The first thing you see at AK is the Rainforest Café right outside of the gates (way to go, Landry’s), and even it is a sight to behold. It definitely fits in. We all gathered inside the main gate and waited for this performance. It turns out it was Mickey and Minnie, in safari clothes, on a bus singing a checklist-song of what they would need through-out the day (you know, sunscreen, water, product placement, etc). It was really pretty cute, but not really worth the half hour of sleep we could have gained by not rushing. At least we got there before any lines could form at rides! We went straight to the Kali River Rapids, which are nearly my favorite in that park. We were the ONLY people going there, though, because everyone rushed either to a) Expedition Everest or b) the Kilimanjaro Safari. Both of these form lines quickly, and apparently am is the best time for the safari (although all times have their advantage). So we had an entire raft to ourselves. Note to self: when starting your morning with a bone-soaking water ride, do not wear white shorts! Brilliant move on my part. When the ride was over the guy asked if we just wanted to stay on because there was almost no line at all. Most (clever) people were waiting until it was actually hot outside to get soaking wet. Hmm… well, we got a Fast Pass so we could do it again once it once hot and there WAS a line. Oh, the Fast Pass: the first few times we rode rides and people were passing us, Brad got so irritated! I told him, “Wait until we have the passes, then you will appreciate the system” and sure enough, the truth! As we passed people for the rapids that afternoon, he couldn’t help saying “VIP, excuse us, VIP” not-quietly-enough under his breath. It was so funny (to us) and he did it EVERY TIME WE HAD THEM!
So after the rapids we walked, dripping, towards the Safari location. What a marvelous job they have done with this whole park! The AK is truly beautiful and interesting at every turn. We have heard exchange employees from Africa say that the park décor is so accurate in some places that it keeps them from being homesick. The market places and atmosphere feel truly international. Well done, Walt! Anyway, we waited some time in line for the Safari (maybe 15, 20 minutes in the shade) and embarked on a wild ride. We saw most of the animals, several of which I have forgotten their names. We got to see hippos and crocodiles. We saw elephants and giraffes, as well as ostrich eggs. We even got to see the lion out of his den and sitting on his shady rock. That in and of itself is mildly uncommon, but the best (and rarest) part was that we heard him roar! That almost never happens (we are told) so it was truly exciting. Brad was so excited; it was adorable, he turned 6 for a moment!
When we left the Safari we found some people crowding in the walkways. The first group was crowding around a character – Baloo from Jungle Book – which we could bypass. Then we saw a crowd around DeVine, a performance artist that works in AK. WOW. This woman is covered in vines and general shrubbery. She will generally stand up against a wall of foliage to blend in for a while and once she is surrounded by people who have not seen her move yet, she very slowly creeps out and… performs. Imagine a very slow motion Cirque de Soleil performance. No, Brad and I decided it was more like an extremely slow motion pole dancer with class. I do not mean that her movements were overtly sexual in nature, but my God. It was inarguably hot! We both were impressed.
Well after that ‘show’ we headed for Dinoland USA for the biggest thrill AK has to offer that I am actually will to endure (no Expedition Everest for me). We went to DINOSAUR before we could be distracted by all of the fun stuff around us (including the Finding Nemo musical which we did NOT see. Unfortunately I do regret missing that. My bad.) The line for DINOSAUR moved very quickly and soon we were on our mission back in time to secretly retrieve an herbivore. The ride was so dark and so bumpy that every shock was genuinely thrilling and somewhat scary. I knew about most of the “surprises” so I knew when to close my wussy eyes, but Brad did not. He was screaming his head off, all in good fun! The ending is the very best. I won’t detail it here, in case you hate spoilers, but it was intense and fun! That was by far Brad’s favorite of the trip, and it is one of mine.
