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Animal Kingdom Day - January 2014

Animal Kingdom is often hard done by and many refer to it as a half-day park. If you're only interested in riding the attractions it has to offer this is probably true but if you're prepared to spend time appreciating all the details, shows and beauty of the park it could easily become a one-and-a-half day park. After Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom is probably our next favourite and I always find it hard to decide what to cut from our condensed pre-nap time frame.

We were back on the bus nice and early at 8:20am and it was mighty cold again.

We stopped for the obligatory tourist photo and arrived at the park entrance at 8:50am, much later than I would normally like to be arriving.

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They didn't let anyone into the park until right on 9am and everyone split at the Tree of Life for Expedition Everest or Kilimanjaro Safari. 

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Since we were working around LJ's nap schedule we mixed up our usual plan and headed for Africa and Kilimanjaro Safaris.

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We had FastPasses scheduled for 9:10am and headed in once we made it to the queue. My Dad used his ECV to navigate this queue since it is quite lengthy, so we ended up waiting a little longer than we would have otherwise. The standby line was moving quite well and we certainly didn't need the FastPass but didn't really have anything else to use it on.

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We saw plenty of animals for the early morning ride, which I wasn't expecting due to the cold.

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One of the crocodiles was awake, that's unusual!

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The giraffes were out in full force on the savanna.

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This one was in a hurry to catch up with its mates and crossed the road in front of us.

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Most of the elephants were in hiding but this one came out to say hi.

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The water was obviously a little cool for most of the flamingos.

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The rhino was even nice and close to the road posing for photos!

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I have no idea what species of wilderbeast this is but I could have looked at the classification chart in the jeep to identify it if I had remembered to.

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We were done with the safari at 9:50am and started making our way across the park to Dinoland USA.

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The crowds were non-existent here in comparison to Africa, where they weren't by any means big.

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This part of the park is where you'll find Chester & Hester's dinosaur themed carnival and Jim's least favourite ride in all of Walt Disney World.

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LJ, Jim and my Mum headed to the tame Triceratop Spin (think Dinosaur themed Dumbo).

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While the rest of us brave souls hit Primeval Whirl.

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These ride vehicles were a tight fit for my Dad, definitely not the most comfortable attraction experience for him this trip.

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Jim and LJ are somewhere down there! Both groups finished around the same time, just after 10:05am, and Jim took the adults in the group to ride Dinosaur.

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I was on LJ duty and we hit up the Boneyard so he could tire himself out ready for a nap.

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The Boneyard is a playground that I've been dying to check out for years but until now that would have just been weird. We stayed in the playground area and didn't head over to the dig site (i.e. giant sandpit) but that's definitely on the list for our next visit.

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Most of the equipment was too big for LJ but he had a ball running around with no limits. The ground here is nice and soft, so it didn't matter how many times LJ stacked it (and he did a lot chasing after the big kids), he just got back up again and kept on going! There are a couple of tunnels and caves in one area of the playground that had me crawling around on the ground following behind LJ so I didn't lose him. The playground is gated with a cast member at the entrance, so I knew he couldn't get out but being so little I didn't want him to get distressed if he couldn't find me. Older kids could easily be left to run wild while the parents take a seat and relax in the shade.

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Suitably worn out, LJ went down happily for his nap and we were off to find a Yeti at Expedition Everest.

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 10:43am and we had a FastPass burning a hole in our pocket. I would happily wait in a 15-minute standby queue for this attraction. I do like my coasters though and could ride this one all day!

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Here's our train ready to go.

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A great view from the top of the mountain. My Mum sat this one out and watched LJ. Everyone loved it but my Dad wished I'd warned him there was a backwards section. So, consider yourselves warned - there's a backwards section on this coaster (and it's my favourite part).

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We had a few more things to check off our list in Asia and while LJ was sleeping we decided to wander through the Maharaja Jungle Trek while waiting for the next Flights of Wonder show.

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On the way we passed some very brave people planning a ride on Kali River Rapids.

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The lockers are a fairly recent addition here and highly recommended if you don't have a 'bag-minder' in your group. They are the only way of guaranteeing your belongings will be dry at the end of the ride.

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Here are the troops heading into the jungle trail.

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The big drawcard here are the tigers. They were rather quiet on this visit but close enough for photos, so we were happy.

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We grabbed a Mickey Pretzel for when LJ woke up and headed over to the Filghts of Wonder theatre.

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It's pretty corny but I love this show and make sure I schedule a stop here each time we visit. 

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LJ was not as impressed by the show as I was (although I think that will be different next trip now that he spends his days bird and plane spotting in the backyard) and once we ran out of pretzel Jim made the dire mistake of letting him play with his sunglasses. Spolier alert: the sunglasses were not seen again after this show!

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The size of the Bald Eagle always surprises me.

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Our morning had been pretty jam packed, so we were well and truly ready for lunch by this point and headed to Sam's favourite Yak & Yeti. As we were leaving the restaurant Jim discovered that his sunglasses were missing and we stopped in at the Flights of Wonder theatre to discover that unsurprisingly nobody had handed them in. Of course, the joke is on the person who took them as they had already been repaired at least twice on the trip due to them being LJ's favourite toy of the moment. As we left the park, we made sure to walk past the Tree of Life and spend some time appreciating its beauty. Whilst doing that we concocted a plan for the grandparents to watch LJ while he napped, so us big kids could hop in a cab and head to the outlets for a another shop at the outlets.

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The ticket windows are pretty empty around 2pm!

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The bus stops are also pretty empty at this time of the day, another reason I love leaving early for a break (or even for the day). I love avoiding crowds whenever I can. We went back to BLT, put LJ down and ran for a cab to head to the Premium Outlets on Vineland Ave.

Our main goal was Sunglass Hut but we somehow managed to visit a few more shops. I stopped in at Vera Bradley and grabbed a new 'park touring' bag (these were less than half the price of the Disney themed ones), Josh had a tough time choosing a hat at Lids and walked away empty-handed (the time crunch pressure was just too much) and we looked for a jacket for Dad in Columbia Sportswear. Jim made us late when he ducked into Hurley for a pair of shorts and came out 20 minutes later with a pair of shorts, two t-shirts and who knows what else. For all of you with partners who don't want to visit the outlets because they don't like shopping - Jim is one of those people that hates shopping! But at the outlets, the discounts are just too much and he turns into a shopping tornado, I can't tear him away for trying.

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We made it back to Bay Lake Tower with our shopping just in time to head straight back out to the bus stop (the monorails were still running on a reduced schedule due to maintenance) for dinner at the Grand Floridian Cafe. I love the resorts that have the wait times for each bus. We didn't have these at the Contemporary, so I can't say how accurate they are but the concept is a good one in my opinion.

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It's been a while since I put a photo of the cute kid in, so here's one for you on the walkway from the bus stop to the Grand Floridian Resort's lobby. It isn't a particularly short walk.

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A few vintage vehicles to set the mood. I believe the carriage is used for weddings at the Wedding Chapel located here at the Grand Floridian.

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The very grand lobby, which is only more impressive at Christmas time.

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A view from the second floor helps to show the scale of the lobby here. One day (when I win the lotto) I might be able to stay in an outer building garden view room here, until then I'm happy to visit for dinner every now and then. After our meal we explored the shops before catching the monorail back to BLT for a very much needed rest. 

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