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10 ways to make the most of Disney's Animal Kingdom

Can't make it to Africa this year? Head for Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, where you can get a taste of the Dark Continent, and then some.
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This theme park where the lion is king, but the imagination reigns as undisputed queen, opened its doors in 1998. More than 1,700 animals (with more than 250 different species represented) roam freely in natural habitats. Rides like the Kilimanjaro Safaris combine a Serengeti-inspired plain with the added adventure of joining in a "chase to capture poachers."

An enormous park -- about five times bigger than the Magic Kingdom -- Animal Kingdom has five main sections in a roughly circular layout. Discovery Island with the 14-story Tree of Life icon is at its center, and going clockwise, Camp Minnie-Mickey (with Disney characters and live shows), Africa (with the Kilimanjaro Safaris as the top draw), Asia (with the Maharajah Trek and Kali River Rapids as the most popular attractions) and DinoLand U.S.A. (with the rollercoaster Dinosaur as the main ride). The entire park has a strong conservation message, as in Rafiki's Planet Watch, a research and education hub where guests learn about endangered wildlife and programs to save threatened species. Here are 10 ways to make the most of your visit:
1. The Animal Kingdom Park opens earlier than other Disney Parks, at 8 a.m.. As soon as you enter, head for the Africa section to pick up a FastPass (at certain attractions, it allows you to enter during a designated time without waiting in long lines) at Kilimanjaro Safaris. While you wait for your time to return to the attraction, enjoy a quick breakfast of fresh-baked treats and an espresso (under $10 per person) at Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery located inside Tusker House Restaurant in Harambe Village in the Africa section of the park. Or  skip breakfast and head for the Dinosaur coaster, where you'll time-travel to the Cretaceous Period and encounter a 16-ft. iguanadon and a fierce, horned carnotaurus.
2. Take in the Kilimanjaro Safaris, located near the Tusker House -- early morning is an excellent time to take in this ride, as animals are more active early in the day (and also at sunset). Midday and early afternoon they may be hiding under a tree to escape the heat.

4. Enjoy lunch at Tusker House in Harambe Village in the Africa section of the park, themed to a safari orientation center. Try the rotisserie chicken cooked in a 16-ft. "wall of flames." Other choices include roasted vegetable sandwiches  served with tabbouleh and grilled chicken salad served in a bread bowl. Prices are in the $5-$10 range. Another option is the smoked beef brisket or pulled pork with a  spicy, mustard-based sauce at the Flame Tree Barbecue in the Discovery Island section of the park. Prices of all items are under $10.

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