I can’t speak for Ashley but this trip was an eye opener for me as far as Animal Kingdom goes. Before this trip I was in the “Animal Kingdom is a half-day park” camp. I was used to going on the Safari first thing, riding Expedition Everest a few times, riding Dinosaur, seeing Festival of the Lion King and catching the nearest “motor coach” out of there.
My family subscribes to the “Commando” style of touring Disney World: we arrive before rope-drop and focus mainly on rides and attractions – shows and eating are an afterthought. On our Honeymoon we had plenty of time to “see the sights.” Also, we knew before we went down that we were going back in May with my family so any attraction we didn’t get to this time could be hit in May. As a result, we had plenty of time to slow things down, see some shows, eat at some VERY nice places and generally enjoy our time at Disney more.
One of the main beneficiaries of this touring style was Animal Kingdom. Thanks to Josh at easywdw.com we were introduced to the idea of going to Animal Kingdom around 4 p.m. Wait a second, you may think to yourself, doesn’t Animal Kingdom usually close at 6 or 7 p.m.? Right you are. BUT, because of this, everybody leaves after the parade because they would rather go to a different park that is open until 9 or 10 p.m. (or even later if it has Extra Magic Hours) so the Animal Kingdom feels deserted for the last couple hours.
We managed to make it over to Animal Kingdom three times during our eight-day trip. This was a lot for me. Usually we went once, maybe twice, on previous trips because there aren’t a ton of rides to go on. We went to Animal Kingdom so few times in our previous trips I don’t ever remember eating there.
SIDE NOTE: This could be horribly wrong since my mom always informs me of all the things I “don’t remember” but actually happened when I was a kid as she reads these (Hey, at least somebody reads them). Take the Diamond Horseshoe for example. In a previous post I claimed it had never been open while I was at Disney. Wrong. My mom informed me that it was open a couple of times while we were there we just never went. Here’s another example: My mom only went on Tower of Terror once (as in one time, ever) so it would be very hard for me to stick close to my parentS when only one of them rode it.
This trip was an all out Animal Kingdom awakening for me (probably Ashley too). We went on most of the rides, saw a few shows, checked out all the cool theming and landscaping and actually ate in Animal Kingdom. I do have to confess though, we didn’t do either of the animal treks. Being that two of the times we went they were only open for another two hours we didn’t want to take the time to walk through the trails. Also, the one morning we went it was about 150 degrees so we decided to skip all the walking.
Of all the things to experience at Animal Kingdom, Kilimanjaro Safaris HAS to be the obvious number one choice. You simply can’t get this experience anywhere else unless you spend a week in Africa (and in turn a lot more money). There isn’t much to say about the Safari really. I’ll just post a bunch of pictures at the end of this entry.
One thing I do miss is the Little Red/Wilson story line. It was cheesy but at least it gave a storyline to the ride. Yes, it’s a safari and doesn’t really need a storyline but having one at least gave an excuse as to why our “two-week long” safari is abruptly cut short. Also, I miss Wilson, Little Red and those damn poachers you hunt down at the end. I can’t really complain though, it’s still an amazing experience with or without a story line.
Our most frequented ride at Animal Kingdom was Expedition Everest. The trip I took with Ashley and my aunt in March of 2011 was my first detailed experience with Everest (I had been on it a couple of times in 2006 but it was intermittently closed) and I loved it. I will admit that it is a little less exciting when you know what is going to happen before riding but it’s still a roller coaster and those are quite scarce around Disney so you snatch them up when you can. For some strange reason, after riding it three times in a row the backwards corkscrew would start to pick on my stomach. It’s strange because I can go to Cedar Point and ride coasters all day long with no issues but Everest kills me.
Anywho, the single rider line is a godsend. We used a Fastpass for Everest the morning we were there and rode it together a couple of times but for the most part Ashley and I rode single rider and waited for the other in the gift shop (the ride exited into a gift shop, shocking right?). It’s hard to wait and ride together when we can split up and get right on the ride. Plus, we had been married for all of three or four days by then so it was about time for us to start growing apart anyway, right?
The only other “big” ride at Animal Kingdom for us is Dinosaur. Another ride that my mother refuses to go on (this time it’s because it’s too rough) Dinosaur is dark, exciting and air-conditioned. The wait was never more than 10 minutes the three days we were at Animal Kingdom so it was a time-conscious choice as well.
Ashley and I got a good laugh out of a lady talking with her family about the roller coasters she had been on at Animal Kingdom. When asked which ones she replied “The dinosaur one.” Well, I wouldn’t quite characterize Dinosaur as a “roller coaster” but it’s definitely a thrill ride. The whole time traveling thing is pretty cool too even if all you do is go through a tunnel with a bunch of colored lights and tin foil and are suddenly back in the era of dinosaurs (that’s proprietary of course though).
