Hello, everyone! Welcome to the fourth installment of my “Disney Day in Review” series, in which I detail some of the major moments and themes of each day of my most recent Walt Disney World vacation. My first, second, and third posts covered transit as a whole, my first day in the parks, and the second full day spent at the resort, respectively; the one at hand will be made with regard to my third Disney Parks day.
Let us get started!
Morning: Magic Kingdom
A Morning of Waiting (and Fun)
After a slightly stressful bus ride comprised of carols (yes, songs such as “Frosty the Snowman” were sung), our family arrived at Magic Kingdom well before its official opening at 9 AM. In fact, by 8:20 AM, we were packed in a group of people waiting to be led into Fantasyland through the path that can be found to the right of Cinderella Castle. Snark was abound, which only compounded as the overly intense race to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train began following the conclusion of the Let the Magic Begin welcome show.
When I overheard a cast member at the attraction telling a guest that the wait would be an hour long, I had my doubts, based on previous Magic Kingdom rope drop experiences.
Well, I was proven (mostly) wrong.
Despite what ended up being a 40-minute wait, this excursion did not seem much of a burden; in fact, we all ended up having a joyous time on this smooth and adorable coaster and dark ride.
Since it was already 9:40 AM at this point, the crowds become more evident than before, even as they spread throughout the park. Our next goal was to complete a ‘mountain,’ so we headed over to Frontierland to check out the wait times for both Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. Once again, we would (somewhat uncharacteristically) decide to brave a line, as we chose the lesser of two evils in Splash Mountain’s 45-minute wait. This amount of time was only exacerbated by an adult behind us who would not stop bragging about their high school sports days (cue “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen, which a family member conspicuously brought up), but we eventually made our way to the front of the line. For the first time in years, I was not placed in the first row of this zany attraction, which happens to be one of my absolute favorites; instead, I was able to enjoy the much dryer third row. Sadly, though, my pose for the on-ride photograph did not turn out as well as expected. (Hint: The pose was akin to the one in my profile picture.)
A Relieving Train Ride, or, Finally Receiving My Final Grade Report
After we ate lunch, we took a leisurely walk through New Fantasyland (which cannot even boast much recency anymore) to the land’s Walt Disney World Railroad station. We had just missed a train, but I took this extra bit of time to check my grades for the Fall 2017 semester, since my report was due on this day. Although I had only not previously seen my final grade for one of my classes for the semester, when I logged into my account and found my way to the report, I was happy to see the result! (Take that as you will.)
Relieved, I had a very relaxing ride on the far left side of the train, near the front of the first car, with my family, where I was offered wonderful views of the outer rim of the park.
Magic Kingdom Classics in Adventureland, Amid the Crowds
Soon after we exited the Walt Disney World Railroad’s Frontierland station, the crowds we had briefly escaped were back in sight, making our walk to Adventureland quite strenuous. When we arrived at our next stop, Aloha Isle, a long (but fast-moving) line was present, for this warm day must have made others just as eager as we were for a Dole Whip. While a family member waited in line, I scouted out a pleasant, cool, and quiet spot right next to the exit of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room; in no time at all, we all savored the aforementioned treat, which continues to live up to the hype for me.
Afterward, I convinced my family to actually view Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, which I believe to be a very underrated attraction that remains a classic. The next show was starting in about ten minutes, so we watched the pre-show before being surrounded by audio-animatronic birds singing songs such as “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” and “Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing” that were written by the legendary Sherman Brothers. (Trust me, the attraction is more pleasant than my description of it.)
By the time we exited the theatre, we were all ready for the next part of our day, which would take place outside of Magic Kingdom.
Resort Hopping: My Favorite Hobby
The time had come for us to continue another family tradition, this one being resort hopping on the monorail line. Thankfully, the car on which we rode was not too crowded, and the parties around us were quite nice (and gave us some entertainment, as I will explain later). Our first stop was Disney’s Contemporary Resort, but since we had just walked around the resort a bit a couple of days before, we chose to remain on the monorail.
As we kept moving toward the Transportation and Ticket Center, followed by Disney’s Polynesian Resort, the little kids around us not only sung “Go Tell It On the Mountain” multiple times, but also activated a bubble wand directly in a stranger’s face. The only reactions from everyone (except for the parent with the children) were laughs; for the better, no wrath was present.
Finally, we stepped foot into the perpetually busy and beautiful Polynesian Resort. We walked around for a short while, but a wave of fatigue had completely washed over me by this point. Soon after I slumped onto a couch in Tambu Lounge, thankfully, my family members motivated me to move over to Kona Island, where we always order their delicious iced coffee. This item is not even on their menu, but ever since I saw it recommended years ago online, my family has been able to order this beverage. This coffee is bold and strong, sans bitterness, which gave me the boost of energy I needed for the rest of our afternoon escapades. (The half & half dispenser makes my family inexplicably happy here, too.)
Next, we walked the grounds of this stunning and perfectly retro resort; once we reached the end closest to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, we decided to take the short walk the rest of the way there instead of going back onto the monorail.
Within 15 minutes, we stepped into this flagship resort’s lobby, which never fails to impress, especially with its holiday decorations in tow. Our visit this time around was quite short, but we still had some time to relax in the gorgeous lobby before figuring out how we would get back to Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.
