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Walt Disney World Resort - Disney's Animal Kingdom, Part 1 of 7


Tree of Life
The Tree of Life, Disney's Animal Kingdom's park icon...
Park maps are provided for relative location and area, not detail. Oh, original map ©Disney...
Animal Kingdom (a.k.a. AK -- how's that for acronyms) opened its gates on April 22, 1998, making it the fourth and newest theme park at Disney World. It's like no other park Disney has, due to its namesake ingredient, Animals. And I don't mean the guests, either.

Of course, it also has its share of thrill rides and Disney Magic, from live action stage shows to a trip back in time to rescue a dinosaur to visiting a Yeti *in* Mount Everest. Disney has tried very hard to distinguish Animal Kingdom from a Zoo, even going as far as to give the park the slogan of "NaHTaZu!" for several years. (Well, yes maybe half-a-zoo, but I won't argue the point.)

It's also Disney's largest park, some 500 acres, five times the size of Magic Kingdom, and almost twice the size of Epcot. Most of this was due to one of the premier attraction in AK, Kilimanjaro Safari.

I think the most amazing part of the park, isn't the giant mountain that holds a roller coaster (or any of the attractions for that matter,) but the detail that went into the park. If you just slow down and look around, the themeing of this park is incredible, right down to the lamp posts and benches. There is an artistry here that none of the other parks have.

It's even better after sundown, when Disney can highlight what they want you to see. As I've said before, there's just something about the parks at night. During the summer months, that might only be accomplished during Extra Magic Hours, but evening EMH at AK seem to be a thing of the past...


DAK Map Bus Stops
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The entrance to the park has all your normal fixtures, ticket booths, a guest services office (on both sides of the gate), lockers, stroller/wheelchair rental, guide maps, and places to buy things. What's different about this park, is a non-Disney restaurant right outside of the park, a Rainforest Cafe.

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The Oasis

DAK Map The Oasis is sort of a departure from the rest of the parks. It's the "Main Street" of Animal Kingdom, but rather than be lined with stores, it's a lush walk through a tropical refuge filled with plants and animals. The stores are on Discovery Island, the hub of AK...

There are interesting things to see if one actually takes the time and looks around. But watch the guests, and The Oasis is mostly a walk you have to do in order to get to the rest of the park...

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The Tree of Life

Discovery Island (below) holds the icon of Animal Kingdom, the Tree of Life. This 145 foot tall icon is visible almost anywhere in the park, and has 325 animal carvings on its bark and root system. Within the base of the tree is the Tree Of Life Repertory Theater, which shows a dedicated 3-D movie, It's Tough to be a Bug!, based on Pixar's A Bug's Life.

No, it's not real, or even real wood. It's pretty much built on the same technology as the Disney mountains, but with 100,000 leaves on top.

When the park first opened, It's Tough To Be A Bug had excessive queues the guest had to walk to see the root system to the tree. They have since shortened the queue, but you should be able to study the carvings, if you'd like...

Tree of Life / It's Tough To Be A Bug queue
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The Tree of Life itself is 50' in diameter, built around an oil rig. It looks remarkably real, and has quite a bit of detail on every side.

Tree of Life
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Tree of Life at night
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Discovery Island

DAK Map Originally opened as Safari Village, the central hub of Animal Kingdom was renamed in the early 2000's as part of a Disney makeover to convince guests that AK is not a zoo. (Nhatazu... Get it?) Safari Village was renamed "Discovery Island", originally an island on Bay Lake near the Contemporary Hotel. The island on Bay Lake was closed, and most of the animal exhibits there were moved here to Animal Kingdom.

Like the hub in Magic Kingdom, all the lands in Animal Kingdom branch off of Discovery Island...

After travelling through the animal exhibits of the Oasis, you are emptied out into the main marketing area of the park, Discovery Island. You'll find the single attraction of It's Tough to be a Bug, but otherwise, this area is chocked full of gift shops, counter and quick service food, animal exhibits, and some pretty interesting themeing if you look around.

Discovery Island
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Of course, Discovery Island does look different at night. If you happen to be at WDW when AK's going to be open at night, I'd highly recommend you see it. You probably won't get into Africa or Rafiki's Planet Watch, since they close at dusk, but the other areas of the park are open...

Discovery Island at night
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End Disney's Hollywood Studios - Part 1 of 7.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

  • 05/15/2010 - Page rewritten, images added and upgraded
  • 05/18/2012 - Complete replacement
  • 12/31/2012 - Update to v3.1
  • 09/01/2014 - Update to v3.2