Disney's Animal Kingdom
Lake Buena Vista FL 32830
- Mon: 9am-8pm
- Tue: 9am-8pm
- Wed: 8am-7pm
- Thu: 9am-8pm
- Fri: 9am-8pm
- Sat: 9am-8pm
- Sun: 9am-8pm
Animal Kingdom, one of Walt Disney World's four theme parks, is home to more than 1,700 animals representing 250 species from across the globe, including giraffes, elephants, lions, rhinos and zebras. Other family-friendly attractions include a dinosaur fossil dig, animal-themed shows and rides, the 145-foot-tall Tree of Life and exhibits that emphasize the conservation of wildlife habitats. Explore the park's six lands -- including Africa, Asia, Discovery Island and Rafiki's Planet Watch -- in a variety of ways, such as guided safari vehicles and the Wildlife Express Train.
Parking at Animal Kingdom
A parking fee of $17-$20 is required at the gate, but if you stay at a resort on Disney property, free bus or monorail transportation is available to the parks.
Best and worst time to go to Animal Kingdom
Park hours typically are from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. during holidays and the summer season, from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, with an earlier closing time in less-busy months. The best times to avoid the crowds typically are late April to late May or from mid-September to mid-November. The busiest seasons -- when lines are at their longest -- include March and early April, because of spring breaks and Easter, and from Thanksgiving week to New Year's. Arrive at the park in early morning from late spring to early fall to avoid Florida's notorious heat and afternoon rainstorms.
Admission to Animal Kingdom
Park admission is just under $100, with slightly lower prices for children ages 3-9. Discounted multi-day tickets and Florida resident passes also are available.
Must see/do at Animal Kingdom
Expedition Everest is by far the most thrilling ride at the park, taking riders through a twisting, turning 80-foot drop through the icy peaks, caves and jagged rocks of the Himalayas to avoid the snow monster Yeti. For an up-close view and photo opportunities of animals in the park's African plain, take an open-air, slightly bumpy ride on the Kilimanjaro Safari. On one recent visit, groups of grazing giraffes seemed near enough to touch, and it may be the closest you ever get to a rhino. Of course, that's probably a good thing.
Other places to visit near Animal Kingdom
If you didn't get enough of animals inside the park, dine at the Rainforest Cafe just inside the park entrance, where you'll enjoy America cuisine while surrounded by a lush Amazon jungle, waterfalls, animated animals and occasional thunderstorms. Another in-park restaurant, the Tusker House, features meals with Disney characters, African-inspired dishes and meats spit-roasted on an 18-foot "Wall of Flames." Another way to continue your animal adventure is a stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which looks out onto the park's African savannas and has a pair of extravagant pools -- one patterned after a natural watering hole and another with a 128-foot water slide.
Insider tip for visitors to Animal Kingdom
If you only have time for one show, choose the Festival of the Lion King, an elaborate Broadway-style production featuring talented singers, dancers and costumed characters performing songs from the hit Disney movie, along with plenty of fun audience participation.
Author's bio: Kevin Adams is a freelance writer who has lived in Orlando for more than a decade and has had travel articles appear on USAToday.com and in Golfweek magazine.