24 Jul
2015
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Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom

View of the East Africa port at Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World

I didn’t think the humidity could get much worse than we had endured until the morning we walked into Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The sky was void of color, replaced with gray haze. I stepped off the bus and my glasses instantly fogged while dew collected on every service, including us. I feared the humidity would lead to a rough day in Animal Kingdom, but the kids were impervious to the weather once we were immersed in the park.

Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World

Our main mission in Animal Kingdom was to conquer Expedition Everest — Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, which is a roller coaster ride through the Himalayas in an attempt to escape from the Yeti. We had already reserved a mid-morning Expedition Everest FastPass for all of us, so we first toured DinoLand U.S.A. when the park gates opened.

Primeval Whirl ride at Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World

For Walt Disney World, DinoLand U.S.A. was deserted. Most people entering the park went straight to Expedition Everest. We had ample time for photos and no waiting at rides. Disney rarely disappoints me, but the Primeval Whirl coaster in Animal Kingdom seems forgotten. The paint is faded and there are areas of rust. Our kids enjoyed the jerky roller coaster action even while I was sure I would throw my back out. At least we didn’t wait in line to ride the Whirl.

Yeti warning sign outside Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World

Expedition Everest didn’t disappoint. The queue line has detailed displays that almost had us wishing the line was slower. I knew going into the ride that there would be a dark part, but I wasn’t aware that we would be traveling backward in the dark. Our oldest enjoyed it enough to ride four additional times using the single rider line. Looking back, he doesn’t advise quite that many consecutive trips down the mountain.

Jeep trekking through the Kilimanjaro Safaris in Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World

Kilimanjaro Safaris takes a little over 20 minutes to wind through the “savanna” looking at animals, and is best done with a FastPass. The wait can be really long, upwards of 90 minutes, without a FastPass reservation. Visitors ride in a modified Jeep with a tour guide adding humor and animal facts to the tour.

Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World

The Tree of Life is the anchor in the middle of Animal Kingdom. Over 300 animals are carved into the tree, ranging from a beetle to a lion. The tree made for a fun “I Spy” game as we walked around the base. Inside the tree is It’s Tough to Be a Bug, a 4-D show with a few sensory surprises.

Closeup look of carvings in the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World

Festival of the Lion King is a 30-minute show done in-the-round, and it is magnificent. There’s the music Disney lovers would expect along with puppetry, dance, fire and high-flying gymnastics. The grandeur of the experience makes it a don’t-miss attraction for Animal Kingdom.

Simba in the Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World

This sounds silly, given the name of the park, but I didn’t expect to see so many animals in various parts of the park, including in the area surrounding the Tree of Life. Park employees were very knowledgeable about the specific animals they were assigned in the park. Animal Kingdom keeps shorter hours than the other three Walt Disney World parks. I assume the hours are based around the animals. I would think they need to give the animals a break from the constant noise and chaos of the crowds.

Family posing with King Louie and Baloo at Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom has more experiences for visitors in the form of shows, trails and exploring instead of thrilling rides. The park was a welcome break from the overwhelming choices in Magic Kingdom and the character madness we experienced at Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekend.

 

Follow our 6,025-mile adventure.
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