A Visit to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom and How to Navigate FastPass+
The night before we leave, everyone can’t sleep. They are crazy excited to see the mouse. Well not really, they’re more excited to see their grandparents and escape from Chicago’s horrible weather. Sadly, our children have reached that age where the allure of Disney characters is no longer their cup of tea, and now their focus is entirely upon the rides.
We set our alarm for 3:30 a.m. and everyone is super chatty and excited as we make our way to the airport and onto the plane. We always try to make them rest, but for some reason (adrenaline maybe?), it never works. Thankfully we aren’t the only parents who have dragged their children out of bed for the early morning cheapo fare to Orlando. These flight attendants must see all sorts.
After an uneventful flight, we hit the ground running. Rental car, check. Toll roads, check. Arrive at Animal Kingdom less than an hour after arrival…impressive, and I am now patting myself on the back.
The first priority is lunch because we are all famished even though it is only 11 a.m. With full bellies we decide to tackle the new Fast Pass+, Disney’s answer to skipping to the front of the line. Scattered throughout the park are FastPass+ kiosks with smiling Disney employees ready to help you choose your three favorite rides or experiences you want to visit. Here’s the catch: they group the rides and shows into categories based on popularity. Usually, you can only choose one from the “most popular” group and two from the secondary group. At some parks this is great, others, not so much. We chose Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, and Kalahari Rapids. The Disney “helper” then enters your choices into their gadget and provides you with your one hour time slots for your preferred experiences. If you don’t like the time slots, you can ask for a different match up until you find the one that suits your schedule. Snap a photo on your phone of the FastPass+ options you have been given (they are also electronically tied to your admission card/ticket or MagicBand) or you can have the times sent to your phone via the My Disney Experience app. WARNING: If you have a Park Hopper, you can only use FastPass+ three times per day, so if you use them all at one park, it is useless at the second park. We learned this the hard way. You have been warned. Once your experiences with designated times have been loaded onto your card or MagicBand you are sent on your merry way. When entering the attraction at your designated time you simply swipe said card or MagicBand for entrance to the FastPass+ line and head to the front of the queue while everyone in the other line glares at you.
7 Experiences You Shouldn’t Miss at Animal Kingdom
I have never been on an African safari, but I like to imagine this is what it would be like (without the goofy Disney commentary). My kids were constantly asking if the animals were real, because that’s how amazing the experience is while you are bouncing over the rough terrain in the open roof trail vehicle. Disney has created a 110 acre wildlife preserve for lions, zebras, elephants, and many more animals you would expect to see on safari. We have great pictures of all the animals and it really set the tone for exploring the rest of the park.
We have been on so many rides where they have signs posted saying “Caution: You May Get Wet”. On this ride, you better believe it. We were in an inner-tube with another family and sent on a wet and wild roller coaster of a ride. We were soaked by the end. The kids loved it. I really hate wet jeans, but must admit the ride was lots of fun.
I have to hand it to Disney. They really know how to make your time standing in line entertaining. The pavilion you stand under is beautifully decorated and they have brought in artifacts you would expect to see if you were trekking through the Himalayas in search of the Yeti. That’s what I love about Disney. They pay attention to detail and look at the whole experience, not just the final product.
Festival of the Lion King
Say the word Broadway and my husband runs away screaming. He will begrudgingly admit however, that this spectacular high flying, acrobatic musical production about Simba’s adventure was worth the time. We saw this program on a previous trip and wanted to see it again, unfortunately it is currently on hiatus until the summer of 2014.
Flights of Wonder
We came across this show while walking towards Expedition Everest. It is one of those, if you blink you miss it things. Don’t blink. Don’t miss it. You will be amazed as the birds soar gracefully over the audience and perform their tricks on cue. The kids watched the entire show with their mouths wide open and truth be told, my mouth was probably open too!
If you have a dinosaur lover in your house, you won’t want to miss this ride. However, if your child is scared of loud noises or riding in the dark, you might want to think twice. On this ride, you are a time traveler to the land of dinosaurs in your all-terrain vehicle. The ride is rough and there are a lot of flashing lights as the meteors go whizzing by. Enormous animatronic dinosaurs come out of the darkness as you make your way through space and time. This may be scarier for younger kids, but our kids enjoyed every minute!
Finding Nemo: The Musical
In all honesty, I did not drag my husband to two musicals, that might have been grounds for divorce! I did take my youngest child to see this show and we both loved it. This is an experience you can FastPass+ so if it is a priority for your family be sure to add it to your top three. The line can be quite long to enter, so I recommend getting there at least fifteen minutes prior to show time. You won’t be disappointed by the colorful props, talented singing, and spectacular choreography. A wonderful show to watch at Disney.