DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the newest of Walt Disney Worlds’s Parks.  It was opened in 1998 and combines a theme park with a safari type theme park.

Conservation is of the utmost importance in this park, and the pace is definitely slower in this park, but also provides the excitement with some thrill rides.

There are only a handful of rides here, but there are plenty of animals on display, 3D Shows and 5 Shows such as The Lion King, Finding Nemo.

As you enter the park you will see the very beautiful Tree of Life.  This Tree is covered in 325 carvings that represent the Circle of Life.  The carvings range from Lions, Flamingos, Dolphins and many many more

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Animal Kingdom is split into 6 Areas

Oasis, Discovery Island, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Dinoland USA, Africa and Asis

OASIS

The Oasis area is the walk through area into the park.. In this area you see several animal habitats, waterfalls and plant life.  It is very gentle and relaxing walking through this area.  There are a variety of wildlife you will see here ranging from Miniature Deers, Parrots, Macawa and even Sloths (Think Sid the Sloth from ICE AGE).

From here you will cross a bridge into the main part of the part.  

***    (THIS IS A GOOD PHOTO OPPORTUNITY HERE, IN FRONT OF THE TREE OF LIFE)

DISCOVERY ISLAND

This area really is the centre of the park, and the place where you will see a lot of people congregate.  There are 4 main shops and 2 restaurants here.  It is also a meet and greet area, so keep an eye out for your favourite character so you can get a picture here.

The Tree of Life is the central part of this area.

It’s tough to be a Bug – 

You will walk under the Tree of Life to get to It’s Tough to Be a Bug.  This is a 3D Special Effects Show.  Taken from the Classic Disney “It’s a Bugs Life”.  It is a 10 minute show and features many of the “CAST” of the movie.  Expect to be greeted by Grasshoppers, Beetles, Spiders and Stink Bugs.  This ride is suitable for all, but young children may get a little frightened by the Dark.

Check out the Posters on the way into the ride, they are really good.    You will see a hidden Mickey just before you go in through the doors.

CAMP MINNIE MICKEY

Camp Minnie-Mickey is a spacious relaxing area where the Characters gather for a Photo Opportunity with Park Guests.

Here you will find Minnie and Mickey (Of Course), Winnie The Pooh and Tigger, Chip and Dale, Baloo and King Louie, and Timon and Rafikiki.  (Do not miss this area if you have young children, because they sure will not forgive you).

Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends

This is a 15 minute show, where you see Pocahontas with a variety of animals, from racoons, to a skunk and a porcupine, interacting. This show may go over the heads of really small children.  There is not much shade here in the summer, so you may be sitting here for a half and hour in very extreme heat.

The Festival of the Lion King

Based on the Disney Move “The Lion King”, this is a 40 minute production, where the team of actors, will get each area of the theatre to participate.  There are moving Stages, Acrobats, Singers and Dancers and you will recognise the songs from the movie..  Check your park Map for times because queuing for this show begins 30 minutes beforehand, and the theatre holds at least 1000 guests.

DINOLAND USA

Dinoland USA is a full scale Dinosaur Exhibit.    There are Mock Dinosaurs to walk under as you enter Dinoland.

FINDING NEMO – The Musical

This is based again on Disney’s “Finding Nemo” movie.  All Seated Theatre where you can watch a fully all singing extravaganza.  There are dancers, acrobats and colourful puppets to make this a very enjoyable show for all the family.  Again Check your Park Map for Show Times.

The Boneyard

This is an adventure playground for kids, giving them the chance to climb through fossiled remains of Prehistoric Dinosaurs and dig for bones.  It is a great area to let kids play safely for up to an hour.

Dinosaur – The Ride

This is a fast ride, and a realistic journey back to before the Meteor put Dinosaurs into extinction.  The ride is a 12 passenger Time Rover. Small Children may be a little frightened of this ride, try to seat them towards the inside of the car.  

Chester & Hesters Dino-Rama

This is like a mini fairground with stalls, rides and games to help the children win Teddies.

