Animal Kingdom Crowd Report: Peak Season, Fully Booked Day

Travel

We’re back at Animal Kingdom, with a midday visit during spring break! This Walt Disney World report checks out crowds, wait times, park and an update on the latest changes. In the process, we share photos, tips & info, our experience with lines, and more.

Let’s start with park hours, which are currently 8 am until 8 pm for Animal Kingdom every single day through at least April 17, 2021. These have been the daily operating hours for over a month now–since March 13–but are probably going to be scaled back at some point in the near future with spring break should be drawing to an end. (Tomorrow should bring another park hours extension for April 18-24, so we’ll know for sure then.)

Walt Disney World still rolling with these hours after having months to observe visitation patterns doesn’t make complete sense to me, but I’m not complaining. This schedule is great for people who plan. Even on crowded days, the strategy for Animal Kingdom is relatively simple, as covered in our 1-Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary.

As with Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we’d recommend visiting Animal Kingdom on a Saturday or Sunday if your Walt Disney World trip encompasses a weekend. (Avoiding Saturdays and Sundays totally is the best strategy, but matters less with the proportion of tourists increasing.) For DHS, that’s because its wait times and crowds don’t vary much day to day.

For Animal Kingdom, it’s because very few guests arrive for that 8 am rope drop, or remain in the park until that 8 pm closing. Without stage shows and atmospheric entertainment, there just isn’t enough to do in Animal Kingdom to justify an entire day there. Unless you’re repeating the headliners, it’s once again a half-day park for the vast majority of guests.

The result is that the middle of the day is significantly worse at Animal Kingdom, with crowds and wait times peaking much earlier and falling at a steeper clip than the other parks. Consequently, we’ve repeatedly shared late afternoon park reports showcasing Animal Kingdom in the late afternoon.

So we’re not rehashing the same thing over and over again, we decided to mix things up a bit and visit Animal Kingdom at noon, right as crowds would be peaking on a day that was fully booked for all categories of Disney Park Pass reservations. Instead of showcasing how good things could be, the goal was to see how bad things could get.

Let’s begin on that note, with a look at crowds and wait times during our midday visit to Animal Kingdom…

The overflow for Expedition Everest extended past the old Finding Nemo: the Musical theater and almost to Dinorama on our passes through the park.

Despite that, the posted wait time was never above 25 minutes during our visit. The line was also constantly moving, with such a good flow that guests weren’t even stopping on the markers. Filling every seat definitely has its advantages!

Some of the longest lines we saw in Animal Kingdom were actually for ice cream.

This isn’t due to snack stands being closed (although many still are). There are several spots currently serving ice cream, there’s just a ton of demand for it.

Here’s the end of the line for Dinosaur.

This wait time was 45-50 minutes. It’s still leaving empty seats aboard the time rovers, which explains the discrepancy there. I know many Walt Disney Worlds are hoping for the return of FastPass+, but what I’d really love to see is these attractions running at full efficiency before that happens. I think a lot of fans would change their tune after breezing through the standby line of an attraction firing on all cylinders and filling every seat.

Kali River Rapids has reopened following its refurbishment.

Wait times were actually not too bad for this, especially considering the heat. Expect it to be a walk-on tomorrow with the high temperature being in the mid-60s.

Anyone who has been to Walt Disney World has overheard funny conversations of fellow park guests, some of which is almost unbelievable.

Entering Pandora – World of Avatar, someone in front of me informed their companion that every land at Walt Disney World has its own “special smell.” After pausing a few seconds to take it in: “I don’t know what this one is supposed to be, but it stinks…sorta like paint.”

The pathway to their left was closed because the bioluminescence is being repainted.

Normally, the queue for Na’vi River Journey would spill out into the walled-off area.

Instead, it’s currently being routed back around the restrooms. Overall wait still wasn’t too bad by normal standards, at 40-45 minutes on our two passes through Pandora.

