Thursday, November 30, 2017

Our Disney Trip 2017: Animal Kingdom in the Evening

We continued our experience at Animal Kingdom with some special Christmas characters pictures with Santa Goofy and his reindeer pup, Pluto.  Evan and Brody really loved them.  Sadly, Mattox had fallen asleep in line, but this really gave the characters a chance to put on a little show.  They tiptoed quietly around sleeping Mattox in the stroller and were giving everyone the shush sign not to wake him up.  It was so cute. 

Evan and Brody got some good hugs. 

Baby Grayson said Santa Goofy's beard tickled.  

Our pictures included sleeping Mattox, and we all were very careful not to wake him up. 

Sweet Santa Goofy and Pluto.  Mattox will love these pictures one day. 
After a busy and fun morning and a late lunch at Tusker House, we couldn't wait for our safari ride through the beautiful and natural animal habitat.  Although some would say this is not the same thing as a "real" safari, we aren't all so privileged to be able to enjoy a safari trip to Africa while our kids are small.  Animal Kingdom is a beautiful animal sanctuary set on huge acreage to accomodate and preserve many native species from around the world.  The animals enjoy their freedom and protection from poaching and other hazards of the wild, and we get to enjoy seeing them in a native habitat.  I don't really love zoos that keep animals in "cages" so that people can see them better.  I like zoos like North Carolina's which are more like an animal sanctuary where the animals roam free in huge natural habitats.  Animal Kingdom has also done a wonderful job preserving animals in a natural and animal-friendly environment.  The safari vehicles are simlar to those you would ride on an African safari on a nature preserve.

First, we spotted a striped Kudu. 

The boys spotted some rhinoceros from the open safari bus. 

Yikes, huge crocodiles! 

A beautiful waterfall, native grasslands, and a baobab tree. 

And some Ankole cattle. 

African wildebeest roaming around the grasslands. 

Beautiful giraffe.  I remember loving all of the giraffes when we stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge and could just watch them from our resort. 

Look at the baby giraffe with its mother. Awe! 

I love animal watching with my boys.  We loved spotting the elephants and finding the matriarch elephant. 

Some more rhinoceros closer this time. 

Evan's favorites are the ostriches because they can run so fast. 

Lazy sleeping lions, and a cheetah way at the back of the habitat.  

I think that is a nest of ostrich eggs and some cranes in the water. 

These boys loved learing to play the African drums. 

Some sights around the park after we left the safari. 

After our safari ride, we had a little wet and wild ride on an Asian whitewater rafting adventure.

A ride on the Kali River. 

Brody enjoyed pushing the buttons to get the passengers on the ride wet.  I don't know if it worked.  We spotted Daddy and Evan on the ride. 

Silly Daddy! 

Get 'em wet, Brody!  

Then, it was our turn to ride! 

Evan got to ride twice.  
As the sun set, we walked back around the Tree of Life which was lit up for the night to visit the spectacular Pandora World of Avatar.  If you haven't seen the movie "Avatar," you may not appreciate this area of the park.  "Avatar" is a science ficture drama that takes place on a planet which humans discovered in the future in their space explorations and have set up a military camp to procure some newly discovered natural resources that have become extremely valuable in the future.  Pandora is inhabited by a human like species called the Na'vi, and human scientists are studying and learning from the Na'vi about the "magical" qualities of the planet.  All of the plant and animal species on the planet seem to be interconnected through an amazing network like one huge nervous system.  The Na'vi live in harmony with their planet in a huge tree until the humans want to blow it up to get to their precious resources.  The scientists and one military hero who falls in love with a Na'vi girl attempt to save the Na'vi and the planet from the humans.  The humans created Avatars that look like the Na'vi that they can use to communicate and interact with the Na'vi.  It is a really sweet movie, and the special effects depicting the amazing world of Pandora are the best parts.  There are islands that float in the air, and the animals and plants all glow with beautiful colors and life.  Disney really did a fabulous job recreating the magic of this land at Animal Kingdom.  It was really beautiful at night although difficult to photograph in the dim light.  Pandora is about as special in its creation as the fabulous Harry Potter world at Universal Studios.  I just love all the special details.  There were two rides in the Pandora world.  We rode the Na'vi River Journey which allowed you to ride through the land of Pandora.  We didn't get a chance to ride the Avatar ride which is more of a simulated motion ride and 4D movie experience in the fashion of Soarin' at Epcot and Star Tours at Hollywood Studios.  These experiences feel a little "flat" when compared to the awesome actual rides with movie effects that are on all of the rides at Universal Studios.  I am not blasting Disney versus Universal Studios, but my honest opinion is that Universal has done a phenomenal job with their rides and that Disney doesn't have anything comparable yet.  Disney is a better experience for younger kids though because most of the rides at Universal are too big for younger riders.  My advice is to take younger kids to Disney and older kids and teens to Universal Studios.  See, I support both parks equally!

The Tree of Life starting to light up at night.  The nighttime shows aren't as fantastic at Animal Kingdom.  Last trip, we left this park earlier to enjoy our hotel more, but we did want to experience Pandora world at night. 

Entering Pandora and spotting some beautiful glowing foliage and plants. 

I wish my pictures of the floating mountains were better.  They were beautifully constructed to look like the floating mountains from the movie. 

Beautiful glowing waterfalls pouring down from the floating mountains. 

Brody and I got separated in the dark from Eddie and the other boys so we got our picture taken by a photopass photographer. 

On the Na'vi River Journey, we saw glowing animals and moving plants like they flowers that floated up into the sky. 

