As I mentioned in earlier installments, we hadn’t done the dining plan in a few years. Starting the trip off with California Grill’s excellent brunch may have set us behind the eight ball because by our third day on the Disney Dining Plan we were stuffed. We woke up late that morning and eventually headed off to Animal Kingdom from Saratoga Springs. My entire life revolves around food but even more so on vacation. There is so much to eat, you know, in the name of research so we can inform the loyal readers of this blog. Gluttony Shmuttony.
I’m hoping that most people have figured out that there’s a breaking point when it comes to food. If you eat too much then bad things happen. I was at that point as we got up that morning. But duty calls and there was another lunch buffet calling our name that afternoon so skipping breakfast and making the lunch reservation at Tusker House a little later was essential. Riding Everest a few times and hoping that something was shaken around was a good way to go too.
Our trip wasn’t only full of food and running, but also crowds for President’s Day week. Thankfully, Animal Kingdom spreads out the crowds pretty well and there are plenty of respites throughout the park. This is the best Disney World park to go to if you are planning to do your FastPass rides and then wander around. That’s exactly what we did for the late morning and afternoon.
There’s this Lion King Dance Party (I don’t think that’s the real name but it left so little of an impression that I don’t care to look it up) at Animal Kingdom right now in honor of the film’s 25th anniversary. This is a standard dance party but Rafiki is there and that’s why I brought it up. Well, that reason plus I’ve been trying to figure out what the little kid (in the snazzy fish shirt) on the left of this photo is holding.
The park was crowded but it certainly looks good right now. Animal Kingdom is always beautiful but it shines even more in the spring. We used one of our FastPasses on Everest and then Melissa did it again via the single rider line. I didn’t want to risk it with the whole food situation that I went into far too much detail on in the opening paragraphs.
Rafiki is an excellent creature to run into but Kevin is currently stealing the show at Animal Kingdom. For those unaware, Kevin is from Up and an excellent choice for a walk around character at the parks. He’s not a main character but has a few traits to make him interesting. Plus, I love the costuming here. It’s fairly simple but that makes the character fun to play around with. I’m hoping he’ll be at Animal Kingdom for years to come.
It was several hours until our 3:30 Tusker House reservation and we were about to go on Flight of Passage. While I haven’t gotten motion sick on Flight of Passage, I’ve heard of many people who had and at this point my stomach was relatively empty. Relatively being the key word. I opted for this grilled corn on the cob with curry seasoning that’s sold in Harambe. This was my first time having the snack and it immediately went to the top of my list. I like corn on the cob quite a bit on its own and the curry seasoning added some nice spice to the snack. Animal Kingdom doesn’t have a shortage of quality snacks but this is one of the better savory ones.
We walked down the beautiful river-lined path to Pandora and enjoyed my current favorite ride in Disney World, Flight of Passage. I keep waiting for it to lose its thrill, being a screen based attraction. While I do think the ride is at it’s best for first timers, the beauty and ride system keep us coming back.
After the ride, we saw a bit of the drum show and that will not keep us coming back. There are some amazing musical acts in the park and that is not one of them. Not that the performers aren’t talented (they are), just the content is lacking.
It was nearing lunch time so we headed back to Harambe and enjoyed a few sights on the walk back. There was some cloud cover that day which makes pictures look slightly worse but makes me feel better. I’ll take the trade-off.
Lunch at Tusker House was very fun and I’ll have a full review soon. I don’t typically enjoy character meals but the two we did on this trip were both a good amount solid with good food and enjoyable atmospheres. Seeing Mickey and the gang in their safari gear is tough to beat. In fact, seeing them all ready to go inspired us to go on a safari of our own. Our third FastPass of the day was for Kilimanjaro Safaris and it was an eventful ride. It’s always a treat when the lions are awake (late afternoon/early evening is the best bet). Here’s a few photos from the ride.
We got off our truck and walked up the little path that leads back to Harambe. Along the way we both looked up into a tree and spotted this lil’ fella.
Between our running, the warm weather and other scientific factors that I’m not smart enough to point out, we saw more animals out in the wild at Disney World than ever before this trip. This owl was perched in the tree and appeared quite content people watching. He picked a beautiful place to do his watching.
We went back to our hotel in the late afternoon to cool off by the pool and rest for a few hours. It was late night Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom and we wanted to stay until close so resting felt like a good idea. Before long we were back on the bus and headed for the park. We got away a little slower than we wanted so we walked into the park right as the fireworks were about to start and didn’t get the best spot to view them. Even during the busy time though, guests don’t fill in much of the space along Main Street so finding a decent view right before Casey’s was an easy task. There was only about 30 seconds to spare so I didn’t set up my tripod and decided to just enjoy Happily Ever After instead of photograph it.
After the show, we walked over to Tomorrowland. The park was still open for another hour and a half before Magic Hours and the crowds had beat us to that side. Our plan was to do the PeopleMover before our FastPass for Buzz but the PeopleMover had lines over 20 minutes for pretty much our whole trip so we skipped it. Again, it was a busy time of year. Instead we opted for the Carousel of Progress.
The attraction makes me fairly sad at this point. I love it and still think parts of it look really good. The story still works well and it’s a piece of Disney history. Unfortunately, there are so many functional problems with it. The time before this ride through, the audio on the attraction wasn’t synced at all. While it was better this time, the revolving sets creak so loud that you can’t hear the dialogue. Carousel of Progress is in sad shape and needs a lengthy refurbishment to solve those issues.
