If you love animals, then you’ll definitely be spending a day at the Animal Kingdom! This park has it all, from rides to shows, with the extra addition of animals of all shapes and sizes. Animal Kingdom is home to over 34 different species of animals, many of which can be seen simply by walking around the park. There’s also a special Affection Section where guests can interact with a variety of domesticated animals!
Although there are plenty of animals, Animal Kingdom has fewer rides than the other theme parks at Walt Disney World. Some guests will only spend a half-day at Animal Kingdom, which means they need to make the most of their time if they want to ride everyone. One way to do that is by using the new Genie+ system.
Disney Genie+ vs FastPass
Guests who visited Walt Disney World prior to the beginning of the global pandemic in 2020 were likely well acquainted with the FastPass system. This system allowed guests to choose three rides for each day of their visit and schedule a reserved time to return to that line and enter the FastPass queue. Using the FastPass queue meant a much shorter wait time than the traditional standby line.
The FastPass reservations could be made ahead of time, usually about 60 days ahead for guests who were staying on-site at one of the Disney Word resort hotels. Guests who were staying off site could still make FastPass reservations, but had a shorter window to do it. Both types of guests, however, were able to do much of their planning before they arrived at Walt Disney World by using the FastPass system.
The FastPass system was accessed on your phone within the My Disney Experience App, making it easy to add rides and change ride reservations as you were talking around the park. All three of your initial FastPass bookings had to be made in the same park, but once you used those the next reservation could be made in any park.
The great thing about the old FastPass system was this ability to immediately make your next ride reservation as soon as you’d scanned into the FastPass queue for that third ride. There were also no limits on how many times you could book a FastPass for any individual ride. As long as there were still FastPass time slots available for that day, you could continue to ride and rebook the same ride, even if you’d already used a FastPass to ride it that day.
Walt Disney World reopened in July of 2020, but did not reinstate the FastPass system. Instead all rides were available only through the regular standby queue, with the one exception of Rise of the Resistance which utilized a virtual queue system. All of the FastPass signage remained up, and the FastPass lines were only used by those with a special disability access pass or those on VIP tours.
Our family did miss the FastPass service when we returned to the park in early 2021, as we enjoyed planning out our trips ahead of time. It felt a little odd to be walking into the Magic Kingdom with absolutely no idea of what rides we were going to be able to ride that day, or how long those standby queues would be. We were very committed to the FastPass system and were sad that the knowledge we had on how to use the system effectively was now useless.
Once we got used to not having FastPasses, we found that not having them really changed how we experienced the park. It was nice to not have to be looking at our phones all the time, and really enjoy just being present in the parks themselves, especially after a long winter full of lockdowns. We also found ourselves getting less steps in, as we weren’t running back and forth across the park chasing ride reservations. Instead, we tended to ride all of the attractions in a single land before moving to the next one. This made a huge difference in how much we walked, especially at a large park like Epcot.
After operating for more than a year after reopening with no FastPass system in place, Disney introduced a new system. Beginning in Fall 2021, guests could now take advantage of the new Genie and Genie+ systems. These systems are described in detail below.
Due to Disney’s unfortunate decision to use the same wording for what are really three different systems, many guests have found the new system confusing. It’s certainly a bit different from the old FastPass system, and there will be a learning curve for lots of longtime park goers to understand how the new Genie systems work.
Genie is free to use and is available to all guests as an overlay to the existing My Disney Experience app. It allows guests to make a personalized tip board by taking into account the user’s ride preferences and existing reservations. Ride wait times are easily visible, as well as information about unexpected closures or shutdown. Most of this was already available in the My Disney Experience app, and all Genie does it make it so you can personalize a dashboard for easy access to the information that is most important for your own visit.
Genie+, sometimes written as Genie Plus, costs $15/person per day. It allows guests to book ride reservations at most of the rides throughout each of the theme parks. Select live shows are also available through Genie+, and Disney World has recently begun adding character meet’n’greet reservations as well.
Unlike FastPass, Genie+ reservations can only be made the day of. Guests who are staying onsite at Disney World can make their first reservation beginning at 7:00am that day, which can be a problem for guests who were hoping to sleep in a bit while on vacation. Guests who are staying offsite can only make reservations when the park has officially opened.
Guests can only book one ride at a time, and are only shown the “next available time” when selecting which ride to book. Once a ride reservation is booked with Genie+, the guest must wait until they’ve either scanned into that ride or until 120 minutes have passed before they can make their next reservation.
One disappointing aspect of Genie+ is that you can only make one reservation per ride, per day. So if you want to ride something a second time in the same day, the only option is to use the regular standby line. This is a big change from the FastPass system that allowed guests to make as many reservations as they wanted for the same ride, just as long as those ride slots were still available.
