Experience Walt Disney World as a “Kid at Heart” at Animal Kingdom
Disney is definitely not just for kids! My husband and I are proof positive that people of all ages can get caught up in the magic of this enchanted place. Our third theme park on our tour of Disney World was Animal Kingdom, and believe me, it is nothing like the Magic Kingdom. But then again, no two Disney World theme parks are the same.
Pandora and Flight of Passage
Far and away, Pandora, The World of Avatar was our favorite “land” and, Flight of Passage was our favorite ride at Animal Kingdom. In fact, it was our favorite ride of all Disney World parks! When you enter Pandora, you truly feel as if you have entered a mesmerizing world from another planet. The vividly colored vegetation, waterfalls and rock formations were lifelike and stunning. Disney went over the top to create this exotically beautiful landscape that made us forget we were in a theme park.
We’d heard a lot of hype about the Flight of Passage before going to Disney World and we were quite excited to experience it, but apparently so was everyone else. Because this ride was so popular, we weren’t able to get a fast pass so our strategy was to get to the park early (before opening) and get in line as soon as possible.
We arrived an hour early and were astonished to see a huge line had already formed! As it turned out, all those people had the same idea. The park, in an attempt to handle the massive crowd, opened the gates early. It was like being swept away in a sea of people as we were moved along by the mass of bodies, hoping we were heading toward Pandora. We couldn’t see where we were going above all the heads. It was steady movement, though, and before we knew it, we’d made it to the queue for Flight of Passage.
In this ride, they match you up with your own avatar, and astride a banshee, you fly through a simulated Pandora, diving low through canyons and along a river. Swoosh! you bob and weave, maneuvering through jungles with the greatest precision. You fly across plains and up alongside mountains, soaring high into the clouds, twisting and turning all the way. Flight of passage was so lifelike, I forgot that I was on a Disney ride. Absolutely amazing!
The Na’vi River
The Na’vi River Journey was also in Pandora and wasn’t as popular as Flight of Passage, so we were able to secure a fast pass for this one. We chose to go at night so we could see Pandora all lit up which is absolutely amazing. If you think it’s beautiful during the day, just wait till the sun goes down and all the multi-colored lights illuminate the surrounding landscape—simply magical.
Although we enjoyed the Na’vi River Journey a lot, it couldn’t compare to our earlier Pandora experience. In this much slower boat ride along an underground river, it is completely dark except for the multicolored landscapes surrounding you (much like the environment outside). Your boat softly meanders through this magical place, as the story of the Na’vi people unfolds in colorful detail before your eyes. As you float along, you can’t help but become entranced by the incredible array of rich colors and the details of the glowing plants and creatures all around.
Of all the animal attractions in Animal Kingdom, my favorite was the monkeys. They were front and center in this theme park in two separate huge enclosures that housed both siamang and white-cheeked Gibbons. These animated primates were the life of the party—their antics were entertaining and amusing to the vast crowds of passersby.
We bought muffins and coffee at a stand nearby and lingered quite a while to watch these funny little creatures. We walked through several other animal exhibits much like what you would see in a zoo. We particularly enjoyed the Indian Royal Forest where we viewed a sleeping tiger and a huge assortment of colorful and exotic birds—quite an impressive display.
My “B” List
There were a few rides that I felt didn’t quite live up to their billing. Dinosaur, a bumpy, jerky trek through the land of dinosaurs in a “time rover” was mediocre at best. In my opinion this ride is in need of a major overhaul as it felt rundown and outdated.
The Kilimanjaro Safari ride was better than Dinosaur, but most of the animals on the safari were sleeping and hard to see. It did, however, give the feel that we were on an actual safari and, who knows, you might have better luck with the animals at another time.
Rider beware! Many people love the Expedition Everest ride and it is definitely a main attraction. It’s on my B list because it made me sick to my stomach. It is a fast-paced thrill ride through the “Everest” mountain with continuous fast turns and loops. I lost it at about the halfway point when we came to a complete stop and then suddenly reversed direction. Before you know what’s happening, you’re being whipped backwards through the same high-speed twists and turns you just experienced. My stomach simply couldn’t handle this! I would recommend, if you want to ride Expedition Everest, that you take Dramamine before getting on this ride.
Final Light Show
Right before the park closes people start to gather at the Tree of Life, a life-like but manmade tree in the center of the park completely covered with animal carvings. This iconic symbol of Animal Kingdom comes to life at night through the magic of technology. The animal carvings literally start to move, one after another. Different animals are systematically illuminated and then become animated. It’s quite spectacular and a great way to end a very full day. I can tell you I dreamt of flying banshees, monkeys and multi-colored magic lands that night.
We had already experienced a lot of what Disney World theme parks had to offer. Only one park left to go before heading for home. Last but not least we were going to have yet a different experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. But, for now, it was time to go get some much-needed rest.
If you would like more tips on how to experience the magic of Disney World, check out the article Experience Walt Disney World as a “Kid at Heart” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.