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10 May 2013

Animal Kingdom 2013

Animal Kingdom is Disney's version of an animal park, it's split up into Africa, Dinoland, Asia and camp Minnie-Mickey with Discovery Island at it's centre. This park closes early due to animal welfare, so we set of very early for this one as we wanted to do this park a one day and didn't plan to make a return visit.
We had decided the night before which main thing we wanted to do, choosing the Kilimanjaro Safaris so headed straight there to book a fast pass ticket, leaving us time to wander some of the area.
Maisie and Lucas were a little tired out this day, Maisie has her sulk face on but we soon fixed that with hot chocolate and churros to start the day, we went to Tuskers but they were serving character breakfast which was way too pricey for us, and be honest my kids weren't overly bothered about going on of their way to meet them. We bought lunch at a snack bar close by and ate in the covered Africa village area.
Africa is the largest part of the park, the African theme here is quite realistic in a shabby way, without the Disney gloss. Broken down buildings and dancing cast members make the atmosphere here, the kids loves this live music and Lucas had a bit of dance.
A problem with Animal Kingdom is it has lots of great shows but their times overlap and although a small park in terms of things to do it covers a wide area. So by the time you choose what to do it could be full by the time you get there.
TIP: Make sure you get a day schedule at guest services when you enter the park. It will give you times for the day so you plan ahead or use a park planning app like Touring Guides.

