Wednesday 13 July 2011

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Disney's Animal Kingdom

Today is the last Disney park, the Animal Kingdom.  I'd left this for last as I assumed that a park filled with animals would be a great fit for my girls.  Who knew that everybody else in Orlando had the same thought?  OK it probably wasn't that bad.  Animal Kingdom averages half the attendance that the Magic Kingdom does, but Animal Kingdom is not designed to handle crowds at all.  I should have gotten the hint when two of their lands were named Asia and Africa, the two most populated continents in the world. 

There's only one major ride in the Animal Kingdom, and that's Expedition Everest.  We went straight over there in the morning to get fastpasses for riding later in the day.  I found a line with only one person in it and got behind her.  After a minute or so, she was still there, so being the helpful (and impatient) soul that I am, I glanced over her shoulder to see if I could help her out/hurry her up.  Oh she knew what she was doing alright, but she had almost 300 park passes in her hand and was running them through as fast as she could.  I knew there were a lot of tour groups in the park today but I just assumed Disney made some kind of arrangement for them to get their fastpasses another way.  Guess not.  I'll leap forward to later in the day here and tell you that, as a roller coaster, Expedition Everest is disappointing.  It's a fun ride that's worth doing if you're in the park, but if you're choosing a park to go to for a good thrill ride, I'd head to Hollywood Studios (or better yet, Universal Studios).
The other main attraction in Animal Kingdom is the safari.  They load you into trucks, each carrying about 40 people, and off you go into the wilds of Africa.   The safari covers about 500 acres and has tons of free roaming animals.  On our trip we saw three of the big five (Lion, Elephant, and Black Rhino) and plenty of other animals.  Despite there being a steady stream of trucks through their habitat, the animals seem to have accepted the vehicles as just a part of their life, and will happily hold things up if they choose to stop where the truck wants to go.  My girls (and I) had a great time, and I do believe them when they say that every journey will be different.  One warning though, you may want to use the pouches for storing loose things as it does get a little bumpy out there, and I think part of the fun of being a driver on these safaris is seeing how much airtime you can get over some of the bumps.

There were other things to do in the park (Dinosaur was fun, kind of a mini Indiana Jones ride) but outside of the animals the main things I'm going to remember about Animal Kingdom is that it's crowded and it's hot.  I "suppose" you can blame me for the heat (What fool takes his family to Florida in July?) but it was the same temperature today as each of the other parks we visited, and despite there being trees everywhere, it was just boiling.  Even on the three minute train ride to Rafiki's Planet Watch, the conductor must have mentioned at least five times that we were heading to a "large air-conditioned building".  The crowd level though, has to be attributed to Disney.  Naming your lands Asia and Africa doesn't mean you have to pack people in for realism.

I did learn something new today, now that it's too late for it to help me at all.  Once you pay for parking at a Disney park, you have in and out privileges for the day.  Also, your parking ticket is valid at all of the parks, not just the one you paid at.  This makes the park hopper ticket a much better deal, and the ability to leave Africa and Asia to go back to good old North America for food a real budget saver.