Some of the most common questions I see asked is what parks should they visit when they are planning a Walt Disney World Trip. Ideally, you will want to visit each park at least once. However, sometimes you only have a couple of days and can only visit 3 different parks.
So which one should get cut? Which one doesn’t make the cut?
It is not an easy question to answer for a number of reasons. First, it all depends on what you and your family are looking for in a Disney Vacation. Are rides your main focus? Or is it food? Each of the four Disney World theme parks has its strong and weak points in what I like to call the four main areas. Those areas are food, rides, lands, and shows. For me, food and rides are the two biggest things I think about when I am going to make a decision on a short WDW trip.
Today we are going to look at the differences between Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Both have fantastic rides and detailed lands. One has much better food over the other. Let’s take a look at the two theme parks and decide which one would be the better pick for you and your family.
Animal Kingdom Background
Animal Kingdom is the largest theme park in the world. It is massive and covers 580 acres. It is made up of traditional theme park attractions and rides as well as some elements from zoos.
The Park opened on April 22, 1998, and was the last theme park to open at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Animal Kingdom is all about animal conservation and the natural environment. Today Animal Kingdom is the third most visited theme park in the US and sixth in the World.
Hollywood Studios Background
Hollywood Studios was the third theme park to open at Walt Disney World on May 1, 1989. Back then it was called Disney’s MGM Studios. Also back then it was a production studio. Movies and shows would be filmed there.
However, those days are long gone at Hollywood Studios. Today it is best known for its thrill rides and Star Wars. While you will still find elements of the old days. Hollywood Studios is changing around us.
When it comes to trying to decide between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios the hardest reason is because of the rides. Both parks have amazing rides. If your decision was based solely on rides. For me, it would be a coin flip.
Animal Kingdom is home to arguably the most popular ride in all of Walt Disney World. Flight of Passage is a fan favorite and a lot of fun. It really feels like you are flying over Pandora.
Everest is one of the best roller coasters at Walt Disney World. It is also the tallest structure at WDW. It stands 199.5 feet and it is six inches taller than Tower of Terror over at Hollywood Studios.
Kilimanjaro Safaris is another fan favorite ride and is a great one for guests of all ages. This ride is over 20 minutes long and is one of the longer rides at WDW. If you can go when it is raining or around sunset the animals seem to be a bit more active.
In total there are 11 different rides/walk-through attractions to experience. All but one (Everest) would be good for kids of most ages. If they make the height requirements they should be good to go. That even goes with Everest. My daughter loves this ride and the first time she rode it she was 7.
Hollywood Studios has a total of 9 different attractions. Five of them are new. The oldest of them (Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers) opened way back in 2018. As the years have gone by Hollywood Studios added more rides which is a good thing.
However, most people, myself included, see Hollywood Studios as a park for older kids based on the rides. A few of these rides are considered “thrill” rides and the little ones are less likely to go on them.
There are some amazing rides here. Rise of the Resistance is a ride like no other. Tower of Terror will put your stomach in places it shouldn’t go and Rock n’ Roller Coaster will launch you and loop you like no ride can at Walt Disney World.
For family-friendly rides, I would give Animal Kingdom the edge. For the thrill based rides, the edge goes to Hollywood Studios. Animal Kingdom I feel has a good mix of both family-friendly and thrill type rides that are good for the whole family. Plus Animal Kingdom has a water ride which may get you soaked in the summer months.
Check out our post on 30 plus WDW Ride videos. You can watch over 30 different POV ride videos to see what you and your family can handle. It definitely helps when trying to see what you can handle.
If you are going for the shows then without a doubt you would want to go to Hollywood Studios. While they don’t have as many as they used to, there are still a few and they are fun and entertaining.
One of the best shows at Walt Disney World has to be Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Fantasmic! Is also another great show for the whole family. Younger kids love Beauty and the Beast Stage show, Disney Junior Dance Party, and Muppet Vision are favorites for them.
Now Animal Kingdom does have a few shows as well. The Festival of the Lion King is considered by many to be the best show at Walt Disney World. If you are only willing to see one show while on your Disney Vacation it should be the Festival of the Lion King.