There are Two rides here

Tricera Top Spin – a flying, twirling and spinning top that bounces you up and down.

Primeval Whirl – This is a 4 Seated Coaster that takes you backward, forward and spins sharply on the track making you think you are going to fall off.  This is suitable for all ages.

Fossil Fun Games – This fairground area has many stalls some costing from $2 – $6 for a shot at winning some cuddly Dinosaurs.

AFRICA

Here you will find the Kimimanjaro Safari’s which is a 110 acre savannah.  This is very popular and you may have to queue for a while for this.

You will be seated in a 32 passenger truck and your driver / guide will give you information on the Safari as you go round.  Here you will see everything from Lions, Giraffes, Zebras, Elephants, Ostriches.  This is a very enjoyable and gives you some great photo opportunities.

The ride is pretty bumpy, there are only a few photo stops along the way, so keep your camera handy at all times.

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PANGANI FOREST EXPLORATION TRAIL

After the Safari, you move into an overgrown nature trail.  Here you will see Gorillas, Hippos, Meerkats and Rare Tropical Birds.  You can walk through here at your own pace and learn more about these fascination animals.  There is also an area where you can see the Hippo’s underwater.  There is also a walk through Aviary where you can see Bee Eaters, Pygmy Goose, Brimstone Canary and many others.  You will also see 2 Silverback Gorilla’s. There are great Photo Opportunities along this trail.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

This is a train journey giving you an insight into some of the backstage areas,

It is a 3 part journey, starting with Habitat Habit where you can see Cotton Top Tamarins and see how conservation can begin in your back garden.

Next is Conservation Station with some shows and exhibits and information stations about ecology.  Here there is also a Veterinary Treatment Centre, Hatchery and Neonatal.  This is a good area for children and gives them some insight into the care of animals.

Then there is the Affection Section (Petting Zoo) you will see lambs, goats, donkeys, and guinea pigs.

ASIA

This is the final land in Animal Kingdom and walking around this part, sometimes you can feel like you are walking through parts of Asia.  

Flights of Wonder

This is a Wildlife Show, featuring the talents of many birds to entertain you.

A trainer shows the amazing ability of some of the birds such as hawks and macaws.  Having been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom many times before, last year was the first time we went to this show and it was so enjoyable.

Kali River Rapids

This is definitely Thrill Ride, with some beautiful scenery included.  Your journey starts off in a raft, which then plunges down a waterfall.  This is a very popular ride and queues can be upto two hours.  BE PREPARED TO GET WET.

Fastpass Option is available for this ride.

Maharajah Jungle Trek

This is a forest Trail, past temple ruins and animal encounters.  Gibbons, Komodo Dragons and also a Bat Enclosure make this very interesting.  You will get to see Bats hanging up asleep. This is a fascinating area and again last year was our first time seeing it.  But I will definitely make sure it is on my itinerary next time.  

BAT HANGING UPSIDE DOWN

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Expedition Everest

This is a coaster with a difference.  Each row seats two people, and is a lap bar.   You will take a ride through Mount Everest where you then come to the end of the track – The coaster then starts moving backwards and then you have to face the very scary Yeti on the way down.  Smile on the way down because you will have your picture taken.  This is a very busy coaster, but even queuing up is very interesting with all the memorabilia from the trips to Mount Everest.

FASTPASS OPTION AVAILABLE FOR THIS RIDE

 

JAMMIN JUNGLE PARADE

Each day there is a Mickey Jammin Jungle Parade.  The parade is very enjoyable for all the family with Stilt walkers, mobile sculptures, and musicians.  

CHECK PARK MAP FOR PARADE TIMES

 

BOOKING YOUR RENTAL CAR IN ORLANDO

Ok, so you have the flights booked, the accommodation sorted, now you need to book your rental car for the duration of your holiday.

Booking your car is very easy and the EARLIER YOU BOOK, THE BETTER PRICE YOU GET

There is a wide variety of cars to choose from eg., Sports Car, SUV, Jeep, Van, price will also vary as well.

