Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Quietest Little Corner

If you’ve been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’re probably very familiar with Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and the Maharajah Jungle Trek.  Were you aware there’s a third and often ignored trail?  There IS!  And I’m here to tell you, when the crowds get crazy, it’s a great place to escape!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Quietest Little CornerDisney's Animal Kingdom - Quietest Little Corner

We’d been to Animal Kingdom dozens of times and still did not notice the Cretaceous Trail in DinoLand U.S.A. until last December during Christmas week when the park was so crowded we could barely move.  Raymond, Joseph and I were working on our Wilderness Explorer badges when two of us became distracted by unusual flora.  As I’m rarely distracted by any type of plant life unless it’s edible,  I wasn’t even a tiny bit curious.  Not wanting to get left behind however, I followed the guys into the trees and found myself on the Cretaceous Trail.  And we were alone.  Thousands of people in every other section of the park and we’d discovered peace and quiet!  And some other stuff, too.

The Cretaceous Trail is short and has no live animal exhibits.  It exists to teach guests about the plants and animals alive today that survived (or can be traced back to) the Cretaceous period.  It’s short and seemingly unpopular.  The beauty of this area is the soaring, unique landscaping.  Once brought to my attention, I had to admit, the trees and shrubs and whatnot were pretty cool.  There are also some dinosaur figures here and there and benches available for folks looking for a place to rest.Disney's Animal Kingdom - Quietest Little Corner

Why visit the Cretaceous Trail?  I’ll give you five great reasons…

  1. Your baby is asleep and you’d like to keep it that way OR you want to let a little one stretch their legs in a crowd-free area.
  2. You love unusual plants.
  3. You need a break from people.
  4. You’re an aspiring paleontologist.
  5. You’re dragged there by family members while you’re trying to earn Wilderness Explorer Badges.

Have you been to the Cretaceous Trail?  If not, it’s close to the pillars for Dinosaur, so next time you’re over in DinoLand, you should take a minute (literally) to check it out!

Disney World Things I Never Expected to Like

With so much to do, see, eat, and experience at Walt Disney World, it’s surprisingly easy to dismiss things you don’t think you’ll like.  Surrounded by the spectacular, it’s easy to pass up what might appear run-of-the-mill.  I was guilty of this for many years, but those days are over! I’ve finally learned that even the seemingly ordinary becomes extraordinary with a bit of Disney magic all around.

Disney World Things I Never Expected to Like

Prince Charming Regal Carrousel – It may be “just a carrousel” to many, but it has a great history, short queue (usually), fantastic location, and is just the ticket for using up a few available minutes between FastPasses.  (I wrote an entire article once about my love for the carrousel as my alter ego, Darlin’ Diva here.)

Citrus Swirl – After the Dole Whip debacle, I was still open to trying a Disney frozen treat.  While I found Dole Whips too sweet and one-dimensional (all pineapple, all the time), I found the combination of sweet soft-serve vanilla ice cream and tart orange slush to be absolute perfection.Disney World Citrus Swirl

Primeval Whirl – I wouldn’t ride it for the longest time.  It looked stupid and I thought the whirl would make me hurl, but once I braved this Dinoland coaster, I was hooked.  Surprisingly, I feel this weird attraction is a must-do at least once on every Animal Kingdom visit.Dinoland's Primeval Whirl - The attraction I never expected to love.

It’s Tough to be a Bug – Megan still doesn’t like it, but the rest of The Fam and I are fans.  It’s cute, clever, and offers 3D edutainment at its best.  Yes, it makes small children cry but I think the location under the Tree of Life, the movie posters, the combination of 3D movie and animatronic figures, Flik hosting the show…well, all of that works well to entertain me.  Plus, on a hot day, it’s a great place to sit down and cool off.

Churro – They don’t look all that exciting and I’d never noticed them before seeing the cart in Frontierland.  For years (and years) I happily passed them by, but curiosity eventually won out after hearing praises for the humble churro from fellow Disney fans.  What the heck, I caved.  One wave of a Magic Band later and I was pleasantly surprised by the cinnamon-sugary deliciousness of this conveniently portable comfort food.

Country Bear Jamboree – Like many of the items on this list, I avoided the bears for years.  I listened to the haters and thought the show would be lame and the bears would be old and mangy and the songs would be horrible.  Au contraire!  I am proud and unashamed to proclaim my adoration for every second of this unique and wonderful show!!!  Love it so much, I can hardly bear it! (Hahahaha…I crack me up!)

Extremely Crowded Christmas Week – We’ve been twice recently and once a long time ago.  Yes, it’s ridiculously crowded.  Yes, once those FastPasses are gone, there won’t be any more available.  Careful planning is required, but we don’t care.  We’re thrilled by all the extra seasonal stuff!  The decorations, the lights, the special events, the food booths in World Showcase…Christmas magic is in the air and we love it!

Mickey-shaped pretzel – After being a huge fan of the Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar forever, I should know not to underestimate the appeal of any mouse-shaped snack foods.  Those dang pretzels are no exception.  Sure, as I’d always suspected, they taste just like any other generic soft pretzel, but the fact that they’re shaped like Mickey and that we’ve made getting them in Tomorrowland a family tradition, the love grows with every bite.

