Monday, May 3, 2010

Animal Kingdom -- Part I

A lot of people don't like Disney's Animal Kingdom. I don't know why. I rather enjoy it, although it does always feel 928475 times hotter in this theme park than any of the others. It doesn't have as much to do as the other parks, but it is home to some of the greatest shows: Finding Nemo--The Musical and Festival of the Lion King. I'm really sad they discontinued Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends, but I'm glad I got to see it one last time!

Although it's not as famous as Magic Kingdom, in many ways Disney's Animal Kingdom is much more magical. Set in 500 acres of lush landscapes, Disney's largest theme park features a real safari through a 110-acre African wilderness, two Broadway-style shows, a thrilling roller coaster and up-close encounters with live animals. The park's mission: to make it easy--and fun--to appreciate the beauty, magnificence, and importance of the animal world.

This lush garden makes you feel as if you've been plunked down in the middle of a rain forest. Cool mist, the aroma of flowers, and playful animals and colorful birds all enliven a miniature landscape of steams and grottoes, waterfalls, and glades fringed with banana leaves and jacaranda.

Primarily the site of the Tree of Life, this land is encircled by Discovery River, which isn't an actual attraction but can be viewed from a bridge in Harambe. The island's whimsical architecture, with wood carvings handmade in Bali, adds plenty of charm and a touch of fantasy to this park hub. The verdant Discovery Island Trails that lead to the Tree of Life provide habitats for kangaroos, lemurs, Galapagos tortoises, and other creatures.

Just as it sounds, this is the place to come in contact with re-create prehistoric creatures, including the fear-inspiring carnotaurus and the gentle iguanodon. The landscaping includes live plants that have evolved over the last 65 million years. In collaboration with Chicago's Field Museum, Disney has added a complete, full-scale skeleton cast of Dino-Sue--also known as "Sue"--the 65-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex discovered near the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Meant to resemble a rural village somewhere in Asia, this land is full of remarkable rain-forest scenery and ruins. Grouping of trees grow from a crumbling tiger shrine and two massive towers, one representing Thailand, the other Nepal.

This largest of the lands is an area of forests and grasslands, predominantly an enclave for wildlife from the continent. The focus is on live animals at the key attractions. Harambe, on the northern bank of Discovery River, is Africa's starting point. Inspired by several East African coastal villages, this Disney town has so much detail that it's mind boggling. Signs on the apparently peeling stucco walls of the buildings are faded, as if bleached by the sun, and everything has a hot, dusty look.

Take the Wildlife Express steam train to this unique center of eco-awareness. This land is divided into three sections. At the Conservation Station, you can meet animal experts and gather round for a critter encounter, enjoy interactive exhibits, learn about the worldwide efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats, and find out ways to connect with the conservation efforts in your own community. At the Habitat Habit! section, cotton-top tamarins play while you learn how to live with all earth's animals. And lastly, the Affection Section, where you get free rein in face-to-face with goats and some rare domesticated critters from around the world.

This Adirondack-style land is the setting for live performances as well as meet-and-greet trails. It has a rustic and woodsy theme, like a summer camp. It's also a cul-de-sac, meaning you can't get to any other part of the park without backtracking to Discovery Island. It's a fairly small land, about the size of Mickey's Toontown in Magic Kingdom.

[ FAVORITE / * Fastpass Available / [ x ] Experienced ]

[ x ] The Oasis - Duration: up to you!

[ x ] Tree of Life - It's Tough to be a Bug!* - Duration: 8 min.
[ x ] Discovery Island Trails - Duration: up to you!

[ ] The Boneyard - Duration: up to you!
[ x ] Dinosaur!* - Duration: 4 min.
[ x ] Triceratop Spin - Duration: 2 min.
[ x ] Primeval Whirl* - Duration: 2.5 min.
[ ] Fossil Fun Games - Duration: up to you!
[ x ] Finding Nemo-The Musical - Duration: 35 min.

[ x ] Expedition Everest* - Duration: 3 min.
[ ] Flights of Wonder - Duration: 25 min.
[ x ] Maharajah Jungle Trek - Duration: up to you!
[ x ] Kali River Rapids* - Duration: 7 min.

[ x ] Kilimanjaro Safaris* - Duration: 22 min.
[ x ] Pangani Forest Exploration Trail - Duration: up to you!

[ x ] Festival of the Lion King - Duration: 28 min.
[ x ] Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends - Duration: 25 min. [CLOSED]

[ ] Conservation Station - Duration: up to you!
[ ] Habitat Habit! - Duration: up to you!
[ ] Affection Section - Duration: up to you!

Have a Magical Day!

(c) The Color Companion to Walt Disney World
(c) Fodor's WDW Guide 2010
(c) The Complete Walt Disney World 2010
(c) Photos - their respectable pictures Flickr

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