|

Magic Kingdom vs. Animal Kingdom: Which Disney Park Should You Visit?

Magic Kingdom Castle and Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

This post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

There is so much to do at the Walt Disney World Resort, and sometimes when you are dealing with limited time you may have to choose how much time to spend at which park. And this post is going to put my two favorite Disney parks up against each other: Magic Kingdom vs. Animal Kingdom.

These parks are so different from each other! Magic Kingdom was the first Disney World park, Animal Kingdom is the most recent. Magic Kingdom is all about fairytales and fantasy, while Animal Kingdom is a place where you can see real animals up close.

What do these parks have in common though? They are both full of unique magic that people of every age can enjoy!

But which one should you visit?

Plan the Perfect Disney Trip!

Where To Stay:

Tickets & Reservations:

  • Use Undercover Tourist (an authorized ticket seller) to save money on Disney tickets. You can save up to $80 per ticket!
  • Need a stroller? We loved using Kingdom Strollers for on-site stroller delivery!

Need Help Planning?

  • Aren’t sure where to start? Sign up here for a free 7-day email course that will walk you through each step of planning your Disney World trip!
  • Download our Disney Planning Spreadsheet, a Google sheet you can take with you on the go, to organize all your Disney World plans! (And use some of our tried and true itineraries!)
Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom vs. Animal Kingdom: Rides

At first glance, Magic Kingdom definitely has the edge on rides. Magic Kingdom has over 20 rides, while Animal Kingdom clocks in at only 7 rides in the traditional sense. (There are more attractions than this though when you count shows.)

But to be honest, while Magic Kingdom is great for rides, some of my favorite rides in all of Disney World are at Animal Kingdom. Plus, while they aren’t technically rides, Animal Kingdom has attractions like the Maharajah Jungle Trek and the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail where you can view animals like you would at a traditional zoo.

Popular Magic Kingdom Rides

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train — A kid-friendly roller coaster than takes you into the mine with the Seven Dwarfs from Snow White.
  • Peter Pan’s Flight — A classic dark ride that has you “fly” over the streets of London and into Neverland. This isn’t the most amazing ride, but it’s a beloved tradition and is one of my favorites.
  • It’s a Small World — A classic, slow boat ride with the “It’s a Small World” song.
  • Space Mountain — A dark roller coaster that always has a long line. But to be honest, it’s gotten a bit too rough for me over the years.
  • TRON Lightcycle/Run — Magic Kingdom’s newest ride is a fast roller coaster that has you racing on a motorcycle. It’s a fun ride, but definitely a bit on the short side.
  • Jungle Cruise — A trip through the jungles of the world with a skipper who tells dad jokes.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean — A dark boat ride that plunges you into the world of the pirates as they pillage a town.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad — This roller coaster, known as the “wildest ride in the wilderness” is my favorite coaster at Magic Kingdom. It’s fast, but also tame enough for younger kids looking to push themselves with thrills.
  • Haunted Mansion — A classic dark ride through a haunted house. It’s a little spooky and a little funny.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Popular Animal Kingdom Rides

  • Avatar — Flight of Passage — THE most popular ride at Animal Kingdom. It’s a 3D virtual reality simulator that has you fly through Pandora on the back of a Banshee. This is probably my second favorite ride in all of Disney World.
  • Na’vi River Journey — A dark and peaceful boat ride through Pandora with bioluminescent features.
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris — Animal Kingdom has an entire savannah where animals “roam free” (really, predators and prey are separated from each other) and you can take an actual safari through it. It’s always fun and always different!
  • Kali River Rapids — A raft ride through river rapids where you are guaranteed to get a little wet. It’s perfect for those hot Florida summer days.
  • Expedition Everest — My second favorite roller coaster in all of Disney World! This ride climbs up through the Forbidden Mountain until you find signs of the yeti and end up going backwards to get away!
  • DINOSAUR — A fast, dark ride where you travel back in time to try to catch a dinosaur. Only there’s a countdown to the meteor hitting earth and you’re up against the clock.
Baby Zebra on Kilimanjaro Safaris
Kilimanjaro Safaris

Magic Kingdom vs. Animal Kingdom: Restaurants & Dining

Just like with rides, Magic Kingdom has more restaurants while Animal Kingdom has some of my favorite restaurants in all of Disney World.

Magic Kingdom has some truly great Table Service options, including the chance to actually eat inside the iconic Cinderella Castle. But I find the Magic Kingdom Quick Service can sometimes be lacking.