Lightning Lanes (or Individual Lightning Lanes) are based on a dynamic pricing model and can range from $7 to $20 per person, per ride. There are also only one or two rides that use the Individual Lightning Lane System in each park, typically the newest rides.
Just like the Genie+ ride reservations, Individual Lightning Lane ride reservations can only be made the day of. The reservation window opens at 7:00am for Disney resort guests, and at park open for all other guests. You do get to choose any available return time, not just the “next available time,” which makes it slightly easier to make selections that work around anything else you already have scheduled that day, such as dining reservations.
A complaint about these new Individual Lightning Lanes (and Genie+) is that Disney World is continuing to charge extra for things that were previously free and included in the cost of the theme park ticket. This has made many devoted Disney guests unhappy, as they feel the Walt Disney World Corporation is just nickel and dining their guests.
For more on this topic, check out our article entitled Ranking the Best Disney Lightning Lanes Rides from Top to Bottom!
Best Rides at Animal Kingdom
Let’s break down the top five Genie+ rides at Animal Kingdom.
If your main goal when visiting Animal Kingdom is to see the animals, you’re going to be absolutely blown away by the Kilimanjaro Safari. On this ride you’ll board a large open-air truck and set off into the wilderness to see over 34 different species of animals. As you drive through the 110-acres of the safari you’ll see the animals living in their different natural habitats.
Kilimanjaro is a slow ride, and is great for both kids and adults. Although slow, this ride can be very rough and bumpy at times. The trucks drive over unpaved roads with frequent cattle guards, which can be uncomfortable for some people. These bumpy conditions mean Disney has marked this as a ride to be avoided by pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions.
One of the best things about the Kilimanjaro Safari is that you’ll have a different experience each and every time you ride. These are real animals, and the truck is not on a track; it’s really being driven by the cast member. If an antelope decides it’s going to take a nap in the middle of the road, then all trucks halt and wait for that antelope to move! Each different ride is it’s own adventure as you never know what the animals will be up to.
Cast members receive a lot of training to work on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. The cast member driver is chock full of facts about all of the animals, and there is a picture identification guide posted above the seats. The drivers are trained in spotting the animals throughout the different sections of the park, even if they’re hiding or in unexpected places. If you’ve ridden the Kilimanjaro Safari during the daytime, try riding at night for a completely different experience.
As, in my opinion, the best ride in Animal Kingdom, the Kilimanjaro Safari standby line can fill up very, very quickly. The ride doesn’t open until the park officially opens, and is not a part of any early morning extra hours. Additionally, this attraction can often suffer from delays if the animals are being particularly difficult that day and blocking the road. The animals always have the right of way, so the delays can be lengthy at times. All of this put together makes this the best ride to use Genie+ inside of Animal Kingdom.
The Na’vi River Journey is located in the Pandora – the World of Avatar section of Animal Kingdom. In this ride you’ll board a boat and embark on a slow journey through a world of caves, water, and a bioluminescent rainforest. Don’t forget to look up, as the beauty will surround you on all sides of the boat, including overhead.
Na’vi River Journey is a slow and gentle ride, so it’s safe for pregnant women and guests with health conditions. There is no height requirement, so even the smallest citizens of Pandora can ride. The ride is fairly dark as to best see the bioluminescent wildlife, but it’s not completely dark due to that same glow. Some children may not be comfortable in the dark however, so guests should plan accordingly.
This ride takes the #2 position on this list due to its popularity as an Avatar ride in the Pandora section of the park. It’s not quite as popular as the other Avatar ride (Flight of Passage), but many guests want to enjoy both rides to get the full Pandora experience. As such, Na’vi River Journey tends to have a lengthy standby line that can easily be mitigated by using Genie+.
Head back to the prehistoric era when you climb aboard Dinosaur! You’ll board a time-traveling rover and head back in time on a mission to rescue a 3.5 ton dinosaur. Along the way you’ll twist and turn to avoid obstacles like a hungry velociraptor! The pressure is amplified because a giant meteor is on the way to earth, so time is of the essence!
Dinosaur is a great thrill ride, full of hairpin turns, drops, and fast movement through the dangers of the prehistoric world. It’s a loud and bumpy adventure in the dark, and is listed as a thrill ride. As such, it’s not appropriate for expectant women, people with health conditions, or people who are afraid of dinosaurs! Time travelers must be at least 40 inches tall to climb on board.
If you’ve ever ridden Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland, you’ll recognize this ride system and track. Despite using the same track, this ride does feel unique due to its intense dinosaur and prehistoric theme. Guests who love Indiana Jones will enjoy being on the same track, and will hopefully enjoy Dinosaur just as much.