There are a couple of other shows at Animal Kingdom but the Lion King one is the best. You can find a stage show about Nemo and an entertaining show about birds. Another amazing show can be found in front of the Tree of Life. If you see birds flying low to the ground. Chances are they are heading to the Tree.
Now, while this really isn’t a show. This might be the best place for it. The Wilderness Explorers activities throughout Animal Kingdom. It is a fun little activity that you can do throughout the day. Just look for the symbol all around the park to find the next station.
Animal Kingdom is broken down into 6 different lands. One of the most immersive and detailed lands can be found here. Pandora was like nothing we’ve seen before. Plus this is a place you have to see at night.
Pandora at night is beautiful. It’s amazing during the day but it really comes to life at night. The floating mountains and all the different plant life is something to see.
Dinoland is another favorite among parents of young kids. The Boneyard playground is simply amazing and kids can go play around there for hours. Even though there is not much shade and no AC. It is a nice place to sit and relax while your kids run amok.
Throughout Animal Kingdom you will also find many different animal exhibits. Some are on the small side while others will take you some time to get through. One of the main reasons to visit Animal Kingdom other than to ride Flight of Passage is to see the animals. There is no shortage of them either. You can find them everywhere. Just look around. Kids just love being about to see all the different animals. Plus they love pointing out all the different ones on the Tree of Life. Can you find them all?
Over at Hollywood Studios Galaxy’s Edge is amazing. The level of detail is incredible. It is on par with Pandora at Animal Kingdom.
I doubt it will ever happen but I can hope. I can’t wait for the Mandalorian and the Child to visit Batuu. I just think that would be really awesome. You could watch the show and say “I know that place. I have my picture taken in front of that.”
If you are a Star Wars fan you will love this place. Even if you are not a fan of the New movies. It has a good “old” Star Wars feel in this new Disney age.
Toy Story Land is another wonderful area in Hollywood Studios. If you ever wondered what it would feel like to be a small toy. Now is your chance. Everything here is oversized to make you feel like you are the size of a toy and it is incredible. Just make sure you look down where you walk. Even the pathways have unique details in them.
Most of the rest of the park is made to look like 1920’s Hollywood. It’s a fun little detail but to me, it really is a take it or leave it.
Hollywood Studios has around 20 different food locations to pick from. Everything from food carts, Quick Service Locations, and Table Service Locations. One of my favorite table service locations to eat at in Walt Disney World has got to be Sci-Fi Dine-In. The food is pretty good and the atmosphere is out of this world. It’s just a fun experience.
The Quick Service locations are not really anything to write home about. For something different other than your typical burger and chicken fingers you should go to Docking Bay 7 or Woody’s Lunch box. There you will find some unique food items to pick from. PizzeRizzo should be avoided at all costs. Lucky it is only open seasonally so you shouldn’t have to worry about eating there.
Just like Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom has around 20 different food locations. From an upscale restaurant to small little carts and everything in between. However, unlike Hollywood Studios the options are much better and a little more unique. Two of the best quick service locations (see our Animal Kingdom QS guide) in all of Walt Disney World can be found at Animal Kingdom.
Flame Tree BBQ and Satu’li Canteen are two of the best around. With the light and fresh food, you get in Pandora at Satu’li. To the finger-licking good BBQ at Flame Tree. It will be hard to find 2 better locations in any other Disney World theme park.
Tusker House is also considered by many to be the best in-park character buffet. I personally enjoy breakfast over lunch or dinner. Of course, that’s just me.
Another favorite sit down location at Animal Kingdom is Rainforest Cafe. It’s located right at the park entrance and a favorite of many families for the theming. While the food isn’t the greatest. It’s not bad either.
I found that it is a little easier for me to pick between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios unlike it is between Hollywood Studios and EPCOT (see that guide here). Hollywood Studios I still view as a half-day park. Animal Kingdom can easily be two days for me. But what is it to you?
Did this quick little guide help you make a decision? What makes you choose one over the other? Let us know in the comments below.
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