When we knew we were doing three days of park tickets, it took us a long time to decide whether that third day would be Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios. Because of the number of closures that happened at Hollywood Studios throughout the year, though, we finally felt confident in skipping it and committing to a day with the animals.
We arrived at rope drop after the longest bus stop wait we experienced during the whole trip (45 minutes), then made our way over to DinoLand while the crowd headed, I'm guessing, to Expedition Everest. We figured we'd do Triceratop Spin and poke around in this part of the park until the Boneyard opened up a bit later, but Matt wasn't having it. Since he so quickly vetoed Dumbo, his anxiety about Triceratop Spin wasn't unexpected, but we wanted to give him another shot at a ride geared more toward little ones. This was not at all wasted time, even though we didn't ride anything, because the theming here, like everywhere else in the park, was excellent.
We worked our way back toward the Tree of Life, and Matt decided he was up for It's Tough to be a Bug. Having read that it's a pretty intense attraction despite being inspired by a kids' movie, I had reservations, but he thoroughly enjoyed it. He's establishing a pattern, I think: intense storytelling, yes; heights and speed, not so much.
After the show, we walked over to Harambe Market and grabbed a little snack at Zuri's Sweets Shop. I have to say, I was a little bummed back when the animal poop treats were discontinued so quickly. I think Matt was their target audience and would have loved the concept.
We were in no rush to get anywhere in particular, so we walked across to the seating area to share our snack. This was actually one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. The area was completely empty at this time of day, and we were able to hang out, have a quiet moment as a family and really take in all of the details of the market.
I loved everything about this place: the color, the signage pasted on poles and walls, the lived-in feel even though it's a relatively new spot, the pieced-together-from-what-we-have nature of the structures, the luggage and odds and ends piled up on the Wilderness Express Train cars as they rumble by. Pretty much perfect. And it was equally awesome, albeit very different, when lunch time livened it up with a bit of a crowd and the smells of cooking meat.
We had a bit more time before our FastPass for Kilimanjaro Safaris, so we took a stroll through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. I was basically ready to move in at this point.
After our trek on the trail, we queued up for our safari. Matt let out a spirited "Roll Tide!" when the guide pointed out the elephants, and we saw tons of other animals along the way.
For lunch, we boogied on back to Harambe and tried the sausage fried in curried corn batter. We enjoyed our corndogs, but an unexpected surprise for me was the roasted broccoli and tomato salad served on the side. I had written it off as filler on the plate, but it added some brightness and contrast to the fried meat stick.
Our next stop was Festival of the Lion King. I'll be honest here and say that The Lion King was never really my thing, but I was unprepared for my emotional state during this show. I was feeling just a little bit like this:
We wrapped up our time in the park with a walk through the Maharajah Jungle Trek, where I was once again completely in love with the theming.
After a little rest back at the hotel, we hopped on the bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner at Boma. Our favorites from the buffet of African-inspired dishes included the watermelon rind salad, fufu, pap and chakalaka, and all of the soups (so good!). Boma was a fun way to try a few new foods - particularly for Matt - and a tasty way to end our Animal Kingdom visit.
See the links below to read about the first few days of our trip:
Planning & Arrival Day
The Magic Kingdom