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Magic Kingdom vs Animal Kingdom: Differences & Which One Is Better?

Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, contains four theme parks and two water parks, so choosing which to visit in a single trip can be a tough decision. 

Anyone visiting Disney World will want to maximize their time, so if they’ve narrowed their choices to the Magic Kingdom vs. Animal Kingdom, they may struggle with picking one over the other.

Overall, deciding whether Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom is the right park for you depends on what you like, who you’re traveling with, and how much time you have. Guests who love Disney’s animated movies often prefer the Magic Kingdom because of its classic Disney-themed rides and shows. On the other hand, visitors who appreciate natural scenes and exotic animals may find Animal Kingdom more enjoyable.

This article breaks down the differences between the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom and discusses how to determine which one is best for you.

What Is Magic Kingdom Like?

A wide-view photo of Magic Kingdom.

Of all the theme parks at Disney World, Magic Kingdom was the first to open but happens to be the smallest, covering just over 100 acres (40.5 hectares). 

Since first welcoming guests in 1971, the park has undergone extensive changes; however, its central theme of magic, fantasy, and wonder – all centered around Cinderella’s Castle – has remained the same. 

The charm of the Magic Kingdom captures the hearts and imaginations of people of all ages. 

Many guests have fond memories of visiting the park as a child, which have stayed with them throughout their lives.

The Magic of the Magic Kingdom

Disney has purposely crafted Magic Kingdom to enchant its guests using ingenious techniques invented by Disney Imagineers.

The thought, effort, and incredible attention to detail have made Magic Kingdom one of the best theme parks in the country.

In addition to the stunning sights and delightful sounds, Disney Imagineers have incorporated smell into the full-sensory experience of guests. 

Scent diffusers release distinctive aromas associated with each location throughout the park, making the experience more realistic and immersive. 

Another way the Imagineers cultivate the magic of Magic Kingdom is by creating separate worlds within the park.

When visiting one area of the park, guests cannot see other areas – that way, they feel like they are in a completely different environment. 

In addition, cast members use tunnels to move around the park so no one sees them wearing clothing or costumes in the wrong areas.

Even trash is collected and managed in imaginative and efficient ways so that people do not see any lying on the ground. 

Every aspect of the Magic Kingdom, from appearance to function, has been imagined, reimagined, and improved over the years.

Rides at the Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom offers many rides and attractions suitable for guests of all ages, several with no minimum height restrictions. 

Everyone in the family can ride these slow-moving attractions, making it easy for multi-generational groups to enjoy them together. 

Some of these rides include:

  • “it’s a small world”
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Peter Pan’s Flight

Magic Kingdom also has several thrilling rides and roller coasters that are great for older kids and adults who want a little more adventure. 

These rides include:

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Splash Mountain
  • Space Mountain
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Space Mountain is the most thrilling of these rides because it takes place mainly in the dark. 

It also has the highest minimum height requirement at 44 inches (113 cm).

Attractions at the Magic Kingdom

Children and adults can watch excellent live shows and musical entertainment at the Magic Kingdom. 

Some shows have been around since the Magic Kingdom first opened, providing generations of children with both fun and educational entertainment. 

Some of these shows include:

  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Hall of Presidents
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic 
  • Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor

The Magic Kingdom also offers several parades and fireworks shows. 

The parades march down Main Street with classic Disney characters and Disney princesses, waving to the crowds that line the street. 

Fireworks and special effects occur almost every night of the week against a background of Cinderella’s iconic castle.

This spectacular show wraps up an evening at Magic Kingdom with music, lights, and magic.

What Is Animal Kingdom Like?

Animal Kingdom is the largest theme park at Walt Disney World, with more than 500 acres (202 hectares) of natural scenery and exotic wildlife. 

This theme park opened in 1998, becoming a place of adventure that focuses on the majesty of nature and the beauty within all living creatures. 

