the Backpack ~ Strange and Unexpected
when I post something from the archives, it involves bringing
back an essay or article or such that had appeared on the In My
Backpack web site and was removed during one of the updates or
computer issues over the years.
entry is a bit different though… in addition to appearing on the
site, it was part of the Travel
Trilogy project… or, more specifically, Strange
and Unexpected: Backpack on the Road – Volume One: Florida.
that means a couple of versions exist… somewhat specific, almost
definitive versions if you will… the work that was on the site,
and the chapter that was edited and potentially revised from that
piece and used for the book.
material was originally posted on April 2, 2007. It was later
published in April 2013. Some minor proofreading edits and adjustments
may have been made while bringing the material back to the site
in this posting.
~ ~ ~
it technically isn’t new, but it is the most recently opened of
the four Disney theme parks in Orlando.
also the biggest… and the smallest. By that I mean as far as sheer
territory, I believe the Animal Kingdom is the biggest of all
the Disney theme parks. (I’m not going to look that up… but the
safari area for the animals is the primary reason. Not only am
I sure I’ve read that in several places over the years, I’m also
sure without looking for confirmation that it’s true.) And yet,
in several visits I have found myself able to see everything I
wanted to see in just a few hours.
don’t get me wrong… you can spend a full day here. But…
shows – There are some to build into the day. (For instance… Festival
of the Lion King… which may be the best show featuring essentially
a stage performance with a live cast that Disney has ever done
for one of its parks.) However, when it comes to fireworks or
shows or specials like Spectromagic or Fantasmic,
there’s nothing here. I’ve been told that this is mainly because
of the animals. Fair enough. In any event, it means that you can
move around pretty much at your own pace without worrying about
missing the it’s-only-once-a-day, do-not-miss-it event or two.
This park usually has a parade, but not a list of things for the
day that need to be scheduled.
of rides – Yes, there are some great rides here. But not enough
to keep you busy for a full day (unless the park is packed beyond
belief). Expedition Everest hadn’t opened while we were there…
and that will add to the park. (I
also feel this way about MGM to a degree…
where the idea is mainly that it’s another one-day park.) It has
some great stuff, but nothing that requires several visits during
the same trip.
not saying this isn’t a fantastic place to visit… because it is.
It has a unique feel and it is a special place to go. Instead,
I want you to understand that -- unlike for example the Magic
Kingdom -- if your goal is simply to see everything that is a
must-do you will have no need to spend more than one day in the
Animal Kingdom during your stay.
that I know Tigg and I went on, because I was there…
Safaris – I like this ride. You board an oversized safari
vehicle and head out to see live animals. From zebras to lions
to others, every time on the ride creates a different experience.
no secret… so I’ll share… the best time to go is immediately as
the park opens. That advice has been passed along to me many times,
with the reasoning being: (1) It’s cooler in the Florida mornings,
so the animals are more active. (2) Part two of “it’s cooler in
the Florida mornings” -- this time to note that the animals are
less likely to be hiding from the sun (and as such out of sight).
(3) The animals are more likely to be moving when they’re hungry
early in the day. (4) You’ll avoid the longer lines. I don’t know
how true all of these elements are, but the advice has never failed
me. I have never waited more than ten minutes to get into the
vehicle, and I have often seen waits of more than an hour listed
on the boards before noon and after.
Forest Trail – It’s a walking trail that’s kind of nice.
I like it because of the gorillas. Could spend all day looking
at the gorillas.
of the Lion King – It’s not a ride… it’s a show. A very,
very good show. Normally I consider the live-action shows
a bit of a waste… good for the very young kids… mainly designed
to get people away from the rides and out of the park’s pathways
and such. Not this one. This show takes a place along with must
see shows such as Fantasmic. Based, obviously, on The
Lion King, Simba hosts a celebration of his friends featuring
special performances from acrobats and other entertainers.
Tough to be a Bug – Based on the characters from A
Bug’s Life, it’s a theater-style presentation that incorporates
most of your senses (sight, sound, smell) in a funny presentation.
