We arrived at the airport dark and early in the morning (it wasn’t even bright yet) to find an enormous crowd, only a couple of baggage check-in workers, and computers that were not working properly. I started to panic because according to my calculations we were not going to make our flight.
Curb side check in saved the day. No one really knew about it, including us at first, but there was no line and their computers were working, so we checked our bags, got our boarding passes, got through security quickly, and made it to the gate just as the plane started to board. Once we were in the air everything was A-okay. I sat back, ate my graham cracker snack, and tried to figure out what all of the interesting cloud shapes looked like.
The Orlando airport operates like a well oiled machine. Our plane landed early, our luggage was swiftly retrieved, and we were driving off in our rental car towards Animal Kingdom ahead of schedule.
I like visiting Animal Kingdom first because it eases you into the theme park experience and helps you to build up your endurance. Since Animal Kingdom has fewer attractions (Disney/Universal speak for rides) and more nature, it has a relaxed unhurried feel.
As we were entering the park we were stopped by a Disney employee who asked if we wanted to take part in a research project. Since we weren’t staying at a Disney resort and weren’t on a dining plan, we were just who they were looking for. The project involved keeping a diary that required us to log where we went and what we spent on meals, snack, merchandise, etc... for each day of our trip. At first we hesitated because we thought we would have to carry the diary around all day every day, but once explained that after this day, we could log everything in once we got back to our resort each night, we were on board, especially since, if we completed and sent back the diary, we would receive a free gift.
We’ve speculated that the gift could be anything from a free Disney World dinner to a Mickey key chain. We’ve sent back the diary, now we have to wait and see.
Since the only food we had up to our park arrival was our peanuts and graham crackers on the plane, eating held top priority.
We decided to try Tamu Tamu, located in the African section of the park. Tamu Tamu seems to be a sometimes overlooked quick service.
Knowing we were going to eat at a buffet later in the day, we didn’t want to get too much, so we split the pulled beef with yogurt mint sauce pita sandwich and a fruit salad. I loved that the fruit salad came in a hollowed out pineapple half.
The sandwich meat was flavorful with just the right amount of spiciness. The yogurt sauce was refreshing, and the homemade BBQ potato chips were amazing. We probably could have eaten an entire second serving of the chips. The eating area is quiet and peaceful. It was the perfect kick off meal for our trip.
Since we were close by, we went to see The Festival of the Lion King show in its new theater. It’s my favorite show I have seen so far in Orlando. The show always stirs me and I usually end up getting just a little dusty towards the end.
We then went to Kilimanjaro safari, and encountered a sweet quirky cast member/driver named Hannah who made the experience all the better. My favorite part of the ride was the giraffes. They were out in abundance and as we were driving away they started following behind our jeep like a little giraffe parade.
Kali River Rapids was our next stop. We were getting pretty warm, so we were looking forward to getting wet. I was happy I pre- booked this as a fast pass (it was the only fast pass we used for the day). We were able to walk right onto the ride and avoid the 35 minute wait time.
We were in a boat with several different people who spoke several different languages. Every time someone got splashed with water everyone laughed, clapped, and pointed at the splashees. The mix of people all bonding over getting soaked made the ride so much fun. My favorite person was the grandmother who yelled,
“Opa!” each time her small grandson got splashed.
We left the ride drenched.
We didn't have time to walk most of the animal trails, but we made sure we took time to see the giant bats.
They are really cool.
I’m not much of an intense roller coaster fan (I don’t like anything with big/intense drops), so I decided to sun myself on a rock like a lioness, hoping to dry off before dinner while Shannon road Expedition Everest two times in a row. I absolutely love all of the theming in the Asian area of the park.
Years of babysitting boys helped me to develop a deep love of dinosaurs. At my request we rode Dinosaur twice in a row, because I like when dinosaurs almost chomp me.
We then walked around a bit so I could soak up the dinosaur goodness.
We went to see Finding Nemo the Musical for the very first time. As a theater geek, I found all of the production aspects of the show fascinating. It cannot be easy to act, sing, and work a puppet all while flying through the air attached to cables. My favorite puppet was the giant Crush and my favorite part of the show was when all of the bubbles fall onto the audience. I'm a sucker for things falling on the audience.
It made me wish that I hadn’t given up on doing theater because I think I could be happy spending my days working as a sea plant on stage.
With not much time left, Animal Kingdom closes at 5pm, Shannon wanted to ride Expedition Everest one more time…and then one more time after that. While he was on his fourth ride, dark clouds started moving in and the wind started kicking up. Since it was close to park closing we headed to the exit but were caught half-way to the exit by the deluge. We had ponchos, but decided to try waiting the worst of the rain out under shelter.
While it was still raining, but no longer pouring, we made our way to the car and headed to Boma for dinner.