One of the most unique and popular parts of the Animal Kingdom is the world of Pandora, home of the Na’vi, based on the movie Avatar.

Visitors can immerse themselves in six different sections of the park, including Africa, Asia, Pandora – The World of Avatar, an Oasis, the Discovery Island, and Dinoland U.S.A., where guests can catch a glimpse of the animals that once ruled the planet.

Guests see classic Disney characters dressed appropriately for the setting, which helps bring some classic Disney magic into the park. 

The Animals at the Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom contains beautiful vistas where visitors can see animals in natural-looking habitats, and a lack of visible fencing helps guests feel as though they are a part of the landscape and its occupants.

Visitors to Animal Kingdom can see many animals, including:

  • African Lions
  • African Elephants
  • African Birds
  • African Hogs
  • Ankole Cattle
  • Asian Small-Clawed Otters
  • Giraffes
  • Gorillas
  • Gibbons
  • Hippopotamuses
  • Rhinos
  • Tigers
  • Zebras

Guests can get up close to many creatures, pet domesticated animals, and explore information on worldwide conservation efforts. 

The Animal Kingdom may seem like a zoo, but it has so much more to offer than any other zoo on the planet.

Rides at the Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom has four big thrill rides for kids and adults. 

Two rides, Avatar Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, offer big thrills and have a minimum height requirement of 44 inches (113 cm). 

The other two thrill rides, DINOSAUR and Kali River Rapids, are great for younger kids. 

DINOSAUR has a minimum height requirement of 40 inches (102 cm), while the Kali River Rapids has a minimum height requirement of 38 inches (97 cm)

Attractions at the Animal Kingdom

The Animal Kingdom offers fun and engaging shows and attractions perfect for guests of all ages. 

They range from 4D experiences to slow-moving rides with spectacular scenery and special effects. 

Some of these attractions include:

  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond!
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • Wildlife Express Train

These entertaining shows and attractions provide visitors with a unique and in-depth experience into the world of animals, both real and imaginary. 

In addition to these shows, the Tree of Life performances are spectacular, especially the ones that occur at night. 

The lights, music, and special effects combine to tell beautiful stories that engage the imagination of the Animal Kingdom’s guests.

Which Is Better, Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom?

Photo of Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom.

Visiting Walt Disney World is an enchanting experience for guests of all ages, regardless of which park (or parks) they attend. 

Magic Kingdom may be the smallest theme park at Disney World, but it attracts many more people each year than the other parks because it does almost everything better. 

Over the past five decades, Disney Imagineers have worked to improve the park experience and increase the magic guests feel when they walk through the gates. 

Also, because it’s the smallest of Disney World parks, guests with small children or limited mobility may find the size of Magic Kingdom more manageable.

In contrast, Animal Kingdom is a sprawling experience that appeals to a different crowd. 

This park aims to introduce visitors to animals and natural scenery they may never otherwise have a chance to see while reminding them of their place within the circle of life and their responsibility to protect it.

Guest attendance at Animal Kingdom is now second to that of Magic Kingdom, and with 500 acres of park, it has room to grow and innovate, continuing to attract visitors to its own special kind of magic.

That said, for die-hard Disney fans, the Animal Kingdom doesn’t quite capture the fairytale spirit of the Magic Kingdom. 

When choosing between Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, guests who want a classic, magical Disney experience would enjoy the Magic Kingdom better.


Whether the Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom is better depends on what each person is looking for when they visit a theme park. 

The Magic Kingdom is the most visited theme park at Walt Disney World by far, so most people believe it to be the best. 

With decades of work to reimagine and refine every part of the park, it is no wonder it has maintained and improved its enchanting experience throughout the years.

Animal Kingdom is younger than the Magic Kingdom; however, despite the age difference, it has begun to make a bigger impression on guests – especially with the addition of Pandora and the Avatar attractions. 

Deciding which park to attend is a tough call, but visitors can’t go wrong whichever one they choose.