Day 7 - Animal Kingdom & a Special Walk with Tigger
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|Thu, 05-23-2013 - 1:21pm|
Chapter 18. “Hey Tigger, Come Up Here!”
Day 7. Wednesday
We were finally going to Animal Kingdom today! I had wanted to go on an EMH morning so that we’d have an extra hour and hopefully beat some of the crowds, but everyone had been seeming so worn out that by now we had given up on EMH completely. According to my TouringPlans app, today wasn’t supposed to be very busy, so hopefully it would be okay.
We had breakfast at the Rainforest Cafe first. We did this on our first trip too and it worked out pretty well. Owen was a little scared of the thunderstorm inside when it started, but once he calmed down I think he enjoyed all the fun stuff to look at. And it’s nice that they are on the Dining plan now.
By the time we finished eating, the park had been open for almost 15 minutes so we needed to get moving! Brian and Lily were headed for Expedition Everest, and I told them to grab me a Fastpass for later if it looked like the return-time might work out. There was a another Dumbo-clone here – Triceratop Spin, so Owen and I were headed for that.
I had been expecting Brian to call or send me a message when they were done, and I thought Owen and I would go meet them. The wait time posted on my app for Everest was still only 5 minutes, so I figured by the time Owen and I rode Triceratops they would be done. But we still hadn’t heard from them. We wandered around Dinoland for a bit, and noticed that Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore would be greeting at Discovery Island in just a few minutes. No one was in line yet, and Owen really wanted to see them again so we waited by the gate.
A few minutes later, the character handler came over, and noticed that Owen was wearing a Tigger shirt. I hadn’t even thought about that yet! In the distance, we saw Pooh and Eeyore come out of a building and walk down towards the greeting area. When Tigger appeared, the handler called down to him and said "Hey Tigger, Come up here!". Turns out he wanted Tigger to escort Owen personally down to the greeting area!
First there were hugs, then Tigger took Owen’s hand and together they walked down the very long and winding path to the “green house” (as Owen called it) where they did the pictures. The rest of the line followed along behind them, almost like a parade. Owen looked a little tense the whole time, but I could also tell he was soaking this all up, and of course talked non-stop about it for a long time afterwards! I LOVE special character interactions like this, and was so glad that Owen got to have one on this trip.
So we got some good pictures with Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore. We had met Pooh and Tigger once, right after arriving on our first day, but since then Owen had relaxed around the characters so much more that I was glad he got to meet them again. And I had never been to this greeting area at Animal Kingdom, nice to know where it is now!
As we were leaving, I finally got a message from Brian. He had apparently been trying for some time to reach me, and they were already headed to Dinoland to find us. We must not have been getting good cell service in Animal Kingdom because we had issues like this several times while we were there.
I took Owen to the Boneyard while we waited for them to catch up with us, of course he had a blast running and climbing on all the ramps, stairs and slides. Who needs rides, he’d be happy with all the playgrounds! They soon joined us and both kids played for a while. I now had a Fastpass for Everest, but with the morning so far having progressed much more slowly than I expected, it wasn’t looking like there was going to be time to make a second trip over there. We really wanted to make it to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and do the Safari. Brian was also wanting to do Dinosaur, which was near the Boneyard, so I sent him and Lily over there while Owen played some more. So much for me getting to do any of the thrill rides here again, maybe one day!
We headed towards Africa next. When we got to the Safari, it was temporarily closed, but still giving out Fastpasses, so we took some then went to the train for Rafiki’s Planet Watch. I really enjoyed this area on our trip in 2008, and was sad that we never made it over there in 2010. So I was determined we weren’t going to miss it this time.
We ended up at the back of the “pack” getting off the train, but instead of rushing through the path to get to the Conservation Station building, we held back until most everyone else had moved on. So we had some time to ourselves, looking at some of the exhibits along the way. And had a very nice chat with one of the older CMs about some of the animal footprints in the sidewalk. He seemed to especially take a liking to Owen.
Inside the building, we looked at some of the reptile exhibits, and did a “Sound Theater” that taught us about the rainforest. A Sound Theater is a small, dark room with lots of headphones. When we put them on, it was really like being IN the rainforest. Pretty cool! And I was surprised that the dark didn’t scare Owen.
Outside, the kids wanted to do the petting zoo. At first Owen was frustrated that he couldn’t quite seem to get a hand on any of the animals, since he would always get timid at the last minute. Then, while he was looking the other way, a goat accidentally plowed right into him and they almost both fell over! He was a bit stunned, but it also seemed to shake the hesitation out of him. Afterall, he had done more than touch one, he had survived a major collision with one! So it must not be that bad.
