Sunday, June 12, 2016

Animal Kingdom

Warning:  this post is really long!

Touring Plans Predicted Crowd Levels: 7 out of 10
Touring Plans Actual Crowd Levels:  10 out of 10

7:48 am--  At the bus stop at Animal Kingdom Lodge to catch the bus to Animal Kingdom.  They had these monitors with estimated bus arrival times.  The times changed frequently, so I don't know how helpful it was, but it was nice to have some sort of an idea of when the bus would arrive!  

7:52 am-- On the bus to Animal Kingdom!

8:00 am--  Arrived at Animal Kingdom.

We got there super early, and it is probably not necessary to get there quite this early.  But our girls are early risers, so we were already up anyway.  The park was scheduled to open at 9:00, but I though they would let us in at 8:45.  The bag check lines and ticket lines were pretty short as we walked in this early.

We ended up being first in line at our ticket gate. 
 At 8:25, all of these people were behind us.
They let us go through the gate at 8:30.  We led the way through the Oasis and then had to stop again at the rope right at the front of the park.  They held us there until 9:00.  I really thought we would get in at 8:45, so it was a little frustrating to wait.  We were at the head of the crowd going left to the safari ride, and then there was another crowd going right to ride Expedition Everest first thing.

Before the crowds got too crazy, Daniel held our place in line while Audrey and I took some pictures in front of the Tree of Life, the main focal point in this park.  (Isla decided she was taking a break from pictures on this day).
 The rope "dropped" at 9:00, and they let us go.  It was insane!  People were running and racing past us.  People were yelling at their kids to run faster, and everyone was so intent on getting to that safari ride first thing.  I would have taken picture or video, but I was just trying not to get trampled!

We walked briskly but calmly to the safari.  I would guess at least 100 people passed us. But when we got to the ride, we only waited 3 minutes before we were on the ride.  There was no reason to race to the ride.  Everyone just needs to calm down at rope drop!

The safari is fun, as it takes you on a truck ride through a savanna and along the way you see all kinds of animals:  giraffes, elephants, cheetahs, warthogs, antelope, flamingos, zebra and so many more!  It is an open wildlife area, and they let the animals roam freely.  So sometimes the ride gets stopped if an animal decides to stand in the middle of the road.  And you just have to wait for it to move.  You see different animals each time, making each ride a unique experience.  Here are a few animals that we saw on the morning safari.

9:40-- We walked off the safari and over to the Festival of the Lion King to catch the 10:00 show.  This show is like a circus with characters and music from The Lion King.  It's a lot of fun!  It's a 30 minute show, but Isla was sad when it was over because I told her it was going to be a long show.  I guess 30 minutes wasn't long enough for her!

10:45 am-- Time for a snack!  We stopped by the Kusafiri bakery and got a cinnamon roll.  It was shaped like Mickey, and it was delicious.  I meant to take a picture of it, but we ate it too fast!  Here is Audrey finishing her last bite.  And even though it looks like she is grimacing, she did like it!
The girls wanted to meet some characters, so we pulled out the Charactor Locator app again to see who we could find with a short line.  We walked past Tarzan, and no one was in line!  Audrey was scared to meet him, but I made her go with me because it is so rare to see a character without a line.  We had to go!  Tarzan first checked my hair for bugs before posing for a few pictures with us.

We walked past Pocahontas next but her line was SO long.  I'm guessing the wait would have been at least an hour.  So we skipped her for the time being and went on to ride Triceratop Spin in Dino Land.  This ride is basically the same as Dumbo or Magic Carpet Ride except it has dinosaurs instead of elephants or magic carpets.  Our girls seem to love these types of rides.
We stopped by the Boneyard next, a playland for kids.  This was closed the last time we were at Animal Kingdom in 2011, so we had never been there before.  Our girls loved it.  With all the waiting in lines and riding rides at Disney, I think kids miss out on having free play time.  Our girls loved being able to run around freely and go wherever they wanted to go in this place!
 Audrey and Daniel climbing to the top!
Isla and I were hiding from Daniel and Audrey in this secret dinosaur cave.
There is a dinosaur bridge in the Boneyard, and when we walked across it, we discover a dinosaur dig area.  It looks like it is filled with sandlike small rocks, but the guy working there said it is some kind of special mineral specially formulated just for Disney.  It was a nice cool place to sit down and play for a while, and the girls liked it a lot!

12:15 pm-- Daniel got in line to order lunch at the popular Flame Tree BBQ while the girls and I tried to find a seat in the big outdoor seating area near the restaurant.  It took about 15 minutes for Daniel to order and get our food, and then he had to try to juggle it all and find us in our seat.  A bit stressful!  But he made it with all our food.  I had a chicken salad, and Daniel had a BBQ pork sandwich.  It was pretty good.

