If you missed part 1, 2, 3 or 4 of this trip then click on the corresponding number to catch up.
We’ve finally made it! After a somewhat unexpected delay thanks to the D23 Expo and a number of other posts that needed to be written or updated, we’ve finally reached the conclusion, a very photo-heavy finale, of our June WDW trip report.
After a late night in Magic Kingdom, we got off to a somewhat slow start the next day at Animal Kingdom. We did make it in time for the standby line at Festival of the Lion King, a festive way to start the day.
Our group had shrunk to 8 at this point, with our Aunt and Uncle’s family going home early that morning. As for our family, this was everyone’s last day in the parks except for Melissa and me. If you’ve ever spent a ‘last day’ at Disney Parks then you probably know everyone has a few random things that they want to experience before they leave. That was definitely the case here, although we had done a decent job of seeing it all. That, plus a lunch reservation at Disney Springs, made the day feel fragmented.
On the bright side, it was much cooler and actually enjoyable to just walk around. It was still in the upper 80’s but compared to 100 it felt great. Standing around in Animal Kingdom led to us watching one of the musicians sing a birthday song to many guests, including this awesome kid.
We had missed a FastPass for Kilimanjaro Safaris earlier in the day and decided to go ask if they’d let us use it late. Usually, I wouldn’t do this but I guess I was feeling selfish this day. We got a rare midday lion sighting out of the ride, which is always a treat.
After our Safari ride we used our Flight of Passage FastPass for the day and then headed back to the hotel for a transfer to Disney Springs. I still find it annoying that there are no buses from the parks to Disney Springs before 4 PM, but I think I already ranted on that point earlier in this trip report so I won’t rehash it here.
A few entertaining bus rides with my nephew later, we were at Disney Springs for lunch at Frontera Cocina. We’ve already reviewed the restaurant but suffice to say that it’s the best Mexican food we’ve had at WDW. That’s not a very high bar, but we enjoyed the meal quite a bit.
Melissa and I headed back to Animal Kingdom after lunch to check out the park’s newest attraction. No, it’s not Pandora but instead the updated Otter Grotto near the front of the Tree of Life. Watching these cute little guys run around is one of the best animal exhibits in the park. It’s a gorgeous area that the Imagineers remade. One of the Cast Members there mentioned that the exhibit had to be redone because the otters were too smart, kept getting through their door and out of the area, and then would sneak into other animals areas. I don’t know if that’s true but I have no reason to not believe her. It’s a very funny visual to imagine.
Next came a walk around the rest of the Tree of Life Gardens. Here’s some photos.
It was one of the most pleasant afternoons I’d ever had at Animal Kingdom. We’d enjoyed the park earlier in the trip but it’s amazing how much more I enjoyed it when the temperature dropped 15 degrees. Next on our relaxed and not-so-sweaty Animal Kingdom itinerary was a full set of Burudika.
With the cooler temps, guests seemed to have way more energy and were very involved with the show. Burudika is one of my favorite entertainment options in any Disney Park. Here’s a video from that day.
We watched the full set and then were off to explore Gorilla Falls Trail in all of its baby gorilla glory. Here’s a few photos.
The baby gorilla and his mom(?) were behind the glass which is not great for photos but is a blast for viewing. These two were right up against the glass and the baby was very active. Having the baby gorilla out and about makes this trail a must-do.
After Gorilla Falls Trail we walked over to Asia. This was our first trip with smoking being banned inside the Disney Parks. Nowhere is the smoking areas going away more advantageous than at Animal Kingdom. There are some beautiful areas and paths that are no longer smoky.
Eventually, we made it over to Maharajah Jungle Trek. I enjoyed taking photos a lot more that day, apparently. Not to mention, Animal Kingdom doesn’t mind showing off it’s interesting and beautifully detailed design.
What a gorgeous park. The afternoon turned to evening and we decided to take it pretty easy that night, heading back to Animal Kingdom Lodge for a night full of swimming and the bread service at Sanaa Lounge. Go get the bread service at Sanaa. It’s one of the most enjoyable and interesting dining experiences at Disney World.