He got to pet all sorts of things – goats, pigs, donkeys, I think, and saw a cow too. (He’s been fascinated by cows since he was a baby for some reason) I would have liked to spend more time here, but if we were going to have time to do the Safari before lunch, we would need to hurry.
Sidenote – in general I am in favor of the new policy enforcing Fastpass return times, but this was one of several instances where I felt a little annoyed that we couldn’t use them late anymore. Sure would have been nice to just save them for after lunch and be able to take our time here! But, I do get why it makes sense in the big picture, so it’s just an inconvenience we would have to deal with.
We were glad to see that the Safari was up and running again when we got back. The standby wait was over an hour though – sure glad we planned ahead a little! The Safari is one of the few rides that the Fastpass line goes right alongside the Standby line, it’s just much shorter. And we had to endure a lot of angry glares from people that had been waiting MUCH longer than us, and were still no where near the front. Maybe they had their reasons for not getting a Fastpass instead, but I suspect that many simply don’t know how the system works. Oh well. Their loss, I guess.
Our Safari leader was very good – that makes such a difference in how the trip goes! And we got to sit in the very front. She was witty and enjoyable to listen to, but you could also tell she really knew her stuff. We saw TONS of animals, more than I remember seeing before. Maybe because it was later in the day. We usually do the safari first thing in the morning, but it was now almost noon.
I let Lily do the camera for this one – she had unfortunately left hers in the room today so asked if she could have mine. She exclaimed after a few minutes that “This is awesome, it’s JUST like Coconut Safari, but in REAL LIFE!” Apparently that’s a game she plays on the computer. I didn’t think she played that many computer games, but I guess that one sounds pretty harmless, at least. So we had a really good time.
Chapter 19. A Dissapointing Lunch
But it was almost time for lunch when we finished. Which was at Tusker House, always been one of my favorites. I’ve mentioned before that many of the restaurants had very long check-in lines, even for reservations, but this was by far the worst. It extended out all the way past the restaurant and was almost blocking the main path. There were probably close to 100 people in that line – it was the craziest thing I have ever seen! And most of it was in the sun, no shade at all. Ugh. A CM periodically went down the line making sure that everyone had reservations, no point in standing in it if you didn’t. By the time we finally made it to the check-in desk, we were 20 minutes late for our reservation. And then it was another 15 minute wait for our table. While we were waiting, and in line to meet Donald, we got scolded a couple of different times for standing someplace we shouldn’t or leaving our bag in the wrong place. Everyone here seemed a little grumpy and uptight.
Finally we were seated. I was so parched, I just wanted a drink! But it was another 10 minutes before our waitress showed up. Oh, and first I was scolded again for asking for a booster seat for Owen, didn’t I know you couldn’t possibly put a booster seat in a chair without arms??? Well I’d been doing it all week, but never mind that. Our drinks still weren’t even here by the time we returned from the buffet. This wasn’t shaping up to be the best meal experience. And too bad, because it’s one I always look forward to. The buffet options were a little disappointing too, maybe we’ll give Yak and Yeti a try next time instead.
The characters were fine I guess, they seemed a little rushed, like snap-the-picture-and-go, but maybe they were also picking up on our less-then-Magical attitude at the time. At least they all came quickly, within a few minutes of each other, so we weren’t disrupted continually throughout the meal. I guess character meals just aren’t our thing right now, I would have died from shock if I’d heard myself say that 5 years ago!
So, by the time that was done, Owen was clearly ready for a nap. But Brian wanted to see the Lion King show, and Lily decided to stay with him. I don’t feel like we had nearly enough time here. On our first trip, we dedicated 2 days to Animal Kingdom, and thought that was too much afterwards. But one day clearly wasn’t enough, especially since a “day” for us is really only the morning. Maybe once Owen is older and doesn’t need a nap we can make it longer. I suppose we could have brought the stroller and let him nap in it, but doing that 2 days in a row would almost certainly not have been wise.
The bus ride was tedious, first a long wait, then it made 4 other stops before dropping off at Yacht Club. A shared bus between Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, Swan, Dolphin, Beach Club, Yacht Club, and Boardwalk seems like a bit much to me. So, all in all, I have to say I was a little dissapointed in our morning here. We did have a couple of really good experiences, but a lot of frustrations as well. And it just didn't feel like we hardly scratched the surface of the park, lots more that I wanted to do. (And I've STILL never ridden Everest!)
