Click here for our Day One coverage….
…and here for our Day Two coverage.
Now, onto Day Three!
Day 3: Alright, confession time. This was the day in our trip where I didn’t really know what to expect. Here was the itinerary I sorta laid out:
8:00am-9:00am: Take advantage of Hollywood Studios’ Extra Magic Hours to finally experience Toy Story Midway Mania
9:00am-1:00pm: Animal Kingdom
1:15-2:30pm: Lunch at Sanaa, in the Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village
3:00pm-6:00pm: Blizzard Beach
See, I’d only been to Animal Kingdom once before, back in 2004, and was massively underwhelmed. As its newest park, it’s also the resort’s most spartan in terms of attractions (the addition of Avatarland will help address that, though, as I’m sure many Disney-philes feel, I’m kinda sad Disney didn’t reach into its own catalog and pull out stuff from The Lion King or something like that instead. Maybe that’s too obvious…) Granted, I should note that, the one day I visited some eight years ago, it was also pouring down rain, it was pre-Expedition: Everest, and I was with my freshman year roommate, so things like Camp Minnie-Mickey didn’t really appeal to us.
I wanted to give Animal Kingdom another shot, though, since I know there’s a small but ardent fan base for the park. Did I just miss something the first time around? The schedule was tight, but I thought we could do most of the major Animal Kingdom attractions in about 4 hours.
Well, as it turns out, after staying in the Magic Kingdom the night before until 2:00am and not getting back to the hotel until 3:00, we were bushed, and I couldn’t get myself to wake up at 7:00am to get my butt over to Hollywood Studios for the Toy Story ride. We were working on a combined 9 hours of sleep over the past two nights and I just had to sleep in…until 8:00am.
Was I ever going to get to ride Toy Story Midway Mania??
We hopped the bus to Animal Kingdom and got to the park just after rope drop. I was concerned that, 15 minutes late, we were going to hit long queues on rides like Kilimanjaro Safari or Everest, but like our prior two days at Disney, (**hint!** Disney tip!) things were pretty quiet for the first hour or so the park was open. I’m guessing this has something to do with bigger families, which I assume are the bulk of Disney’s business, taking longer to get ready in the morning.
Expedition: Everest! Huzzah! I thought the theming on this, especially in the queue (grr, wish I’d taken more pics!), was fantastic. You enter through a travel agency office, then make your way through a museum documenting the search for the yeti, etc. It’s really quite something, and is, in my opinion, the best ride queue I’ve ever experience. It’s kinda ingenious, actually, having your riders snake through a “museum exhibit”; it gives them something to read as they’re waiting!
Look at how beautiful this park is! I guess I didn’t notice the landscaping or the other theming the last time I visited (or perhaps I wasn’t looking for it then as I am now). Lance and I quickly came to the realization that Animal Kingdom may, in fact, be our favorite of the four parks. Granted, there’s still not as much to do there as the other parks, but it immerses you on an entirely different level than the other parks at Disney World.
I even liked DinoLand U.S.A.! (which I understand to be a pretty controversial chunk of the park.) I mean, it’s all dressed up to be like a travelling amusement park set up in the parking lot of your local strip mall. It’s understandable why some people would think that concept wouldn’t fit in Disney World, but they get the details right…even down to the parking spot lines in the pavement!
Not the best example (you can sorta see the parking spot lines above), but at this point, we were rushing around so much, I was having trouble stopping to take photos while still trying to adhere to our schedule.
Street dancing in the Africa section. Super amusing…mostly for the awkward middle-aged moms trying to keep up.
It’s Kilimanjaro Safari time!
Thar be crocs!
…and then this giraffe decided not to follow the road signs and just totally cut in front of us.
We had the right of way, giraffe!
Just chillin’ by the side of the road.
Sorry for the blurriness, but its still a fun pic. This park ranger was out feeding ostriches!
…though they left their eggs unattended:
After the safari, there’s a walk-through area (the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail) where you can see lots of monkeys and gorillas. Lance liked this little sleepyhead.
After the safari, we headed over to the Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery, which has been featured several times on the Disney Food Blog for having some of the awesomeriest cupcakes in Disney World. Unfortunately, they weren’t available first thing in the morning, so I checked back three or four times before this beauty was available for my consumption:
The Cottontop Tamarin Cupcake (so top-heavy with that white-chocolate lion lollipop, the cast member working the shop warned me to hold it with two hands at all times!). Like the cupcakes at Starring Rolls in Hollywood Studios, this was also incredibly devine. Buttercream icing on top of super-moist chocolate cake–seek it out, it’s fantastic!
We were getting a little hungry at this point, but were still pretty full from our meal at Whispering Canyon the night before. I made the tough call of canceling our reservation at Sanaa, even though I’ve been dying to go there (or Jiko or Boma) ever since I’d heard about it. But, I realized that there would be no way that we could justify spending $30 each on a sit-down meal at Sanaa, be hungry enough to eat all that food, and then still be hungry enough later to enjoy dinner (which we were not skipping, no way, no how!)
