Monday, Dec 9
Hi: 81 Lo: 57
This was one of the best days of our trip, and really increased my appreciation of AK. On our last trip in February, I had trouble getting a lay of the land and we visited without grandparents, so we were regulated to little kid attractions and busy with keeping them happy. Plus, that was the last day of our trip and I think we were a bit vacationed-out by then.
BUT, on this trip, we were on a bus by 8:10am and at the AK parking lot by 8:30. Around 8:40 we were at the turnstiles, then went the wrong way for Early Morning Magic.
Tip: if you are there as a resort guest for EMM, go left to get into the park. We went right and were met with a huge crowd of non-eligible EMM people and had to ask a cast member how to get in. For how many signs they have up telling guests that ROTR boarding groups are filled for the day, you think they could throw a few signs over to AK to direct EMM traffic!
My husband and I were headed to the Animation Experience, but had to wait for the Wildlife Express Train to start running before we could go. We dropped the kids off with grandparents, who took them to a FP for Navi River Journey and then to the Dinosaur area for Triceratops Spin while we did AE.
We had fed our kids but not ourselves (#parenting), so we stopped at Starbucks while we waited for the train to start running and got two sandwiches. I normally love their breakfast sandwiches, but these ones were ice cold, like their toaster was broken. I ended up throwing mine out and decided it wasn’t worth it to go back and wait in the line for another. A small line had formed at the train, so we waited there until it opened.
Tip: The train trip is short but you see some fun things on the way, like where the animals stay behind the scenes of the safari. I would take my kids on it just to ride because they like trains. The hike back to AE is a little long, and we noticed WDW strollers lined up when we got off (and we were some of the first off the train), so I assume that if you leave your stroller outside of the train pickup, those WDW strollers can be used in the Rafiki area.
AE was right up our alley and we really enjoyed drawing Scar. The instructor moves fast, but they tell you to just sketch and not worry about erasing, the way an animator would do (the clean-up artist gets paid less, so you don’t want to demote yourself!). I would do this every time we came back to AK if it was more accessible, but it was a big chunk of the day to wait for the train twice, plus a 30 minute class. For anyone wondering if little kids would like it, I noticed they had two little tables set up at the back of the room with drawing supplies for kids (I assume to just distract them, not to draw the animation), but I wouldn’t bring my kids to this until they were older. It would be hard to keep an eye on them AND keep up with the animator’s pace.
We were back in the main park by 11ish for our FP to Meet Minnie and Mickey at Adventurer’s Outpost. I think we still waited about 15-20 minutes to meet them, but the interaction and costuming were great. They were very sweet. Kevin (the bird from UP) walked by right before we went in, scaring our 2y/o half to death when she nipped at him, but I have to say that I love when characters roam around on the street!
FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING DINING PACKAGE
Tip: If you are on the fence about booking this package, just do it. It is so worth it.
We headed to Tiffins for our 11:45am reservation with the FOLK package (Tier 1), and got in a bit early. I believe we were done a little before 2pm, so plan for a 2 hour dining experience.
The food at Tiffins is really excellent. There wasn’t one misstep and everything was presented beautifully. Our waitress was great and helped entertain our kids; it was so nice to have an amazing meal and still feel welcomed with little ones. The package includes one alcoholic beverage, a welcome glass of champagne, an appetizer, entree, and dessert. I had the appetizer duo, surf and turf, and dessert trio, so I got to try a lot of things and maximized the package value. The cutest dessert has to be the Lion King one though:
I would return to Tiffins anytime. Can’t give it high enough praise!
Our package then had a 3pm FOLK showing. I wish I had scheduled more time in between for naps, but it was hard when booking because you can’t see the show times until after you have selected the dining time. The show time was assigned, you couldn’t select it, and if you went back and selected a different dining time or even the same time, it would change. I think I eventually had to call in to reserve the package because it kept disappearing and reappearing. Anyway, after all that, it worked out fine because our 2 y/o fell asleep at the end of the meal and we walked over and hung out outside of the FOLK entrance until show time while he napped.
We were given lanyards at Tiffins as our package passes, so the cast members at the exit saw us and let us know what time they could let us in (I want to say it was 15 minutes before showtime). Since we were the first package group there, they asked what section we wanted to be seated in. The package’s reserved benches are at the front of the sections, and we all fit across one row. We chose lion and they walked us right in.
