Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Caring for Giants Tour

We were looking for a special little something extra to add to our Walt Disney World vacation.  And we found the perfect thing!  For $30 per person ($25.50 with a DVC discount), guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom can spend an hour backstage learning about Disney’s herd of perfect pachyderms and much, much more.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Caring for Giants Tour

Megan and I knew we’d have an entire day, open to close, to spend in Animal Kingdom.  For a relatively small investment of time and money, we scheduled the Caring for Giants Tour at 3:00 pm on June 26th.

Due to a summer thunder shower that moved through right at our scheduled tour time, we were delayed 30 minutes and joined the next tour group.  Had it not been for the storm, the two of us would have been the only ones on our original tour.  As it was, we were with just one other family, so our group was small and we could hear and see everything very well.

The tour begins near Kilimanjaro Safaris.  We were given name tags in a lanyard before being led backstage to a tour vehicle (a van).  After a short drive during which some of the areas like barns and fences were discussed, we arrived at a backstage area behind the savannah where elephants can usually be seen on the safari.

We climbed a flight of stairs onto a viewing platform and met our guides.  One an animal care expert and the other a cultural representative from Africa.  From the animal care specialist, we learned a bit about the elephant herd in Animal Kingdom and some general elephant facts.  The African cultural representative taught us about elephant conservation and how Disney helps with efforts to reduce conflict between farmers and elephants in Africa.Caring for Giants Caring for Giants

As we were listening to the guides, the herd’s matriarch, Rafiki (Swahili for Friend), made a loud, deep rumbling noise.  Apparently this was Elephant for “come to me now!”  What an amazing thing to see!  Elephants running from every direction to surround Rafiki.  One trumpeted loudly and the “event” was over as suddenly as it began.  Shortly afterwards, a beautiful elephant with very long legs caught our eye and we asked about her.  Her name is Kianga which is Swahili for Sunshine. Caring for Giants Caring for Giants

The tour was fun, informative, and an excellent way to break up our Animal Kingdom day.  Megan and I both highly recommend this experience!

I’m full of questions!  Do you love elephants?  Does Caring for Giants sound like something you would enjoy?  Have you already taken this tour?  What did you think about it?

 

Who Would Love Disney’s Flight of Passage?

Let’s talk (more) Pandora, okay?  I recently shared an overview of Megan’s and my experience in Animal Kingdom’s newest land.  Now it’s time to get to the very best part – Flight of Passage!  With a height requirement of 44-inches, this ride is intended for everyone in the family from about age six.  Is it a perfect attraction for everyone?  Just about!Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

Who Would Love Disney’s Flight of Passage?

We rode Flight of Passage using the standby queue and also rode with a FastPass.  The standby line weaves through several different rooms, gradually becoming more heavily themed as guests make their way to the heart of the ride.  Unlike some of Disney’s newest queue innovations, this one has no interactive elements (that we noticed).  While I didn’t enjoy the queue nearly as much as I do the one for Expedition Everest, the final area of the line is VERY cool and worth waiting for…if the wait isn’t longer than about an hour.  We waited 90+ minutes and were pretty bored most of the time.  FastPass holders skip all of the standby – including the super interesting, well-themed parts.  Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage? Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?My suggestion:  If the line’s not too long, the lead up to the actual attraction adds certain immersive details that enhance the experience…if you like that sort of thing.

The “pre-ride show” is very detailed and includes instructions for actually experiencing the attraction.  During our first ride, I missed some of the finer details.  Don’t be like me!  Pay close attention to things like the particular avatar you are linked to and you’ll be even more amazed.Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

Riding a Banshee

When you finally take your place on the ride vehicle (think motorbike or jet ski) and are secured in place (not nearly as restrictive as Rock’n’ Roller Coaster), you’ll be facing an industrial-looking wall.  As you wait for the final link to your avatar to be complete (you can see this happening on a screen on your vehicle), you may wonder (like we did), “What the heck?  What kinda good attraction has you staring at this wall?  Why do I even need these 3D glasses?” and then prepared to be delighted and amazed!  The wall simply vanishes and you arrive on Pandora.

I can’t describe it to you, but will tell you my impression.  Flight of Passage involves all of your senses.  You can feel the banshee breathing, beating its wings, jumping into the air.  You can see, feel and smell the Pandoran environment as you explore the planet with your leader.  Megan and I both exited the ride in complete amazement!  She wore a huge, unending grin – punctuated with an occasional delighted laugh.  I know I was walking along in jaw-dropped awe.  At one point, Megan took my hand and let me along…I was that stunned!

After that first ride, I could remember so clearly the sights, aromas, and feelings I experienced.  I could not remember a single sound…not one!  After that one time, I recalled the experience as being completely silent, yet I knew it couldn’t have been!  And I believe that’s a testament to this attraction’s outstanding design!  Sensory overload in the very best way!!!Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

As with most of Disney World’s magic, I don’t care to know anything about the technology involved in allowing me to visit another planet and ride on the back of a flying animal there.  I just want to do it again!  More immersive than Soarin’, less motion-sickness-inducing jerkiness than Star Tours, no unexpectedly scary elements like Tower of Terror…yet much, much more thrilling than any of them, in its own unique way.  Unless your little one is easily scared by new experiences, I can’t imagine anyone not loving Flight of Passage.

