Honeymoon Day 2: Animal Kingdom

Walking into Magic Kingdom felt familiar, but different, due to our numerous trips to Disneyland throughout our lives. Walking into Animal Kingdom was like walking into an entirely different world. It was lush with greenery and life. There was so much green. It was absolutely breathtaking. We didn’t have our bearings at all. Everything was foreign. We were actually going to need our *gasp* map.

The newness of this park, along with its gorgeous, jungle-like environment, made Animal Kingdom a contender for our favorite park. It’s so difficult to place it above Magic Kingdom, due to the years of nostalgia built up through Disneyland. Plus, Magic Kingdom integrates a lot more of those classic Disney properties that we love. I can say that we honestly enjoyed Animal Kingdom as much as we enjoyed Magic Kingdom, even if we can’t quite bring ourselves to put it on top.

There is a different kind of magic to Animal Kingdom. Even though it has been carefully manufactured by man, it does make you feel like you are in nature. The textures of the many different types of trees, the sounds pumped through the speakers, even the amount of space between attractions, it makes you feel fully immersed in this land…. with the exception of DinoLand U.S.A., which I genuinely believe has no business being there, but more on that later.

Animal Kingdom is broken out into six main sections: Oasis, Discovery Island, Pandora – The World of Avatar, Africa, Asia, and DinoLand U.S.A. They are each their own little world, so I figure the best way to do this is to write a section about each one and hit the highlights about what we loved or may not have loved.

Oasis is, in a way, similar to Main Street in Magic Kingdom. It serves as the entrance to the park, with shops and a few restaurants peppered throughout the road. There isn’t too much to say about, except that it is absolutely stunning and serves as a gorgeous introduction to the park. We felt like we were walking into the world’s most elaborate zoo. They really did a spectacular job creating a moment with the entrance.

Discovery Island hosts the gorgeous focal-point of the park – The Tree of Life. You can see this massive man-made tree from all angles as you walk around the park, and they even project graphics on it throughout the night, especially during their Rivers of Light show. Inside the Tree of Life was one of the most delightful shows we attended there – It’s Tough to be a Bug! Perhaps we found it particularly fun because we weren’t expecting it at all. We didn’t know there was anything in the tree when we went up to explore it, and instead we found this adorable 3D movie with no line that had some surprises. There are some other little shopping and photo opportunities over there, but the Tree of Life is really the star of that section. They did a beautiful job creating it.

Asia is very intricately themed and was the first time I felt like I wasn’t in a Disney park. There are hints of Disney properties sprinkled in the details, but they worked hard to make sure you feel like you’re in a different country. I have always gone to the parks because I love Disney characters, but I found an even deeper appreciation for Disney when I wasn’t surrounded by nostalgia and still found myself completely immersed and full of wonder. Disney aims to be more than just movies, and I can’t quite put into words my feelings standing in this place realizing that it has achieved that in so many ways. Expedition Everest was one of Adam’s favorite rides in all of Disney World and we rode it twice in one day! It is an awesome roller coaster and we enjoyed all the detail they put into the queue.

There weren’t many breakfast options in Animal Kingdom (or, really, in any of the parks – aside from Mickey Waffles in Magic Kingdom – next time we are bringing bagels for the hotel room), but we did find a cute quick service cart in Asia called Mr. Kamal’s, where we really enjoyed “Mr. Kamal’s Seasoned Fries” topped with tzatziki salad and sriracha ketchup. It was an unconventional breakfast, but incredibly good.

Africa may have been our favorite section of the park as it’s home to 3 of our favorite experiences – The Festival of the Lion King, Kilimanjaro’s Safaris, and Tusker House Restaurant. We loved The Festival of the Lion King because it was a beautiful celebration of the story, rather than an exact replication of it. The music and dancing was so lively and fun, you couldn’t help but get swept up into the spirit. It was by far our favorite stage production in all of Disney World. Kilimanjaro’s Safaris is one of the most well-known attractions at Animal Kingdom and for good reason! It doesn’t feel like a ride at all, as your guide drives you around and shows you the different animals and habitats. It was a great way to get off our feet for a while and enjoy their wildlife.