Depending you your party size will determine the size of the car that you want.

We usually order from Carhire300.  These check all the rental car companies to give you the best quote.  The car rental companies they choose from are, HERTZ, AVIS, DOLLAR, ALAMO, BUDGET AND THRIFTY.

Hertz AlamoNationalDollarBudgetThrifty

When you get on to the Homescreen of Carhire3000, you will see a screen that says the following:

SEARCH FOR CAR HIRE

Country:                  Select USA

City:                         Select Florida

Location:                 Select Orlando MCO, Sanford or whichever airport that you are flying into 

Pick up Date    and    Time

eg: 21/12/13               16.30

Drop Off Date  and   Time

eg:  03/01/14              14.30

Driver Aged between 25 and 70   and Press    SEARCH

This will bring you into another screen that gives you a list of the type of cars you can choose from depending on your party size.

 This screen give you images of each car that you can choose from.  Beside each image, will give you the number of occupants the car will take, the number of doors, air condition information, automatic.  Remember most cars in the USA are Automatic.
We usually go for the Dodge Caravan.  Usually there are 5 people going, so this gives plenty of space while travelling to the parks.
This car will hold 7 people, (2 in the front, 2 in the middle and 3 in the back).
** However remember that for 7 people there are going to be 7 cases, so a bigger option may be necessary.
Your rental includes Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Protection with zero excess.
For most car rentals, the following comes free
  * Cancellation          * Amendments        * Theft Protection        * Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)
Some prices include GPS, but please check the small print for premium packages which will include more than 1 driver over 25 and may also include a full tank of fuel.
When you book your car and pay upfront, there is usually no need to get extra insurance when you get to the Car Rental Desk, but be warned, they will try and sell you extras 
You can pay extra at the airport for Toll Roads etc., this can be very handy.
It may be a little expensive, but as there are a lot of toll roads in around the Disney Area, it can be handy and save looking for change each time, you simply drive through as your car is validated to show the Prepaid Toll on it.

Holiday Villas Choices In Orlando

We have only ever stayed in a Holiday Villa during our stays in Orlando.

The Villas provide a home from home setting, and give you the freedom to come and go as you please.  There are no early morning wake up calls for breakfast, no disturbance with other guests, just a very relaxing break, and as most villas come with your own pool, you don’t even have to fight for sun loungers 🙂

Most Holiday Villas are owned by families, who let them out for several weeks at a time, so you can be sure that the highest quality of inventory are stocked in your home.

VILLA OVERVIEW

There are a wide range of houses available depending on your party size.   Houses range in sizes from 3 Bed up to 7 and 8 Bed.

All houses come with a large Master Ensuite with walk in wardrobe, Queen Size Room, and 1 or 2 twin bedrooms.   The houses are furnished to the highest of specification.

Each house stocks a large amount of cups, saucers, plates, knives and forks etc., Toasters, Microwave, Large American Style Fridge, Large Cooker, Oversize Washing Machine and Oversize Tumble Drier, that will have clothes washed and dried within an hour.

A lot of houses will also have a gamesroom and a selection of games, playstation, books, and a lot of houses have wifi

Along with that you will find in each bathroom a large stock of towels from face towels, bath towels and also pool side towels.   And as you all know carrying towels in your suitcase for your holiday weighs a tonne, so this is something you don’t have to worry about.

LOCATIONS TO STAY

There are many locations to stay and it is easy to get confused with locations on Villa Websites if you have never been to Orlando before. We have stayed in many locations and I will give my opinion on which location we would recommend, based on location to Themeparks, shops, restaurants etc.,

DAVENPORT

HAMPTON LAKES – DAVENPORT Hampton Lakes – Location Davenport – US27 – Distance to Walt Disney World – Approx 35 mins. Hampton Lakes is a beautiful location, it is slightly further than any villas in Kissimmee, but the area on the US27 is getting built up with more restaurants and shopping areas (Posner Centre), so as a quiet location, I would recommend this.

