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A Giant Zoo Disney Style
Disney's Animal Kingdom Park
Member Name: chocaholic110
Disney's Animal Kingdom Park
Date: 15/01/09, updated on 15/01/09 (175 review reads)
Advantages: Animal close ups, Great rides and shows, Giant Mice (in a nice way)
Disadvantages: A danger of heatstroke!
Animal Kingdom is the newest of Disney's four major theme parks in Florida. Opened in 1998, it offers a mix of animals and conservation messages, plus several rides adding up to a fantastic Disney experience. The park, like most Disney parks is comprised of a central "tunnel" entrance, in this case called the Oasis, followed by several lands coming off a central hub.
This is the area where you arrive when you first get to the park. It is a tree covered area where you can see lots of different species of animals. Most people (and I would include my family in this statement) tend to rush through in order to reach the more popular rides quickly, but if you care to stop and look you could see deer, parrots, iguanas and more.
This area is the hub of the park from which there are paths to all other lands. Discovery Island is home to the Tree Of Life which is the symbol of the park, a huge carved tree covered in carvings of hundreds of different animals. We had great fun trying to spot as many animals as we could; some are only visible close up, others only visible from a distance. I defy anyone to be able to find them all!
Inside the Tree of Life is the 3D cinematic show IT'S TOUGH TO BE A BUG! based on the film "A Bug's Life". This is a great show and a truly interactive experience. I don't want to give too much away as it's best you don't know what's going to happen!! Apparently the bugs are too much for several children but ours were aged six and eleven when they travelled and they weren't scared in the slightest.
As the name suggests, this is a land devoted to dinosaurs and it includes THE BONEYARD, a huge adventure playground themed around dinosaur fossils. Be careful to keep a close eye on your children in here - it's easy to lose sight of them, especially when it's crowded. The major ride in this area is DINOSAUR. During this ride you are suposedly on a tour of a Dinosaur Institute; however, one of the scientists asks you to help with his plan to go back in time to help capture a dinosaur. A frenzied ride ensues, including danger, dinosaurs and doom. It's quite fun and great for children who love dinosaurs - but our six year old was terrified! There is a height restriction on this ride anyway (3ft 4) so smaller children cannot ride.
The final area of Dinland USA is a small amusement park called CHESTER AND HESTER's DINO-RAMA. Apparently, this was built to look deliberately tacky and includes a ride called TRICERATOP SPIN - essentially the Dumbo ride with dinosaurs and the PRIMEVAL WHIRL, a small rollercoaster with spinning carriages. The kids loved this one and early in the morning were able to ride it several times in a row without getting off. It may not be suitable for people who have motion sickness though and again there is a height restriction (4ft)
Dinoland USA is also home to a new(ish) show FINDING NEMO - THE MUSICAL, which apparently combines puppets, musuc and dancing, although I can't say how good it is as it wasn't open when we last visited.
One of the two lands named after a continent and styled to look like a genuine African town. The major ride here is KILIMANJARO SAFARIS, which begins like a genuine safari ride on a jeep with a tour guide. As the animals are all apparently free to wander about (though cleverly contained by hidden ditches and fencing) each ride is different and you never know what you might see. We were transfixed by a giraffe that came so close to the jeep we could almost have touched it. Supposedly, cooler times of the day are the best to see plenty of animals. As with all Disney rides though there is a twist and a plot line... but I'm not going to spoil it for you by telling you what it is.
Africa also contains the PANGANI FOREST EXPLORATION TRAIL, a self-guided walk where you can see many more animals, including gorillas and hippos.
From Africa, you can catch a train to RAFIKI'S PLANET WATCH, a small area that I think is missed by many people. It was virtually deserted when we were there. It comprises of a small petting zoo where you can touch a range of farm animals, an area called HABITAT, HABITAT where you can learn about tamarins and a CONSERVATION STATION where you can see actual animals from the park being cared for by the park vets. On the day we were there they were carrying out an operation on a duck and my husband had to be practically dragged away, he was so enthralled!
