Monday, March 14, 2011

Animal Kingdom

In my previous entry, I discussed the first day of our family vacation to Disney World. We visited the Magic Kingdom, but it was less than magical. Day two was much better, in large part because we decided not to return to Magic Kingdom and instead to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The benefits of visiting Animal Kingdom were numerous. First, the crowds were drastically smaller than at Magic Kingdom. Second, getting to Animal Kingdom involved a much simpler transportation process. Rather than shuttling to Epcot, taking the monorail to the transportation and parking center, and then taking a ferryboat to Magic Kingdom, all of which took an exorbitant amount of time, we could just shuttle to Epcot and then hop on a bus straight to Animal Kingdom. Knowing it would be so much simpler, we opted again to use the shuttle. It worked out beautifully. After getting to Epcot, we headed over to a relatively short line for the Animal Kingdom bus, and within a few minutes, were on our way to Animal Kingdom. Whereas it took a full two-and-a-half hours to get inside the Magic Kingdom once we boarded the shuttle on Monday, we entered the gates of Animal Kingdom approximately one hour after boarding the same shuttle on Tuesday. Beautiful.

Seconds after walking into Animal Kingdom, I knew I preferred it to Magic Kingdom, transportation issues aside. The density of the crowd was less than half of what it was at Magic Kingdom. You could walk around without lewdly pressing into complete strangers. It was much shadier, with lots of plant life. And overall, it was more educational and museum-like, which I liked. Our first destination was the part of Animal Kingdom dubbed Dinoland, U.S.A. Eddie and Peter both like dinosaurs, so we assumed it would be a hit. In the end, we didn’t do much that was dinosaur related, but I think Eddie and Peter had the most fun they had had on the trip yet. We started off at a playland area that is designed to look like an excavation site. True, you can find a playland at your local McDonald’s and skip a trip to Disney World, but we didn’t mind spending some time there. It’s something kids love, so why not?

After playing in the playland for a while and then spending some time digging up bones in a sandpit, we headed to a nearby auditorium to watch the live-action, condensed, 30-minute, musical version of Finding Nemo. It was actually quite impressive, and I think the kids were quite taken in by the imagery of it all. Edison got a little nervous when some actors came running through the crowd with some giant jellyfish attached to poles, making it look as though the jellyfish were swimming around over our heads, but his fear was quickly dissipated when Melanie assured him they were fake.

After watching the show, we took toward the part of Animal Kingdom dubbed Asia. Eddie and Peter (and, admittedly, Melanie and I) enjoyed stopping and watching the “Expedition Everest” roller coaster. Melanie really wanted to go on it, but seeing as how she’d have to go on it alone, she didn’t. Admittedly, I’m glad I didn’t have to take care of all three kids by myself for however long the wait would have been, but I wish Melanie had been able to try some of the things that interested her. (Someday, honey!) We moseyed through Asia and wound up in Africa, where we had some traditional African cuisine—cheeseburgers, a turkey sandwich on focaccia, potato chips, lemonade, a chocolate shake, and a Diet Coke. We then went on the coolest ride we had yet been on (in my opinion), the Kilimanjaro Safaris. Melanie took Edison on an emergency bathroom trip right when we were almost to the front of line (not that we knew that), so I ended up standing there awkwardly with Creegan and Peter as a bajillion people pressed past me and I tried to keep my place at the very front of the line. Fortunately, Melanie and Edison didn’t take too terribly long. We then boarded a jeep and drove around in the “wild,” looking at zebras, lions, ostriches, warthogs, giraffes, alligators, rhinos, and the like. There were no barriers whatsoever between us and many of the animals. In fact, one of the rhinos was so close that Edison probably could have touched it had he put his arm out. It was cool. I regret not snapping some pictures before the ride was basically over, but it was often very bumpy and I consciously decided not to try taking out the camera. I eventually did take out the camera, but then the driver announced that the ride was over. Poop.