Check out 3 Generations of Ladies, chilling by the pool at Hampton Lakes, Christmas Day 08

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We have stayed at Hampton Lakes twice, but there are many other Villas located on the US 27 at Davenport, see below for a small list of some of them. Solana, Toscana, Highland Reserve, Four Corners you will be able to view many of these villas at http://www.ownervillasdirect.com

Christmas @ Hampton Lakes

Christmas @ Hampton Lakes

KISSIMMEE – US 192

We have stayed just off the US192, four times.  Once at Bass Lakes, once at Cumbrian Lakes and twice at Seasons in Kissimmee and we are going back to the same location for Christmas 2013. The location is ideal for many reasons.

Seasons is located 10 minutes from the Main Gate at Walt Disney World (WDW), 2 minutes from a 24 Hour Walmart, which is excellent for all your shopping needs from Food, Clothes, Pharmacy, and many more all under one roof.

Seasons is also only 6 minutes from the US192 which is approximately 20 miles long with all the main restaurant chains, from Red Lobster, Outback, Applebees, Golden Corral, to the Fast food Chains, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC.

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If staying at Seasons, get some extra bread at Walmart, because these guys visit all the time. So cute

Neighbours at Seasons

Neighbours at Seasons

We have also stayed at Cumbrian Lakes which is just off Poinciana Boulevard and is approximately 15 minutes from Disney, again this house was beautiful and I would highly recommend it.  The Estate is gated, which means that as you enter the estate, you must have a key code in order to enter.  This is extra security that a lot of people would be very happy with.

House at Cumbrian Lakes

House at Cumbrian Lakes

PLANNING YOUR FLIGHTS FOR YOUR ORLANDO HOLIDAY

The moment you all decide that Orlando is the choice of your destination for a family holiday, is the moment your planning should begin.

Let’s face it, if over 50 million tourists visit Orlando each year, there has got to be something pretty good about this place.

From the endless hours of sunshine to the magic and rush of adrenalin in the theme parks, there is plenty for all to do for every age, young and old.  Speaking from experience, my Mother 86 and Mother in Law 75 have been with us twice and they enjoy it as much as our teenage daughter.

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Here we all are at Disney on New Years Eve 2009.  We will all be back here for NYE 2014 🙂

Okay, so first off you have to get there, and the good part is that you can do it all from the comfort of your own home.

First decide if you want to fly direct or through a number of stops at UK or US Airports, pricing will be different here, as direct flights are obviously going to be more expensive, but you have the comfort that with 8 – 9 hours you will be at your chosen destination.

The main airport to fly into in Orlando is McCoy Airport (MCO), you can also fly into Sanford, Orlando or Tampa, but MCO is the Main International Airport and is the closest to the Theme Parks and Surrounding areas.

There are many ways to get there from Ireland and the UK.  From Ireland you can fly direct with Aer Lingus, alternatively you can fly to the UK and catch a connecting flight to Orlando.  

From the UK you can fly direct from many airports which is of great benefit, especially if travelling with young children

To book from Ireland, simply log onto http://www.aerlingus.ie

To book Flights, 

Select Departure Airport                Select Arrivals Airport

DUB                                                  Orlando (MCO)

Dates From                                      Dates To

No of Passengers and press return

This will bring you onto a screen where you can click the dates you want and check the price.

Once you have clicked all, it will give you a total price, and from here you can select the part pay option and pay only 50% of the total, with the balance to be paid 12 weeks before departure.

Flights can be booked 330 days in advance from your departure date, so this gives you plenty of time to save.

 

Flights from the UK

To book through the UK Airports, the process is the same, the choice of airports that you have are as follows:

London, Manchester, East Midlands, Glasgow, Bristol, Birmingham and Belfast.

You will also have many options of Airlines to fly from here ie., British Airways, Virgin, US Airways, Continental etc.,

You can also fly from Dublin with US Airways, Continental, Virgin and British Airways, however this will involve flying from Dublin from a carrier airline to a selected UK Airport.  There is then a 2 – 2.5 hour stopover and then a 9 hour flight.

