Disney Parks and cinnamon rolls have become synonymous for Melissa. She loves cinnamon rolls in the first place but a trip to any Disney Resort without a cinnamon roll seems nearly impossible for her. While I don’t like them as much as her, I do like the one served at Animal Kingdom (Kusafari Bakery) the best. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also the biggest so I don’t feel guilty stealing a few bites from her. The caramel drizzle really sets this apart.
After our bellies were full, we headed over to the Festival of the Lion King to watch that show. As I mentioned in part 3, it was Animal Kingdom’s anniversary as well as Earth Day. This was never more apparent than at Festival of the Lion King. Along with mentioning that very fact in the beginning, the show seemed to have a little extra emotion behind it. Maybe it was just me being nostalgic for my favorite park.
It could also be that Festival of the Lion King had a few new effects and a (mostly) different cast than the last few times I’d seen it. I thought all of the new(?) members of the show had fantastic voices and the little extra effects added to the show overall. You can never go wrong with a little more fire here and there!
Every experience I’ve had with Festival of the Lion King has been wonderful, that day especially so. This has become my favorite daytime show at any U.S. Park and a must-do every trip. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out!
After the show, something shocking happened: A bad experience on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Well, bad is a strong word. The attraction was still wonderful and breathtaking. But, our safari driver was by far the worst I’ve experienced. I don’t often bring up cast members who aren’t doing the best job because by and large I think there’s reasoning behind a job not done as well as usual. In this case, I think our driver was just miscast.
The guy driving our truck seemed to really enjoy his own voice and telling jokes. While I don’t have a problem with that, the main purpose of the attraction is to give you an encounter with animals that you can’t get many other places. If jokes, or anything else, hinder that objective than the ride is worse than it should be.
On this certain ride we were fortunate enough to several incredible encounters with animals, notably the elephants playing in the water. Unfortunately, all of those encounters were either cut short or skipped because our driver drove right past them or didn’t stop the truck. I know trucks on Kilimanjaro Safaris can’t stop whenever you want them to but it was incredibly frustrating to see the truck in front of us pause for long periods of time at incredible sights while ours drove by that same sight only seconds later.
At one point a baby elephant started running towards the water to join the fun. It was a one of a kind moment, the type of thing Disney marketing would have a field day with if they caught it on tape. The whole truck full of people saw it happening except for our driver so we kept right on driving. The whole experience was simply disappointing. As a guest, you should never want to be in the truck (or pick a different experience and comparable situation like a table at a restaurant) in front or behind you.
With all that being said, I think calling for the driver’s job (or a cast member who didn’t perform adequately in a more general example) is a gross overreaction. In this case, I thought the driver was just miscast as he would have been a wonderful skipper on the Jungle Cruise. And who knows, maybe we just caught him on a bad day. Give cast members the benefit of the doubt. One of the hard parts about being a fan of anything is finding the line of when to complain about something or when to just shut up and make the best of it. My thinking usually comes down to this… With the money we all spend on Disney vacations, we should demand the best when it comes to attractions, buildings, cleanliness, expansion, and overall experience. When it comes to complaining about actual cast members though, take caution and make sure you understand the whole situation before going to complain about someone specifically. Most of them work hard and do an incredible job showing grace and patience while being underpaid. Soapbox dismounted.
After our disappointing ride, our group split up for half an hour or so and I ended up taking photos heading back from Harambe into Discovery Island.
The park was a little more full than usual (although that’s the norm now that Pandora is open) but there were enough little paths to get away from crowds and get a few shots that I liked. Those paths are part of the reason I’m hopeful that Animal Kingdom will still have a serene feeling even with the uptick in crowds.
Have I mentioned how great the Tree of Life Gardens are? I have? Okay, just a few more photos then.
For Earth Day, Animal Kingdom was handing out these little animal cutouts to take photos with. You were supposed to use that as a frame for a subject but I’m obviously too cool for that 😉
On our way out of the park we stopped and talked to a local artist who was selling paintings and journals where she boiled plants on to paper. The results were quite beautiful. I like Disney contracting artists to give the park’s some original souvenirs to get. It is especially a nice touch for the immersive Animal Kingdom.