Animal Kingdom Quick Service, on the other hand, has some fantastic options, especially if you are looking for healthy choices. And they also have some great Table Service options.

Wondering what the difference is between Table Service and Quick Service? Table Service operates as a traditional restaurant where a waiter comes to take your order, while at Quick Service you order at a counter and then you either pick up your food or it is delivered to your table, depending on the restaurant.

Popular Magic Kingdom Restaurants

  • Cinderella’s Royal Table (Table Service) — Dine with Disney Princesses inside Cinderella Castle. It’s expensive, but the food here is pretty good and it’s a unique experience!
  • Be Our Guest (Table Service) — This restaurant inside the Beast’s Castle has French cuisine that is always good.
  • Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen (Table Service) — This Jungle Cruise themed restaurant has fantastic fusion dishes and fun theming.
  • Liberty Tree Tavern (Table Service) — Guests love this restaurant where you can get Thanksgiving dinner all year round.
  • The Crystal Palace (Table Service) — This buffet restaurant features characters from Winnie the Pooh. While I’ve heard some people say the food is mediocre, we had breakfast here and thought it was fantastic (especially the Mickey churro waffles).
  • Columbia Harbour House (Quick Service) — This spot serves fish dishes and lobster rolls. The food isn’t amazing, but I do like it for a healthier Quick Service option in Magic Kingdom.
  • Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café (Quick Service) — Standard theme park burgers and fries in Tomorrowland.
Mickey Churro Waffle at Crystal Palace Breakfast
Mickey Churro Waffles

Popular Animal Kingdom Restaurants

  • Yak & Yeti Restaurant (Table Service) — This restaurant serves Asian dishes ranging from Indian to Chinese to Korean.
  • Tiffins Restaurant (Table Service) — A favorite Table Service restaurant in Animal Kingdom, Tiffins serves Asian and Latin dishes.
  • Tusker House Restaurant (Table Service) — This is where you can find character dining in Animal Kingdom. Characters usually include Donald, Mickey, Daisy, and Goofy. Note that breakfast is the meal that has the most traditional American food, while lunch and dinner have more African-inspired dishes.
  • Nomad Lounge (Table Service) — Nothing is better than sitting on the deck of Nomad Lounge with yucca fries and churros! This is technically a lounge, and they have a big cocktail menu. But you can also make a meal here!
  • Satu’li Canteen (Quick Service) — Perhaps my favorite restaurant in all of Disney World! This Pandora restaurant offers make-your-own bowls that are delicious.
  • Flame Tree Barbecue (Quick Service) — A popular spot for BBQ. Plus they have a fantastic and relaxing outdoor seating area behind the restaurant!

Magic Kingdom vs. Animal Kingdom: Characters

Character experiences at Magic Kingdom vs. Animal Kingdom are going to be VERY different, but both are very awesome!

Magic Kingdom is going to be the place where you can see traditional characters like Mickey Mouse, Disney Princesses, and some favorites like Buzz Lightyear and Stitch.

Animal Kingdom on the other hand is going to have those traditional characters in fun costumes, plus they have more characters that you won’t be able to find in other parts of Disney World like Pocahontas and Kevin from Up.

Magic Kingdom Characters

  • Mickey & Friends — You can meet Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater on Main Street. You can also meet Daisy, Donald, Minnie, and Goofy in Storybook Circus as well as Chip and Dale.
  • Princesses — You can meet Rapunzel, Tiana, Cinderella, and Elena in Princess Fairytale Hall. You’ll also find Jasmine in Adventureland. There’s also Princess dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table.
  • Pooh & Friends — You can meet Pooh and Tigger near the Winnie the Pooh ride. You can also meet them, along with Piglet and Eeyore, at the character dining in Crystal Palace.
  • Other CharactersBuzz Lightyear and Stitch can be found in Tomorrowland. And Mirabel is soon getting her own meet & greet space in Fantasyland.

Animal Kingdom Characters

  • Mickey & Friends — You can meet Mickey and Minnie in their safari outfits in the Adventurers Outpost on Discovery Island. You can also meet Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy at character dining at Tusker House Restaurant. Daisy, Donald, and Chip and Dale can also be found dressed up in Dinoland USA. And you can see Pluto and Goofy in one of the flotillas on Discovery River.
  • Scrooge McDuck and Launchpad McQuack — These two unique characters have a flotilla on Discovery River.
  • Princesses — Both Pocahontas and Moana can sometimes be found on Discovery Island. Pocahontas also has a flotilla with her sidekick, Meeko.
  • Characters from UpKevin can be see walking around Discovery Island, while Russell and Dug have a flotilla.
  • Characters from The Lion King — Aside from seeing Lion King characters at the Festival of the Lion King show, you can see them floating down Discovery River. Usually this is Timon and Rafiki.

