We’ll head out to Animal Kingdom on the morning of August 27th, 2013 to check out how the Animal Kingdom Cheat Sheet works in practice. As a reminder, the Cheat Sheets are a crash course in touring the four major theme parks and include a map, morning touring plan, rope drop information, tips on seeing the major entertainment, and some other choice nuggets of information.
As we learned a few weeks ago, Animal Kingdom changed up its rope drop procedure so that guests are no longer held at the Tree of Life until regular Park open. Instead, Animal Kingdom aims to open 15 minutes before the official opening time and guests are free to head to the attraction or area of their choice, though only Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, and TriceraTop Spin operate before the stated opening time.
That means with the usual 9am open, the tapstiles (or Mickey Readers as I’ve been calling them) will begin letting guests through at 8:45am. At the moment, several of the turnstiles on the left side are behind walls for RFID conversion. That’s going to make the lines “feel” longer, even if the same number of people are really in line.
Here’s how crowds progressed before Animal Kingdom opened:
It’s not quite as intense as what we saw at Hollywood Studios last month. Part of that has to do with the time of year. The end of August sees crowds that thin considerably compared to the hustle and bustle of the summer. On the Crowd Calendar, we’re dealing with a “4″ instead of a “9.” This is also Animal Kingdom, which people aren’t quite as enthusiastic about.
Even at 8:30am, it’s hot out there waiting for the Parks to open. With the construction walls up, guests with breakfast reservations at Tusker House before 9am are using the middle tapstiles. Prior to the walls going up, the breakfast reservation line had moved from the far right to the far left. We’ll see what happens once turnstile conversion is complete.
I’m not a big proponent of the early morning buffet breakfast. Tusker House right now runs $26.99 per adult and $14.99 for kids ages 3 – 9. With tax and an 18% gratuity, your party of two adults, one 15-year old, and one 8-year old would run you $119.95. Assuming you got an 8:05am reservation, that gives you around 30 minutes to eat and meet the characters after you enter the Park, have your name called, take your picture with Donald, get seated, and head to the buffet. Unless you want to sit and enjoy yourself and leave the restaurant after the Park opens at 8:45am. This time of year, a breakfast that runs a little late won’t be too detrimental. But if we were talking about July, you’d leave breakfast at 9:15am only to find a 30 minute wait for Safaris. My personal preference is a 10:45am breakfast or a lunch later in the afternoon. At Tusker House, lunch is exactly $1 more per person. A 12pm lunch time would allow you to sleep in and relax over a meal after you’ve completed a bunch of attractions first thing in the morning and the crowds and heat have moved in. With an 8am reservation, you’d probably need a wake-up time in the vicinity of 6am to be out the door by 7:15am to catch a Disney bus. If you’re driving, you’d be able to leave closer to 7:30am.
This 30-second, mostly indecipherable announcement precedes opening.
I really can’t overemphasize how much more pleasant it is when the morning crowds are dispersed. The tapstiles/turnstiles create a kind of buffer where only a few people enter the Park every few seconds.
Before the change, this is what the crowd looked like at the Tree of Life before Disney dropped the rope. It’s shoulder to shoulder in front of the tree and across the bridge into The Oasis.
That led to hundreds and hundreds of people jostling for position uncomfortably as they marched toward one of two places – Kilimanjaro Safaris or Expedition Everest. It was sort of like a mini-Black-Friday-at-Wal-Mart every single morning. Talk about an asinine plan.
There are really two intelligent ways to attack Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning. The website’s preference is to head straight to Kilimanjaro Safaris and then move right through the Park toward Asia and then DinoLand. The other viable option is to start your day at Expedition Everest and then head to Mickey/Minnie at the Adventurers Outpost or over to DinoLand for Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR. Heading to Everest first makes it easier to ride the coaster a few times before waits develop, particularly when crowds are heavier, but you may need to rely on FASTPASS at Kilimanjaro Safaris later in the day. I like to go to Safaris first when the animals are most active and then work my way over. We’ll see how that works out.
As written, the Cheat Sheet is as follows. I’ll be running an update here in the next couple days:
Rope Drop: Animal Kingdom usually begins letting guests inside the Park 15 minutes prior to
official open. Guests are held at the Tree of Life until official open, at which point they will be
walked slowly toward Kilimanjaro Safaris to the left and Expedition Everest to the right.
