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Your Guide to the Biggest Thrills at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by | Mar 14, 2023 | Animal Kingdom, WDW Blog

Add some serious excitement to your next visit to Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World with these must-try thrills! From exciting attractions to delicious food to lesser-known gems, these are the experiences you simply can’t miss. 

Can’t wait to hit all of the biggest thrills when you head to Walt Disney World’s theme parks? While each one offers its own array of attractions, entertainment options, and places to shop and dine, the thrills you’ll find inside each park vary quite a bit – and at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, some of the biggest thrills might be those you never expected. We’re highlighting our favorite thrills of every kind at each theme park, diving into what standout options you don’t want to skip the next time you head to Animal Kingdom. 

So, thrill seekers, here’s your list of the biggest thrills to be found at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park!

Attraction Thrills at Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom Thrills Expedition Everest

Photo by Laurie Sapp

Whether you’re seeking a coaster that’ll throw you around twists, turns, and sharp corners or want to experience the excitement of a wholly different kind of attraction, you’ll find a variety of options at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. As an added bonus, many of these thrilling Animal Kingdom attractions do offer Lightning Lane – which means you can shorten your wait time and experience more in less time!

Expedition Everest

Visually stunning and absolutely thrilling from start to finish, Expedition Everest is one ride you simply can’t skip when you’re visiting Animal Kingdom. Your journey starts in a Tibetan village located at the base of Mount Everest, and your train to the “top of the world” quickly takes an exciting turn as you climb the mountain, pick up speed, and suddenly discover that a particular legendary snow monster may have destroyed the tracks! With fast drops, high speeds, and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances by the Yeti, this is one heart-pounding adventure of a ride.

Avatar Flight of Passage

Thrilling both in its movement and its incredible experience, Avatar Flight of Passage is one of the most in-demand attractions at Animal Kingdom – and for good reason! This exciting expedition takes Guests right to Pandora, bringing them into the life of a Na’vi hunter. You’ll ride a mountain banshee of your very own and fly around the landscape of this incredible moon, and by the attraction’s end, you’ll feel like you’ve just accomplished an incredible rite of passage. 

Kilimanjaro Safaris

While you may not experience sudden drops or racing speeds when you climb aboard a Kilimanjaro Safari ride vehicle, you will experience a whole different kind of thrill: a rugged safari that brings you right into animals’ habitats, allowing you to encounter everything from cheetahs and crocodiles to hyenas and zebras to white rhinos and giraffes. You’ll tour the Harambe Wildlife Reserve and have the opportunity to see over 30 species. Every visit is different, and you never know who or what you’ll spot along the way!

Animal Kingdom Kilimanjaro Safari

Photo by Danny Shuster

Animal Spotting Across the Park

Is there a bigger thrill than seeing animals enjoying their natural habitats firsthand as you wander through Animal Kingdom? You can discover animals around nearly every corner of the park, giving you a chance to combine literal thrill rides with the excitement of seeing animals in action. If you’re looking for opportunities beyond Kilimanjaro Safaris, we love walking the Maharajah Jungle Trek, which will bring you up close with tigers, flying foxes, and over 50 different species of birds, or the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, which includes sights of gorillas as well as okapi, meerkats, and so much more!

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

If you want to get even closer to the magic – and the animals – living at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Rafiki’s Planet Watch is exactly where you should head. Featuring an array of different attractions, it’s where you can check out unique thrills like an up-close look at the Veterinary Treatment Room to see animal care in real time, the Nutrition Center, which experts prepare meals, and the Amphibian, Reptile, and Invertebrate Widows, where you can check out the habitats of tarantulas, snakes, and more! 

Thrilling Entertainment at Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom Finding Nemo

Photo by Cliff Wang

The thrills you’ll find waiting at Disney’s Animal Kingdom go well beyond just coasters and fast-paced attractions (or even exciting animal encounters!). This theme park is home to some incredible entertainment that’ll surprise, delight, and engage you. 

Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond!

