Park Day 1: Beating a CL10 at Animal Kingdom
Note: Please let me know if I should make the next couple days shorter. It was just so fun reliving it all once I got going!
I had successfully convinced my crew that in order to most efficiently experience Animal Kingdom during a crowded week we would need to arrive early for rope drop. The crowd calendar had predicted a 7 for that day, but it actually ended up being a 10.
Since it was just myself in my room and I would get ready the fastest, we decided I would get up early and go to Landscape of Flavors to get coffee for DSis, DBIL, and myself. I was too excited to really sleep so I was up around 5:30 and with coffee at their room by 6:30. They could not believe we were up so early on vacation, but I assured them it would be worth it. I hadn’t been to WDW in so long so I was relying heavily on this board and the rest of the Internet to bolster my confidence in rope drop’s effectiveness.
We made our way over to the bus stops at AOA and were lucky enough to catch a bus just as we were arriving. We were at Animal Kingdom by 7:30 and in line waiting for the gates to open by 7:50. At this point we we were right at the ticket booths. I assured the crew that we did not have to wait until 9am to be let into the park, but I could tell they were still skeptical. Sure enough, around 8:15 they started letting people in. We followed the crowds towards Pandora but let the runners and elbowers go by as we had a FOP FP for that evening and thus were rope dropping NRJ. We were in the mass of humanity at the bridge to Pandora by 8:25, and I could sense my nieces were getting antsy so I said why don’t you go take some fun pictures with the Tree of Life and me and DBIL will hold down our spot. They came back around 8:40 re-energized and a couple minutes later the rope dropped and we were on our way to our first ride! Everyone was relieved when they saw the FOP line already, and I told them we were going elsewhere. We literally walked right on NRJ and were back out front by 8:50. Everyone enjoyed the ride, and I think the impressive theming was a great introduction to Disney for the girls. We all agreed that a story would make it a lot better, but didn’t find it to be as short as many of the complaints I’ve seen online. Maybe they slowed it down? Our boat felt like it was crawling at points.
Since the rest of the park wasn’t even open yet, we had some time to take in some of the scenery while I explained our next steps:
Our first FP was Everest at 9:25, but my goal was to hit at least 2 more rides before that since I knew the crowds would be crazy later in the day. We made our way back to the Oasis and took some Photo Pass pics in front of the Tree of Life. After that, we crossed the park to the entrance to Dinoland for their own little rope drop. Once the area opened, we went directly to Dinosaur in hopes it would open before the 9:30 stated time. A CM told us that wouldn’t be the case so we decided to leave the line and go back to Dinoland to ride Primeval Whirl. Unfortunately, DN6 was not tall enough for Primeval Whirl so DSis and her rode Triceratops Spin. Primeval Whirl was a lot of fun but wow is it rough! DN8 absolutely loved it which was great because now I knew she’d be fine on anything the whole trip. I think our car must have been spinning even more than normal due to our funky weight distribution. We were still spinning when we got back to the station and the CM even made a comment about it.
At this point it was 9:30 so we made our way to Dinosaur and after waiting a few minutes were in what DN8 amd DN6 decided was their first “big ride.” I had been on it before but forgot just how quick and intense that ride is. Everyone absolutely loved it though, including to my surprised DN6. It was then I realized that this trip was going to be more of a thrill ride trip than a princess trip.
Next up was our Everest FP. I was particularly excited for this since last time I was at AK the person I was with didn’t want to ride it, so I had never been on it. We made sure to explain to DN6 that this was a real rollercoaster and maybe the biggest of the trip so it would be ok if she didn’t want to ride it. She insisted she was fine and though I think she probably had her eyes closed most of the ride, she seemed to enjoy it!
We had some time to kill before our KS FP so we walked the Majarajah Trail. It was hot so unfortunately the tigers weren’t out, but otherwise it was a nice break from running from ride to ride. We then found a spot to sit near Yak and Yeti and ate some of the food we had brought in.
The KS FP line was out to the entrance to Gorilla Falls which was frustrating but it went relatively quickly. The park was starting to get noticeably more crowded at this point and it was getting very hot. I think KS was a bit of a disappointment for the group as a lot of the animals were sleeping or far from the truck. It had also been pretty hyped up but at this point the girls were in full thrill ride mode.
