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Touring Animal Kingdom (without Genie+)

Touring Animal Kingdom (without Genie+)

If there is one park where you think you’d like to skip spending the money for Genie+ and just try tackling touring all on your own, Animal Kingdom is the park to do it.

On this day we spent the day touring Animal Kingdom – one of us (Felicia) toured the park with Genie+, and the other one (that’s me, Heather) toured it without.

Even without spending any money, I was still able to ride nearly everything I wanted to at Animal Kingdom by lunch.

Here’s how I did it:

How we put together our Animal Kingdom touring plans

When putting together our plan below for our day at Animal Kingdom, we used our guide on How to Tour Animal Kingdom (without waiting in lines).

There, you’ll find everything you need to create a touring plan for your day at Animal Kingdom, too, including a detailed breakdown of each attraction with insider tips on the most strategic times to ride.

In addition, there are user-friendly graphics that can be easily saved to your phone, providing you with the necessary information to make informed, real-time decisions throughout the park.

how to tour animal kingdom graphic

If you’re interested in comparing what a day at Animal Kingdom would be like with and without Genie+, read also about our experience on the same day Touring Animal Kingdom with Genie+.

Overview

On my visit to Animal Kingdom, before my 1:00 p.m. lunch I accomplished 7 rides/attractions, all without using Genie+ or purchasing Individual Lightning Lanes.

Here is a summary of what I was able to do:

If I had stayed after lunch, I would have done as many of these things as I could. The exact order would depend on wait and show times:

  • 2:30 Finding Nemo… The Big Blue… and Beyond! show
  • Single Rider Line – Expedition Everest
  • Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch
  • 4:00 Animation Academy
  • Characters

If time:

  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail

Before We Left the Room

This morning, we set our alarms bright and early so that we could start our day with some gentle stretching and low impact cardio.

Just kidding, unless you call “Felicia being up to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane for Flight of Passage” cardio.

We had 6 a.m. alarms so that we would have plenty of time to get ready, make sure our park bags were good to go, eat a bit of breakfast, and then, of course, right at 7 a.m., Felicia could purchase her Individual Lightning Lane for Flight of Passage and snag her first Genie+ reservation. Since I was touring without Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane Selections, I used the extra time to chug some Diet Coke.

Animal Kingdom opened at 9:00 am, so that meant that Early Theme Park Entry (which we were eligible for since we were staying onsite) began at 8:30 a.m.

I know what you are thinking, “30 minutes?! Is it even WORTH IT?”

Trust us on this: it most definitely is.

Those 30 minutes can make all the difference when it comes to touring and, if you are eligible for Early Entry, we highly recommend you do everything possible to get everyone out the door and on your way to the park in plenty of time to make it.

Getting to Animal Kingdom

We love taking Lyft to Animal Kingdom because the drop-off point is super close to the front of the park. But for this day, we wanted to arrive how most onsite guests arrive: via Disney Transportation.

For Animal Kingdom, that meant we were taking the bus.

(Just for reference, the parking plazas open up 1 hour before Early Theme Park Entry, so if driving or taking a Lyft, you’d want to time your arrival to the park to be as close to that 1 hour point as possible. If you show up too early, they sometimes turn you away.)

We walked out of our room shortly after 7:10 am, which got us to the bus stop around 7:20 a.m. If you are keeping track, 7:20 a.m. was 70 minutes before Early Theme Park Entry began.

When we arrived at the bus stop, we were about 10-15th in line – not bad at all. But, everyone must be on to the “arrive at the bus stop 1 hour before Early Entry” tip because the line grew significantly in just a few minutes.

In fact, by the time the bus showed up at 7:31 a.m., the line was so long that not everyone in line even fit on the bus.

My recommendation is that you should shoot for 75 minutes, and during the busiest times of the year (like over the holidays), I definitely think 90 minutes would be the better play for what time to arrive at the bus stop.

The bus ride from Art of Animation to Animal Kingdom is relatively short, so we were pulling up to the park in no time at all.

Tapstiles

We breezed through security, and then headed up to the tapstiles.

Here’s my next big tip:

Don’t be afraid to check to see if there are shorter lines at the tapstiles that are kind of “hidden” behind the ticket booths instead of standing in a needlessly long line.

For some reason at Animal Kingdom, people tend to form 1 or 2 lines that stretch out past the ticket booths. This doesn’t seem to happen at the other 3 parks, but it nearly always does at Animal Kingdom.

If you arrive at Animal Kingdom, and they haven’t begun letting people into the park yet AND you see everyone standing in 1 or 2 lines, don’t be afraid to send one person up ahead to see if there are shorter lines at some of the tapstiles.

