I didn’t know what to expect when my family arrived to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. It had been many years since we had gone to the park where the rides and shows were few, the lines short and the animals were the main event.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the park has changed quite a bit since our last visit.
Although it still focuses on showcasing the wilderness preserve, which includes 11,500 acres and over 1,000 plant and animal species, it now has integrated rides, shows and interactive activities for guests. We decided to start our day on the Kilimanjaro Safari, as we heard the animals are most active during the cool mornings. We were chauffeured through the beautifully kept habitat in an open-air vehicle. Our driver did a great job educating us on the animals we were lucky to see (and some that were hiding) and getting as close as possible to the giraffes, elephants and rhinos that were showing off for us.
Next we walked through the Gorilla Falls Exploration trail where you get a close-up view of gorillas, hippos, meerkats, colobus monkeys, zebras and an aviary packed full of birds. I could have watched the gorillas all day. They definitely put on a show.
As the day went on, the park got very busy, so we had to make a decision on which rides we would venture. They included Expedition Everest, a rollercoaster that speeds you through the Himalayan mountains while avoiding the ever-feared Abominable Snowman, Dinosaur, Navi River Journey in Pandora and Kali River Rapids. There is an opportunity to cool off on the last option.
I saved the best ride review for last: Flight of Passage. This amazing ride is located in the park’s newest section, Pandora – The World of Avatar, which was also the busiest part of the park. However, it was for good reason, as it is unique in appearance and design.
Flight of Passage is a flying simulation experience that is like no other.
We were lucky to have fast passes, otherwise the wait could have been hours. Once inside, you watch a video that sets up the ride and helps you create your own avatar. Then you are navigated on a motorcycle-like seat that looks like you are riding on the back of a Banshee flying through Pandora. What makes this ride so unique is that you are using all of your senses: sight, smell, touch and hearing. Taste is the only one missing. I say give them a few years to incorporate the last of your senses. The ride takes you through water, land and air. Diving into the ocean amongst whales and sea life with a spray of ocean, flying with the birds and smelling the mud that makes the land. Again, this ride is a MUST. Make it one of your priorities and you will not be disappointed.
I can’t forget to mention The Tree of Life, which is located at the center of the park. Inside you can enjoy A Bug’s Life. Come back to the tree during the night and end your day with a beautiful laser show.