Walt Disney World guests touring Animal Kingdom would do best to do as I say, and not as I do, lol. Far too often we arrive at Animal Kingdom at 11 am or later, then tour the park for 3 to 5 hours before calling it a day. It’s tough to get everybody up, dressed, fed, on the bus, and to the park before the gates open at Animal Kingdom. If you are staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, it is significantly easier. But to get there from the Polynesian Resort or Port Orleans by 8:30 am is not easy.
On one solo tour over a decade ago I was able to arrive at Animal Kingdom shortly after the gates opened. What a difference! The animals (of which Disney boasts 1700 animals and 250 species) are more active, alert, and viewable.
This is particularly true during the hot, peak summer season when daily Florida temperatures push into the mid 90s. Many of the animals take to the shade by late morning and rest through the afternoon. The time to see them is in the early morning when they are still cool from the overnight and looking to warm up in the sun, or scavenge for food.
Animals or Rides?
Whether you prefer to create a full fledged touring itinerary or wing it, you really need to have a plan when you arrive at Animal Kingdom. Are you interested in seeing the animals that day, or do you want to hit the big ticket rides?
It is difficult to do both. The time spent running to your favorite Disney Animal Kingdom ride and collecting fastpass tickets detracts from the time you have to see the animals. Riding the big ticket attractions and grabbing those fastpass tickets for later is going to consume the first hour of your day in the park, leaving little time to view the animals before they tire of the heat and slip into shade during the late morning.
A best practice for Disney’s Animal Kingdom is to devote a morning to the rides on one day, and to the animals on another. As the old saying goes, “If you try to catch two rabbits, you will lose them both.”
Evening Hours at Animal Kingdom
Park hours at Animal Kingdom vary, but the park usually closes by 7 pm. While this leaves little time to enjoy the park after the peak heating of the day wanes, there is a brief period between 6 pm and 7 pm which offers good views of the animals.
This is particularly true if afternoon thunderstorms hit the park earlier. The cooling rains get the animals interested in venturing out into the sun again. You will have a short window to operate in, but 6 pm to 7 pm is a good time to hit the trails and view the animals. Guests aware of the closing time are leaving the parks in droves at this time. So you get the best of both worlds. The trails are less congested with people, and the buses will not be as full when the park closes at 7 pm.
If you are interested in Disney World photography, you would do well to concentrate on the 6 pm to 7 pm time period. Though you are still a few hours away from sunset during the summer, the colors and lighting are much better than they will be between 9 am and noon.
When is your favorite time to view the animals at Animal Kingdom?