Trip Reports

Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Trip Report – Part 2

If you missed part 1 of this trip report, click here!

Our next morning, we slept in before heading to Sanaa for breakfast. If you missed our review, the restaurant is a counter-service option for breakfast and table-service for lunch and dinner. Sanaa offers one of the best breakfasts on property. You’re going to want to try the Shahi Tukra French Toast, it’s a perfect, sweet breakfast! I would recommend it over The Mara, which does serve a quality breakfast at Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House. Making the walk up from Jambo House is easy enough and worth doing.

Sanaa french toast

After breakfast, we were off to Magic Kingdom for the last night of Happily Ever After. I have written about this night fairly extensively already but I’ll add in a few more thoughts after a few months of reflection. We made it to Magic Kingdom around two in the afternoon and I was immediately taken aback by the lack of crowd and low wait times.

For months, we’d been mentally preparing ourselves for one of the busiest weeks we’d ever visited the parks. Reality was very different, partially because of the capacity limit and partially because of the crowd’s style of touring. On that certain night, Harmonious debuted at Epcot so I think that helped split up the crowd from gathering at Magic Kingdom’s beloved nighttime spectacular’s farewell.

Partners and castle MK

While the crowds were pretty low when we arrived, there were a few people camped out on Main Street for the show. No, I don’t think it was probably worth that but one time in high school I slept outside of a theater in order to get tickets to a half-full opening day showing of The Expendables so I truly have no room to judge. There are certainly worse things sitting on Main Street for a day. I’m starting to talk myself into the idea, really.

We knew we’d have to be on Main Street pretty early for a good spot but not 7 hours early. Instead, we headed for an afternoon full of attractions, beginning in Tomorrowland!

Space Mountain tunnel MK

Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland is sneaky good from an attraction roster standpoint, at least on paper. Despite Space Mountain in Disneyland being far superior, it’s still a classic Disney attraction that is beautiful along the Tomorrowland skyline. Buzz is also worse than its Disneyland alternative but I’m always up for shooting down some aliens and Zurg. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Carousel of Progress and the TTA PeopleMover are all varying degrees of fun.

This sets the stage for Tron Lightcycle Run to join the fray in the next year. While I’m not sure how it fits from a pure theme park concept, it will be an exciting addition. Having a futuristic roller coaster next to a futuristic roller coaster still strikes me as odd but it’s better than the alternative! You want good players on your team even if you already have good players. Plus, I think the new addition will only help the improved aesthetic.

PotC dog cap and Jack MK

With nothing having waits over 20 minutes, we rolled through the Adventureland and Frontierland attractions including Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder and finally ending with Haunted Mansion. In Autumn, there was a strange rise in popularity with the Jungle Cruise. I don’t know if that was all because of the film or not. That seems to have dropped a little since that time but it was strange to have it as one of the most popular rides in the park.

Castle from BTMR MK

We grabbed dinner at Columbia Harbor House, which is easily Magic Kingdom’s best counter-service restaurant. That’s not saying much but the seafood here is decent and I like the Lobster Roll, as well. I’m glad it opened back up.

iasw sheep MK

We were starting to get into nighttime and knew that Main Street would start filling up a few hours in advance. There’s always time for it’s a small world and Country Bear Jamboree though. Both are home to a ridiculous amount of character and personality.

Country Bear Jamboree Bonnie Bubbles and Beulah MK

All in all, we got 10 attractions and dinner done in about 5 hours before heading to Main Street. I set up my tripod, right on the peak of the little incline and behind about 10 other tripods. The crowd was lively and excited and we stood by some late-20 year old’s from Florida. One couple had moved back the start of their Disneyland trip for a night to see Happily Ever After one more time. They were leaving the next morning. Jokes were had and everyone enjoyed the moment, as anticipation grew before the show started.

HEA MK blue and gold

Once Happily Ever After’s familiar notes did start, the emotion was noticeable. The lady beside me sobbed through the show. Others sang along or raised their arms in excitement. It was a perfect ending to one of the most surprising shows Disney has ever put out. Happily Ever After arrived with little fanfare, replacing Wishes which was beloved. It won people over by being an excellent nighttime spectacular, not with nostalgia.

