If you missed the first installment of our April trip report, here’s a link.
After enjoying the Country Bears and their charming ways, we headed towards Main Street to find a place for the fireworks. We were a little earlier than usual because I realized it would be the last time we would see Wishes in the park. I picked out our usual spot, up the Main Street incline and just behind the Partners Statue. The show was great and slightly emotional, knowing that it would be the last time we saw it. As I detailed in my post about Wishes last week, this is the only Magic Kingdom fireworks show that we have known. We spent some of our favorite nights together watching that show and, in that aspect, I’ll miss it.
With that said, I’m very excited for Happily Ever After. The good reviews after it debuted last week combined with updated technology have me very excited to see the show in a couple of months. There are times when Disney replaces things that shouldn’t be replaced, but this isn’t one of those times.
After Wishes we stuck around the hub and waited for Once Upon A Time. I like when Magic Kingdom shows Once Upon A Time after the fireworks, it alleviates some of the crowds and makes viewing much easier. We were up pretty close to the castle for Once Upon A Time and really enjoyed it.
With Happily Ever After relying on projections, I wonder if Once Upon A Time will feel a bit redundant in Magic Kingdom. I hope that’s not the case, as the show is really good and a major improvement over the previous projection show.
After we enjoyed the shows, it was time to get busy. Late nights at Magic Kingdom have become somewhat of a tradition for us and on this night the park was open until 2 AM for resort guests. I think Extra Magic Hours have lost a little bit of their value due to the resort being so busy and guests always going to where the magic hours are. The one exception I’ve found is to arrive at Magic Kingdom for the evening when they have really late hours.
We started off in Adventureland and headed back towards Tomorrowland, stopping at whatever attractions we pleased. After about midnight, lines over 10 minutes become rarities. The longest we waited on this night was 15 minutes for Peter Pan’s Flight.
I don’t pride myself on the amount of rides I can fit in anymore. I like to go on things I haven’t experienced and then my favorites. On this night though, we just went on as many as rides as we could. My dad loves theme park rides and I think he really enjoyed being able to go on anything we wanted without much standing in line.
Storybook Circus is especially empty around 1:30 AM. We went on The Barnstormer and the Cast Member said we were the first people they’d seen in 10 minutes. We went on the ride a couple of times without having to get off.
A little after 2 AM we exited the park and headed back to our hotel. This isn’t the smartest way to get over a cold but if you take enough cold medicine, Advil and caffeine joy is the main feeling. Well, joy mixed with a little bit of dizziness.
The next morning we slept in until about 9:30 and then walked around the Caribbean Beach Resort a little bit. I’m not sure I’ll review the hotel for a while as construction will make the experience much different. I was really impressed by the grounds and also liked our room quite a bit. We ate breakfast there that morning before heading off to the runDisney Expo.
I’d never been to a runDisney Expo at Disney World and therefore had never been to ESPN Wide World of Sports. It’s a really impressive complex. I could only imagine how much fun I would have had as a kid playing in a tournament of some kind there. I know next to nothing about how well that portion of the resort does financially. I imagine it wouldn’t be hard to get people to come play there, as long as the cost wasn’t too outrageous.
As far as the expo goes, the organization is always impressive. Picking up our running bibs was an easy process and then we shopped for a while. With the benefit of space, the expo made you walk around a little more than was necessary. That’s not a big deal for us but I felt a little bad for my dad who has ankle problems and was mainly there just because we were. Outside of that and me still feeling sick, the expo was great.
After a couple of hours there, we dropped off the rental car near Magic Kingdom and hopped on a bus to Animal Kingdom. It was nice to have a rental car to go to the beach and to the expo, otherwise I find them to be completely unnecessary if staying on property.
Returning the car was a quick, easy process and thankfully so because it was nearly time for our lunch reservation at Tiffins. We’ve already reviewed the restaurant and this trip only solidified my opinion. Tiffins is the best theme park restaurant that I’ve ever been to. We tasted a few new items this time, all of which were delicious. The green tea (lime?) cheesecake and the duck were our favorite new items that we tasted but the Wagyu Strip Loin is still my favorite item on the menu.
Somehow the service at the restaurant is equal to the food. Both times we’ve gone to Tiffins we’ve received gifts from the staff there. The first was a print of one of Joe Rohde’s drawings. This time around they gave us almond bark as well as a card. The wait staff is all very knowledgable about the restaurant and are happy to share tidbits about whatever they can.
We had a little bit of time before our FastPass for Expedition Everest came around so we explored the Tree of Life Gardens for half an hour. While it’s hard to beat the immersive environments of Harambe and the Maharjah Jungle Trek, these gardens are becoming my favorite area of the park. The kangaroos are wonderfully positioned in front of the tree as well as hundreds of carvings and streams. We spent at least an hour here over the course of our trip and I would have enjoyed staying there even longer.
