Christmas Trip Day 4

Our last full day began with an early morning “motor coach” ride to the Animal Kingdom. The turnstiles all the way to the left were completely wide open when we arrived around 8:30 a.m. so we jumped on the opportunity and were one of the first people in the park. Of course this didn’t matter because they roped us off in front of the Tree of Life for 10 more minutes until the park actually opened at 9 o’clock but it still felt exciting.

This was the tree from our waiting spot.

This was the tree from our waiting spot.

After an agonizing amount of time the rope walkers led us to Kilimanjaro Safari where we boarded the third truck of the day. I’ve always been with people who want to go on the safari first thing in the morning so I don’t how the rides would vary as the day goes on. I’ve heard its better in the morning and evening because it’s not as hot. As far as I can tell, the animals are active and pose for pictures well in the morning so I’ll stick to that.

Like this rhino. He's chill.

Look at this rhino. He’s chill.

I wonder if they are all named Nigel.

I wonder if they are all named Nigel.

One giraffe.

One giraffe.

Two giraffe.

Two giraffe.

These guys are always hiding in that group of trees. They should really branch out.

These guys are always hiding in that group of trees. They should really branch out.

A Little Red impostor.

A Little Red impostor.

How much grass does this guy have to eat to weigh that much?

How much grass does this guy have to eat to weigh that much?

Reminds me of my (read: Ashley's) two kitties.

Reminds me of my (read: Ashley’s) two kitties.

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Sleepy kitty. I'm glad he's keeping the male reputation strong.

Sleepy kitty. I’m glad he’s upholding the male reputation.

Probably the best picture of a lioness I have ever taken.

Probably the best picture of a lioness I have ever taken.

The zebras were present this time.

The zebras were present this time.

They were moved to the end of the ride. There is still no theme to the ride.

They were moved to the end of the ride. There’s still no theme.

On both this trip and our Honeymoon we had a woman driver/guide. Now, I definitely don’t have anything against women but either 1) the guides aren’t as good as they used to be (or I remember them being) or 2) female guides aren’t as good as male guides. Both times our guide wasn’t animated nearly enough; it’s like she didn’t care about her job and would rather be at home (which I can respect). There would also be long pauses of no talking. At least turn on the Swahili jams or something. The last time I remember have a male guide he talked a bunch, was very informative and was so energetic I was afraid he was going to jump right out of the truck and hug a giraffe. Maybe he was just an exceptional tour guide and maybe the last two were bad; probably.

After getting off the Safari we neglected to head to either animal trek. I’ve seen them before and Ashley wasn’t too interested so we didn’t waste our time. Because we had been on Expedition Everest a handful of times two nights prior, we also skipped over that and headed to Dinoland. We had BIG plans to eat at Flame Tree BBQ as soon as it opened so we wanted to stay in the Dinoland/Discovery Island area until 11 a.m. It was harder than we thought.

This ride is too rough, even for two 20-somethings. Yikes!

This ride is too rough, even for two 20-somethings. Yikes!

We rode Dinosaur a couple of times and meandered around the rest of Dinoland before heading to It’s Tough to be a Bug! to enjoy the 3-D spectacular. We didn’t see it on our Honeymoon and had a while before Flame Tree opened so we figured “why not?”

Dug and Russell were meeting outside the entrance to It's Tough to be a Bug! This was my attempt at taking a picture without invading somebody else's family picture time. As you can see, the ELPH didn't handle it too well.

Dug and Russell were meeting outside the entrance to It’s Tough to be a Bug! This was my attempt at taking a picture without invading somebody else’s family picture time. As you can see, the ELPH didn’t handle it too well.

It’s Tough to be a Bug! is actually quite scary. If you have small children I would advise you NOT to see it. There are MULTIPLE times where children started crying or screaming during the show and I don’t blame them. Spiders fall from the ceiling, Hopper busts out a couple of times and just looks scary, you get thwacked with a fly swatter, you get “stung” (which actually hurts and is why I don’t sit back during the show) and there are many times where the entire room is pitch black. I was a pretty big sissy when I was a kid so I’m surprised I never had to be escorted from the show.

After the show we browsed the giant gift shop across from It’s Tough to be a Bug! and Flame Tree BBQ.

I found these bad boys. Unfortunately, they aren't scented.

I found these bad boys. Unfortunately, they aren’t scented. Well…they aren’t scented like turkey legs when you buy them, let’s put it that way. I can’t guarantee they won’t be scented after you wear them a couple of times.

Because we were on a strict budget we didn’t buy anything from Island Mercantile. Instead, we saved our money for onion rings at Flame Tree BBQ!

So much vegetation and color.

So much vegetation and color.

Yes, I'm lazy and use the "Super Vivid" setting on my camera.

Yes, I’m lazy and use the “Super Vivid” setting on my camera.

