Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Florida - Update #3 - Animal Kingdom



  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Pangani Forest Exploration Trail
  • Expedition Everest (while M napped)
  • DinoLand USA
  • Character Greetings (Chip and Dale, Donald Duck)
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Lunch at Rainforest Cafe
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Finding Nemo the Musical

Our Day - Details

We had another early morning. Not quite as early as Magic Kingdom day, but we were at the park right around when the gates opened. We expected a lot more walking and fewer rides, so we opted for the umbrella stroller. M never rides in a stroller, so we weren't sure what to expect, but the novelty of this new object was enough to catch her attention. The stroller became a ride all of its own.

Our first priority was Kilimanjaro Safaris. It seemed to be the priority for everyone else too, but we followed the crowd anyway and were pleasantly surprised to have only a 10 minute wait. The safari was great- there are tons of animals in a variety of habitats. We sat in the front row of the vehicle, and the driver was very informative and answered all of our questions. M was still out of it from our long day at Magic Kingdom, but she poked her head out to see most of the animals.

M was carrying her Mickey stuffed animal with her, and at one point I joked that these were Mickey's pets. The driver was quick to correct me- she said they never refer to them as pets, and that most of the animals have little to no human interaction at all. The safari actually goes through Harambe Wildlife Reserve, which maintains its license by rehabilitating hundreds of animals each year and participating in animal research. We skipped Rafiki's Planet Watch because we weren't sure M was old enough to really understand most of it on this trip, but you can find more information on their programs here.

After we finished our safari, we headed out for the self-guided Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. We walked through an exotic bird area and watched the birds and fish (they had bird guides to help you identify different types of birds in the enclosure). Next we walked to the gorilla area and compared the size of our hands to 6-year-old gorilla hand prints. There was also a hippo viewing area, but we weren't able see anything.


M was already tired at this point (did you read about our day at Magic Kingdom??), so my husband and I were going to grab FastPasses for Expedition Everest while she napped. It was only about 11 at this point, but the FastPass tickets were for 12:30-1:30, and our lunch reservation was at 1:15, so we decided to go back later.

We had planned to take M to DinoLand USA next, but we were not very impressed with this part of the park. I guess I was expecting something more realistic, but this was definitely cartoon dinosaurs. The large dinosaur skeleton at the entrance was about as good as it got. It looked like a cheesy fair - TriceraTop Spin is basically the Dumbo ride with dinosaurs, and we were not interested in the "Fossil Fun Games" carnival-style games.

We had a little time before the next Lion King show, so we stopped at the Greeting Trails in Camp Minnie-Mickey to meet some friends. We were disappointed to find that they had moved Mickey and Minnie to another area, but we were able to see Chip and Dale and Donald (Baloo from Jungle Book was on break, and we skipped Pocahontas because M didn't recognize her). Goofy and Pluto were somewhere in Dinoland, and Minnie and Mickey had moved to Adventurers Outpost near the Tree of Life (Tigger and Pooh were near that area as well). If we hadn't seen so many characters at Magic Kingdom, we probably would have found them all, but M was satisfied with everyone she had met.

At this point it was starting to rain (again), so we ran to Festival of the Lion King and got inside just in time. I have to say, this show was the highlight of our trip to Animal Kingdom - amazing! The pictures do not do it justice at all. It was like a kid-friendly cirque du soleil show with singing, dancing, acrobatics, and fantastic costumes. The audience is divided into four sections (lions, elephants, giraffes and warthogs), and huge animal floats come out in each corner of the stage.

After the show we went to the Rainforest Cafe for lunch. We had made reservations on our way in to make sure we wouldn't have to wait long to be seated (and good thing - it seemed like everyone in the park stopped there for lunch!). The restaurant is actually located right outside the park gates, so you need to make sure you have your tickets to get back in after eating. Even with reservations, we still had a decent wait for a table, and an even longer wait for our food. M was really hungry at this point, and not interested in sitting at the table and waiting. Thankfully, the restaurant is fully decorated with rainforest plants and animals, as well as several huge fish tanks, so I wrapped her on my back and we explored the restaurant while we waited for our food. My only complaint (other than the long wait) was how loud the restaurant was. My ears were ringing by the time we finally left (although it didn't bother us enough to make us skip the Chocolate Volcano for desert - yum!!).

We didn't make it over to the Tree of Life, but we saw it from a distance as we walked around the park. It was neat to try to see all of the different animals carved into the sides of the tree.

The last thing I wanted to see was the Finding Nemo show. The shows were on the hour from 11am-6pm (with breaks at 2 and 4). We finished lunch right at 3:00, so the next show wasn't until 5pm. We decided to wait it out, so my husband and I took the opportunity to go back to Expedition Everest, while my parents headed to the Maharajah Jungle Trek with M to waste some time.

The regular line for Expedition Everest had a 70 minute wait, so we decided to split up and use the singles line. We waited less than 30 minutes - and the ride was great! I would highly recommend this to any roller coaster lovers! (You may want to grab your FastPass early in the morning, or ride the singles line like we did to avoid the really long lines.)

We met my parents for the self-guided tour of bats, birds, Komodo dragons, and tigers along the Maharajah Jungle Trek. There were many of these trails in different parts of the park, and they were all very similar to a zoo experience. Unless you plan to spend the whole day winding through the trails, I would suggest picking your favorite animals to see and skipping the rest.

Around 4:40 we got in line for Finding Nemo - The Musical. We were early enough to get seats on the bottom level in the "bubble zone" so the bubbles would reach us at the end of the show. They let us in almost 20 minutes before the show started, so I would suggest having a game or toy or something to play with during the wait. We played "Where's Nemo?" and tried to find the little Nemo that was swimming through the bubbles on the sides of the stage.

M drank a little too much water, and had to go to the bathroom right as the show was starting. Unfortunately there is no bathroom in the theater, so I actually had to leave and go to a restroom outside. They did let us back in, but I had to wait with an attendant so we wouldn't get run over by any of the actors who walked through the aisles. Not ideal, but it certainly could have been worse.

The show was cute - they used large, colorful puppets, and reenacted all of the major parts of the movie. It was very well done. The scene with the sea turtles was my favorite!
(They didn't allow flash photography during the show, so I don't have very good pictures.)

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