One Day Wonders: How to Experience All of Animal Kingdom

If you take lions and tigers, add in some rollercoasters, and sprinkle a dash of Disney magic – you’d get Animal Kingdom at Disney World.

It’s one of the most unique theme parks in the world combining the innovation and immersive attractions of Disney with live animals. In a celebration of earth, life, and conservation. You could say we’re fans.

In fact Animal Kingdom might just be the best park at Disney World. But it is a single day park. Whether you’re staying on property with early entry and using Genie+, or know nothing about what a Lightening Lane is. You, yes you, can absolute conquer all of Animal Kingdom in just one day.

Rustic wooden sign for the Wild Africa Trek, decorated with images of African wildlife and promotional information about the tour.

1 Day Itinerary Overview

There are many different ways to navigate the Disney parks. From rope drop and early entry to paid skip the line services, and more. But, for the purposes of this guide we won’t be using any of these.

In this 1 day itinerary we will begin when the park officially opens, usually 8:00am, and will not use any paid line services like Genie+ or Individual Lightening Lanes. Perfect for guests on a budget or staying off-site.

What to Expect

It is absolutely possible to experience everything at Animal Kingdom in one day, without using any paid services. However, there will be some unavoidable lines.

Iconic Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom, a massive tree sculpture with intricate animal carvings on its trunk and lush foliage.

Our 1-Day itinerary focuses on riding attractions and seeing shows during the shortest wait times of the day. When a line can’t be avoided, we plan to manage the wait at a time a day that is not too hot and won’t add wait times to other attractions.

Park Strategy

There are 4 types of experiences at Animal Kingdom.

  • Rides and Attractions
  • Shows
  • Live Animals
  • Character Meets

Live animals can be found at specific locations around the park such as the Maharaja Jungle Trek, Affection Section, and more. The hours are limited but there’s no wait time.

Tall giraffe walking across a dirt trail in the savannah setting of Kilimanjaro Safari at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Character Meets are inconsistent at Animal Kingdom. The only continual meet and greet is Mickey and Minnie at Adventure Outpost. Normally you can find Donald, Pocahontas, Kevin, and more but schedules and locations vary. This guide does not include character meet and greets, as exact appearances can be difficult to predict.

There are 3 shows; Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo…The Big Blue and Beyond, and Feathered Friends in Flight. Each of these has continual showtimes throughout the day, with minimal lines and wait times.

The bread and butter of any theme park is the rides and attractions. There are eight rides at Animal Kingdom including the massively popular Avatar: Flight of Passage.

Early Morning

On a regular day Animal Kingdom opens at 8:00am, but rope dropping happens at 7:30am when on-site property guests are able to enter the park. That means the most popular rides will already have a long wait, Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.

Adult elephant standing alone in a naturalistic habitat with water and greenery during the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.

Kilimanjaro Safaris

There’s no better way to start your day than at Kilimanjaro Safaris. The average wait time at park open is 15-20 mins. Plus the animals are most active in the morning, making it the perfect time to see them all.

Expedition Everest

Expedition Everest ride area in Animal Kingdom, highlighted by Tibetan prayer flags and intricate stone and wood carvings.

Kilimanjaro Safari should let you out around 8:30am, which is still plenty of time to enjoy the short waits of early morning. A short walk will have you at Expedition Everest before 9:00am. The wait time should be less than 25 minutes.

Kali River Rapids

Vibrant and colorful entrance sign for the Kali River Rapids ride, featuring traditional Nepalese architectural details.

Right next door to Expedition Everest is Kali River Rapids. A short, but thrilling, water ride where you will get wet. The wait for Kali River tends to stay below 30 minutes even at the height of the day. If you don’t want to get soaked early in the morning, it’s easy enough to hop on at a later time. But the shortest wait is going to be in the morning.


Front view of the DINOSAUR ride at Animal Kingdom, showcasing a large dinosaur statue with a roaring expression, set against the ride's bold, sunburst-themed entrance sign.

Rounding out the morning is the original Animal Kingdom thrill ride; DINOsaur. Hop aboard a time traveling vehicle to see dinosaurs in real life, until things go a little a off script. Arriving near 10:00am the wait should be less than 20 minutes.

TriceraTop Spin

Colorful entrance to the TriceraTop Spin ride in Animal Kingdom, featuring cartoon dinosaur characters and whimsical carnival-style decorations.

The nearby TriceraTop Spin is similar to the Dumbo and Aladdin’s Magic Carpet rides at Magic Kingdom. A raised spinner featuring pastel colored dinosaurs. It’s cute though far from exciting. I absolutely recommend riding while you can though, as it is likely to be removed soon to make way for a new Tropical Americas land.

Late Morning

With most attractions in Animal Kingdom checked off the list by 10:30am, were left with 2 more. Avatar Flight of Passage has an average wait of more than 100 minutes all day. It’s unavoidable, but we’re going to leverage a small hack to make sure this wait doesn’t hold up the day.