Benefits of flying out from a UK Airport is that the flights will be slightly cheaper, and there is more of a selection of flights and times.  It will also benefit if you want a Two Part Holiday (ie) fly to New York for a few days and then onto Orlando.

What to do once flights are booked

Once the flights are fully paid, you can select your seat and specific meals ie., vegan, vegetarian, gluten free etc.,

Simply Log into your selected Airline and click Manage Booking.

All flights have inflight entertainment, which certainly makes your flight that much more comfortable and dare I say it, but the time “Flies”.

To View the best seats on your chosen flight, check out Seat Guru at http://www.seatguru.com all you will need is your flight number and you will be able to view the best available seats.

Now that your flights are organised, it is time to look forward to the Holiday of a Lifetime.

See Follow up Blogs on Accommodation, Car Hire, Tickets and once you get there how to make the best of your time . .

       

See below a picture of Lauren at McCoy International Airport, sad because we are on our 

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Orlando International Airport is a shopping mall in itself, you will find many of the shops that you would have visited during your stay in Orlando.

Adventureland at Magic Kingdom Orlando

Adventureland is part jungle, part tropical island and there’s a desert oasis thrown in as well.  In Adventureland you will find two main attractions.

Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise,  

Pirates of the Caribbean, the movie starring Johnny Depp as Captain Sparrow, was based on this Disneyworld ride.  As you enter the ride,  the queue twists and turns in a dark underground cave that leads to the boat ride.

Each boat takes about 3 people across, you will travel slowly through the cave and after a short dark plunge you will move into what looks like a scene from the movie, where there are ships, guns going off and if you look up, you will really feel as if you are out in the night sky, complete with stars. Captain Barbossa himself shouts orders from the pirate ship.

Be on the lookout for Captain Jack Sparrow. He’ll pop up from a barrel, peek from behind a mannequin and at the conclusion of the ride, he’s atop a mountain of booty.

This attraction is suitable for all areas.  You will also hear some familiar songs from the movies.

Well worth a visit.

 

Jungle Cruise, the jungle cruise is exactly as it sounds, all passengers board a boat with a very helpful and funny guide at the helm.  The jokes and the ad libs are the best thing about this ride.  #

You will move slowly through waters infested with hippos, don’t be nervous, these are the animatronic type. There is a rhino keeping the hung On the shore there’s a rhino keeping the hunters “busy,” lions lazing on  a rock,  zebras, snakes and giant butterflies all among a tropical landscape that any jungle would be proud of.

If you manage to stay dry by the waterfall, watch out for the elephants. Will they douse you or are you safe? You’ll only find out the secret once you’ve completed the Jungle Cruise.

Fast Pass option is available for this ride.  It is a very popular attraction in Adventureland

Enchanted Tiki Room

This is an Audio-animatronics exclusively.

The show takes place in a tropical pavilion full of flowers, tikis and audio-animatronic birds singing and telling jokes, (a lot of the jokes will go over the childrens heads).

There is also a  tropical storm during the performance.

We have done this several times, it is a nice way to take a break out of the sun and give your legs a well earned rest, while being entertained.

This show is suitable for all ages.

tiki tiki room

 

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

This ride is great for kids.  It is very similar to the Dumbo Ride, except sitting on a flying elephant your are sitting on Magic Carpets like in the movie.

The sixteen ‘rugs’ surround a giant Genie lamp.

Riders in the front seat control the up and down motion, while the back seat controls the pitch of the carpet from front to back.

It is not really worth queuing for this ride, but if there is only a short wait, it is nice to do it for the kiddies.

Tip: When you are walking away, be careful of the camels, they spit, you may get wet.

SWISS FAMILY TREEHOUSE

The “Swiss Family Treehouse” is based on the 1960 live action Disney feature film “Swiss Family Robinson.”

This is a treehouse and it doesn’t come with an elevator. That means navigating the 116 steps.