What’s a flotilla? These special parades on the water at Animal Kingdom began during the pandemic and are still continuing because they were so loved. You won’t be able to get up close to the characters, but it’s a special kind of magic to see them cruising along the river waving to everyone!

Donald and Daisy in DinoLand USA
Daisy and Donald in DinoLand U.S.A.

Magic Kingdom vs. Animal Kingdom: Entertainment & Nighttime Shows

When it comes to entertainment, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom have very different approaches. Magic Kingdom has parades, fireworks, and stage shows by the castle, while Animal Kingdom focuses more on street performers and indoor stage shows.

Of course, you’re going to find classic theme park entertainment more at Magic Kingdom. But the entertainment options at Animal Kingdom are unique and so well done. Plus, because Animal Kingdom has less rides, they make up for it a bit with more entertainment options.

Magic Kingdom Entertainment & Nighttime Shows

  • Outdoor Stage Shows — Magic Kingdom has stage shows in front of the castle including the brief Let the Magic Begin show that opens the park and Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire that runs several times a day.
  • Parades — The Festival of Fantasy Parade runs twice a day and you definitely don’t want to miss it. You’ll also see occasional character cavalcades (smaller parades) throughout the day.
  • Street Performers — Catch the Dapper Dans barbershop quartet, the Main Street Philharmonic and Casey’s Corner Pianist on Main Street U.S.A.
  • Nighttime Entertainment — Magic Kingdom has a nightly fireworks show, Happily Ever After, which is truly one of my favorite fireworks shows ever.
Mickey and Minnie in Festival of Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom
Mickey and Minnie in the Festival of Fantasy Parade

Animal Kingdom Entertainment & Nighttime Shows

  • Outdoor Stage Shows — You’ll find two outdoor bird shows in Animal Kingdom — Feathered Friends in Flight in Asia and Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight in front of the Tree of Life. Both are super fun!
  • Indoor Stage Shows — The two main stage shows in Animal Kingdom are Finding Nemo: The Big Blue and Beyond in DinoLand U.S.A. and Festival of the Lion King in Africa. Both are incredible, quality shows everyone in the family will love. Plus they offer a great A/C break!
  • Parades — There is no main parade in Animal Kingdom, but you will see characters and entertainers floating along Discovery River in flotillas throughout the day.
  • Street Performers — Street performers are all over Animal Kingdom! In Africa you’ll find the Harambe Acrobats, Kora Tinga Tinga, and the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe. On Discovery Island you can dance to music from the Viva Gaia Street Band. And don’t miss the often hidden DiVine character in the Oasis at the park entrance.
  • Nighttime Entertainment — There are no fireworks at Animal Kingdom for the safety and well-being of the animals. And during the Daylight Savings Time, the park usually closes before it gets dark. But in the fall, winter, and spring, you can see the Tree of Life transform in the short Tree of Life Awakenings show.

Magic Kingdom vs. Animal Kingdom: Themed Lands

To me, theming is one of the things that makes Disney World so magical. And in both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom you have uniquely themed lands that transport you somewhere else.

I’ll be honest: As magical as Magic Kingdom is, Animal Kingdom has my favorite theming out of anywhere. The attention to detail the Imagineers used when creating each land it just incredible, and I could happily spend days just wandering around Animal Kingdom noticing everything.

Magic Kingdom Themed Lands

  • Main Street U.S.A. — The entrance and main hub of Magic Kingdom is an old-fashioned town modeled after Marceline, Missouri, where Walt Disney grew up.
  • Tomorrowland — A “futuristic” land from the 1970s. So while it has been updated some, it’s more of a retro vision of the future.
  • Fantasyland — This is where Disney princesses and all the classic Disney movies live. This is definitely one of the most popular areas of the park, and where you’ll want to go if you have little kids.
  • Liberty Square — A small, colonial America section of Disney World that is also home to the Haunted Mansion.
  • Frontierland — The back section of Magic Kingdom is themed after the wild west and exploration.
  • Adventureland — Home to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise and the place to get the popular Dole Whip.
A rare uncrowded sidewalk in Fantasyland in front of It's a Small World
A rare glimpse of an uncrowded Fantasyland