After KS, we met up with DBIL’s cousin, his wife and their DS7. We had pretty much done everything we had planned other than FOP and it was only noon! We asked them what they wanted to do but the park was really starting to get packed so they suggested just taking it easy for a but before heading over to FOTLK for the 1:00 show. We found a table in the shade at Dawa Bar and just hung out for a bit while DN8 went to get a henna tattoo and DN6 went to buy a new Minnie stuffed animal. Some of the Africa street entertainment was performing and everyone really enjoyed just soaking in the impressive Disney theming. DBIL kept stating how he really felt like we were in a foreign country!
Was excited to see they had Golden Monkey beer which I often drink back home and really enjoy (and has a high ABV so good bang for your buck ).
We then got in line for FOTLK at about 12:30. This is something that I would probably do differently next time as they didn’t open the doors until right before 1 and it was hot standing in a line that wasn’t moving. I didn’t realize how big the theater was, and we could have definitely showed up later and gotten in. The show is so impressive and fun though. DN8 is a talented competitive dancer so I think she was envisioning herself out there. DBIL’s cousins son audibly gasped and clapped when the fire twirler started. Only complaint would be it was probably a couple minutes long for our group. I think if it was just the adults we would have been fine, but you could feel the kids getting antsy. It was then I realized we probably wouldn’t be able to convince them to do the Nemo show as well that day.
We checked some waits hoping to re-ride some of our favorites from the morning but everything was crazy at that point, so we decided to check out Its Tough to Be a Bug. This might have been the most pleasant surprise of the entire trip. Everyone was cracking up the entire time and had such a blast. Even with all the planning and research I did, Disney’s ability to still surprise me is part of what makes it so special.
From there, we took some more pictures in front of the TOL, this time with the whole group (sorry I’m not including more pics, don’t want to share pics of the kids without permission from their parents first). The Winged Encounters show was going on so we even got some pics with them flying past in the background.
We followed that with the Boneyard to kill some time and take a rest. It cracks me up that we spend all this money to go to Disney and sometimes it seems like the kids favorite parts are the playgrounds, pools, and looking at the ducks.
The cousins had a Dinosaur FP so we decided to split up and meet back at AOA later that night. The meet and greet with Russell and Dug didn’t have a very long line so we decide to do that next. This ended up being the longest wait of the day. Some people are just completely oblivious to the fact there are other people waiting. One group of 3 girls must have taken 75 different picture combinations. I know it’s Disney and the CM’s are supposed to be nice, but at some point they have to move things along. That being said, once we got up there it was a fun interaction. Kevin even walked by while we were waiting!
We still had a couple hours before our FOP FP so I recommeded a stop at Nomad Lounge. What a hidden gem! It was quiet and cool and not crowded at all. With hot crowded the rest of the park was, I thought it might be packed but we found a table immediately. We took our time with some delicious cocktails and pork ribs. Instead of getting more food there I said we should set up a mobike order fo Satu’li Canteen. We placed our orders and walked over that way. This place definitely lived up to the hype and everything we got from the bowls to the kids meals to the desserts were great. It wasn’t crowded either which I wasn’t surprised by based on the Internet buzz. I wonder if it’s too out of the way that unless you know about it, you wouldn’t make a point to go. The Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse was so cool and a hit:
Finally! It was time for our FOP FP. We had to wait abiut 10 min in front for our window to open but the scenery is just so great, and we found some photo pass people to pass the few minutes.
FOP FP line was super quick which was a relief and the ride itself gave me chills. I still can’t believe they were able to create such an incredible experience. I was worried it was being overhyped but now I can finally say I get it! After FOP, it wasn’t now dark outside so we took some more cool Pandora pics and went on our way back to AOA. On the bus, we all talked about how great it was to not have any long waits despite the park feeling some crowded. We even had tons of free time to explore and eat/drink some things we otherwise wouldnt have had the time to.
The cousins came by the room for a night cap or 2 and we called it another early night because now the whole group was fully onboard with the rope drop strategy.
Next: “Disney Athlete” and another C10 at Magic Kingdom