7 Ways to Own Your Zen at Animal Kingdom
I am NOT a low-key traveler. I hear people talk about their week long vacation in Hawaii where they sat on the beach all day, and I think BOOOOO-RING. If I'm paying for a vacation, you can bet your tush I'm using EVERY SINGLE MINUTE to see and do things I wouldn't have a chance to at home.
That sort of mindset goes hand in hand with planning a Walt Disney World vacation. So much to see and do. FastPasses to plan. Dining reservations to make. Travel to coordinate. Rope drops to attend.
When I became an Annual Passholder, you would think my park days would get more chill without having to jam pack in every little thing. And... that's... sort of true. But I'm still trying to grab my FastPasses and see my shows, etc. Ask me my favorite WDW park and you'll hear me waffle between Epcot and MK; D's favorite is Hollywood studios. It's almost like Animal Kingdom can seem like an afterthought, but every time I'm there I find myself saying the same thing out loud...
Man, I love how chill this place is.
Seriously, I never worry about a spontaneous trip to DAK, because I know that I'm going to have a great day without a single FastPass. Half the time I make FastPasses for DAK, we don't even use them. I never leave Animal Kingdom feeling drained or exhausted; instead I feel zen, calm, chill. What is this sorcery? How is this possible? Especially with a small child in tow? It occurs to me that there are other people who MAYBE vacation with the intention of getting some relaxation in, too. So here, for my people in search of low key, are some of my favorite little "secrets" of how to enjoy a VERY chill day at Disney's Animal Kingdom. (It's not just because we are passholders, either.)
1) Feel no need to rope drop
Even during peak season, the only reasons you'd have to rope drop are if you absolutely HAVE to ride the top ticket attractions (Pandora rides, Everest, Safari), and you don't have a FastPass. I want to very explicitly stress, though, that I frequently enjoy my chill days at DAK without doing any of those rides. So sleep in, enjoy some breakfast, and get to DAK when you feel like it.
2) Enjoy Pandora... even without the rides
Firstly I just want to say that Flight of Passage is one of the best park attractions I've ever been on and, should you be so inclined, it IS 100% worth it (it even has a very cool standby queue if you're stuck in a long line). With that said Pandora is still super cool to just walk around and explore.
Once you've worked up an appetite, enjoy some lunch at our favorite counter service restaurant on property: Satuli Canteen. Now featuring *cue chorus of angels* MOBILE ORDERING. If you've got the My Disney Experience App on your phone, you can link a credit card to your account (you have to have one on file to make any dining reservations anyway) and use that to order your food. You can put together your order literally ANY TIME, save it in your phone, then when you're ready to eat, send it to the restaurant. They will message you back when your food is ready (and yes, you can do all the same customizing through the app that you can do in person), and you can walk right up to the counter to grab it with NO WAITING IN LINE. (This is the process for any restaurants on property that offer Mobile Ordering). I predict this being an absolute life saver once the parks enter peak seasons this year (NOBODY likes waiting in line for food).
3) Take in some awesome Animal sights
Everyone will remember from early marketing that Animal Kingdom is NOT A ZOO
but checking out the incredible wildlife at the parks is such a laidback way to spend your time. The Kilimanjaro Safari is a great one-stop to take in a large amount of animals without having to walk, but if you don't have a FastPass or the standby line is too long...
...you can always stroll through one of the Nature Paths.
Africa and Asia each have a walking path featuring wildlife exhibits
4) Take in the best shows offered at WDW
I make no secret of my feelings about Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Musical. I keep them both in my back pocket as secret weapons for wowing out of town visitors on Disney tours. You almost never "need" a FastPass to enjoy either.
FOLK has designated seating sections for standby, so as long as you're in line with 20 minutes or show before showtime, you will most likely make it into that show without a problem.
Finding Nemo has fewer showings, but higher capacity in the theater. I don't think we have ever used a FastPass to get into this show; getting into the standby line 15-20 minutes before showtime has proved effective thus far.
5) Kick back with a cocktail and people watch
My family is particularly obsessed with the full service couch seating at Nomad Lounge, but DAK is NOT a dry park, so you can pick up a cocktail almost anywhere and fine a quiet bench to sit back and watch the plants, wildlife, or crazy tourists.
6) Hop on a train to Rafiki's Planet Watch
Only reachable by train, Rafiki's Planet Watch offers some great ways to LEARN STUFF (uh oh) with your family. It has the added bonus of feeling very isolated from the rest of the park, which adds to its feeling of calm. There are characters you can meet (including Doc McStuffins), but our favorite things to do are to walk along the Animal hospital exhibit and check out some of the exotic wildlife on display. Animal caretakers will bring out animals throughout the day to show to visitors and talk about their care (we've met hedgehogs and owls in the past).
There's also a petting zoo outside with everything from the usual goats and sheep to llamas and pigs.
7) Take in DAK at night
So you REALLY slept in. Then you chilled at your resort pool. Have no fear, DAK continues its laidback fun past twilight.
Hang out with two of the Three Cabelleros for a fun dance party at Carnivale, see Pandora in a whole new (black) light as all the plantlife comes to life with bioluminescence, or take a sunset safari (and see the nocturnal creatures coming to life that were hiding out during the day). Rivers of Light is the nighttime entertainment show that's offered in a massive outdoor theater, but it's still relatively new so you might have to get in line kind of early for standby (which generally doesn't jive with my laidback goals). Instead, I opt to hang out in front of the tree of life and watch the incredible nature vignettes that come to life on the tree at night.
There you have it, a full day at a Theme Park doing absolutely zero things that are stressful or require running or hustle of any kind. Have I talked you into a mental spa day at DAK yet?