Getting ready for Animal Kingdom? This realistic one-day itinerary for adults will help you experience the best things to do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!
On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, my sister-in-law, her sister, and I visited Animal Kingdom on our first day in the parks.
To help you plan your trip to the parks, I’ve included our itinerary below for Animal Kingdom. This was everything we were actually able to do in Disney’s Animal Kingdom during one day.
As you’ll discover in my “Lessons Learned” below, there were a number of things that we learned along the way to improve our experience.
I’m hoping that these “learned learned” will help you as you plan your own visit, so you can see the best things to do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!
Have a wonderful trip!
Where we stayed: Disney’s Grand Floridian
For our trip to Disney World, we stayed at Disney’s Grand Floridian.
This is Disney’s flagship resort and was incredibly luxurious. Beautiful rooms, lush landscaping, and a view of Magic Kingdom fireworks at night!
Key Tip: Staying at a Disney resort allowed us to enter the parks 30 minutes before the public opening. We could also enter Virtual Queues and sign-up for Individual Lightning Lanes at 7AM. Other park visitors have to wait until the park opens for the day. These are big perks when considering how lengthy the lines at Disney World can be!
You can check out my full review of Disney’s Grand Floridian here.
Genie+, Lightning Lanes, and Virtual Queues
Since it was our first day at Disney World, we spent time on our morning figuring out all the different ways we could get access to the rides.
Here’s what we figured out:
You need to download the Disney Experience app.
The app allows you to book passes to get on rides faster (called “Lightning Lanes”). It also allows you to book mobile food orders (which you definitely want to do, because even food lines are long at Disney World).
In the app, the “Tip Board” in “My Disney Genie Day” gives you all the info you need.
This area is kind of hidden in the Disney Experience App. This is where you need to go to get Lightning Passes and make mobile food orders.
Genie+ Lighting Lanes:
There are a number of rides grouped within the Genie+ Lightning Lanes. If you purchase Genie+ through the app, then you can reserve a Lightning Lane in advance for a ride. Disney changes the cost of Genie+ based on demand. It cost $20-$22 per person per day for us. You decide each day if you want to buy it.
Individual Lightning Lanes:Disney also has some rides that are even more popular than others. These rides are not part of Genie+. If you want to use Lighting Lanes for these rides, you have to pay a separate amount per person per ride. I saw prices of around $11 per person for these rides.
Virtual Queues:There are some super, super popular rides that have Virtual Queues. Disney resort guests can enter the queue at 7AM to try to reserve that particular ride for the day. Disney changes which rides are in the Virtual Queues, but the Disney Experience app will tell you which rides currently have a Virtual Queue (such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Tron).
Lesson Learned: We later realized we should have researched this all in advance. By the time we purchased Genie+, the available times for Lightning Lane passes were much later in the day. We should have gotten on the app at 7AM to purchase Genie+ and make our first ride reservation.
Weather for the day
My sister-in-law had gotten in late the night before, so I was excited to show her our room view in the daylight hours. Since we had a view of Seven Seas Lagoon and Magic Kingdom, it was a pretty amazing view.
I threw open the curtains to reveal…a world covered in fog. But it was still a very pretty view, covered in fog!
The day ended up being foggy until around noon. Then it cleared up to be clear skies with near record-high temperatures.
Lesson learned: Some of the wait areas for rides are in direct sunlight. Disney World allows you to bring umbrellas. I wish I had brought a mini umbrella to provide some shade in those record-high temperatures.
Transportation to Animal Kingdom
The Grand Floridian has a fantastic bus stop that offers free bus rides to various Disney World locations, including Animal Kingdom.
The bus ride from the Grand Floridian to Animal Kingdom was about 20 minutes, which wasn’t too bad. And the bus was pretty comfortable.
Another nice perk of staying at a Disney resort!
And then we arrived at Animal Kingdom! Walking into the park and seeing the Tree of Life is a surreal experience.
We spent a little time taking pictures in front of the tree before heading to our first ride of the day.
Lesson Learned: The park was already crowded when we got there about 30 minutes after the public opening. Although staying at a Disney resort gave us the chance to enter the park 30 minutes before public opening, we didn’t take advantage of it. We really should have taken advantage of entering the park early. If we had done this, we could have gone on some of the more popular rides without the wait.
Expedition Everest – Best Things to Do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Our first ride of the day was Expedition Everest!
We had purchased Genie+ passes for each person in our group earlier that morning. At that time, we had used the Genie+ to book Lightning Lane passes for Expedition Everest. Our Lightning Lane passes were for 9AM and we were on the ride by 9:05AM.