The second land named after a continent. This land contains the show FLIGHTS OF WONDER, a showcase of extremely talented / well trained birds. It's a nice rest to take the weight off your feet but be warned that during summer it's very hot!
The KALI RIVER RAPIDS is more or less what the name suggests, a raft ride through rivers and waterfalls. You will get wet and at least one person (It was me!) will get absolutely drenched. It's quite nice to cool off in the summer and you soon dry out but I would imagine it's nowhere near as pleasant in the winter months! Another ride with a height restruction (3ft 6)
Asia also has a walk through exploration trail called MAHARAJAH JUNGLE TREK. Again, this is self-guided so you can go as slow or fast as you want and the many animals include antelopes, bats and gibbons.
The newest ride in Animal Kingdom is Expedition Everest, a rollercoaster ride with an encounter with the Yeti. This ride was still in the process of being built when we last went to Florida and I can't wait to go back and try it out! (Height restriction 3ft 8)
**CAMP MICKEY MINNIE**
The final land in Animal Kingdom, this area doesn't have any rides but it does have one of the best shows in Disney, FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING, complete with singing, dancing, puppets, huge characters, audience participation and all the songs from the hit film. Oh, and what noise DOES a giraffe make?
If you have autograph hunting children, you might want to make a beeline for the CHARACTER GREETING TRAILS where you are guaranteed to meet Mickey, Minnie, Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore, plus a selection from Disney's animal based films. These change regularly but we met Chip and Dale there, plus Kenai and Koda, the bears from Brother Bear and Donald Duck in his safari outfit.
**WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO?**
As I've already mentioned, a lot of children enjoy meeting characters and collecting autographs. This was very well managed in Florida, with children queuing for their turn. Look out for a picture of Mickey's hand on the park map to indicate a Meet and Greet. The major one is at Camp Mickey Minnie but we also came across Lilo and Stitch and King Louie and Baloo in other areas of the park. There are also several to be found at Rafiki's Planet watch, including Rafiki himself. Some characters just wander randomly as well. Watch out for them! We saw Pocahontas looking at snakes at the Conservation Station and Jane from Tarzan hanging around the park entrance. Some of the most memorable photos we have are of our daughter with characters and aged 10 she is still just as keen to collect autographs.
The park also has a daily parade, the Jammin' Jungle Parade. I can't comment on this tough as both times we visited it was cancelled due to the thunderstorm that appears to occur daily in Florida in August. Disney parades are usually pretty good though if you like that kind of thing... and if you don't the rides are quieter at these times anyway.
If shopping is your thing there are several shops there to choose from, mostly filled with disney merchandise, but with a safari twist.
**FOOD & DRINK**
There are several places to eat here from the cheap and cheerful burgers at RESTAURANTASAURUS to the more expensive RAINFOREST CAFE. It is possible to take in your own food though I believe it's not encouraged. There are plenty water fountains. Take a refillable bottle or two - you'll need them.
**HINTS AND TIPS & OTHER INFO**
This is a park where it pays to be here early. Not only does it make it easier to get on the major rides, the animals are more active when it is cooler.
The park closes earlier than the other parks so that animals can go to bed. Even so, it is usually possible tobe able to do everything in just one day. We did go twice during our trip, but because we wanted to not because we needed to.
Use your FASTPASS entitlements. Everyone can use their tickets on the major rides to get a Fastpass. By putting your ticket in a machine by the ride it gives you a ticket with a time slot on it. Keep the ticket safe, go and do something else and come back when it's your time and you'll be able to ride with a substantially reduced waiting time.
Animal Kingdom doesn't have a lot of shade so be careful with sunscreen. One of the best tips we were given was to take a hand towel, soak it in water and wear it round your neck. You may look a bit odd but it keeps you deliciously cool!
Do the more popular rides first before the park fills up. Walking trails and meeting characters can wait until later in the day.
Overall, this was one of my favourite parks in Florida. It had a nice mix of entertainment and education and it was great to see so many animals. It felt like a quite relaxed day and it was a great introduction to Florida for us. I would thoroughly recommend visiting to anyone, young or old!
Summary: The park for the whole family
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