Sunday, August 6, 2017
My Summer 2017 Walt Disney World Experience: African Painted Dog House Hunters
I recently spent a few days at Walt Disney World. This was part of a bigger Florida vacation with family and friends.
Before driving to Disney, I spent some time at the beach in Venice, Florida.
I always find something cool at the Venice Goodwill. This time, I found Shenzi the Hyena from The Lion King, a plush musical Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and a Gargoyles coloring book.
On July 28, 2017, we made the two hour drive from Venice to Walt Disney World. Our first stop was Disney Springs.
We got to Disney Springs at lunch time, and decided to head to Earl of Sandwich first (something of a tradition). I got the Chipotle Chicken Avocado sandwich. YUM! We ate just before the big crowds arrived.
We spent a lot of time inside World of Disney.
I did not buy anything, but I did like this shirt.
Do you drink tea? I don't. But if you do, you may need this Maleficent Dragon teapot.
This was available at the Marketplace Co-Op.
That's where you could also find a fancy Chip Beauty and the Beast bag.
Lots of high-end Disney boutique items at Disney Springs.
Are you looking for Robin Hood? You can find him, in ornament form, at Disney's Days of Christmas.
I saw this at Walt Disney World last year (and online). He's back! I couldn't justify buying another ornament, even if it is Robin Hood.
I only ended up buying one souvenir at Disney Springs: A Haunted Mansion Bell.
I think I got this at Tren-D (some of the stores blend together!). By 2:00PM, we wrapped things up at Disney Springs and headed to the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets nearby.
The objective was to visit Disney's Character Warehouse and find some discounted souvenirs. Mission accomplished.
I found this Snow Globe of the Peg Leg "Barker Bird" Parrot from Pirates of the Caribbean on sale. I had to get him. Merchandise of this character seems to be everywhere at Walt Disney World.
This is a "Limited Release" pin. I'm not sure how many millions of pins this was limited to, but many of them were at the Character Warehouse.
By 4:00PM, we checked in to our condo at the Silver Lake Resort in Kissimmee. This is so close to Disney's Animal Kingdom that you could see the floating Pandora mountains from our elevator (we did not notice this until the last day we were there!).
We got 2 Day Park Hopper Passes at Silver Lake, with plans to go to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios on Saturday. We would then go to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT on Sunday. We got roped in to a Sunday morning sales pitch "Breakfast" at the hotel (where they try to sell you some sort of vacation deal) so we could get discounted tickets.
With tickets in hand, I quickly got the My Disney Experience App and got to work setting up FastPasses. The App turned out to be incredibly useful. For Saturday, I got FastPasses for Kilimanjaro Safaris, the Navi River Journey, and Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom. For Sunday, I got FastPasses for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Splash Mountain, and Space Mountain.
The view from our condo was pretty amazing. What's even more amazing is that we did not open the windows to see it until Sunday. From left to right: Pandora Mountains, Tree of Life, and Everest.
Silver Lake Resort has two gated entrances, one of which is right by Animal Kingdom and the the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
On Friday Night, we decided to go to Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner.
The Resort is close to Silver Lake, but we weren't sure if we could park there. So we drove to Disney Springs and took a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge.
I've visited Animal Kingdom Lodge before, but never stayed there. It is amazing.
Animal Kingdom Lodge has their own collection of animals with their own enclosures.
The Mara is a great, secluded quick service location in a relaxing atmosphere.
I got the Tamarind Barbecue Pork Sandwich for dinner (with tasty Zebra Domes for dessert---we got 4 of them and took some back to the condo for later).
After dinner, we visited the Zawadi Marketplace. This is the Lodge's impressively decorated souvenir store.
We then took the bus back to Disney Springs to the car, and then back to the condo. We had a big day ahead of us.
On Saturday, July 29th, we got up early and made sure we were at Disney's Animal Kingdom by its 9:00AM opening.
Luckily, our condo was very close to the park. I made sure to take a picture of where we parked.
There was a big crowd waiting to get in Animal Kingdom. And nearly everyone was going to Pandora.
Per the My Disney Experience App, there were no FastPasses at all available for AVATAR: Flight of Passage, so most people had the same idea. Get there first thing in the morning.
Pandora is stunning.
