Of the four Walt Disney Studios parks we visited, Animal Kingdom was my favourite. As is always the case with these huge theme parks, it is split into a number of different areas . . .
by dkm1981 on October 29, 2012
This was probably my favourite area of the park because it combined the animal trails with a number of quite fun rides. When we first got there, we wandered around the Maharajah Trail which was worth going to because you can see the park’s resident tigers in their huge enclosure. There are glass covered viewing areas so when the tigers walk past you are really close. There is also an aviary that you can walk through and see the birds flying freely. You can also see the surprisingly ugly Komodo Dragons and there is a fruit bat cave that is full of huge bats – I had no idea they got this big to be honest! Don’t worry though they are surrounded by thin nets so they can’t get you!There are two rides in this part and both of them are quite good and worth going on. The Kali River Rapids have a minimum 38 inch height restriction and basically involve you going ‘white water rafting in the Chakranadi River’. You will get absolutely soaked though it is fun – we actually had ponchos which came in very handed because they stopped us getting as soaked as the other people in our eight man raft. The second ride Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, which is a roller coaster housed in a splendid reconstruction of Mount Everest. It is a lot of fun – not a mega thrill-seekers ride because there are no loops or anything like that, but it goes backwards and forwards and very quickly, plus there are a couple of big dips. If you dare to open your eyes at the top of ‘Everest’, you’ll get really good views not only of Animal Kingdom – but of the other Disney parks in the distance, so you can spot Cinderella’s Castle and the Epcot ball in the distance. There is a height requirement of 44 inches, but I’d say that younger kids would probably like this one if they have a dare devil streak in them. There are a few themed dining options in this zone and they suit most budgets. You can get a snack from the various stalls or you can sit down and enjoy Pan Asian food in either the Yak and Yeti Restaurant or, slightly cheaper, Yak and Yeti Café. WE didn’t have time to stop for a sit down meal, but if we’d had the time, we’d have probably stopped here because it looked pretty good and smelled lovely.
The park is open at different times depending on the season, but it tends to be around the 9am to 7pm mark. Some rides open later than others, but you get a schedule with your entry ticket that tells you if there are any rides that open later, close early or not open at all and these are updated daily. It is worth picking up a map as well because between the two things, you’ll have all the information you need to plan your day properly, including show times and characters meet and greets.It is hard to pinpoint how much a ticket for the park is, but we paid £100 per person for a day ticket that allowed us unlimited access to all four of the Walt Disney World parks (Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot). It isn’t cheap, but you do get a lot for your money. We found that a day was enough for us to have a look round all the parks and go on the rides that we wanted to, but we went in October when it was relatively quiet and there were lots of things that we weren’t bothered about spending a lot of time on. The daily price for entry goes down the more days you visit and if you buy a two week pass, it can be as little as £15 per day for an adult, with slight reductions for children. It generally is much cheaper to buy a ticket for your stay in advance from one of the many hundreds of ticket vendors on the internet.The park operates a Fast Pass system, which is a free system where you can go to the most popular rides and pick up a ticket with a time slot on for when you should return to the ride and go to the front of the queue. It is a good idea especially in summer when the park gets very busy, but bear in mind that time slot you get can even be a few hours later so it may mess up your planning!There are lots of hand sanitiser machines around the park, especially where the animals are, so it is easy to keep clean. Parking for the park is $14 per day and this allows you access to any of the parks’ car parks during the day, you just have to show your receipt as you enter. The car parks are all names after animals that you find in the Animal Kingdom, so it is easy to remember where you are parked. It only takes about ten minutes to walk to the park entrance from the car park, but there is a little train that travels between the two regularly throughout the day and is free to use if you can’t manage the walk.They have a complimentary package delivery service where you can buy anything from any of the shops throughout the park and then pick them up at the collection point by the entrance. You have to leave it at least three hours but it is quite handy if you see something in a certain place and you don’t want to have to carry it around with you all day.If there is anything else you need to know, you can visit www.disneyworld.disney.go.com
