Florida Theme Park Vacation Day 6--Disney's Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World: My wife and I enjoy a day at the park that has seen the most change since our last visit two years ago.

From Russell Meyer
Posted November 14, 2007 at 9:48 PM
Thursday, we had planned on spending most of our day at Disney's Animal Kingdom. We arrived just before the opening ceremony, and immediately made a critical error in judgment. We had not been to Animal Kingdom since Expedition Everest had been open, and figured it would be the most popular attraction in the park. So we headed directly to the coaster, getting a FastPass and standing in the standby line. What we didn’t know was that there was a single rider line available for Everest, and the fact that Kilimanjaro Safaris was just as popular as it had been prior to Everest opening. We took a few rides on Everest to start our day. This coaster is definitely better than the two mountain coasters at Magic Kingdom, but it is still not going to crack any of my top ten coaster lists. Prior to coming down to Florida, we had heard that Disney had been having trouble with the Yeti animatronic figure inside the mountain, and as expected, the figure was not working properly during any of the rides we took on this day. Apparently the animatronic figure does get really close and is very lifelike when working, but when broken, it merely stares at you as strobe lights go off and the train whizzes by. When the Yeti is not functioning correctly, he is no more ominous than the Abominable Snowman at the Matterhorn in Disneyland. The coaster design is very cool, with a very comfortable restraint system, but as with Big Thunder Mountain, the length of the train creates dramatically different experiences from front to back. The backwards section of the ride is very good from the front of the train, and the main drop is best from the back of the train. The attention to detail in the queue, and the temple on the main lift hill is simply incredible. Guests could easily spend hours looking at all of the artifacts, pictures and exhibits throughout this ride, which is great because most guests waiting in the standby line can expect 40+ minute waits. For those who don't mind being separated, the single rider line is definitely the way to go, and is located between the FastPass entrance and the gift shop.

We then moved on to the other new attraction since our last visit, Finding Nemo the Musical. This extravagant stage show, developed by the creators of Avenue Q uses puppetry and an original musical score to retell the Finding Nemo story. The performances are all Broadway caliber, and the overall production value is way above what you would expect in your typical theme park show. While small children may wish to sit near the stage to interact with the characters near the end of the show, the best views can be had from the middle section behind the main aisle, as a number of characters perform in the center of the theater. We were very impressed with this production, and even though I really enjoyed Tarzan Rocks, the show that previously inhabited this theater, Finding Nemo the Musical is significantly better and more entertaining for the entire family.

We then moved on to DinoLand USA, where we then obtained a FastPass for Primeval Whirl, and then rode Dinosaur in the standby line. After a short 5-minute wait, we were off to the Cretaceous in search of our Iguanadon. I still really like this ride, but they have added some additional lighting on the Carnotaurus where the ride photo is taken, so he's not as startling as he used to be. Since Alien Encounter at Magic Kingdom has been invaded by Stitch, Dinosaur stands alone as the scariest ride in Walt Disney World. We then had lunch at the Flame Tree Barbecue, splitting a half chicken entree, and a side of onion rings. We went back to Primeval Whirl to redeem our FastPass. This ride could really use a new paint job, and I still don't know how Disney is not embarrassed by the presentation of a standard wild mouse as an E-ticket attraction.

We then made our way over to the Kilimanjaro Safaris, only to discover that all of the FastPasses had been distributed for the day. This is where our error in judgment came into play. We really should have gotten a FastPass for the safari first thing after entering the park, and then ridden Everest in the standby and single rider lines. Unfortunately, we had not anticipated the continuing popularity of this ride. We decided to wait to see if the 40-minute standby line would decrease later in the day, so we decided instead to do the two walking animal exhibits, the Pangani Forest and Maharajah Jungle Trek.

The Pangani Forest Trek centers around an elaborate gorilla exhibit, while the Maharajah Jungle Trek focuses on an extensive tiger enclosure. A shutterbug such as myself has no trouble finding subjects along either of these walking tours, but it seems that in Disney's desire to maintain an authentic habitat, can make it difficult to see the animals. An unobstructed view of the animals may be hard to come by, but most guests can appreciate the authenticity of the exhibits. After our walking tours, and a few additional rides on Everest, we decided to bite the bullet and wait in the standby line for Kilimanjaro Safari, which was now a 50-minute line. The script for this ride has changed slightly since our last visit, and sees a decrease in the Big Red/Little Red storyline. Instead, our guide focused almost exclusively on the animals visible along our ride.

After our safari, it was getting close to the time when we needed to get back to Epcot for our previously reserved regional feast, so our day in this park was cut a bit short. We chose not to revisit the Festival of the Lion King, It's Tough to Be a Bug, and Kali River Rapids, because we had experienced the attractions on our last trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The addition of Expedition Everest and Finding Nemo the Musical has truly made Animal Kingdom a full day park, and the additional hours that Disney has been adding to the park should allow guests ample time to experience all the attractions.

From Brian Emery
Posted November 15, 2007 at 9:25 AM
Thanks for posting. I enjoyed reading all of the adventure.

But how did you eat all that food?

From Colleen M.
Posted November 15, 2007 at 2:47 PM
Great review. Makes me jealous! :)

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Top 10 Attendance

  1. Magic Kingdom
  2. Disneyland
  3. Tokyo Disneyland
  4. Universal Studios Japan
  5. Tokyo DisneySea
  6. Disney's Animal Kingdom
  7. Epcot
  8. Shanghai Disneyland
  9. Disney's Hollywood Studios
  10. Universal Studios Florida