Last minute adventures are the best – A day at Animal Kingdom with a preschooler
John and I took a chance on a possible great day to take our 4 year old grandson for a last minute, non planned day of adventure to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Let me explain, you see October is still pretty hot and uncomfortable in Florida and the crowds at Disney are usually very heavy due to all the Halloween festivities going on, which means long lines plus 90 degree temperatures equals misery. But as it turned out, we saw a chance for a possible great day because of, of all things, a tropical storm.
We live on the west coast of Florida which was getting hammered with heavy rain, tornado watches and mildly strong winds, but when checking out the radar on the National Hurricane Center’s website, I could see that the Orlando area was pretty much in the clear. So we decided that we would take a chance and make the hour and a half drive over to Disney, thinking perhaps with the overcast skies and the hype of the bad weather on the news, that maybe it might just end up the prefect day to go. Lucky for us, we were right. The overcast conditions kept the temperatures down from the normal near 90 degrees to the low 80’s and with the heavy breeze we were quite comfortable. We maybe had a slight drizzle of rain once or twice that lasted only a couple of minutes and because of the hype of a tropical storm on the news, a lot of people stayed away, which meant short wait times at the attractions.
Now, the last thing I want to do is to advise people to go to Disney during bad weather, however, if you use common sense and accurate information from the weather services, you will find that sometimes you can have enjoyable weather in one part of the state while another part of the state is having horrible weather. It is in fact a big state and the Disney World Resort Property sits about 90 miles or so from the west coast, so while the west coast can be having a terrible storm, it is possible for Disney to have beautiful weather. It happens all the time in Florida, you can have a hurricane in one part of the state and blue skies and sunshine in another.
We did take the precaution of waiting until driving conditions were safe as Interstate 4 is no fun to begin with and add heavy rain to it, then it becomes down right dangerous. Interstate 4 was once named one of the United States most dangerous highways, and having driven it a lot, I can tell you it is true.
With the late start, we did not arrive at the park until noon, which was fine since Animal Kingdom did not close until 9 p.m. on the day we visited. We were quite pleased to find that our gamble paid off as the crowds were thin and the lines were short.
Our first stop was Discovery Island’s the Tree of Life and the 3D animated film, It’s Tough to be a Bug, which is inside the tree. This attraction is a real hit for the younger ones and the tree itself is just awesome. While walking the path to get in to the attraction, one should be sure to check out all the sculptures on this 145 foot realistic looking tree made from a refitted oil platform.
The park is sectioned off into themed areas and the Tree of Life is in an area called Discovery Island, where you will also find animal viewing trails.
If your youngster is in to dinosaurs like my grandson is, then you may never get out of Dinosaur Land. So many fun activities and attractions all themed around all things dino, but no doubt the main attraction being the ride simply called Dinosaur. Dinosaur has a height requirement of 40 inches to ride as it is a little bit of a thrill ride. Ever so slight drops, dark and very bumpy. it may make it a little scary for some children. Not a roller coaster ride but it does have jerky movements and the feeling of moving fast so people with some medical conditions are advised not to ride.
Although you will see animals throughout the park, there is nothing like the ride in an open air vehicle of the Kilimanjaro Safari in Africa Land where you will see many of the exotic animals that call Animal Kingdom Home. A Fast Pass is recommended for this experience as wait times are usually pretty long.
Our next stop was the Wildlife Express train over to Conservation Station where we got to view actual veterinary care stations and hear interesting facts about some of the animals being cared for that day. By far the hit of the day for my grandson was the Affection Section petting zoo at Conservation Station, where he could have spent the entire day petting the goats.
Something really cool at Conservation Station for older children and adults too, is the Animation Experience Drawing Class where real Disney Animators give a demonstration on technique. It is recommended that you get a fast pass for this experience as it is pretty popular.
Another attraction that we truly enjoyed was Up! A great Bird Adventure. A bird show where you get an up close and personal view of the birds as they are literally flying over your head.
There are many great attractions suited for the younger visitor such as the Festival of the Lion King show, Finding Nemo the musical and Na’ vi River Journey and we did them all and had a great time.
Because we had the little one with us we did not ride it this trip but for the thrill seeking visitor over 44 inches tall, Expedition Everest Legend of the Forbidden Mountain may be up your alley. This ride has big drops and is not for the faint of heart. I rode it once and once was enough for me, but of course I am a big chicken. Having said that, a thrill ride that I will ride over and over is Avatar Flight of passage. Again you have to be over 44 inches tall so it’s not for the little ones but it is a 3D thrill ride that is not a roller coaster and is an absolute blast!!! Wait times are forever so a fast pass is recommended, that is if you can get one. Fast passes for this ride book up weeks in advance but I will tell you that if you do have to wait in a long line, it is still well worth it.
To close out the evening Animal Kingdom puts on Rivers of Light: We are One, special effects show and it does not disappoint. If you get a fast pass for this you will have special seating with a spectacular view.
A Word about Strollers in the Parks
Many people ask about taking strollers and if a stroller is needed in the parks. The only real answer to that question is that you know your child or grandchild best. Some children do fine walking and some do not. My grandson does not like to stay in the stroller and he is very good about holding my hand and walking. He never asks to be carried as he enjoys walking and he never once has run ahead of us where we would have to be concerned about losing him in the crowd. Yes, he gets tired after a long day but by that point we are usually pretty tired too, and are ready to call it a day ourselves. We also find that getting on the tram with a stroller to be a big hassle as is parking the stroller at each attraction. Worse yet is finding your stroller after each attraction in, what seems like an endless sea of strollers, that is often the biggest challenge. But again, each child is different and safety should always be your number one consideration when making this decision. If you feel your child may get overly excited and run ahead then by all means take the stroller. It only takes a second to lose a child in the large Disney crowds. If your child does not like to walk for long periods of time then you know you need to take the stroller. We stayed about 7 hours on this visit however, we took things slow by making frequent rest stops and doing many sit down attractions, so our little one had plenty opportunities to rest his little legs. This works for us but may not work for you. Go with your own instinct as again, you know your child best. If you chose to not take a stroller and find out it was the wrong decision, no worries, as they do have stroller rentals in all of the Disney parks.
In this post, I have only scratched the surface about all the things to see and do in Animal Kingdom so if you have a specific question that this post does not answer, please by all means send me a comment with your question and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.
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