If you’re headed to Walt Disney World to experience Pandora for the first time, I recommend Flight of Passage as the top must-do experience in this land.  While we were waiting in the standby line, Megan and I chatted up the folks around us…those who’d ridden Flight of Passage already were unanimous in their feelings about this attraction and overwhelmingly said, “Best ride EVER!”  As much as I love my favorite Disney World attractions, I’d be hard pressed to disagree.

Go! Ride! And let me know what you thought of Flight of Passage when you get back.

Magic Kingdom – Festival Of Fantasy Parade’s New Time?

What time is the 3 o’clock parade?  The answer might surprise you on and after August 20, 2017.Festival of Fantasy Parade's New Time

Magic Kingdom – Festival Of Fantasy Parade’s New Time?

I love Disney rumors and gossip – it’s fun to speculate and discuss among my fellow Disney geeks.  When I came across this brief article from WDW News Today, I had to visit Disney’s official website and check out the times info for myself.  Sure enough, the “3 o’clock parade” is moving to 2:00 pm.  Annnnnd I think that’s okay.  Pretty good, in fact.  Here’s why…Festival of Fantasy Parade's New Time

If you’ve never seen Festival of Fantasy, it’s a must-do at least once.  I’ve caught the entire 12 minute spectacle a few times because it’s nothing short of incredible.  Seriously, the floats, costumes, and music are wonderful and as good as Disney gets.  I was not a huge fan of the prior parade (Celebrate a Dream Come True) for a variety of reasons and only watched it in its entirety once because we had VIP seating.  Festival of Fantasy is everything I wanted the previous parade to be and oh, so much more.  3 o’clock can be a tough time of the day to fit in a parade…no matter how fantastic.

Mid-afternoon is the classic post-lunch naptime for legions of littles.  It’s hot, humid, sometimes riddled with pop-up thunderstorms and for lots of families their resort pool is calling.  Sometimes people want to spend a couple of hours before dinner cleaning up and enjoying happy hour (me!).  Sometimes people want to park-hop after knocking off their favorite Magic Kingdom attractions (also me!).  Moving the parade up an hour could really be a huge help for lots of folks.  The Festival of Fantasy Dining Package will also work out better for people who eat at the earliest times available – closing the gap a bit between meal and parade time.Festival Of Fantasy Parade's New Time

I think, if this time change is permanent, The Fam and I will get to enjoy Festival of Fantasy more frequently than we do now.  Our favorite viewing spots are on the Tomorrowland side of the hub and also at the end of Main Street USA across from the flagpole – easy to exit the park from there after Mickey and Minnie go by.Minne Mouse in the Festival of Fantasy Parade

Are you a Festival of Fantasy Fan?  How do you feel about the parade’s new time?Festival Of Fantasy Parade's New Time

 

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Stop for Gorilla Falls Aviary!

My enthusiasm for all things Animal Kingdom knows no bounds, but I have a confession to make:  I tend to rush through the aviaries at the end of Maharajah Jungle Trek and Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.  I get excited about seeing all the animals and then when I get to the aviary, I start thinking right away about what I want to do next or when our next FastPass will be.  Birds-shmirds, right?  They’re basically all the same and can be…well…boring, no?  They can also drop “bombs” on unsuspecting passersby and who wants that vacation memory?  Recently though, I decided to try something new.  At the end of the Gorilla Falls trail, when we reached the birds, I took a different attitude.  Here’s what happened…

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Stop for Gorilla Falls Aviary!

We were actually almost to the exit when I started watching this little yellow bird search for something that turned out to be a small red leaf.  It took the leaf, flew to it’s nest and, except for its tail sticking out, disappeared inside the nest.  For a while.  I could see it was busy trying to place the leaf, I suppose, so I waited to see what it would do next.  The little bird popped back out and still had the leaf in its beak!  Which it promptly spit out…leaf rejected!  What the heck kind of bird was this picky thing with the cool looking basket-like nest?

Heaving a pretty big sigh at myself, I quietly called to Raymond and Joseph to wait a minute, I’d be right back.  I knew from doing the Wilderness Explorers adventure there would be a bird spotting guide back by the entrance, so I wove back through the crowd, against traffic, and snagged one.  As I walked back to the guys, I started paying much more attention to the birds.  There are a lot of birds.  Different shapes, sizes and colors  – up above and down below.  If you’ve got a fear of birds (Ornithophobia), you’ll maybe want to skip this area.

The spotting guide’s a must.  The picky little yellow bird?  Taveta Golden Weaver!

Raymond and Joseph, familiar with my ways, waited patiently as I took my first extended tour of the aviary.  I learned some stuff.  The birds seem really happy.  If you’ve been skipping out on this, you should give it a try next time you’re there.

Have you spent time in Animal Kingdom’s aviaries?  Which do you prefer, the one on Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail or on Maharajah Jungle Trek?