Finally Back at the BoardWalk Inn
Ultimately, we elected to retread a path we had taken on a past Walt Disney World resort-hopping journey, which is a bus ride from the Grand Floridian to Hollywood Studios, where we can then walk to our destination.
Fortunately, a bus headed to the park had just arrived at the Grand Floridian when we started walking over to this area, so we ran over and joined the three other on the bus. The rest of our plan worked out well, and we took some much-needed time to rest (which included me writing in my notebook about the day so far) before we departing for our “wild” evening.
Evening: Animal Kingdom
Excitement in a Peaceful Setting
Since Animal Kingdom was scheduled to close at 8 PM on this evening, we made sure to leave the BoardWalk by 4:30 PM. When we hopped off of the bus and walked into the park, we immediately darted to one of my favorite Walt Disney World attractions, for which we had a FastPass waiting to be redeemed: Expedition Everest.
The beauty this attraction held from afar at golden hour only boosted my excitement for what would be an exciting roller coaster ride, featuring a backward segment that is always thrilling, along with an encounter with the infamous yeti audio-animatronic. This time around, though, I must admit that I received a bit of a headache as a conseqence. Oh well.
I did have some time to recover, for we spent the next part of our time at Animal Kingdom viewing the wonderful entertainment offerings and having a delicious dinner at Flame Tree Barbecue. In particular, hearing the Discovery Island Carnivale take place while we ate served (no pun intended) as a reminder of why I adored the energy these performers offered guests on our last vacation.
A Truly ‘Wild’ Nighttime Safari
Our second FastPass experience was next up on our docket: Kilimanjaro Safaris. Only a ten-minute wait was needed before we boarded the back row of a vehicle and were on our way with our great guide, whose name I believe was Lori.
Now, I understand why people criticize the nighttime version of this attraction, as the somewhat odd faux sunset and other, smaller forms of lighting make for a ride that is much less easily seen.
Our experience on this particular safari, though, was quite incredible. Some moments that stood out were the extreme number of Nile crocodiles out and about (of which a family member was terrified), how closely white rhinos approached our vehicle, and the three lions that majestically seemed to pose for us. What good luck we had!
The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Backside of
Water Rivers of Light
Back in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom we disembarked before taking a walk through the open and quiet areas of the park to the viewing area for Rivers of Light, the new nighttime spectacular.
The show had already started by the time we neared its seating area, so we just embraced the view near the location at which I took my previous Expedition Everest photograph in the Asia section of the park. I personally enjoyed what I saw of the show quite a bit, though I am biased toward any event with an original score in the first place. From my perception of the reactions of guests around me, I can definitely say that I was not the only one impressed by what was accomplished with the live performers, floats, fountains, and incredible synchronization this show boasts.
A Splendid Evening in Pandora
Right after the show ended, we walked with a purpose across the park, and were joined by others who we could just tell had similar goals in mind.
Yes, my friends, we were headed back toward Pandora – The World of Avatar before the park would close at 8 PM (even though another showing of Rivers of Light was scheduled for 8:30 PM, but I digress).
Upon our entry into the area, I was pretty much floored by the bioluminescence portrayed by the land. While making jokes about what would show up under the prevalent blacklight, we took a long walk through this wonderful new addition to the park. Interested to see what the wait for Na’vi River Journey was like at this time, we walked by and shrugged our shoulders at the 50-minute wait.
My past self would have been upset at me for taking this action, but we decided to just hop in line–the park was closing soon anyway. (The line was actually cut off for the night soon after we entered.) The amount of confusing switchbacks in the queue that were visible after our brief walk through the beginning of the line made us concerned that the wait would actually be as long as advertised, but in reality, the heat of the area became the only source of discomfort. About 24 minutes were spent in line (which featured a water fountain and a bottle filling station, much to my delight) before we boarded one of the small boats for the dark ride. The attraction itself was beautiful to my eye, and I appreciated the incredible audio-animatronic in the last scene; since I had been warned of the short duration time of the journey, I found the experience fulfilling.
Animal Kingdom had officially closed when we left Pandora – The World of Avatar and the rest of the park at about 8:30 PM. We waited about 15 minutes for a bus to Disney’s BoardWalk Inn to arrive at the stop, and we immediately climbed to the back of the vehicle and enjoyed a relaxing ride to the resort.
IllumiNations View Count: 3
Even though I had felt much fatigue throughout the day, I joined the rest of my family in savoring the ambiance of the boardwalk itself. Some family members purchased delicious ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery at this time, and I soon was unable to turn down an offer to view IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at 9:30 PM for the third time during our four evenings at the resort so far. So, once again, we walked over to the bridge near International Gateway at Epcot and viewed the amazing show with a great deal of other parties taking advantage of this relatively peaceful area outside of the park itself.
As we walked back to our room, we saw a magician performing, whose show we observed before concluding our fun-filled day. By 11:27 PM, I had finished writing notes about the evening in my notebook and was ready to rest before our adventures would resume the next morning.
Well, I hope you all enjoyed this summary of the major themes and moments of my third full day at Walt Disney World! Stay tuned for my next post, which will cover a day comprised of visits to the parks nearby Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.