Hello everyone! This is the fifth and final post in my Disney vacay 2K17 series.
Our last full day in Orlando was spent exploring Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This park was, in its own way, a fun experience. This park was very different from what I typically think of as a Disney park. In some ways, Animal Kingdom was part amusement park, part zoo and I thought that the animal exhibits were well-integrated into the park. Conservation was also a theme present, as it was at Epcot.
Our experience however was not exactly perfect. While some of the attractions were really exciting, and the animals were fun to watch, there were some issues. We did have to wait an excessive amount of time to board at the Kilimanjaro Safaris on account of an animal on the track, or so they said. That happens, but the bigger frustration was a park employee being a bit on the not-as-nice side when asked by several patrons about the wait. The ride itself was okay once we were able to get on, but the experience seemed to detract from the overall experience, at least on this trip.
That said, there were definitely many points of interest to check out, and much fun to be had in Animal Kingdom.
Not to miss attractions:
Pandora: the World of Avatar
The newest land in Animal Kingdom just opened at the end of May 2017. It is stunning in its design. There are two rides, Navi River Journey and Flight of Passage. The river journey was a slow-moving boat ride set against the bioluminescent backdrop of the rainforest. It was well done, and very pretty, but it did not compare to Pandora’s main attraction, Avatar: Flight of Passage. This was a breathtaking 3D experience simulating a ride on a Banshee. It was incredible! We were lucky enough to get Fastpasses using the MyDisney Experience app, but it would have been worth the average two-hour wait. We had dinner at the Satu’li Canteen, which was very good and reasonably priced.
Asia and Africa had some fun stops. In Asia, you’ll find the adventure thrill ride Expedition Everest, along with Kali River Rapids. We enjoyed both rides, especially Expedition Everest. We did not spend quite as much time in Africa. As mentioned, the Kilimanjaro Safaris was not the best experience overall. I think the let-down was also compounded by the fact that went at night when many of the animals were sleeping. On the plus side, the lions were up, and it was cool seeing them.
For school-age kids (4 and up), there is a Wilderness Explorer program. The kids get to find things throughout the park and earn “badges” in their workbooks, kind of like a Disney junior ranger program. Some of the Disney guides were really knowledgeable about their subjects. Participating in the program actually helped us to see more of the park and notice details that we would usually miss.
All told, it was a fun day. One thing to consider, there was less air conditioning than at the other parks, so more frequent stops and plenty of water helped us keep our energy. We did not visit Hollywood Studios on this trip, as we were in Florida for only a week, and we didn’t feel there was enough time. There just wasn’t as much to do at time of writing, and I did intentionally schedule downtime so that we would be at peak energy and mood for our visits to the other parks.
Pro shopping tip:
Like most visitors, we did drop a more than a few dollars at the World of Disney at Disney Springs and at the shops on Main Street in Magic Kingdom. But to save some cash, the husband found a great place to purchase souvenirs: Disney’s Character Warehouse at the Orlando Premium Outlets. The shop is located at the Outlets on Vineland (not to be confused with the Outlets on International Drive). The mall itself is lovely, with many of our favorite name brands. But we were there specifically for The Character Warehouse, which was great! We purchased an estimated $400 in items for $86 including tax. We found Tsum Tsums for 99 cents, ornaments for $2 and under, tote bags and shirts for $7. All items are authentic Disney merch; it looked like many of the items may have been past season. The discounted prices helped us to stay close to our budget and buy for both sets of grandparents as well as our adorable niece and nephew. There were also Coach and Kate Spade outlets; both have collaborated with Disney. I didn’t find any discounted Minnie Mouse Kate Spade, but I did find a cute Mickey Mouse crossbody at the Coach outlet. Normally $348, I purchased it for $116 including tax. It was a perfect souvenir and birthday present for myself, up until Emily claimed it anyway.
Vacation costs can really start to add up, and it’s easy to go over budget. Feel free to share your money-saving tips while on vacation in the comments below. Happy trails, happy shopping, and happy savings!