A Magical Celebration: Animal Kingdom and Epcot

Well here we are: the final chapter of my three-part Disney weekend review. Turns out I wrote this a month ago and never published it! NICE!

In my prior installments, I discussed our resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and our rained-out Saturday that took us to Downtown Disney.

Sunday morning we woke up bright and early; no matter how old I get, going to Walt Disney World makes me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. We went down for a quick breakfast at the The Mara. We ate…quickly…because my inner child was doing this the entire time:

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After wolfing down my bacon and eggs, we swiftly walked to the front of the resort and caught the Disney bus to Animal Kingdom. The ride took all of 5 minutes; the park is literally RIGHT NEXT to the resort. We picked up our tickets from will call and in no time flat, we were inside of the park.

This was my first visit to Animal Kingdom, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We grabbed a map and plotted our course. I had also downloaded the My Disney Experience app from iTunes Store, which provides guests with GPS locating, full park maps and well as live wait times throughout all of the Disney parks. It works too! Since we were at the park relatively early (one hour after opening), all of the wait times were brief. My main mission in life was to ride Expedition:Everest, but since it was toward the back of the park, we opted to travel the park in a counter-clockwise direction and get in line once we actually reached the ride.

There are two winding paths that lead uphill to Discovery Island, where the massive Tree of Life is located. We hung a right and jumped in line for Dinosaur, the first attraction of the day. It was pretty fun; it’s a motion ride with several jolts, turns and bumps, as well as some scary elements. Little kids might freak out a bit. From there, we headed toward the massive mountain in the Asia section of the park, which houses Expedition: Everest. This attraction is a full blown roller coaster and is incredibly fun. Fortunately for us, the wait was only around 15 minutes…20 total since we stood in line to wait for the front car. (Note: we were the only ones in that line).

Standing in front of the Tree of Life

Standing in front of the Tree of Life

Expedition Everest a/k/a Big Ol' Mountain

Expedition Everest a/k/a Big Ol’ Mountain

Hello Mr. Lion!

Hello Mr. Lion!

We could’ve ridden it again, but we wanted to visit the last attraction in the park before heading over to Epcot. We hightailed it to the Kilimanjaro Safaris. This was actually our longest line of the day at 25 minutes. (Still, not bad). Once we reached the end of the queue line, we boarded our safari bus, which I was surprised to see was driven by an actual human being and not automated. This was a 20 minute ride through the safari exhibit at the back of the park, where all kinds of animals are shown living in their “natural” habitat. (Yes, I know….it’s still Orlando). It was still pretty cool; we saw giraffes, lions, zebras, elephants, all up close and without any sort of protective barriers. In fact, I tightened up a bit when the big rhino got a little close to our vehicle, but he really wasn’t worried about us.

…I guess that explains why they use real drivers. You’ve seen Jurassic Park, haven’t you?

At this point, we were starving and had visited all of the attractions at Animal Kingdom that interested us. (I did want to go see Festival of the Lion King, but time was of the essence due to an unforeseen complication. More on that later).

We headed to the front of the park scavenging for food and were shocked to find that there really wasn’t much to eat, not for a light snack. Since we were going to Epcot for the Food and Wine Festival, we weren’t trying to eat a full meal. But, the snacks were lacking. If I could suggest one thing, Animal Kingdom? Stick a churro stand in front of the Tree of Life!

We took our grumbling bellies back to the bus depot and waited a few minutes for the bus to Epcot. Again, this transfer was free of charge. We had both visited Epcot before, in 2010, so we weren’t too pressed about exploring the rides and attractions this year. Once we got inside the park and took our obligatory photo in front of the Spaceship Earth ball (I still don’t know what that thing is called..), we made a beeline for the Food and Wine Festival. We were hungry, remember?

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So, a word of advice if you’ve never been to Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival; PLAN. Have a budget. Unless, of course, money is absolutely no object for you. And if that’s the case, why haven’t you called me to book a trip yet?

No but in all seriousness, you can spent a LOT of money VERY fast at this event. There are booths set up around the perimeter of the World Showcase at Epcot, each booth representing a different country. There are typically two or three entrees available for purchase (which range from $2.25 to $6.75), a couple of desserts, and a paired beer, wine, and/or cocktail (which cost what you’d expect a beer or cocktail to cost, around $6 to $10). Of course, the prices are reasonable and the portions are enough to give you a taste. For example, our first stop was the Hawaii kiosk, where I purchased a mouthwatering Kalua pulled pork slider with pineapple chutney and an incredibly delicious Aulani Sunrise for $10.75. And that was stop 1. I visited the Canada kiosk and purchased the Filet Mignon offering for $7.00. Since I don’t eat much, I was pretty much satiated at this point. My husband continued to eat….at this point, I decided to just taste the delicious beverages available at the other kiosks. (Please don’t sleep on the Shakin’ Jamaican Coffee..). I was ready to explode when we walked out of that park 4 hours later, but we were both VERY happy. #wedidthat

We took the bus back over the Animal Kingdom Lodge and returned to the car, just to find that the battery was dead. Someone I left the interior light on ALL.WEEKEND.LONG. We headed back to the front desk and they called Disney Security; by the time we returned to the car, Security had already arrived with a portable battery jumper. I was TOO impressed! Disney definitely operates in excellence!

All in all, we had an amazing weekend at Walt Disney World. We enjoyed our accommodations at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but I would love to experience some of the other resorts!

As you can see, Walt Disney World can be fun for people of all ages. Sure, we saw plenty of kids and families there, but we also saw plenty of couples enjoying the park with one another…especially at Epcot. So tell me – when is the last time you visited the happiest place on Earth, and when are you planning to return?

 

 

 

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