I’ve gone on seven trips to Disney World in the past 2 years, and the one thing that surprises people more than, “and you don’t have children?” is when they ask what my favorite thing to do is, and I say, “Walk around Animal Kingdom.”
My Disney trips have had me fall head over heels in love with the Animal Kingdom, and this was even before Pandora opened and gilded the lily as it were.
And this day, this magical wonderful day, had us (mostly because Juli is something of a genius.) really diving into exploration of the park.
We started the day in Pandora, at 8 AM sharp. We had a 9:10 fastpass for Flight of Passage, so we started on Na’vi River Cruise, which I really love riding, it’s such a beautiful and peaceful and lovely experience. I also love the woven queue, the explanation of the various animals you’ll see on the cruise, and of course, the incredible Shamaan Audio-Animatronic.
Then we did some running around and exploring, before our fastpass came up, and then we did Flight Of Passage.
I’d wondered if maybe, maybe I’d with the long wait, and hype for it, been overwowed by Flight Of Passage.
I no longer feel that way. This ride is exceptionally wonderful. It’s beautiful, well executed and didn’t even make me queasy this time around. Hooray! Then we stopped by Pongu Pongu, to get some snacks. I was excited to try the Lumpia, and I also grabbed the Mo’Ara High Country Ale, since I’d tried the Grog Ale last time, Dom got the Grog Ale, and Juli got the Night Blossom, for the Insta of the thing, and also, because it did not occur to me when I ordered it, it wasn’t yet 10 AM. (Our early start had my internal clock off by a bit.) Ah, whatever, it was vacation, if you can’t drink at 9:30 in the morning on vacation, when can you?
The Lumpia is really good and I get why people were freaking out about it back when Pandora first opened. I’m a sucker for anything desert-y with a cream cheese base. I also liked the beer, again, I’m a sucker for an Amber. Though I preferred the Grog Ale. And if I had a choice, I’d go with a Safari Amber instead.
We then decided to begin the “Wilderness Explorers” part of our day, which allowed for much of the exploring that we did. This was something Juli insisted on, and she was absolutely right! We chatted with the Explorerer troop leaders in Pandora and took a boatload of pictures, before making our way to Harambe to check in for our brunch at Tusker House.
Tusker House has a mixed internet reputation but it’s Kristi’s family’s favorite and my friend April also counts it as a stand by for her family. Plus in these seven trips in two years, I hadn’t yet done a character meal.
I really loved this restaurant. The layout is a market style for the buffet with lovely thick wood tables where we sat. And of course there’s the characters in their safari finest!
During the meal we met with Goofy, Daisy, Donald and Mickey. This was our third encounter with Goofy and we were thrilled about it. Specifically though, I was psyched to meet with Donald and Daisy, since I was wearing my Webby Vanderquack Disneybound this day.
The food is really interesting and cool, and we specifically book at 10:45 so that we could get a taste of both the breakfast and lunch options. Also, the drink options at Tusker House come from Dawa Bar, which means I got to have a Sugar Cane Mojito, which, as I’ve stated before, is my favorite bar made mojito I’ve ever had. (Disney is one of the few places I let myself have rum, because my opportunities to be ah “friendly,” the way I tend to get when I drink rum, are limited.)
Once we finished there, it became clear that it was about to rain, and we decided to head in to Festival Of The Lion King. Neither Juli nor I had done this show before, and I think that I’m going to fit it in to every itinerary from now on. It’s truly spectacular.
Then it was on to more Wilderness Badges, this time, by going to Gorilla Falls again, then after that, we had Everest Fast Passes, and completed those badges. It was then on to my favorite (very super favorite) thing in Animal Kingdom, The Maharahja Jungle Trek. Unlike Gorilla Falls, the trek is almost never crowded, it’s tucked back in a weird back corner of the Asia section, rather than in a highly trafficked ride exit dump, and it’s residents are a bit more subdued. We talked to a cast member about the tiger cubs. (I was really hoping we’d see them.) He explained that they’re not on display yet, as they want to limit human contact with them. Disappointed but understanding we were happy to at least see their proud papa wandering around.
We had a truly magical moment, however, as we reached the aviary. I’ve walked the Jungle Trek many times and never, have I seen this area so alive. Birds were zipping above our heads, skittering around on the ground and perched happily singing in the trees. It was exceptional.
Post Jungle Trek we headed to Disney Springs where we all did some shopping, and then back to the hotel, where we picked up dinner and relaxed in the room. (And had one of those quiet exhale moments that I’m so crazy about.) We headed back over to the park to experience Pandora at night and Rivers Of Light.
I was head over heals for Pandora having only seen it during the day. Seeing it at night just further cemented my love for Animal Kingdom. Seriously, I’m obsessed. Maybe someday I’ll have an Animal Kingdom trip, where I stay at lodge and only go to Animal Kingdom, except for one night when I go over to the Poly to have drinks at Trader Sam’s. (This is not a logistical reality, just something that I fantasize about.)
Then it was off to Rivers Of Light. We stopped by the Thirsty River Bar first, where I tried to Himalayan Ghost, which is, I must say, incredible. I really do need to incorporate Guava Juice into my home mixers.
The show was spectacular. I really like it, and I think the only reason that it will never eclipse Illumiations as my favorite is because I don’t have childhood memories of it. (And for the moment, it’s sort of a pain in the butt to see.) It’s so beautiful and interesting and well done and the song is great.
After that, it was time for our party to part ways. Juli and Dom were getting up super early to begin their drive home, and still had packing to do. The park was still open for about an hour, so I decided rather than be in their way while they packed to further explore at least in some fashion.
I knew I had a few options, but I landed on heading to Nomad Lounge and having a night cap, and then hopping on line to ride Na’Vi River Journey one more time.
Settling in at Nomad I had a Night Monkey and chatted with the bar tender, before settling up and heading over to River Journey, where I talked to a family as we wound through the cue, and then headed out to the bus and back, where I crashed out.
BONUS Departure Day:
I had a 9:42 flight. I didn’t book it that way. I’d booked in the afternoon hoping to get in a morning at Studios to do Star Wars stuff. (Juli and Dom have no care for a galaxy far far away and I wasn’t going to force my super-fandom on them) But, American Airlines changed their flight times, so, here we are. I skipped Magical Express, since it was picking up at 5:35 AM for the Holiday rush, and I knew I didn’t need that much time.
I got up, took some pictures of the room, and grabbed a Lyft to the airport and then it was home, with no hiccups.
Overall, this was an incredible trip. Longer than I usually do, and much more strenuous. Coming up later in the week, we’ll do a hotel review & favorites, and then I’ve got a special, things I’ve learned in my Disney Year post!
But for now, well, as they say, See You Real Soon!