Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Trip Recap: Animal Kingdom

by: Ashley
Since we just returned from a wonderful Disney vacation, I wanted to share our recaps with the Real Moms Disney community! 

For our first official day of touring, we went to Animal Kingdom! Now in the past I have not been the biggest Animal Kingdom fan. I went many years ago when it had recently opened, and it just seemed like a big zoo to me (albeit a really clean, pretty and well-run zoo, I will admit!). Part of our issue in the past was that we just didn't have enough days to justify going to Animal Kingdom. We definitely prioritize the other parks (we always allow 2 1/2 - 3 days to Magic Kingdom alone), and so it just wasn't a huge deal to skip it.

However, on this trip we were going to be there over a holiday weekend (MLK Jr. weekend), and while the crowds were still relatively low (compared to spring/summer/Christmas), we definitely saw a surge over the weekend. I had consulted my crowd calendars (I use the year-at-a-glance found HERE and the monthly detailed calendars found HERE) and knew we had to avoid Magic Kingdom like the plague on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Animal Kingdom was listed at the recommended park, so we went for it, and I'm SO glad we did!!!

Yes, you're looking at an Animal Kingdom convert! :)

I would still skip it if we were short on days (simply because we prioritize other parks), but whenever we're at Disney for enough time, we will absolutely visit. We had such a great time! Important to note: I really think Animal Kingdom is a half-day park. We were easily done by about 1:00. There's no nighttime entertainment, and the park usually closes around 5:00pm. It's the perfect time to visit Downtown Disney, which is exactly what we did! Here are some highlights from the day.

Up and ready to go!

On the bus with Cousin C.J. (this is Kurt's older brother Cory's son)!

We got to Animal Kingdom right around 9:00 or a little after and went straight to the Kilimanjaro Safaris first thing. This is recommended because the waits can get long in the afternoon and the animals are usually out and about in the morning. This was absolutely wonderful! The weather was perfect - around 75 degrees with a nice breeze. I do remember loving this when I visited Animal Kingdom many years ago. The scenery is just gorgeous. The kids loved this, and we saw so many animals!

After the safari, Kurt, his brother and his wife Ashley and Kurt's dad went to ride Expedition Everest with FastPasses. Kurt's mom and I took the kids to Dinoland, U.S.A. We rode the Triceratop Spin, which is just like the Dumbo ride and Magic Carpet ride in Magic Kingdom. They had a blast!

We met back up with the Everest group and went to the Finding Nemo show! This was something that Kurt and I saw when we stopped in Animal Kingdom a couple of years ago, and we had really loved it, so I knew the kids would too! It was so adorable and the music is so cute - I even own the soundtrack!

The bubbles at the end were a big hit!

Okay, I need to go ahead and restrain myself, otherwise this post could become a tribute to the AMAZINGNESS that is the Festival of the Lion King show! For whatever reason we had never seen it and we were BLOWN AWAY. It wasn't anything crazy or off-the-wall; it was just how they combined so many elements to make it a beautiful and entertaining experience. I walked out of there telling Kurt, "That was seriously beautiful." Fun fact: The Lion King is one of my least favorite animated movies, but "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is one of my very favorite Disney songs. I have no idea why; maybe because I really like Elton John? No idea. But I love it!

We ate lunch at the quick service version of Yak and Yeti (it's called Yak and Yeti Local Foods Cafe), and we found a great table in the outdoor seating area. It was shaded but we were right next to some plants and it was so pretty. After lunch, Kurt's parents took Lynley back to take a nap so Kurt and I could take Evy and Liam to Downtown Disney!

Twelve Days of Christmas store. . .a must-visit for me! It always smells so yummy in there.

Something new since we had been there last was the Downtown Disney Co-Op. It was a building with lots of different little pop-up stores and I just loved it! It was a unique shopping experience. I was thinking about doing a "Disney Haul" post where I share my souvenirs. I didn't take pictures but I bought some of the Beautifully Disney makeup palettes, which are so pretty!

Then I stumbled upon the pop-up store "Centerpiece" and about died. I spotted melamine dinnerware that was a vintage Disney theme! 

I couldn't resist. I got the dinner plates…..

Salad/dessert plates and bowls. The accent plates are each a different "land" - Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Tomorrowland. We've actually used this dinnerware every single day since we've been back! You can find the dinnerware online - scroll down towards the bottom of the page!

Cute little Christmas window displays on the way out!

After shopping, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. This was our one time to wear matching family shirts, and they turned out so cute! I ordered them from this shop, and they featured all of us with our names! 

The whole Lancaster family!

Mia and Randad with their grandkiddos.

We headed to the Contemporary Resort for dinner at Chef Mickey's. It was a wonderful buffet that evening and we met all of the characters!

One of my favorite artists is Mary Blair and this is a mural she helped design (she also did the concept work for the "it's a small world" attraction).

It was a wonderful evening and a great way to spend time together! Next up: Hollywood Studios!

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