I love the Magic Kingdom, love it to the depths of my soul. When we were planning this trip, I considered eliminating Animal Kingdom from our itinerary for a variety of reasons; Connor was really into Star Wars, we suspected Caroline would be really into characters. To me, it has always been the hottest park and the one with the most bottlenecks making it feel extra crowded. I kept hearing it referred to as a "half day park." I only had four park days, why would I spend one of them at a half day park, right? Wrong.
I love Animal Kingdom, love it to the depths of my soul. If we had longer to spend on property, I would have gone BACK to Animal Kingdom for a second day, that's how much we all loved it. Yes, the animals are fabulous, but they were somehow more fabulous this time. The safari was by far the best one I have EVER taken. The kids loved the atmosphere, they explored more here than any other park (because it is designed for that!), we lost one for a brief moment of time, but I will get to that scary bit later. Caroline's second favorite attraction is here and she would ride that almost as much, if not more, than her beloved Big Thunder. Steve found his turkey leg. Connor had a churro. We all ate popcorn. It was almost relaxing.
Any day that starts with an impromptu character meet and greet is going to be a good day. We have had great luck meeting characters out front at this park. Last time we stumbled onto Timon just as he stepped out and this year, Rafiki. Funny story here is that we saw him coming from backstage while we were milling about and Caroline was dancing up a storm. We dropped everything and raced over, with one of his handlers waving us on, and jumped right over to him just as others caught sight. The first handler let Caroline meet him, but the second handler gave handler one a tongue lashing because we had not cued up properly. (you can see her using her hands to illustrate her point in the video below.) To be fair, we saw him and followed him over to where he was meeting. We were told to go on up, and really, no one had lined up yet in the designated spot anyway. As Mighty Men of Mouse would say, "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat." You have never seen a mother react so quickly to get her kid with autograph book in hand to a character. BAM!
(as with all poorly shot videos I post here, you must also endure my endless commentary. I think it is endearing, you can think whatever you want)
Caroline was leading the way now, chanting "yeti, yeti, yeti," and I was beginning to think this was not the best idea as the ride came into view and the screams became audible. I took this shot just outside to prove to DCF that she DID in fact want to ride, should they come knocking.
some video snippets
The kids LOVED the Safari and we wasted no time heading right over to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail after we disembarked. I embarrassed my husband by shouting to the driver that this was "the best Safari EVER!" I do things like that.
Families, DITCH THE STROLLERS for these trails. They are windy, narrow, crowded and your stroller is enormous. We didn't get to do the trails last time we visited Animal Kingdom, probably because the kids were so much younger and would be stroller bound. The trails are designed for meandering exploration and our son was not yet two, not yet ready to really dive into this experience. We made the HUGE mistake of rolling the stroller right on it, which mostly meant Steve had to deal with the bottlenecks and finagling it through tighter spots all while, you guessed it, Connor rode on Mommy's head.
The absolute highlight of this trail is obviously the gorillas. We easily could have spent another half hour just watching the silverback. He was impressive, strong, and just amazing to watch... from a safe distance. This is exhibit A for why I came to love Animal Kingdom. You could really just explore and not feel like you NEEDED to go from one thing to the next and keep up with an itinerary.
We realized we were all hungry as we exited the trail and stopped at Tamu Tamu in Harambe. This was probably my favorite lunch. Steve was reluctant at first, skeptical of my choice, but he really enjoyed his lunch and I still suspect he had a few bites of mine while I took one of the kids to the restroom. The kids each grabbed a Power Pack Lunch here which I cannot say enough about. I love the flexibility it offers, with kid friendly options that aren't the same ol' same ol'. They each ate some and stowed the rest for later. It was nice to have some options for snacks as we waited for the parade and they both announced they were hungry. The dining area here offered some cover above and we were able to listen to the live music happening in the streets of Harambe just beyond our lunch spot. RELAXING.
We neglected (I forgot) to stop on the way in and collect a Wilderness Explorer book at Discovery Island for the kids. Caroline would have loved to have earned some badges while we walked through Pangani, but we didn't have the book. PARENT FAIL and boy, did she remind us about fifty times that she didn't have the book. So back towards the entrance we went to collect our book and say the Wilderness Explorer Pledge. It wasn't too far out of our way as we were already in Harambe and on our way towards Dinoland for Finding Nemo.
I want this guy's job!
Our eager Explorer was off to find some badges, but instead spotted Doug and Russell.
We were headed to Findng Nemo and making good time, when what did we see? A meet and greet with Pooh and Tigger (down a trail across from Flame Tree Barbecue. Tigger is my favorite and a quick glance at the watch told us we had just enough time, maybe? We headed down the path and the Cast Member told us that Tigger would be right back, but Pooh was still meeting friends down below. This was my Magic Moment. Just as we reached the corner to head to the cue, Tigger came down the path behind us. I gasped and covered my mouth and told him, "You are MY favorite." He took my hand and off we went. I love Tigger. Love.
We booked it to Nemo, our second Fast Pass of the day, and got seats second section, center, first row to get an up close view of the performers who run in and out during the show. We love Nemo, so our kids really enjoyed this. Connor loved Squirt and Caroline loved Dory. Steve loved the air conditioning. It was the perfect time of day to take a break. Tonight at bedtime my son looked at me and imitated Dory's "do you, do you, do you?" which had me in absolute stitches. This kid.
Then it was off to Dinoland, USA. We had one more Fast Pass left and it was for Primeval Whirl. This was a 48 inches and up only ride, so we did a Rider Switch with our son. While my husband rode with Caroline, Connor and I walked around Chester & Hester's. We briefly, very briefly, considered taking a twirl for him on Triceratop Spin, but the line was SO long that even Connor was blasé about it. It was warming up and there seemed to be nowhere to hide from the sun over here. So we went on a Turkey Leg expedition. I thought I remembered Steve getting a leg last time over here, but couldn't remember where. We took some cute photos because Connor couldn't believe the dinosaur's foot was bigger than him.
By the time Steve and Caroline were done with their turn on Primeval Whirl, we were still legless. I switched with Steve, suggested they grab a churro we had seen for my churro loving boy to pass the time for our turn and continue their hunt for the turkey leg.
Caroline was super excited to ride this a second time, more so because we had a Fast Pass. This is about the time I realized my daughter was feeling pretty entitled with her Magic Band. She breezed by the Standy By line with a huge smile. I am not sure why, but I wasn't expecting her to be this excited about this attraction. She hadn't been tall enough last time.
Caroline absolutely LOVED this ride. She loved it so much she asked me to video the entire thing. So I did, with hilarious results. I love this so much because we are all giggles and joy. You can see Connor on Steve's shoulders (shocking!) with his churro at the beginning. This is what Disney World is all about. I will always remember riding this with her because it was just fun. She felt like the pro who told me when the hills were coming, when to watch out, when to put my arms up at the end to get out. These few short minutes made a lifelong memory for us.
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