Saturday, December 1, 2018
Disney's Animal Kingdom
For our final installment of our Disney World experience we’ve saved the best for last. This is, of course, my opinion, but it seems to be the same opinion that everyone in our group shared. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a lot of familiar elements of rides and shows, but where it differs is not just the animals inside this park, but the atmosphere itself.
Mickey’s presence in the park felt more muted than in others. In this park, the wild is the centerpiece. As soon as you walk through the gates of the park your path takes you through a variety of green trees and plants that that tower over your heads, helping you to forget that you are in a them park and instead in a secluded jungle. Although, the twenty thousand other guests that are there with you do will dull this illusion some.
Before long, you find yourself staring at the Tree of Life. This tree’s massive trunk is made up of different animals that are “formed” into the trunk. This alone is impressive to see and is fun for the entire family to count how many animals they can find. At night, the tree comes to life like only a Disney attraction can, with elaborate lighting and motion pictures. The animals that are camouflaged by day move about the limbs of the tree in vibrant colors that is well worth waiting for, even if your feet hurt and you’re ready to get back to the room. Parent’s and children alike will be blown away with this one.
Have you ever wanted to go on an African safari to see some of the world’s largest and exotic animals? Well this experience might be the closest to the real thing as you can get here in the United States. We jumped aboard an oversized truck and headed into the wilds of Africa where we go to see animals such as, lions, tigers, giraffe, elephant and crocodile. Here there are no fences between you and the animals and to be honest, there really isn’t anything obvious keeping the animals away from each other either. This is just another example of Disney “magic” that we aren’t meant to know but I think that it is the most impressive of their feats here at Animal Kingdom. That may sound lame but, these are the types of things I notice. I like to know how things work.
There are plenty of photo opportunities while on the safari from both sides of the truck, but I would suggest trying to get an end seat. That is, of course, you like a lot of heads in your photos. Regardless, this is an amazing experience for the entire family. It will also have one of the longest waits so plan your day accordingly.
Another attraction that will have a long line but is a don’t miss is Expedition Everest in the Asia part of the park. This high-speed terror was the best ride for me during the entire trip. Prayer flags, like those found on the real Everest, are strung throughout the area as you approach the ride. I would advise you to take advantage of the Fast Pass for this ride because the line will be long, however, it isn’t the worst thing to get stuck in a long line. There are plenty of artifacts and other visuals to pass the time. A highlight for me was the impression of a supposed Yeti found in the Himalayas by Josh Gates back in 2007. No matter what your personal beliefs on the Yeti are, it is fun to suspend reality and enjoy the story that you ultimately are taking part of on this ride.
The ride itself is fast, rough and will take you up to the top of Everest where you come to a stop at a dead end. The track here is twisted, crumpled and broken and for some reason covered in hair elastics. I still don’t understand that one. In the next instant you are pulled backwards back through the mountain for a short time until it’s time to meet the Yeti himself which is when you get to take the drop back down the mountain. It truly is a fun experience and it would be a shame if you skipped this ride.
The latest thing to grace Walt Disney World is a new land based on the hit film, Avatar. Now, full disclosure, I’m not a fan. I couldn’t get past the trailers for the movie, so I am not really qualified to comment much about the attractions here. In fact, there is only two rides here and the line for the premiere ride, Flight of Passage, was so long that after 45 minutes in line we left with another 45 minutes to go. The kids stayed the course with the grandparents, but it just wasn’t worth it for Misty and me. I heard it was cool though.
I did let them talk me into riding on the Na’vi River Journey and I was less than impressed. Now, I don’t want you to think it was a terrible experience, far from it. I liked the detail that went in to making you feel like you were walking through an alien world full of strange, glowing rock formations and odd plant life. This was spot on. I’m just not a fan of the film, therefore I didn’t enjoy it like I would have had I been a fan. Everyone I talked to enjoyed their experiences here and like anything else, I would advise you to try it for yourself and form your own opinion. If you’re going to spend the money to go to Disney World, you should try everything you have time for.
We spent two days exploring Animal Kingdom and as I stated earlier, our family liked this park the best. The atmosphere in this park, along with the animals kept here, offer up a different experience than the typical theme park. I felt like I was seeing something that I hadn’t seen before which made the experience more enjoyable than I had anticipated. It is up to the individual to decide what they like best about their Disney experience, but I feel safe in saying that Animal Kingdom would rate high on most visitor’s scales.
I like to keep these articles short, but I wanted to mention that there is a lot of other things to see in Animal Kingdom as well as the other parks. Unfortunately, I can’t make them sound interesting enough for you to read such a long article, so I would encourage you to do some research if you are planning a trip to Disney World and learn about all of the things that I couldn’t mention during this series. There is something for everyone in each of these parks and I think if you travel knowing what you want to see and do, your experience will be all the better for it. And with that, we leave Disney behind us and we’ll move on to our adventures from South Dakota. I can’t wait.