General Touring Philosophy: With the fewest number of attractions, touring Animal Kingdom
is fairly straightforward. I like to begin at Kilimanjaro Safaris in the upper left hand corner and
then work my way right through Asia and then DinoLand. You’ll find short to nonexistent waits
through lunch if you follow the Ideal Morning below. After lunch, relax and visit the low key
attractions and stage shows when temperatures and humidity peak. Depending on crowds, plan
to arrive 10 to 20 minutes early for Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical.
Flights of Wonder is a charming, funny, and informative show that should not be skipped. More
so than any other theme park, Animal Kingdom empties out after the 3:45pm Parade because
there’s no nighttime entertainment to keep guests at the Park. Stay through close and you’ll find
low crowds in the last 60 to 120 minutes of operation.
Characters: The character priorities are Mickey and Minnie, currently located in Camp Minnie-
Mickey, but expected to move to the old Beastly Bazaar in mid-May. Try to visit in the last hour
they meet to avoid long waits. If you’re skipping Everest, DINOSAUR, and Primeval Whirl,
consider heading over to Camp Minnie-Mickey about five minutes before they’re scheduled to
appear. Festival of the Lion King lets 1,000+ people out into that area about once per hour.
Arrive in Camp Minnie-Mickey about five minutes before a Lion King show begins to avoid
those crowds for as long as possible. Other characters typically have short, 5 to 15 minute waits.
- Kali River Rapids (when highs are 80+ degrees)
- Expedition Everest
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Kali River Rapids (when highs are less than 80 degrees)
- Primeval Whirl
Ideal Morning Touring Plan:
- Ride Kilimanjaro Safaris: 9:05am – 9:30am
- Collect FASTPASSes for Kali River Rapids – Return time of 10:20am – 11:20am
- Ride Expedition Everest: 9:45am – 10am
- Ride Primeval Whirl: 10:05am – 10:15am
- Ride TriceraTop Spin: 10:17am – 10:25am
- Ride DINOSAUR: 10:30am – 10:50am
- Collect FASTPASSes for Expedition Everest or Kali River Rapids if desired
- Ride Kali River Rapids: 11am – 11:20am
- Have lunch. Flame Tree Barbecue and Yak & Yeti are nearby, very good, and a little different. Pizzafari and Restaurantosaurus offer ample air-conditioned seating. Tusker House is a character meal in Africa that offers a wide variety of options, most familiar and a few exotic. It’s usually much more relaxed than other character buffets.
Two things are incorrect. We just learned about the different rope drop procedure and as discussed in this post, Mickey and Minnie greet at the Adventurers Outpost. More on them later (spoiler: waits are rarely longer than 10 minutes at the moment).
Heading left to Safaris, you can see the difference now that we aren’t stupidly held at the Tree of Life. With the high capacity at Safaris first thing in the morning, there isn’t a huge rush to beat out a few people. You’ll probably end up on the same truck, so you don’t have to drag junior like this family in front of me. Mom was looking around in all directions like a wave of people was going to pop out from behind Pizzafari.
Kilimanjaro Safaris is located in the back of Africa. Tusker House breakfast is located nearby. Kusafiri is now open for breakfast instead of Tamu Tamu.
That’s the breakfast sandwich sitting out front. It’s probably more appetizing cooked up fresh, but it will give you an idea about what to expect.
We’ll take a closer look at menu changes in a separate post.
First thing in the morning, there’s no posted wait listed with FASTPASSes available for 9:40am – 10:40am. While Disney “officially” stated FASTPASes aren’t available until 9am, they should be available first thing.
This early in the morning, we’ll walk right on. Disney was running a little late and they didn’t open the Park until 8:48am. I arrived at the entrance to Kilimanjaro at 8:56am, and took my first picture of a rhinoceros right at 9:01am.
While this website remains moderately popular because of the crowd calendars, it’s really the pictures of animal butts that continue to drive traffic and increase $$$$.
Just about everybody will tell you the animals on the safari are most active first thing in the morning and at the end of the day.