Animal Kingdom Themed Lands

  • Oasis — This is the entrance to Animal Kingdom where you’ll see a few animals. Pro Tip: It doesn’t matter if you go left or right here, you end up in the same place.
  • Discovery Island — The center point of Animal Kingdom and where the Tree of Life is located.
  • Pandora – The World of Avatar — A truly incredible section of the park themed after the Avatar movies. Even if you have never seen Avatar, don’t skip this area. It’s breathtaking.
  • Africa — Home of the safari and the Lion King, this section of the park has some of the best theming out of anywhere (so many details!).
  • Asia — There are two sections to Asia, the more Indian-themed area and the more Nepal-themed area. They are both great.
  • DinoLand U.S.A. — Originally themed as a home for scientific research where college kids intern and a cheesy fair has cropped up, DinoLand could use some love. In fact, Disney has hinted recently that an overhaul and re-theme will likely be coming. (Just throwing this out into the universe even though they probably won’t do it: *please make it South America* *please make it South America*.)
Africa Theming in Animal Kingdom with posters and bikes against wall
Africa theming in Animal Kingdom

Magic Kingdom vs. Animal Kingdom: Atmosphere

When it comes to the atmosphere and general vibes of each park, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are EXTREMELY different. In fact, I think they are polar opposites when it comes to Disney Park vibes.

Magic Kingdom is Walt Disney World’s busiest theme park, while Animal Kingdom is the least visited out of all four parks.

Magic Kingdom has a busy atmosphere, while Animal Kingdom has chill vibes that make it much easier to relax.

While I personally love the chill feel of Animal Kingdom the most, I also love energetic feel of Magic Kingdom that can sometimes border on sensory overload. Really they are both great; you just have to know what what to expect at each.

Quiet Morning in Animal Kingdom's Asia looking toward Expedition Everest
Quiet Morning in Animal Kingdom’s Asia

Magic Kingdom vs. Animal Kingdom: Size

Magic Kingdom clocks in at 107 acres, while Animal Kingdom can claim over 500 acres. HOWEVER, most of those 500 acres of Animal Kingdom aren’t part of what you would walk. For example, a huge part of that is just the savannas that make up Kilimanjaro Safaris.

As far as walking distance goes, I think the amount you’ll walk at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are pretty comparable. You’ll probably walk more at Animal Kingdom because it is still a bigger park, but I don’t feel as exhausted walking around Animal Kingdom as I do walking around Epcot.

And keep in mind that how much you walk on a given day also depends on how you plan your day and how much backtracking you end up doing!

Magic Kingdom vs. Animal Kingdom: Which Disney Park is Better?

So which park is better…Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom? In the battle of Disney World Parks, this is probably the hardest question for me to answer.

Honestly, Animal Kingdom is my personal favorite for very personal reasons that mostly have to do with the chill vibes, the great rides, and the fact that for my family somehow our days at Animal Kingdom wind up extra magical.

But Magic Kingdom is full of nostalgia and childhood magic that I also love. It has some of my favorite classic rides, my favorite fireworks show, and is obviously a favorite with our kiddo.

So…if you had to choose, which Disney park should you visit?

Why You Should Go to Magic Kingdom

  • You are traveling with younger kids.
  • You want to meet Disney princesses and classic characters.
  • You want that classic Disney magic.
  • It’s your first time to ever go to Disney World (because you can’t miss the classic!).

Why You Should Go to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  • You are traveling with older kids or just adults.
  • You love animals and never turn down a zoo visit.
  • You want thrill rides.
  • You want great food and drinks.

Choosing between Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom isn’t easy even though the parks are almost as different as you can get. But that’s what’s so great about Disney World! They can do so many different types of things and do them so well that you can’t help but feel the magic!

Plan the Perfect Disney Trip!

Where To Stay:

Tickets & Reservations:

  • Use Undercover Tourist (an authorized ticket seller) to save money on Disney tickets. You can save up to $80 per ticket!
  • Need a stroller? We loved using Kingdom Strollers for on-site stroller delivery!

Need Help Planning?

  • Aren’t sure where to start? Sign up here for a free 7-day email course that will walk you through each step of planning your Disney World trip!
  • Download our Disney Planning Spreadsheet, a Google sheet you can take with you on the go, to organize all your Disney World plans! (And use some of our tried and true itineraries!)

More Disney World Resources


Like this post? Pin it for later!