We went over to Frontierland after Buzz and saw the Country Bears do their thing. I found out that the attraction would be open for the entire two Magic Hours and tried to convince Melissa to just do that the rest of the night. Alas, she wanted to ride a few other things. Once the show ended I stood and applauded while she went to order us dinner at Pecos Bill to share. I went with her but after the appropriate amount of applause.
Late night Magic Hours in Magic Kingdom are the best two hours of rides that you can get in Disney World, outside of paying for an add-on event. This is especially true the later they are. On this night the park closed at 10 so the hours ran from 10 to midnight. In that time we did the Country Bears, Little Mermaid, The Barnstormer, Tea Cups, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder and Pirates. That’s along with stops for a quick dinner and taking photos. Seven attractions in two hours. Add in our pre-closing Carousel of Progress and Buzz Lightyear rides and we did nine in about three hours. I’m only bragging a little but I’m mostly saying this to point out that nighttime Magic Hours is the best time to ride as many attractions as possible. Magic Kingdom has so many attractions and the lines can get tedious but if you can knock a chunk of them out during Magic Hours then the park becomes far more doable. Use the first hour for smaller, less popular attractions and the second hour for a few popular ones.
Melissa was happy. I was happy. And the folks in Pirates new scene seemed fairly happy, although they were still somewhat confused why they got plopped into a nearly 50-year-old attraction.
We went back to the hotel after a day filled with 12 completed rides, not bad for one of the busiest weeks of the year.
The next morning saw us back out for our final run before the half marathon. It went better than our previous ones, as we were getting acclimated to the heat at this point. We spent the next hour by the pool and sharing a sandwich (a delicious Lobster Club Sandwich) before heading to Hollywood Studios.
On the off-chance that you don’t follow Disney news closely or that you have been living under a rock for the last month, Disney Skyliner (gondolas) is well into testing. They were running full speed during most of our trip and since we’ve returned some of the coverings have been taken off. We are very excited for them to open.
We had a FastPass for Slinky Dog Dash and enjoyed Disney World’s latest attraction while looking at their upcoming land. For those that care, Slinky Dog Dash is the best peek into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It’s also a very fun, family friendly ride.
After our ride on the coaster, we went over to MuppetVision 3D. Much has been made recently about some of the changes to this area. A good amount of the Muppets theming in Grand Avenue has been stripped and the land has become generic. While maybe Disney doesn’t think of it as generic, they may be shooting for something subtle (I’d argue bland) before guests enter into Star Wars. Either way, it’s sad to see some of the interesting Muppets stuff go. The attraction remains and is still very enjoyable despite needing an update.
We also went on Star Tours with our other FastPass (we were late for our first one at Tower of Terror thanks to some really bad bus service). I have no clue what will happen to Star Tours in a few years down the road. It will likely remain in its current form for a few years but will likely change after that. I have guesses or thoughts on what other areas should become in the upcoming years but Star Tours stumps me. I would definitely like to see it change though and it should be a relatively cheap ride system to implement a new story into.
Spring had sprung at Hollywood Studios, as well and parts of the park looked beautiful. Unfortunately, there are still too many dead ends and crowded areas to really enjoy the park during the day. There’s not enough to do and it was quite hot that afternoon. I definitely enjoy the park at night more and I’ll get to that in a minute. For now, here’s a few more photos of Hollywood Studios from that afternoon.
We hopped on a bus to Port Orleans – Riverside and headed over to lunch. After a few days of sharing a counter-service meal and having a table-service meal, we actually were at the point where we were hungry. Luckily, our dinner that night at Boatwright’s was surprisingly good and filling. I’ll have a full review soon but I would happily go back. Others don’t seem to enjoy the restaurant as much so maybe we caught it on a good day. After Boatwright’s, we headed right back to Hollywood Studios. The sunset was beautiful and I paused at the Fantasia topiary to catch the last little bit of it.
Then, I went straight for the Chinese Theater for blue hour as Melissa shopped.
The Chinese Theater photo took a while to get right but I was pretty happy with the final outcome. It’s one of my favorite photos of the trip thus far.
Our goal for the night was to try out Toy Story Land and see if we should adjust our strategy for the park. Toy Story Land hasn’t been as successful as Disney probably hoped but it still draws long waits at the beginning and middle of the day. I’d noticed that wait times were much lower at night so we decided to try it out. I’m happy to report back that going there at night was an absolute success.
I plan on writing a more extensive post about this soon but, in short, if you don’t care about Fantasmic! then go do Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania about an hour or 45 minutes before closing. If you went an hour before (depending on time of year) you could probably get in line for Slinky Dog Dash before the closing time, as well. These waits are significantly less than during the day and a great way to save time. This is especially helpful for those that are able to get a FastPass for Slinky.
The whole land was far more pleasant at night. There were still quite a few people there but the wait times were short and it didn’t feel suffocating. It’s not a pretty land, but the lights help the atmosphere. We went during a busy week and our wait times for Alien Swirling Saucers was 15 minutes while Toy Story Mania was 20. We’d seen both of them over an hour earlier in the day, with Toy Story Mania getting close to two hours.
Pleased with our new strategy, we headed back to the hotel. We could have stayed for the fireworks, as they are half hour after closing, but decided that the hot tub was a better way to go. All in all, it had been a pretty successful two days in terms of park strategy and has me rethinking some of our itineraries. For now, my advice is to try to stay up late at Disney World. Get your kids (if you have them) to sleep in or nap and you’ll avoid some of the heat and long lines.
Part 4 of our trip report will take place in Epcot, as we switch hotels and enjoy Festival of the Arts! If you have any questions or thoughts then please leave them in the comments below! Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Check out our Disney World Trip Planning Guide. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!
Categories: Trip Reports