I don’t know if that’s true or not. It’s rare that I’m on a safari and feel like I haven’t seen at least a few fun moments, whether it’s a herd of rhinos or the twitch of a lion. On this particular safari, I think I saw some of everything, including these two darling baby giraffes:
ermahgerd baby errerrphernts.
They should restart the Wilson narration and just tape this guy to a tree near the end of the ride or something.
The elephant area is otherwise fenced off at the moment.
Just kidding please don’t spear me.
I’m not sure live-action movies are the way to go, Pumbaa.
Cast members were playing drums at the ride’s exit.
Rope dropping Rafiki’s Planet Watch, apparently. It doesn’t open until 9:30am. I have no idea if there are really more veterinary procedures scheduled first thing in the morning. I’d probably pass out if I saw one. Most people will want to go in the afternoon for the escape from the crowds and air-conditioning.
Another bonus of the the first-thing-safari is that you tend to take it a little easier through the savanna, stopping more often to take pictures. We’re only talking about five or six additional stops for a total of two or three minutes, but it makes it a little easier to catch a few pictures of baby giraffes and elephants.
Looking back at the incoming crowds here at the end of August, you’d be just fine if you were finishing up your Tusker House breakfast. Back in mid-July, actual waits would already be up to 20 or 30 minutes.
Kali River Rapids is located on the left just after you pass Yak & Yeti Restaurant and the quick service next to it. It’s an easy turn to miss, so if you pass the monkeys on the left or see Everest in the distance, you’ve gone too far.
Step 2 on the Cheat Sheet is: Collect FASTPASSes for Kali River Rapids – Return time of 10:20am – 11:20am.
It’s 9:36am here and FASTPASS is out to 10:15am as we were expecting. With the earlier open, we’re a little ahead of schedule. You could ride Kali now with no wait, but you’re liable to get soaked. I prefer to do the FASTPASS thing and ride closer to 11am when it’s 85+ degrees out.
Take a minute to check out these guys on the highwire if they’re out.
A good sign at 9:40am as Everest FASTPASS is 40 minutes out and there’s “literally” nobody grabbing them yet. That means virtually nobody will be returning with FASTPASSes until at least 10:30am because so few people have pulled them, which results in shorter standby waits.
With an actual hourly capacity that exceeds 2,000 riders an hour, Expedition Everest has short waits for such a popular attraction, particularly before 10am.
That means we’re going to be able to walk right on.
I’m sure WDWMAGIC will be ecstatic you can’t peek through the shrubs and see the barn in back.
This is why I like going to Safaris first. My first ride on Everest took a total of nine minutes between the time I got in line and was back out front.
I decided to hop in line again. This time, I walked right through the queue up until this point, which is right before the load zone.
One of my biggest fears in life is getting stuck on Everest’s lift hill. Can you imagine walking down that skinny staircase? I would literally die.
You could ride a third time if you wanted. My second ride took a total of 10 minutes.
Things were picking up a bit outside. When crowds are much heavier, you may only be able to swing one ride in the standby line with a short wait. Single rider is a viable option in that scenario now or later in the day. Single rider waits are very rarely longer than 15 minutes.
Continuing in the same direction toward DinoLand.
Finding Nemo the Musical is a popular, albeit long, show. The current schedule sees shows at 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 3pm, and 5pm with an occasional 6pm show when Animal Kingdom is open later than 5pm. That’s one of the tradeoffs with the lower crowds. Animal Kingdom is open until 5pm instead of 7pm or 8pm
Like just about every other attraction, Finding Nemo has received the FastPass+ treatment. A FastPass here calls the user to return to the show between five and fifteen minutes before it starts. While it guarantees the FP+ user a seat, there is no reserved section and FP+ users arriving closer to the start of the show will find that guests using standby have already found their seats. There isn’t much use in using FastPass+ here or at another show. Simply arriving 15 to 20 minutes before showtime will result in finding a perfectly decent seat in the regular line.
Arriving in DinoLand USA, it’s 10:03am. There is not a huge rush to get over here for Primeval Whirl, TriceraTop Spin, and DINOSAUR. Few people head here first thing in the morning and crowds are usually light through at least 10:30am.
Step 4 on on the Cheat Sheet is: Ride Primeval Whirl: 10:05am – 10:15am.