I absolutely loved this ride! Because it was foggy, it felt like we were going through the clouds. This is one of my favorite roller coasters.
Lesson Learned: As we were boarding the ride, we were joined by a couple in the single-rider lane. Although they had to split up for the ride, they didn’t have to pay extra and they didn’t have to wait in line (at least at that time). In retrospect, we should have used our first Genie+ reservation of the day for the Avatar Flight of Passage ride. Then our three-person group should have used the free single-rider lane on Expedition Everest. It would have saved us significant time (as you’ll later read…).
Lightning Lane passes
After Expedition Everest, we took some time to book our next Genie+ Lightning Lane pass.
As we reviewed our options, we realized there were no reasonable times left for Lightning Lane pass reservations. It was around 9:30AM and the next passes weren’t available until mid to late afternoon.
This is one of the major drawbacks of the Lightning Lane passes.
Even though we had paid for the passes, so had a lot of other people. So we were competing with a lot of other people for limited availability.
Lesson Learned: After this, we realized we needed to be much more strategic about booking Lightning Lane passes. You can book Lightning Lane passes every two hours or after you use a pass. We watched the Disney Experience app closely after this to book our Lightning Lane passes.
Coffee break: Joffrey’s
Before getting in line for our next ride, we took some time for a coffee break.
We headed to one of the Joffrey’s coffee stands in the park. I got a delicious donut and my sister-in-law got a strawberry-dipped mocha latte. I would later get this drink. It is one of the best coffee drinks I’ve ever have. So, so good!!
Lesson learned: I bought a bottle of water, which was $5.75. If I had brought a refillable water bottle to the park, I could have refilled it for free at one of the many water fountains. So next time I come to Disney, I’ll be sure to bring my refillable water bottle.
Avatar: Flight of Passage – Best Things to Do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Our next ride was Avatar: Flight of Passage!
I love 3D rides, so was excited to see this one.
Because Lightning Lane passes weren’t available until much later in the day, we opted to just wait in the regular line for this ride.
The wait time was advertised as 125 minutes and it did take that long. (We spent much of the wait speculating whether the wait time was accurate and it was in this case.)
But the ride was fantastic. I said a lot of “oohs” and “ahhs” during this ride!
Lesson Learned: Because it was a 2+ hour plus wait, we got pretty hungry in line. Next time, I’ll pack some snacks and refill my water bottle ahead of any long wait times.
My sister-in-law had read that Satu’li Canteen had the best food in Disney World.
So after the Avatar ride, we headed there for lunch.
There was a long line, so we made a mobile food order on the Disney Experience app.
We ordered around 1PM and the food was projected to be ready around 1:30PM.
All three of us in our group ordered a variation of the combo bowl. I got a beef/chicken combo with noodles.
It was delicious. And I agree that this was the best food that I ate at Disney World! Amazing.
We finished lunch around 2:15PM.
We checked the Disney Experience app and saw that Kilimanjaro Safaris had a Genie+ Lightning Lane pass available for 2:30PM. So we booked the pass and headed in that direction.
We waited about 15 minutes in the Lightning Lane and then were in our vehicle for the safari.
And you definitely got to see animals! Giraffes, hippos, and rhinos were all standing fairly close to the road. So it was a very close visual of the animals.
Back to the Grand Floridian
It was now around 3PM and there weren’t any Lightning Lane passes available for quite a few hours.
So we elected to call it a day at the parks and head back to our hotel.
The bus ride took a little longer going back because it stopped at the Polynesian Village Resort first. I would learn that the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Village Resort are together on the same bus route, so we would always stop at the Polynesian Village Resort on the way back to our hotel.
Disney Princess Half Marathon packet pick-up
My sister-in-law was running the Disney Princess Half Marathon in a couple of days, so we spent a little time in the evening picking up her running bib and shirt for the race.
Disney does a nice job of planning events. The packet pick-up location had lots of cool photo ops with cartoon images of Disney princesses.
Night at the hotel
We then settled in for a night at the hotel. We enjoyed delicious room service, watched the Magic Kingdom fireworks from our hotel balcony, and then watched the Electrical Water Pageant on the Seven Seas Lagoon.
It was a nice, relaxing way to end the day.
As you can see from our itinerary above, we learned that we needed to be much more strategic about planning our rides.
But we still got to do everything we wanted to do at Animal Kingdom. Overall, I had a great day and really enjoyed Animal Kingdom.
I hope my “lessons learned” help you to plan a day where you experience the best things to do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!