Saturday, September 22, 2007

Disneyworld, part 3: Animal Kingdom - Dinosaurs broken.

Our third day was Disney's Animal Kingdom, which is the newest of the four parks. (It didn't exist yet when I visited the World for my senior trip in 1997.) It's also the one with the shortest operating hours: AK is only open until 5:00 p.m. whereas the others run until 7:00 or later, especially if it's Extra Magic Hours. But again, we had plenty of time to see and do everything we wanted, so it was all good.

I was worried about being outdoors the whole time, since you know, heat, but actually Disney does a pretty good job of keeping the place climate controlled. All the walking trails are shaded, and they have a lot of those giant outdoor fans like at the State Fair. (Except for in Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama, which was pretty hot but also extremely fun.) So it really wasn't too painful, as long as we kept hydrated. Ice cream helped too.

This is the iconic Tree of Life - it's a totally fake tree carved all over with animals. Also, Porter's belly.

From one of the two exploration walking trails - this is the one in the Africa section. Betsy isn't pouting, she's making a fish face. You can't see it but there was a freaky thing called a lungfish behind her. The cast member working this section told us it's basically an evolutionary holdover - much like the coelacanth. Unlike Betsy, who is the pinnacle of evolutionary development and does a pretty good gorilla impression as well.

Speaking of gorillas, we saw plenty of those in the Animal Kingdom too. Did you know that some male gorillas never get to mate? You can tell because those are the ones with empty pizza boxes and dirty laundry scattered all around.

Here's my favorite monkey:
I took that picture on the safari ride, which is the ride Animal Kingdom is most known for. (It's kind of like Jungle Cruise but the animals are real.) We let Betsy use one of the disposable cameras when she was riding, and I can't wait to see her pictures... mostly the inside of the safari vehicle, I'm guessing, with maybe a bit of foliage. She didn't seem to enjoy the ride that much but maybe she was just really focused on the task of taking pictures. Betsy gets like that sometimes.
We also saw real tigers, but I obviously didn't let my kids get that close! That was in the same section of the park as the walking talking recycle bin.
Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama is probably the cheesiest part of the park, and it was also my kids' favorite. It was a lot like the midway at the state fair, only you know, Disneyer. The kids really liked the flying dinosaur ride which was similar to (better than, it turns out) Dumbo at the Magic Kingdom. There are two levers: one to make the dino go up and down, one to tip it left and right. Betsy and Porter both got to do the controls, which was a huge thrill. And there was no line whatsoever - I think everyone was at the Nemo show -so we went twice. Not three times, because the kids had just had fries for lunch, and I had no desire to clean that up.
Porter really likes dinosaurs (I think it's because of the Y chromosome). How freaking cute is he in his little Hawaiian shirt? We discovered that Porter really has no fear where the characters are concerned, but Betsy tends to hold back a little, unless they are princesses.

Oh no! The kids are driving!

We had a pretty good time at Animal Kingdom, even though we didn't go on all of the rides. The kids are too small for some of them, like the River Rapids ride (getting soaked would have been nice on a hot day), the Dinosaur ride (I think Betsy would have been terrified but Porter would have liked it, shame he's nowhere near tall enough) and the new Expedition Everest (which seems kind of like the Matterhorn. I remember liking the Matterhorn when I was a kid.) That made the day go faster. We did see both of the shows. The Nemo show was truly impressive: all of the fish characters are represented by giant oversized puppets performed by people right onstage. I can't imagine how insanely complicated that one must be to stage. We had pretty good seats, too. The kids got kind of bored and antsy before it was done, though; I think it was because they were hungry.

Animal Kingdom doesn't have the same fantastic dining options as EPCOT does. Actually, I felt kind of stupid because we ended up having lunch at a place called 'Restaurantosaurus,' which was basically McDonalds with a dinosaur theme. I mean, we came all this way, had all these options to eat (for free), and we were having burgers and fries? But actually, my kids were really happy eating familiar food, and they loved checking out all the dinosaur stuff on the wall. I had to decide that it was okay to do something totally unoriginal for once.

I don't know what we did to wear Porter out, but by 4:00 or so he was pooped. (No, I didn't say he had pooped, although I'm sure he did that too.) He actually fell asleep in his stroller which was pretty convenient for us. Even more impressive, he stayed asleep while Matt picked him up and carried him

and he stayed asleep all through the excellent Lion King show, which was pretty loud.
That was our finish for the day, and I have to say it was a pretty good ending. We had dinner reservations for the Animal Kingdom Lodge, but we decided not to go back to our hotel (due to the vicissitudes of the bus transportation system, it would have taken something like an hour to get there. And it did take an hour to get home after our dinner. That was the one time I wished we had our car with us.) So we killed an hour or so riding on the monorails and eating our leftover brownies from lunch. I actually really enjoyed that: it was air-conditioned and relaxing.
The food was great, of course. But that ended up being a really long day; we didn't get home until something like 11 at night. I thought the kids would be too tired to get up super early the next day for Extra Magic Hours but they were fine, we were the only ones who got worn out.

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