With two rides on Expedition Everest, it’s exactly 10:05am and there is “literally” nobody in line for Whirl.
When crowds are much heavier, you’ll find a handful of people in line, but waits shouldn’t exceed five minutes this early in the morning. At the moment, at least half of the saucer-vehicle-things are completely empty and I’m forever alone in my own car. If you want to skip Primeval Whirl, simply move to the next step.
Step 5 is: Ride TriceraTop Spin: 10:17am – 10:25am.
Again, when crowds are heavier or Animal Kingdom isn’t the most recommended Park, you can expect to wait five-ish minutes.
That isn’t the case today as I’m the only person on the ride.
I tweeted a pic as I flew over DinoLand sad and alone, which apparently caught the eye of everyone’s favorite “statistician” from TouringPlans.
Unfortunately, TouringPlans did not have Animal Kingdom as a “Best Park” on this particular day. It was this website’s most recommended Park. Conversely, Hollywood Studios was “not recommended” on this website and a “Best Park” on TouringPlans. We’ll head over to the Studios later to see how things look over there.
Spoiler: This is the line for Studio Backlot Tour at 3:20pm as it’s backed up all the way into the extended queue near the entrance. Feels crowded.
While I enjoy flying high over Adventureland on Aladdin’s Magical Carpets, flying over DinoLand isn’t as much fun.
But with non-existent waits, you might as well. Cast members announced that guests already on board could stay put if they wanted to re-ride, resulting in two or three dinos being occupied. I got in line at 10:12am and was back out front at 10:17am.
With a healthy capacity, low popularity, plentiful FASTPASS availability, and its location back here in DinoLand, DINOSAUR is a low priority in the grand scheme of things.
The mad dash to the entrance.
This website is occasionally on the receiving end of some slack from the various Disney forums. You can often vote for your favorite “crowd calendar website” on DISboards. Or you can discuss my personality. You used to be able to make fun of me on WDWMAGIC except now when you type the website name all you get is *******s.
Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports9/twohours.jpg. This “critique” was forwarded to me a couple of months ago via the “TOURGUIDEMIkE” forums. It’s my favorite criticism of all time. Of all time because it’s absurd on so many levels. Even if Animal Kingdom was closed to capacity and Asia was completely closed off, the wait for DINOSAUR still wouldn’t be two hours.
msandy78 is only 110 minutes off at least. TouringPlans is hiring – you might have a future with them.
I was “literally” the only person in the pre-show room when it started.
Although to be fair, by the time the pre-show ended, there were 16 people.
After the pre-show, you’re walking right on. Most days, if you get here before 11am you’ll run into an actual wait under five minutes. You may then wait five to ten minutes after the pre-show, max.
As previously reported, the green lighting and fog effects are working at the beginning and end of the ride. At 3:10, a child sums up how most people feel after riding Dino.
There are so few people here that the two vehicles on the right left completely empty.
Looking back at DinoLand it’s ummmmmmm…a good thing we got here when we did?
According to the Cheat Sheet, Step 6 was: Ride DINOSAUR: 10:30am – 10:50am.
I ended up arriving at 10:22am and was back out front at 10:36am.
With young kids, you could spend some time at The Boneyard at this point. There are only a few kids playing at this time of day. It’s also a great place to bring them while the rest of the group rides DINO (40″) and Primeval Whirl (48″), which both have height requirements.
So it’s about 10:35am and we’ve either done or have FASTPASSes for every single attraction at Animal Kingdom that will have an appreciable wait later in the day. We’ve got 40 minutes to make it back to Kali River Rapids.
This would be a good time to meet Mickey and Minnie should you have the inclination as they’ve moved into the Adventurers Outpost as discussed in this post.
I’d probably save It’s Tough To Be A Bug until later in the afternoon. You’ll be able to walk into the next show all day and it’s an air-conditioned break.
Moving Mickey and Minnie into more of a nondescript location has reduced wait times, much like what we’ve seen over at Character Spot at Epcot. Doubling the capacity also helps reduce waits.
That’s a 5-minute wait for the characters at 10:47am in pleasant air-conditioning.
Step 7 of the Cheat Sheet states: Collect FASTPASSes for Expedition Everest or Kali River Rapids if desired.
