by Brittany DiCologero
Wednesday started out at Animal Kingdom, right around park opening for some coffee and a Joffrey’s donut. If you haven’t had a Joffrey’s donut, you haven’t lived.
For whatever reason, Animal Kingdom is usually where I end up indulging in one of these beauties. I mean don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat one at whichever Joffrey’s I end up at, but more often than not you can catch me walking into Animal Kingdom with a chocolate frosted Joffrey’s. (In my left hand of course… the finger I use at the scanner at the entry point is on my right hand, and that would be gross).
We saw DiVine by the Oasis when we first entered the park. She is one of my favorite performers at Walt Disney World so we always make a point to stop and snap some photos whenever she is out:
We had FastPasses made for some of the big attractions like Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, and Kilimanjaro Safaris, so in the morning we decided to start in Dinoland U.S.A. Ordinarily Dinosaur would have probably been our next stop, but the Dino Institute was being refurbished during this trip so we didn’t end up going back for that Iguanodon with Dr. Seeker.
Instead we decided to walk through Chester and Hester’s DinoRama and play some of the games. Call it nostalgia, call it heat exhaustion, whatever the case may be I wanted to play those games. I have a strange relationship with DinoRama, as I’ve hated the theme of this area since the park opened, but then ended up working there during my College Program and now feel some strange kind of… (I don’t want to say “love” umm…) I guess nostalgia towards it.
I don’t think I honestly miss working in Dinoland. I might miss working for Disney in general, but I can’t really say that I miss being on games all day (or for a couple of hours that felt like all day). It’s one of those things that I’m weirdly nostalgic about now, that I would do if say: I somehow became the host of a talk show and for one episode the producers were like “Hey want to film a little gag of you working at your old job in Dinoland? Wouldn’t that be fun?” and then I’d probably be like “Yea that would be fun!” and it would only last for about an hour, which would be plenty. Since it doesn’t look like being a famous talk show host is in my future I guess we won’t need to worry about that.
No surprise here, but we did really well at the games. I won Fossil Fueler and Wacky Pachycephalosaur, and Theresa actually won the big prize at Comet Crasher (which is impressive since that’s the only game of luck. The rest are games of skill that you can figure out a way to be good at, but Comet Crasher is pure luck). With four prizes in tow, we had them sent back to the gift shop at our resort to pick up later and Theresa ultimately gave them to her nephews.
After using our Expedition Everest FastPasses, we realized we had some time before our timeslot for Kali River Rapids, so we decided to grab some last-minute seats for Finding Nemo: The Musical. I know most Disney fans prefer Festival of the Lion King, but Finding Nemo is actually my favorite show in Animal Kingdom.
As you can probably guess, a ride on Kali River Rapids means you should probably spend some time drying off after. We actually didn’t get the worst of it on the drop, although wherever you end up in the raft you usually still get soaked. Instead of going back to the hotel like I usually would, we let the hot Florida sun dry us off while joining in some of the street dancing in Harambe Village.
We had a really great safari that day. Most of the animals were very visible from our truck and we were able to take a lot of photos.
We decided to leave the park after our safari to take a little break at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Theresa had never been there before so we changed plans and hopped on the bus to walk around the Lodge. Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of my favorite hotels, and if it were a moderate instead of a deluxe (which obviously will never happen) I would probably stay there all the time.
While at the Lodge, we looked around the exhibit cases in the lobby and at some of the animals outside. I always love seeing the artifacts in the lobby, and the animal viewing areas at the Lodge can offer a welcome change of pace from the animal viewing areas at the park.
We stayed at the Lodge for lunch, and settled on The Mara, the resort’s quick service restaurant. If we stayed in the park we would have had a quick service lunch anyway, so it made sense to eat at the quick service restaurant at the resort. I was also really excited to try lunch at The Mara as I’ve only had breakfast there in the past. (The only time I stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge was when my parents came to visit during my college program. Since I still had to work I basically only had breakfast at the resort).
Theresa and I both agreed that our lunch at The Mara was one of our favorite quick service meals of this trip. Theresa had the Braai Chicken Flatbread, with oak-fried chicken, sun-dried tomato pesto, bacon, red onion, mozzarella, and Sag Dahi Ranch. I had the Falafel Pita with with sun-dried tomato hummus, cucumbers, tomatoes, mixed greens, and a mint yogurt sauce with couscous (or fries if I had chosen them instead).
My only “complaint” if you can really call it that with my pita was that I didn’t expect the couscous to be served cold. I guess “couscous salad” would have been a more appropriate term for it. Either way, once I got over the surprise of it being cold, it was actually delicious.
Our post-lunch plans brought us to Hollywood Studios, the park where I tend to spend the least time, particularly since the Animation building (and of course Lights, Motors, Action!) closed. Although much of the park is closed at the moment to prepare for Star Wars and Toy Story lands, the Kylo Ren meet and greet is definitely open and probably our new favorite place to go in this park.
In case you weren’t aware. We’re super awkward. Like extremely awkward. Despite continuing to meet Kylo Ren multiple times on this trip, we always ended up looking extremely uncomfortable.
We also met Chewbacca, which really wasn’t awkward at all. Kylo Ren is kind of terrifying (and weirdly attractive?) so we end up awkwardly laughing at the camera. Chewbacca on the other hand is just friendly and fun to hug– no awkwardness here.
While in Hollywood Studios we also went on the Great Movie Ride and saw the film that was being shown at the Star Wars Launch Bay. It was a nice overview of the entire franchise, and although it was essentially just a montage of various footage it did show some things that we really didn’t know too much about before.
We knew that we were going to try to get over to Jellyrolls, the dueling piano bar at the Boardwalk, and after a full day in the parks we wanted to get back to the hotel to freshen up. So we left Hollywood Studios to get back to All Star Music to relax for a little bit and get cleaned up.
I always try to be as efficient as possible when taking Disney buses between resorts. Since there are no resort to resort buses, our plan was to take the bus from All Star Music to the front entrance of Epcot and just walk through the park to the Boardwalk. We wanted to take some more pictures in front of Spaceship Earth anyway, and we really don’t think it’s a bad walk.
Just before leaving the park through the International Gateway we had the crazy idea to stop for fish and chips from the Yorkshire County Fish Shop. Theresa and I have a problem in Disney where we genuinely try to do other things but somehow we end up eating again. Whoops.
Eventually we did end up at Jellyrolls, where we met up with Holly, my roommate from my first college program. Jellyrolls is the dueling piano bar at the Boardwalk, and it’s always a good time, it’s one of my favorite places to unwind after a long day in the parks. I kind of wish Jellyrolls would lower (or do away with altogether) their cover ($12), but I guess I can understand why there’s a cover since clearly people, including me, are still willing to pay it.
We stayed at Jellyrolls pretty “late,” but didn’t want to go too crazy because we think hitting the parks at least somewhat early can really make or break the day.
Stay tuned for part 4!