Animal Kingdom is a great Walt Disney World park for kids of all ages. I loved getting to share it with my toddler and his cousins on our recent trip in February. While many of the rides at Animal Kingdom are for older (and taller) visitors, there are still so many things to do at Animal Kingdom with toddlers.
Animal Kingdom is a little different than some of the other Walt Disney World parks for a number of reasons. With the animal focus, there’s a lot more open space and areas to walk around. It’s also more relaxed than a day at Magic Kingdom with toddlers, which is full of nonstop rides geared toward their age group.
If you’re planning your day at Animal Kingdom with kids of any age, keep reading for our favorite things to do.
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Ride on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom
The safari ride is one of the best rides at Animal Kingdom for all ages. It replicates a real African safari in an open air vehicle. And it gives visitors a chance to get up close to animals in a natural habitat.
There are dozens of species of animals on the Animal Kingdom safari. Some of the animals we encountered on the safari include zebras, rhinos, elephants, ostriches, antelope, crocodiles, hippos and more. If you get there early or on a cooler day (like we did) you have a great chance of seeing a lot of animals out and active.
See the Festival of the Lion King Show at Animal Kingdom
I tend to go more for rides than shows at Disney. The Lion King is an exception though, and it’s easily one of the best shows at Walt Disney World. The show includes all the best songs from the Lion King movie and it’s hard not to sing along. The performers divide the audience into four different animal groups, and they engage with the audience throughout. Unlike typical stage performances at Disney, the Lion King is on the floor and includes dancing and acrobatics the entire time.
So how long is the Lion King show at Animal Kingdom? It’s a 30 minute show, but even for younger toddlers there’s so much to take in that it holds their attention. For that reason it’s definitely one of our favorite things to do with toddlers at Animal Kingdom.
Take the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch
This train in Animal Kingdom runs every 5 minutes from Africa. It’s a short ride with a behind-the-scenes look at the animal care areas on the way. The Wildlife Express train ends at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which includes a path that leads up to the Conservation Station. The Conservation Station at Animal Kingdom offers an inside look at the care animals receive. It includes many different species of reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.
You can also find the Animation Experience at the Conservation Station. This 25 minute class gives participants an inside look at Disney’s animation, and they actually learn to draw a character of their own.
Another focal point of Rafiki’s Planet Watch is the Affection Section. This is the only petting zoo at Animal Kingdom (and the rest of Disney World, for that matter.) It includes several goats and sheep as well as donkeys, pigs, cows and more. Kids can brush the animals, pet them and get up close for a fun, hands-on experience.
While often overlooked, Rafiki’s Planet Watch was definitely one of our favorite things for toddlers at Animal Kingdom.
Get Up Close with Bugs at the It’s Tough to be a Bug Show
This show based on the movie It’s a Bugs Life is unique in that the show actually takes place under Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life. While the wait times at It’s Tough to be a Bug are usually minimal, there are some cool things to look at leading up to the entrance. Kids will love finding the different animals on the Tree of Life. The inside of the Tree of Life also has several bug themed things to look at. (Be sure to look for the huge ball of elephant poop from the Dung Beetles!)
The show itself is 3-D and it introduces several bugs in a fun and humorous way. There are also several special effects used throughout the show that make it engaging for kids the entire time. Keep in mind there are some parts of the show that could be scary for younger toddlers. My son wasn’t a fan of the “big bad bug” at the end, but he made it through the whole show. If your child gets scared, you can easily exit during the show.
Meet the Characters at Animal Kingdom
Wandering what characters are at Animal Kingdom? There are several character meet and greets throughout Animal Kingdom. The most popular characters at Animal Kingdom are Mickey and Minnie, who you can meet at the Adventurers Outpost in Discovery Island. While many of the best Animal Kingdom FastPass rides are geared toward taller visitors, this character visit is great if you’re looking for Animal Kingdom attractions for toddlers.
Additional characters to meet at Animal Kingdom include Pocahantas, Russell and Dug and Timon and Rafiki. There are also several characters at Dinoland as part of Donald’s Dino Bash. In addition to Donald Duck, you can also Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale and Ducktales in DinoLand.
If you’re looking for character dining at Animal Kingdom, the Tusker House Restaurant is a popular option. The Tusker House serves African and American food for breakfast lunch and dinner. Characters at the Tusker House Restaurant include Donald Duck, Daisy, Mickey and Goofy.
