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That, even more so than the official dedication of the park (see bottom of page), is to us what the Animal Kingdom is all about. When Disney announced this new theme park, many people scoffed. "Disney? Building a zoo?" And so the slogan "NAHTAHZU" was born.
It's true: the Animal Kingdom is most definitely not a zoo. Yes, it has zoo elements within it, but they are presented in a way that only the most modern and well-funded zoos can match. And most of the animal habitats have that special Disney touch; they've been "plussed" as the Imagineers say. Other theme parks may have rides and a safari train, but only the Animal Kingdom made a ride out of their safari train.
This overview of the park assumes you already know how to get to Walt Disney World®.
Getting to the Park
From off-site, take exit 65 (Osceola Parkway) or 62 (World Drive) from Interstate 4. From 429 take Western Way. However you end up on Disney property, follow the signs to the Animal Kingdom. Be careful not to follow the Animal Kingdom Lodge signs - if you do, you'll have to turn around.
The Animal Kingdom has perhaps the most frustrating parking lot in the resort: you exit Osceola Parkway on the right, take a 180 degree turn, then go nearly three-quarters of the way around the parking lot before you are directed to your space. You still have to walk past bus/RV parking, cast member parking, and the bus stop before you get to the entrance gate, so we recommend the tram unless the queue is so long that you expect to have to wait for a second one. If you are staying on Disney property, the bus system is an option. It will save you a walk from your car, although as with most parks at WDW, it will almost certainly take an additional 10-20 minutes when you factor in waiting at your resort for the next Animal Kingdom bus.
From the tram or bus stop, you still have a bit of a walk to bag check and the ticket booths beyond, but no worse than at Epcot.
Lay of the Kingdom
Like most Disney parks, the Animal Kingdom makes use of the hub-and-spoke design with a corridor leading into the center of the park from the entrance. In all, Animal Kingdom has seven themed lands plus the entrance area. Within those lands are twenty attractions, three permanent shows (along with a park opening ceremony and afternoon parade). There are thirteen shops and sixteen restaurants (ranging from high-end sit-down meals to grab-and-go snack carts), plus a character breakfast and a picnic option. Disney characters are spread throughout the park, offering autographs and photo opportunities.
General Touring Tips
You can't go wrong following a few tips that go for just about any Disney park:
There are also some tips specific to the Animal Kingdom that are counter to usual Disney planning:
Nothing substitutes for a good touring plan if you are looking to minimize your time waiting in line. And in the Animal Kingdom, where there is so much to see in between the attractions, wouldn't you rather be stopping to admire a beautiful bird in the afternoon as opposed to standing in the queue for It's Tough to be a Bug? We recommend a touring plan like those from TouringPlans.com (website for the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World) to get the most out of the park.
Check out the maps link above to see the park in detail, or use the navigation buttons on the left to get to descriptions and reviews of the offerings at the Animal Kingdom. And enjoy your stay here at NahTahZu.com!
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