Recently I took a trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to ride Everest, Dinosaur and try something I’ve never done before!
I first came to Animal Kingdom within a year or so of it’s opening, and back then, I wasn’t too impressed. I dubbed it a “half day park” and wondered what would become of this strange theme park/zoo place. Since that time I’ve moved down to Florida with my family for a job at a church, and have had many opportunities to experience Animal Kingdom as a pass holder. Is it still a half day park?
There is far more to do here than there was all those years ago. Yes, there are more rides, but there are also a myriad of shows and entertainment options (e.g. the life-sized Kevin from “Up”), not to mention nooks and crannies to discover if your there to really see and experience what the park has to offer. From the moment you enter the park, there are, you guessed it, animals, but sometimes you have to really search for them.
Don’t get me wrong, Animal Kingdom is definitely NOT just a glorified zoo as some might imagine. Setting the rides, shows and restaurants aside for a moment, it’s important to understand that the park goes out of it’s way to create environments that seem real, and I think that’s what either makes or breaks the experience for guests. For example, there are animals just scattered around the park behind fences that seem “barely there” or in environments that seem wide open. Such that at any time a monkey could swing down and join your group for lunch.
Even when Animal Kingdom does present you with something zoo-ish, they do it in a way that seems extremely authentic. Take the Maharajah Jungle Trek for example, yes some of the animals are behind glass, but the surroundings are so lush with detail that it’s easy to forget.
My first fast pass of the day was for Everest, a thrilling rollercoaster that takes riders up Mt. Everest and perhaps to certain doom……
Seriously though, this is a highlight of the park. Disney isn’t known for it’s coasters, other theme parks are far more coaster heavy. But while other parks have coasters surrounded by concrete, shopping and more coasters, Animal Kingdom surrounds Everest with an awesome themed environment and queue.
The ride itself is fantastic! Lot’s of twists and turns and some surprises that I won’t ruin if you’ve never been on it! This is one of my favorite rides in any of the parks, and I highly recommend it!
The Animation Experience
My second Fastpass was for something I had never done before; The Animation Experience at Conservation Station.
Taking a very cool side facing train, that purposefully rocked and swayed as if it were years past a positive inspection, gives you a behind the scenes look at some of the animal enclosures and care facilities. Conservation Station boasts a petting zoo, which is pretty meh, even for a petting zoo, as well as some interior exhibits housing snakes, frogs and other interesting smaller creatures. The main attraction though is The Animation Experience.
Filing in to the large atrium, you pick up a piece of paper and a pencil. Don’t bother looking for one with an eraser, they aren’t there on purpose! Taking my seat and picking up the large clip-board type thing provided for us to draw on, I anxiously waited with the other couple hundred people.
A animator/cast member who could draw, walked us through how to draw Bruce from “Finding Nemo”. It was really fun and super easy to follow along with her directions. I’m no artist, but I think I did a pretty darn good job! This would be fun for all ages, provided they can hold a pencil 🙂
What can I say about this attraction? It’s one of the original rides at Animal Kingdom, and you can tell. From the intro video (in 4×3 aspect ratio) starring Phylicia Rashad, to the neon colored animatronic dinosaurs that pop out to startle you, it’s just showing it’s age. The ride itself is very active and exciting, the but the effects are….perfect for that guest who is super nostalgic for what Disney was like in the late 90’s.
So is Animal Kingdom a half day park?
It certainly can be, but you would be missing out on a lot of things. I barely scratched the surface here. There’s the Safari, Pandora, and tons of other rides, shows and restaurants to keep you entertained for an entire day. While this will never be my favorite park (I’m a sucker for geodesic spheres), it’s certainly one worth taking your time to explore.
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