Dinosaur is a fun ride, although it’s not as popular as some of the other rides available at Animal Kingdom. This is the only ride in the DinoLand section of Animal Kingdom now, as Primeval Whirl was demolished in 2021. There have been no announcements yet about what ride, if any, will be added to DinoLand to fill out this section of the park. Dinosaur takes the #3 spot on our list because the standby line is usually shorter than both of the Avatar rides and the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Climb aboard a raft and head down a rip-roaring river with Kali River Rapids! You’ll feel a rush of adrenaline on this ride, as your raft is whisked across white-water rapids and plummets down a 20-foot slope. You will definitely get wet on this ride, and will likely get soaked completely, so plan ahead to keep yourself and your electronics dry. Some riders suggest just wearing a pancho, but there are also lockers located directly across from the ride entrance.
This is an intense thrill ride that includes small drops, large drops, and lots of spinning. It should be avoided by expectant mothers and anyone with health issues. Rafters need to be at least 38 inches to head down these rapids. One other note is that similar rides have had very serious safety issues at other theme parks, including at least two instances where guests died. There haven’t been any deaths at this specific ride in Animal Kingdom, but some guests may find the risk too high to enjoy this ride.
Kali River Rapids typically do not open at the same time as the rest of Animal Kingdom, so this isn’t a ride you can access during extra morning hours or right when the park opens. Usually it’s open one to two hours after the rest of the park opens, but this can be weather dependent. Since it’s practically a guarantee that you will get quite wet on this ride, many guests prefer to ride it in the afternoon when temperatures are typically at their highest. Using a Genie+ ride reservation can help you get that perfect afternoon ride time.
5) Animation Experience at Conservation Station
If you’ve ever wanted to learn to draw Disney characters on your own, then the Animation Experience at Conservation Station is for you! In this 25 minute class, a Disney animator will teach students how to draw a Disney character. Characters are changed frequently, so you can learn a new character each time you visit. These animators are skilled at bringing out the artist in everyone, making it a great way to learn a new skill or hone your existing talents.
This is a great activity for Disney guests of all ages, and has no restrictions for height or health conditions. Guests can also take advantage of the other experiences at Conservation Station, including sneak peeks of some behind-the-scenes work that goes into keeping all of the animals at Animal Kingdom safe and healthy. Catch a glimpse of the park veterinarians caring for animals and the nutrition experts preparing food for the 34 different species of animals. You can also sometimes see the Disney scientists hard at work in a peek into their laboratories behind the scene.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that this attraction is located at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at the endpoint of the Wildlife Express Train. Animators-in-training should board the Wildlife Express Train at least 40 minutes prior to their Genie+ reservation time to ensure a timely arrival. The train takes approximately seven minutes to travel 1.2 mile, and gives you a glimpse of some of the animals’ overnight housing.
This attraction snags the fifth spot in our list of best Genie+ rides at Animal Kingdom due to the limited capacity for the drawing classes. If you need a place to take a break from the crowds or simply get out of the hot Florida sun for a while, then this might be a great Genie+ reservation to make. You’ll take your drawing with you at the end of class, so be sure to think ahead about how you’ll carry that during the rest of your day.
Other Genie+ Options at Animal Kingdom
A big challenge for Genie+ at Animal Kingdom is that there are currently four eligible rides that use the system, plus the Animation Experience class. Some guests may find that it’s not worth the cost of purchasing Genie+ at Animal Kingdom given the shortage of rides.
Using Genie+ for the three shows available through the system isn’t as useful, as all they provide is priority seating. Most of the shows can be accessed right up to the minute before the show starts, and Disney does a great job in making sure every seat in the house has a good view.
The shows available through Genie+ include:
Best Animal Kingdom Rides for Adults
Animal Kingdom’s biggest attraction for many guests is simply the animals, including those on display throughout the park and the ones seen on the Kilimanjaro Safari. When I’ve visited this park with other adults, we always prioritize the Kilimanjaro Safari just for the unique experience of seeing the animals in a “natural” habitat and not in cages.
For adults who are looking for a ride experience, the best thrill can be found on Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. This ride is available via the standby line or through an Individual Lightning Lane purchase.
The highlight of this ride is the plunge backwards in the dark as the train races to escape the terrifying snow monster. This ride is not for the faint of heart, and many riders experience motion sickness upon departure. Riders must be at least 44 inches tall, and anyone with a health condition (including pregnant women) should skip this ride.
Adults who love the Avatar movie will love visiting the World of Pandora and riding the two Avatar themed rides: Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. The rides themselves are very different from one another, but both are highly immersive and make you feel like you’re really in Pandora. The landscaping in this whole section of the park is breathtaking, and unlike any other “land” anywhere on Disney property.
Finally, adults who are looking for a way to cool down on a hot Florida day will love the Kali River Rapids. It’s one of the “wettest” rides across the whole Disney World Resort, and that water can be a great way to get refreshed on even the hottest summer day. The 20-foot plummet will provide an extra boost of adrenaline, and thrill seekers will like the white water rapids vibe that this ride brings.
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