Boy do they put on the show when Flame Tree opens. Workers come out and grab somebody in line to lead it all. The guest yells, the workers yell back and bang trays on the metal counter. The guest yells again, they yell and bang. This continues for a couple of minutes until everybody has yelled and banged a tray on some solid surface. Then, they open.

I can’t speak for Ashley but, food wise, Flame Tree BBQ is easily the best quick service restaurant. Of course if you don’t like BBQ you probably won’t enjoy it but, if you do, you HAVE to eat here. Because we are creative, free-thinking humans we ordered the EXACT same thing we did last time minus one drink and (free) dessert. Ashley discovered “bark” during this meal. It’s funny because we were just talking about it the other day but she had never eaten ribs with a true “bark” on them. Turns out she likes it!

That's a half rack of ribs, baked beans and slaw in front of Ashley. A pulled pork sandwich and slaw to the left and a nice portion of delicious onion rings to the right.

That’s a half rack of ribs, baked beans and slaw in front of Ashley, a pulled pork sandwich and slaw to the left and a nice portion of delicious onion rings to the right.

Going right at opening afforded us the opportunity to sit wherever we wanted. I knew exactly where I wanted to sit…

It may be far away from the actual restaurant but the eating pavilion closest to Everest provides breathtaking views. Too bad my picture-taking skills don't convey this.

It may be far away from the actual restaurant but the eating pavilion closest to Everest provides breathtaking views. Too bad my picture-taking skills don’t convey this.

Zoomed in.

Zoomed in.

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Is there a difference between this picture and the one above? You know as much as I do.

Is there a difference between this picture and the one above? You know as much as I do.

There are somewhere between six and 10 pavilions to eat in around Flame Tree BBQ. This could be a downside if it’s a hot July day. At least they are all covered and have operational fans. As far as I could tell, every pavilion is essentially the same. The only differences are the size and view.

I think those are dragon koi fish.

I think those are dragon koi fish.

The structure in the front is the condiment station. They have two kind of BBQ sauce, ketchup, napkins, paper straws (yup), salt, pepper, etc. here. Most pavilions have one.

The structure in the front is the condiment station. They have two kinds of BBQ sauce, ketchup, cups for BBQ sauce and ketchup, napkins, paper straws (yup), salt, pepper, spoons, forks, knives, mustard (?), etc. here. Most pavilions have one.

Another great aspect of Flame Tree is the wildlife trying to steal your food. Obviously there are signs up telling you not to feed the animals and obviously nobody pays them (the signs, that is) any attention. I paid for my vacation, darn it, so I will do as I darn well please. COME AND GET IT BIRDIES.

Is that Blue Steel?

Is that Blue Steel?

He likes to play innocent, but I know...

He likes to play innocent, but I know…

After our meal we left the park. I don’t remember what happened between then and getting to the Magic Kingdom but apparently we stopped at Downtown Disney???

The only reason I know this wasn't when we went a couple days earlier was because it was dark by the time we arrived on that day. Maybe Ashley remembers how we ended up here.

The only reason I know this picture wasn’t taken when we were there a couple of days earlier was because it was dark by the time we arrived on that day. Maybe Ashley remembers how we ended up here.

After seeing this picture it started to come back.

Another child lying on the ground! Parenting win.

We wanted to do a little more shopping Downtown and figured mid-day would be less busy than at night. Well, we were wrong. I’ve NEVER seen the World of Disney as busy as it was when I took this picture. It was wall to wall people and walking around was a struggle. Obviously these people didn’t know to get out of our way. Obviously they didn’t know how much we paid for our vacation…

After saying “screw this” we made our way to the Magic Kingdom. Once again, I don’t remember how we did this. I think we stopped at POP Century to grab something from the room. Makes sense.

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Our first stop at Magic Kingdom was Main Street Bakery. The scuttlebutt on the internet was that the bakery was changing into Starbucks. We had read a lot about the place so we had to try a few things.

Which doesn't explain the picture of the holiday cupcake.

We split a cinnamon roll earlier in the week. Must have been on day 2. This is a holiday cupcake.

Being our last night in the parks we wanted to get the most out of the evening. What better way than to enjoy a Dole Whip in Adventureland? And I’m not talking about the Dole Whip Float. I mean a real Dole Whip: vanilla and pineapple ice cream (or frozen yogurt or whatever it is) swirled. No pineapple juice. No funny shaped cup.

To our dismay, the pineapple/vanilla machine was BROKEN. Yeah, I know. I waited 15 minutes behind a smelly grandma to get my Dole Whip and the machine is BROKEN!? I had to settle for either all pineapple or pineapple and orange swirled. If we had been thinking I would have got all pineapple while Ashley got all vanilla. Like I said, if  we had been thinking. Instead one of us got all pineapple and the other orange and vanilla swirled. Convenient that the orange/vanilla machine works but not the pineapple/orange machine, eh?

This was after we enjoyed our ice cream.

This was after we enjoyed our ice cream.

