We took the kids to Disney World last weekend for NIcholas’ sixth birthday. If you have the opportunity to do a kid’s birthday in Disney World, I highly recommend it. Below is the second part in a series of each day of our adventure. You can also read Day 1.
Our first full day at Disney World started with a character breakfast. The Polynesian’s ‘Ohana restaurant hosts breakfast with Lilo & Stitch and other characters, so we made that part of our itinerary. Nicholas and I were the first ones awake due to the iHome alarm clock’s insanely bright light in our faces all night. Tommy was the next to wake up and when we told him we were having breakfast with Stitch, he exclaimed “Hey, I know… I love the Stitch!” So we dressed and made our way toward the Great Ceremonial House.
After a brief wait, we headed in to our table that looked out over Seven Seas Lagoon toward the Magic Kingdom. ‘Ohana’s meals are all served family style, and breakfast was no exception. A huge bounty of eggs, bacon, sausages, biscuits and of course, mini Mickey waffles. The food was very good, but the main attraction was all of the characters that paraded their way by our table. Much to Tommy’s delight, first up was Stitch, followed of course by Lilo. To my surprise, Mickey was making the rounds. I don’t ever recall seeing Mickey in person at Disney World, so either we hit the jackpot, or he’s just making more facetime with his fans. Either way, the boys liked seeing him. When Tommy saw Pluto walking around, he said “and Big Puppy’s here too!” (Tommy has a stuffed dog he calls Big Puppy).
Once we were sufficiently stuffed on the all-you-can-eat bounty of food, we caught a bus to Animal Kingdom. Our awesome timing streak was still on fire because the Animal Kingdom bus appeared almost immediately after we got to the bus stop. It seemed we were the beneficiaries of some bus dispatching mishap because when people realized it was headed to the AK, there were lots of groans and even a perturbed “Again?!”. Whatever.. they’re not on my vacation, so I’ll let them be angry. We’re going to Animal Kingdom!
Our first order of business was to get a FastPass for the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Now, I’ve heard mixed reviews of Animal Kingdom. I’d heard that it’s just a big Bronx Zoo, but I’d also heard that the Safari is pretty solid. Nicholas had a thing for safaris at one point, and both of the kids love animals, so I figured this would be cool for them. We acquired our FastPass with a window starting about an hour later. We took some time to lather up with sunblock and then we checked out the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. This is a walking trail through an area next to the safari that lets visitors come across lots of exotic species. We saw several monkeys, lots of birds, and gorillas, among other things. This took us over an hour to complete, as there are plenty of places to stop along the way and check things out.
We finally made it back to the front of the safari ride and we got in the FastPass line. We had to wait a few minutes as the line wound its way in, but it was substantially shorter than the standby line. When we finally made it on, we got front-row seats in the truck. The whole theme of the ride is that you’re on a safari in Africa. There’s also a subplot about poachers and that we’ll need to keep an eye out for them. Well, the safari is really pretty solid. I was told later on by a cast member that the entire Magic Kingdom can fit inside of the area used for the safari with room to spare. We saw a ton of animals, including elephants, giraffes, white rhinos, cheetahs, and wildebeests. The only animals who weren’t out at the time were the lions, which we were all bummed about, but we saw a ton of stuff nonetheless.
Now, if you ask Nicholas about the safari, he’ll tell you he loved it, but they need to close it down so the workmen can fix a broken bridge that we had to drive over. Said bridge is being “held together” with a little bit of extra cable, and as we drove over it, the whole thing rocked back and forth. Of course, we shouldn’t have been driving over the broken bridge, but the normal way through had been washed out by heavy rains. Either way, I highly doubt it’ll be fixed by the next time we ride it.
Up next for our adventurous crew is lunch. Yay! It was lunch time, and the offerings in the Africa area were less African and more American-themed with an African flair. They also all had huge lines, so we headed back toward the center of Animal Kingdom and found a nice air conditioned spot in Pizzafari (yes). After some pizza, mac & cheese, and an Italian sandwich, we got ourselves organized and headed over to the train that takes you up to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. The train ride was enjoyable for the kids, and it actually takes you around the back-side of the safari, so you can see some of the behind-the-scenes areas of the park.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is an area for kids that’s geared toward environmental awareness. This is also where a lot of the vet facilities are at the park. Lots of bugs and reptiles to see, and even a hands-on moment with a python! Outside there’s a petting zoo (known in Disney parlance as an Affection Station). Interesting to note, they don’t have any feed dispensers here like regular petting zoos. What they do have are countless brushes that kids can use to brush the animals. Tommy made friends with a blind goat who was enjoying the warmth of the sun.
