Florida 2009 Vacation


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Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios

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We split our day on Monday in half, visiting Animal Kingdom in the morning and Disney's Hollywood Studios in the afternoon. It worked out great -- Animal Kingdom had one Extra Magic Hour in the morning so we could get in at 8:00 am!

Animal Kingdom is a nature park with tones of jungle and safari notes. One great aspect of what Disney has done is that when you go to the various animal exhibits, you actually see the animals. They are out and about.

Our first activity was a Neil-only ride, the Primeval Whirl in Dinoland. This rollercoaster is located in a sort of Midway type section of the park. Here, the rider is in a car that not only travels the roller coaster tracks, but can also spin a full 360 degrees at will based on the forces the ride projects. The spinning is what kept Ginger off the ride. When we got to this ride, the area was practically deserted, with no line (thanks, Extra Magic Hours!), so Neil rode twice.

Dinosaur is a roller coaster type ride where you are assigned a mission to go back in time and bring back a dino. The ride is dark and various dinosaurs are visible, some of which seem to be wanting you for dinner.

The Maharaja Jungle Trek is a self-guided walk-through exhibit where you can see Komodo dragons, fruit bats, and tigers, birds, etc.

Expedition Everest is a roller coaster which takes you through the Himalayas where you encounter the Yeti. Part of this ride takes you up a hill, then back down backwards. Very fun!

We took the Wildlife Express train to Rafiki's Planet Watch and Conservation Station. Fun for kids since it's basically a showing of various creatures found from all over the world like, small monkeys, eels, fish, frogs, etc. There's also a petting zoo for those who want to venture in and come out smelling like a farm.

A highlight of the day was Kilimanjaro Safaris. Here you're loaded into a safari vehicle that is actually driven by a Cast Member through a mock safari. There is a plethora of wildlife to be seen here. You cannot touch the animals, in fact you cannot exit or stand up in the vehicle. We had a road block on this trip: a real rhino was blocking the road. We had to wait for him to move. He was about 2 feet in from of the vehicle and the rules are that the animals have the right-of-way. So, we had to wait. He wasn't doing a thing. In fact, you would think he was a statue except for his moving ears. After several minutes, he finally decided to mosey on his way. This was a very, very well done park feature (even without the roadblock).

We were easily able to do all that we wanted to do in the Animal Kingdom in half a day, thanks in part to the Extra Magic Hour, and the fact that it was a Monday during the school year which made it surely less crowded than in the summer.

After lunch, we headed to Disney's Hollywood Studios. This park is based on old time Hollywood themes and is like a mini-city with a heavy layer of movie gloss. Due to the large amount of concrete and less greenery than the other parks, this park was by far the hottest and most energy-draining. Heat seemed to radiate off every surface and walking through some gift shops to cool down really helped.

Our first stop was the Backlot Tour. There are volunteers from the crowd who help to make a movie scene in a Pearl Harbor setting. The volunteers act out the scene complete with water, gun fire, and flaming special effects. The film is pieced together and overwritten with some pre-recorded dialogue and music, then shown on the big screens in front of you to give you a glimpse into how a real movie would be made. Then, you're loaded onto a sort of tram where you are shown another action sequence, sans actors, which shows a disaster of a tanker truck in a canyon being overcome with water and flames. Finally, you get driven by some other departments including the real Disney wardrobe department.

The Great Movie Ride features different classic movies like those starring Gene Kelly, John Wayne and Julie Andrews. There's also a live action sequence where your driver interacts with other cast members.

Muppet Vision 3D is a theatre show starring various Muppet characters. The 3D effects are great and it was fun to see Kermit and friends.

Star Tours is one of the most popular rides at this park. It's a simulator ride where you are taking a flight in a space pod to Endor. Ginger thinks it's time the ride be updated.

Lights! Motors! Action! Stunt Show is a spectacle watched from a set of grandstands. This show is truly great. The story is told that a man has an envelope with very important information and the bad guys are trying to get that envelope. The backdrop of the amphitheatre is a small French town. There are car chases, motorcycle chases, car jumps and explosions and other special effects. The driving skills of these cast members is astounding.

The Indiana Jones show is also not to be missed. Volunteers are brought in from the audience for the scenes. In this show, our hero and his girl must get away from those pesky villains where gunshots ring out, explosions occur, and a good bit of good ol' fist fighting is seen.

Rockin' Roller Coaster features Aerosmith band members and music. The set up is that Aerosmith is late for a concert and you've been given back stage passes, but you have to get to the show quick, hence, the roller coaster to get you there. This coaster is indoors so you can't see where you're going. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep roller coaster fans happy. This one also travels around two full loops.

The Tower of Terror ride is a drop type attraction. In this ride you learn that this once high class hotel was struck by lighting and now ghosts are the only guests. The elevator you're loaded into travels up and down the elevator shaft, including two or three free-fall drops, giving you that weird "nothing under you" feeling. Very fun.

We stayed in the park for dinner this night, not going back to the resort at all, which made for a looooong day. Dinner was at the 50's Prime Time Cafe, a 50's-themed (of course) table-service restaurant done up like a cross between a diner and Mom's kitchen.

The nighttime feature at this park is Fantasmic. This is a truly phenomenal show which includes live action, fire, fireworks, classic Disney movie characters, and spectacular laser effects. This show is an absolute Must See for anyone going to Hollywood Studios.