This is the final zone you get to if you walk in a clockwise direction around the park and is dedicated, as you can imagine, to all things dinosaur related. The whole area has a bit of a carnival fair feel to it, which I thought was bit strange considering the theme, but it did mean it felt quite fun. This zone is suitable for children because there are lots of things that they will have fun exploring, such as The Boneyard, which is a maze type thing that they can run around and explore. There is also a Finding Nemo show, which is a musical show that combines puppetry and live action. It is only on a certain times during the day, so it is worth having a look at the timetable you get with your ticket to plan your visit. Finally for youngsters, there are the Fossil Fun Games, which are carnival type games like hook a duck where you can win Disney themed soft toys – these cost about $3 each though so not good if you are on a budget.For thrill seekers, there are a couple of rides, although they aren’t massively exciting – more like the tame Disney version of thrill seeking! First of all, there is the Primeval Whirl, which is a spinning roller coaster that has a minimum height restriction of 48 inches. To be honest, I didn’t like this one – it made me feel a bit queasy spinning around and going up and down at the same time – plus it felt like I was going to get whiplash at one point! The other ride is DINOSAUR, which is quite good if a little cheesy. There is a minimum height requirement of 40 inches and it is very loud and dark in places so it is probably a little too frightening for younger visitors. The ride is a sort of simulator thing, but the car you are in moves around a track. It is very hard to explain, but it is quite fun – but like I said before, a little cheesy and tame.There are again a few themed restaurants in this area where you can grab huge portions of basic food like burgers, hot dogs, fries and turkey legs from places like ‘Restaurantosaurus’ and ‘Dino-Diner’! Very clever indeed.The last thing I will say about this place is that you should look out for the meet and greet area tucked away at the side of one of the shops, because this is where you can meet Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore. They are here all day (although they take ten minute breaks now and then) and there is often a queue to see them, but they seemed to spend a good while with each child, so it is worth the wait if your kids are fans.
These three areas are much more about learning about and seeing animals than any kind of rides per say, but that’s not to say you can’t have a lot of fun here all the same.At Camp Minnie-Mickey, you enjoy the Festival of the Lion King show, which kids will absolutely love because it features all of the main characters. It is full of singing and dancing and includes lots of popular songs from the film. It lasts about half an hour I would say so is good for a nice sit down to recharge the batteries and even have something to eat. You can also meet mickey and Minnie themselves outside, although expect queues even at quiet times. There are plenty of places nearby to pick up an autograph book as well! The Africa zone features more places to see wild animals and is worth a visit if this is your thing. We didn’t actually go on either of the trails because it was raining by the time we got to this point and we thought the animals might be hiding away. There are two options here; the first is a walking trail and the second involves getting on an open air safari vehicle. On the walking trail you can expect to see plenty of exotic fish and birds as well as a troupe of gorillas. There is also a hippo viewing area. On the safari trail you’ll see the big hitters like elephants, lions and giraffes all roaming freely. There are a couple of actual restaurants in this area both of which are all you can eat buffets and one of which is hosted by Donald Duck and his pals.You can get an express train between Africa and Rafiki’s Planet Watch. The trains leave every five to seven minutes and it is worth doing this because the area is tucked away right at the back of the park. Here you’ll find Conservation Station which is a neat little place filled with hands on interactive activities that teach whilst you play. It is a fun way of learning about the natural habitats of the animals and how they are cared for. There is also another walking trail where you can see tamarins in their play area. Finally in this area there is a petting yard which includes a rather random selection of rare but domesticated animals from around the world that you can play with.
As you enter the park, the first place you come to is Oasis which is basically the habitats of various animals. The area is laid out kind of like a rainforest; in fact there is a Rainforest Café here if you are already hungry! The paths are all really wide and well paved and the enclosures are almost like little gardens where you can spot things like giant anteaters and exotic boars as well as parrots that chatter away. I enjoyed walking through and thought that it made for quite a unique way of entering a theme park.Discovery Island is actually an island surrounded by the man-made Discovery River. It is the area from which all the other zones pan out so is a great meeting point and the place to come if you are lost and want to find your way. The main feature of the island is the massive (artificial) tree of life, which comes complete with huge roots and is quite impressive.There are two are attractions here. First there are the Discovery Island Trails, which are in and around the roots of the tree of life. The roots make caves and areas that are filled with animals like giant tortoises and cotton top tamarinds. The second attraction is It’s Tough To Be A Bug, which is a 3D show housed right in the middle of the roots of the tree. I can’t recommend this show enough, even if you aren’t a fan of the film because it is excellent and a lot of fun. The auditorium fits an awful lot of people in, so even if the park is extremely busy, you won’t be faced with unbearable waits. I’ll not spoil the fun in case you are going to see it but it isn’t just a 3D film, it is so much more and well worth a visit.There are a number of themed food stalls in this zone where you can snack foods like pizza (from Pizzafari) and corn dogs (from the Beastly Kiosk), but not really anywhere for a proper sit down meal unless you head back to the Rainforest Café.
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