(I guarantee that Lance was also more than relieved to get out of Sanaa. The whole “non-American” food skeeves him out! Some day, Lance, some day…! **shakes fist**)
We grabbed a bite to eat at the counter-service station just to the right of Yaki & Yeti; we both had the honey chicken, and they came in wonderful Chinese take-out boxes!
It was really good. You should’ve seen the generic burgers and chicken nuggets they had available at this place–ick! Totally flat and uninteresting…and frankly, kinda sad. The specialty here is obviously the Asian-inspired dishes. I mean, who’d come to Animal Kingdom to get a burger anyway?
There’s also a really tiny refreshments window around the corner from the Yaki & Yeti, where Lance got this beauty (I believe this was the Yak Attack, mango daquiri with Bacardi and berry flavoring.)
I definitely have a newfound appreciation of Animal Kingdom. I actually…kind of love it(!), and wish we’d scheduled more time to just meander around and appreciate the effort put into designing this place. Next time… (if Lance ever allows it…)
Unfortunately, it was getting too darned hot to stay in the park anyway, so it was time we made our way to Blizzard Beach!
Access to one of the water parks was included in our 3-day Conventionear’s pass. Since I’d never visited Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon (or the defunct River Country), this was something I was really excited about: Lance and I would get to share our first experiences of a Disney park together!
Since it is a water park, though, we didn’t carry around our camera. The Disney Photopass people did take our pics as we were going down Summit Plummet (the longest line we waited in during our entire trip–about 45 minutes for a 5.5 second experience. Oy!):
(Sorry these photos are so small…I didn’t want to pay $14.95 each for the hi-res!)
I didn’t include the photo of me going down Summit Plummet, since all it showed was my flab slapping me in the face due the velocity (or whatever physics-y thing is in play there).
Summit Plummet was fun, but, to be honest, you’re going so fast, and so much water is slamming you as you’re dropping 12 stories nearly straight down, you can’t even see what’s going on! I was kinda disappointed–I at least wanted to see why I was peeing my shorts in fear.
We enjoyed a lot of the other attractions at Blizzard Beach more, like Teamboat Springs, Snow Stormers, Runoff Rapids, and even the wave pool. Granted, none of it is super INTENSE, but this is Disney; you’re paying just as much, if not more, for the detailed theming as you are for any set of rides.
Anyway, if we didn’t feel bad enough about our obesity after sloshing around in a water park, it was time for another all-you-can-eat feast! A few quick showers…
…a hop over to Epcot to catch the monorail later…
…and we were there!
Yep, you guessed it: our favorite meal at Disney (though there was some tough competition) was, in fact:
‘Ohana, in the Polynesian Resort, had some amazing food. For those of you who don’t know, ‘Ohana is one of the most popular (and one of the hardest to get a reservation for–I made ours nearly three months beforehand!) dinners at the resort. It’s sort of like an all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse meatfest, except everything is South Pacific-themed and flavored.
The sweet bread (note: not “sweetbread.” Ick!) starter, with a hint of coconut and pineapple.
I obviously enjoyed it enough to get my boogers all over it.
Lance doesn’t know what he’s getting into.
“Oh, we didn’t tell you about the honey coriander chicken wings or the pork-fried dumplings? Yeah, those are included too!”
Oh, goodness, ‘Ohana was so yummy. I mean, we’re not fancy people. We’re not about to go eat duck liver or pig faces or anything like that, so ‘Ohana was right up our alley: the food we love, prepared in an awesome way.
Here’s a pic of the grill they use to prepare the meat (yes, the kitchen is right out in the middle of the restaurant!):
We stopped at the Tambu Lounge for some post-dinner drinks. Lance had the Lapu Lapu, which is basically just a bunch of hard alcohol served in a pineapple:
…and to my surprise and delight, Tambu had Kona Brewing Company’s Fire Rock Ale on tap. Joyous day!!
…and with that nightcap, our Disney vacation effectively came to a close. The next day, we caught the Magical Express back to the airport. During our ride, they played the “Alma Mater” from “The Mickey Mouse Club.”
“Now it’s time to say goodbye to all our company…
See ya real soon!
Why? Because we like you!
…About the fact I never did get onto Toy Story Midway Mania. DANG IT!
I want to give a few special shout-outs to all of the blogs that really helped me plan a great Disney trip. If you’re going to either Disney World or Disneyland, these sites are worth their weight in Scrooge McDuck’s gold!
First and foremost, the Disney Food Blog, which allowed me to turn a good vacation into a great and memorable (and yummy!) one. We wouldn’t have even known to make reservations without AJ and her crew!
Secondly, the Disney Tourist Blog, for inspiring me to try different things with my camera than the normal touristy shots. Sarah and Tom’s enthusiasm for Disney is infectious; I love all of their reporting.
Of course, there’s also The Disney Blog, for further encouraging my Disney bug.
Lastly, I want to say a big ol’ “thank you!” to all of the Disney fans who have shared their Disney love and appreciation with me before and during our trip reporting, particularly Melissa and Tracy at Mouse on the Mind, and Estelle from This Happy Place Blog. Y’all inspire me to spend lots more money on Disney–who needs to save for a house, anyway?
[Post-credits teaser: Tokyo, we'll see ya real soon! Why? Because we like you!]