Sunday, February 23, 2014

Animal Kingdom

Despite a very late arrival at the hotel last night (2am!), we were up and ready to hit the parks for the opening of the turnstiles!  We always pack oatmeal packets, and had arranged a grocery delivery of pop, juice, string cheese, applesauce and pretzels to help cut down our in-park expenditures.
Daddy was able to play hooky from his work commitments today, and joined us at Animal Kingdom for a morning of exploration and magic!

Alex discovered that "Cinderella's mice" left her a very special present this morning-- a tiara (purchased at Michael's for $1 before we left!  Score for thrifty Mama!) to wear to the parks.  She was a bit self-conscious, but decided to wear it, as Disney is all about the princesses!
 We used our favorite ride-planning software (now an iPhone app!)- RideMax.  Seriously.  If you have a Disney trip in the works, this is WELL WORTH the fee.  When we used their schedule, we never waited more than 15 minutes for a ride.  It also worked very well with the Fast Pass+ system that Disney just switched to.  And it was ALL on my phone--the best!

 We hit the Triceratops Spin as the first ride-- Dave and I took turns hopping on a 0-wait time Dinosaur ride, but it was a good thing we knew our daughters' limitations-- there would be no way that dark, scary, dinosaur-filled bumpy ride would be a great introduction to theme parks!
 After this we headed to Kilimanjaro Safaris (with our FP+ times), because the animals are always most active in the morning.  Alex had a really great time spotting the safari animals before the driver pointed them out.



We hopped on the train to Rafiki's Planet, where we ran smack dab into Chip and Dale.  They are Daddy's favorite characters, so we needed a family shot!
 Brushing the hogs at Rafiki's planet.  This was a really neat outdoor petting zoo and indoor

 On the way back to the train, Chip and Dale grabbed Alex and she got to play a relay race game with them and some other new friends.

 One of the fun things about Animal Kingdom is their "Wilderness Explorers" program.  Throughout the park, there are cast members dressed as Wilderness Explorers (think that cute kid from the movie Up!)  Each one has a nature-related badge that kids can earn.  Alex earned 6 or 7 on our visit today-- there are about 50 available!  They all centered around making notes and observations about different animals or habitats in the park.
 Here she is sketching her favorite animal on the Pagani Trail.  Note the stroller.  Another GREAT TIP that I got online is to rent a stroller, even if your child normally walks.  We used Kingdom Strollers and couldn't be happier with their customer service and products!  Our athletic, happy-go-lucky Alexandra was only TOO thankful to have a place to sit and rest her legs on these park days.  It saved me many tears and heartaches to be able to tell her to just "hop in" and I'll push her to the next place!
 We had lunch reservations at Tusker House for a buffet lunch with Mickey and friends.  Besides being yummy food (think African and Indian curries!), the characters were all just lovely.
the main buffet area of Tusker House-- gorgeous and very African in feeling!
 Daisy motioned that she really liked Alex's outfit-- Alex was completely won over by the duck with purple eyeshadow.



 We had to wait a little longer to see Donald-- he mistakenly passed our table the first time through the room, but it was a teachable moment.  David gave Alex a crash course in being politely assertive, and by the end of the meal, she just hopped up right in front of him and asked for a hug!
 After lunch, we used another Fast Pass+ to skip a long line so we could get a photo with BOTH Mickey and Minnie (she was absent at lunch).  Then it was time for a fantastic bird show before heading back to the hotel for a little rest and relaxation.

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