Let's say you have picked your Fastpasses for Magic Kingdom (If you haven't then check out our previous blog post here!), and you got every ride you wanted at the perfect times! Yay you! You can stop reading here and check out our other blog posts! You should also go buy a lottery ticket because you got skills or major luck going for you. Now...if you are like every other Disney planning traveler I know, you maybe got 2 of your top rides or maybe you didn't get any of your top Fastpass choices. Its ok! In this post I'm going to walk you through how to still ride all the top attractions utilizing the worst kept, but under appreciated, secret in Disney planning - ROPE DROP!
What is "Rope Drop"??
So what is "Rope Drop"?? Rope drop is the time at which the Cast Members drop their ropes that block off the attractions and officially begin allowing guests into the line queues. Most of the time this is right on the hour the park opens to the public.
Tip 1: Plan Which Day to Rope Drop
To best utilize Rope Drop and to make sure its worth getting you and your family to the parks early, its best to preplan what day you are going to Rope Drop. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that if you are staying at Adventureland Villa or The Turquoise Palms, you could be lining up to get into a park where on-property guests have already been allowed in for the previous hour or so. You can still get some quality rides in, but it won't be the best use of your time. So take a look on the Disney website for Park Hours and make sure you are not going to be competing with those EMH guests.
Tip 2: Get There 1 Hour Earlier
Above, I mentioned that Rope Drop is the opening hour of the park. This is true, BUT, the act of being at Rope Drop begins earlier than that moment...To Rope Drop a park and best use the low crowd times, you want to make sure you are in a decent spot nearest to the rope as possible. This can mean arriving up to 1 hour before the rope actually drops! The great thing about some of the parks, such as Magic Kingdom, they allow you to enter the park well in advance of this. You can get through bag check, the turnstiles, head up Main Street, get your Starbucks, and THEN find your spot to wait.
Tip 3: Know Where You're Going!
The third tip I have is to make sure you have a plan in place. What ride didn't you get a Fastpass for or do you just have a favorite ride that you need to do to start your day OR are you attempting to get all the attractions done in one day? You really can choose whichever ride/attraction appeals to you and your family. I would recommend not using this time for the rides with short wait times. For example, I wouldn't get to the parks this early to head to the Tea Cups or to Aladdin's Magic Carpets. These are rides that you can easily wait for later in the day OR even better, grab additional fast passes for after you have used your first three. So definitely pick an attraction that your family wants to ride, but know that this strategy yields the best results when aimed at the higher wait time rides.
Tip 4: Know The Route To Get There!
Whatever that first ride you have chosen is, make sure you are at the optimal spot to most efficiently get to attraction's queue. For example, if you couldn't get FP for Seven Drawfs Mine Train, but you just have to ride it, head to the rope that is to the right of the Castle that leads guests between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. From there you will quickly be able to get around the Castle, through the Tea Cups, and land in the queue for Mine Train. (One more quick Mine Train tip here...you may see a HUGE line when this happens. It will look like its going to be an hour wait from rope drop. Most likely this is not the case and that the interior queue areas have just not been fully opened yet. Usually, rope dropping Mine Train means I am on and off within 25 minutes. So don't get thrown off by that line!)
Tip 5: What's Next?
Again, to best utilize Rope Drop, have a set plan of where you want to head next after that first ride. My suggestion is to try and hit all the top priority attractions that are right near you. For example, If you headed first to Thunder Mountain, don't try to go to Space Mountain next! Hit up Splash Mountain or Jungle Cruise, two rides that aren't too far away. You've beat the crowds, don't then waste those precious few hours in the low crowd morning walking around. Have a plan and stick to it. Leave the afternoon for impromptu choices!
Tip 6: Fastpass Times Begin at 10:30-11am
This is one of my biggest tips for hitting a park and getting as much done in a day as you can. If you rope drop a park, you can easily ride 3-4 top attractions before 10:30 am. Between 10:30 and 11am, is when the parks begin to get a little more crowded as more and more guests arrive for the day. This is when I like to schedule my FP. If you have them starting around 11, that means you have gotten in several major rides before then AND you now don't have to wait around in long queues for your next 3 attractions. By the time early afternoon hits and everyone is cranky and hot, you will have gotten in 6 -8 MAJOR attractions. You can relax. You can grab a Mickey Bar, find a shaded spot, and plan the rest of your day! Trust me when I say this is game changing.