Along your never-ending trek will be such exciting scenes as the pulley system that uses bamboo buckets and a water wheel to get water to the top of the tree.  Once you start you can’t stop, there is no backtracking.

While it does have some devotees, the “Swiss Family Treehouse” is one of those attractions that you’re most likely to try once and never bother with again.

Liberty Square – Magic Kingdom

Liberty Square in Magic Kingdom contains two main attractions and the Liberty Riverboat. The first is the Haunted Mansion and you will see this on your left when you cross from Fantasyland into Liberty Square.  

IMAGE IS FROM THE QUEUE AT THE HAUNTED MANSION

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Haunted Mansion, the queue for this ride is very interesting and maybe a little spooky, you will pass through a very eery graveyard, here you will also find a musical crypt, and when you tap on it with your hands it will play a spooky tune. 

 

 

Make sure to read the headstones on your way into the Mansion, they are very good.

The Portrait Chamber is the first room you come across when the very creepy cast members bring you into, you won’t believe your eyes in this strange stretching room, where secrets are revealed on the walls and an unseen horror high overhead comes to light.

As you get into the ride, ensure your party stays together, it gets quite dark in here and the queue merges into one line.

To get into the doom buggies, you must step onto a moving platform, so be careful of young children and elderly people.

Each doom buggy usually takes 2 adults or 2 adults and 1 child.  As you sit down and the buggy moves off, the very convincing cast members, push your bar down to keep you safe.  From here on you are on a moving journey through the mansion.  

You will be greeted by some singing specters in the ghoulish graveyard.  From here your doom buggy takes a rather creepy journey through the Haunted Mansion where you will see ->

  • Grand Ballroom 
    Be the Guest of Honor at this haunted party! Behold transparent revelers waltzing to and fro, banshee heads floating out of a nearby organ and 2 haunted men in a duel from the great beyond.
  • The Grieving Bride
  • Moving Doors as you pass them

Be careful as you come near the end of your ride, as you will have some visitors in the buggy with you.

This ride is suitable for all, it is dark and maybe a little spooky for some kiddies (although I don’t think kiddies are as scared of things these days, as they may have been years ago)

 

 

Fast Pass option is only available for this ride seasonally.

The Hall of Presidents, this is definitely worth a visit.  In here you will see the relationship between the president and the American people.

As you enter the Hall of Presidents in the heart of Liberty Square you make your way beneath an awe-inspiring grand rotunda.  Take a look at the authentic artifact collection featuring such treasures as George Washington’s dental instruments and Abraham Lincoln’s leather portfolio.

The theatre holds 700 people, so there is plenty of room, it also has 3 massive projection screens and a grand proscenium. As the lights go down, sit back and enjoy an relaying the dramatic story of the United States of America.

During the presentation, see America’s enduring origins, the formation of our Constitution and the hard-fought struggles along the way—such as the American Revolution and the Civil War. Listen to the stirring words of John F. Kennedy echo throughout the theater and watch Abraham Lincoln—in attendance on stage—deliver his Gettysburg address.

Then, witness a very special display as the curtain rises to reveal each and every United States President, together for the very first time—followed by stirring speeches about the American Dream delivered by Presidents George Washington and Barack Obama.

In 1971, with the technology tested and perfected, Abraham Lincoln—in addition to every other President at the time—appeared onstage in The Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom park. Since then, every U.S. President, including the addition of Barack Obama, has been added to the roll call.

Lifelike figures representing U.S. Presidents on stage at The Hall of Presidents

LIBERTY BELLE RIVERBOAT

Across from this you will see the Liberty Belle Riverboat. To be honest we haven’t done this yet, but we plan on doing it at Christmas.

We have been to Disney so many times, but each time we go back there is still something new for us to do.

There are some seats on board, but for the most part it is standing only.  There is also music on board as it travels around Tom Sawyer Island. 

The Liberty Riverboat is an authentic steam-powered sternwheeler and takes about 17 minutes for the journey.  Nice break from the hustle and bustle.

I will try it this December and post my reviews of it then.