bonus, WDW Planning

Planning a WDW holiday | part 3

Welcome back to part three of my Planning a Walt Disney World holiday series. If you missed the first two parts you can read them here and here.

So far, we’ve covered creating a basic framework upon which to create a personalised itinerary. So now, with a set day on which to go to each park, and dining and FastPass+ reservations made, it’s time to dive into my personal recommendations on how to spend a day at each park. And I’ll start with the first park we always head to… Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom
Photo by me. Taken June 2012 on a particularly rainy morning

The reason we head here first, rather than more iconic Magic Kingdom is jet lag. With the time difference between Florida and the UK being -5 hours, even though we are tired from travelling we’ll still probably be awake at 5 am, if not earlier especially with the children.

The best time to see the animals on the Kilimanjaro Safari is in the morning, as the heat of the day sends most of them into the shade. That’s why I recommend heading straight over there as soon as you get in the park. You shouldn’t need a FastPass+ (FP+) on this if you get there early enough so you can save your slots for other rides later in the day. My own personal ‘must-see’ attractions in this park are:

  • Kilimanjaro Safari
  • Expedition Everest
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Dinosaur
  • Festival of the Lion King Show
  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug! Show

This is a pre-Pandora list, as that section of the park will not be open until May 2017. Although I guess the two new attractions there will easily make it on my list. (If you’ve not seen the James Cameron movie, Avatar, I’d recommend it)

As the name of the park suggests, this park is about more than just the rides and shows though. There are a wide selection of animal exhibits throughout the park, and you’ve not really experienced the park if you miss those out, in my opinion.

With the new FP+ system in place, you’ll need to decide which attractions you will want to use your advance bookings for and which you’ll either wait for or try to get same-day passes. This will, again, depend on your group’s tolerance for thrill rides versus shows and meeting characters.

If you’ve got young children in your group, the Wilderness Explorer scavenger hunt is lots of fun. You can sign up to it in the Discovery Island part of the park, in front of the Tree Of Life. You are given a little booklet and map showing where the activities are situated around the park so you can complete them and earn badges as you go. It helps engage children with the exhibits and they’ll learn about the animals in the park.

Expedition Everest is lots of fun. It’s quite fast though and could be scary for those not that into roller coasters. There’s a height requirement of 44″ (roughly 112cm), although they do offer a “Baby Swap” option. This means that adults in a group with children that are too small to ride will not need to wait in line twice.

Animal Kingdom
Photo by me. Expedition Everest is truly a sight to behold. Disney don’t do theming by halves

While you’re in the Asia section of the park you could also head to the Kali River Rapids. I’ve not actually been on this ride myself in many years. Mainly because the line always gets super long and not everyone in my group enjoys water rides. That being said, with the introduction of FP+ and the fact that we’re going during the hottest time of the year, I may be able to convince someone to ride it with me this time. If you’re travelling during a cooler time of year, or even just on a cooler day, you can always choose to wear a rain poncho.

Dinosaur is another headliner attraction. Personally, this is the only attraction I go into Dinoland USA for. I’m a big dinosaur fan, but this part of the park doesn’t really do much for me. But that’s just my opinion. The ride itself can be quite scary, so even if your children meet the height requirement of 40″ (102cm) check they will be ok with periods of darkness and being chased by animatronic dinosaurs. We took our son on it when he was 4 and it broke down in complete darkness for a minute or two, he was terrified.Animal Kingdom

Confession time: I’ve not seen the Finding Nemo Musical show, it’s going on my list for this year though, as my daughter is a big fan of the films. The two shows I have seen and thoroughly enjoy are the Festival of The Lion King and It’s Tough to Be a Bug. you can find the Lion King show over in the Africa land. It’s not to be missed, the costumes and acrobatics are amazing it’s just like a mini Broadway production. 

It’s Tough to be a Bug is situated beneath the iconic Tree of Life at the centre of Discovery Island. It’s a fun little show, although parts of it could be unsettling for small children or those with a phobia of creepy-crawlies.

Animal Kingdom
Photo by me. The Tree of Life. A huge artificial baobab carved with over 300 animals

Dining in Animal Kingdom

When we go, we invariably grab a quick snack at lunch time from one of the small vendors around the park and then sit down for dinner at the Rainforest cafe. This year we’re going to try a place that seems to come highly recommended, Flame Tree Barbeque. I’ll no doubt have a review for it when I get back. But whether you are looking for table service or quick service, traditional or more exotic, there are plenty of places to choose from here.

Beating the Crowds

The best advice is to travel around the park in a roughly anti-clockwise direction, apart from hopping across to Pandora when your FP+ time slot arrives. Make the best use of your FP+ as you can, the more popular attractions will ‘sell out’ of time slots by lunch time in peak season.

Animal Kingdom
Proof that a Disney vacation isn’t always all smiles. Me, holding our son, mid-meltdown.

Next time, I’ll look in depth at The Magic Kingdom. See you then

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