A beautiful glowing world came to life, and the mother queen of the Na'vi greeted us. 

The primary nighttime spectaculars were the lit Tree of Life and big Christmas tree. 

My big boys in front of the big tree. 

And one last picture in front of the Tree of Life at night.  Yes, the younger boys were asleep again. 

Our Disney Trip 2017: Exploring Animal Kingdom in the morning

While most people would probably argue that Magic Kingdom or Epcot are the best parts of Disney World, I would strongly disagree.  I saved our favorite parks for our last days at Disney.  Animal Kingdom is probably my favorite while Hollywood Studios is probably my boys' favorite.  Five years ago when Eddie and I planned our first family trip to Disney, we both really dreamed of staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge so we made that dream a reality.  We really felt like we got a lot of bang for our buck on that trip with the price for our deluxe accomodations, airplane tickets, meals, and a whole week of Disney park hopper tickets barely costing us $5,000.  With the extreme price increase in Disney vacations, a trip like that now would cost closer to $10K.  Yeah, I am glad we did that 5 years ago and felt no need to relive the experience.  Animal Kingdom Lodge is a very nice place to stay though because you get the added benefit of watching a safari right outside your bedroom window or from your balcony.  With this trip, we knew we wouldn't have the time to enjoy a Disney resort anyway so we were happy to save some money there.  Animal Kingdom park will still give you the experience of going on a "safari" and visiting places around the world.  The new addition of Pandora World of Avatar also made this park a lot more popular.  We also enjoy the character experiences at this park, including our favorite character dining experience at Tusker House, an African themed restaurant with delicious native dishes.  I do miss my many African inspired breakfasts that I ate on our last Disney trip.  Yum!

The lovely entrance to Animal Kingdom was also adorned with a huge Disney Christmas tree. 

Our picture in front of the tree of life was only mildly affected by a foggy start to the day.  Tinkerbell did help dispel some of the gloom. 

And seeing Simba, Timon, and Pumba brought some laughs as did our silly scary poses. 

We stopped by the animal sanctuary to see some beautiful wildlife like these colorful parrots. 

An interesting reptile and some pretty ducks. 

More pretty birds enjoying the lovely morning. 

We spied a Wallaby hiding in the shrubs. 

Next, we traveled over to Asia. 

And stopped in Nepal for a beautiful view of Mount Everest behind a Hindu temple. 

Evan and Brody would like to climb Mount Everest one day.  Um, not.  Haha! 

We did decide to attempt to "climb" Mount Everest to see if we could find a yeti.  He has been sighted there, you know.  Evan was supposed to be riding next to the red headed teenager in front of Brody and I, but he chickened out.  Brody was an awesome riding buddy. 

I love this brave and adventurous kid. 

Of course, my boys love visiting Dino-Rama. 

We all rode Triceratops spin together. 

Daddy got to ride with Grayson and Evan. 

Silly boys.  

I had to take a picture of my Brody and Mattox after I got off since my husband doesn't take many pictures of me.  Yes, Eddie, I think the evidence is in this post.  Thanks a lot. 

The Boneyard is a fun dinosaur fossil play area. 

Our kids love playing in the Boneyard play area. 

Exploring a dinosaur dig site. 

Mattox enjoyed running through the "cave" and getting wet. 

Grayson enjoyed crawling on the dinosaur footprints and hearing the dinosaur roar.  Brody enjoyed this spot too on our last visit when he was Grayson's age. 

Evan took Grayson on the slide. 

Mattox finds some fossils. 

And even sat on a Triceratops head. 

Playing in the water. 
Maybe a future paleontologist?  

The big boys were really looking forward to the Dinosaur ride.  I will say it was not as impressive as the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios and was too dark to really allow you to experience time traveling back into dinosaur times.  Definitely room for some improvement.  The photo kiosk was broken so Brody and I didn't get our photopass picture.  Eddie actually went to the desk to get his and Evan's. Brody and I did get to sit at the front of the car. 

After we completed our tour of Dinoland, we headed over to Africa for our lunch appointment.  Those huge carved doors into Africa were impressive. 

Some beautiful natural scenery in East Africa. 

We were pretty hungry when we arrived at Tusker House for our lunch reservation. 

The boys enjoyed their meals, and I piled my plate high with lots of yummy native inspired dishes.  Tusker House does a huge buffet style meal so you can eat as much as you want.  This was probably the most expensive meal Eddie and I have ever paid for and that is saying a lot.  Sigh.  It was a character experience too, but I don't remember it being quite that expensive last trip.  We really only paid for one extra child.  In Animal Kingdom, all of their cups and disposable containers have to be biodegradable and animal friendly.  No plastics at all.  The cup lids and straws were all paper. 

This little cutie was very excited to spy some of his favorite friends. Donald is a big favorite of his. 

Brody got up and danced and marched around the room with the characters. 

The boys loved seeing Goofy again. 

Mattox did give him a hug this time. 

But then, sadly, he refused to go up to see Donald when he came by our table.  All of the characters come by and visit at your table for pictures.  

Daisy is a favorite too, and Mattox didn't mind seeing her.  Grayson gave her high five and really liked her. 

Daddy seems to like Daisy so I let him take a picture with her. 

And with Mickey too. 

But I made him take mine and Mattox's picture with Mickey even though Mattox was acting shy again. 

I sampled lots of desserts, and the boys joined in the fun with the characters. 

Mattox got an impromptu drum lesson, and we watched some other native wood carvers and dancers. 

The boys got another chance to meet Donald. 

But Mattox still acted shy.  I guess I would be shy around my favorite celebrities too.  


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