HEA MK purple castle

I do think it will return someday, probably once the 50th anniversary has run its course. It is much better than Disney Enchantment, which misses the mark in a few ways but especially in something Happily Ever After nails – pacing.

As the show ended, fans lingered for a while and listened to the titular song play one last time. It was a perfect night and the type of moment I felt honored to be apart of. I’m sure in a few months I’ll go watch a YouTube video of the full show. For now, it rests perfectly in my memory.

SDMT dwarf carrying MK

With the park nearing closing, we grabbed a snack and then went on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. This remains the best time to go on Magic Kingdom’s most popular attraction. We waited for less than 20 minutes for the roller coaster and were off even before the park officially closed.

Not wanting to burn ourselves out too fast with a few long days coming, I only stayed for a few nighttime photos that night and mostly focused on the carousel. Here’s what I ended up with.

Carousel reflection MK

We headed back to Animal Kingdom Lodge for a good night of sleep before packing up the next morning and transferring our bags to the Polynesian. Once that was all taken care of, the process is very easy, we were off to Animal Kingdom and again surprised by the lack of wait times.

Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage queue bioluminscense AK

We hadn’t planned on really doing Flight of Passage that trip because most of our time would be spent seeing shows. But when the wait time is under 30 minutes then it’s hard to pass up! Having everything in a standby line was really enjoyable and even though everyone knew it wouldn’t last, the line flow was wonderful.

KiteTails Baloo AK

After grabbing lunch at Flame Tree Barbecue, it was time for our inaugural showing of Disney KiteTails. Little did we know at the time about the show’s initial problems. Although, after watching the giant King Louie kite belly flop into the stands I guess it wasn’t hard to figure out. I think the show is bizarre and fun while actually matching the wild energy of Animal Kingdom. I recently updated the Animal Kingdom itinerary, adding that this is our second favorite daytime show at the park, outside of Festival of the Lion King.

Elephant Kilimanjaro Safaris AK

Once the show was over and we each questioned, “Were the kites actually supposed to do that?” we did a circle of Animal Kingdom’s best attractions. Moving from Dinosaur to Everest to Kilimanjaro Safaris. This was midday and, again, none of the waits were over 20 minutes. It was a lovely afternoon and the park was showing off.

Finally, we were back around to Pandora and Flight of Passage still had no outdoor queue! So, we went from probably not riding the attraction to riding it twice in the course of four hours. Take your wins where you can get them.

Flight of Passage Pandora Avatar pipes AK

Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris and Flight of Passage remain an incredibly strong top 3 attractions for Animal Kingdom, among the best any theme park has to offer. While it’s already my favorite Walt Disney World park, Animal Kingdom could really turn into something special by adding another 3-5 quality attractions. I love walking around, exploring the trails and I love the marquee attractions. It’s the space in between those two is where the park could improve. I hope it does just that in the next decade.

We headed to the Polynesian for an hour or two for a quick swim before an evening in Epcot and that’s where we’ll pick up with our next installment!

AK Asia Photo sign

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5 replies »

  1. Your pictures are amazing! You got really great close-up shots, especially for ‘It’s a Small World.’ Glad you had time to ride some well-known attractions before ‘Happily Ever After’ started. Just curious, how do you think the new omicron variant will affect the Disney parks?

    • Thank you very much! That means a lot. It’s a small world is a personal favorite so I’m glad you enjoyed the photo!

      I don’t think we’re headed for a shutdown of the parks, but I could see them scale back on entertainment for a month or two. I think it’s going to be a tough one for theme parks and the country as a whole to figure out since the death rate is far lower but obviously it’s still dangerous.

      • No problem! I love ‘It’s a Small World’ too, so I love any close-up shot of that attraction.

        I hope we don’t have another shutdown, but I can see Disney not allowing as much people into the parks. But entertainment too, yeah. It’ll definitely be tough especially since Disney suffered greatly from the first shutdown.

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