August 5, 2008

What To Do On Departure Day

It's Departure Day.  Should you go to a park before leaving?  Have a special breakfast?  Do some shopping?

We decided to go reserve our partial day for Animal Kingdom, and here's why.

As I said many, many posts ago, we drove our own car all the way from Texas to Walt Disney World.  This proved advantageous in many ways, one of which was a flexible departure time.  Although, we had to check out of our beloved Old Key West by 11am, nobody said we had to vacate Disney property altogether.  Since Animal Kingdom closes early anyway, we figured we'd stay until shortly before closing, then point our transport toward Tallahassee where we'd stay for the night.

Since the ole SUV was loaded down with luggage, we decided we'd leave it at Old Key West and use the Disney bus system to get to and from Animal Kingdom.  The kids were excited since they think of the bus ride as another attraction.  There were very few people on the AK bus at this time of day (late morning) and it was a relaxing drive.

We piled out of the bus, did the turnstile boogie, and entered into the wha-?  What is this heat?

We had entered the rain forest!  Complete with humidity so thick you could cut through it with a machete!

Seriously, I looked around to see where they were pumping in the water vapor.  It was crazy hot.  But no time to tarry.  We only had a few hours.

This was our first visit to AK ever so we found it rather difficult to decide what we needed Fastpasses for and how to navigate through the park.  My people looked to me to make this decision.  Seriously, didn't I tell them I had not studied up on this stuff so as not to be made fun of?  This is a huge park and there's no hub and spoke layout here.

But never let it be said that I can not rise to the occasion.  I thought it best to split our tickets between Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids, knowing we'd Child Swap on both so we'd get the "free" Fastpass for a second ride.

Our first attraction would be Kilimanjaro Safari.  The line was quite long, and, well, scratch that.  We only had about a 30 minute wait, but it seemed longer because we weren't familiar with the twisty turny queue and the heat.  It made the line seem so much longer.  Finally, we glimpsed this monster.

I'm familiar with the NahTahZu saying regarding AK and I agree.  It's not.  There's so much more.  While Kilimanjaro is an attraction in which you will be looking at wild animals, it also puts you in a poacher-chasing adventure across the savannah, all the while looking at wild animals which, and I'll be honest, is kind of like a zoo...of which I am NahTahFan.  There, I said it.

But I will queue up for that attraction again because it's not just looking at animals.  Those Disney geniuses have put us in the middle of a story and it's a smidge different each time because you never know what those animals are going to do or which ones you're going to get a glimpse of.  Genius.

Just around the river bend we entered Asia for our whitewater rafting adventure.  We had FM#3 measured just for grins and they let him through!  We donned our trusty ponchos and literally walked onto this ride.

Double E, Expedition Everest, was next.  Me and CB rode it first so we could report back to FM#1.  He just wasn't too sure he wanted to ride it.  Let's face it.  That climb up into the mountain looks daunting.  Don't we all assume there's a steep drop on the other side?  And that whole "going backwards" thing.  Yeah.

Well, a less than 5 minute queue landed us in our little train and I was a bit nervous.  Remember that rapid pulse I mentioned prior to boarding the Tower of Terror?  But, again, what we do for our children.  But I was glad I did because the ride was fantastic!

I'm a HUGE Big Thunder Mountain fan, and Space Mountain fan, and Splash Mountain fan.  So I couldn't not attack this mountain as well.  Yes, I just used a double negative to make a point.

We reported to FM#1 that Everest was like Big Thunder on steroids, so he decided to give it a go.  Queuing up a second time, we saw just enough of the queue to want to see more, but the line moved too quickly.  And as we were standing there behind that little gate, the next ones to board, FM#1 decided to unqueue.  He just couldn't do it.  He tried, but he just wasn't ready.

But CB and I couldn't let being 'next' slip away, so we let FM#3 find MawMaw and the brothers out front and we chased the yeti again.  Awesome!

From there we wandered around not really knowing what to do next.  We noticed the ropes were out for the parade and people were starting to scope out their spots, so we ducked into It's Tough To Be A Bug.  It was just a short wait until the next show started.

This attraction is so clever, so fun.  I can just imagine being on the team that was given the task of designing this one.  I'm such a sucker for 4D animation.

There was unanimous love for the bugs until we got sprayed and the lights went out.  That's when FM#3 let out a scream that probably scared Hopper.  The older boys loved the surprise at the end, especially that it was so unexpected.  I'll just leave it at that.

The only thing that makes me sad is that we didn't find out until after we got home that the entire attraction is under the Tree of Life!  How could we have missed that?  Honestly, there's so much to see in Animal Kingdom and the pathways wind and twist and the park looks like it's been there for decades.  Although you could tour the park in a day, you could spend numerous visits discovering the architecture, the pathways, the textures.  And we didn't even scratch the surface.

It was about 3:30pm so we meandered in and out of a couple of shops, FM#2 & 3 buying the softest Eeyore and Mickey.  When we made it back to the front of the park, I realized this was it.  We were heading home now, leaving Walt Disney World behind.  WAIT!

I hadn't bought an souvenirs for myself!  Can you imagine getting all the way home and realizing you hadn't bought anything to remember your trip?  Thankfully, there was one last shop at the park entrance.

We all looked around the shop - and around and around - not rushing to get on the bus.  Thinking back on it, maybe we were all taking it in one last time before heading home.  My souvenir?  The entire trip I had looked for a white visor with classic Mickey on it, but hadn't been able to find it anywhere.  Only ones with Minnie. So I decided on some charms for my Crocs.  Not a big splurge, but I figured they would make for some fun conversation starters.

As we turned toward the bus stop, we saw Donald walking by.  Oh, no!  He looked like he was leaving.  FM#3 was going to miss him again.  But then he stopped.  What?  CB and I looked at each other and realized at the same time that good ole Donald was just getting in place for his meet and greet!

Magic Moment #15 - FM#3 finally got to see Donald Duck up close and personal.  We were the first people to meet him and FM#3 was intrigued by his safari outfit.  He was quite pleased that he met the Donald Duck.  You can tell by the crossed-armed cockiness.

And this chance encounter, literally the last possible moment, right before boarding the bus, was the perfect end to a wonderful vacation.  The planning was great fun, calling the Mouse everyday, looking at websites, and pictures, and talking to people about their past trips, and sharing it with MawMaw, and getting to ride the attractions we had only heard about, and getting to see our children's faces as they experienced all this for the first time.

We had no definite expectations for this vacation, yet we were blessed with more than we could've imagined.  I can read back over these many blog posts and look through our photographs and replay every day back in my mind.

So Many Magical Moments!

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