Today, we are going to the Animal Kingdom, Disney's version of a zoo. We chose this park for two reasons...first, I have not been to this park. I decided not to go to Hollywood Studios on this trip because I will be going to Universal Studios later this week. Second, Animal Kingdom closes at sunset, which fits into my desire to be back at the villa in time to watch the AFC Championship Game between the Steelers and Ravens. Much to Amy's chagrin (she is from Baltimore), I am wearing my Jerome Bettis jersey to the park. Furthermore, Steeler Nation was out in force and there were many
more people sporting the Black and Gold. There were many animals at the park, but I did not see any ravens. One of the park attendants (Cowboys fan) ask me to leave because I was a Steeler fan...I commented that the park would be half empty if the threw out all the Steeler fans. Amy called her sister to express her disappointment at the Raven fans because she only saw 3 all day.
Animal Kingdom is laid out like the Magic Kingdom with a center hub and the other sections oriented in a circle around the hub. Instead of Cinderella's Castle in the center, Animal Kingdom has the Tree of Life, an amazing structure with animals carved into the trunk of this massive tree. I barely noticed the Tree when I entered because we were so focused on getting to the FastPass for Expedition Everest. While waiting for our FastPass window, we explored the Asia section. In addition to Everest, there is a white-water rafting ride called Kali River Rapids. Even though it was a nice warm day, we decided not to get wet but did enjoy laughing at the soaked people coming off the ride. Instead we walked through the Maharajah Jungle Trek; here we saw tapirs, fruit bats and tigers. Supposedly there was also a Komodo dragons, but I did not spot one. I really enjoyed the aviary, where they provided a bird watchers guide to all the specimens in the exhibit.
Expedition Everest is the only true roller coaster in either park, but even this ride has a story. You are on a train when you come across a torn piece of track (torn by the Yeti a.k.a. Abominable Snowman). Then you start rolling backwards into a cave where you do multiple circles in the dark. As you come to a stop, you see the shadows of the Yeti on the cave walls before the train blast forward and down the hill. After several more twists and drops, you have one more drop where an animatronic Yeti takes a swipe at you...it was a blast!! Fortunately because of the SwitchPass, I was able to ride it twice, once with Amy and the second time with Greg...the next time I go to an amusement park I must rent myself a baby. Greg and I was lucky enough to get the first car, so we saw that at the junction the entire track rotates 180 degrees before we rocket down the main hill.
Next, we headed to DinoLand USA. Here the group split up for a bit. Danny, Liam and Amy headed to the Boneyard, a dinosaur themed playground. Greg went to get the FastPass for DINOSAUR. I headed back to the entrance to do some pin trading/purchasing. I purchased a set of pins with Muppet characters wearing Mickey ears. These pins were new for 2009 because several people I traded with have never seen them before. Once we got back together, we walked through a little nature trail which had statues of various dinosaurs. Danny amazed me by correctly naming all the dinosaurs...pretty good for a 5 year old. DINOSAUR is a themed ride where you are on a rover which time travels back to the point when the asteroid collision killed the dinosaurs. Although we had a SwitchPass of this ride, we did not use it because Danny did not like the dark and loud special effects. Greg gave the pass away and we went to have lunch in Asia.
Lunch at the Yak and Yeti was quite good. Although I did not order it, I especially like the lettuce wrap with minced meat. Amy ordered the entree but she let me finish her portions as she went ahead of the group to get in line for Finding Nemo musical. Unfortunately, Amy phoned back that the show was full, so we headed to the It's Tough to be a Bug. Probably because everyone was searching for Nemo, there was no line for this show. The theater is housed in the roots of the Tree of Life. This was when I noticed how spectacular the Tree of Life really is. I also enjoyed the 4-D, It's Tough to be a Bug, but I do not want to spoil all the surprise special effects by describing them here. Next, I wanted to ride the Kilimanjaro Safari. Due to the impending parade, they closed the bridge to Africa. Instead of walking the whole way around, Amy decided to stay and watch the parade with Liam. Greg, Danny and I went on safari.
Since we did not have a FastPass, we had to wait in the normal line, but it was not long (maybe 30 minutes). Greg mentioned that the last time he rode this he was disappointed because he did not see many animals. Probably because it was close to the end of the afternoon, the animals were more active and we saw a lot including giraffes, gazelles, crocodiles, hippos and an elephant. The driver of the rovers was not allowed to stop, so it made it difficult to get good pictures; however at one point we did stop because one of the rovers ahead had transmission problems and needed towing. Danny entertained the people in our rover by telling jokes and I studied the petroglyph on near-by rocks...nice touch. Fortunately, we were not stranded near the lions. Actually, a cleverly concealed moat separated the lions and cheetahs from the viewing public. The only thing we did not see were the rhinos. Not a bad way to end the day...although I have been told that it is best to go on safari in the morning because this is when they feed the animals.
Ironically at the villa, they were showing the movie, Finding Nemo, at the main pool. Danny watched the movie, while Greg and Amy packed for their ride back home. I bid my farewell to Greg and the family and returned to the football game. Here we go...Steelers...here we go.