Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened its gates 24 years ago on April 22, 1998. In that time, guests have been able to experience a wilder side of Walt Disney World with everything from animals across the globe to award-winning conservation efforts, exotic lands and cuisine, as well as Broadway-caliber shows and adventures and experiences you won’t find at any other Disney Park.  As Walt Disney World celebrates its 50th anniversary, we can’t help but reminisce on Animal Kingdom’s rise in the Disney realm as well as its own upcoming anniversary this April. To commemorate the milestone, let’s take a look back at some of the park’s most important dates.  

  1. Plans for “Wild Animal Kingdom” were announced on June 20, 1995. 
  2. Animal Kingdom officially opens on Earth Day April 22, 1998.
  3. Less than one year after opening, Animal Kingdom continues its thrills with the Grand Opening of Asia, which includes Kali River Rapids and Maharajah Jungle Trek on March 1, 1999.  In July 1999 Tarzan Rocks! debuted.
  4. The park gets prehistoric with the reproduction of Dino-Sue, the rare 65-million-year-old tyrannosaurus rex, on display in DinoLand U.S.A. in May 2000.
  5. In October 2000, Rafiki’s Planet Watch premiered.
  6. Mickey Mouse came to the park in Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade in October 2001. 
  7. The first phase of Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama opened with TriceraTop Spin attraction and midway games in November 2001.
  8. On April 18, 2002, Primeval Whirl opened at Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama.
  9. The prehistoric fun continues with Lucky the Dinosaur, the first Audio-Animatronics figure capable of walking and moving independently, appeared in May 2005.                              
  10. Almost three years to the day of its announcement, Expedition Everest opened on April 7, 2006                      
  11. “Finding Nemo – the Musical” opened in January 2007.                  
  12. The Inaugural “Party for the Planet” event took place on Earth Day on April 22, 2007.                      
  13. On January 16, 2011, Wild Africa Trek opened.
  14. Kids are introduced to an extra adventure when the Wilderness Explorers Program debuted on June 1, 2013. 
  15. On June 1, 2014, Festival of the Lion King debuted in its new home, the brand new Harambe Theatre.
  16. The Harambe Market opened in May 2015.                               
  17. On May 27, 2016, Tiffins restaurant and Nomad Lounge opened well as some nighttime experiences including Harambe Wildlife Parti, Discovery Island Carnivale, Tree of Life Awakenings and a nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris.
  18. The Jungle Book – Alive with Magic live show debuted on May 28, 2016.  
  19. The highly anticipated Rivers of Light show debuted on February 17, 2017.                
  20. Just three months later, Pandora – the World of Avatar opened on May 27, 2017.                         
  21. On April 22, 2018, Animal Kingdom celebrated its 20th anniversary with Party for the Planet Earth Day Celebration, premiere of UP! A Great Bird Adventure and the debut of the Pandora Utility Suit.
  22. On October 1, 2021, Beacons of Magic illuminates the Tree of Life to celebrate Walt Disney World’s 50 anniversary. Also, Golden ‘Disney Fab 50 Character Collection’ Sculptures launched with Disney Animals like Timon, Pumba, and Simba appearing around Animal Kingdom. Disney Kite Tails, a brand-new show also premiered at Discovery River Amphitheater featuring kites of Disney characters from The Lion King and The Jungle Book.
  23. At Disney's Animal Kingdom, The Animation Experience at Conservation Station opened within Rafiki's Planet Watch on July 11, 2019, and its drawing classes feature popular Disney animals.
  24. Opening Soon in April 2022: Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond! - a new stage show is set to premiere!