After our detour with dinos we headed for “It’s Tough To Be a Bug” in the massive and impressive Tree of Life. That movie is so cute and silly, but I will admit something to you. The first time I saw this 3D movie (when I was 17, mind you) it kind of startled me a bit. You know how sometimes you register shock as pain and even though you realize later that it didn’t hurt, you still remember it as pain? Just me? How embarrassing… Anyway, this time I truly enjoyed it (because I knew when to lean forward or pick up my feet). It is fun, especially if you prefer to people watch!
After another round of Kali River Rapids we headed out. On our way we decided to have Rainforest Café for lunch. It tasted wonderful and our server was great, but we have suspicions that a minor malady later in the evening might have been caused by the nachos… no details, for your benefit and mine.
After we left Animal Kingdom we headed to Typhoon Lagoon, one of WDW water parks. For this park the theme is a ship wreck (for Blizzard Beach the theme is a ski resort that is melting due to unseasonable weather). This place was the heart of my best memories from my previous trip; Jessie and I had SO much fun here (we swam with sharks, we crashed in the wave pool, so many jokes). Brad and I, however, did not have quite as much fun. The first thing we did was the wave pool, which I remember having MONSTROUS waves that “shot me like a rocket”, but these were the little rocking waves you would expect from any wave pool. Well that got old quickly, so we headed to the lazy river. Normally I love these, but the current was weak. They are more fun when you feel slightly out of control. So that was boring after a short while and we headed off to fins slides and tube rides. We wandered for-ev-er before we finally found one of the ones that sounded fun. We waited in line for a long time before hopping on a raft for what felt like 20 seconds – ride over. It was very disappointing, but as we walked back down we heard these loud thump noises. I followed my instinct to the wave pool where these gigantic waves were crashing over people. Now THAT is what I remember! We rushed in and steadied ourselves for the first one, which hit like a brick wall – but, you know, in a fun way. We went flying, and it was a lot of fun. After a while it became slightly less fun as you tried not to crush those in your wake. We decided that we had extracted all of the fun we were gonna get from TL and headed out.
After a quick change in our room we moved on to Downtown Disney. We had dinner reservations at Wolfgang Puck Café, which we were excited about. The food was very good, and the service was satisfactory, but certainly not exceptional. We had a nice view of the lake from our table by the window. As part of the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) we got an entrée, a dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage. This is a great deal financially, but is so SO rare that I need, want or can even attempt a dessert to myself after a big meal. I had steak and Brad had the meatloaf (WP specialty), so we were sufficiently full. We ordered the crème brulee and the chocolate cake – whoa. The brulee was excellent, but we couldn’t even finish it. The cake was flourless, so imagine the darkest, densest cake you have ever eaten. TOO rich!
We did a little shopping in Downtown Disney; we found the most amazing store focused entirely on Christmas decorations and ornaments. We could have gone broke in there – we wanted all of it! We decided to comeback another time for an ornament so we wouldn’t be burdened with a breakable when we crossed the block to Pleasure Island. We wandered in and out of the bars there, which weren’t crowded yet. “Mannequins” has a rotating dance floor and $2 drafts, so we spent a little while in there. We went to the Comedy Warehouse for their Improv show and had a blast! It was a troupe of five women, and they were quite funny and very personable. It looked the most fun job in the world. The drinks in there were pricey, though. Oh well, lesson learned. We stopped into a few more bars after that, but they were pretty much empty, so we went to sit in Raglan Road and relax for a bit. There was a girl river-dancing on a small stage in the middle of the room, and after her show they brought on a band that played somewhat traditional music. It was so fun, PLUS we found out that they serve Yeungling beer! Brad discovered it in Pennsylvania on a business trip; it is brewed there (and also in Florida) and it is the oldest brewery in America. It is absolutely delish, but you can only get it in a few states, all on the East coast. They don’t even seem to distribute it in Texas, but I will be on the lookout.
We were EXHAUSTED by this point, so we headed home for a romantic and relaxing end to our day. Even after one-and-a-quarter days we had sore feet and tired bones. The pain was all worth it, but we could see we would need to pace ourselves better in the days to come. We went to bed, excited to see Epcot the next day!