We had an early start today, due to our 8:45am reservation at Tusker House restaurant, which is deep into Animal Kingdom, the biggest park.
As we passed over the bridge towards the Tree of Life, we encounter a booth offering Leah a chance to be a Wilderness Explorer, which is a new (to us) program where the kids get a book and complete educational activities around the park with Wilderness Explorer cast members, who then give them stickers. It was pretty cool, but not that different from passport programs we’ve seen at other museums and zoos. Her first sticker involved learning some kind of animal hand moves lol.
When we checked in at the restaurant, our server hurried us to our table because she said that Mickey was almost at our table, and she was right – we saw Mickey and Goofy in quick succession before we even went for food.
We grabbed some food and when we got back to the table, Donald make his first stop to see Leah, followed by Daisy.
When Donald came by a second time, he kissed Leah’s cheek, then Aly’s hand, and then begged them to not tell Daisy. Leah thought it was hilarious and then decided that “Donald is Aly’s girlfriend” in typically adorable kid fashion.
After breakfast, we rode the safari ride (no pictures this time around), then did the Pangani Forest Trail, which is now called the Gorilla Trail or something like that.
Yes, Aly used some of her spending money to buy a naked mole rat plush.
After that, Leah collected some more stickers in her book as moved from Africa into Asia, then Rachel and I rode the awesome Expedition Everest while the girls chilled out in the shade.
The area around the lake here now has a humongous stepped seating area that will be used in a new nighttime show coming to the park soon – there are lots of things happening at Animal Kingdom right now, and lots of changes since last time we visited.
We made our way through Dinorama and took a quick spin on Triceratops Spin before heading into The Boneyard and letting the kids play in there for a while.
It was time to grab a quick bite, so we stopped at Flame Tree Barbecue for a light lunch. Well, as light a lunch as you can have when you order something called “Pork and Fries”, but trust me, you want to order it.
We then watched the Festival of the Lion King, which is still an amazing show in its new location, and Leah of course went crazy watching it. As she did when we watched It’s Tough To Be A Bug inside the Tree of Life. After that, we left the park and headed back to the hotel for a half-hour break.
After a short drive, we were at the Beach Club resort for a tasty dinner at Beaches N’ Cream, which is one of the best-kept food secrets at WDW. Everyone loved what they got, which is not always easy with this crew. Aly’s grilled cheese was the best grilled cheese I’ve ever tasted – sorry Mom!
The sun was setting as we walked from the resort towards EPCOT and got some nice pictures.
From there, we walked into the back entrance of EPCOT, and if you haven’t been to Disney in a while, you might not know that they’ve now added random metal detector screenings to the park entrances, and they’re kind of like going through security at an airport. After you go through the bag screening, while you’re still trying to put your bag back together, they have you empty all your pockets and go through the machine – it’s kind of a pain in the ass, but I guess #safetyfirst?
We practically ran into Pluto with a very short line, so we waited behind only two other families to see him. Now, the girls had their Tsum Tsum Duffy Bears with them, and Pluto proceeded to eat Leah’s, then wiped the drool off it, and it was quite the hilarious scene.
We stopped for a picture with Spaceship Earth in the background on our way over to see Journey Into Imagination with Figment.
Figment and the after show games were a big hit with both girls.
After that, we walked to the nearby Disney & Pixar Short Film show, which is where Captain EO and Honey I Shrunk The Audience used to be. We hadn’t seen this show before, so it was a fun first-time 3D experience for all of us (including the Tsum Tsum Duffy’s).
We had a FP+ for Soarin’, which had been down when we entered the park, so it had a 150-minute wait for the standby line, and the FP+ queue was backed up to the entrance. We asked a cast member how long the wait for FP+ would be, and he said about 35 minutes, which turned out to be pretty accurate. We debated whether to wait, because it was already almost 8, but ultimately decided to do it.
We had sort of forgotten that the original “Soarin’ Over California” movie had been updated to “Soarin’ Around The World”, so that was also a first-time experience for us. Also, this was the first time Leah was tall enough, so this was her first time on Soarin’ period. It was awesome – the update is fantastic! We took some selfies once we were strapped in.
At Aly’s request, we asked for the front row, which puts you at the top of the screen, and as a bonus, we were in the very center section, which gives the best view.
It was getting late at that point, so we headed to the Mouse Gears store, because Leah wanted to find a specific Duffy to spend her gift card on. Along the way, we spotted Baymax with no line, so we stopped to see one of the biggest characters you can meet here.
The Illuminations show had just ended, so we had to walk against the exiting crowd to make our way to Beach Club and our car. I dropped the girls off at our resort just before 10pm and then had to run to CVS for a few birthday scavenger hunt supplies – the next morning is Leah’s birthday!