The ride also offers one of the best photo opportunities of any Disney ride. They basically stop the car when the big scary dinosaur tries to eat you and everybody else is screaming and it’s dark so you can act as stupid as you want and it doesn’t matter, the picture still looks good anyway Oh, there are plenty of other times when everybody screams too. Basically, I love this ride because I can act like a total dork and nobody cares.
The last day of our trip we managed to visit three parks – Hollywood Studios from rope drop through lunch, Animal Kingdom from 4 p.m. until close at 6 p.m. then Magic Kingdom until we almost fell asleep – and our final visit to Dinosaur was marred by the “I lost my ENTIRE backpack on Dinosaur and need it because I have my meds in it so please shut the ride down, turn on all the lights and find it for me right now please” incident. Long story short, we got through the pre-show and into the loading bay before the ride was shut down so they could find a backpack. Not a fanny pack, not a should bag, a BACKPACK. Maybe I don’t understand, but the only way I could see that sucker falling out of the car is if you threw it…
Anyway, since we were sitting there with the lights on we got to see the ride cars more in depth so I took some pictures while we waited.
We spent a little time in Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama this trip. It’s a great place for kids and one of, if not the only, place at Disney where you can play carnival games. I didn’t notice it until Ashley said something about how nice it was that they don’t heckle you to play their games. Go to Cedar Point or some other amusement park and there are geeks carrying around 50 lb neon pink gorillas they just spent $30 on to win.
Prime-Evil Whirl was a one and done for us. Last time we were at Disney it was “being refurbished for our future enjoyment.” Well, we went on it and almost lost a few internal organs. I’m not sure I would say I enjoyed it. It’s fun but VERY rough.
We opted out of Triceratops Spin but it is the “Dumbo” option at Animal Kingdom. Here are a few other pictures of DinoLand and Dino-Rama.
Between DinoLand and Everest sits the Finding Nemo musical show. Since only three people probably read it, I posted a while back about Tarzan Rocks, the show that Finding Nemo replaced. After refusing to see Finding Nemo on previous trips I relented and watched it. Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed. It was nice because it was air-conditioned and the performers’ work with the puppets was incredible but Finding Nemo wasn’t a musical before, so Disney had to create a bunch of new songs (thank you to Ashley for pointing this out). Other than the “Big Blue World” song from the Seas with Nemo and Friends over in EPCOT (which was created for that ride), all of the songs were brand new to us.
I guess I don’t have a better suggestion for a new show to replace it but I would definitely rather see Tarzan Rocks after actually having seen Finding Nemo now. Since it’s not in a “Land” and essentially on its own, Disney could put anything there and it would fit. Well, it would have to be centered around animals but a lot of Disney movies fit that bill anyway.
Shows that we did not see on this trip include Festival of the Lion King and It’s Tough to be a Bug. After sitting in the front row of Festival of the Lion King last time it would be hard to top. Plus, we didn’t want to wait in a long(ish) line to see it since the show is quite popular. We didn’t see It’s Tough to be a Bug because, well, I don’t know why. We just didn’t. I did take a few pictures of the Tree of Life though!
In an effort to save the Safari pictures for the end the only other thing I have to say about Animal Kingdom is how DELICIOUS Flame Tree BBQ is. Before our trip we both did a lot of research on which restaurants we wanted to go to since we got the Dining Plan for free and it was our first trip using the Dining Plan. Obviously we had a lot of table service restaurants mapped out but Flame Tree BBQ was the only quick service restaurant I had to go to. It didn’t disappoint.
I ordered the pulled pork sandwich and Ashley got the rib platter. The pork was very tender and juicy and I didn’t notice any chunks of indiscernible meat in there. It was all good, quality pork. We did have a bit of a debacle though. I ACCIDENTALLY threw out the food on our tray because I THOUGHT Ashley was done. As you can guess, she wasn’t. I promised to take her back to Flame Tree in December so she can get the ribs again and actually have the time to finish them.
The only thing I didn’t like about Flame Tree was the seating: it was all outside. The area is very lush and full of detail but there were only so many tables that were covered and they were mostly full. We ended up sitting at a table shaded by a tree and moving our chairs as the sun moved in the sky.
All that is left is the Safari. I didn’t take a ton of pictures since it’s always bumpy and this causes my pictures to be blurry. Hey, even I have standards. Plus, it’s easier to enjoy the ride when you aren’t worried about taking pictures the whole time.
So that’s pretty much it for Animal Kingdom. Definitely not a “half day park” for us anymore. Next up will be a review/report of our hotel, Port Orleans French Quarter.
Now I’ll leave you with a picture of a bird…