On Thursday we returned to Animal Kingdom for our second (and last) day in the park. In honor of Valentine’s Day, Toby and the kids woke to some gifts of love waiting for them in the dining room.
I was thrilled to be spending Valentine’s Day with the love of my life at my favorite Disney park!
The combination of shady pathways, smaller crowds, and animals everywhere you look, makes this park feel more like a haven than a theme park.
The theming in this park also adds to the feeling of being transported to another continent as visitors move from Pandora to Africa and then on to Asia. Each area offers rides, shows and experiences that tie into that environment, and while we revisited the Pandora-The World of Avatar to re-ride our new, favorite Disney World ride: Avatar Flight of passage (It is AMAZING!!), and to visit Windtraders so that Rusty could use the remainder of his Christmas money to adopt a banshee,
Most of our day was spent enjoying the rest of Animal Kingdom.
After riding Avatar Flight of Passage, our second ride of the day was Expedition Everest. This roller coaster is a family favorite!
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
“Wander into a Tibetan village at the base of Mount Everest and board a train to the “top of the world.” Beware: Some say a legendary snow monster—the Yeti—lives deep in the mountain.
After a steep ascent, hold on tight as your train picks up speed and races into the darkness. Without warning, a broken and twisted track appears in front of you.
Brace yourself as you plummet backward into total darkness. Inside the cavern, the mythical tale comes true as you see the shadow of a massive, growling beast!
Race to escape the cursed mountain—before the Yeti claims another expedition!”
From there we headed over to Kilimanjaro Safaris.
“Set off in an open-air vehicle for a guided tour of an African savanna—and spot live animals roaming free.
Explore the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, home to 34 species living in 110 acres of picturesque open plains, shady forest landscapes and rocky wetlands. Your rugged safari vehicle is driven by an expert guide, who helps point out animals and shares fascinating wildlife facts during this extraordinary 18-minute expedition.
Spot a shy hippopotamus nestled in a still pond.
Behold a regal lion sunbathing on a rocky perch.
Drive past a gentle giraffe grazing on the tall trees.
Other amazing animals you may encounter include rhinos, cheetahs, crocodiles, elephants, hyenas and zebras—and so many more!
Since animals have minds of their own, every expedition is a unique and unforgettable experience. Be sure to keep your eyes open and have a camera ready—you never know what you’ll see on a Kilimanjaro Safaris outing.”
This experience was a hit with all my animal lovers. Brandon requested we do it again after dark, wanting to experience the ride at night and see the animals in a “whole new light.”
Previously off limits to visitors after sundown, this unforgettable journey through the reserve allowed us to witness rarely seen nocturnal animal behaviors. Many of the animals were settled in for the night, and there wasn’t a whole lot of action until we drove up to the lion pride where we got to experience the lions roaring and calling out to each other. It was an astounding experience that made the night time trek well worth the otherwise anticlimactic ride!
In addition to riding and re-riding our favorite rides, we also made time to enjoy some of the shows. We began the day by watching:
UP! A Great Bird Adventure
“Join Russell and his furry friend Dug on a flap-happy adventure sure to send spirits soaring.
Led by a senior Wilderness Explorer, this unique birding experience features a close-up look at various bird species from around the globe—including the marabou stork, which boasts a magnificent 10-foot wingspan.
Prepare for breathtaking fun with these free-flying fowl… along with a few other surprises!”
Tyler is our resident bird lover, having once lived in a foster home with a parrot named, Mango. He loved this Animal Kingdom show that was created completely around nature’s feathered friends.
My personal favorite show at Animal Kingdom, and perhaps all the Disney parks, is Finding Nemo- The Musical. We made sure to fit in a viewing of this incredible production.
Finding Nemo- The Musical
“Extraordinary live musical performances, delightful puppets, vibrant sets and wondrous underwater special effects immerse you in Nemo’s fin-tastic world. Join the overprotective clownfish Marlin and his forgetful friend Dory as they search for his son, Nemo.
The multiple Academy Award-winning songwriting team behind Frozen and Coco, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, created 14 original songs just for this show—the first time a non-musical Disney animated feature has been transformed into an original musical production.
Take your fins and family and dive right into this “big blue world”!”
Halfway through the day we took a break to enjoy some lunch at our favorite counter service restaurant at Disney World: Flame Tree BBQ. This place is nothing short of amazing! Here we feasted on delicious, fall-off-the-bone ribs, baked beans, BBQ pork sandwiches, and turkey legs.
It was a perfect mid-day break. Everyone filled their bellies and enjoyed sitting for a half an hour under the shade of the trees while watching the antics of the water fowl that run amok, stealing food from unexpecting visitors.
After lunch, we made our way over to Dinoland U.S.A. to ride some of the rides in that area of the park.
Along the way we stumbled across some fine feathered friends of a different variety. In this area of the park we found Donald Duck and his friends.
The older kids requested photos and autographs from some of the characters we were passing, so we stopped to say hello.
When we went up to say hello to Donald, he noticed our celebration pin.
With great excitement he clapped and hugged us and insisted we take a family photo with the whole crew.
For the last two weeks we have walked around the park wearing our celebration pins announcing our upcoming adoption. It has been neat to see how many people have been touched by adoption, as fellow visitors and cast members stop us to congratulate us and share their adoption stories. One woman stopped us while we waited behind her in line for a ride to ask about our pin and then insisted on giving Brandon a hug when she found out he was being adopted, having been a teenager adoptee. Other cast members, from custodial staff to cast member trainers, stopped to share their stories of being an adoptive parent or an adopted child.
For our snack we decided to go classic with a Mickey ice cream bar.
We ate our treats while enjoying a performance in the streets of Harambe, Africa.
That night we enjoyed two special night time shows at Animal Kingdom:
Tree of Life Awakenings- A Mesmerizing Nighttime Experience
“Flickering fireflies magically appear and stir to life the animal spirits in the tree’s towering trunk—bringing to light a dazzling visual display swarming with color and animated imagery.
Gaze upon a young doe embarking upon a thrilling journey. Behold love blossoming between a pair of hummingbirds. Spy a sly fox spreading gifts of love among the denizens of a wintry forest.
A feast for the eyes, each revelation celebrates the eternal balance and harmony that exists in all living things, big or small, and is sure to inspire and delight your whole family tree.”
Rivers of Light
“Get swept away in a timeless show that celebrates the beauty of all living things. With a brilliant fusion of water, sound and light, it’s quite unlike anything you’ve experienced before!
As sunlight fades and the stars begin their twinkle, remember that we are all bound together by earth and spirit—past, present and future.
Listen as the Discovery River responds to the whispers of the world, cradling creatures with a symphony that swells with wild murmurs and shimmering secrets of the universe.
So begins a new light—a vibrant awakening of flitting fireflies leading to a ceremonious procession across the water.
Before your eyes, clusters of lantern light shift and shape into stunning animal spirit forms—the Tiger, Turtle, Elephant and Owl. Spellbound, you’re transported across Asian jungles and tropical oceans to African savannahs and North American mountains.
This magnetic display culminates in a triumphant blend of song, light, color and earthly elements—a grand finale so divine that you can’t help but feel a sense of peace and oneness with nature.”
Our amazing Valentine’s Day came to a close with a trip to the top of Everest with my true love (and a few spares.)
We loved our time in Animal Kingdom, and were sad to go, but we weren’t done with our Disney adventure quite yet.
Next stop: Epcot!