Friday, February 15, 2013

Animal Kingdom or Animal "King-dumb": Part Two

We'd had an incredibly successful morning touring Animal Kingdom.  Not only had we enjoyed low waits on some headliner attractions, we'd walked right into the first showing of the amazing Festival of the Lion King.  To top if all off, we'd joined Daisy Duck for a delicious character buffet at Tusker House, culminating with a memorable musical parade throughout the restaurant.  Now, it was time to hit the pavement again and finish the touring plan I'd created for the day.

As soon as we stepped out the doors of Tusker House, though, the heat and humidity completely enveloped us, sapping our energy.  While the morning's heat had been tolerable, the afternoon sun was scorching, and the humidity made it difficult to breathe. 

Tip Time: Animal Kingdom is probably the hottest park in Walt Disney World.  The beautiful canopy of foliage traps the humidity and creates the very authentic illusion that you have been transported to the jungle.  To make matters worse, there are few indoor attractions at Animal Kingdom, providing little opportunity to escape into an air-conditioned oasis.  Finally, Animal Kingdom's walkways are narrow, creating several bottle-necked areas of pedestrian congestion; with everyone crowded together, the heat feels worse.  Drink plenty of water and take frequent breaks in the shade.

I glanced down at my children who were trudging along beside me.  They looked exhausted.  We were about halfway through our trip, and I could tell that our pace and the heat was starting to take its toll on them.   Nevertheless, I decided to push on to the next attraction on our list: Expedition Everest.

Tip Time: Expedition Everest is a headliner roller coaster at Animal Kingdom park.  Most kids over age 7 handle it well, but some children are intimidated.  This attraction builds long lines quickly, so experience it first thing in the morning or use FASTPASS.

Before lunch, we'd grabbed FASTPASSES for the attraction, and our return window had opened by the time we'd finished our meal.  My 7-year-old son, Jack, had been talking about this attraction for months; he could not wait to ride it with my husband.  As we approached the roller coaster, however, I could feel his hand stiffen in mine.

"Mom...," he whispered, in a tiny voice.  He didn't even need to finish his sentence.  I already knew that Jack was not going to get on that roller coaster.  I also knew, however, that he would probably regret his decision; so, for the next ten minutes, my husband used every trick in the book to convince Jack to hop on that ride with him.  Finally, frustrated and disappointed, my husband left to ride the attraction by himself.  By this time, Jack was in the throes of a complete meltdown, the severity of which threatened to ruin the rest of our day.  I knew that we needed to regroup...and quickly.  And the first step was to throw the touring plan away.

A cool drink under the shade can quickly cure a meltdown
Tip Time: Good daily touring plans are essential to a successful trip to Walt Disney World.  They help you avoid long lines, stay ahead of the crowds, and experience more attractions.  Nevertheless, it is important to recognize when you should abandon your touring plans in favor of a more relaxed pace.

I knew that abandoning the touring plan meant that we would not experience all of the attractions on our "Animal Kingdom Wish List".  I also knew that, if we didn't slow down the pace fast, we wouldn't see anything else at all!  So, for the rest of the day, we just relaxed.  We enjoyed frozen Cokes (complete with brain freezes) in the shade.  We spent some quiet time digging for dinosaur bones in The Boneyard, Animal Kingdom's massive playground.  And we explored all of the little treasures that Animal Kingdom offers, from bongo bands in Africa to spontaneous animal presentations throughout the park.

Enjoying some much-needed quiet time digging in The Boneyard
At about 3:30pm, after a few hours of relaxed fun, we decided to call it a day.  That evening, my husband and I had plans for a night out while my mom stayed with the kids, and we wanted to get back to our hotel in plenty of time to freshen up before dinner.  So, we began our trek to the front of the park.  Unfortunately, we forgot about the 3:45pm parade...until we essentially walked right into it.  With nowhere to go, we were forced to walk painstakingly slowly behind the parade toward the exits.  The sun was beating down on us, the kids were absolutely exhausted, and my husband was on the verge of losing his mind!

Finding some time to be in a bongo band!
By the time we finally reached the front of the park, we were drenched in sweat, and our moods had rapidly darkened, casting a shadow over the day.  So, would we visit Animal Kingdom again?  Now that I've had some time to gain perspective, I would absolutely go again.  BUT, I would limit the number of attractions on our "wish list" and create a touring plan for the morning only.  Animal Kingdom is a very unique theme park, designed for leisurely touring.  Once we recognized that we needed to slow down to enjoy the park, we had a much more enjoyable day.  My husband, on the other hand, has vowed never to set foot inside that jungle again, so I may be visiting Animal Kingdom as a party of one!! 

Meredith McCutcheon
Disney Specialist, Ginger's Getaways
Click here for more information on my personalized Disney itineraries and touring plans



  1. SO we are headed to DW at the end of May with our 18 month old... he LOVES animals so we thought this would be a great place to go. Would you still agree? :) Is there enough animal seeing to keep him happy or are we going to be miserable with him? (PS we are from Idaho so we are cold weather people...)

    1. Hi there! Sorry for the delay--I've been away from my blog for a bit. So, I don't want to give anybody the wrong impression; I like Animal Kingdom a lot. BUT, I always caution clients with young children that Animal Kingdom is not like a zoo. The animals are in their natural habitats and are not always easy to see, even when they are close. You may not see very many animals at all. And there's not a whole lot to do. Besides the super-fun character meal at Tusker House (which I highly recommend to anyone), there are limited attractions at Animal Kingdom for little ones. You've got a couple stage shows, the Boneyard (a fun play area), the Safari ride, and maybe TriceraTop Spin in DinoLand (very similar to Dumbo). You could always give it a try. If it's miserable, you can cut your losses and leave.