Animal Kingdom

When we started planning our Orlando trip, we thought Monday would be a travel day. But when we looked at flights, we realized we could fly back late enough to give us a half day at the parks. Adding an extra day to our park tickets was quite cheap (adding extra days gets progressively cheaper). So, we decided to add a half day of Animal Kingdom to our trip to maximize the fun.

We woke up early, got ready, and packed up. We headed down and checked our bags for our flight at our hotel (yes, the resort no only printed our boarding passes and delivered them to our room, but also let us check our bags for our flight at the hotel). We got Luggage Services to hang onto the girls’ backpacks so they didn’t have to keep up with them at the park. Then we hopped on the bus to Animal Kingdom.

We didn’t get there right at 8:00, but we arrived early enough to take advantage of most of the Extra Magic Hour. We headed straight to Kilimanjaro Safaris, where we hopped in a truck for a guided tour of their Harambe Wildlife Reserve. It was like a mini African safari in the middle of Florida. We saw lots of animals as we drove through the preserve, including hippos

Kilimanjaro Safaris - hippos

and giraffes

Kilimanjaro Safaris - giraffes

and rhinos

Kilimanjaro Safaris - rhinos

and zebras so close you could almost touch them.

Kilimanjaro Safaris - zebra

and many more.

It was really cool - definitely my favorite attraction at Animal Kingdom.

When we got out, we stumbled upon the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe and got to listen to some drumming. This was a nice source of entertainment while we waited for the Lion King show to open.

Then, we headed to the Festival of the Lion King. It’s a huge live show with singers, giant puppet animals, dancers, gymnasts, fire jugglers, and more. The audience sits on four sides of the performance, each representing an animal (go giraffes!).

Festival of the Lion King

Festival of the Lion King

Next, we thought we might check out the Tree of Life before lunch. Sadly, it was closed that day, so that didn’t work out. So, instead we took a family picture at the front of the park before heading to lunch.

Family pic at Animal Kingdom

We were shocked at who we saw there.


We couldn’t have a fancy dinner since we’d be on a plane, so we instead had a fancy lunch. We heard that Sanaa, the restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Villas was very cool (thanks Kelly), so we went there. To get there, we had to leave the park and take a 5 minute bus ride to the villas, but it was definitely worth it.

Sanaa was delicious African cooking with Indian flavors. We definitely recommend getting the Indian-style Bread Service appetizer. Jen had the Tandoori chicken and I had the Potjie Inspired (braised beef and seafood curry), and they were great. Easily the best meal we ate at Disney.

And not only was the food great, the atmosphere was very cool. It’s a fancy restaurant in a fancy hotel, but right outside the window next to our table is a wildlife reserve. This may not be the best picture of Molly eating her naan and showing off the light-up Tinker Bell that came on her drink, but the awesome part is the zebras in the background.

Eating with zebras

Yes, there were zebras outside the restaurant, as well as a bunch of large birds. There are apparently often giraffes as well, but they weren’t around during our meal.

The girls also appreciated that they had a fun-filled dessert for kids - Decorate-Your-Own Sugar Cookie. Leah might have put enough icing on this one.

Decorate-Your-Own Sugar Cookie

After lunch, we had a FastPass for Finding Nemo - The Musical for the 1:00 show. To use the FastPass, we had to be there by 12:50. We finished lunch at 12:30, waited for the bus, rode it to the Animal Kingdom Lodge where it picked up more passengers, rode it to the park, went through security/bag check, re-entered the park, and booked it to the show (which was very far from the park entrance). We got there at 12:58, too late to use the FastPass but not too late to get into the show and sit at the very back. Regardless, we enjoyed it.

The girls hadn’t been excited about meeting any characters lately, but they decided they did want to go see Mickey and Minnie again.

Meeting Mickey and Minnie

Meeting Mickey and Minnie

And hugging them good-bye.

Meeting Mickey and Minnie

Meeting Mickey and Minnie

We then wandered into DinoLand, thinking that the Primeval Whirl looked like a fun ride. We started to walk in, only to find out Leah wasn’t tall enough to ride. We decided no one would ride it without her. So, instead we hopped on the TriceraTop Spin, which is a lot like the Dumbo ride at Magic Kingdom.

We then heard music, and found the Viva Gaia Street Band! playing some fun tunes and leading dancing. Molly quickly jumped into the action.

Viva Gaia Street Band!

And then we were done. We had hit the main things we wanted to at Animal Kingdom, and it was time to head toward the airport. We took the bus back to our hotel, collected backpacks, and waited on Disney’s Magical Express to the airport. And everyone was still smiling.

Waiting to go home

The trip was fantastic, and there’s very little we’d do differently. We were very glad we took advantage of every minute. We got home around 10:00 - extremely tired and not looking forward to waking up for school the next morning. Fortunately, the next day ended up being a snow day, so the girls got to recover a bit before getting back into the usual routine.

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