Head to DinoLand U.S.A. at Animal Kingdom, and you can catch this exciting stage show based on the characters and stories within Disney and Pixar’s Finding Nemo. You’ll get the chance to explore the world of Nemo and his friends from a totally fresh perspective – and, of course, there will be plenty of music along the way! Featuring live performers, animated backdrops, and a theater that offers thrilling lighting, sound, and special effects, you’ll feel like you’re truly underwater on an adventure. 

Viva Gaia Street Band

Discovery Island at Animal Kingdom is home to plenty of thrills to discover – but one you definitely won’t want to skip is a performance by the Viva Gaia Street Band. This colorful and vibrant band will share energetic melodies and encourage you to dance along with their island-inspired rhythms, showing off some incredible masquerade costumes paired with impressive dance moves!

Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight

Here’s an entertainment opportunity you won’t find at any other Walt Disney World theme park: a flurry of colorful, chatty macaws taking flight overhead, swooping and soaring above the heart of Discovery Island. Winged Encounters is a must-see moment of entertainment at Animal Kingdom, especially if you’re a wildlife fan. Six different species of South African macaws in varying colorful hues will fly around freely in this encounter hosted by one of the park’s resident bird care experts. 

Animal Kingdom Winged Encounters

Photo by Danny Shuster

Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe

While you’re in Africa during your next visit to Animal Kingdom, you won’t want to overlook the thrilling, rapturous beats of the Tam Tam Drummers! Throughout the day, these vibrant African drummers will bring the sounds of the Congo right to you, dancing and drumming with thrilling performances – and you can of course join in and try to keep up with their incredible beat. Plus, it’s a cool sight to see authentic attire of the Congo firsthand!

Discovery Island Character Flotillas

You’re going to want to keep your eyes on the waters surrounding Discovery Island throughout your day at Animal Kingdom! A series of different Disney characters may make appearances on flotillas that cruise atop the waterways – you could spot Minnie and Mickey, or you might spot characters from beloved films like The Lion King or Pochahontas. You never know who’ll pop by!

Animal Kingdom’s Can’t-Miss Foods

Animal Kingdom Night Blossom

Photo by Courtney Reynolds

While the attractions and entertainment are undeniably the standout thrills of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you also don’t want to overlook the food! This theme park is home to some unique and specially crafted treats, with everything from colorful, Instagrammable snacks to satisfying meals from must-try dining destinations. If you’re looking for the best food across the entire park, make sure to try our favorites:

  • Night Blossom, a colorful nonalcoholic drink with layers of tart apple and desert pear with a popping boba topping (available at Pongu Pongu)
  • Yeti Sundae, a combination of chocolate and vanilla soft serve topped with cake crumbs, sugar snowflakes, and a chocolate Yeti (available at Anandapur Bus)
  • Seasoned Fries from Mr. Kamal’s, paired with curried honey mustard or Korean chili ketchup for a spicy bite
  • Grilled Corn on the Cob from Harambe Fruit Market, flavored with African spices
  • Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork, a comfort food favorite that’s oh-so-satisfying (available at Flame Tree Barbecue)

Don’t Skip These Animal Kingdom Shops

Animal Kingdom thrills guide shopping

Photo by Brett Svenson

Lastly, don’t leave the park without stopping for a few special souvenirs! Once you’ve tackled all of the other thrills on this list, you’ll want to check out the unique shopping opportunities at Animal Kingdom for one-of-a-kind items you can’t find anywhere else at Walt Disney World Resort. Plan to visit these extraordinary shops during your next visit:

  • Windtraders, where you can create your own Avatar or find an interactive banshee to bring home
  • Mombasa Marketplace, where you can browse authentic African imports
  • Island Mercantile, a shop filled with Animal Kingdom merch specific to the theme park and its cast of characters
  • Serka Zong Bazaar, a shop that’s home to adventure-ready finds
  • The Dino Institute Shop, where you’ll find toys and souvenirs inspired by paleontology

Thanks to Disney for hosting us on a 2-night #AllTheDisneyThrills Media Event where we were able to conduct interviews, learn about exciting updates at Walt Disney World, stay at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and experience several dining and attraction offerings. #AllTheDisneyThrills 

Written by Heather Adams

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Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
Heather Adams

Written by Heather Adams

Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.