Leave Plenty of Time for DinoLand U.S.A.
Dinoland is perfect for toddlers. Between the rides, activities and characters throughout, there’s so much for them to see and do. The entire thing looks like a dinosaur themed carnival, with Donald’s Dino Bash as the focal point. There’s unfortunately no longer a dance party at Donald’s Dino Bash. The dinosaur themed characters in DinoLand USA are still a highlight, however.
Other fun things for toddlers at DinoLand USA include:
- TriceraTops Spin- a dinosaur ride that’s similar to Dumbo at Magic Kingdom (a great Animal Kingdom ride with toddlers!)
- The Boneyard- A play area for kids that includes rope bridges, slides and fossil digging
- DINOSAUR- A Jurassic Park themed ride for kids over 40 inches (Note: This can be scary for toddlers with the dinosaurs and drops.)
- Finding Nemo the Musical- This 40 minute show is a musical rendition of the movie. It includes bright colors, Nemo characters and the best songs from Finding Nemo
- Eat at Restaurantosaurus for dinosaur themed food. Kids meals are served in a pail and shovel
Try Some of the Best Snacks at Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom is known to have some of the best food at Walt Disney World. While there are several unique food offerings and alcoholic beverages geared toward adults, there are also several fun places to eat for kids at Animal Kingdom. Our favorite snacks at Animal Kingdom included
- The Simba shaped soft pretzel with cheese dip, found at the Thirsty River Bar and other locations throughout Animal Kingdom.
- The Lion King ice cream sandwich, which is vanilla ice cream between two freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. You can find the Lion King ice cream sandwich at Tamu Tamu Refreshments in the Harambe, Africa section.
- Bugs and Grubs, chocolate soft serve ice cream in Animal Kingdom at the Trilo Bites food cart in DinoLand U.S.A.
Participate in Wilderness Explorers
Wilderness Explorers is a program inspired by Russell from the movie Up! that inspires kids to learn and explore throughout Animal Kingdom. Kids can obtain a Wilderness Explorers book for free at the Wilderness Explorers headquarters, located between the Oasis and Discovery Island. Both the books and activities can be found at several stations throughout the Park.
Once each activity or challenge is complete, you get a badge to add to your book. We were a little late to the game and only obtained a book near the end of our day at Animal Kingdom. Our toddlers’ excitement for the book and the badge made me wish we stopped at more stations along the way. It definitely takes quite a bit of time to find and complete each challenge, so it’s something to work on over multiple visits to Animal Kingdom.
Watch the Street Performers at Animal Kingdom
Upon entering the park, be sure to look out for Winged Encounters in front of the Tree of Life. While they’re technically not street performers, the parrots and macaws put on a show while flying around in a synchronized pattern with their bright colors. While you’re there, be sure to also look for the photo op in front of the Tree of Life and ask for the special effects!
When it comes to actual street performers, Africa is known for having the most live performances. Our favorite was the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe. They dance and sing along with their drum performance. Not only are they super talented and energetic, but they also do a great job at including the audience. Other street performances at Animal Kingdom include Bollywood Beats in Asia, the Pandora Drummers, and the Viva Gaia Street Band.
While we weren’t at Animal Kingdom late at night, I’ve also heard great things about the nightly River’s of Light: We Are One show. It’s held on the water and includes live action Disney footage, lanterns, lights and music throughout. There are also two showtimes for the Animal Kingdom light show, making it great if you have younger kids who can’t stay up late.
Additional Information: Best Rides to FastPass at Animal Kingdom with Toddlers
While Animal Kingdom has several great rides, many of the best rides at Animal Kingdom have height restrictions. Below are some rides and attractions to FastPass at Animal Kingdom with young children.
- Na’Vi River Journey (no height restriction)
- Kali River Rapids (38 inches or taller)
- Festival of the Lion King (a FastPass allows you to get a seat in front and give your kids a chanced to get picked to participate)
- Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
- DINOSAUR (40 inches or taller- better suited for older toddlers)
Looking to ride some of the top rides at Animal Kingdom without the kids? You can still ride Expedition Everest and the Avatar Flight of Passage. Just take turns with the kids using child rider switch.
Have you been to Animal Kingdom with young kids? Please share in the comments if you have any favorite things to do at Animal Kingdom for toddlers.
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