Every since This Happy Place Blog started in 2011, the month of April has been dedicated to Animal Kingdom Appreciation. So here we are once again! (I know, I know… we just had Muppets but what can I say — I like themes!) Hope you’ll follow along this month for an eclectic collection of AK posts!
If Katherine had been totally upfront with me before I decided to accompany her on her Wine & Dine weekend last November, I probably would have thought twice before agreeing.
Because the truth is, except for a quick run through the park, she has not spent any time in Animal Kingdom. None. None. None.
Who was this person I was going to be spending the weekend with? In an All-Star Resort? Who was it?
I did not know. I just had to trust that my friend Katherine would follow my lead and welcome Animal Kingdom into her life. With acceptance and openness.
Maybe it helped that she was coming off an extra magic hours evening at Magic Kingdom, where we basically were the only ones in the park. We had listened to the Christmas music around the hub, she cried during “The Kiss Goodnight”, and we had Starbucks on Main Street. Even when we rolled into our room after 2 in the morning and I drank water from the ice tub because All-Star Movies didn’t provide plastic cups, she was still game to rope drop Animal Kingdom the next day. (We even snagged an early morning character breakfast reservation using our My Disney App in the wee hours of the morning so we basically had 3 hours of sleep to look forward to.)
But it was happening! And on my last semi-full day where I would leave Katherine and jump on a plane back to New York. (So sad.) Our plan was two parks and returning to the resort in time for me to catch the Magical Express. (Spoiler alert: I missed it. Second spoiler alert: I was able to get on the next one.)
Determined to show Katherine the time of her life AT THE TREE OF LIFE in Animal Kingdom, I had to truly focus on how we would spend our time. It was a mission! (Sadly one that would not include a live show though… there was just no time. But if I had a full day to woo Katherine, one of the live shows at DAK would have been a requirement.)
First up? Expedition Everest.
There’s nothing like riding this baby three times before you have breakfast. Katherine was an Expedition Everest virgin, and as I tell all my friends before they go on this ride with me, I scream a lot. I curse a lot. I have even made friends on the ride because of these two awesome Estelle qualities. For some reason, this roller coaster STILL scares me.
But it was fun, and there was absolutely no wait. I also love to hit the bells along the queue. (So fun even though I feel short.)
Next up, we grabbed fast passes (yes, paper ones!) for Kilimanjaro Safaris and headed to Tusker House for our breakfast with Donald and friends. I’m just going to share one picture but this is still one of my favorite character breakfasts on property, and I was happy to have a fun meal with K on our last day together.
After a super filling breakfast (I love that buffet), we headed over to check out the animals on the safari. Normally, I would aim toward the safari first when arriving at Animal Kingdom but because we had breakfast scheduled and only had a few precious moments in the park, I wanted to make sure we did Everest at a time I would not lose my breakfast. Good decision, right? (I’m sure Katherine thinks so… and maybe every guest in the park that day.)
As always: the trip through the safari was a gem. Tons of animals, the weather was great, and the people in the seat behind us were so excited. (Reactions are always fun to hear as a repeat guest, don’t you think?)
Our next stop was selfish on my part. I can’t go to DAK without savoring its finest delicacy.
Yes. Safari Amber Ale. I had to. After stopping by the Dawa Bar (and getting carded which seriously confused me for some reason), Katherine and I took in many of the construction sights.
This is where you point out to your friend, the infrequent DAK guest, that there are so many possibilities to look forward to in the future!
To appreciate the future, you also have to pay homage to the past. I made sure visiting Camp Minnie Mickey was on the list during this quick DAK jaunt. At this point, they hadn’t scheduled a closing date for this section of the park and I didn’t know for sure if I would be back to see it again. So we took the deep walk into Camp Minnie Mickey for Katherine’s first time and my last. (That sounds so foreboding.)
I’ll share more of these pictures in a future post, but gee, was this sad. My family and I have been visiting DAK since the first year that it opened and Camp Minnie Mickey hosted the Pocahontas and her Forest Friends show that my sister would go crazy for, and also was the first home to Festival of the Lion King — my mom’s absolute favorite attraction on property. (I may have mentioned this at least 700 times on the blog.)
Katherine sat on a bench THAT HAS BEEN DESTROYED by Avatarland and I took a picture with a Christmas tree and a beer. (Two of my favorite things ever.) I’m pretty sure we also stopped for a character moment but I think I took that picture on Katherine’s phone so I have no evidence of our time doing that. (Am I making this up, K?)
And with that, we had to sadly bid adieu to Animal Kingdom for that trip. But I was so glad we decided to spend the morning there, and that I will forever be known as one of Katherine’s first (unofficial, overtired) tour guides into the park. EEE! It made me even more excited when she told me she brought her boyfriend back to the park FOR HIS FIRST TIME on their trip in January. It was like I made a difference in someone’s life.
Have you ever made a difference in someone’s theme park life?
Well, you should because you feel all tingly and powerful! You do.
It’s the circle of liiiiiiiiife. Okay, clearly, I need to go to bed.
I’d love to hear about you. If you’re making a quick stop in Animal Kingdom, would do you need to see? What would impress your friends?