Tapstiles at Animal Kingdom

If there are shorter lines and there is room for your party, you can go join one of those much shorter lines instead of standing in the big-long-meandering-line-that-doesn’t-make-much-sense-to-me line (trademark pending on that name, by the way).

Also – please don’t feel like you are breaking a rule. Typically, there are Cast Members who are helping with that process, but they may not come out to direct the traffic until closer to when they open the tapstiles.

Case in point, on this day when we arrived, there wasn’t a Cast Member asking people to “fill in all the available space” for at least 10 minutes and the lines in those middle tapstiles stayed half full.

Immediately after you go through the tapstiles, onsite guests will want to head to the left, where they will need to have their MagicBand or tickets scanned to verify that they are eligible for Early Entry. Only 1 person in your party will need to be scanned, though – so keep your group together to make this step go fast.

Offsite guests will be directed to the right and held until the official park opening.

Early Entry

Unlike the other 3 parks that have at least 2 (if not more) attractions that are good options for Early Theme Park Entry, Animal Kingdom has 1: Flight of Passage.

About the only people who aren’t heading to Flight of Passage at Rope Drop are the ones who purchased Individual Lightning Lane Selections for it. Those people who did purchase Individual Lightning Lane Selections are making their way to attractions like Na’vi River Journey or Expedition Everest. Because they aren’t as popular of attractions, there is a lot less stress and pressure in those crowds.

Well, some would usually be heading to Expedition Everest. But not on this day. This day, we had a notification pop up on our phones saying that Expedition Everest was down. Hopefully, the few people who had planned to use Early Theme Park Entry for Expedition Everest knew it was down before they walked all the way over there.

The other 99% of the crowd of people heading to Pandora were relatively well-behaved. Did a few people run? Yes, they did. Did I? Ha ha ha ha ha. No.

You will want to walk quickly, however. Or, as I like to say, “walk with a purpose”. You’ll make a left at the Tree of Life, and then Cast Members will hold the crowd back on the bridge to Pandora. Once you get across the bridge, the line splits into 2: people heading to Na’vi River Journey (typically they stay on the pathway) and those heading to Flight of Passage (they typically go right).

If this all sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. There are lots of Cast Members out directing traffic and holding signs to help you know where to go.

Attraction 1: Flight of Passage

  • Posted Wait: N/A (Early Theme Park Entry)
  • Time entering line: 8:24
  • Time boarding: 8:36 (first pre-show)
  • Time exiting: 8:53
  • Total Wait: 12 minutes
  • Notes: Since nearly everyone who is at Early Theme Park Entry is heading to Flight of Passage, your morning would be so much less stressful if you were to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane here.

Since I wasn’t spending any money on Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes, it made it easy for me to pick Flight of Passage as my first ride of the day. It felt like I was pretty far back, but by the time we wound our way through the queue, the wait didn’t feel bad at all.

1st Hour

At 9:00 a.m., the park opened to offsite guests. It is also at 9:00 a.m. that people can start redeeming their Genie+ selections.

Attraction 2: Na’vi River Journey

  • Posted Wait: 15 minutes
  • Time entering line: 9:00
  • Time boarding: 9:04
  • Time exiting: 9:10
  • Total Wait: 6 minutes
  • Notes: My goal was to be in line for Na’vi before the offsite people made their way from the front of the park. The wait time was a lie! I was done riding in less time than that.
shaman on na'vi river journey

I chose Na’vi River Journey as my second ride of the day because I wanted to knock out all of Pandora while I was over here. I was pretty confident that the posted wait was inflated, and I knew it would be a quick ride.

After I got off of Na’vi, I stopped by the bathroom, refilled my water bottle, and headed off for Ride #3.

Attraction 3: Kilimanjaro Safaris

  • Posted wait: 25 mins
  • Time entering line: 9:18
  • Time boarding: 9:33
  • Time exiting: 9:57
  • Total Wait: 15 mins
  • Notes: Another attraction where the posted wait was way more than what I actually waited

Kilimanjaro Safaris is the only major attraction at Animal Kingdom that is *not* open during Early Theme Park Entry (although it does sometimes open a bit early).

Because the animals are more active in the cooler morning temps, we generally recommend you try to ride it as close to park opening as possible.

2nd Hour

Attraction 4: Kali River Rapids

  • Posted wait: 5 mins
  • Time entering line: 10:08
  • Time boarding: 10:12
  • Time exiting: 10:19
  • Total wait: 4 minutes
  • Notes: bring a poncho and shoes that can get wet

Is Kali River Rapids a “must-do” attraction at Animal Kingdom. No. It most definitely is not. I don’t even really recommend it unless you just REALLY love very short (like, very, very short) raft rides.