You could send someone to grab FASTPASSes for something if they don’t want to wait for Mickey/Minnie or you could wait until it’s time to head to Kali in the next step. With over six hours left in the day, it’s not a big rush to get an Everest FASTPASS with a return time of 11:30am – 12:30pm instead of 11:40am – 12:40pm.
Storage lockers are available to the left of the entrance to Kali River Rapids in two sizes – small and large. I had no trouble fitting my Jansport in a large locker.
Unlike those goons over at Universal, where the amount of free time depends on the often-inaccurate-posted-wait-times, you’ll receive two free hours by default at Kali. You rent the lockers at one of a couple kiosks. Also unlike Universal, you’ll receive a printed receipt that reminds you which locker you rented and when your free time expires. The website highly recommends using lockers for everything you don’t need on your body during the ride. That includes purses, cameras, watches, backpacks, children, etc.
During summer, Kali River Rapids often has FASTPASS return times further out than the other attractions and the longest posted wait, thanks to a limited capacity and increased popularity in higher temps.
Kali’s queue is kind of confusing. With FASTPASS, you’ll stay to the left of the ropes.
Most of the queue is outdoors, which is another reason why FASTPASS is beneficial to bypass it.
The queue then winds around.
And around. It’s actually one of the neater queues – it’s a shame that it’s for such a lousy attraction.
There’s a pouch in the center of the raft to store belongings, but it’s not sealed and isn’t waterproof. Your stuff is much safer in the lockers.
Kali River Rapids is one of my least favorite attractions to actually ride in any of the theme parks.
There’s virtually nothing to it, particularly now that nearly every effect is either broken or turned off. We should be ascending through fog that hides the lift at the moment. Instead, we’re slowly carried up a magical conveyer belt.
There’s not much to the story. It’s supposed to highlight the dangers of deforestation or something. They might as well hand you a piece of paper that says “don’t cut down trees in the forest” and then pour a bucket of water over your head. You’d save the 90 bucks on admission and 20 or more minutes of your time.
The whole ride lasts about three minutes, of which maybe 30 seconds is floating along freely.
The fire effects are turned off.
How wet you get depends mostly on where you’re positioned during the small drop near the end of the attraction. If you head down backwards, prepare to get soaked to the bone. If you’re facing forward, you’ll get less wet. There isn’t really anything you can do about it.
I only ride when I’m doing one of these timing things as walking around with a wet butt is not one of my favorite things. Some people find the splash of nasty, warm, probably brain-eating-amoeba-infestd-water refreshing though.
We just completed Step 8, which was: Ride Kali River Rapids: 11am – 11:20am.
In actuality, I arrived at 10:51am and was back out front at 11:23am. That includes being stuck on the ride for about five minutes, taking some pictures of the snack cart and menus in the area, retrieving my stuff, and drying off my glasses in the bathroom.
Step 9 is: Have lunch. Flame Tree Barbecue and Yak & Yeti are nearby, very good, and a little different. Pizzafari and Restaurantosaurus offer ample air-conditioned seating. Tusker House is a character meal in Africa that offers a wide variety of options, most familiar and a few exotic. It’s usually much more relaxed than other character buffets.
I ended up around ten minutes ahead of schedule, thanks to the earlier opening and the incredibly light crowds. I would have been a bit quicker had I not been taking menu/ambiance pictures. But the time I took to fiddle is probably not unlike the time you’ll take to fiddle with this or that, so it should be an accurate depiction of your experience. I don’t think there’s anything that needs to be changed other than potentially including the Mickey Meet somewhere.
Thankfully we didn’t run into one of those two-hour waits at DINOSAUR.
Flame Tree Barbecue and Yak & Yeti are convenient to Kali River Rapids, but I was interested in checking out a new menu item at Restaurantosaurus, so I ventured back over there.
There aren’t too many major changes here. The Black Bean Burger replaces the Vegetable Subosaurus. The Chili Cheese Dog is no longer available for whatever reason. The Grilled Chicken Sandwich is served on a hamburger bun instead of a hotdog bun. On the Kids Picks front, a Turkey Wrap replaces the Ham & Cheese Wrap.
