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Since I’ve been getting great feedback from our readers on my posts about the One Day Touring Plans with Small Children, I decided to go ahead and finish the series with the Animal Kingdom and Epcot versions. First up is Animal Kingdom, a very challenging park with kids. After all, people refer to it as “Animal Kingdom hot” for a reason. It’s spread out, very hot and doesn’t feature a ton of attractions. That makes it less than optimal for touring with children.
The plan calls for arrival at the park entrance 25 minutes before park opening. As usual with our crew, we were slow moving, and made it to the park about 10 minutes prior to opening. We grabbed the entertainment schedule and park map, and promptly ran into the first requested diversion from our plan.
To recap, we have a 9 year old son and a 5 year old daughter. My wife is a thrill seeker, while I can go either way, and the kids are polar opposites. The older one loves thrill rides, the younger one is a bit of a scaredy cat. So, my son requested trying Expedition Everest. He had been on it during our last trip with my parents, and wanted to give it another shot.
The plan, meanwhile, calls for an immediate sprint to Kilimanjaro Safaris. I tended to agree with the plan, but didn’t want to deny my son his shot at Everest. We were still discussing as the park opened, so tabled the issue and headed right back to the Safaris, and were through the line in no time. The Safaris are long and involved, and just getting there is a hike. So when I tell you it was 9:35 when we got out, you know that it was rough.
Next on the plan was Kali River Rapids. My wife and daughter did not want to ride, as they were not interested in getting drenched. Truth be told I wasn’t either, but my son was interested. This presented an opportunity. I offered to substitute Everest for Kali and he accepted. So we headed over to Everest, did the baby swap with my daughter, and after two rides on Everest, it was 10:05. Sure, we’d spent the first hour in the park on two attractions, but everyone was happy so far.
Step 3 on the touring plan was the Maharajah Jungle Trek, with step 4 being the Flights of Wonder show. This worked out perfectly, because Flights of Wonder was scheduled for 11 a.m. We took our time walking through the trails of Maharajah, exiting around 10:25. Stopping for a snack at the Anandapur Tea Company, we enjoyed the sunshine, took pictures of the monkeys on the bridge leading to Everest, and made our way slowly to Flights of Wonder at 10:50.
If you’ve never seen Flights of Wonder, you should. It’s really fabulous and full of educational information about birds, plus the kids will love it. The show finished up right at 11:30, so we walked out and headed back over to Discovery Island. The next step on the plan was It’s Tough To Be A Bug, which none of us really wanted to do. The next thing on the list was lunch, so we grabbed something early at Pizzafari.
After satiating ourselves with pizza and salad, we headed to the next step, which was the Camp Minnie-Mickey Greeting Trails. Several of these had a very long wait, but a few of them were short, including Mickey. Can’t really explain that, but we enjoyed it nonetheless, and kept our eyes on the clock, so we could get in line early for Festival of the Lion King. The show started at 1:30, so we got out of the last character line and got in line for the Festival at 1:10.
Festival of the Lion King is one of my favorite shows in all of Walt Disney World, and the kids love to clap along with the different animals. We finished the show just before 2:00, and moved out to see what was next. Finding Nemo the Musical was the recommendation, but there was a caveat. The plan says that if there is no show scheduled in the next 30 minutes, then you should see the Boneyard in Dinoland while you wait. Nemo was at 3:30, so it was off to the Boneyard. That was music to my kids’ ears.
For whatever reason, they love the Boneyard. As a parent, it frightens me, because there is a bridge that leads over the walkway to the other side of Dinoland, as well as lots of cracks and crevices where you can lose sight of them. We got in the Boneyard at 2:15, and left at 2:40. It was all I could take.
The plan called for us to go queue up for Nemo, but it also listed Triceratop Spin. So, while we were in Dinoland, we did that. There was a minimal wait, so it took us until 3:05 to get done. That left us right on time for the show. Animal Kingdom’s shows are not to be missed, as this one is just as good as Festival of the Lion King and Flights of Wonder.
At 4:15, we wandered out of Nemo into the sunlight, and we were exhausted. We rallied the troops to head back to the resort to rest before dinner. My son reminded me of the Kali River Rapids, however. As a dutiful father, I sent the wife and daughter ahead, and we went and waited in the hot, hot sun for the entire 45 minutes for Kali River Rapids. We left the park, exhausted and wet, at 5:30.
So, how did the plan work? Excellent. We were able to do everything and head out by shortly after 4 p.m., if not for my son’s desire to ride Kali River Rapids. We were able to have plenty of down time, enjoy the scenery, and see all the park had to offer. It was a great day, although quite hot, but we never felt overly tired, because we had time off. Of all the plans for small children so far, this one works the best, because of the limited number of attractions at Animal Kingdom.
What have your experiences in Animal Kingdom been like? Does the heat keep you from enjoying it to its fullest?