This might not work so well for families with young children.
In the fall and winter, the sun sets much earlier, but the park will also close much earlier as well (think 8:00p). This allows you to get in some attractions which are truly awesome to do after the sun sets.
Pandora at Night
Wandering through Pandora at night is just flat out stunning. Pandora at night is a must do for anyone at Animal Kingdom. The land comes alive with “bio-luminescence” and looks completely different in the dark than during the day.
Make sure you allow time at the end of your day to walk through this beautiful land and soak in the magic!
Expedition Everest at Night
As I mentioned above, your goal should be to ride Expedition Everest at least twice: once in daylight and once at night. The ride experience is completely different in these two scenarios.
As usual, Disney uses lighting effects against the mountain to make it stand out at night. In addition to this, as you go up the hill at the start of the ride you are treated to stunning views across Animal Kingdom.
Tree of Life Nighttime Awakenings
The Tree of Life Awakenings combines projections, lights, music and special effects in a brief show. Again, it is colorful and visually stunning.
The show runs several times a night, approximately every 15 minutes. This gives you many opportunities to catch the show.
1-Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary
The following itinerary is the basic plan that my family has used several times with great success. The order that you do some of the attractions really doesn’t matter. Tailor that to meet the needs of your family. But if you follow these basic guidelines you should have a great day.
Again, read all about rope drop at Animal Kingdom to determine whether you will go to Flight of Passage or Everest first. That will determine what time you need to arrive at the park.
Note: I don’t know if you have to be quite as aggressive in getting to the park early now if you aren’t there at a busy time (Christmas and Easter). Otherwise, we showed up right around official park opening and walked on Everest in November 2020.
Word of mouth during the week between Christmas and New Years had the park opening about 45 minutes early. I would anticipate the park to open between 30 and 45 minutes early during quieter times of the year.
I will assume your plan is to rope drop Flight of Passage as that is by far the most common strategy. Based on that, go on rides in the following order:
- Flight of Passage
- Na’vi River Journey (unless line is over 30 minutes long, if it is, skip until later)
- Expedition Everest
- Kilimanjaro Safari
Depending on the crowds, you should be able to get on most of these rides before the crowds begin to swell mid-morning. But again, play it by ear and see how much you can get done.
Mid-Morning through Early Afternoon
This might look a little different for everyone depending on the dining decisions you make.
If you ate a quick breakfast in your room, you will probably be ready for an early lunch. Satu’li Canteen and Flame Tree BBQ are some of the best Quick Service dining options in all of Disney World. You can’t go wrong with either.
Through this chunk of the day you’re really just paying close attention to the ride lines and being opportunistic. If lines are long, you’ll visit animals and roam the park.
Typically, this is the part of the day I recommend the shows because of large capacity and air conditioning. However, that’s just not an option right now. But if it is during your trip, that’s what I recommend.
For now, if you haven’t done so already, here are some options for the afternoon:
- It’s Tough to Be a Bug
- TriceraTop Spin
- Kali River Rapids
The lines for these rides are typically more manageable during this portion of the day, making them easier to get on.
The late morning/afternoon is also the time to wander your way through Maharajah Jungle Trek and Gorilla Expedition Falls.
If you come across a lull in the late afternoon, consider this a great time for a break at Nomad Lounge. Nomad Lounge is a great place to sit down and relax while grabbing some drinks and snacks.
Nomad Lounge also has an outdoor deck with seating making it a perfect place to enjoy some food outside.
As the day draws to an end, it’s time to start focusing on those wait times again. You should start seeing a pretty noticeable drop in wait times for the more popular rides.
If my prediction is correct about park hopping, Animal Kingdom is going to empty out from 2p on. This is prime time for big rides.
At the very least, part of your plan should be to hop in line for Flight of Passage shortly before the park closes. Disney deliberately inflates the posted wait time to deter people from getting in line.
In reality, this will be one of the shortest wait times all day.
If you are lucky enough to be at Animal Kingdom after dark, here’s what you should do:
- Ride Kilimanjaro Safaris at dusk
- Ride Expedition Everest in full dark
- Wander around Pandora
- Catch Tree of Life show
- Flight of Passage (right before closing)
Clearly, this is a long list and you may not have enough hours of darkness to do them all. Prioritize which will work best for your family.
A Note About Animal Kingdom Dining…
Animal Kingdom has some truly great dining options. Unfortunately, there’s not enough room in your stomach to fit them all!
For the purposes of this post I’m going to focus more on logistics of planning the meals as opposed to recommending specific restaurants.
A big change from my typical Animal Kingdom dining recommendation now is to not have dinner there at all. With the park closing so early, you’ll waste prime ride time by sitting down to eat. Remember, Animal Kingdom has been closing by 5:00p on most days!
An alternative Disney hack is to schedule a table service reservation for park closing time. The table service restaurants are still serving dinner into the evening.
