We decided that our first WDW park would be Animal Kingdom. When we first planned the trip, we thought we might skip AK entirely, as it is not David's or my favorite park, but the girls really wanted to go. I decided that the wild zebra striped dresses that Grandma bought for them would be perfect for the occasion! We figured Monday was the best day to go because we could put in a few hours, hit the main attractions, and then head to the pool for a bit before dinner in Epcot. Unfortunately, our Touring Plans app informed us that Animal Kingdom was a "Park to Avoid" on Monday, but there was nothing to be done about that because (for a variety of reasons which, despite my tendency to overshare, I won't bore anyone with) Monday had to be the day. So we kind of knew what we were walking into.
We ended up having a great time at AK, although we hadn't quite gotten into a rhythm yet with our strategizing, fastpass optimization, etc., so we missed a few things we probably could have hit (even in our relatively narrow timeframe) with better planning. Jacob got to do everything he wanted to do (a major theme of the trip) and the girls weren't aware that they missed anything, so it all worked out in the end.
We started out by grabbing fastpasses for Expedition Everest, and then headed to the Kali River Rapids. Elizabeth was very excited to ride it, started to cry while on the ride, but then declared it to be "AWESOME!!" once it was over (another major theme of the trip).
After the Kali adventure (oh, yes, we got wet! We might have even gotten soaked!), we decided to walk through the Maharaja Jungle Trek. We figured this was an opportunity to see some animals without having to wait in line.
The kids outside the jungle trek. This was the the first of many photo ops in which I could not get all three kids to look at me at once:
David and the kids checking out the wildlife:
J&E jungle trekking:
David's ankle, which he injured on April 3, was still rehabbing during our trip. He had been going through intensive physical therapy during the weeks leading up to the trip to get it in shape for the 10 daily miles of walking and hours of standing in line while at WDW. The ankle was still not 100% by the time we left, but his physical therapist gave him her blessing to go henceforth to the Happiest Place on Earth and walketh, and so he did, and he was quite the trooper about it. Here he is resting his ankle while on the Jungle Trek:
After the Jungle Trek I'd say we made our biggest strategic mistake. We had some time to kill before our fastpass time at Expedition Everest, and we decided to head to Dinoland. I know, total rookie mistake! We SHOULD have gotten in line for Kilamanjaro Safaris, one of the major attractions at AK that we ended up missing (we couldn't get a fastpass for the safari because we were already holding fastpasses for Everest and you can only hold one at a time). We chose Dinoland because we knew there was a playground the kids could run around on without having to wait in line, and we figured one of us could do that with the girls and the other could take Jacob onto Dinosaur (which would be too scary for the girls).
The kids in Dinoland:
And while Dinoland leans towards the lame, we figured we could certainly have fun there for 30 or 45 minutes without any trouble. So David took the girls to the playground and I took Jacob to Dinosaur. Where we waited in line for ONE HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES!! By far the longest wait we had for any attraction at WDW (I'd say the longest wait by a good 40 minutes).
Jacob playing on my iPhone while in line for Dinosaur:
Jacob about to get eaten by a T-Rex while in line for Dinosaur:
While we were in line, Jacob, who feels stress pretty acutely for an 8 year old, started panicking that he was going to miss his fastpass window for Everest. That was our first fastpass of the trip, and while the fastpasses themselves state a return window (12:30 - 1:30 p.m., for example), we had heard before the trip that they don't expire (so if you get a fastpass the begins at 12:30, you can use it from 12:30 until park closing). Unfortunately, the cast member at Everest who David asked to confirm that (after I called him from the Dinosaur line because Jacob was freaking) told him that it depends on the person working the attraction. Turns out that was bad information (or if it was true of Everest, it was not true anywhere else in WDW, where we were told categorically that fastpasses never expire).
Am I boring you yet? I'm sorry, something about Disney trips makes you want to share the minutiae with everyone (have you seen the disboards? There are actual debate threads about proper usage of the Disney resort refillable mugs). ANYWAY, we were worried that we were going to miss our fastpass window for Everest, so perhaps that factored in to Jacob's and my impression of Dinosaur as being not worth the wait. But we rode it, sprinted (for real) to Everest, and David and Jacob got on it with minutes (or hours, depending on who you ask) to spare.
This was Jacob's first roller coaster ever, and the beginning of his love affair with thrill rides that would continue all week long. You could actually see the adrenaline pumping in him when he got off the rides -- it was fun to watch. Here's Jacob with Everest in the background (after he and David had safely completed their adventure):
All of us outside of Expedition Everest:
After Everest, we decided to leave Animal Kingdom. We knew if we got fastpasses for Kilamanjaro Safaris the return time would be for later than we wanted to stay, and we did not want to wait in line. The pool sounded great to everyone by then, so we decided we'd get lunch at the poolside restaurant at the Yacht Club and swim for the afternoon.
I really cannot adequately express the awesomeness of Stormalong Bay, the pool at the Yacht Club. I didn't do a good job of stepping back and getting some pictures of the whole pool spread, but you can see some here. It's a three acre pool with a lazy river and really fun water slides (a big one and a little one). Much of the pool is very shallow, with a sandy bottom and little beaches on each side, so small kids can walk across from beach to beach. That part is perfect for small children -- Caroline LOVED it -- and the water slide and lazy river are super fun for older kids. We all had a blast here!
Jacob, Elizabeth and David having a ball on the lazy river:
Caroline loving the water:
The brown, shipwrecked boat is actually a water slide:
We spent several hours at the pool that afternoon. Then we got ready to head to Epcot, where we had 8:00 dinner reservations. The World Showcase in Epcot is just a short walk from the Yacht Club. My friend Betsey recommended Rose & Crown, a traditional pub in fake England, as a place with great food and an incredible view of the lagoon and Illuminations, the nightly Epcot lights & fireworks show.
And boy, was she right! Thanks Betsey! We had a fun dinner with a perfect view of Illuminations. It was a great way to cap off a fun day. After the show we took the boat back to the hotel because Elizabeth wanted to ride the boat (it was definitely quicker to walk), where everyone crashed. Next up - Chef Mickey and the Magic Kingdom!