A Former Cast Member’s Top 5 Reasons to Fall in Love with Disney’s Animal Kingdom (without having to step foot in the massive lines of Pandora!)

Hello everyone! Or should I say “Jambo”! At least, that’s what we used to say as Cast Members to greet guests when I worked at Animal Kingdom during my Disney College Program.
I have heard so many stories of people being upset that they couldn’t get fast passes for The Flight of Passage or felt like their entire vacation would be ruined because the crowds were too massive for them to even get near Pandora. Not to worry! Animal Kingdom has so much more to offer besides Pandora and I’m positive that your vacation will not be ruined if you can’t experience this new feature.
Now I have to admit, when I received my work location I was praying that I would not be placed in Animal Kingdom. My two sisters preceded me in the college program. One was placed in Magic Kingdom and the other in Animal Kingdom. I wanted my own “home” park! I was more of an Epcot type of girl, myself; but then I have always had a special place in my heart for Hollywood Studios with the 1940’s style music and costumes. Either place, I thought, would do just fine as a home for me.
However, things did not quite go according to my dreams. When I received my packet, it was marked “DAK” or Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Even though it wasn’t the park I had planned on, I decided I would make the best out of the situation. Who knew that I would grow to fall absolutely in love with Animal Kingdom! Now Animal Kingdom is a definite must-do for me whenever we vacation in Disney.
Now I know there is some funny rumor going around that Animal Kingdom is–or was (before Pandora)–a half day park. But I don’t think that was ever the case. I believe you can fall in love with Animal Kingdom for a whole day if not multiple days without even having to venture into the crowds of Pandora.
Let me share with you my top 5 reasons to fall in love with Animal Kingdom…
1. The Food: Okay, Animal Kingdom has HANDS DOWN some of the best quick service food on property.
My husband and I love that the portions at many of the restaurants here are fairly large, easily large enough to split between two adults. This saves money if you’re paying out of pocket or allows you to save meal credits to use later if you’re on the meal plan. My husband and I also opted for the quick service-only meal plan last time we visited the parks. He was worried we would be limited to “burgers and fries” by choosing this option, but he quickly realized that you could get “restaurant quality” meals this way too. Our favorite is the Ribs, Chicken, and Pulled Pork Sampler from Flame Tree Barbeque. This park turned my “Disney food isn’t that great”-husband into a Disney food lover. That’s some powerful BBQ, folks.


2. The Story: As a Photopass Photographer at Animal Kingdom it was my job to stand around at different locations around the park (and take pictures, of course). But there were many times that I was told to stay in a certain area and not move until someone came to relieve me for my break or my “out” time. This could be anywhere from 2-6 hours! That’s a lot of time to stand and stare at all of the little details. As a guest I had so often zoomed to Expedition Everest and run back to the Safari that I missed so many details! Now I had the amazing opportunity to really soak it in. I could see what the Imagineers had put so much thought into. Not only is there so much detail, but there is so much story here. Next time you go to Animal Kingdom, I dare you to not go on a single attraction. Take time to wander.
Just a few things to look out for….

• Do you know why you have to walk uphill when entering the park? It’s because the Imagineers want you to take time to slow down and take in the sights of the jungle around you as you enter. They purposely put that slope in the entrance! Nothing was put into this park on accident. Plus when you take time to look into the foliage as you enter, you get to see some pretty exotic wildlife you otherwise might have missed.

• Did you ever wonder why some of the signage in Animal Kingdom has dragons on it? That’s because when the park first opened they were originally going to have a “Beastly Kingdom” or a section for mythical creatures. However, those plans never came to life as the Imagineers had originally planned. And so the signs were kept, but Beastly Kingdom was scrapped. I believe that Pandora is their “newly imagined” version of the mythical animals they had originally planned; however, it does not incorporate the dragons or unicorns.

Photo credit wdwsecrets.com

• Have you ever noticed that the road signs in Dinoland have a very specific number on them? The number is 498. The number actually represents the opening of Animal Kingdom which was April 1998.

Photo credit wdwsecrets.com

3. The Walking Trails: You can walk Discovery Island Trails, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, or the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. All of these trails allow you to see animals, plants and foliage from what feels like another world. Take time to step back from the roller coasters and shows and go on an adventure. See how many animals you can find! If you want to get even closer to the wildlife, you can check out the Wild Africa Trek. This is a privately guided tour through Animal Kingdom. The price ranges from $189-249 per person plus park admission.

4. The Animals: You didn’t think I was going to forget these guys did you? Animal Kingdom, while not a zoo (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNIwkV4KHuU) is actually a real working Wildlife Conservation Center. Not only can you see animals on the safari, but by visiting Rifiki’s Planet Watch you will see a petting zoo, a veterinary facility, and interactive exhibits.

5. The Photo Spots: Okay, maybe I’m biased because I was a Photopass Photographer and because I went to school for photography, but I think Animal Kingdom has some of the most beautiful locations on property for photos. Not only does it have great backdrops for family shots, but it also has beautiful opportunities for landscape shots. Bonus: If you are walking towards Expedition Everest by Discovery River from Asia you will notice a little temple-like statue. If you stand just right you will see that the statue mimics the shape of Everest. It’s a pretty cool photo if you can get the right angle!

Photo credit to allears.net

I hope these top reasons become just part of what you discover at Animal Kingdom next time you visit! What are your favorite reasons to visit Animal Kingdom? I would love to hear about them. Leave me a comment below!

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