What this gets you is a full day at Animal Kingdom, a relaxing sit down dinner, and then a stroll through an empty park on your way out. Talk about a nice evening!
If you plan to eat at Quick Service locations, make sure you use Disney’s mobile ordering service. This is a real time saver. Don’t wait in line if you don’t have to!
Animal Kingdom Half Day Itinerary
Clearly, an Animal Kingdom half day requires a bit of a different strategy, though some of it echos the plan for a full day. Really, we want to take the full 1-day Animal Kingdom touring plan and condense it into a few hours.
In order to do this, you absolutely must have a list of your priorities for your time there. You will not be able to do everything, but if done well, you can experience all of the highlights of Animal Kingdom.
Attractions to consider missing:
- TriCeraTop Spin
- It’s Tough to be a Bug
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch – Unless you have a dying need to learn how to draw, simply getting to Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a major time suck
Your very first decision will be: Animal Kingdom half day in the morning or afternoon?
Animal Kingdom Half Day Itinerary – Morning
If you plan to only spend your morning at Animal Kingdom, you must plan to take advantage of rope drop. Honestly, this will make or break your whole plan. This is the difference between hitting all your priorities or not.
Take the same advice I give in the 1 day Animal Kingdom itinerary and apply that to your morning in this order:
- Flight of Passage
- Na’vi River Journey
- Expedition Everest
- Kilimanjaro Safari
If you hit these rides in order, you should get on all of them within the first 2-2.5 hours of your morning. That leaves the remainder of the morning for any additional experiences you want. Again, definitely do one of the animal trails!
When lunch time rolls around, I recommend eating at one of the Quick Service restaurants as a time saver. Then get ready to head on out to park #2!
I have successfully done very full morning half days at Animal Kingdom using this exact strategy so I know it will work for you.
Animal Kingdom Half Day – Afternoon
Because of the new park hopping limitations, you aren’t eligible to park hop to Animal Kingdom until 2:00p. Honestly, I expect this time will get adjusted a little earlier eventually, but for now, that’s it.
This only gives you 3 hours so make sure you are at Animal Kingdom right at 2:00p.
If you aren’t park hopping and simply have a park pass for a full day at Animal Kingdom, you can show up whenever you like!
I’d probably recommend showing up around lunch time to enjoy some great food. After that, plan to do some of the animal exhibits, shops, and that sort of thing until the wait times start dropping again.
The bonus of making your Animal Kingdom half day in the afternoon is the ability take advantage of the shorter lines near closing.
In this scenario, you’ll actually prioritize in reverse, with the more popular rides closer to closing time. Expedition Everest, Flight of Passage, and Na’vi River Journey will have the longest wait times at this point, so you’ll do them as the park starts to empty out.
When you have only limited time, you won’t get to see and do everything you want. However, I do recommend that you walk through at least one of the animal trails. They are so beautifully themed and should be missed.
Perhaps consider that shortly after you arrive if the lines are still a little long for your liking.
Animal Kingdom Tips
There are some Animal Kingdom tips and secrets which will help to make your Animal Kingdom touring plan even more successful.
- Don’t plan to eat breakfast at Animal Kingdom – the morning hours are best used trying to get on all the rides
- If you want breakfast at Tusker House get either a pre-park opening reservation (8a) or a 10:30a reservation (currently closed so this isn’t an option until it reopens)
- As an added bonus: a 10:30a reservation straddles breakfast and lunch. You get to have both!
- If you need to get away from the crowds for a little while, the back pathway between Pandora and Africa is often quiet
- The seating area at Flame Tree BBQ is one of the prettiest spots in the whole park and a great spot for relaxing
- You can get a Dole Whip in Africa! ‘Nough said
- Kali River Rapids does not always open as soon as the park does. Sometimes it opens later in the morning once it’s a little warmer
- Maharajah Jungle Trek and Gorilla Falls Expedition tend to close earlier than the rest of the park. Make sure you fit these in earlier in the day
- The animals are most active in the cooler morning hours and at dusk. If an improved animal experience is your priority, make sure you visit animal based attractions then
- Animal Kingdom has some absolutely amazing upcharge experiences you can add to your day. Check out Disney’s Enchanting Extras page to learn more (tours are currently unavailable)
- We’ve done Caring for Giants and it was amazing!
- The Wilderness Explorers program is a free activity for children to enhance their day at Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom Touring Plan Final Thoughts
So there you have it, a full one day Animal Kingdom touring plan. It is reasonable to expect to fit just about everything on this list into the day if you go in with a plan ahead of time.
In our visits to
This may or may not happen for you, it really just depends on how efficient you are and what the crowds look like. My family just tends to move at a faster pace and we have familiarity with the park which allows us to move faster in general.
But if you do find yourself “killing time” in the middle of the day, look at places to eat, browse the shops, catch the street shows, explore all the nooks and crannies that can be found when you slow down and simply enjoy the atmosphere.
If you like this post, Pin it for later!
What do you think? Is