AND OH MY GOSH CORN DOG NUGGETS ARE AVAILABLE AS A KIDS MEAL.
On the drink front, the Lychee Lemonades are no longer available, in alcoholic or non-alcoholic form. At least the booze didn’t otherwise go up in price.
I was interested in trying the Black Bean Burger – $9.79.
The burger was kind of sad looking on the tray and also someone please alert WDWMAGIC that the table next to the tray is dirty.
Opening up the bun, there’s a dollop of guacamole-ish. It did not have much flavor at all. I would have preferred a spicy mustard.
I would bet all the revenue from the website that the burgers used are MorningStar Black Bean Chipotle Burgers. They are one of my favorite things as they come in at 190 calories and 17 grams of protein. And they’re pretty tasty, even for those of us that think being vegan is the epitome of upper-middle-class snobbery. Full nutrition. The Black Bean Burger was a nice change of pace compared to what are mostly entirely unhealthy options. Unless I was a real life vegetarian, I would visit Flame Tree or Yak & Yeti before coming here, but this is a nice option if you’re looking for a vegetable-friendly meal. It’s quite filling.
While the burger is a little sad looking in the bun, Restaurantosaurus does offer a toppings bar, which includes tomatoes, lettuce, onions, pickles, and pickle relish.
In addition to sauteed mushrooms and onions. It’s not quite the Pecos Bill spread, but it adds a little crunch to the burgers.
Taking a walk back around after lunch, the wait for DINOSAUR has jettisoned up to two hours. Just kidding. It’s still 10 minutes. If we were to rewind a month to peak crowds, the wait would be 30 minutes or thereabouts.
All dinos are currently occupied, resulting in a wait of five minutes.
Sparse crowds in DinoLand at our most-recommended Park.
Highest wait of the day at Everest – it’ll drop to 15 minutes by the time we leave in an hour or so.
The wait for Kali was 20 minutes when I got in line with a FASTPASS at 10:50am. It jumped to 30 minutes by the time I disembarked and is now up to 40 minutes at 12:30pm. Note that FASTPASS is over an hour out to 1:50pm. Everest FASTPASS was at 1:10pm.
A great day to visit Animal Kingdom with the 10-minute posted wait and FASTPASS 40 minutes out
Wait times at 1:50pm.
According to the Cheat Sheet, this is how you might go about your afternoon:
12pm – 3:30pm: Take it easy. Do It’s Tough to be a Bug, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Flights of
Wonder, Finding Nemo Musical and/or Festival of the Lion King, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and the
Boneyard. FASTPASS one or more of the major attractions if you’d like to ride again in the
3:45pm Parade Viewing: Parade viewing is easiest outside of Yak & Yeti in Asia or Tamu
Ramu Refreshments in Africa. The Parade begins and ends to the right of Pizzafari in Discovery
Instead of the Parade: The Parade cuts off most traffic to the Africa section from 3:40pm –4:15pm. If you don’t mind skipping the Parade, it’s an excellent time to walk Pangani Forest
Exploration Trail from 3:30pm – 4pm or so. Then get in line for Kilimanjaro Safaris where the
wait will be short.
After the Parade: Crowds only diminish and wait times only shorten as Park close approaches. With a 6pm or later close, you’ll have two to three more excellent hours of Park touring with much shorter waits than the afternoon. Visit DinoLand with about two hours to Park close. Return to Asia for Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest in the final hour of operation.
You could walk into any show five minutes before it started, walk the jungle treks, catch one of the anytime attractions, or whatever else you wanted to do.
In heavier crowds, touring intelligently first thing in the morning is even more important. You may remember the crazy afternoon crowds after our morning tour of Magic Kingdom back in June. If this was June, we’d be looking at:
- DINOSAUR: 30 minutes
- Expedition Everest: 50 minutes
- Kali River Rapids: 90 minutes
- Kilimanjaro Safaris: 40 minutes
- Primeval Whirl: 30 minutes
- TriceraTop Spin: 20 minutes
Next up we’ll take a look at menu changes at Animal Kingdom and some other points of interest, including Festival of the Lion King theater construction and new shows/characters throughout the Park. We also have menu updates and a look at Hollywood Studios in addition to some other things.