Take Five at Walt Disney World: Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Of all Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney’s Animal Kingdom perhaps offers my favorite “Take Five” moments – those little breaks in a touring plan that are opportunities to relax, enjoy some unscripted fun and appreciate details that make up the Disney Difference.
I generally find Disney’s Animal Kingdom relaxing, particularly because of the wildlife and lush landscaping. But with E-ticket attractions as Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris requiring some regimented touring, and the park’s extensive exploration paths, it’s useful have a few “Take 5” moments planned for your trek.
The Boneyard, Dinoland U.S.A.
I’m a fan of Disney’s unstructured play areas, and The Boneyard is the epitome. It’s an exploratory archeological dig site that offers climbing structures, rope ladder, slides and tunnels. Designed for kids ages four years and older, the young at hear can also explore many areas designed for full-sized fun. (Note: The Boneyard is wheelchair accessible.)
Kids can dig through the sand, searching for fossils, check out interactive displays, or burn off extra energy by climbing, sliding and tumbling on the spongy floor. Playing the xylobone, musical rib bones, appeal to the musically inclined. For tired parents, shady seats provide a welcome respite and time off tired feet. That is, unless you want to take advantage of the unposed photo ops that arise when children are let loose in this creative prehistoric playground.
Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama, Dinoland U.S.A.
Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama is a Disney experience that romanticizes the wacky places that populated the famed Route 66. As with most Disney attractions, this one has a story: Chester and Hester, in order to make a quick buck, transform their gas station into a delightful garish roadside attraction to attract tourists visiting Dino Institute, the “scientific” arm of Dinoland U.S.A..
While some guests find Dino-Rama off-putting because of its kitchiness, that’s precisely its appeal. Spend some time, and maybe some Disney dollars, among its marvelously cheap dinosaur “artifacts” and toys and note all the campy décor at Chester & Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures store.
Then, if you enjoy the “Take Five” tour, explore the whole of Dino-Rama, a mini-amusement park featuring with dinosaur-themed carny games that, according to Disney lore, emerged out of the store’s success.
Harambe Street Entertainment, Africa
While the wildlife is the park’s primary draw, Disney’s AnimalKingdom features some of Disney’s talented Cast Members. Be sure to pick up a Times Guide for the daily schedule of entertainment and “Take Five” with Tam Tam’s of Congo, for West African folk dance, or African percussionist Mor Thiam. While you’re in Africa, check out the Dawa Bar, next to Tusker House, for a refreshing adult beverage and some of the best subtle theming in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. With a few tasty drinks, you might find yourself dancing in the streets.
Tree of Life, Discovery Island
The icon of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Tree of Life has 14 stories and more than 300 animals carved into its roots, trunk and branches – including a rabbit, dolphin, lion, elephant, tortoise and armadillo.. Visiting the Tree of Life up close is to be struck by the mastery of the carvings. My personal goal is to identify as many animals as possible over the course of my trips. Because Discovery Island is often less crowded than other parts of the park, it’s also a very peaceful “Take Five” experience, particularly after seeing “It’s Tough to Be a Bug!”
Bonus “Take Five” Bonus, Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Many guests skip visiting Rafiki’s Planet Watchbecause it requires taking the Wildlife Express train. But it’s well worth short, quaintly scenic ride that fits the park’s theming, and there’s more to at Rafiki’s Planet Watch than you might expect. A small treat, for example, is the more than two dozen Hidden Mickeys present Conservation Station’s colorful mural.
But what’s so compelling about Rafiki’s Planet Watch is how it realizes the conservation ethos of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Guests of all ages will enjoy the Animal Cam that provides information about animals and include behind-the-scene shots of the theme park. The Hall of Animal Health and Care allows guests to see working animal care specialists, scientists and veterinarians, to learn more about the animals under Disney’s guardianship, and to ask questions.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is also the site of the Affection Section, a petting zoo appealing for it hands-on experiences. The Disney Cast Members who work there are very knowledgeable, and the chance to get up close and personal with some very cute domestic animals and have an enlightening conversation make for truly memorable experiences.
With its emphasis on wildlife and settings that evoke a natural environment, it’s easy to enjoy Disney’s Animal Kingdom as one long “Take Five” opportunity. I often plan a day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as an deliberate break from my more tightly scheduled itineraries (envision me as a theme-park commando, minus the unfashionable camouflage make-up).
So take a minute to “Take Five” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If you’re like me, you might find you enjoy these experiences so much fun that you’ll want to Take Ten! And don’t forget to “Take Five” at Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Debra Peterson is the National Disney Travel writer at Examiner.com.
- Crocs, Hippos and Rickety Footbridges Add Up To Wild Adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (chipandco.com)
- Disney Confidential – Australia coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom (chipandco.com)