I know what you’re thinking. We had been at Walt Disney World for a week, and we still hadn’t visited Animal Kingdom. How had we left it out?
Well, the honest truth is that I’ve never thought Animal Kingdom was worth a full day. There’s enough there to keep you busy for HALF a day, maybe, if you’re really stretching it, but it’s not going to take much longer than that.
As you’ve already read, the running theme of this vacation was/has been/is this – I was wrong. Whether it was Extra Magic Hours, Cosmic Ray’s, or all of the RunDisney events, my so-called “expert” status was called into question at several points. I’m still learning! And about the time I figure it out, I predict that Disney will mix it up even more, and I’ll have to learn it all over again.
It’s a neverending process, this Disney fanaticism is.
That said, our morning at Animal Kingdom almost didn’t start at all. My feet, four days post-marathon, were still just killing me. I don’t know what my feet would feel like after a run like that normally, but Disney park hopping had left no room for recovery. I told Wes that they should probably just go on without me and that I would meet up with them later after putting my feet up for the morning. They headed for the bus, and I headed for the room… only to discover that the girls’ autograph books were in my purse. I ran back to get them to the girls, who were already boarding the bus, and before I could get back off, the bus was rolling towards Animal Kingdom.
Well, there you go. Or, I should say, there we went!
I vowed to sit at every opportunity, even as we were trekking our way up through the park, heading towards Expedition Everest. Jim and Sandi went to ride it first while Wes and I sat with the girls. I watched the ride from the sidelines, which was enough to motivate me, once Jim and Sandi were back and it was our turn to go, to tell Wes to take Emma in my place. What? My feet hurt. Totally valid reason for sending my four year old on to be braver than me. Unfortunately, Emma didn’t quite meet the height requirement, so I had to go anyway. And wouldn’t you know it? Wes was right – it was much tamer than other roller coasters I’ve been on. I guess he can be right once in a while, huh?
Once we got off, Jim and Wes rode it again since there was no wait in the stand-by line. Then, we were off to Kilimanjaro Safaris, where we had the privilege of sitting in the back two rows of the truck. We’ve never sat back there, so we had no idea how bumpy and rough the ride was. We literally had to hold the girls down as we moved, lest they fly out of the car and right out there with the wild animals.
After the ride, the family headed towards the Pangani forest trails, and I told them I’d meet them at the exit, since all the gorillas and monkeys in the world were not enough motivation for me to keep walking. The exit just happened to be near an ice cream cart, which meant that I could eat another Mickey bar while I sat and waited. Win, win!
Then, it was time for lunch, which I found so hard to believe. We hadn’t even done half the things on our list! Could Animal Kingdom ACTUALLY be a full day park?! My opinions – they were a changin’!
Right after some deliciousness at Pizzafari (where Ana met a woman named Ana – her mind was blown by the “other Ana”), we headed over to the Lion King show, where Em was delighted to be sitting in the elephant section. Of course. The show had us exit out onto the character trails, which I unsuccessfully tried to lead the girls away from, forgetting that Emma still had to meet Mickey. You know, since she hadn’t already met him on three different occasions. We managed to meet Thumper, Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Brer Bear, Brer Fox, and Chip and Dale in no time at all. Wes thought he was being super clever with Chip and Dale when he asked them, “Hey, where’s Monterrey Jack?” They didn’t even acknowledge his question, and their handler, after a moment or two of contemplation, said, “Oh, WOW! That show is OLD!” Welcome to your thirties, Wes. (Bonus points to you if you understand any of this, Rescue Ranger.)
In this section of Animal Kingdom, there’s a guy who walks around with a guitar and makes up songs about the guests. Coach asked him to do one for the girls, and soon, he was belting out a song about Ana and Emma from “Pasadeeeeeena, Texas!” Ana and Emma seemed perplexed by this, probably because at this point, they still thought they were from “Duncaaaaaaaan, Oklahoma!” One week in Texas does not a Texan make, y’all. We’ll get there, though!
From there, we made our way over to the Maharajah Jungle Trek, one of my favorite parts of the whole park. It’s seriously like the Jungle Book come to life on that trail, with the added bonus of hidden Mickeys. (I’ve included one of my favorites at the top of this post.) We never miss the “Tiger Trail,” as Ana calls it.
Up next was the Finding Nemo show, which is one of my favorites. We were probably only an hour from the park’s closing when the show ended, so we quickly made our way over to Dinorama, where Em rode Triceratop Spin with Coach and Nana and then with Papi. Nana and Coach road Dinosaur while the four Faulks browsed the souvenir shops, and then, we all headed out of the park. A FULL DAY park, as it turns out! Who knew?
We kicked around the possibility of dinner at Downtown Disney or going to another park for a late night, but we ended up back at Pop Century, where we ALL kicked up our very tired feet after a yummy dinner.
Only one more Disney day…