Tip 7: Don't Overtire Yourself
My final tip is that unless you are a super early morning family and just love to go hard core ALL THE TIME, don't try to rope drop every day of your trip. While Rope Dropping can mean really optimizing your time in the parks, if overused, it can be exhausting and leading to complete Disney fatigue. No need for that! Disney World is for fun and vacation...don't overwork yourself by trying to use this every day. (This is a tip I would do well to follow myself some trips....)
Well thats it! Those are our top Tips for how to Rope Drop a park at Walt Disney World. I hope you found them helpful and let me know if you tried them out! We'd love to hear from you in the comments. And if you like reading our tips and tricks for Disney World, check out our blog post on our best tips for Relaxing at Disney World here!
So far this year, I have heard so many guests comment on how cold it is! And its true. The past few weeks have dealt Central Florida some truly cold temperatures. And this can easily come as a surprise since most people escape to Florida for the sun and palm trees. So ok, its cold or raining (or both!) what do you do now?
1. Buy the Right Clothes
One of the first things you can do is make sure you have enough layers. One trip we took in February, we were woefully under-packed. And while it was pricey, we hit up the Gift Shops at the Polynesian and the Emporium at Disney Springs for sweatshirts. My youngest has also been known to buy a blanket which doubles as warm gear at the parks and a great souvenir for home. Another option if you have a car or more time on your trip is to check out the local Walmart and Target. They will have much more affordable options and still have a lot of Disney themed gear if that is what you are looking for. I think the main thing here is, if you are going to go to the parks in the rain/cold, get yourself in the right clothes. If you don't, it can be miserable and you will have spent money and time on a trip that is just not going to live up to your expectation. Do yourself the favor and buy the sweatshirt or the hat or whatever it takes!
2. Stick to the Shows at the Parks
If you are braving the elements (and I mean why wouldn't you? How often are you at Disney?), then I would look for some of the great shows that each park offers. At Magic Kingdom I would look for Country Bear Jamboree or the Carousel of Progress are great options. For Epcot several pavilions have wonderful movies such as China and France. Hollywood Studios has the Launch Bay with a Star Wars Movie and Character Meets plus there is also the Frozen Show. Animal Kingdom has the Festival of the Lion King. All of these shows provide both great entertainment but also a significant respite from the cold and rain.
3. Use the Amenities at Adventureland Villa or your Resort
4. Make Table Service Reservations
This tip comes from personal experience and from Disneyland! If its raining (and even more so if its cold) see what table service restaurant reservation you can grab. Most table service restaurants are indoors and take some time to complete the full meal. These can be a great way to dry off and warm up before heading back out. One of my favorite spots for this is Skipper Canteen in the Magic Kingdom. Usually last minute reservations are available and they even serve beer.
Overall, Disney World (and actually any vacation in my opinion) is what you make of it. Ok, so its cold and/or raining. You can either wait it out in your rooms or complain about it, or you can saddle up and figure out how to best manage the day. With some thought, you can still enjoy the day and hey! Its still Disney World! I'd pick a cold and rainy day near that castle over most any day!
One of the biggest regrets I have after a trip to Disney World is that I usually spend every waking moment inside one of the theme parks (or at our pool...) Rarely do I venture to the resorts. I'm not sure why. Maybe its the fact that with small kids I want to stay close to attractions that entertain them or maybe I have just overestimated the effort and time it would take to actually travel to the different resorts. The Animal Kingdom Lodge is the perfect example of this. In my mind it is SO far from Disney's parks that going there just to eat lunch or dinner felt like a momentous task. Well not anymore! My last trip I decided to make a true effort to branch out, try new restaurants, and throw the "park only" mentality to the wind. First up, Sanaa!
For months I had heard that Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge was truly remarkable. Not only is it a more moderately priced table service restaurant with a great view (more on that later) but the bread service was one of the most delicious meals on Disney Property. So I made a reservation!
The act of getting to Sanaa had been one of the biggest hurdles, but in the end it was quick and easy. I had already spent the morning at the Animal Kingdom (this makes the most sense for planning purposes). To get to Sanaa, you walk outside the park to the nearby Disney Bus pick up points and wait for the Animal Kingdom Lodge Bus. I didn't have to wait more than 7 minutes! Thats just not that long in the world of Disney Buses! The ride to the Kidani Village stop at the Lodge was just another 5. So a total of 12 minutes was spent to get from the front gates of the Animal Kingdom to the Animal Kingdom Lodge...not exactly difficult or time consuming.