From Africa, we traveled via train (choo-choo style, not a monorail or anything—the train was so desolate that we got a large train car all to ourselves!) to a place called Rafiki’s Planet Watch area. They had a petting zoo we wanted to see, but it ended up being quite lame. I don’t know if they didn’t have all the animals available that they normally do, but it was very underwhelming. There were about a dozen goats huddled together, and that was about it. Those were the only animals you could actually get to, and they spent a good deal of time in an area where you couldn’t reach them, on what appeared to be a playland of their own. We didn’t stay there very long. We then went into a museum and spent some time in there. It wasn’t anything special, but it was fun for a few minutes. Edison and Peter enjoyed looking at the various bugs and snakes, and they even got to pet a lizard, which was cool. We then stopped for another cool treat (a strawberry popsicle and a frozen banana) before heading back to the train.

Once aboard the train, they announced that it was going on 6 p.m., and that as such, most of Animal Kingdom would be closed. Only a few select areas of the park would remain open until 8 p.m. We hadn’t expected this, so we weren’t sure what to do. We had planned on going to see the 8-minute, 3-D movie called It’s Tough to be a Bug!, but this didn’t technically fall into the list of areas and attractions that were staying open late. Even so, we knew we had to pass by the auditorium showing the movie in order to exit the park, so we headed that way. We figured that, if nothing else, we could return to Dinoland for a few minutes, since it was one of the areas staying open late. Well, serendipitously enough, as we were walking past the bug movie, an usher (or whatever) was standing out front and telling people that they could head right in for a show that was about to start, no waiting necessary. “Perfect!” we thought, and headed right in. There ended up being more of a wait for the movie to begin than we had been led to believe, but we were basically in front of the line. After several minutes, we filed into the theater and donned our glasses. Sadly, it went a bit downhill from there. The movie was rather loud and intense, so Peter and Eddie, neither of whom wanted to wear their glasses (at least not for long), were a bit terrified by it. Melanie hated it too, not only because it ended up being nothing more than a hectic assault on the senses (you get sprayed with water, a stench is filtered through the air when a stink bug farts onscreen, animatronic spiders drop down from the ceiling, air blows in your face when things pop out at you from the screen, the bottom of your seat wiggles when bugs are supposed to be crawling underneath you, etc.), but because she felt so powerless to help Peter. (Peter was sitting on the opposite side of Melanie than I was, so I couldn’t really get to him. Plus, Edison was in between Melanie and me.) As for myself, I would have enjoyed it were I not essentially immune to 3-D. I’ve written about this in the past (see here), but I wasn’t able to overcome it this time. I was never really able to focus on the 3-D images. They were all blurry, which makes the whole experience rather pointless. Still, I guess it’s fair to say that I enjoyed it more than anyone else in my family.

Once the movie was over, it was time to head out and bus back to Epcot so we could get on the shuttle back to our hotel. Our timing was much more perfect this time around, so we didn’t have to wait too terribly long for the bus or for the shuttle. It was nice. And the whole experience overall was quite nice. In the end, I suppose we didn’t see a lot more than we did at Magic Kingdom, but it was a much calmer experience, and we didn’t have to fight so hard to accomplish what we did. It was a much more leisurely experience all around.

We’ve still got two days left on our tickets, so we’ll be returning to Disney World sometime within the next four to eight weeks. As I said in my last entry, we will return to Magic Kingdom and hope to hit some of the things we missed, though I’m semi-reluctant about that. As for the other day left on our tickets, we currently plan to check out Epcot. I’m actually really excited about Epcot. From what I’ve seen online, I think it could easily prove to be my favorite park. Pretty much every attraction they have is something I am interested in seeing. Part of me fears that once I see Epcot, I’ll wish we had another day to visit it, that I won’t have time to see everything I want to see there in just one day. Then I’ll feel even sadder about how disappointed we were with our first day at the Magic Kingdom. But oh well. Not much I can do about that, I suppose. The next time I post, I plan on putting up some pictures, which in turn will allow me to share a few more details about the trip. Until then….


  1. This sounds so much better! I'm glad you had a GOOD experience. I still think you are very brave. And thanks for sharing. I really miss you guys!

  2. Your post certainly brings back memories, especially the 3D part. I didn't actually enjoy that either....reality isn't much fun with that stuff. And now that you're a pro, you'll have to go back more often to stay in practice. It all sounds good.