updated October 12, 2020
Wrapping up a series of our family’s top attractions at each Disney World park, I’m discussing our best Animal Kingdom rides and attractions today.
These are favorites of a family with two school-age boys who do not enjoy roller coasters and will steer clear of most sit-down shows, like many kids who might not be able to wait and sit still for a show. The rides have no or low minimum height restrictions.
The roller coaster avoidance issue means Expedition Everest is out and we also skip Kali River Rapids (one of very few Disney World rides I’ve never been on!) because we usually visit Disney World in winter when it’s either closed or we aren’t in the mood to be soaking wet for the rest of the day!
Besides the general show aversion, also note that seating at Animal Kingdom’s marquee shows – Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo Musical – is less than comfortable. We’ve never watched either as a family because I know the kids would be frustrated by the close, metal bleacher seating at Lion King and the benches at Finding Nemo have to be the most uncomfortable seats of any show at Disney World.
So, enough about what we don’t like and on to the best Animal Kingdom rides and attractions for families!
Note: All attractions may not be open during Disney World’s 2020 phased reopening period.
Dinosaur is the immediate answer from both boys when I ask about their favorite ride at Animal Kingdom. It’s also easily in their list of top 5 rides in all of Disney World. I’m always surprised they love this ride so much because it’s very loud and they usually hate loud sounds (we never watch fireworks *cries*).
They love that this ride is on the intense side and tosses you around quite a bit, but doesn’t have the drops and speed of a roller coaster. It might be too scary and loud for younger kids, but mine have been obsessed with dinosaurs for so long that it’s truly awesome. Kiddos also have to be at least 40″ to ride.
The boys also know to expect the PhotoPass shot when the carnotaurus appears towards the end of the ride. We always have fun trying a different pose for the photo!
2. The Boneyard
Staying in Dinoland U.S.A., we almost always spend an hour in the Boneyard on an Animal Kingdom day. This is a large, multi-level playground with all manner of slides, climbing structures, and a large sand pit. The boys run around playing Cops and Robbers while Daddy finds a spot out of the way to relax and Mommy heads to the single rider line of Expedition Everest nearby.
Every Disney park needs a playground like this – a huge space with limited entry/exit points for kids to run around and let off steam! Bonus is that Pluto often has an informal meet and greet just inside the main entrance so the kids can meet a character with barely any wait.
3. Pandora Rides
Our boys have very similar ride preferences, but Flight of Passage is a notable exception. Our youngest loves Flight of Passage while our oldest rode once and vows never again (he says it “feels” too much like a roller coaster). We do a child swap so the Flight of Passage-obsessed kid gets to ride twice every time – once with Mommy and again with Daddy. This one also restricts riders to those 44″ or taller.
As a family, we all enjoy Na’vi River Journey together. It may not be worth more than a 20-minute wait, but it’s such a delightfully leisurely ride through a forest on Pandora. No minimum height restriction means all the kids can ride!
I often wish this could be turned into a PeopleMover-esque ride for Animal Kingdom. Even without the impressive final shaman audio animatronic, it’s just so peaceful to bob along in the boat through the bioluminescent forest.
4. Kilimanjaro Safari
A day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom without going on a safari … just isn’t a day at Animal Kingdom. No two safari rides are ever the same, but they all have their unique moments. We love that the giraffes usually walk up close to the safari bus, the lions are usually adorably lazy, and elephants are majestic as always. The painted dogs are so unique and the boys’ favorite even though they aren’t always out and about.
As the queue and, obviously, the ride itself are entirely outdoors, we always ride the safari in the morning or close to dusk outside of the heat of the day.
No height restriction. Lots of animals. It’s a win-win and easily one of the best Animal Kingdom rides!
5. Up! A Great Bird Adventure
Two reasons my boys don’t enjoy most shows: 1. The seating is too cramped and uncomfortable, and 2. The theme doesn’t interest them. The Up! bird show nearly suffers strike #1, but the theme more than makes up for it. Our family loves the movie Up! and are thrilled with so many Up-themed attractions and activities within Animal Kingdom. Dug and Russell are too cute during this show!
This outdoor theater has metal bench seating on gently sloping solid ground up front with traditional high school metal bleachers with a higher rise in the back. Now that they’ve seen the show several times, my boys don’t need to be up front so we enjoy the very last row of bleachers. The rise in the bleachers means they don’t have any heads blocking their view and the stone wall behind is nice to lean against. That helps the seating issue immensely.
I realize this rethemed show isn’t as well-received by most as the older Flights of Wonder show, but being fans of Up! make this a must-do.
Honorable Mention: Wilderness Explorers Program
Following the Up! theme, I should also mention that, while it’s not necessarily an attraction, we love the Wilderness Explorers program. I wrote an entire blog post about the Wilderness Explorers and how it leads you through activities throughout the park, earning Wilderness Explorer sticker badges along the way. It’s a great way to explore Disney’s Animal Kingdom and is a great activity when the park is crowded and most attractions have long lines.
What are your family’s favorite Animal Kingdom rides and attractions?