When Animal Kingdom was being built in the late 90's, I remember thinking, 'Why would anyone spend a day at an animal park in Disney when they could just go to a zoo for a fraction of the cost?' Well, after one trip there, I can now tell you why. Animal Kingdom is awesome! For us, it is the perfect mix of our family's favorite things: animals, performances, artistic detail, and (of course) rides!
Animal Kingdom also has what people often refer to as the best ride they have been on ever: Avatar Flight of Passage. Unless you've been to Animal Kingdom before and know your way around and exactly what you want to do, make this a full day excursion. You may even want to take a midday break/nap and come back because it is a good bit of walking. That being said... here is what I suggest for your FP+ options. Like Epcot and Hollywood Studios, there is a Tier system and for your first 3 FastPasses, you can only select one from the Tier 1 and the other 2 must be from Tier 2.
What to use your FP+ on:
Avatar Flight of Passage: Flight of Passage has the longest wait of any of the rides in any of the Disney World parks. I personally have never seen it under 175 minutes (except at park closing time) in all our trips there. The line frequently reaches a 200+ minute wait. Crazy!! The truth is, my family and I still have not riden it. My kids weren't tall enough during our first trips to Disney, and now that they are, we still have not been able to get a FP+. We haven't been willing to endure a long wait with the kids (although I hear that Flight of Passage has an amazing queue line), so this remains our family's white whale.
The only way you will have a chance to get a FP+ for this ride is if your are staying at a Disney resort for an extended period of time. We have family in Florida so our Disney stays are short and sweet. If you are staying at Disney for a week, plan on making the Animal Kingdom the last park of your trip so that you have the best chance possible for snagging a FP+. (See more about how FP+ works by checking out my post on FastPass+ Rules). And forget the Disney pros tips on this one about setting up all your FP+ for the morning time. If you see a FP+ available for this at 7:50 pm, do not hesitate! Grab it while you can!
Another tip about Avatar Flight of Passage - If you do not have young, worn out kids with you, and you are willing to wait but don't want to lose out on time enjoying the rest of the park, there is a trick. If a park is closing at 9:00, and you get into line at 8:59, you will get to ride the ride. If my kids were older, I would definitely do this. Don't expect the line for Avatar to be short though. The last time we were there it was still 120 minute wait at park closing time.
Na'vi River Journey: If you can't get a pass for Avatar Flight of Passage, get a FP+ for the Na'vi River Journey since it is the only other Tier 1 ride and there is always a wait. When this ride is described as a slow ride, it means a SLOW ride. It is very pretty, but think of it as Pandora's version of It's a Small World. No fun dips or surprises on this one. Bottom line is, if you wait in line a long time for it, you will feel like you wasted your time. However, if you use a FP+ on this ride, you'll walk away saying, that was pretty and enjoyable. You can then mark it off your list as a ride done and use your saved time to walk around and enjoy the sights of Pandora.
Pandora itself is amazing! I don't know how they created the "Hallelujah Mountains." Be sure to use you PhotoPass to take a picture in front of them while you are there. And if you ask for a "magic shot," a Banshee just might appear in your picture as well.
All the rest of the FP+ options in Animal Kingdom are Tier 2. Here is the list of them in order of suggested priority:
Kilimanjaro Safari: Because of the "nature" of this ride, the line can easily get backed up. I've never seen it less than 45 minutes and it is not an interesting queue. It is worth it though! You really feel like you are on a safari. Giraffes walked by close enough we felt like we could practically touch them and they crossed the path in front of our vehicle several times. The possibility of a close encounter with an animal is another reason why this line can get backed up. Once, my aunt rode it at night and a white rhino bumped their vehicle then took its sweet time walking in front of them. She said it was awesome!! That brings me to another point. The best time of day to get a FP+ for Kilimanjaro is either first thing in the morning or at sunset. Many wild animals are crepuscular (most active during the twilight hours) and such is the case for the animals of the African Safari. If you go in the middle of a summer day, you'll mostly see animals lying around or sleeping in the shade trying to beat the Florida heat.
Oh, and if you like to hunt for Hidden Mickeys, don't miss the one on the safari. It is a little difficult to tell from the angle, but Flamingo Island is shaped like a Mickey head:
Expedition Everest: This is my husband and my favorite ride! (Although that might change once we get to ride Flight of Passage). It will totally depend on the age and temperament of your kids as to whether you'll be able to take them on this. The height requirement is 44," so young kids CAN ride. We took my 6 year old and 8 year old on it and they loved it... but they are also pretty bold and we've been training them to enjoy roller coasters. You can always show your kids the attached video and see if they would be willing to go on it. I've found that showing my kids videos of the rides takes away a lot of anxiety and gives them the control to make the decision for themselves.