The next morning, we checked out of AKL. Melissa and I took our bags to bell services to transfer to the Polynesian while the others checked them into their airline. Before long we were off to Disney Springs again to enjoy lunch at Jaleo.
Speaking of interesting and enjoyable dining experiences, Jaleo certainly fits the bill. The restaurant serves Spanish food and specializes in small plates. While it won’t top my list of restaurants at Disney World, it is a fairly unique experience for the resort. We’ll have a full review of the restaurant before long.
From there we bid farewell to the rest of the family and Melissa and I were off to the Polynesian Village Resort. The resort had been on the top of our WDW bucket list for a while and we were able to pay for it with DVC points, as paying for it out of pocket is generally a non-starter. We arrived a little before check-in so we dropped off our stuff and headed to the pool.
In my extremely official WDW Resort Pool Slide Rankings, the Polynesian slide ranks second or third. The clear cut winner is obviously Stormalong Bay’s slide (Yacht & Beach Club). The only other slide that competes for second place is the Coronado Springs (Dig Site) slide. They’re both well themed, with the Coronado holding a slight lead there. The Poly pool is a better ride though so it’s a very tough call. I know you need this analysis in your life.
We checked in to our room before long, changed clothes and then were off for a night at Epcot.
Staying in a room with 8 people on the Disney Dining Plan means that there will almost surely be credits left over at the end of the trip. That was the case as Melissa and I entered Epcot with a mission to use every single one of the leftovers. When we entered in Epcot we had 9 snack credits and 4 counter-service meals to eat before midnight (we got there around 5). A seemingly impossible task? Energized by stupidity and the right side of Epcot’s entrance being clear of tombstones, we yelled “Nothing is impossible!” and were off like a herd of turtles.
If there’s a place to go when you need to use a bunch of dining credits in a short amount of time, it is clearly Epcot. While it wasn’t festival season (that would have made our job very easy) there are still options at nearly every World Showcase pavilion. The plan was to eat around the world and we did just that, starting in Canada. Here’s what we got and a super quick review of each thing.
The Maple Popcorn in Canada was very good. I’m not sure why Disney World doesn’t do a few more interesting popcorn flavors, I think they’d sell. I’ll give this one a B+.
On to the UK for the Victoria Sponge Cake at the Yorkshire County Fish Shop. This was filled with icing and jelly and was delicious, albeit a little rich. The jelly helped cut the heaviness. I’d get it again. The sponge cake gets a B.
Disaster struck at the France Pavilion as we tried to use a counter-service meal to pay for 3 snacks. You can do this but I don’t think our server really understood us so our plan was somewhat thrown off. The food was good though! The Lobster Bisque (grade: B) is maybe not the best choice for the 95 degree heat but was tasty nonetheless. I really enjoyed this pizza (grade: B+) that wasn’t actually called pizza. It was a little lighter than I expected and the ingredients were fresh. The berry pastry (grade: A-) was delicious with sweet cream and dough being a perfect match to the tart berries. I didn’t eat the pastry at the back of the tray but Melissa really liked it.
We were starting to hit a proverbial food wall as we made our way to Morocco but nothing could stand in our way. We ordered a counter-service meal at Tangierine Cafe. These were the Mediterranean Sliders Combo. While they’re the best value if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, we prefer the Lamb Wrap (gyoro) instead of just smaller portions of all three options. Still it was pretty good and gets a B- in our grades. We definitely did not finish this.
We’ll go with a picture of the Japan Pavilion instead of food here. We were able to do the three snacks for a counter-service meal here at the Kabuki Cafe. We ended up with two sushi rolls and a shaved ice. The sushi was very average (Grade: C-) and only slightly better than grocery store sushi. The shaved ice (Grade: B+) is a fantastic choice in Epcot on a hot day.
This was the Destroyer Punch in the American Adventure. I’m not sure that it’s still around. It was terrible. Grade: F.