Kona Café – Resistance was futile.  We passed Kona on our way to ‘Ohana for many years without temptation.  Yes, Kona’s famous Tonga Toast was very well known to me, but I’m a savory breakfast fan, so no draw there.  When Curt Stone, host of the Geekin’ on WDW Podcast, waxed poetic about Kona dinners, I thought we should give it a shot.  That first visit did not impress. At. All. BUT, the two strike rule meant we’d have to give Kona a second chance before writing it off.  Luckily, subsequent visits were all fantastic and now Kona rates at least one meal on nearly every Disney World visit.

So much love in unexpected places!  The moral of the story is “don’t knock it ’til you try it” – I’ve been converted to an advocate of finding the sweet spot between revisiting old favorites and trying new things on every visit to Walt Disney World.

What’s on your list of Disney things you never expected to like?

 

 

 

 

Maharajah Jungle Trek – Tiger’s AWAKE!

Have you taken the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney’s Animal Kingdom?  Have you seen the tigers?  It’s been our experience that they do an extraordinary amount of sleeping.  On our last visit, though, something was decidedly different…

Maharajah Jungle Trek – Tiger’s AWAKE!

It started off as expected.  Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE the two trails in Animal Kingdom and can spend quite a bit of time checking out both the incredible theming and landscaping along with all the amazing animals on both Gorilla Falls AND the Jungle Trek.  What I mean by “expected” is that the adorable and mostly stationary Komodo Dragon was just where he should be.  The bats, fascinating as they are, were y’know, just hanging around.  We were in no hurry as we strolled along taking in the much loved scenery on they way to the tiger enclosure.

There was a cast member in the middle of the pathway.  She was crouching down and cranking what looked like a large wrench attached to something in the ground.  I wanted to take a picture, but could tell this was one of those backstage things Disney really likes to keep secret.  It turns out, she was opening a gate inside the tiger area that would allow the male tiger to change enclosures.  Hopefully, being a good tiger, he’d do what was expected of him by moving to the newly opened area and be rewarded for his efforts.

There he was!  So used to seeing the tigers napping, we were completely enthralled by how gorgeous this one was as he strutted around, sniffing the special perfumes sprayed around the enclosure for his enjoyment.  Then it was treat time and he waited patiently as chunks of meat were tossed to him as a reward for doing exactly want was wanted.

Even asleep, the tigers in Animal Kingdom are fantastic.  Awake?  Incredible!!!  What a great moment – in the right place at the right time – to see that big, beautiful creature in all his feline glory.

Have you been on the Maharajah Jungle Trek?  What were the tigers doing when you were there?

 

Who Would Love Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorers?

I cannot say enough how much we love Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  So much to see and do, no two visits are ever the same.  Recently we were at Animal Kingdom for the second time during our week-long, Christmas week vacation.  The weather that day was cold and windy, but we were determined to make the best of our last day at Disney World!

Who Would Love Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorers?

Arriving uncharacteristically late in the morning (Kona breakfast was worth it!), we’d barely made it into the park when I said, “Wait!”.  I realized we’d just passed up some Cast Members who were part of the Wilderness Explorers activity.  They appeared to be getting another family started on their quest to earn badges, gain knowledge and explore Animal Kingdom.  I told Joseph (who occasionally still does what his mother tells him) to go back and get us our information for this maybe-not-really-for-grownups activity.

Clearly the Cast Members were enjoying this earnest young man asking how to join the fun.  A kind young lady handed him his Wilderness Explorers Handbook, his “uniform” (a sticker), and helped him earn his first badge by teaching him the Wilderness Explorer call…”The wilderness must be explored!  Caw Caw Roar” with the proper hand gestures, of course.  I moved closer as I took pictures and when the Cast Member realized we were together, offered me my own book (I said we’d share) and insisted on giving me my uniform.  I wore that sticker proudly all day!

Armed with the map in the handbook, we set off to earn some badges.  Inside the booklet’s back cover, I saw the “levels” explorers could reach based on the number of badges earned.  The top level, Fish, required 20 badges to achieve.  Goal set, we were on our way!

There are two types of Cast Members to help you with this activity.  Troop Leaders, who wear a Wilderness Explorers’ uniform and Badge Guides, who are identified by the orange badge satchels they carry.  This means that some activities involved a leader teaching or showing you something (insect, fossil, animal information) and other badges were earned simply by obtaining certain information on our own.  We ran into lots of other families earning badges.  Some awesome Cast Members would spot us first as we were looking for their station and call out, “Hello, Wilderness Explorers!”  This is when wearing our “uniform” was helpful.

The Troop Leaders were passionate about the information they shared.  We were sincerely interested and asked lots of questions – this is what makes this activity suitable for all ages!  The Badge Guides were responsible for checking to make sure we completed the badge requirements, but weren’t there to teach us anything.  They were all nice and some got a kick out of our enthusiasm.  To earn the “Yeti Badge”, explorers are supposed to mark in the book how tall they are compared to the wooden yeti foot print outside Expedition Everest.  Much too tall for this to be accurate, we took a picture instead to show the Badge Guides who got a laugh out of our efforts.  Pay no attention to the beer in Joseph’s hand.  Thirsty work, this badge earning.

All in all, this is a very fun activity for families of all ages!  We were successful in our quest to earn 20 badges!  Without rushing too much, we managed it in about 4 1/2 hours, working around the three FastPasses we had booked.  The Wilderness Explorers is part scavenger hunt, part problem solving activity, part learning from an expert – all of it interesting and entertaining.

Have you earned any Wilderness Explorer badges in Animal Kingdom?  If you have kids (of any age) or if you’re just looking for a new way to explore the park, consider adding this to your plans for your next visit and have a great time!