Appreciation for Animal Kingdom

It may not be the most attended of Disney’s theme parks, but it is very dear to me. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the largest of the Disney parks and could be considered the most underrated. The wild child of the Disney theme park family, offers unique entertainment, a few thrilling rides, and distinctive details not found in any other Orlando theme park.

When visitors have limited time in the Orlando area, this park tends to be left by the wayside, which is very unfortunate.   It’s all in the details.  One of the first characteristics that sets DAK apart from other parks is the entrance.  The entrance at DAK is known as the Oasis, teaming with tropical foliage and small unique animals from parrots to barbarossa pigs.  As explorers make their way through the Oasis they reach a small incline that presents the money shot view of the park’s icon: the Tree of Life.  This unique entrance is meant to put visitors in a more relaxed and curious state.

This Friday afternoon, I finally began to feel like a normal, healthy human; my battle with pneumonia seems to be at an end.  With very few half-day Fridays left in my work schedule and a rainy summer afternoon, I heeded the call of the wild.  To me, the best time to visit DAK is when there is a light rain and a slight chill in the air.  If I moved strategically I could possibly make it to the 2:30pm showing of the best show on Walt Disney World property: the Festival of the Lion King.

This is the best live performance on Disney property,… really in all of Orlando in my opinion.  As I neared the theater I saw something I have never seen before: a long line that extended way beyond the queue!  No surprise, there was no room for us last minute guests.

Very yummy anitpasto salad

Hakuna Matata, that’s what I get for showing up at the last minute.  Time for some grub and a new salad at Pizzafari caught my eye.  What a great choice!  The anipasto salad is chock full of yummy Italian treats like marinated artichokes, roasted red peppers, dressed cucumbers, and salami.  A great, refreshing treat!  I enjoyed my favorite spot along the back porch of Pizzafari and savored the quiet.

That is another wonderful characteristic of DAK, if you open your eyes and do some exploring, you can find quiet spots.  There are many instances where, (gasp!) you can find a spot without any other park guests around.  If there is one thing you take from this post, it is this: EXPLORE THIS PARK.  LOOK AROUND.  If you see a path, go down it.  As long as there is not a sign that says “Do not enter”, “Cast Members only”, etc. go down the path!  Your experience will be so much better if you just explore.

After taking my own advice and doing a little exploring, it was time to take a chance.  With the rain in the skies I knew other park guests would have headed out of the park, would it be possible to visit Kilimanjaro Safari without a wait?  Indeed!  10 minutes later I was seated in the front row of the best attraction in the park: Kilimanjaro Safari.  If there is a second thing you get from reading this post it is this: RIDE THE SAFARI MORE THAN ONCE.  The safari is an ever changing experience because of the animals.  Once is never enough!

I could go on and on about how amazing the safari is, but this post is long enough as it is.  So here are the highlights from this particular voyage: (since it was raining, my real camera stayed in Blue Jean Baby – so phone’s camera it is)

Two lionesses – VERY rare moment!
Truck had to stop because of the giraffe on our path

After disembarking, I decided to continue the adventure and head into Pangani Forest Trail.  Here you can get up close to exotic African animals.  The rain and slightly cool weather brought about more activity from the animals.  I was able to watch a mother and baby gorilla groom each other and a meerkat on sentry duty who constantly shifted his view as he watched over his home.

Meerkat at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

I capped off the afternoon with a virgin strawberry daiquiri from the wonderful Dawa Bar in Africa, (not quite healthy enough for alcohol consumption), and a great view of Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle parade.  The Dawa Bar is great little bar inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  It is tucked on the left as you cross the bridge in Africa.  It is a great place to relax while exploring the wild areas of this park.

Dawa Bar – the watering hole

Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade is the one of the more upbeat and creative parades at Disney.  It features stilt walkers, dancers, floats with park guests riding aboard, and all your favorite Disney characters.  No princesses here (this is an animal parade after all), but you will find Mickey and the gang aboard floats full of details.

Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle parade – with park guests (many years ago my friend and I were picked to ride on this float)
One of the many awesome details of this parade (this is Goofy’s float of course)

All in all, it was an enjoyable, albeit brief, romp in the park.  It had been far too long and I needed my Animal Kingdom fix.  Have you ever been to DAK, what do you think of it?  If you haven’t been, why not?


4 thoughts on “Appreciation for Animal Kingdom”

  1. Great post and one of our must dos, but then we get lots of time when we go. I was told by a cast member that Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction is so big that you can fit Magic Kingdom inside it! There are also rumours of an Avatar land coming by 2015/16 so watch this space….

  2. Wonderful post! Although I have a bit of bias toward good ole Hollywood Studios (I was proposed to in the Tower of Terror 🙂 ), my fiancé and I are truly in love with the beautiful Animal Kingdom. I adore the intricate detailing of each section of the park with its seeming authenticity (if there isn’t any legitimacy to the theming of the Everest queue, they’ve got me fooled). The Dinosaur attraction makes my day every time. Who wouldn’t love the subtle sass in Phylicia Rashad’s voice to emotionally prepare them for a ride filled with wild effects and complete mayhem?

    Admittedly, the up and coming Avatar land does NOT thrill me.

    1. Thank you for the compliment. I have mixed feelings about Avatar land as well. I suppose if they take their time and really make it great then I am willing to keep an open mind. Maybe the two follow-up movies will help build the franchise.

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