Monday, November 23, 2009

day 1: animal kingdom

we were up and going early on wednesday as we got ready to see the animal kingdom. at first, i had read on that animal kingdom had late magic hours on wednesday, but that information was wrong (so don't trust completely--they were about half right with the times and extra hour dates.) since we had fewer hours than we originally thought, we made sure to get there bright and early!

one thing that i enjoyed was seeing the different trees at each park. they all had a different theme that fit the park, so this one was covered with animals, african crafts and masks.
ha, looking at this next picture makes me realize how HUGE my new sunglasses are. my old ones broke before we got there, so i had to find a pair before we headed out wednesday morning. but they worked well!
and we learned that if you're there when the park opens, you get a special welcome from mickey and his friends! minnie, goofy and pluto were in the foreground, and you can just see mickey back there in front of the tree of life.
speaking of the tree of life, it is so impressive in person and up close. it seemed like everywhere we looked, we found another animal. they all look incredibly life-like, and i did take a few pictures of some of my favorites, but there's no way i'm going to be able to share all of the photos i took! (i'm figuring i took close to a thousand--correction, close to 1,200, now that i actually look at it.)
but this is a good way to share all of my favorite animal photos. picnik has a slideshow feature, so i've put the best animal photos from the day in here--from the safari and several of the walking treks around the park. as soon as we got in the park, we went straight back to the safari and were on in less than 5 minutes. i couldn't believe it! i had visited animal kingdom back in 1998 right after it had opened, and i remember standing in line for the safari for at least an hour or so. i brought out my zoom lens for this one and was so happy with the results. you can click on individual photos to check them out!

after going on the safari and walking through a couple of their trails, we needed some refreshment. luckily, in asia, we found this place:
and so justin had to try one of their specialty green teas while i stuck with a raspberry iced tea. (my husband is a tea aficionado and is always up for trying something new.)

when i visited over 10 years ago, asia wasn't completed so this section was all new to me. i was excited to ride expedition everest (we LOVE roller coasters)...
and explore some of the other new areas.
this monkey habit was so cool--we watched this little guy climb back and forth along the ropes while we finished our teas.
and i couldn't get over the detail that was put into these bird houses in one of the habitats.
before we had lunch, we made it to one of the first performances of "finding nemo--the musical." this was a short 30 minute show that combined puppetry and new songs for the movie into a really awesome performance. (click on the collage to enlarge it)
after lunch at "yak and yeti's" for some chinese, we made it around to see the dinosaurs in "dinoland USA" and learned about conservation at rafiki's planet watch. i think the coolest thing was seeing how the different parks were designed to look so authentic--cracks specifically placed in the concrete, rickety-looking fences and walls to fit in with the african village decor. it's so well-planned and allows you to completely get lost in the theme--until you decide that you must have an ariel tattoo from the kiosk by the churro stand.
(she's still hanging on, by the way. that's a good temporary tattoo.)

we finally claimed a spot along the route for mickey's jammin' jingle parade. awesome animal floats and fun decorated safari vehicles. my samantha brown knowledge had me looking for some of the details she had highlighted before--like the hot chocolate smell that came along with minnie's bathtub on her float.
(i do love some samantha brown. her disney christmas special should start coming on soon on travel channel, and that's honestly what made me plan this trip. she'll convert you!)

we ended our day with the festival of the lion king, a great interactive show that featured several songs from the movie, a troupe of acrobatic "monkeys" and a fire juggler.
i was digging the costumes and all of the colors.
we had made reservations several weeks ago to eat at Boma at the animal kingdom lodge. it's right next door to the park, so we just hopped a quick bus and had plenty of time to explore the lobby and overlooks before dinner.
boma was a buffet-style dinner, with lots of african and middle eastern dishes. justin tried couscous for the first time, while i enjoyed the falafel, hummus and fufu (made me think of my missionary friends who have spent time in africa and talked about fufu!) they also had plenty of desserts--always my favorite!

though we had the disney magic hours wrong for animal kingdom, we did learn that epcot was open late that evening (from 9 pm to midnight). and since it was still somewhat early, we headed on over to epcot to watch their fireworks--i was actually glad that it worked out because we had late dinner reservations for our epcot day and i was afraid we'd miss the fireworks show.
epcot really looks cooler at night, anyways. check out that geodesic dome all lit up. so beautiful.

and we found more lights hidden along some of the concrete squares in future world.
so after making our way back to the lagoon, we found a nice spot of concrete and settled in to watch illuminations: reflections of earth. i only took a couple of pictures because we really didn't have a great "photo" view and honestly--i just wanted to enjoy the show!
while everyone else was heading out after the fireworks, we were able to stay in the park and ride a couple of the big rides. we did spaceship earth, which has been significantly updated since my last visit to epcot, and then made our way over to soarin', easily one of the most popular rides there. the ride features a huge concave screen, and riders are lifted up 40 feet in the air on benches and then tilted so that you feel like you're gliding along above different scenes in california. the golden gate bridge, groves of orange trees, surfing along the shore, and of course, disneyland!

and with that, we contemplated one more ride and then decided against it. our feet hurt, we were exhausted, and we were headed to hollywood studios the next day. we took the bus back to the hotel and crashed--

--day 2 tomorrow :)

check out more photos at