The Festival of the Lion King show was really fun. I had watched a video on YouTube of it before, so I prepared our kids that it wasn’t a LK retelling, but LK songs with acrobats/dancers and I think that helped manage expectations. Our 3 y/o was picked to be the example of a lion roar, and she did such a good job! We were so proud because she can be pretty shy, but she gave a great little roar.
Before the show started, a cast member came over to tell us to sit tight and they would be back as soon as the show ended to take us to the included Kilimanjaro Safari ride, which she did promptly. We had time to get our strollers and use the bathroom on our way, plus get an intro and some behind-the-scenes facts from our tour guide. We went to a special ride entrance and had a vehicle for ourselves and one other family who had done the package.
The safari was a hit, as always! We saw a ton of giraffes and the crocodiles were very active. The tour guide gave us a lot of information not normally included, like pointing out certain animals and telling us their personality, or where gates and animal control systems were hidden. It felt like a special tour, and we appreciated how much value the whole FOLK package delivered.
Our group split up afterwards, with my parents headed to DS and Wine Bar George, where they had a great meal, plus a visit to the new Enchanted Rose Lounge at GF. We stopped to see the Merry Menagerie (cute!), a bus back to WL to change, then the WL boat to MK.
We grabbed a quick bite at Casey’s Corner (December’s Fried Pickle Hot Dog is SO GOOD in the worst way!), thanks to mobile order. We were going to try to do a ride or two before our next reservation, but decided to go early once we saw the crowds already at the…
Plaza Garden Fireworks Dessert Party
Our reservation for the dessert party said 7:30pm, but when we walked by Tomorrowland Terrace around 7:15, we could already see a ton of people up there and in line for desserts. We decided to skip the rides and head up.
I’m really thankful for other commenters here, because my expectations had been a little bit too high for the reality, and recent trip reports prepared me better for how everything worked out.
At 7:15, the lines for both dessert stations were already along the whole length of the buffet station. They moved along just fine, but it was more crowded both inside and in the plaza than I thought it would be. The desserts were good (my favorite was the pink cake) but not exceptional. When I went up a second time, the pink cakes and a few other items were gone on both sides, but when we walked out, I saw them there again.
The setting was loud and very “cafeteria”. There were only 3 bathroom stalls in the ladies room, which was not conducive to everyone leaving around the same time. It also probably didn’t help that we had an exceptional time at Tiffins for lunch, honestly!
The fireworks were at 9pm, but so many people were already headed out to the garden around 8pm that we left to get a spot. So, we ended up waiting an hour in the garden, even with the party package, and I really wish I had thought to bring something for the kids to do in that time. Based on reviews from here, we grabbed a spot leaning on the fence in the back, which gave us a nice break from standing the whole time. It got crowded around us as the showtime got closer, but nowhere near the crowds outside.
The above photo was taken at 8:20, so you can see how filled in the garden was 40 minutes until show time. All the empty grass and back standing area was taken about 20 minutes before showtime. As it started, everyone sitting then stood up, so you will have to hold kids up to see the show.
Based on all this, I probably wouldn’t book the party again. If you really love desserts and don’t have very young kids to keep entertained, you would likely be more satisfied. Despite that, I’m still happy that we booked it, because, with all the MVMCP evenings this week, it was our only chance to see HEA, which I love. It was a highlight from our last trip and it was important for me to see it this time without battling the huge crowds outside the plaza garden.
TL,DR; Glad we did it, but more crowded and more waiting outside than I would’ve liked for the price.
Happily Ever After never fails to make me smile (and maybe shed a tear, shh), and the kids both knocked out as soon as we started heading for the exit when it was over. They slept through getting on the boat for WL (luckily it was a bigger boat that could accommodate rolling on strollers – this wasn’t always the case, and I’m not sure there is a rhyme or reason to which size shows up) and we got to listen to the skipper tell the front of the boat fun bits of trivia, like pointing out ‘Shipwreck Island’, which you pass on the way to WL. It was named because when Walt Disney was scouting the land, the little boat he was on got stuck there and he was stranded for a few hours on the island. We love fun tidbits like that.
We made it back, kids still asleep, got ready for bed and our breakfast reservation at Trattoria al Forno in the morning.