The most important part of timing your Disney vacation is deciding what time of year is best for your needs. Once you have chosen your dates, selecting the right park to visit at the right time will help you avoid delays and long lines.
Head to the Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning on the right day of the week, and you'll spot plenty of animals on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Show up just a few hours later on the wrong day and you may find yourself facing a two hour wait to ride Expedition Everest.
Best Days to Visit the Animal Kingdom for Resort Guests:
If you are staying at one of Disney World's on-site resorts, you will be able to get into the Animal Kingdom an hour early on select mornings for Extra Magic Hours. This perk is only offered to resort guests, and is a time that you can enjoy the park with relatively low crowd levels. As of June 2011, Extra Magic Hours at the Animal Kingdom are on Saturday and Monday mornings.
Note: Disney's Animal Kingdom closes at dusk and does not offer Extra Magic Hours in the evenings.
Best Days to Visit the Animal Kingdom for Off-Site Visitors:
Extra Magic Hours on Saturday and Monday mornings will bring plenty of resort guests to the Animal Kingdom theme park, so avoid this park on those days if you are staying off-site. By the time you are admitted, there will be guests in line at every popular attraction.
Best Time of Day to Visit the Animal Kingdom:
While it is a good idea to show up first thing in the morning at any Disney Park, it is particularly important to head to the Animal Kingdom when it opens. If you are visiting during one of the hot summer months, you won't see many of the animal inhabitants by the afternoon, since they will retreat to the shadiest spots in their enclosures to escape the heat. This park is not open at night, so an evening visit is not an option.
If you are visiting during a slow time of year, head to the Animal Kingdom in the afternoon without worry; the park will begin to empty out around 3:00 p.m. Skip the Animal Kingdom in the afternoon if you are traveling during a crowded time — not only will the park be packed, but most Fastpasses will have completed distribution for the day as well.
Give yourself about a half hour to reach the Animal Kingdom in the morning if you are relying on the Disney transportation system, and about 15 minutes if you are driving your own car.
Tip: If you are a big fan of the Animal Kingdom theme park, consider staying at the adjacent Animal Kingdom Lodge. The Lodge offers plenty of educational activities and live animal viewing; it is also just a 5 minute bus ride away from the entrance of the Animal Kingdom theme park.