Oh What Fun!!!
Just back from an awesomest vacation to Orlando, Florida. I am still in awe.
During our Alaska trip last year, I heard my parents talking about our upcoming Florida trip in Feb, 2018. I did not pay much attention at that time as I was so lost in our Alaska trip. Also since it was not time for our spring break yet, I thought I might have heard something wrong. But during my birthday week, my parents confirmed that we are going for a week long vacation to Orlando for my extended birthday celebration. Boy Oh Boy!!! The best birthday celebration ever!!!
We visited so many parks, we did so many rides, we watched so many shows in that week, it is a huge task to recollect all and pen it down. But luckily, my mom took some notes during our entire vacation. With the help of those notes and with the unlimited number of pictures that I captured in my tiny camera, we are able to recollect our vacation piece by piece.
Day 1 – Animal Kingdom
On the wee hours of one Saturday morning, my dad woke us up. We got ready and headed for the airport. Our flight was on time. We were so excited about our trip that we could hardly catch up on our sleep in the flight. I kept thinking what is in store for today? Which park are we going to visit first.
At the Orlando airport, after collecting our luggage and rental car, we headed for Animal Kingdom. The temperature was in 60s that day, a little chilly for Orlando weather. So we were comfortably dressed in full sleeve shirts and full pants. We did not have to change into our summer clothes.
As we were driving towards the park, Mickey and Minnie greeted us at the Walt Disney World gate
After reaching Animal Kingdom, my dad collected the tickets. Apart from Tickets, my dad also took too more things which I thought is pretty cool.
The first one is Magic Band. These are colorful, waterproof wristbands and looks like a watch. The bands allow you to unlock the door of your Disney Resort hotel room, enter the theme and water parks, check in at FastPass entrance, connect Disney PhotoPass images to your account, charge food and merchandise purchases to your Disney Resort hotel room. Overall, this is a nice to have thing. This makes your wallet lighter. You can find more information about it here. These are valid for 5 years. Also serves as a nice souvenir. You can either purchase them online before your travel or you can purchase them inside the park.
The second one is PhotoPass and Memory Maker package. This package lets you keep the heavy DSLR, or the selfie stick at home and travel light. Professional photographers are located throughout the park. They will scan you magic band or magic card and take your photos which are then linked your account. This way entire group can be in the picture. They also take cool magic shots, in which the photographer will ask you to pose as needed and then digitally add a character like Tinker Bell. The digital photos are available for 30 days. Another cool feature is you can overlay the picture with many available Disney theme. Also you get all the ride photos and some videos. A sample magic shot is below. See the Olaf? That was added later.
We saw the iconic tree of life as soon as we entered the park.
Animal Kingdom is mainly divided into 6 sections. At a glance :
- Oasis – Guests enter the park through Oasis.
- Discovery Island – located at the center of the park. The “Tree of Life” – an iconic 145-foot-tall (44 m), 50-foot-wide (15 m), sculpted and man made baobab tree is located in this area. Also you can find “It’s tough to be Bug” 3D show here.
- Pandora, The World of Avatar – A themed area based upon James Cameron’s movie “Avatar” and features floating mountains, alien wildlife and bioluminescent plants. Two main attractions in this area are “Avatar – Flight of Passage” and “Na’vi River Journey”.
- Africa – This section is based upon fictional east African port village Harambe. Festival of the Lion King show and the Kilimanjaro Safaris is located in this area.
- Asia – This area is based upon Asia’s most exotic and intriguing countries such as Nepal, Mongolia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and India. Main attractions in this area are : Finding Nemo – The Musical, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Kali River Rapids, Expedition Everest, Rivers of Light show.
- Dinoland U.S,A – It features a 50-foot tall skeleton of a Brachiosaurus that spans the “OldenGate Bridge.” Main attractions in this area are : Boneyard, Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama, Primeval Whirl, Dinosaur, TriceraTop Spin.
After a quick breakfast of homemade “methi paratha” and “corn flakes chivda”, it was time to begin the fun. The very first thing we did was watch The Lion King Show (Festival of The Lion King). What a great way to start the day.
Festival of The Lion King
Inside the theater, all the guests were seated in four sections : one each for elephant, warthog, giraffe and lion. We were giraffe. Four larger than life size replica of the animals were wheeled near each section. The funny thing is we were asked to make sound like our respective animals. Everyone knew how to sound like an elephant or a lion. But to sound like a giraffe or warthog was quite some challenge. But luckily we got some help from the hosts.
The Festival of Lion is a Broadway like theatrical live performance. The complete show lasted for about 30 minutes. It’s a true festival of jaw dropping gymnastics, mind blowing performances, melodious singing and explosion of colors. It’s a must watch show if you visit Animal Kingdom.
Kilimanjaro Safaris Bus Tour
Next stop was Kilimanjaro Safaris tour. This African savanna at animal kingdom is home to many exotic animals. At the starting point we boarded an open air vehicle along with other guests. The bus took us for a tour of simulated African veld habitat. We spotted many animals along the way like zebra, giraffe, rhino, hippo, crocodile, lions, elephants. The highlight of the tour was fight between a group of elephants. Our bus driver informed us that this is a very rare feat.
