Animal Kingdom attractions ranked

Lion sleeping on a rock
A lion relaxing on the rock on Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Here we are, our first ever ranking of theme park attractions. I figured I’d start at Disney World’s newest park, Animal Kingdom, an often underrated park. We’re going to start with the best and work our way to the least best (giving it a little positive spin). Okay, let’s get started.

1. Kilimanjaro Safaris
This is the one attraction in all of Disney World where you never have the exact same experience twice because, you know, it’s got live animals. It’s also the one attraction where getting stuck is a positive thing because it likely means there are giraffes or maybe a rhino in the road that you’ll hopefully get a closeup, extended look at. Anyone who finds animals majestic and fascinating has to love this attraction.

2. Flight of Passage
Kind of an obvious #2, but even though the experience is the same every time, unless you get stuck in one of the pre-board rooms, which happens a lot, this is a fantastic immersive attraction that took the technology of Soarin’ to the next level. You don’t have to like Avatar (I’m not a huge fan of the film and watched it for the first time during the lead up to Pandora’s opening) to love this attraction. The obvious downside is the massive wait times. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how Disney Genie changes things up.

3. Expedition Everest
Even with its long non-functional yeti animatronic, this incredible coaster that puts you inside Mount Everest is amazing. Joe Rhode and his team went above and beyond to make sure the details make you feel like you could actually be in Asia. The ride itself is a thrilling joyride and anytime you go backwards on a coaster it adds an extra dose of thrill.

Shaman of Songs animatronic on Na'vi River Journey
The Na’vi Shaman of Songs on Na’vi River Journey at Animal Kingdom.

4. Na’vi River Journey
This peaceful water ride might not have the defined storytelling elements of Pirates of the Caribbean or the popular characters of Frozen Ever After, Na’vi River Journey is a truly beautiful ride with a lot of details casual fans might overlook. One of my favorite details is the creatures jumping on the plants above you that you can only see in silhouette. The layered projection effects of the Na’vi and other creatures also work surprisingly well. And of course the climax where you finally reach the amazing Shaman of Songs animatronic is fantastic. I do wish the attraction was a bit longer though. The four and a half minutes goes by fast.

5. Finding Nemo: The Musical
This is probably an unpopular opinion, but as someone who loves Broadway shows I love being able to see a cast of incredibly talented performers do their thing any time I visit the park, at least pre-COVID. It might be more appealing if it wasn’t just a shortened version of the film, but the live singing, puppeteering, and fantastic songs written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, you know, the folks that wrote the songs for Frozen, Coco, and more, are top notch. [Since originally drafting this post, it has been announced that the attraction is currently closed and will be reimagined and reopen sometime in 2022. For now, I’m just going to leave it here and update it when the new version opens.]

6. Festival of the Lion King
This show is also incredible and is probably the more popular Animal Kingdom show for most folks. The singing, the acrobatics, the crowd participation, and more make for a fantastic experience. I haven’t seen the modified, COVID-era version A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King, but any live performance now after a time of little to no performance is a gift.

Dinosaur icon outside the Dinosaur attraction at Animal Kingdom
The Carnotaurus on the Dinosaur attractions marquee.

7. Dinosaur
While this attraction pales in comparison to its west coast counterpart Indiana Jones Adventure, this one ranks high for me due to the cheesy nature of both the premise and the pre-show performance of actor Wallace Langham as Dr. Grant Seeker. From the opening time travel scene that kind of feels like you’re inside a toaster to the overall premise that you’re bringing back a dinosaur mere moments before they’re wiped out, this attraction doesn’t take itself too seriously and I appreciate that.

8. Kali River Rapids
We honestly don’t do this attraction very often though I do enjoy the attempt to include a message about the dangers of deforestation into a theme park attraction. It is a bit short and Grizzly River Rapids at California Adventure is the superior river rapids ride.

9. It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
This attraction is cute and the bugs exiting the theater first effect at the end still gets me once from time to time even though I know it’s coming. The 3D effects are great and the in theater animatronics are pretty cool, but it has always felt like an underwhelming attraction to live inside the park’s icon, the Tree of Life. It might be time for this space could be used for a more compelling attraction.

10. Wildlife Express Train
I typically enjoy a leisurely train ride at a theme park, but other than the detailed theming of the cars themselves, this train doesn’t offer much of an experience. It’s literally just a train to get you from point A to point B and back, and it does perform that function reasonably well.

11. TriceraTop Spin
What do I need to say about this one? It’s a flat spinner ride in what is essentially a parking lot. It’s the rare attraction I’ve only done once, and that one time was with a child. The roadside attraction theme of the DinoLand U.S.A. area has always felt out of place amongst the incredible placemaking details of the rest of the lands. I’d love to see this area reworked into something new. I honestly do kind of miss Primeval Whirl though. RIP

And that’s it, at least for now. There are some other great experiences at the park like the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and the Maharajah Jungle Trek where you can see more incredible animals. The Conservation Station can always be an interesting visit once a while. And one of my favorite spots to spend time is at the gibbons enclosure. These experiences can vary quite a bit, like sometimes the animals aren’t there, so I didn’t include them in the rankings, but they’re worth checking out.

I’ll be back soon with another list. Stay tuned. And feel free to comment and tell me that my list is completely wrong. We all like what we like and that’s what makes things interesting.