Pointing out animals carved into the tree is a fun family activity to do in the parks and could last all day if you’re in the park. This bear is one of my favorite carvings and is incredibly detailed, not that the other carvings aren’t.
After we left the gardens we headed to the Maharajah Jungle Trek. I would walk this path even if there weren’t animals on it, as this is another beautiful area. Unfortunately, they were doing some work and the tigers weren’t out for guests to see. While I love the path, tigers are a pretty big draw and I was a little disappointed when they weren’t there.
This bird helped me get over any leftover disappointment though. It was nearly time for our FastPass so we walked from the Jungle Trek through the rest of Asia, heading for Everest. We stopped to see a few of the details around, my favorite being this sign.
I have no idea if it’s serious or a joke. I assume the sign is a joke but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if people have been trying to sleep in the Rivers of Light Theater. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Finally, it was time for Everest. This queue is underrated and has some of the better details around, including this beauty.
I’ve looked to find a connection to the buffalo rock everywhere else in the Everest queue and have no clue what it’s referring to. Maybe I’m missing something obvious or another detail. Maybe it’s as simple as buffalo inhabit parts of Mt. Everest? I don’t know but I love this rock that is just in the outdoor section, in one of the more boring parts of the queue.
The ride itself is great and someday I hope to see it with a working yeti animatronic. Maybe that’s next on the docket now that Pandora is finished. I can dream, right?
After Everest, we headed over to Africa and walked the Gorilla Falls trail. Normally I prefer the Maharajah Jungle Trek but with no tigers on this day, Gorilla Falls was superior. Here’s some math to further my point: Tigers>Gorillas>No Tigers. Don’t forget to tell your friends about this very educational blog.
To further our animal viewing, we hopped aboard Kilimanjaro Safaris which we had FastPassed. As usual, we had a great experience.
This hippo is terrible at playing hide-and-seek. The birds think so too.
Ever since seeing the flamingo scene in Planet Earth 2, I’ve never looked at flamingos the same. My favorite part of our safari this time around was towards the end. Our truck had stopped to see some rhinos up the hill and all of a sudden, they started running towards our truck. Really, they were running at something else by us but it was a blast to see them galloping. Also, really hard to photograph Rhinos running when you aren’t prepared for it.
After the safari, it was back down by the Tree of Life but this time on the opposite side by It’s Tough to be a Bug.
After a brief stop to soak in some more details, we headed to Dinosaur.
I was really excited to ride Dinosaur, as it was closed the last time we were at Disney World. To my delight, the attraction looked great. They filled up any blank spaces with a good blend of projections and color. I really enjoyed the attraction and thought the minimal improvements they made to Dinosaur made a big difference.
After Dinosaur, we had dinner. I ate at Harambe Market and wasn’t quite as impressed as my previous experience there. I had the gyro again but didn’t find the beef to be as flavorful. Still, I wouldn’t say the food was bad. Harambe Market is a great environment with some exciting different food to try.
At this point in the day, the sun had set and we decided to try our luck on the nighttime safari. I had originally planned to go on the ride right after sunset but we were about half an hour later than this. I thought the experience was pretty good. Our driver said that we were just a few minutes early in seeing the lions, though they were up and looking around. I’m guessing the best time for an evening safari is right at sunset or at about 9:30 or 10 if you want to see the lions.
We went back up to Discovery Island and watch Tree of Life Awakenings after our Safari. Tree of Life Awakenings is an absolute treat even with Rivers of Light opening. I don’t think Disney was prepared for these little vignettes to be as popular as they are. The area is always crowded with people who want to watch the show. It’s not much of a problem and is a testament to the great work they have done with this park at night.
Finally, it was time to see Rivers of Light. I reviewed the show a few weeks ago, so I won’t go into detail. Something I have been thinking about since that review is how the show does match the rest of a typical day at Animal Kingdom. This day in particular was filled with a lot of looking around and soaking in the different views. I don’t know if many theme parks are actually beautiful. Sure, most are extremely detailed and have several beautiful areas but their point isn’t just strictly to be beautiful. Animal Kingdom does have a point of being beautiful, as the park celebrates nature. Rivers of Light fully embraces that theme and that is part of what makes the show work.
All in all, it was a wonderful day at Animal Kingdom, a park that is about to become even more beautiful and intriguing.
I would have liked to stay after the show and took more photos of the park, even though Animal Kingdom had closed. Being tired and sick (along with an early wake-up time the next morning) got the best of me though so e left the park and headed to Old Key West, where we checked in for the first time and to our surprise were upgraded (for free!) to a 2-bedroom villa there. I’ll go into more detail on the hotel later but it was a wonderful surprise for some tired travelers!
That seems like a good place to leave this installment. Part 3 will pick up the next morning.
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Categories: Trip Reports