After killing some time up at Rafiki’s, we took the train back to Africa and then wandered over toward Asia to check out the Finding Nemo show. This is apparently a musical version of the entire movie. By the time we made it over there (after the obligatory bathroom and ice cream breaks), the next show still wouldn’t be for another 45 minutes. We were all pretty tired, so we opted to skip this and try to come back and catch it another day (I’ve been told that the first showings of both shows at Animal Kingdom have the shortest wait times). So, we ambled back to the bus stop to catch the bus back to the Magic Kingdom hotels. Naturally, the Polynesian/Contemporary bus was sitting right there at the stop waiting for us to board.
It seems the bus ride back to the hotel was just the right length for a power nap for the kids, since they rebounded with a ton of energy as soon as we got back to the hotel room. Unfortunately, neither Katie nor myself could move. After a fair amount of harassment by said children, we finally got up, suited up, and headed to the pool. The pool at the Polynesian is volcano themed and even has a water slide that winds its way through the volcano and into the pool. Nicholas tried riding it the day before, but chickened out when it was just about his turn. However, this time, he was feeling up to the challenge. I went down first so I could catch him at the end. My biggest fear was that I’d get down, and then he’d go and get stuck or something. But alas, after what seemed like an eternity, his excited laughter sounded from the end of the tunnel and then he appeared around the corner, and finally splashed into the pool. Like any kid who just rode a water slide and loved it, he wanted to go again. This time, Katie went up with him and I hung out in the pool with Tommy.
Lots of reviews of the Polynesian said the pool is just too small for the amount of use it gets, and I’d agree with that. It got very crowded, especially since the other pool was closed while we were there. It’s also fairly shallow, never getting deeper than around 3-1/2 feet. Busy or shallow, the kids didn’t care– they had a great time every time we went to the pool, even though they each injured themselves once.
Since it was Friday and it was Lent (I know.. bacon, sausage, Italian sandwiches. Hey, I sing in the church choir so I figure I’m covered a little bit), we wanted to hit the UK pavilion’s fish & chips cart for dinner. We got dried off and dressed and walked over to the Transportation & Ticket Center (TTC) which is conveniently close to the Polynesian for the monorail ride over to EPCOT. Our trip coincided with the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival which brings a ton of extra topiaries and other flower themed fun to the parks. All of the flower beds are re-done in even brighter colors, and the whole place is that much more colorful and crazy. We happened upon a huge Lightening McQueen made of flowers. I think even his tires were made of moss. Really cool stuff.
We walked over to the UK pavilion and hit the line for Fish & Chips. The Yorkshire County Fish cart sells nothing but fish & chips, extra chips, shortbread cookies, Bass Ale and Harp Lager. That’s a menu I can live with. They do have tables outside of the UK pavilion, but the whole seating area was closed for a private party. While we were on line, the British Invasion (Beatles/Kinks/Stones cover band) show ended so the line exploded, but the park benches in front of the stage that were jammed were now empty, so we sat down and enjoyed our meal. The kids split an order of fish & chips and Katie and I each devoured our own (plus a little left over by the kids). And a tall cool Bass washed it down quite nicely. As a note, this is the same fish & chips you’d get inside the Rose & Crown pub (the sit down restaurant), but it’s a few bucks less from the cart outside.
After we ate, the kids ran around the knot garden for a while with a bunch of other kids. Then, as it began to get dark, the area filled up again in anticipation of the final British Invasion set of the evening. So, we stayed on our front-row bench and rocked out to classics like Come Together, All Day and All of the NIght, Satisfaction, and Nicholas’ favorite, “Shakin’ the Baby” (aka Twist and Shout).
Now, at some point throughout the adventure, Nicholas saw a kid who had a pirate sword and decided he wanted a sword too. However, he’s not all that into pirates. He is, however, into knights and castles, so I told him at the hotel (where they had pirate swords in the shop), that we should hold off on the pirate sword, because there might be cooler medieval stuff found in England or France or Germany at EPCOT, or even near the castle in Magic Kingdom. Well, we hit the jackpot in the UK, and the boys both got these great sturdy foam swords and shields.
The fireworks were getting ready to begin, and the kids aren’t all that into fireworks, so we headed back toward the monorail station. We caught the Tronorail (a monorail wrapped to promote Tron) back to the TTC, and walked the quiet path back to our room for the night.