After Animal Kingdom we headed over to Epcot. We had kind of forgotten to eat lunch so we went to the Flower & Garden Festival to sample some items. I covered my favorites in the festival guide so I won’t spend much time on them here. I will say that everything at the France kiosk was delicious and caused us to book Chefs de France for an upcoming visit. Here’s hoping for similar results!
After an impromptu showing of the wonderful Impressions de France, we headed over the UK Pavilion for a complimentary tea tour that Melissa had signed us up for. This is another item that I covered in the festival guide. I will say that the tour was exceptional, especially considering it was free. I was impressed by thoroughness of the tour guide and how passionate he was about his tea. We were given a gift for going on the tour and Melissa has found a new favorite kind of tea thanks to that. The experience was wonderful and I highly recommend it.
After our tour, I had another quick snack before heading over to American Adventure and soaking in that attraction. While the American Adventure is on the longer side, the storytelling is terrific as is the complex nature of the attraction that has kept it relevant since Epcot opened nearly 35 years ago.
By the time the attraction was over, evening had set and we were off for dinner at Sunshine Seasons. We naturally had to stop and check out some of the topiaries along the way. The pandas in China were the most adorable.
The troll was also a favorite of mine.
I reviewed our dinner earlier in the week. We enjoyed our meal, as Sunshine Season is always dependable and satisfying. We called it a night after dinner because the next morning brought a 4:30 wake-up call with it as we were running our half marathon.
I’ve already covered our half marathon in great detail so we’ll skip past that quickly. What I will say is that we all go on vacations to experience different things, make lasting memories and/or experience joy that is a little different from what we feel in our everyday lives. Finishing that half marathon definitely fits all of those aspects and is something I’ll never forget.
After finishing our race we headed back over to Fort Wilderness and had the breakfast buffet at Trail’s End. Unfortunately, this was the most disappointing meal of the trip. I’m unsure if I’ll review this restaurant as buffets are harder to get photos of. I didn’t think any of the food was exceptional and the service was lacking. I also thought I’d be starving after our race. While I was quite hungry, I would have rather had a really good meal instead all-I-could-eat of decent food. Score one for moderation!
After breakfast, I made the smartest decision of the trip and planned an afternoon at the water park. At this point in the day Melissa and I were feeling very sore and tired. We went to Typhoon Lagoon, rode a few slides and then laid in the lazy river for about an hour with my parents. The water felt great and it was a perfect way to help recoup from a rigorous morning.
I didn’t think a review of a new water slide warranted a whole new post so I’ll cover Miss Adventure Falls here. This is a new family raft ride at Typhoon Lagoon. I liked almost all of the attraction. The ride starts with boarding a tube on the of the hill and riding that tube (on a ramp) to the top. You pass a fairly impressive audio-animatronic parrot who heeds a warning. Once to the top, it’s a typical raft ride on the way down but maybe a little longer than usual. I thought the ride was a nice addition to Typhoon Lagoon. While it’s nothing ground breaking, I think it’s more up to date and inspired than many water slides.
Typhoon Lagoon is a wonderful place to spend a few hours. I spent the last little bit of our time there in the giant wave pool and am endlessly entertained by that thing. The slides are pretty strong but the wave pool and lazy river make the park go. The theming around the whole park is really strong too.
While I was in the wave pool, Melissa fell asleep in a lounge chair so it seemed like a good idea to go back to the room and take a nap. We did just that.
My parents didn’t have a park ticket for that day and since Melissa and I were tired anyway, we decided to stay out as well. After waking up from our nap we headed to Disney Springs for few minutes and then headed over to the Ohana (at the Polynesian) for a celebratory dinner. Ohana was very good although I wish I could have eaten even more than I did.
A Lapu Lapu (the drink above) was a nice treat to end the day. All in all, it was a relaxing day after a tiring morning. It went to show that having a day without a main park ticket can still be entertaining and fun.
We’ll pick up the next morning in the final installment of the trip report. If there’s any questions or thoughts about anything I brought up (or just anything in general) please leave them below in the comments. Thank you for reading!