My family and I just got back from a Saturday, September 16th visit to Disney's Animal Kingdom and I wanted to offer my honest opinion of our visit. For a little background, we stayed at Universal's Cabana Bay for two nights and spent the day at Universal's Volcano Bay the day before. For Animal Kingdom, we were in it for the long haul, as we stayed from park open to park close (9am-9pm). The crowd levels were light, excluding Pandora, with the longest wait for "Expedition Everest" at 30 minutes. My usual itinerary for Animal Kingdom with someone new, my mother-in-law in this case, is to start at "It's Tough to be a Bug" with its up close introduction to the Tree of Life through its queue, and then work counter clockwise from Dinoland USA to Asia, Africa and then the new land of Pandora. Enjoying attractions with air conditioning early and often, like "It's Tough to be a Bug", "Dinosaur" and "Finding Nemo the Musical", is top of mind as Animal Kingdom is one of the hottest parks in the Orlando area. A couple of quick notes from our morning:
"It's Tough to be a Bug" is still a great 3D show in the perfect setting inside of the Tree of Life.
"Dinosaur" is a great ride when all the effects are functioning and in sync.
"Finding Nemo the Musical" is a fantastic 45 minute show with wonderful musical numbers and at the 11am showtime, fantastic A/C!
"Expedition Everest" is still an enjoyable coaster even without all the effects, like steam from the train, mountain mist and of course a fully functioning yeti. We rode "Expedition Everest" twice, once during the day and once as a reride at night. It's better a night as the backward section has zero light intrusion inside the mountain and it seemed to move faster especially at the brake runs as Disney was running with one less train on the line at our 8pm ride time.
At 12pm, we had a fantastic and very filling table service lunch at Yak & Yeti. Without reservations, it was a 30 minute wait for a party of 8. Nice! The menu had just enough variety for everyone in our party and all the food and drink we ordered was delicious. Yak & Yeti is a Landry's restaurant, like Rainforest Cafe and T-Rex Cafe, but the food was better and not as heavy as Rainforest or T-Rex, and the portions were still very large.
After lunch, we decided to give into anticipation and skipped Africa for the time being in favor of Pandora. A couple of notes from Pandora:
"Flight of Passage" is very well done. This attraction will become a must do in all our future visits to DAK, along with "Expedition Everest". And the floating Mountains - WOW! Now, with that being said, the design of Pandora has some glaring problems and one of Pandora's biggest problems, as well as Animal Kingdom's for that matter, is that for an area that is supposed to be teaming with life it is in fact rather lifeless. Walking into Pandora and a few other parts of Animal Kingdom is like walking into a beautiful landscape painting. Yes, the landscape is beautiful, but it's static. There seemed to be very little energy in Pandora. Where are the animals, where are the Na'vi, where is the energy? We spent almost four hours in Pandora, waited in line for "Na'vi River Journey" for 90 minutes and waited in line for "Flight of Passage" for another 90 minutes, and we encountered one Na'vi and one Avatar. For four hours, that was our interaction with the inhabitants of Pandora. To put it another way, it was like going to a four hour long stage show with beautiful set designs but only 10 minutes of actual show. Where was the show? Unfortunately, much of Pandora's show is background noises of animals hidden from view and moments of grandeur from "Flights of Passage", a fleeting five minute attraction. Other parts of Animal Kingdom are very similar to Pandora - beautiful landscapes and set designs but very little show. Animal Kingdom has a steam train as an attraction, but it's hidden from view, same as DAK's raft ride "Kali River Rapids". These are attractions that add show and energy to the lands that they're in and should be front and center, not tucked away in the back corners of Asia. In comparasion, Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure, Disney's best and most comprehensive immersive environment the Imagineers have ever created, has beautiful landscapes and set designs with TONS of show and kenetic energy moving about. Also, compared to Cars Land's, Pandora at night was a little underwhelming.
After Pandora, we finished the day in Africa followed by a couple of rerides on "Expedition Everest", "Dinosaur" and "Flight of Passage". "Kilimanjaro Safari" at our 5:30pm ride time was active with many animals roaming about, though I miss the story line of racing poachers to save Little Red, the baby elephant. The Safari attraction just seems a bit off simply driving through the savana and pointing out the animals and some of their characteristics.
In the end, the highlights of our Animal Kingdom visit were our night ride on "Expedition Everest", lunch at Yak & Yeti and our two rides on "Flight of Passage". "Tree of Life Awakenings" and "Finding Nemo the Musical" also stood out as nice memories. We skipped "Rivers of Light" in favor of some rerides. After a long and hot visit to Animal Kingdom, we felt like we needed a big ending to the day and even though I heard "Rivers of Light" is a pleasant enough show, it's not necessarily a showstopper. Of other notes, all of DAK's attractions were open and we saw very little damage of notice from Hurricane Irma.
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