Dinosaur: My kids LOVE dinosaurs. So much so that we've let them watch all the Jurassic Park/World movies. The movie Dinosaur, that this ride is (loosely) based on, was my oldest child's favorite movie when she was a toddler. We read dinosaur books all the time and she could pronounce names like Parasaurolophus. I tell you all this to put my next comment in context... They were not huge fans of the dinosaur ride and are not interested in going on it again. I had heard that this ride is very dark and scary for little kids, but I also knew my budding paleontologists would not want to miss a dinosaur ride. So I let them watch the videos online and we made a FP+ to go. My youngest insists that she wasn't scared, but we have the photo proof to showing otherwise.
We are in the front row in this picture and you can see my youngest hiding from the Carnotaurus. Also, I love what the people in the back are doing. It's obviously not their first time on the ride!
So, all of this to say, if you have dino fans in your house, don't assume that they will like the ride. Watch the video and decide for yourself. Also, I have a bad back and this was the most difficult ride in all the parks on my joints. The SUV gets very bumpy and makes jerky turns. I put this on my FP+ to get list because the line is consistently over 60 minutes long. And, who knows, you may like the ride. It just wasn't one of my family's favorites. However, I think it was worth it for the picture. :)
Kali River Rapids: We always go to Disney for Christmas, so my family has not done the rapids yet. We haven't hit any of those warm Florida winter days yet and haven't wanted to be cold and wet. During the winter, there is no wait. However, I imagine it would get crowded on a hot summer day. I've read that you get REALLY wet on this one so be warned. You might want to use up your first 3 FP+ and try to get a FP+ for this one at the end of the day so you can head to your hotel afterward to change.
Primeval Whirl: My husband and I both get motion sickness on spinning rides so we have never been on the Primeval Whirl. If it is a ride you are interested in, use a FP+ on it because the lines are regularly over 60 minutes. You may notice, after watching this video, that this ride seems cheesy and juxtaposed to the pristine and beautiful environment you would expect from a park named "Animal Kingdom." Your observation would be correct. Dinoland confuses many visitors to Animal Kingdom and they often express a dislike for it. However, if you research the thought process behind its creation, it is quite a political commentary. However, it is way too much to write about in this blog, so if you are interested in learning about Dinoland's purpose, check out this link.
So that is all of the rides for Animal Kingdom... My suggestion is to use your morning FP+ on the above choices and once you have done that, you can try and get another FP+ for the rides you've already been on, or you might opt for one of these choices:
1. Character Outpost: We've taken pictures with most of the princesses/female characters at Disney, but we still haven't met Pocahontas because the line has been too long. If you see a FP+ to meet Pocahontas in the afternoon it would be a good use of one.
2. Finding Nemo or Festival of the Lion King: In general, using a FP+ on shows doesn't give you much of an advantage in your seat choice. However, during a busy season, having a FP+ does cut the length of time you have to wait and guarantees you a seat if you show up in the allotted time frame. For the best seats, arrive at the beginning of the FP+ time frame. We haven't been to Nemo, but I don't think it could possibly beat out the Festival of the Lion King! Definitely put this show on your day's agenda. You won't be sorry!
3. Festival of Lights: I liked having a FP+ for this, because of the fact that the FP+ entry point to and from this section of seats is directly across from Expedition Everest. So if you love Expedition Everest, you can jump on it one more time after the show is over and experience it at night. Because of Everest's location at the back of the park, the wait times decrease significantly toward park closing. When we were there, the wait time for Everest was only 20 minutes around 7:00.
Don't bother with using a FP+ on It's Tough to be a Bug. I've never seen the wait longer than 15 minutes even on the busiest days. This is probably because it is said to be too scary for some kids. Creating a kids show that is too scary for kids probably wasn't one of Disney's best ideas... Never been to it myself - too many other fun things to do!
Also, using a FP+ on UP! doesn't give you an advantage, but I would suggest going to the show. It was fun and the birds flew so close to us that we could almost touch them! I don't know if they do this on the same side for every show (I imagine they would to keep training simple), but you'll get to experience something cool if you sit either on the far right row of the center section or the far left row of the left row of the section on your right coming into the theater. Those individuals got to form a "forest" that one of the birds flew through! I'd go again knowing this just so I could be a part of that.
Disney: The Most Magical Place on Earth
Disney is touted as the "Most Magical Place on Earth." Before we finally decided to take our two princesses, I thought, 'This is going to be a disappointment. There is no way Disney is going to live up to the hype.' Man, was I wrong!