Disney World Animal Kingdom

Disney World Animal Kingdom

Oh lucky me! I was in Florida recently staying in the Bradenton area (just north of Sarasota).  It’s only 1.5 hours to Disney World so it was just too tempting not to head over there.  We did two parks in two days.

With our two young adult daughters we decided to visit Epcot and Animal Kingdom  (this would be their third visit to Epcot and second to Animal Kingdom).  As any of you Disney fans know, there is so much there to entertain you and the classic rides are quintessential fun, that you are practically planning a return visit before you leave. And Disney does a great job at rejuvenating what is there and adding new attractions so there’s always a reason to go back.

We left Bradenton at around 6:15 a.m. and arrived for a one night stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge at around 8 a.m.  I planned the early departure to miss early morning rush hour but the roads were actually pretty busy.  I had booked a Savannah room with the promise of animals strolling by our balcony and wowee wow wow that was a sight to see.  It became just so commonplace to see giraffes, zebras, gazelles and so much more, munching and playing just feet away.

From our balcony at Animal Kingdom Lodge

From our balcony at Animal Kingdom Lodge

This was mid-April which according to my online research would see the crowds dissipating but it was more hectic than I would prefer.  (At Undercover Tourist see the Orlando crowd calendar: https://www.undercovertourist.com/orlando/crowd-calendar/#calendar).  Day one was spent at Epcot with one hour waits for the most popular rides early in the day.  The FastPass+ system was different from what I thought it to be and I neglected to book times for the most popular rides which would have sped things up greatly.  Doing this the morning of your visit is too late!

However I was in time to book FastPass+ times for Animal Kingdom the next day which worked really well, particularly since it’s not a huge park.  Well it’s huge in geographic area for the animals to roam, but the pedestrian traffic seems to cover a smaller space in comparison to Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

The highlight for me was the Kilimanjaro Safari; so many animal sightings.  Oh bliss, when a young giraffe emerged through long grass and started walking towards us.  And it was interesting to learn that many of the animals are moved inside at the end of the day, for their health, safety and protection, a process that takes over two hours but the animals have learned to come in turn when they are “called”.  We saw this area of the park while we rode the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

 

On safari at Disney World Animal Kingdom

On safari at Disney World Animal Kingdom

On safari at Disney World Animal Kingdom

On safari at Disney World Animal Kingdom

My husband and two daughters are commited vegans and we had come prepared with snacks although we did scout out a vegan lunch of falafel pita wraps and potato chips.  I had read online that dairy free ice cream was available and we had a comedy of errors being directed here and there to find it; I got a lot of steps on my FitBit during this treasure hunt.  The staff we spoke to really weren’t so sure and to be fair Disney had altered where these products were offered.   But finally we were directed  to Dinosaur Bites in Dinoland USA (we laughed because we had walked by there so many times during the course of the day) where I was assured that we would have success.

DInoland USA

Dinoland USA

But I was told by the young woman at the window that she needed a manager to serve it.  So after repeatedly trying to determine if she could or could not serve us (Disney obviously trains them well not to use the word “can’t”) I finally realized that I had to clearly ask her to call a manager, that it wasn’t something she would take initiative with and offer to do.  So she called and it turned out that the manager was only 2 minutes away which was great.  As the manager began to scoop out our ice cream she asked if we would like to have two vanilla and two chocolate, an odd request, why not just ask us which we wanted?  After a quick poll, we decided on four chocolate ice creams, and the girls swear they saw an eye roll – as it turned out it meant her opening another of the little ice cream containers to give us four chocolate.  We laughed about it, how that here in Animal Kingdom, it could be so difficult to get a dairy-free ice cream but perhaps they are just a little behind the times.

Oh happy day, we found some dairy-free ice cream

Oh happy day, we finally found some dairy-free ice cream

By very great contrast, we felt like royalty asking for the vegan options at Boma- Flavors of Africa, a buffet style restaurant in Animal Kingdom Lodge. We had a really great server, Rob, who brought Chef Greg to our table who personally took us through the buffet showing us the many vegan options.  He also offered to make us a lentil soup (delish!) and a couple of vegan salads which we happily took him up on – a watermelon tomato salad (yum!) and a hearty lentil salad.  To top it off, he listed some desserts that he could specially prepare for us and we had brownie sundaes and fruit with sorbet.  I asked him if he was aware of the great reviews that they get online amongst the vegan Disney visitors and he said that yes they are well aware of what is said online.  Well thanks to my fellow reviewers for putting us on to this restaurant.   If you are interested in vegan dining at Disney World you will find lots more information online.  Here’s a great source at Vegan in Disney World: https://veganindisney.wordpress.com/

And as for our favourite park, Animal Kingdom, the day was packed with fun:  riding Expedition Everest, the Kilimanjaro Safari, getting soaked to the skin on the Kali River Rapids, letting my hair down on the Primeval Whirl, visiting the petting zoo at Conservation Station, watching A Bug’s Life, and little surprises throughout the day like coming across a flock of colourful parrots in front of the Tree of Life, chancing upon fabulous live entertainment, and the many animal sightings if you take your time and look beyond the rides, restaurants, and gift shops. I can’t wait to go back.

Riding Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom

Riding Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom

Disney guests get in on happy dancing at a great show

Disney guests get in on happy dancing at a great show

Take your time at Disney World Animal Kingdom

Take your time at Disney World Animal Kingdom

Disney World Animal Kingdom

Disney World Animal Kingdom


More on Epcot in a future post.

What’s your favourite Disney World park?