After this awesome bus tour and few more pics, it was time for lunch. We had lunch near Lion King theater. We had tomato soup, Mediterranean flat bread and garlic knots. Yum Yum Yum!!!
Being recharged, we headed towards Pandora, the land of Avatars. This is a themed area spanning about 12 acres, inspired by James Cameron’s movie Avatar and features floating mountains, alien wildlife and bioluminescent plants. The “Imagineers” at Disney did a fabulous job of imagining, designing and implementing the fine details to bring the movie to life.
There are two major attractions in this area : Avatar, Flight of Passage & Na’vi River Journey.
Flight of Passage
We did the Avatar, Flight of Passage ride first. It’s a 3D flying simulation ride. The set up of this ride is an ACE (Alpha Centauri Expeditions) lab where guests are linked to an “Avatar” and fly aboard a banshee (also known as Ikran, a flying creature that must be tamed by a Na’vi) across the valey of Mo’ara.
The minimum height requirement for this ride is 44″. By the time we reached the entry point of this ride, my little sister was fast asleep in her stroller (remember we were awake since 3 am that day?). She was still sleeping when my dad helped her stand on her two little feet to prove that she is 44 inches tall. Even though she met the minimum height requirement, we were not sure if she would be able to do the ride. For one, she just slept and went into a deep sleep immediately (we thought she is gone for 2 to 3 hours) and two, this was her first ever 3D simulation ride.
Somehow we reached the ACE lab. We were all settled down on our simulated flying creature, banshee and matched with our “Avatars”. My little sister was wide awake by this time. The 4 min ride though the valley of Mo’ara was just breathtaking. In my sister’s words “This is soooooo cool, can we do this again?” She never fails to amaze us. This is a must do ride if you are visiting Animal Kingdom.
Na’vi River Ride
Next stop was Na’vi river ride. The setup is the Kaspavan River of Pandora showcasing native animals and bioluminescent flora from the movie Avatar. It’s about 5 minute slow boat ride over the river (no chances of getting wet though). The replication of flora and fauna of Pandora is breathtaking and the Shaman of Songs audio animatronic towards the end of the ride is really captivating. Overall, the ride was good, calming and relaxing. My recommendation would be to get a FastPass for this ride if possible.
We took a quick snack/coffee break after this. Also clicked many pictures taking advantage of the Photo Pass in the Land of Avatar’s before heading towards our next ride. There were professional photographers with big cameras in every nook and cranny.
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
Next stop was Expedition Everest Coaster ride. This is a metal coaster based on an idea that an Yeti is protecting the forbidden mountain next to Mount Everest. In 2011, this was listed in Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive roller coaster on the world. It’s total cost is estimated to be more than $100 million US Dollars which includes sets and extras. It took Disney about six years of planning and construction to make this a reality.
The journey begins at the fictional “Himalayan Escapes” travel agency and village of Serka Zong. Towards the end of the line, there is a Yeti museum filled with artifacts from Nepal and also a mold of Yeti footprint.
The coaster experience itself is very unique. Part of it travels in reverse direction. Guests are seated two per row. My sister sat with dad and I sat with mom. The coaster stated travelling forward, there were a few twists and turns. As soon as you think it is going at a very high speed, all of a sudden it stops. Why, because there is not way to go forward. The tracks have been ripped apart by an Yeti. Then we started going backwards at a very high speed.
Lights on the River Show
Finally with pizza and fries in our hand, we sat down on on the benches near the lagoon river to watch the spectacular “Rivers of Light” show. The show began with four gigantic color changing lotus blossoms that later changed into colorful fountains. Also at a distance, we could see the fireflies and shadows of animals on the tree. Then came the storytellers on their lantern sailboats. Apart from these, also came four gigantic animal shaped colorful lanterns : Tiger (representing Fire), African elephant and her calf ( representing Earth), a sea turtle and it’s offspring (representing Water) and a great horned owl with her owlets (representing Air). It also features other elements like mist screens, fire effects, lasers, lights, fog, projection mapping and live performances. Overall the show was very pleasing to the eyes and melodious to the ears.
With the music of the show still ringing in our ears, we boarded the tram which took us to the parking lot. Finally it was time to go back to our hotel room and crash for the night.
There are many other attractions and shows in this park including meet and greet Disney characters like Mickey, Minnie and friends, princesses etc but due to lack of time we could not cover it all. Nonetheless, I felt we covered a lot. We were so tired by the end of the day that needless to say we fell fast asleep as soon as we were buckled up in our car seats. The drive back to our hotel was about 20 min. As usual, my dad had to carry my little sister back to the hotel room.
Since there is a lot to blog about, we thought it will be better to write about each park every week. So please bookmark(Press Ctrl + D) this page and come back next week to find out which park we covered next. You can also follow our blog so that you don’t miss a bit of our amazing trip.
List of Things that might be helpful during your trip :