Animal Kingdom, Disney World
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Animal Kingdom is lush with the most magnificent vegetation. The bamboo forests reaching up to the sky are just glorious. The African and Southeast Asian architecture add to the mystique. It's fun to walk around and stop to enjoy the live African drummers or Indian Bhangra performers. Although it is the largest Disney park, it doesn't feel that large- I guess the part you walk around is not the entire park. If you want rides, Animal Kingdom is not the place to go because there aren't many good ones. Expedition Everest, a rollercoaster with a very steep drop and a backwards part in the dark, is the only really good ride. But it is a thrill ride. If you love the imaginative Disney rides that move you past anamatronic people through gorgeous settings, you won't find those here. Kali River Rapids is not an interesting ride- the only enjoyable part is that there is a feeling of camaraderie with the other riders who sit in a circle with you- you all get water dumped on you until you're soaked through even your sneakers and you laugh together- but you have to slush around in your watery sneakers for the rest of the day. Dinosaur ride is too shaky and even my four-year-old complained that her neck was very sore afterwards. The DinoLand area has carnival-style rides and is hot and loud. The TriceraTop Spin (similar to the Dumbo ride at Magic Kingdom) isn't as fun as Dumbo for some reason.
The safari ride is lovely in that you see giraffes, rhinos, ostrich eggs, and other African animals up close. The only downside for us was that the driver had a canned speech to make and she was clearly sick of it. It's nice to ride the Wildlife Express Train through the greenery, imagining that you are a traveler from long ago. This takes you to an area where you can learn about animals and conservation. The Boneyard is a large play area that is fun for the toddler set because they can dig around in the sand. Toddlers also enjoy dancing around with their favorite characters at the afternoon parade.
Some lovely times can be spent walking the zoo trails at Animal Kingdom. We saw gorillas in a sort of war; one was beating his chest! The hippopotamus was asleep in the water, and you can view him from below water-level. He came up to breathe every six minutes while still asleep, and birds walked on his back without him noticing! The bird area of the Pangani Forest trail was a tropical paradise and much more pleasant than the bird area at Butterfly World. Check out the colorful fish in the river there. It's nice to walk around these areas when you want to rejuvenate from the hype of the parade or shows.
There are plenty of mellow places to hang out to get away from the hype at this park, more so than other Disney parks. The Camp Minnie-Mickey area, though a long walk away, has calming classical guitar music playing and plenty of benches under the trees. Although there are trees everywhere at Animal Kingdom, when you are walking around you're in the sun, so bring a hat and sunscreen. Also you will want to have good walking shoes and a stroller so you last the day. The food is ok at Animal Kingdom but not wonderful. Stop in the afternoon for a soft icecream in a delicious waffle cone at the Anandapur Ice Cream Truck (the highly decorated one in Asia) as this is a nice treat. The tables nearby are peaceful too, by the water.
The best part about Animal Kingdom are the two shows: Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo- the Musical. These shows are really incredible and the price of your admission seems well worth it when you watch these! Finding Nemo has talented actors, who swing about in the air on cords, while controlling puppets in their hands and also singing! The set is beautiful, with an enormous seagull and a sting ray that rolls in on a bike. It's clever the way they've managed to have sea animals swimming around on a stage! The lighting and beautiful theater are magical. Festival of the Lion King has circus acrobats doing the most wonderful tricks! A fire dancer amazes you. A lady dressed as a tropical bird flies through the air on a cord and sings. The chief with a deep resonating voice is fantastic! Make sure you don't miss these shows and you'll be happy you came! Also, don't rush around, but take some time to see the zoo trails and to take in the pretty vegetation all around you.
For character greetings, you have to walk a long way to the Camp Minnie-Mickey area and then endure long lines. Many of the characters aren't even there. I can't stand the thought of waiting in line to get a photo, so I'd skip this if I were to do it over!
Because this park is more about beauty than thrills, teens might not be so impressed, unless they are the artistic type. Younger kids who expect imagination rides will also be disappointed, so let them know ahead of time. This park is probably the most fun for adults, especially those that like nature and creative shows. Come on a date here with your spouse!
For a delicious restaurant on your way back to the freeway, check out Abuello's Mexican Restaurant. Good service, very yummy food, pretty atmosphere- a popular spot.
Check out the other Disney parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. When in Orlando, stay at a resort with waterfalls and beauty all around- this is a good way to relax the day before or after you visit one of the Disney parks: try Hyatt Grand Cypress or Marriott World Center.
An awesome place to get Disney souvenirs for way less money than in the parks or even at the souvenir shops outside the parks is the Walmart Supercenter near the park. They have a huge section full of gorgeous Disney stuffed animals, t-shirts, dresses (for adults and kids), magnets, backpacks etc. See address below.
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From Florida's Turnpike, take the exit for Osceola Pkwy and head west for 11 miles. Turn right on World Drive and follow the signs to Animal Kingdom.
Abuello's Mexican Restaurant, 2431 West Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee, FL 34741, call (407) 870-0901.
Walmart Supercenter, 3250 Vineland Road, Kissimmee, FL, call
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
Overall Visitor Rating: Unrated.