Monday, September 21, 2009

Disney Day 3: Animal Kingdom

The first official 'park day' of our trip was spent at Animal Kingdom. I vaguely remembered it from our 2000 trip as being a relatively small park with relatively few attractions that interested me. There were some musical productions we skipped, a few rides we went on, and lots of walking around amidst the vivid Disney theming that I have now come to know and love.

When I was there last time, I didn't love it all that much. In fact, I kind of sneered at it. Animal Kingdom is split into two major areas, Africa and Asia (with a few other small areas dotted around them). The first time I was there, I thought the fact that those areas were re-created was kind of campy, and haughtily thought of the poor tourists who were lured to Disney to see these areas, mistakenly thinking they were seeing something authentic. People who would later pass on actual trips to Africa and Asia. "A free trip to Thailand? No thanks! No need - I've already seen it!"But this time around - I loved it. Loooooooved it. The very first thing we did was head to Tusker House restaurant to attend Donald's Safari Breakfast. And walking through Africa, seeing all the crumbling buildings and the details that the Disney people recreated from their research and artifact mining trips to Africa - it completely took me back to our trip to Tanzania back in 2003. I mean, they nailed it. Having now had the real thing to compare it to completely earned Disney my respect this time around. Again, not a substitute for the real thing - but what a great way to enjoy it with little kids, and to compensate for the fact that we have had very little opportunity to do anything adventurous for the past 4+ years.
The inside of Tusker House was such a dead ringer for the Impala Hotel we stayed in for our first couple of nights in Arusha, it was scary. Except that the Impala Hotel did not come complete with chocolate croissants and Mickey-shaped waffles. I did not expect much from our theme park dining adventures and especially not from the buffets - but my goodness, was the food ever good. More points to Disney for that. Breakfast was excellent. And to see Liam's mouth gape open when Goofy came over to us for the very first time - well, that was just priceless. The trip was instantly a roaring success in my books.

(We did pass on shelling out $30 for the 'official' portrait of us with Donald. These photos of us with the other characters will have to do. A few of the character breakfasts included the portraits with the price of admission - those were the only ones we brought home.)After breakfast we did the safari ride in Africa and the jungle trek in Asia, and otherwise whiled away our morning. I could have spent the entire day here without Chad or the kids, just me and my camera, taking photos of all the cool stuff. It was awesome. There is so much to see, we barely scratched the surface. We eventually left Africa and Asia behind and headed over to DinoLand USA, the dinosaur-themed area of the park. We spent a good hour running around in the Boneyard, where the kids could run and climb and burrow and dig up dinosaur bones while listening to Was (Not Was)'s rendition of "Walk the Dinosaur" blare over the stereo. Ah, good times. The only problem with this was that the Animal Kingdom is quite possibly the hottest place on Earth. And all that running left Mallory pretty overheated, despite frequent trips to the water fountain. So we decided to find something air-conditioned to do, and we ducked into the condensed, musical theatre version of "Finding Nemo". Luckily we timed our trip well - you would have to queue up 45 minutes in advance for this kind of thing to get a seat during peak times - but we walked in right before the doors closed, and still had a good spot to sit. The show itself was wonderful, too. The kids enjoyed it because they knew it. And I enjoyed it because the costumes and props and vocal talents of the performers were really top-notch.
After that, it was back to Asia for lunch at Yak and Yeti. Big rave reviews for this place. I don't think I have ever had better pot stickers than I did there, and Liam got a big kick out of one of the Buddha statues.

After lunch, Chad took a spin on Expedition Everest, which wasn't there on our last visit. Then we headed back to our hotel for a nap and a swim, as would become our customary routine. For dinner that night we went to Boma, a restaurant in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It's also a buffet, and the food there was excellent. The Couscous Marrakesh alone was worth the trip. (Mallory deigned the macaroni and cheese on the buffet to be 'nummy'. And while she is not the world's most discerning eater, she would go on that week to turn up her nose at different restaurants' versions of the same dish.) For dessert, we sampled several different bite-sized items. Ironically, Boma's iconic Zebra Domes (pictured here) were probably my least favourite.

Next up: Day 4 - our first day at the Magic Kingdom. The pinnacle of our trip, or so I thought...


megan said...

I'll have to see these pages in person because they won't zoom in.

Carrie said...

You'd think after 4.5 years of using Blogger that I would know why you can sometimes click and sometimes not. But I don't.


You are welcome to see it in person though!!