Once inside Pandora, we quickly learned that the line for Flight of Passage stretched all the way down the path leading to Africa by Legend of the Lion King. So we got in that line.
The line for Flight of Passage is epic.
I've read that the line for the attraction can hold a 6 hour line. Thankfully our wait was a mere 120 minutes.
You never know what kind of creatures you'll see in Pandora.
These interactive, crab-like critters shoot water.
The Flight of Passage line enters caves full of paintings. This is the "villain" of the attraction, who tries to eat you and your Banshee.
Thankfully, the long line for this attraction is indoors, with air conditioning!
The line moves from caves to Labs, where you see an AVATAR floating in a tube.
This is an impressive animatronic! There was an open door in the line leading to the inside of the room where this is located. The door was not supposed to be open! Some people got amazing selfies with this guy, until the door was closed.
The premise of the attraction is that you are matched with an Avatar who is already flying on the back of a Banshee.
When you see this Banshee mural, you're almost ready to board!
We really enjoyed Flight of Passage, which is kind of like a 3D version of Epcot's Soarin' on a bike. The attraction empties in to Windtraders, a store where you can adopt your own Banshee.
After reading about these, and seeing all the color options, I decided to buy this blue banshee. Even if you know which one you want, you still have to get in a line and hear the Cast Member spiel about how to operate them. And there is a limit of one per Guest. Instead of lugging my banshee around all day, I had Windtraders send him to Package Pickup at the front of the park. If you do this, it takes 3 hours for your purchase to get there (which worked out for me).
My favorite thing about Pandora is the creature carvings inside of the Windtraders store.
This Hammerhead Titanothere is located by the Banshee Rookery (the place to adopt the dragons).
I got these Creatures of Pandora PVC figures off of the Disney Parks Shopping App when Pandora opened.
I'm glad I got them when I did, because they did not have them at Windtraders.
The merchandise at Windtraders does seem to be exclusively sold in Pandora.
I did not see Pandora merchandise for sale anywhere else in Walt Disney World. I'm guessing this is part of the licensing deal with Fox.
You can fly!
Wing-flapping banshees on sticks seemed to be popular souvenirs.
Flying orange villain dragon is cool, too.
Windtraders has a great, huge kite of this guy, too.
These menacing creatures have a role on the Navi River Journey.
Windtraders also has a line of action figures.
The Banshees are the stars of Pandora.
The deer-like Hexapede action figure lights up.
Lots of light-up toys at Windtraders.
The Direhorse seems to be another merchandising favorite.
These creatures are featured in both Flight of Passage and the Navi River Journey.
Missed opportunity: Pandora Carousel.
The Panther-like Thanator.
This creature had a major role in "AVATAR" but is not (to my knowledge) on either rides in Pandora. Curious.
You can get a ferocious, roaring action figure, though.
Or even a cute Thanator plush toy.
I'm wondering if these creature would star in a future Pandora attraction.
You want pins? They got pins.
This is the only item I saw with the Disney name on it.
For lunch, we ate at the Satu'li Canteen. I got the Slow-Roasted Sliced Grilled Beef Bowl with the Red and Sweet Potato Hash and Creamy Herb Dressing. It was tasty! And filling!
We also got the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse, which we liked. The yellow part is passion fruit flavored. The white blob on top is crunchy and reminded me of astronaut ice cream. I did not get to try whatever that square thing is. It got totally eaten before I got a chance to try it.
We left Pandora to explore more of Animal Kingdom.
The Tree of Life as seen on the walk from Africa to Expedition Everest.
Time to use the Single Rider Line to see the Yeti!
Later in the evening, we would return to this location to use our FastPass for Rivers of Light.
Our first FastPass of the day (for Kilimanjaro Safaris) was not until 2:35PM, so we had some time to kill. We explored the shops.
We found the Pirates of the Caribbean Parrot in plush form! I should have bought this.
I was really excited when Animal Kingdom announced they were getting African Painted Dogs. They are beautiful animals. I got a tiny plush keychain of an African Painted Dog many years ago at the Cincinnati Zoo, so I was able to resist buying this guy.
The Animal Kingdom Painted Dogs rotate out of their enclosure with Hyenas. I was sad that I did not get to see the Hyenas on this trip. And I noticed there were no Hyena plush for sale (Hyenas are not popular toys, I guess). I was glad I got a Shenzi Hyena from the Venice Goodwill before my Disney trip.
