Monday, December 7, 2009

The Early Bird Gets The Mouse: Animal Kingdom

Welcome to the last chapter in the Early Bird... series. This time, we finish it off with reasons to get to Animal Kingdom before rope drop, and how this huge tip can help you save tremendous time and get the most out of your day at the most recent of all Walt Disney World theme parks.

For addition details regarding Animal Kingdom strategy, refer to a couple of articles we did a little while back, Defending Disney's Animal Kingdom (October 23, 2009) and Tip Of The Tail: Jambo, Simba One! (October 25, 200). A lot of what we want to say is present in those articles, but there's some things we wanted to underscore here.

As mentioned in the previous articles as to why it's best to get to the park early (early as in WELL before rope drop), it can help you out tremendously when it comes to wanting to get all the big attractions done and out of the way so that you won't feel so pressured or rushed to get them done later, when the crowds are bigger and lines longer. This will allow you to hit the less popular attractions and do the shows that are deserving of being seen as well, without nearly as much wait as Expedition Everest at 2:30 in the afternoon.

There are some decisions that need to be made, though, considering your own party and what their goals and limitations are. Two rides really need to be carefully considered before making your grand plan: Dinosaur, and, of course, Expedition Everest. Both are AWESOME attractions. Both are two of my family's favorites in all of The Mouse. But they aren't for everyone. Not everyone is a roller coaster fan, and Everest can freak even moderate coaster fans out - backward and downward corkscrew in the pitch-black, for example - with a huge drop and nice G's going around the corners. And Dinosaur - a rough, LOUD and potentially and authentically scary attraction, especially for really young ones who happen to be tall enough. If you can do these two rides, which I recommend if at all possible, you have even more decisions to make.

Getting to Animal Kingdom early is also a treat, because they have an authentic pre-rope drop performance where Mickey and Crew put on a show on the back of a safari truck and welcome everyone into the park. It's cute and kinda cool, and its worth seeing once - which you will if you're there as early as I suggest - 8:20 - 8:30 am. So getting there early gets you this bonus show. After that, the ropes are dropped, and YOU'RE OFF! Most people these days go to Asia to get onto Expedition Everest immediately. Most of the rest head to the Kilimanjaro Safari to see the animals romp around in the early morning, where they are usually most active. Both are great options.

I can mainly speak to families that are like mine - mom, dad, 7-year-old son and 10-year old daughter - all thrill ride junkies, and this is how we handle Animal Kingdom early in the morning:

8:20 - 8:30 am: Arrive at Animal Kingdom turnstiles
This will ensure that you're toward the front of the lines, enabling you to be able to be up by the front of rope drop show, and to be amongst the first to get to where you want to go after the ropes are actually dropped, marking your freedom!

9:00 am: Get as close to the "rope" as you can
Also, get as close to the Asia side (the right side) of the "rope" as you can. As soon as the rope is dropped, you're off! Lines will be long, so any little advantage you can get, take it.

9:05 - 9:10 am: Arrive at Expedition Everest, grab fastpasses
This is similar to the Epcot (Soarin') and Hollywood Studios (Toy Story Mania) philosophy. We almost never advocate doing those rides right away, and the same can be said for Everest in AK. Get your fast passes, then hightail it across the way to either Africa and the Safari, or to Dinosaur (we recommend going to the Safari, but there is a scenario in which we recommend going to Dinosaur here - we'll explain below). This will ensure that when your time to ride Everest has arrived, the wait will be short and you'll be almost a walk-on...and you'll have one, if not two other headliner attractions done and under your belt. If you're there early enough, the return time should be between 10:00 and 10:30 am.

9:15 - 9:20 am: Head to Kilimanjaro Safari
After having the Everest fastpasses in hand, we head to Africa. We do this because as was mentioned, the animals are more active in the morning. It will be a bit of a wait at this time, probably 20-30 minutes, since you first made the trek to the mountain and all those that can't do coasters go to the Safari. That's OK, because you know almost as soon as you're off, Everest fast passes will be ready to come callin'.

10:10 - 10:15 am: Hit the Pangani Forest Trail
Since you are in Africa coming out of the Safari, it's possible your fastpasses might not be quite ready yet. It's also a good idea to hit one of the attractions here in Africa that shouldn't be missed, and since you're already here, take advantage of it...go onto the Pangani Forest trail. It's a great walking trail (Gorillas are the highlight, of course) and worth the time. It should take about 15-20 minutes, and by that time, the Everest FPs should most certainly be ready to be used.

10:30 - 10:40 am: Head back to Everest
By now, it's likely your early-morning fastpasses can bring you right back to the Yeti. And after riding it, by about 11:00, you'll have completed three of the most popular attractions on AK, and two of the most popular in all of The Mouse, for that matter (Everest, Safari). All in about an hour and a half - two hours of park opening. And you know that you're planning on heading over to Dinosaur to celebrate your masterfulness!

11:00 - 11:20 am: Ride Dinosaur
It is a scary ride, a thrilling ride; it may not be for kids to try, even if they measure up the measuring bar. After having experienced Dinosaur, we can now say we've conquered 3 of the absolute most popular attractions all within the first hour and a half to two hours of park opening.

We do have an alternative to this plan, though. It involves going to Dinosaur immediately after getting your fastpasses to Everest. This will ensure you get Dinosaur and Everest done by about 10:00 or 10:30. What about the Safari, you ask? Well, as highlighted in our ...Jambo, Simba One article, we very much recommend doing the Safari at 3:00, while the Parade is just getting under way. The parade begins right by the entrance to the Safari, so it really diverts a lot of attention away from the Safari...enabling what amounts to a near walk-on many times. There's a couple slight downsides to this strategy, though. If you've never seen the Jammin' Jungle Parade before, this makes you miss it...and it's a quality Parade. Also, the animals aren't as active mid-afternoon as they are in the early AM. But you do know that you'll already have gotten Everest and Dinosaur under your belt, and you've got a short wait for the other HUGE attraction at this park.

Finally, there are several attractions that shouldn't be missed here:
Festival of the Lion King
Tough To Be A Bug
Kali River Rapids
Maharajah Jungle Trek
Conservation Station
Mickey's Jammin Jungle Parade
Nemo: The Musical
Flights of Wonder

All are very much worth seeing - and if you get the big three - Everest, Safari and Dinosaur out of the way very early, the rest will fall into place without much rushing around. Just make sure to check the showtimes for Festival of the Lion King, Nemo: The Musical and Flights of Wonder, and work around those.

Be the Early Bird who gets there before rope drop and gets the fastpasses with the quick return time. It'll set up the rest of your whole day at Animal Kingdom.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a lurker, but wanted to let you know I love your Early Bird series! Thanks so much for posting.