Congestion in Pandora – World of Avatar is all over the place. As you can probably imagine, entering via the narrow pathway was slow-going.

Under the floating mountains, crowds are frequently low, making for great photo ops. This is not random or new, but is a consistent result of the way queues are routed for Avatar Flight of Passage.

Speaking of which, this is the end of the line for Pandora’s headliner.

The posted wait time was 65 minutes at this point. The longest we saw was 70 minutes, at which point the line hit the bridge to Africa.

The other big crowd in Pandora was outside Satu’li Canteen at noon.

This photo does not reflect that–the photo above was taken around 2 pm. It was too chaotic over here to snap a photo during the lunch rush. Still a lack of seating, but at least there wasn’t a huge backup of people waiting for Mobile Orders.

Speaking of things I didn’t photograph, the end of line for Kilimanjaro Safaris was actually back here around noon. Still only a 45 minute wait at that point, and dropping dramatically in the afternoon.

Honestly, all of this wasn’t as bad as we expected. The lines were definitely lengthy and some wait times were high, but not peak season, fully-booked high (at least, relative to Thanksgiving and Christmas-time). Filling more seats on attractions has definitely helped with wait times. In turn, many guests leave even earlier in the day, having finished the headliners that matter to them and park hopping around 2 pm. Even when busy, Animal Kingdom is a relatively easy park to experience so long as you don’t fight those morning and midday crowds.

As we’ve mentioned previously, the biggest difficulty you’ll have right now is filling an entire day at Animal Kingdom. Festival of the Lion King will help with that whenever it returns (still no specific date), but more beyond that is needed.

Be sure not to overlook the exhibits like the glorious Otter Grotto, where you can marvel at the sage creatures playing in their latrine. Our favorite trail by far is Maharajah Jungle Trek, which is criminally underrated and beautifully designed.

Speaking of ways to round out your day, Animal Kingdom is still doing stuff to celebrate the release of Raya and the Last Dragon. The Animation Experience at Conservation Station offers guests the chance to learn to draw characters from the movie right now–that’s a good way to kill an hour or so.

At the front of the park on Discovery Island Stage, there’s a 40-ton sand sculpture celebrating featuring Raya, Tuk Tuk, Sisu the last dragon, and the Ongi, all set in the fantasy world of Kumandra. I haven’t seen the movie yet, so all of those names are fairly meaningless to me, but the sculpture is cool. We’re looking forward to (hopefully) seeing Raya and the Last Dragon at the AMC Disney Springs later this month!

Finally, a tangentially-related note since Animal Kingdom is Walt Disney World’s “Earth Month” park. Along with all the snacks in celebration of the holiday that will come to Animal Kingdom in April, the company announced they’ll start selling reusable bamboo utensils for waste-free snacking that will be available at select locations in the spring, while supplies last. This cutlery set comes with a handy travel pouch and clip. 

My view with Walt Disney World’s conservation efforts is generally giving them the benefit of the doubt. I’m on board with things like refillable shampoo bottles and reusable bags that cut down on single use plastics, even if I know it’s as much about cutting costs as being environmentally friendly. The end result is a net positive, even if the motivations are suspect.

Along those same lines, I have no problem with this even though I know it’s about selling these rather than doing anything positive. My issue here is that there’s a better, easier solution: silverware. There’s no good reason every counter service restaurant doesn’t use washable silverware and plates; it’s more environmentally friendly and classier. Yet, Disney has gone the exact opposite direction at multiple locations in the domestic parks. Doing that and then shifting the burden to guests earns them no accolades here.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Thoughts on anything covered in this Walt Disney World park report? Have you visited Animal Kingdom in the last few weeks? Go on any peak season, fully-booked days? What was your experience? If you stayed until late afternoon–or evening–did you notice a steep drop off in crowds and actual wait times? What are your thoughts on current crowds at Walt Disney World? Are you a fan of the bamboo utensils? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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