Tusker House Restaurant gets its own paragraph because it was our favorite place to eat in all of Disney World (and the price tag shows they definitely know how good it is). First off, it’s a character meal, which adds a lot of fun to the experience. In all, we did three character meals in Disney World and each added a touch of magic, though it wasn’t like us two adults were super interested in interacting with the characters aside from a quick picture. The food was the draw. After months of listening to Disney Food Blog, I definitely wanted to give it a try. It’s buffet-style all-you-eat African food with the most delicious selection of meats and sides. I can’t gush enough on how tasty this was given we were in the middle of a theme park! If you have the cash, we would definitely recommend checking out this restaurant. There are so many options, you are sure to walk away absolutely stuffed like we did. Our reservation was for lunch, and we didn’t eat the rest of the day aside for a popcorn refill.

Pandora – The World of Avatar feels massive. Everything around you is large and full of wonder. The colors are spectacular. The plants are crazy and vibrant and beautiful. You feel like you are on a different planet. It is absolutely stunning. It is truly a sensory experience. There are quieter trails you can wonder off on, which feel more isolated, while the main path is like a street festival. They have a band called the Pandora Drummers who play lively, celebratory music, while the Pandora Rangers stomp around in giant utility suits, showing guests how they function. At night, everything turns luminescent and it’s almost prettier as everything glows around you – it’s certainly more magical.

DinoLand U.S.A. is… not for us. We don’t have any pictures of this area of the park because we did pretty much everything in our power to avoid it, aside from a quick walk-through to make sure we weren’t missing anything. It’s frenzied like a carnival, with loud music and attractions you could find in pretty much any state fair. It’s a place for kid’s to burn off some energy, but feels so out of place in this gorgeous park. When we came back to Animal Kingdom later in our trip, we did do the Dinosaur ride, which is very similar to Indiana Jones in Disneyland. That was fun, but there really wasn’t much else for us in that section. We did get a kick out of seeing the DuckTales characters walking around… We don’t have really any positive things to say for us, but I will be fair by saying the kids that were there seemed to be enjoying themselves and that part of the park is more for them anyway.

Riding Dinosaur later in the trip. I love the family in the front. The young girl is terrified, the mom is amused, and the dad is on his cellphone.

One of the benefits of spending all that money eating at Tusker House Restaurant is that we got preferred seating tickets for Animal Kingdom’s nightly show, Rivers of Light. They don’t do fireworks for this show, as not to scare the animals, and instead do a water-based projection show. The seating for the area is really nice – in fact, we found ourselves sitting there a few times throughout the day to catch a break. It feels like you’re sitting in an arena around a river. It’s very peaceful. Plus, you are SITTING. As much as I love the fireworks at Magic Kingdom over the castle, having a designated sitting area is blissful after a day of walking around. You are immersed in the show, not thinking about how much your feet hurt. The show itself was very pleasant and beautiful, though didn’t leave much of an impression on either Adam or me. It was nice and a fun show, very pleasing and peaceful after a busy day.

At the end of the night, we were so glad we still had another half-day in Animal Kingdom to go at the end of our trip. It really is an enchanting place. When the park was closing, we decided to walk the long loop again to let the rest of the crowd filter out. It felt like we had the park to ourselves. It was so peaceful and quiet walking the path back while hardly running into anyone else. Asia and Africa were completely clear except for a few solo cast members cleaning. It was one of my favorite memories of the entire trip.

Day 2 at Animal Kingdom was only a half-day. It was our last day at Disney World, and we spent the morning at Animal Kingdom then the afternoon at Magic Kingdom. We were definitely tired on our 6th day of Disney World, so we only went to the parts of the park where we had fast passes. We proudly wore our matching “Mine, Mine, Mine” shirts that we purchased on our first trip to Animal Kingdom and had a wonderful morning. We ate lunch at Yak & Yeti Cafe, where we enjoyed the Honey Sesame Chicken and Teriyaki Beef Bowl. It was really a lovely, easy morning and a great way to start our last day at Disney World.

(Visited 59 times, 1 visits today)