Location: Orlando, Florida
Highlights: Tree of Life, Gorilla exhibit, Okapi
Children Friendly (10): Realistically I don’t think I really need to give that much explanation on why I gave a Disney park the highest mark in this category. Virtually everything in the park is geared towards children or families – play areas, an arcade, Disney characters everywhere, viewing heights at the exhibits suitable. I didn’t see any issues in this area.
Animal Diversity (8): There was a good variety of animals, including birds, reptiles, and amphibians. I would have given a slightly lesser mark since they don’t have as good of a variety in terms of number of species but some of the species they do have I haven’t seen in many other zoos – so the rarity factor helped them out a little in this category.
Animal Viewing (5): I was slightly disappointed in this aspect of Animal Kingdom. I found many animals were harder to see or had a lot of hiding spots. They weren’t necessarily off display but were hard to see within the exhibit. Also, although the safari tour is fun and a good way to showcase the animals, most you can’t see off the ride and therefore aren’t able to appreciate them as much as you would like. Due to the nature of the ‘ride’ it is not able to stop for more than a moment so fully appreciating the animals you see can be difficult, if you even see all the animals listed.
Animals Happiness (9): Overall the exhibits were well done. Plenty of enrichment was seen throughout and the exhibits appeared to be designed with the animals in mind with very natural settings. Loss of feathers was noted in a number of the macaws but besides that the animals appeared healthy and happy.
Photography (8): Since I already docked marks for the speed at which you go through the safari I considered in this section the quality of the photos that you can achieve on the safari despite this. Overall the exhibits were well designed for the photographer. On safari you could shoot from a decent distance with no barriers that you had to shoot through which was awesome. Many exhibits outside the safari were also designed this way. I did find the exhibits with glass were quite dirty (a task that must be difficult with the volume of visitors they encounter).
Layout/Map (5): The layout I found extremely disappointing, but did appreciate the map. I do understand with the volume of guests they entertain, having multiple pathways can be beneficial; however, it can become confusing. The opportunities to miss exhibits are abundant and if you aim to see each one you will do a lot of backtracking. Also, with the large number of rides complete with multiple entrances there are far too many pathways. The map does do a good job of showing pathways and highlighting different areas – plus an additional sheet which tells you all animal and what sections they are in was a nice touch.
Hours (10): Open year round and having standard zoo hours was great. Also, check before you go for bonus extra hour days. Absolutely no complaints in regards to hours!
Price (3): Price is extremely expensive. Being Disney it’s not the zoo that you’re paying for, it’s the experience. All those extras add up, Animal Kingdom is definitely not your Saturday on a whim outing. If you factor in all those bonus features that they provide I feel giving it a 3 is justified.
Food (10): Again, with the type of traffic Disney brings in they definitely needed to provide enough in food services. Multiple restaurants showcasing different styles and cultures of food, as well as plenty of food carts gives this category high marks. There are plenty of children menu options and familiar food choices for wary vacationers as well as some more adventurous options for those wanting to try some new things. The food was slightly more expensive but considering the variety and quality I can forgive that.
Website (6): To be honest I’m not a fan of Disney’s website overall. I don’t feel it is laid out as well as it could be and some areas are hard to navigate. While it does give most of the relevant information needed, I much preferred going on non-official Disney websites instead.
Gift Shop (10): Again, the gift shops were numerous and well stocked. They had plenty of typical zoo related options as well as some very creative Disney versions. They also provided some great cultural options both in their Africa section (with vendors doing work on site) as well as in the Asia section.
Quiet Areas (8): This was a little tricky of a category to rate, especially since I went during Animal Kingdom’s ‘off season’. There were plenty of benches and spots to sit throughout the park for families or individuals to stop and catch their breath. The abundance of restaurants also helps in this area. During the busy season I can see how it might be very overwhelming or crowded though for people who want to have some space.
Safety/Cleanliness (10): This is an area which I know Disney takes great pride in, and with good reason! The park was immaculate; I didn’t see garbage or food on the ground anywhere which in a zoo is hard to do. In terms of safety I feel this is also an area where Disney takes that extra step to ensure their guests are in good hands. Not only did I not see any issues when I was there, there was also staff about in case something arose.
Extras (10): From shows to games to rides, Animal Kingdom has it all! You definitely can not become bored when you go, there’s so much to do. Besides the free extras like the rollercoaster, safari, or Lion King show; there’s also behind the scenes adventures. In addition, they have some great educational information especially in the conservation section. They have veterinary rooms visible to the public where you can see everything from daily check ups to root canals!
Overall (8): Overall, Disney’s Animal Kingdom was a great experience. The abundance of extras ensures you’ll have a wonderful time, even if you don’t have any little ones! However, if it is just a zoo you are looking for and nothing else I wouldn’t suggest spending the money – you’d be able to see the majority of the animals at another zoo at a fraction of the cost.