Speaking of the Venice Goodwill: Back in November of 2016, I found this Animal Kingdom Safari Truck there (still in the box!).
And yes, they still sell this at Animal Kingdom.
It turns out Kilimanjaro Safaris was my favorite attraction at Animal Kingdom.
I saw more animals on this visit than I've ever seen before on previous trips.
A massive rain storm hit while we were on Safari. This is where things really got interesting.
As the rain poured down, the giraffes ran for cover. And when I say ran, I mean they full-on galloped across the savanna.
We caught up with the giraffes and they had taken cover under palm trees.
We were living in a Discovery Channel special.
The African Painted dogs huddled together in their African Painted doghouse.
Other animals on the Safari enjoyed the rain more.
Elephants! This was the best view I'd ever had of the elephants on the Safari.
Go ahead and take pictures. They've got their trunks on.
We made a huge mistake and did not bring phone chargers to the park with us. So our battery power was almost out. Sadly, I couldn't take any more pictures of the adventures for the day.
The second huge mistake we made was park hopping to Disney's Hollywood Studios. I wanted to go on the Great Movie Ride (before it closes forever) and Rock and Roller Coaster. Unfortunately, both were closed due to technical difficulties.
As you might imagine, with two major attractions down, the wait time for everything available was horrendous. So we did nothing at the Studios. I didn't buy anything here. These pins were from the Pin Traders shop at Disney Springs.
The cool bus rides with a cold Diet Coke was nice, though. And at the Studios, we did see a lady walking her Labradoodle dog (and the dog was wearing shoes---that was hilarious).
Because of all this, we decided to only go to the Magic Kingdom the next day, and not park hop. We did not visit Epcot on this trip.
So we returned to Animal Kingdom, earlier than planned. But that was OK!
We had a 10 minute wait for Dinosaur, so we did that.
We had a 6:50PM FastPass for the Na'vi River Journey. The ride is pretty, but very short. I won't lie, I was disappointed with the fact that there weren't more animated figures in Pandora. The River Journey could really use them.
I took another ride on Expedition Everest (using the Single Rider line). We then ate dinner at Flame Tree Barbecue. This was a light dinner, as we had a big lunch. I got the Smoked Turkey Breast Sandwich. I then went to Package Pick Up at the front of the park. I got my Banshee before we saw Rivers of Light. I wanted to avoid the crowds at the entrance when the park closed. That was smart!
Our Rivers of Light FastPass was good until 9:00PM and that is about the time we arrived in the Asia theater to see the show. Rivers of Light is really pretty. I love the soundtrack and the animal floats. The water screens, I thought, were the weak link.
We left after Rivers of Light ended. It was a long day, and we were exhausted. Happily, we were back at our condo by 10:00PM.
Some of my friends who live in Orlando came to stay in our condo (and use the pool and other amenities) while we were at the parks. Our condo actually had two units---so they had their own apartment, really. We visited with them for about an hour, then went to bed. We had another big day ahead of us.
On Sunday, July 30, we got up early to do the "Breakfast" sales pitch at the Silver Lake Resort. This was a continental breakfast, and mandatory to get our ticked discount.
The sales pitch was hard, but we were not interested in whatever was being sold. We had to fill out a questionnaire, and one of the questions was "Describe your dream vacation." I wrote "A trip to the Moon." The salesman was not amused.
The sales Breakfast took 90 minutes. After that was over, we visited with Friends at the condo for at least an hour. We arrived at a rainy Transportation and Ticket Center at noon.
Yes, it was a rainy, rainy day at the Magic Kingdom. But as it turned out, that can be a great thing. Because there wasn't any lightning. And because of that, everything was open. Except for when it was down due to technical issues.
We entered as the Rainy Day Parade was headed down Main Street. It rained all day, but at least we were wet from rain and not sweat. I did not wear a poncho. I stood in the rain and embraced it.
The first thing we did was go to Pirates of the Caribbean.
Donald wasn't the only bird in the Pirates gift shop at the end of the ride.
You could get a Barker Bird Parrot baseball.
It's too bad this character is not actually featured in the attraction anymore.
Up next, we went to Frontierland.
It was time for lunch, so we went to Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. We got the Soft Tacos.