The entrance to the theater winds along a wonderful walk around
the park’s central feature, the Tree of Life. Worth mentioning…
this one scared Naya.
– Ky and Dad sat this one out. Now, judging from Naya’s previous
fun moments -- noted first in Epcot with Honey I Shrunk the Audience,
and just a paragraph ago here with It’s Tough to be a Bug -- I
wasn’t too comfortable being put in charge of Naya on this ride.
Oh, it was fine as we were getting on the ride while she was all
smiles, but as a returning visitor I knew something she didn’t
know… that a big dinosaur was going to come charging out of the
sky at us when we arrived at the end of the ride. I also knew
that unlike those other moments we had shared with her, there
wasn’t an easily accessible exit from a moving ride vehicle for
performing a scoop and run. So, I just kept putting my hand over
her eyes here and there as we moved along. And, well… umm… oops.
See, we arrived at one of the last dinosaurs, and they take a
picture of the car when that dinosaur comes out. I forgot about
the picture. And there we are, the whole group in a lovely shot,
with my hand over Naya’s eyes.
River Rapids – Is there anything better than a kid and
a water ride? Kids and water... it might be the strongest attraction
known to man. Yup… they were all soaked. So bad that
both girls had to change out of their group Disney shirts. Drenched.
others supposedly went on according to my notes, and I want to
preserve them here, but I wasn’t on them…
Whirl – Mom, Kei and Kris went on this ride. It’s one
of those free-spinning-rollercoaster-but-not-really rides.
Spin – The grandkids, Nick, John and Dad went on this
one while the girls went over to Primeval Whirl. Think Dumbo from
the Magic Kingdom with triceratops cars. (You know what? I have
no clue where Margaret was at this point. My notes don’t say.
Everyone is listed except Margaret, Terry and me. Hmm… I do know
that Tigg and I were each eating an ice cream cookie sandwich
and taking pictures. She must have gone with Mom, Kei and Kris.
we ate at, or food we enjoyed…
– Basically it’s an Animal Kingdom McDonald’s. Not too bad, but
when we went it was incredibly crowded.
really need to know…
Jammin’ Jungle Parade – We watched it twice. (Stay with
me… there’s a reason.) First, the kids were having a ball shaking
hands with the characters. Second, we happened to be in the right
the full story: The girls hadn’t been having too much luck with
parades to this point. Loved them. Wanted to see them. For some
reason though, at the Magic Kingdom, they were thrilled by the
parade but no one really stopped to shake hands with them. And,
of course, they noticed the characters stopping near other kids.
So, I spotted something on the map and made a suggestion. We were
in a corner of the park where the parade starts. But unlike the
Magic Kingdom or MGM… where a parade begins in one place, ends
in another, and sends everything back to the start behind the
scenes… this parade goes in a full circle around the park and
ends where it began. So we stayed for a few minutes after it went
by and, sure enough, the parade came right by us again. If the
kids love parades and want to shake hands, this was one of the
perfect ways to do it. Plus, we got to sit and not really
move for a few minutes in the afternoon while we were waiting
for it all to come back around again.
unexpected fun we had…
the big guy… Baloo… on the way out.
can’t really say much of anything at the Animal Kingdom isn’t
worth it. In several visits over the years a few attractions have
been added, and I’ve avoided a few things I haven’t been interested
in trying or didn’t really enjoy on previous trips. But overall
almost everything in this park has been fun.
put a ribbon on it…
out the shops. Yes… yes… I know. Disney is one big shopping trip.
But for whatever reason, I find the shopping here at the Animal
Kingdom to be more unique than at other locations around the Disney
property. Seeing Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore dressed for a safari
is something you just don’t find in all of the parks. Normally
I wouldn’t suggest this. Between Downtown Disney, shops in some
of the areas, the stores in the other parks… there are several
items you will see in dozens of places. But many of the more exotic
and special park items just don’t seem to be in multiple places,
and the majority of those really do seem to come from this park.
story short… if you want something like the t-shirt of Pooh mistaking
a real tiger for Tigger… buy it.