WDW: Animal Kingdom

Out of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, Animal Kingdom is probably my favourite. It may be the largest in terms of its physical size, but it's the smallest when it comes to the numbers of rides and shows it has. (Though they are currently building Pandora there. Yes, the world of Avatar is coming to Animal Kingdom in 2017 - I'm not sure how I feel about that!)

One of the reasons it's my favourite is because I got this amazing photo with one of the giraffes on the Kilimanjaro Safaris - long-term readers of this blog will know that giraffes are my absolute favourite animal. (And, yes, I did buy new Minnie Mouse giraffe ears at the park. How could I not? Even if they didn't go with my zebra dress!)

Morning is apparently the best time to do the Kilimanjaro Safaris as more animals are awake, so we made sure our FastPass+ selection for the ride was then (the normal queue was around 50 minutes long at that time). We did, however, walk straight back on it in the afternoon.

Some animals we'd seen in the morning were no longer around, but new ones were out grazing and mooching around. Kilimanjaro Safaris was definitely my favourite experience at the park, along with Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain.

Expedition Everest made up for the Big Thunder Mountain hole in my life (it was closed in the Magic Kingdom, plus it was closed when we were at Disneyland Paris at Easter). It's a similar rollercoaster to BTM in that it doesn't go upside down, though you *do* get chased by a yeti and the ride goes backwards at one point. Such fun!

We skipped Finding Nemo - The Musical so we could go on Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest again, though we did watch Festival of The Lion King. (And ended up in the Team Giraffe corner. WIN!) Festival of The Lion King was super colourful and enjoyable, and afterwards we stopped off at Harambe Market for lunch since Expedition Everest was temporarily closed (inclement weather that, thankfully, fizzled out). The food was surprisingly tasty.

As well as the animals you spot on Kilimanjaro Safari, there are also various animal trails. If you have small children, catch a train to Rafiki's Planet Watch. We didn't head there, but it has a petting zoo so it's perfect for little ones! (Plus you can meet Rafiki.)

The Tree of Life is the main focal point of Animal Kingdom. If you look carefully enough at the tree you can see carvings of animals - there's apparently over 300, so it may take you a while to count them all! Oh, and It's Tough To Be A Bug! takes place underneath the Tree of Life. I'm not a fan of creepy crawlies... except for the A Bug's Life cast, of course.

If you're visiting Animal Kingdom, FastPass+ choices should definitely be used for Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest. We did make the mistake of using a FastPass+ choice on the Kali River Rapids, but the only other ride it seemed worth using it on was DINOSAUR (which was closed). Maybe use a spare FastPass+ choice and meet a character? We didn't stop to meet any, but we did spy Flik, Baloo, Dug and Russell.

What do you think to Animal Kingdom? x

WDW: Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney's Hollywood Studios was the first theme park we visited in Orlando, and I was expecting it to be mostly like the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. It is and it isn't. The "dressing" is much more elaborate here, and it's all just a bit better put together... I suspect the blue skies and palm trees help!

Whilst there are some overlaps with rides - Rock 'n' Rollercoaster with Aerosmith (that's us enjoying it below, and the people sat in front of us were certainly having fun!) and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (nope, still didn't go on that one) - Disney's Hollywood Studios is ramping up for the introduction of Star Wars Land, which is currently being built.

They are also extending Pixar Place, which only has the fantastic Toy Story Midway Mania! ride at the moment. I'd dismissed it as being similar to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, so didn't book a FastPass+ slot for it, which was an error! Luckily we hopped on the ride when it had a rare ten minute queue (it's usually 60-90 minutes long), and it was miles better than the Buzz Lightyear ride, even though they both have the same premise of shooting targets. I wish we'd had chance to go on it again as it was definitely my favourite ride in this park.

My recommendations for your FastPass+ selections are TSMM, Star Tours: The Adventure Continues and Rock 'n' Rollercoaster. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror always seemed to have a short queue time - maybe a lot of people are like me and don't like drop rides? - but you can always tweak your choices on the day using the app. (I'll be sharing more about this in a tips and tricks post but, basically, FastPass+ means you can skip ride and show queues. Oh, and it's free. Perfect!)

There may be the heavy influence of Star Wars (character meets, shows, Jedi Training, plus the Star Tours ride), but the park does have other shows and rides. One you might overlook is Muppet Vision 3D, which is sort of on its own at the back of the park where Star Wars Land is shaping up. It's not amazing, but it's one you can pretty much walk on and it will get you out of the sun for a quick shade break!

Another show is Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage, which is a highlighted blitz of the film and is as charming as you'd think it would be. And then there's the live Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, which isn't charming and has no singing, but it's action-packed and good fun to watch. Try and get picked as a volunteer!

Funnily enough, we skipped the For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration and the Disney Junior shows, though we obviously did the Voyage of The Little Mermaid show and The Great Movie Ride. Both, again, had really short queues, and they are worth doing. (LOVED VoTLM, though I now always correct Ariel as Arielle in my head. As does Olly. Ha!)

We met the most characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios as the queues were so short. Around twenty minutes to meet Mickey and Minnie, whilst with Goofy we just had to wait a few minutes for him to come back from checking that Max had done his homework. (Goof Troop reference? I never watched that.) Chewbacca was a five-minute wait, whilst Kylo Ren had no queue... he was superbly in character, and was the only character who didn't give us a big hug. Sobs! Nah, that was OK - he was pretty intimidating!

Food-wise, we had dinner at the 50's Prime-Time Cafe, which has a wonderfully retro decor. We both ordered Mom's Favorite Recipes (below left), which is meatloaf, fried chicken and pot roast with mash and veggies. Some great American classics, though I wasn't keen on the meatloaf. The batter on that fried chicken though? I'm drooling at the thought of it now! Oh, and if you want to drink alcohol with your meal, take your passport. They wouldn't accept our driving licenses as ID so we had to make do with a coke float and a root beer float.

If you're after an afternoon snack, ladies and gentleman, I give you funnel cake (above right). It's sweet, delicious, and can be found by the Indiana Jones show at Oasis Canteen. We also had a tasty lunch at Min and Bill's Dockside Diner, though I completely forgot that chips doesn't mean fries and was a little confused when we were handed crisps as a side. Great hot dogs and pulled pork sliders there though!

Disney's Hollywood Studios is a fun park, and with some careful planning (and going at the right time of year), you could easily get everything ticked off in a day. There are also evening firework shows, which we didn't get to see, but I hear Fantasmic is BRILLIANT. Oh, and I'd definitely recommend taking some time for the Walt Disney: One Man's Dream exhibition to find out more about the man behind the mouse. What do you think to the park? x


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