Since we were walking past it we went on Pirates of the Caribbean. We skipped the Jungle Cruise, Swiss Family Treehouse,  Dumbo: Aladdin-style and the Tiki Room on this trip. We went on the Jungle Cruise and the Treehouse during our Honeymoon. We haven’t gone on Aladdin or the Tiki Room in a while. Aladdin is a waste compared to Dumbo and the Tiki Room, while a gem in my eyes, does not resonate as well with Ashley. I haven’t actually seen it since they changed it back to the version from my childhood, finally nixing the New Management/Iago fiasco.

A little love for Willow.

A little love for Willow.

Since we hit all the big attractions two mornings prior we spent our evening going on the less popular rides and generally doing whatever the heck we felt like.

It doesn't look so scary when the colors are blown out.

It doesn’t look so scary when the colors are blown out.

We got to walk through the normal line this time. Take that FASTPASS+

We got to walk through the normal line this time. Take that FASTPASS+

This puppy must be close to  opening by now. Josh has up-to-the-minute updates.

This puppy must be close to opening by now. Josh has up-to-the-minute updates.

While in the Frontierland/Liberty Square area I convinced Ashley to see The Hall of Presidents (YES!). Afterward we ate dinner at Columbia Harbour House. I wasn’t too crazy about the place as our last dinner at Disney but fish did sound good and Ashley was ready for a lobster roll so we bellied up. The fish was very good while the “chips” left a lot to be desired. I have definitely had better Disney fries in my life. Ashley’s lobster roll was good but a bit runnier than the one she had on our Honeymoon. We both left full and satisfied but wanting a little more.

This should give you a good idea of what the inside looks like in case you have never been.

This should give you a good idea of what the inside looks like in case you have never been.

We continued around the park in our clockwise fashion…

And just to prove it's not only children that lay down at Disney...

And just to prove it’s not only children that lie down at Disney…

By the time we got to Tomorrowland it was starting to get dark, which meant the Christmas Party was starting soon, which meant we would be coaxed out of the park. After sampling most of the attractions Tomorrowland has to offer, we decided on the TTA as our last ride that evening. It was perfect, as ushe.

Blurry.

Blurry.

Blurry.

Blurry.

Since we had to be out by 7 p.m. we decided to tour the Monorail resorts and check out the Christmas decorations. First, we hopped on the monorail and headed for the Contemporary Resort. They don’t get crazy Christmas-y here but they do enough. The gingerbread display was one of the best.

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Close-up of the gingerbread "bricks"

Close-up of the gingerbread “bricks”

They had little white chocolate monorail cars. They were VERY pricey.

They had little white chocolate monorail cars. They were VERY pricey.

The monorail station was packed with people trying to get to the Magic Kingdom for the Christmas party. The guy standing next to us while we made our way to the Polynesian was watching the Steelers/Cowboys game on his iPhone. I was envious. Except for the fact that he was at Disney with his family, who were at the Christmas party, and he wasn’t with them…except that part.

The Polynesian also wasn’t as Christmas-y as I was expecting but it gave us a new-found appreciation for the resort. The first time we visited neither of us really like the place because it was so darn loud. Well, this visit it wasn’t raining so we walked outside a bit. WOW, what a big difference. While the main building can be loud and hectic, walking around the resort as night is very peaceful. I still doubt we will ever stay there because of the price but I don’t dislike it as much as I did in September.

Random hanging garland.

Random hanging garland.

The volcano pool.

The volcano pool. It’s much smaller than we were expecting.

They have a freaking Dole Whip machine in the food court (Capt. Cook's) here. Notice there is no spout for pineapple juice.

They have a freaking Dole Whip machine in the food court (Capt. Cook’s) here. Notice there is no spout for pineapple juice.

We were getting tired and still had the Wilderness Lodge to go so we skipped the Grand Floridian. Neither of us regret it. When we exiting the Monorail outside of the Magic Kingdom we made our way to the boat dock/launch for the Wilderness Lodge and waited. And waited. And waited a while longer until the boat finally showed up and we were off.

This was the resort I was most looking forward to seeing decked out for Christmas. I had heard rave reviews of the place at Christmas and couldn’t wait.

Not as festive in January.

Not as festive in January.

This tree is gigantic. I've never seen the Rockefeller Center tree but this thing but be just as pretty.

This tree is gigantic. I’ve never seen the Rockefeller Center tree in person but this thing must be just as pretty.

It's beautiful inside and out.

It’s beautiful inside and out.

The place definitely didn’t disappoint. If we have $300 a night to spend on a hotel the next time we visit Disney during Christmastime I would love to stay here. If you want REAL pictures of it at Christmas, check out Tom Bricker’s review of it.

Through some concoction of “motor coach” rides and stops we made our way from Wilderness Lodge to POP Century before collapsing in our room. Four days of Disney touring with no breaks was rough. The only thing left to do was a morning at EPCOT before heading home. We had no idea what was in store for us the next day.

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