Once again, we made for the bus station and once again, we walked right onto a bus heading for the Animal Kingdom. It was cool and foggy when we left the hotel, but that fog quickly lifted and the air warmed up, until the coolness was no longer noticeable as we passed through the gates to Animal Kingdom. We arrived just after opening and the park seemed empty, which meant we could pack in quite a bit early on.
We started in DinoLand, U.S.A., because the Little Man loves dinosaurs and the Little Miss gleefully enjoys anything the Little Man likes. Their very first Disney ride of their lives was the Tricera Top Spin, which was like a dinosaur version of the Dumbo ride, and they both seemed to enjoy it. There is a giant dinosaur loomed over DinoLand, under which you can walk and I think the Little Man, in particular, liked walking underneath that great beast.
Next, we headed for Africa and the Kilimanjaro Safari Expedition. The Little Man was very enthusiastic about riding in a jeep–more so than seeing the animals. Since it was early and still relatively cool, we managed to see a lot of animals roaming about. I was trying my best to enjoy the moments and watch the kids enjoy them as well, so I didn’t take many pictures, but because of that, I had more time to observe. I found it incredible just how many pictures were taken during the ride. It was enlightening, really. People are so possessed with capturing the moment for posterity that they miss the living moment itself. That said, I did snap a few photos, and this one, of the baby rhino, I particularly liked:
The safari was different than I recalled from four years ago. It seems to me there used to be a subplot involving poachers and you–as the audience in the jeep–were indirectly involved in this subplot. No such plot existed on this morning. It was just a straight-forward tour of the animal park.
After the safari, we split up so that I could take the Little Man on his first grown-up ride, the Kali River rapids. We ran through a very long and elaborate line that had everything but people in it, and walked onto the ride. The Little Man was “captain” and had a special seat in the raft and we were the only two people on our raft. Off we went, swept away by the rapids and up, up, up a big climb. Atop the climb was a gushing fountain of water that was somehow quashed just in the nick of time. We remained dry–so far.
Then we were tossed into the rapids. We passed by loggers and a stuck struck and then, behind us, I could see a drop. I warned the Little Man, “Okay, buddy, here comes a cliff!” As we dropped down, I watched his face tighten into an anxious expression and finally break into laughter as we hit the bottom and were both drenched. We zipped around through the rest of the ride, coming out completely soaked. We passed under a pedestrian bridge and there was Kelly, taking our picture. When we stepped off the ride, the Little Man was shivering.
“Daddy, let’s do it again,” he said.
So back on the ride we went for a second time and I think he liked it even better the second time. I suspect it was his favorite ride of all.
When we finally emerged from our second journey, we found Kelly and the Little Miss. Kelly had, smartly, packed extra clothes and so we changed the shivering Little Man into dry clothes and then headed over to the Festival of the Lion King show.
The last time Kelly and I attended this show, nearly five years ago, the show was halted just a few minutes in due to some technical difficulties. This time, we finally got to see the whole thing–and with great seats! The show was a good one and the Little Man seemed to enjoy it. But the Little Miss totally got into it. She seemed to follow it all very closely, not just watching with wide-eyes, but smiling, laughing, clapping at the right places, and singing along, despite not knowing the words. She was patient through the entire show and seemed completely engaged with it. I suspect that was her favorite activity of all.
We’d done quite a bit of walking by this point, so we hopped on the train to the Conservation Station to take a bit of a break. The Little Miss got to pet some animals in the “Affection Section.” Some of the wear and tear was beginning to show on the Little Man at this point, as he grew a little grumpy. But that was soon remedied by lunch.
Kelly scheduled the first of two Disney character encounter meals for lunch at the Tusker House Restaurant. Mickey and his friends would be there, wandering around to greet us. We got into the restaurant and were seated and indeed, the characters were there, making their way from table to table. I think the Little Man really enjoyed this experience. The Little Miss had other thoughts. She seemed to enjoy the characters from afar, but when they came close and tried to interact with her, she tried to come out of her skin with a shriek that could wake the dead.
Lunch itself was a buffet, and I was feeling particularly gluttonous after walking around all morning. I had two full platefuls, both of which resembling this, more or less, when I sat down:
And which looked like this when I finished:
Toward the end of the meal, the Little Miss decided that I was too hot and casually dumped a full glass of soda on me. I just went with it. My shorts dried pretty quickly, but my left sock was soaked–and cold! Eventually, that too fixed itself.
Both kids were pretty tired at this point and it was showing. We took the Little Man to a gift shop and let him pick something out, then we made for the bus station and walked onto a bus bound for the Caribbean Beach Resort. There, just about everyone napped for a little while, attempting to build up some energy reserves for the evening.
At 4:40pm, we were back at the bus stop, waiting for a bus to take us to Epcot. Finally, we had to wait for a bus. We waited four minutes. I timed it. Because the Little Man is still pretty small, there wasn’t a whole lot of rides we could do at Epcot, but we did what we could. We started with Spaceship Earth because the Little Man was particularly excited by that ride–I think because of the word “spaceship” in its title. After that, he really wanted to go to a toy store, but we tried putting him off. We made our way to the Seas with Nemo & Friends ride, and I think they both liked that ride. Afterward, Kelly took the Little Miss to see a show while the Little Man and I wandered around looking at the fish and other sea creatures they had in aquarium-like tanks near the ride.
After, we could hold him off no longer. The Little Man was tired and getting cranky, so we found a toy store near one of the space rides and let him pick out something to keep him occupied. After he’d made his selection, we began a leisurely walk around the Epcot World Showcase. The sun had set and it was dark out. It was pretty crowded, too, but no so much that we couldn’t thread our way through the crowds. We considered grabbing some Mexican food, but there were no tables so we continued our way around the showcase until we reached Germany. There, we paused for some food at Biergarten restaurant. I had brat and their Oktoberfest beer and it hit the spot!
When we finished eating, we completed our circle around the Showcase, stopping briefly in England to listen to Father Christmas. Then we made for one last ride, the Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico. It is nothing more than a leisurely boat ride. After that, we headed back for our hotel.
We walked an incredible amount. According to my FitBit Ultra, I walked 25,056 steps–and the Little Man also walked many of those steps. He was a real champ. That’s the equivalent of almost 11 miles! Everyone was exhausted and we all needed rest. We had to be up bright and early for our first day at the Magic Kingdom the next morning.
To be continued…