We headed to camp Minnie-Mickey, an area set out like a Summer camp with lots of small sectioned off trails leading to a character meeting, the queues for this seemed huge and very concentrated. Which made getting to The Festival of the Lion King even harder, we made it just in time.
The show is set in a round theatre and even though we were in some of the last rows seated our view was still great, the cast were energetic and brilliant at getting the crowd to interact. we were in the Giraffe section and had to make Giraffe noise(apparently they barr like a sheep). 
The show includes all the Lion King songs, dancing, acrobatics and wire work. My kids were amazed through out an I'm really glad I made this show.
TIP: If you want really good seats head to this show 20-30 minutes before it starts, and if you want your children to have a good chance of being picked out to be part of it, seat them by an aisle so they can easily be walked down and get them shouting and waving when they ask for volunteers.
Time for the Kilimanjaro Safaris, this is classed as the parks premier animal attraction but I think it goes too fast to be classed as a 5star attraction. You enter onto a realistic looking jeep(it's actually on tracks) and set out into the wilderness, they've done a great job making the natural looking animal areas. The driver/guide describes the animals you see(although ours sounded too scripted) and gives a run down of the areas you're going through. What animals you see I think is pretty much pot luck, depending on weather and what they fancy doing. Disney can't quite stage manage everything.
As you can see here we were lucky with some of our animal spots, the kids loved the very bumpy ride but it does make it harder to get good pictures. There's a part of the ride where you cross a bridge that falls apart under the jeep, I think some children may find this scary(mine loved it) and as I said the ride is very bumpy.
We loved this ride but it was over way too quick. You can pay extra to do Wild Africa Trek, which takes you behind the scenes across rope bridges and gives a closer view of the animals.
Leaving the Safari you can easily head into the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, most people head straight from the safari to the trail so expect it to be busy.
TIP: If you want this trail without the crowds,then go when the park first opens before lots of people exit the safari. Get your safari fastpass and use the wait time to trek the trail. You'll get a great view of the animal enclosures without having to fight your way through.
Our children loved the trail, spotting the different animals which ranged from wonderful bird spotting to waving at the Gorillas. It was a relaxing space giving the kids a chance to run around and explore.
We also toured the Maharajah Jungle Trek this is very similar to the Panagani Forest Trail starting with Komodo Dragons, then you go past Tapirs, fruit bats, antelopes and Benegal Tigers. I preferred this trail to the Pangani one mostly due to the elaborate temple ruins. The scenery along the trail was especially well done in my opinion and made it more of an adventure for Maisie and Lucas who loved pointing out strange finds such as these wonderful flags in the Asia area covered in different animal stamps.
TIP: The Maharajah Jungle Trek does not get as crowded as other areas of the park as it's not attached to a ride exit, this is a great place to wander and relax in the midday sun when other areas can be packed.
After the trail we went on the Wildlife Express train to Rafiki's Planet Watch, the train was a fun way to rest tired feet in the shade and it takes you to a conservation centre. To be completely honest I found this section pretty boring, there was a vet centre but nothing was happening while we were there, there was a petting zoo where you can stroke goats an sheep but none of this area really meshed well with the rest of the park. I'd also like to say the train goes round the back of the safari area where you can see the animals are housed in large buildings at night, for me this took the shine off the safari trying to show the.animals in their natural habitat just for them to be housed at night. In my opinion unless this is really an area that calls to you when reading the guidebooks I'd give it a miss and go see a show instead.
Asia also holds Kali River Rapid-a whitewater raft ride(deemed too wet by some family members) and Expedition Everest-Abominable Snowman rollercoaster(Lucas was too small to ride) both these are Fastpast rides and as they're both very popular you'd probably need it. Also in this area is Flights of Wonder   a stadium show featuring various species of birds, we would have loved to see this but the show times clashed with other shows.
You can't go to Animal Kingdom without a picture in front of the Tree of Life, it's placed in the center of the park, based on Discovery Island it towers above the park. The area is surrounded by gardens and seating areas and makes a lovely area to catch your breath.
The tree is covered with carvings of animals and Maisie & Lucas had a great time trying to spot them, as soon as you see one you go a little further round and it morphs into a different animal. Here's Lucas trying to become part of the tree.
Underneath the tree within it's center is housed It's Tough to be a Bug! a 3D film mixed with sensual effects. It seemed to never have more than a 10 minute wait the whole day which is strange as Maisie voted it the best thing to do in the park. The film is quite loud, and intense sometimes and some effects are creepy. I wasn't prepared for huge red glowing eyed spiders to bounce from the ceilings; and even through I knew you flt things move  in the seats it still made us jump. As it was a dark jumpy show the type Lucas wouldn't like he gave it a miss and went with Dad to check out the animal displays in The Oasis, Maisie loved this show so much she took her Dad back to see it again.
Next we headed to Dinoland USA, this is the most themey part of Animal Kingdom. Full of replica Dino bones including the largest T-Rex discovered. We would have liked to see Finding Nemo-The Musical which is sited here but missed entry by minutes, like the Lion King show you really need to get here early for good seats. There are a few roller coaster rides here one of them being Primeval Whirl small coaster where you can spin the car, the ride didn't look like it lasted very long and as fastpass waiting was still 50 minutes for it we gave it a miss.
We spent sometime playing in the Boneyard, a children's play area with rope swings, nets and slides. My children loved this simple play area, which links to a area where you can dig for your own fossil in a massive sandpit with bones buried at the bottom.
TIP: Play areas are great and all children love them but a lot of Disney ones have hidden exits, it can be very easy to lose your children in these places. Discuss where to meet up again should this happen, it could be made into a game of "race you to the Dino leg". 
Dinoland USA also holds Dinosaur a motion simulator ride, but as we were running out of time,the queue was huge and loads of kids came out crying we choose to do something a little more sedate and headed for Tricera Top Spin. Sometimes the simplest rides are the best.
By this time we were done in and ready for an end of the day ice cream, while waiting for the Daddies to bring back the goodies we prepared for the Mickey's jamming Jungle parade. Beware Cast members are ruthless when organising parades and will berate you for crossing a line they've set when the parade is no where to be seen.
TIP: Check out parade times and routes they can really hamper where you can get to, when a parade is on route Cast members will not let you cross essentially trapping you in the area of the park you're in.
The parade was energetic and bouncing, with characters high fiving the children as they danced past. The floats included Loin King, Song of the South, Jungle Book and Bugs Life, and songs from these films.
Since we've been back I found out they no longer do the Jammin Jungle parade as they are changing some of the shows etc.. we really enjoyed it so I hope they do something  similar.
Remember when ever taking children for great days out, that it's meant to be fun. Sometimes that just standing on a rock, counting animals in a tree or getting an ice cream in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head.
Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. How awesome!!
    Although I haven't been lucky enough to travel to the US yet, this will be my first stop when I do!

    Combining Disney with Animals - it would be my favorite place on earth!

    Lovely photos and such a cute family.
    Best wishes,


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