Walt Disney World Vacation with Four Kids – Part V – Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and a Return to Epcot

And now, the final installment in my riveting Walt Disney World vacation recap.

Day Five – Animal Kingdom
Our fifth day at Disney World had us going to Animal Kingdom. I knew the least about this park going into it, and found its look and feel to be a little unexpected. I had imagined it would be like a zoo, but when you first enter the park and go left, which is the way we headed to get to our morning reservation at Tusker House, they’ve built the street and area to look like an African city (which makes sense, as the Tusker House is in the “Africa” section of Animal Kingdom. Amazing how the engineers and masterminds at Disney can make something new look old and weathered.

Anyway, we had reservations for a character breakfast at Tusker House. It was a cold morning (into the 40s, and we hadn’t really brought much with us to deal with colder weather!) and when we arrived the hostess said their reservations were running about 45 minutes behind. She theorized it was due to the chilly temperatures, people were staying inside the restaurant longer. So we grabbed some tables at their outdoor waiting area and my father in law tracked down some coffee. While we waited I went to get fast passes for the Kilimanjaro Safari.

When we finally did get into the restaurant, we found a huge and delicious buffet breakfast. There were the Mickey waffles that seem to be present at every Disney breakfast, but also fresh fruits, meats, and other dishes like frittatas and cheese-filled crepes. We all ate a ton of food and the kids got to meet Daisy, Mickey, Goofy and Donald.

After breakfast we headed to the safari, which only Grant would go on with me and Zachary’s parents. I was a little disappointed, but during the safari the tour guide stages some fake scary moments, like chasing poachers, which I imagine would have frightened Isla, so in the end it was probably best she didn’t go. She and Miles were worried the animals would be very close, even though I assured them it would be like going to the zoo (and it was, though we were in a mock-rickety safari bus). We saw elephants, hippos, giraffes and more.

My memory is a little foggy about the day, and it was a slow-paced day so we didn’t pack as much into the park as in others, but we walked two trails – the Maharajah Jungle Trek and the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, the highlight of which was the super cute baby gorilla.

It might also be good to note that in case one of your children has a bathroom accident, we found a kiosk selling Mickey underwear, which I believe was near the entrance to the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

As we made our way around the park we stopped for ice cream in Asia, and then passed the roller coaster Expedition Everest. The wait WITHOUT a Fast Pass was only 5 minutes, which I guess is nearly unheard of for that ride. I asked if anyone would go on it with me and was met with “No,” all around until Zachary’s mom said she’d go on it with me. Success! I haven’t been on a roller coaster in years, and unlike some other riders, I was not prepared for it to go backwards at some point, which was scary in the way only a roller coaster can be. We screamed a lot and enjoyed the ride! Here’s the view from the top of the first hill.

We then made our way to Dino Land, U.S.A, where the kids rode the TriceraTop Spin. Zachary’s parents watched the kids while he and I went to find something to eat. We ended up at a nearly-deserted restaurant called Restaurantosaurus. I even took a photo to show we were the only ones in the place – the people working there were perplexed I was taking a photo of a mostly empty room.

After that we walked around some more and then realized that the park was near closing – Animal Kingdom closes the earliest of the parks most days and that day it was closing at 5, so we had to go straight to the exit so we wouldn’t wait too long for a bus.

Day 6 – Hollywood Studios and Epcot
Our last day at Disney! Reading online message boards and blogs, you’d think Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios was the only attraction worth riding in all of Disney World. So I was determined we would ride it, of course. We had a bit of a late start that morning and didn’t get to HS until close to 10:00, if I remember correctly. I immediately made my way to Toy Story Mania to get Fast Passes. As the line inched forward a cast member announced there were only a few left. I was ready to have an internal tantrum, but managed to get some of the last passes before the closed the line about twenty seconds later. They weren’t until 7:30 that night, though, a long way off.

Looking at the attractions at Hollywood Studios, we quickly realized they weren’t what our kids would enjoy, so after eating enormous cupcakes and candy apples at a bakery/treat shop we hopped a bus back to Epcot, their favorite park for attractions, and walked more around the World Showcase (and of course did the Tres Caballeros boat ride again). We’d originally had lunch reservations for HS at their 50s diner, but had to call to make reservations at Epcot. The only place available was their Chinese restaurant, and quite late for lunch (like 2). But it worked out fine because of our enormous snack earlier and the time it took to get back over to Epcot, anyway.

I will say that the allergy information at the Chinese restaurant (Nine Dragons) was the least impressive of all the places we went. The waitress didn’t seem to know what was in everything, and no chef came out. My options were limited as most food was prepared on the same surfaces as used for shellfish, or used with the same oil, or made with oyster sauce. I tried a bit of Jonah’s sweet and sour chicken and the waitress panicked, saying, “That is fried in the same oil we use for shellfish! Why would you try something if you didn’t know what it was? I could lose my JOB!” I had been confused, because I thought she said the sweet and sour chicken was safe, but all was well, no anaphylactic reaction for me.

We rode the boat across the lake in the middle of the World Showcase, and I think we did Soarin’ again, too. Then made our way back to Hollywood Studios for some chilly time-killing before our Fast Passes. Ate dinner at a quick service outdoor restaurant, I tracked down funnel cake, Zachary’s parents bought us some souvenirs, and then we headed over to Toy Story Mania.

The line for the attraction was pretty quick and colorful and kept the kids interested. Isla had decided she did NOT want to ride it, though, despite encouragement from me, Zachary, her grammie and granddad, and about ten strangers in line with us. So Zachary ended up having to sit the ride out with Jonah and Isla, and unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for us to do a rider swap since the park closed at 8 that night.

And on that note our Disney vacation came to an end! The next morning we woke and packed everything we came with (plus souvenirs and photos) back into the suitcases and had breakfast at a counter service restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge (not enough seating there – we had to wait a while to find a table for us, and watched many others do the same). Disney’s Magical Express came for us and we hopped on board and the bus whisked us off to the airport as we bid farewell to Florida.

Zachary and I both agreed later that the trip was a huge success – things could have gone horribly awry with the weather, the kids (Jonah, especially, was a big question mark because of his age), crowds, etc., but it ended up being a fun and not-too-stressful vacation (which, when you have kids, is really all you can ask for). We originally planned for it to be the one and only trip to Disney ever, but because it went so well we’re considering going again when Jonah is 4 or 5 years old!

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  1. […] Walt Disney World Vacation with Four Kids – Part I – The Planning Walt Disney World Vacation with Four Kids – Part II – Traveling and the First Day at Epc… […]

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