But, Kali River Rapids does get busier the warmer the temps get. And during the summer, it can get quite a long wait.

I am not a fan of walking around in wet clothes, though – so I did bring a poncho.

Attraction 5: Festival of the Lion King

  • Posted wait: I was watching the 11:00 a.m. show
  • Time entering line: 10:35
  • Time boarding: 11:00
  • Time exiting: 11:35
  • Total wait: 25 minutes
  • Notes: Afternoon shows often have longer lines

After Kali, Expedition Everest was still down, which meant I had 2 decent options for my next attraction: DINOSAUR or Festival of the Lion King.

Because it is recommended you arrive to Festival of the Lion King about 30 minutes before the show starts and the show itself is 30 minutes long, it takes up an entire hour of your day. That’s a lot of time, especially during that prime morning touring.

Now – you can definitely sometimes show up much closer to showtime (especially morning shows) and still have no problem getting a seat. But, during busier times of the year OR if you are traveling with a large group, I’d recommend you stick to the 30-minute mark.

But, I decided to go ahead and do Festival of the Lion King first because the queue there is partially covered and incredibly hot versus the queue for DINOSAUR which is covered with ceiling fans and indoors with air conditioning. I’d much rather wait in the queue at Festival of the Lion King earlier in the day when the temps aren’t too bad and save my longer wait for DINOSAUR where I can be in the A/C for most of it.

3rd Hour

Attraction 6: DINOSAUR

  • Posted wait: 35 minutes
  • Time entering line: 11:51
  • Time in preshow: 12:10
  • Time boarding vehicle: 12:20
  • Time exiting: 12:29
  • Total wait: 22 minutes
  • Notes: My neck still hurts. Why is this so rough?!

When I first started walking over to DINOSAUR (the name is all capital letters, by the way, because this attraction SCREAMS AT YOU), the posted wait time was 45 minutes. By the time I got there, it was 35. I waited about 5 minutes outdoors under the awning and ceiling fans for about 8 minutes before I was indoors.

dinosaur queue

Animal Kingdom just doesn’t have that many attractions, so you kind of “have” to ride DINOSAUR just to help fill your day, but please, please know that it is loud. And rough. And even though the height requirement is only 40 inches, many kids who are that tall may still find it terrifying. It can be terrifying for adults!

4th Hour

Attraction 7: It’s Tough to Be a Bug

  • Posted wait: 10 minutes
  • Time entering line: 12:42
  • Time boarding: in preshow at 12:44, show started around 12:50
  • Time exiting: 1:00
  • Total wait: 4 minutes
  • Notes: This ride has no height requirement, but it can be very scary for little ones.

My final ride of the day was It’s Tough to Be a Bug. Why I decided to do 2 terrifying things back-to-back, I have no idea.

Like every other time, I’ve seen it, during the Hopper scene, there were multiple little ones crying.

Lunch and the Rest of the Day

After I finished up at It’s Tough to Be a Bug, it was time for a much-needed break, dining over at Tusker House.

Tusker House Desserts

Lunch there was excellent (read our review!) – as always, and by the time we were done eating, we were ready to go.

But, there were still a few things I hadn’t done:

  • Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… And Beyond!
  • Expedition Everest (but only it was down. I would have tried to ride it earlier in the day if it was operating)
  • Feathered Friends in Flight
  • Triceratop Spin
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch and Animation Academy
  • Characters

How I Would Have Spent the Rest of the Day

If I had stayed, I definitely think I could have accomplished a lot of those things still on the list.

I would have headed over to watch the 2:30 p.m. Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…And Beyond! and then gone to ride Expedition Everest (which was back up) using the Single Rider Line.

After that, I would have probably made my way to Feathered Friends in Flight, and I do love the Maharajah Jungle Trek so if I had time, I’d take a walk through that, too.

Basically, I’d play the afternoon by ear and keep my eye on the My Disney Experience app to check wait and show times and select the things that worked the best in my schedule.

Final Thoughts

Overall, touring Animal Kingdom without Genie+ or purchasing Individual Lightning Lanes is relatively easy. I know had I had them, I would have gotten a bit more done by lunch. But, even without spending a penny, my longest wait was 22 minutes – so not bad!

If, though, I wanted to spend a little bit of money, I’d spring for an Individual Lightning Lane for Flight of Passage. That would eliminate the #1 stress causing part of the day, that Early Theme Park Entry dash to the most popular attraction in the park.

VIDEO: How to tour AK with (and WITHOUT!) Genie+

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Heather Thomas