Don't worry about getting wet on Splash Mountain. You're already wet.
The line for Splash Mountain was really long---we had a FastPass for it later, so we went to Big Thunder Mountain.
Big Thunder Mountain had a 30 minute wait.
"The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness" lived up to its name and warning. I lost my glasses (from my pocket!!!) on Big Thunder. My prescription eyeglasses. Luckily I had my prescription sunglasses with me. After talking to the Big Thunder Cast Members, I went to City Hall to report my glasses Lost. I've been calling Lost and Found, and haven't gotten through to them yet. So we'll see if I get them back. I'm betting they got stepped on in the train car.
After going to City Hall, we went to Fantasyland. There, we went on Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid and Enchanted Tales With Belle. We also had our first FastPass of the day for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The Dwarfs Mine Train had experienced technical issues earlier in the day, and had been unavailable for some time.
After the Dwarfs Mine Train, we headed for The Haunted Mansion.
The Haunted Mansion was very busy, with a 30 minute Stand By for most of the day.
Our next FastPass was for Splash Mountain. While we were in Frontierland, I found a display of Sheriff Badges. I wanted to get one for my friend, Juan, who is from Mexico.
They did not have a badge for "Juan" but I found one for "Amigo" and got him that. I told Juan not to feel bad---they did not have a badge for "Dan", either!
Our next FastPass was for Space Mountain. We got to the attraction and it was down due to technical difficulties. Uh-oh!
We stayed in Tomorrowland and went on the PeopleMover (a favorite!). The Peoplemover, of course, goes through Space Mountain----and Space Mountain was silent when our Peoplemover cars went through it. Not good!
We decided to stay in Tomorrowland and browse the shops, while keeping close watch on the My Disney Experience App.
I love this Mickey Mouse Space Shirt I found in Tomorrowland! I think this should be a Space Mountain shirt. Anyway, checking the App was smart----our window was almost up for our FastPass, but Space Mountain reopened in time. Hooray!
By the time we got off Space Mountain, it was almost 8:00PM. We needed to get dinner. We had a choice: Cosmic Ray's was closer. But it is Cosmic Ray's. We chose the Pinocchio Village Haus. This proved to be a smart decision.
This place was nearly empty. What in the world?!?! I guess everyone was at the Beauty and the Beast restaurant. Pinocchio is a tradition for us. I got the Chicken Parmesan Sandwich. It was pretty good! Afterwards, we walked onto It's A Small World with no wait.
We decided to end the night with a Citrus Swirl at Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland. We left the park as the fireworks were in progress, as we wanted to avoid the rush at the monorail and the parking lot trams. We got back to our condo and I ate the last Zebra Dome we had left from the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
On Monday, July 31, it was time to leave Orlando. We checked out of the condo by 10:00AM. We had one more Disney experience left.
That's right, the Disney Character Warehouse at the Orlando International Premium Outlets. That's right, there are two Disney Outlet locations! This one is near Fun Spot America Orlando and Universal.
Had the Rock N Roller Coaster been open on my visit, I probably would have bought this can.
Wait a minute, what is this even for? Maybe that's why it is on sale.
California Screamin'? Say what?
Yes, this isn't the first time I've seen Disney California Adventure merchandise at the Orlando Outlet stores. I remember seeing Paradise Pier merchandise discounted back in 2004. And here we are again.
How about a Grizzly River Run Throw Rug?
Yes, I'll take one.
This store had Star Wars Day at Sea Disney Cruise Line merchandise!
This rare, inexpensive car magnet became my go-to souvenir to give to people.
Now it's time to say goodbye to all our company.
See ya real soon!
With that, my Summer 2017 Disney Experience ended. Wow, what a trip!
UPDATE August 14, 2017:
I have got to give a shout out to Walt Disney World Lost and Found. Today these glasses arrived in the mail. It turns out they are not mine. However, I have to say that they are amazing for trying so hard to recover my glasses.
I was not expecting to get glasses in the mail. I reported my glasses missing at City Hall, but I did not follow up with Lost and Found. So, I gave up, but Disney did not. Thank you for trying, Walt Disney World! It is very much appreciated. And the whole thing was my fault anyway for not securing my glasses on Big Thunder Mountain (they do warn you before you ride!). Next time, I'm riding with my glasses in a zippered pocket!