 After lunch, we were all tired and ready for a break.  Before we left the park, we caught this fun bird show, where they release a bunch of birds right over the heads of everyone.  Daniel caught it on video!

Then we headed back to the resort to rest, before we came back to check out the new nighttime hours at Animal Kingdom.

5:15 pm-- After a few hours of resting and a little bit of swimming, we were back for round two!

We started with dinner at Pizzafari, a quick service restaurant in Animal Kingdom.  I had heard good reviews about this place, but it wasn't too impressive.  Then it was time for Daniel's Fastpass for Expedition Everest.  The girls and I weren't ready for that one, so we went to meet Pocahontas instead.

I thought the line for Pocahontas was closed, as the sign said she stopped greeting at 6:00 and it was now 6:05.  But the cast member at the entrance said we could go ahead and come in!  We were the last people to see Pocahontas that day, and ended up waiting for about 15 minutes.  Much better than the crazy long lines we saw earlier in the day!  We had never met Pocahontas before, and I think it is fun to meet new characters.

6:30 pm--  Isla really wanted to meet Minnie.  Minnie and Mickey have a meeting spot at Animal Kingdom, but their lines had been pretty long all day.  The evening seemed to be less popular for meeting characters, so we gave Minnie and Mickey a try.  Wait time was posted at 15 minutes, and we waited about 20 minutes before it was our turn.  You can't tell from these pictures, but Isla was so excited about this one.  When we finished taking pictures, she excitedly said, "Mom, Minnie was touching me while we were taking pictures!!"
7:00 pm--  We walked back towards Africa to use our Fastpass to do the safari again.  On the way, I was telling Daniel that Animal Kingdom had just added some evening entertainment, and one of the acts was supposed to be acrobats in Africa who performed occasionally throughout the night.  What are the chances that as soon as I say that, we see this walking down the street right next to us!
So of course, we had to stop and watch, and we had a front row seat!  It was entertaining, and the girls were mesmerized the whole time.

7:20 pm-- We got in line to use our Fastpass for the Safari.  They just started doing evening and night time safaris.  I kind of wanted to try the safari in the dark, but I also read that you can't see many animals in the dark.  Plus, we were going to the Jungle Book show later in the night.  So we did the safari just before sunset.  We still saw quite a few animals, and I enjoyed going on this one a second time.  They were having some issues with animals being in the path of trucks (Disney will not physically move animals, so you have to wait for them to pass on their own), so the line was moving slowly.  We waited about 20 minutes with our Fastpass before it was our turn to ride.

Isla loved the safari both times!

An animal stopped in front of the road a couple of trucks ahead of us, so we all had to stop for a few minutes until the animal decided to move.  While we were stopped, a giraffe walked right up to the truck in front of us:

I was kind of jealous that the truck in front of us was getting such a good close up view of the giraffe.  And then the giraffe turned and started galloping straight toward our truck.  I have never seen a giraffe run like that before.  It was crazy!  I wasn't expecting it, and just barely caught it on camera.  I wish I would have gotten a video of it!
After the giraffe excitement, our truck started moving again and we saw more animals including a baby giraffe, a baby elephant, flamingos, cheetahs and lions!

The lions were up walking around, which is unusual as they are usually just sitting on the rocks.  So that was kind of cool.

8:10 pm--  We finished the safari and started to walk over to the Jungle Book show.  Along the way we stopped for ice cream and Audrey had to stop and cool off in the misting fans.  That girl is so dramatic about being hot, and she took every opportunity to cool down!

8:25 pm--  We use our Fastpass and got a seat for the Jungle Book show, which started at 9:00.  This show is a temporary show that is taking the place of the planned Rivers of Light show.  The Rivers of Light show is supposed to be amazing.  The Jungle Book show?  Not so much.  I had read lots of bad reviews, but I wanted to see it for myself.  It was fine, but especially after seeing Fantasmic and the show/fireworks at Magic Kingdom, this one really seemed lame.  It is singers and dancers with music from the new Jungle Book movie with some lights and water screens.  The water screens, which are so cool at Fantasmic, just didn't seem to be working right.  Often, I couldn't figure out what was supposed to be on the screen.
A few more pictures from the show.  Overall, I wouldn't say it is a complete waste of time, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see this show.  There is much better night time entertainment at all the other parks!

9:30 pm-- The show was over and we made our way out of the park.  On our way out, we saw the Tree of Life being lit up with one of the random light shows that take place each night.  We watched for just a couple of minutes, and it probably would have been cool, but we were all exhausted and ready to get to bed!
It was a busy day, but we really enjoyed our time at Animal Kingdom!

Next up:  Hollywood Studios


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