Animal Kingdom

On the final day of the Florida Resident's annual pass was June 29th this year and I decided to make a last minute trip to Animal Kingdom before the summer sweat storm of tourists descends upon the parks. I like Animal Kingdom, I really do, but it does suffer from the same cluttered corridor effect of Hollywood Studios. Fortunately, there are no walkways into a brick wall like there are in Hollywood Studios. Still, you never feel like you know where you are and where you're going just by the way the promenades are laid out around a central point. You feel more like you're in a tunnel maze, constantly dodging people and looking up at signs to see if you're still on track for your destination. On a busy summer day, it can be really tight and you are constantly ducking and slipping past people stopped dead in the road also trying to figure out where the hell they are.

The emersion is often very good from the market square designs to the multi-colored flags in the streets to altars set up to various spirits and god figures. The Yeti especially has a shrine to its gigantic, chaotic spirit where bells can be rung and money can be left as offerings. That's pretty powerful knowing how many people come through there on an annual basis. Africa doesn't feel necessarily like Africa, but it feels like Africa that you might walk into in a film. The street performers, the food offerings, and the shops are all well done. They moved the Lion King show here as well which is fitting. The only 'downside' here is the lack of cover from the weather, be it the torrential rains of summer or the sweltering sun of summer. When the rains came, everyone jammed under the Tusker House patio making it hard to leave the area. There is water misting off a roof that is cooling, but it really needs some awnings overhead to block out that sun. EPCoT also has sun issues, but at least on its wide promenade, you always know where you are and where you're going - not always precisely - but mostly.

The Asia end of AK suffers from roads and theming going nowhere. You go past cool theming and good ideas and a decent attraction only for it to run smack into an amphitheater or a loop around or a bridge to... dino land... which is cool but is completely different to everything else in the park with its carnival meets Jurassic Park feel. Dino land does serve up a cool show - Nemo - and a cool attraction - Dinosaurs in the Dark - or whatever it's called. The middle around the Tree of Life is a mash-up of things crashing together in a directionless splash of color and names and things happening. It's so confusing that they've had to put up big Park Exit signs to point the way on how to get the hell out of there. There is also Pandora, but oddly there are no big signs pointing the way to Pandora. It would not stop anyone from finding it, but it was just kind of odd to that it wasn't 'heralded' a bit more with signage saying 'go here!' right off the bat.

The only real sour note at AK for me this last time was thinking I was getting a reservation at Tiffan's, when I mistakenly got a reservation for Tusker House instead. I haven't been to either so doing something new is always good, but Tusker House is a character meal. That's not bad. It's fun to watch them interacting with the big and little kids. It was just not what I wanted. It was a loud buffet in a small echoing room with lots of kids meeting characters while it's pouring with rain outside. Not what I wanted to end the summer with. It's a good buffet no doubt. Good selection of food and a really good selection of desserts. Wow - on the desserts. If I could have had a more leisurely meal in Tiffan's, leaving wouldn't have been fleeing stress, it would have been a fine end to a fine day.

When the park pass resumes after the summer, I might just come back to AK as the first of the cycle of parks and do Tiffan's and hopefully have a better slew of FastPasses, though wait times for things like the Yeti was only around 20 minutes. The Safari was at an hour almost at park opening so technical difficulties might have been slowing it down. When the rains came it probably shut down completely. I got the bird show in before the rains came, but it was not amazing even being revamped with D