The Kings conquered the Animal Kingdom today. We arrived at the gate only 15 minutes prior to the park opening. This was WAY later than everybody had suggested. We plan to make some amends on that tomorrow.
Prior to our trip, the Animal Kingdom was definitely the favorite park to talk about by Mallory, the 7 year old. She loves animals – from cats to horses to whatever. We were excited that we could go to Animal Kingdom first, because she was so excited about it.
From 9:00 until 12:00, we followed the Touring Plan in the “Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World” to the letter. We were very happy with it. The Touring Plans are designed to minimize the amount of time you spend standing in line, so that you can experience the most possible rides and attractions. Our problem was that we took a few too many lengthy, “unauthorized” breaks, and we ended up getting out of sync with the plan. We were not too worried about it, though. Even though we are following a plan, we are trying to keep very open-minded about being flexible.
The end result was that we got to ride every ride, and see every attraction, that we wanted to except for a couple. To help make up for that, we did get to ride some of our favorites a second, or third, time late in the day.
(A quick note about the “Touring Plan”. As a guy who likes math and statistics, I found this idea very interesting. The authors use computer modeling to determine the most efficient way to visit every one of the 4 parks within Walt Disney World, and they back it up with field tests by their staff. They provide a very precise order to visit every ride, see every show, when to get a FASTPASS, when to take a lunch break, etc. What was the kicker to me, was when they illustrated how they once sent several teams of researchers to the park on the same day. Part of the team used the Touring Plan, and the others just randomly picked out the attractions they most wanted to see, in the order that made the most sense to them. The group that used the Touring Plan spent, on average, 5 hours less per day standing in line. That’s all I need to know!)
Animal Kingdom is open from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., so we simply stayed through the entire day. Marissa conked out on us in the afternoon, and slept for about an hour. Most of that nap occurred while sitting through “Finding Nemo – The Musical”. (I am not making that up.)
Both Miles and Mallory’s favorite ride of the day was Expedition Everest, a very cool roller coaster. It is basically one of the two signature rides they have at the Animal Kingdom. (Mallory got to ride it twice, and Miles got to ride it three times.) Unfortunately, we did not get to experience the other headliner, the Kilimanjaro Safari. The Safari is exactly what it sounds like. You are loaded up in buses, and they drive you through the Savannah and point out African animals of various types. The timing for this ride just never worked out for us today.
The very first ride of our day was Marissa’s favorite. That was Triceratops Spin, which is a carnival type ride. As Marissa put it, “I rode those big, scary dinosaurs”. But, she also agreed that was her favorite ride of the day. I think she rode it 4 times. Marissa spent a great deal of time getting pushed in a stroller, with an occasional piggy-back ride thrown in for good measure. We know that if you don’t keep the 3 year-old happy, then nobody’s happy.
Animal Kingdom has a reputation for probably ranking #4 of the four parks within Walt Disney World. We were glad that we visited this park on our first day, and we were able to work out some of the kinks to our plan for the future days. The first order of business is that we plan to arrive at the park an hour before opening tomorrow.
Tomorrow, we visit Epcot Center. We will spend two days at this park, so we will wrap up in the early afternoon tomorrow.
In a turn of good fate, we have learned that the Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral on Friday night at 7:38 p.m. Since that is only 45 miles from our location, we are going to attempt to drive toward Cape Canaveral and see this happen in person. KK is very excited about this, as are the rest of us. You don’t get an opportunity to see something like this very often, especially if you live in Oklahoma. At this time, there is only a 20% chance that poor weather could impact the lift off.
Speaking of weather, we had very good weather today. It got pretty hot around 2:00, but then a front came through, and it must have dropped 20 degrees. We got a little shower as we were driving home from the park, but it never rained on us while we were at Animal Kingdom.
Today, the Traveling Kings went solo to the park. The Wedding Party, along with KK & PK, didn’t arrive at the park until Noon, and then left about 5:00. With that being said, they saw a substantial amount of the park, enough that they felt comfortable leaving two hours before the park closed. However, tomorrow the entire group is touring together. I am looking forward to this since we did not get to see too much of them today. (The Animal Kingdom is a huge park, but twice today, I called Scott to touch base with him, and we were standing less than 30 feet from each other! We decided that next time we will just yell each others names out instead of using the phone.)
This evening, Scott, Erin and Adam came over and we grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. The adults kicked back and visited (and listened to KK tell long stories about fictitious family vacations we used to take) while the kids splashed around in the pool. It was a very nice way to end a great day.