Here’s James with a look at his favorite things in Animal Kingdom theme park, part of THP’s Animal Kingdom Appreciation month!
In honor of the 14th birthday of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I decided to think long and hard about the park (or, longer and harder than I already have this month!) to find the 14 things I love the most about it. This is not a “best-of” or “must-see” list, and it’s definitely not in order of importance. Just my random DAK loves.
- The animals. From the giraffes, to the hippos, to the gorillas, to the tigers, and the macaws hidden in the Oasis, I’m just nuts about the wildlife.
- The music that plays on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, when the tour guide decides to turn on the radio. It’s a proud, majestic song that makes me feel like I’ve stepped into a real African safari, where the animals rule the world, not the humans.
- Expedition Everest. How could you not love this spine-tingling ascent into the mountain realm of the mythical Yeti? It’s a shame he doesn’t swipe at you anymore, but hey – you get an awesome view of WDW on the ride up!
- The gorillas in Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. I know I already put the animals, broadly, as number 1, but I have to give special mention to the gorillas. I am absolutely enthralled by them every time Estelle and I walk the Trail. We always seem to stop for at least 10-15 minutes to observe these magnificent monkeys. It may sound crazy, but when they look me in the eye I always feel like they know something I don’t….
- The water fountain thing in Harambe. It wasn’t such an awesome feature on our honeymoon in March but it sure felt great in August! It’s beautiful to look at anytime, though it certainly helps to relax and cool off during those hot, scorching days in Africa.
- The theming. I’ve written before about the wonderful job the Imagineers did with theming in DAK here and here but it bears repeating: this park has some of the best theming ever. I feel completely transported to a Himalayan mountain village, or Indian temple, or African desert town every time I visit, even though I’ve never been to any of those places in real life. The immersion is simply incredible.
- Yak & Yeti! I’m sure many would disagree with me, but I believe the Yak & Yeti is one of the top 5 best restaurants on WDW property, hands down. The menu is spectacular; simple yet refined, and the taste explosion is just out of this world. Not to mention that the delightful theming continues throughout the restaurant, which is nicely air-conditioned and makes for a perfect escape from the heat.
- Flights of Wonder. I’m an edutainment geek to begin with, and I happen to love birds. Plus, I like getting to sit under a shaded canopy and take in a quick but entertaining show. Therefore, Flights of Wonder is perfect for me. It has lots of birds who do neat tricks, a funny little tour guide character who reminds me of an old professor, and is just long enough to completely entertain me without making my miserable back flare up from sitting on a bench seat too long.
- Safari Amber Ale. I know you can pick this up in a few other places on WDW property, such as in the DAK Lodge bars and at the Outpost in World Showcase, but to me, the Safari Amber Ale is forever linked to my days roaming DAK with Estelle. Whether we’re relaxing in Anandapur or taking a beer to-go after our Yak & Yeti lunch, Safari Amber Ale will always be a staple in my day at DAK.
- The Anandapur bus. I don’t think I’ve ever spent a single dime at that bus, but it is another example of wonderful theming and the beauty of the various cultures represented in Asia that I always have to stop and see if I can find some new little detail I haven’t seen before.
- It’s Tough to Be a Bug. I’ll admit, A Bug’s Life is far and away my least favorite Pixar movie. I liked it even less than Cars 2, and we all know what that movie was like. I just didn’t really care about Flik and his band of misfit bugs. Yet for some reason, I feel it’s a necessary part of every DAK trip to see this silly little 3D movie inside the Tree of Life. It just makes me happy, which is strange because the movie it’s based on surely doesn’t.
- The environmentally friendly straws. You’re probably wondering what kind of lunatic puts straws on a list of his favorite things about a theme park. But in a park that prides itself on giving back to nature and taking care of our planet, it really warms my heart to know that the straws are not going to make things worse. If Disney would only use these friendly straws in all of their parks…
- The message. I know that DAK is not a zoo (or is it?), but it certainly provides the same messages as many zoos. Sometimes they are subtle, and sometimes not. The safaris remind us of the natural, unspoiled beauty of the wild and its kings, the animals. Kali River Rapids gives us a somewhat harsh reminder about the dangers of logging and deforestation (the smell of burning trees makes me sad every time). Expedition Everest reminds us of the power of nature and animals, and that there will always be mysteries out there in the wild. Dinosaur reminds us that…..well….dinosaurs are extinct.
- Safari Mickey. C’mon, the Mouse is the coolest no matter what outfit he’s wearing, but nothing says awesome like Safari Mickey in his pith helmet and his little explorer outfit. Adventure always seemed to follow Mickey in his cartoons, but when he’s on safari, you have to imagine that Mickey finally gets to chase adventure for once.
So there you go – my 14 favorite things about Animal Kingdom! I could probably go on and on but that would defeat the purpose of only listing 14 things.
Feel free to comment below and let me know what your favorite things are!