Although Brian and Lily did really enjoy the Lion King show, and Lily even got to be IN part of it – I think she was pulled aside at the beginning and taught a dance, then had to teach it to a section of spectators later. She was pretty happy about it. I had been worried that she might be jealous of Owen’s special encounter with Tigger, and was very glad that she had something special happen today too. But, to her credit, if she was ever jealous, she never let it show anyway, and seemed genuinely happy for him when he told her about it.
While Owen napped, I was getting caught up on pictures. I had worried for a couple of days about some pictures that never showed up in my Photopass account, and went ahead and filled out a “missing pictures” form for them today, since it was almost impossible to catch the Photopass desk in the lobby at a time when it was open. Sadly, it was two of the sets I cared the most about – our pictures with Monsters Inc, and the pictures with Beast from Be Our Guest. They did end up finding them after several days, but I’m a a little annoyed that in our week-long trip, they lost THREE sets of pictures. This is the 5th Photopass CD I’ve ordered, and up until now had never had a single picture get lost. Something seems to be lacking somewhere, recently.
After Owen woke up from his nap, there was time for more swimming. And more playing in the sand. Very glad that we were finally getting some good use out of the pool on a regular basis. I had almost started to forget about the bad luck we had with it during the first half of our trip.
(Lots of pool pictures to make up for the fact that I have almost none for the rest of the day)
Our plans for tonight had still been a little up-in-the-air. I had originally planned to have dinner at Biergarten in Germany, and thought it might be a good night for Lily to do one of the Phineas & Ferb missions. But Brian was also really wanting to see Wishes, which, as luck would have it was at 9pm tonight, instead of the usual 10pm. It would be nice to catch it on a night when they didn’t have to stay out so late.
But of course this wasn’t going to be an option for Owen, as terrified as he was everytime we got caught by Illuminations, there was no way I wanted to be stuck inside Magic Kingdom with him after they started. So it would be easiest if we could have dinner somewhere close to Magic Kingdom, but not inside it. Then after dinner, we could go our separate ways. But getting a dinner reservation last minute can be tricky, and the only thing I could score was The Wave, inside the Contemporary. I didn’t know much about it other than it gets pretty “meh” reviews, but the location was good so we took it. And it was indeed pretty “meh”. A pleasant enough experience, but not something I’d be jumping at the chance to do again.
Sorry, I don’t seem to have any pictures for the rest of the evening, oh well!
I had originally wanted to stay at the Contemporary, after having fallen in love with it when we did dinner and a fireworks cruise there last time. But Brian talked me into the Beach Club at the last minute (right before I booked it last summer), then we later changed our minds to the Yacht Club. Part of me had felt like, ever since, that I “lost” that vacation at the Contemporary though, since in my head I had thought for 2 years that we would be staying there this time. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about going to dinner there, I was a little afraid I would be resentful of our choice, since by now I had decided that I didn’t care much for Yacht & Beach Club.
But I’m actually really glad we came here tonight, because something about it didn’t quite “click” either. Maybe I would have liked it better than YC, but after tonight I realized that nothing is ever going to compare to the Polynesian again. I told Brian on the way home, that if we ever come back, I’m done trying out new resorts, we’re going back to the Polynesian!
But anyway, back to the present. After dinner, Brian and Lily headed over to Magic Kingdom for the fireworks, Owen and I wandered around inside of the Contemporary for a while, and later rode a loop on the monorail. He was really fascinated by the fact that it came right inside the building. I had heard there was an observation deck to watch Wishes, and was wondering if there was any way Owen would be up for it. I hadn’t been able to find it while we were wandering around, but as we were coming back on the monorail, I spotted it from the outside and realized how to get to it. I had been hoping that there was at least part of it that was inside, where you could just watch through glass, but there wasn’t. We stood outside for all of about 3 seconds before he panicked and made us go back in. Oh well. It was a worth a try anyway.
Slowly, we started heading towards the bus stop, though I made sure the fireworks were done before we left the safety of the building. For once we had decent luck with the bus – not only was one loading when we got there, but Brian and Lily were just about to get on it! So I’m a little ashamed to say we ducked under the railing for the line and joined them.
Even with Wishes being earlier than normal, we were still pretty late getting back and to bed. And even though tomorrow would be our last full day, I agreed to let us sleep until we were ready. There was still a LOT we hadn't done at Epcot, so hopefully I wouldn't regret that choice!