Na’vi River Journey

The second longest wait is Na’vi River Journey which varies throughout the day, but normally hovers around 70 minutes. Since there’s not many options to skip the line, the best time of day to wait is late morning. Early morning is best used enjoying the short waits around the rest of the park, and by afternoon it’s far too hot to wait over an hour in the sun.

Entrance signage for Na'vi River Journey ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom, adorned with intricately woven tribal decorations and lush greenery.

So grab a rum blossom and a snack, and head over to Na’vi River Journey.


After all that running around it’s definitely time for a break. Enjoy lunch at one the many quick service dining locations around the park, our favorite is Flame Tree Barbeque but Satuli Canteen is another great option.

The afternoon of our 1-day itinerary is all about shows and animals. Showtimes stay pretty consistent day to day, but you should always check the Disney World app for the current schedule just in case.

Feathered Friends in Flight

Entrance to the Feathered Friends in Flight show in Animal Kingdom, with colorful signage and decorative elements typical of Southeast Asian architecture.

This high flying show runs hourly from 10:30am to 3:30pm. Feathered Friends in Flight closes earlier than any other shows in Animal Kingdom, so we like to knock it out first thing in the afternoon at the 1:30 showing.

Animal Trails

A majestic silverback gorilla standing in a sunlit forest clearing, surrounded by dense greenery and looking off to the side.

Between shows is the perfect time to explore the two animal trails; Maharaja Jungle Trek and Gorilla Falls.

Weathered wooden sign for the Maharaja Jungle Trek decorated with colorful paintings of monkeys, tigers, and dragons.

These are some of my favorite attractions at Animal Kingdom. There are so many different species that you can see, and even enter an open air room with bats! It’s much more fun that it sounds, I promise.

Festival of the Lion King

Rustic, thatch-roofed building in the Harambe Theatre area of Disney's Animal Kingdom, signposted as the Festival of the Lion King.

By far the best show at Disney World is Festival of the Lion King. It’s a Broadway style revue with acrobats, fire eaters, larger than life floats, and some of the most talented vocalists you’ve seen. It’s very popular and can fill up, so it’s always best to arrive at least 15 minutes early. Aim for the 3:00pm showing to ensure enough time for…

Finding Nemo…The Big Blue, and Beyond

Theater entrance for 'Finding Nemo – The Big Blue and Beyond' featuring a large promotional sign with colorful marine life illustrations.

With it’s final show of the day at 4:30pm, Finding Nemo finishes off the late afternoon of our 1-day Animal Kingdom Itinerary. There is plenty of seating for everyone and rarely fills up, so you’ll have plenty of time to zip over from Festival of the Lion King.

Evening and Closing Hours

With just a few hours left in the day at Animal Kingdom there are a few different ways to cap off the adventure.

Avatar: Flight of Passage

Vibrant mural depicting a Na'vi rider on a banshee soaring across a colorful Pandora landscape, seen inside the queue area for Avatar Flight of Passage.

It may finally be time to wait in the longest line at Animal Kingdom. The queue for Avatar: Flight of Passage will be about 90 minutes, but at least the heat of the day has passed and the sun isn’t baring down.

Line Snacks

Thatch-roofed quick service refreshment stand called Pongu Pongu in Pandora, decorated with alien artifacts and indigenous sculptures.

Our 1-day Itinerary is a very full day! So, if at the end of it all you are ready to check off one final ride and make your way out – you can. Grab a snack and a drink to enjoy while you wait. If you’re looking for a relaxing dinner afterwards, Sanaa is a phenomenal nearby option.

Loop Around

Two white ibises perched closely on a leafy branch, grooming themselves in a lush, green environment.

There’s a small secret I have to share, though it’s a bit more widely known in recent years. Guests who are in an attraction queue before park close can stay in that queue and wait it out to ride, no matter how long the queue is.

This is one of the best ways to wait out Flight of Passage without splurging for the Lightening Lane. You save the time in the park and basically extend your park day. With a few hours left in the day, you can circle back to your favorite attractions and ride again. Kilimanjaro Safari is a different experience every time and sunset is an active time for the animals.


Rustic sign for Tiffins restaurant featuring metal tiffin boxes on top, set among lush greenery.

But our absolute favorite way to end the day at Animal Kingdom is to just hang out. After a full day of running around the park and squeezing out every possible second of the day. Nothing sounds better than sitting down at the Nomad Lounge for cocktails and a light bite. It’s a great time to shop for souvenirs or grab the Dole Whip Rum cocktail at Tamu Tamu refreshments.

And then get in line for Flight of Passage 15 minutes before park close.

That is how you do everything at Animal Kingdom in just one day, without paying for any additional services.

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