08 November, 2013

Disney's Animal Kingdom

The Tree of Life
This week, we will look at probably my favorite park, Animal Kingdom. A lot of people don’t rank this as high as I do, and many consider it just a ½ day park. I guess I get that, but I think they are missing a lot. Sure.. there aren’t the rides that Magic Kingdom has, but most of the attractions that it does have, I find fascinating.

It is a large park, and one ride is larger than the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT combined. And it happens to be my favorite ride at Disney, more on that in a bit…). The park is divided into ‘lands’ like Magic Kingdom. You can travel from Asia to Africa, even back in time in a day. They did a good job of recreating the feel of being in an exotic village. There are several gift shops with uniquely themed items as well as the traditional Disney stand-bys (ears, hats etc...). The park has several animal viewing areas with lots of different kinds of wild life. For those of us not from Florida, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the imported exotic animals, and the native ibis that you don’t see around Rochester.

At the center of the park is the Tree of Life, a giant artificial tree that is covered in animal carvings. It makes for a nice centerpiece of the park and a great backdrop for photos.

The 3 big draws for rides in the park include a roller coaster (Expedition Everest, which I have yet to ride, but it is on my list), a river rapid ride (Kali River, a lot of fun, and you will get wet riding it) and my favorite ride in all of Disney, Kilimanjaro Safari Ride. On this ride, you board a safari truck and go off into the wild. You will see several different types of African animals, everything from giraffes to hippos to elephants to rhinos and much more.  The designers of the ride did a great job of disguising the barriers between the territories, so it feels like it is one giant free-flowing wilderness preserve.
Most of the areas are very large, so the animals have a lot of room to roam. As a result, you may not have a great view of all animals, and sometimes, you won’t see them at all. In other cases, the ride is held up waiting for a rhino or giraffe to finish crossing the road. You can get some great shots of the animals that are not obstructed by fences or walls. You can almost reach out and touch them.

There are also several shows at the park, my favorite being the Flights of Wonder bird show. It is a good bird show that displays several birds and teaches a bit about them, with the typical Disney shtick (the guide that is afraid of birds, that is told to hide by that tree because birds hate trees). There are varying levels of audience participation.

Another show that I enjoy is a 3-D movie ‘It’s Tough to be a Bug’. It is in a theater that is actually inside the Tree of Life. It is a multi media movie with surprises with the bugs from Bugs Life. Some of the things are startling, so it might not be the best thing to take small children to.

My Niece Molly
and Simba
2 more shows that are well done, but I am not a fan of are the Festival of the Lion King, a colorful, high-energy performance based on the movie featuring costumed dancers and acrobats. People love it.. it is just not my thing, and the benches you sit on are not all that comfortable. The other is Finding Nemo. It is basically a Broadway version of the movie. Again, it is well done, but not my thing. I didn’t love the movie, and I don’t like the way they do the puppets. (And the benches are not all that comfortable either.) But it is air conditioned, so it is a nice break from the heat of the day, especially for a park that doesn’t have many indoor things to do.

There are wildlife experts throughout the park that are happy to answer any questions you have about the animals, and great photo-ops abound. We got one of the best pictures taken by one of the PhotoPass photogs.

All in all, I love this park. I am disappointed that we only got to spend part of 1 day there on our last trip. I plan on making up for that on our next trip.

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