Day 2: The Animal Kingdom

The sun rose on another Florida day. The rain of yesterday afternoon had cleared, he sky was clear and blue and we were up and raring to hit the Animal Kingdom. We packed two cool dudes into the van and headed out. Another brief trip up Rte. 4, $12 in parking in the Dinosaur lot, another shuttle, another line and we were in.

First stop, Africa. We had heard so many great things about the Kilimanjaro Safari, we were sure this would be the highlight of the day. Along the way, we bumped into Lilo & Stitch, did some scuba diving and learned exactly what Neil Simon meant by “Africa hot.” We did, however, also learn the beauty of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Every line for every attraction has fans, misters, etc. keeping the waiting throngs cool.

Now, we also learned the first disappointment of the Animal Kingdom. After 30 minutes in line for the safari, it was seemingly over in 30 seconds. Washed away were the theories of slowly meandering through Disney’s own African plain while animals sidle up to the car you’re riding in. The reality is a violently bumpy, non-stop (literally, you never stop), high speed trek through a course where you hope the animals have decided to come out and sun themselves. Otherwise, you catch only a glimpse of something in the trees as the driver gestures over his shoulder at the blur you just shot past. Some animals were cooperative. Others,not so much. The boys couldn’t whip their heads around fast enough to keep up, the bouncing down the path kept my camera from focusing on much of anything to show them later and the “safari” was over before we could explain what was happening. I was bitter by the time we got off the ride.

All was redeemed on the next stop, though. The Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is a great trek through varying environs where you can watch rare and beautiful animals. This is what we thought the safari would be, just without the truck. With some obvious exceptions you’re walking through an open environment where the animals are right there for you to look at and be amazed by. Lots of fun, and by far so much better that the safari ride.

Next stop, Festival of The Lion King. Wow. Words cannot express, and pictures do not do justice to, how great a show this was. Animatronics, costumes, acrobats, singing, dancing, and people flying through the air round out a fantastic rendition of the Broadway show. We didn’t stop talking about this for hours. Not to be missed.

Back out in the real world, it was hot. We headed over to Dinoland USA. Another disappointment. Some of the rides looked fun, but we missed the height requirements (42″ is the minimum for most of the rides). The Boneyard is not at all what Disney advertises it to be (think playground). The TriceraTop Spin was fun, but only briefly. Bummer. And we were still hot. Needing ice cream hot, according to the boys.

Feeling somewhat refreshed, we got in line for Finding Nemo: the Musical. Another show well worth catching. A little different in style from Lion King, but very enjoyable. Great scene work and a mix of acrobatics and animatronics. Again, photos can’t do it justice. Go see for yourself.

We rounded out the day with a visit to Donald Duck and got back to the car, again in time for the rain to start as we drove away. Score.

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