We took a little break for our FastPass on Frozen Ever After and I talked to an old friend for a while.
Disaster struck again at the Italy Pavilion. Options for snacks are limited here with the pavilion mostly featuring table-service restaurants. We found a small cart that was serving Lemon Sorbet that was a snack credit and ordered that. It was charged to our room though. It was very demoralizing.
The Lemon Sorbet was also terrible and tasted like it had sat in a cooler for about a week. We might have broken a couple of spoons just trying to take a bite. Grade: F.
Germany was next on our World tour and we needed something to turn our luck around.
This Caramel Butter Bar from the Karamell-Kuche was delicious, albeit incredibly sweet. While we still prefer the Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookie here, this is another strong offering from Karamell-Kuche. Grade: B.
This is a bad picture of the Nigerian Meat Pie at Refreshment Outpost. I wasn’t a fan but Melissa thought it was good. I do give it some credit for ambition. Grade: C.
We were in the homestretch but Melissa decided to go off-script and pay for cotton candy in China out of pocket! At least it doesn’t take up much stomach room and looks pretty cool along the way.
I went with Egg Rolls which are always a solid choice at the China Pavilion. We’ll give them a B for consistency.
We were down to two quick-service credits left and decided to use one in Kringla Bakeri Og Cafe for three snacks that we’d eat the next day. We went with School Bread (Grade: A), Sven’s Apple Cheesecake (Grade: C), and a Chocolate Kringla (Melissa’s). We were incredibly full and it was nearly time for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.
Despite our ridiculous eating adventure, the real reason we were in Epcot that night was to watch Illuminations for a final time. We knew we wouldn’t be back in Epcot before the show ends at the end of September. Illuminations is the show that means the most to me from any Disney Park so for that night I did something that I hardly ever do at Disney Parks anymore. I put my camera away and just enjoyed the show.
After Illuminations we took our usual lap around World Showcase, listening to the music and stopping to enjoy the views. It was emotional, knowing that this would be the last time enjoying a show that has meant so much to us. We were both a little choked up (okay, me more than Melissa) on our post-Illuminations walk. I hope the shows that follow will keep in the post-show music as a nice nod to Illuminations and Tapestry of Nations. I’ll save you all from a distinct Illuminations post until the show is actually closed. That night served as one more amazing memory that we have watching it.
After taking our time exiting Epcot we headed back to the Polynesian to take more photos and eat our last counter-service meal on Disney Dining Plan. That meal was a seafood pizza at Capt. Cook’s. Word of advice: If you ate way too much food earlier in the evening then don’t top it off with Seafood Pizza. It’s a really stupid idea. We ate maybe a quarter of it and weren’t impressed.
The Polynesian is a beautiful and peaceful resort to walk around at night. We spent a good amount of time down by the beach, enjoying the view and
trying not to throw up winding down. Eventually, we got to sleep after a great day.
A few hours later we were back up, checking our bags in for the airline and taking the monorail to Magic Kingdom. We used a FastPass at Space Mountain, hung out with some metal trees (they are the future!), unfortunately saw it a little bit of Move It! Shake It! Get Away From It! Street Party, and then headed to Haunted Mansion for our other FastPass.
We ended up at Liberty Tree Tavern for a surprisingly good lunch (a review is coming) and then shopped around for a few minutes. These Muppet Baby stuffed animals were on sale in the Liberty Square Christmas Shop and I was excited about that.
I also got a peek at the path widening to the side of the castle. This isn’t really relevant anymore since they’ve made progress since the start of July but here’s a picture anyway!
Eventually it was time to head back to the hotel and catch the Magical Express, wrapping up the trip. It was a trip unlike any other we’ve taken. 13 people is a big group to go anywhere with but I think/hope everyone had a good time. We stayed at 3 different hotels, spent 9 days in the parks, ate way too much food, and each sweated off 78 pounds. More importantly, we had a great time with family at one of our favorite places.
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Categories: Trip Reports
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