Friday, April 16, 2010

Top Ten Can't Miss In The Mouse: Animal Kingdom

In the fourth and final installment of the Can't Miss series, we take a look at WDW's youngest of the four main theme parks, Animal Kingdom. We've made no secret here at Around The Mouse that we love this place, even though it gets a bad rap sometimes from some sectors of the Disney World fan community.

We talked quite a bit about this way back in October (Defending Disney's Animal Kingdom!, Oct. 23, 2009) as we tried to explain why Animal Kingdom isn't that far behind (if at all) the other three older parks in The Mouse. It's beautiful, it's masterfully themed, and it does have an abundance of worthy attractions if you take advantage of what it actually has to offer. It also has some phenomenal dining - in both table service and counter service.

So while we're not here to try and convince you to love Animal Kingdom like we do, we do want to give you our thoughts on the Top Ten of what Animal Kingdom has to offer the Disney World guest.

Expedition Everest
Location: Asia

One word sums up Everest: AWESOME. Awesome theming. Awesome thrill. This is what Disney Imagineering can come up with when they're REALLY on their game. What's the best part of this attraction? The big forward drop? The fast, backward, twisting drop in the dark? The harsh G's you feel when flying around the outer edges? The Yeti swiping at you (even though he's usually a statue these days)? The theming of the Yeti museum? The theming of the shrines? The surrounding area of Anandapur? The answer to all is "yes."

Location: Dino-Land, U.S.A.

This ride is legitimately scary to a lot of, adults, everyone. We've always loved it though, as that scary thrill is the reason it endeared itself to us. There may be no more effective audio-animatronic in WDW than the Carnotaurus that actually chases after your Time Rover. The glowing eyes, the realistic running movement, the roar, the's incredible. And then there's the Carnotaur at the picture spot - that guy is LOUD and SCARY. And because of that, looking at the photos post-ride can be hilarious. If you can keep your wits about you (and don't have a bad back - this ride can be VERY bumpy), this is a definite can't miss in Animal Kingdom.

Kilimanjaro Safari
Location: Africa

The most immersive attraction in Walt Disney World, in my personal opinion. The theming here is so killer that even though you know you're not really in Africa, you could swear that you might actually be in Africa. As big as Everest has gotten, the Safari is still the backbone of entertainment in Animal Kingdom - something that everyone can ride and enjoy.

Maharajah Jungle Trek
Location: Asia

Never mind the Tigers or giant Bats - which are very cool. The most impressive thing about the Jungle Trek is the theming. It really is THAT good. It does rival the Kilimanjaro Safari as the most immersively-themed part of Walt Disney World in general. No detail was spared here as you feel as though you are walking through a very historically old country filled with lush greenery, wildlife and crumbling temples. Amazing.

Pangani Forest Trail
Location: Africa

While maybe not quite as impressive as the Jungle Trek, the Forest Trail is great in its own right. The Gorilla compound is particularly cool as you really do get a glimpse of these awesome animals as though they are living in a huge and expansive natural environment. Plus, the meerkats are always a lot fun to watch.

Festival Of The Lion King
Location: Camp Minnie & Mickey

In sum, Festival is one of, if not THE best live stage shows in The Mouse, hands-down. Insanely talented dancers, singers and acrobats elevate this show to incredible heights. Meanwhile the huge animal props and costumes sell the rest of it. This show has been around a while and Disney still hasn't topped it with any other live stage show since. Check the time schedules, get fastpasses for other attractions and make sure not to miss this.

Jammin' Jungle Parade
Location: Africa, Asia, Discovery Island

When it comes to parades, Disney usually hits the nail on the head. Jammin' Jungle Parade is no exception. It reminds me of the old Tapestry of Nations/Dreams parades that Epcot used to send around the Showcase. Huge stylized puppets and floats along with unique music make this unlike any other Disney parade. If you want a little something different, check it out.

Tusker House
Location: Africa

I tried not to include any restaurants in this list, but if one deserves mention, it's Tusker House. It's that good. For a full write-up on Tusker, check out our Tail Of The Tape article from back in March.

Tough To Be A Bug
Location: Discovery Island

WDW has a couple of excellent 3D shows: Mickey's Philmarmagic in Magic Kingdom and Muppet Vision 3D in The Studios. Tough To Be A Bug rounds out a threesome of 3D attractions that are all very much worth seeing. Entertaining and funny - and at times scary for little ones - it doesn't pull punches. The Hopper A.A. is one of the best in The Mouse - and can also be rather scary. The spiders that come down from the ceiling have been known to freak some people out. But don't let that put you off - Tough To Be A Bug is a great way to spend 20 minutes. Especially when it's 95 degrees out and you get to find the AC under the Tree Of Life. Speaking of...

Tree Of Life
Location: Discovery Island

This is a jaw-dropper. Especially if you take the time to explore the trails that surround the tree itself. The artistry that went into carving the animals into the tree and all the roots around the base is nothing short of genius. The Tree Of Life is the epitome of what Animal Kingdom is all about - if you take your time to appreciate the little things, to smell the roses, you will come away from it all blown away.


  1. I admit it...I am part of the Disney fan community that doesn't care for AK too much. Maybe it's because I'm not an animal person...

    Anyway, I do love ITtbaBm The Lion King, and Finding Nemo: The Musical. I love the counter service restaurants. Okay, maybe I do sort of like AK!

    Here's my funny Dinosaur story: In December 2005, my family (then just three) spent a week at WDW. We rode Dinosaur which I hadn't ridden in a LONG time. When it was over, I was scared to death, my back hurt, and I was nauseous from the bumpy ride. Two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant. That also explained why Soarin' almost cleaned my clock on that trip, too! LOL

    I promise to try to like AK better on my next trip (I completely ignored it in July and gave it a quick pass in January). :)

  2. LOL, that's a great story! Didn't you just get back from The Mouse? How was it?

  3. We did...we only spent one day at DHS. While it was PACKED (I have never been there when so many people went straight to TSMM), we were still able to do everything we wanted to do. No complaints!

    For once, we had time to explore Downtown Disney. My older son declared the AMC 24 theater, "like first class on an airplane"! We also ate at Woflgang Puck Express and Planet Hollywood.

    It was a great trip and the shuttle launch was amazing! I don't, however, recommend staying up for 24 hours straight!