Location and View
I arrived at the Kidani Village, and immediately headed to the restaurant located on the bottom floor. I was early for my reservation, but I wanted to request a table by the window. As luck would have it, I was the first one there and so getting that request was not an issue. The only problem was that I had way overestimated the time I needed to get to Sanaa and lunch service would not begin for another 30 minutes...Ok. Better early than late I suppose. So for my 30 minute wait for lunch to begin, I decided to explore the area. The back of the Kidani Village's main building has a decked area perfect for enjoying the open savannah. One of the biggest perks of staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is the savannah view. From your windows (or in this case the back deck) you can watch gazelles, zebras, giraffes, ostriches, and other African animals. This is a pretty neat feature and one of the reasons I got to Sanaa so early!
Overall the menu at Sanaa has quite a range to satisfy many different guests. In addition to the bread service, the appetizers and entrees range from Tandoori Chicken or Shrimp to a South African Sausage to Fish. Another great thing (at least if you have picky eater kids like mine) is that their kids menu has both typical Disney fare of Pizza or Cheeseburger and the more Indian/African inspired shrimp and chicken dishes.
Even though this was lunch and I was starting early, I began with a margarita. Its vacation after all! While this is not one of Sanaa's specialty cocktails, it was perfectly made. And strangely paired well with the more exotic flavors of the bread service.
On to the real reason I trekked to Sanaa: The Indian-Style Bread Service. On this particular trip I was only a party of one but I knew that the bread service was calling my name . They offer the bread service in two sizes. The first is with Five Breads and Three Accompaniments (you can pick from the long list - see below). The second size (and my eventual choice) was to order all the breads and all NINE accompaniments. I knew that I wasn't going to be very hungry after this (and I wasn't...) so instead of an entree, I ordered the Lamb Kefta Skewers to come after the bread.
The bread service lived up to every expectation I had. The 5 Breads: Traditional Naan, Garlic-Ginger Naan, Spiced Naan, Onion Kucha, and the Paneer Paratha, were all warm, and delicious but each having its one distinct flavor. The Garlic-Ginger Naan was my favorite and I am pretty sure I could have made a meal purely from that...
The accompaniments included (from mild to spicy): Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Mango Chutney, Tomato-Date Jam, Tamarind Chutney, Coriander Chutney (My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE!), Garlic Pickle, Red Chile Sambal, and the Spicy Jalapeño-Lime Pickle.
And I really could have ended my meal right then. I was stuffed. Had I been sharing the bread service, I think I could have more easily enjoyed the lamb kefta skewers or even a full sized entree. Regardless, the skewers looked amazing and so I had to try them. And they were delicious as well. The lamb was perfectly cooked and the sauce on top was tangy and spot on flavor wise. Even though I could barely move after eating so much, I don't regret a single bite!
Overall, I cannot recommend the bread service at Sanaa enough. Not only was it well worth the 12 minute trip from Animal Kingdom, it would have been worth going even farther! If you have not been to Sanaa, give it a go! You will not be disappointed! BUT definitely get there early and ask for a seat by the window...
Now what other amazing resort restaurants have I been missing out on???
Dinoland U.S.A. is an area of the Animal Kingdom that really doesn't get too much attention. This is certainly due to the opening last year of Pandora, but even before then it was still fairly unloved by me included. While I am sure that there are guests who love this area, I am just not one of them. For me it is because the rides (aside from Dinosaur) are subpar and the carnival theme does not appeal to adults. But alas, it is there. So in case you have not ventured to Dinoland, here is a short run down:
Boneyard Fossil Fun Site
Perhaps the one attraction that my kids will beg to go to EVERY single trip to the Animal Kingdom, the Boneyard Fossil Fun Site is nothing more than a very large playground complete with a sand/rock digging pit, slides, and other obstacles. After the large play spaces in Hollywood Studios were closed, this is one of the only remaining free areas where kids can just explore, run, and play. As a parent, I do like that it is a contained area where you can sit for a moment and rest your feet, but its very easy to lose sight of your kids as well! Tip: There are several vendor carts right at the entrance to the dig site, grab a soda/water and relax for a few minutes!
Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama
This is where the area of the park loses my attention. The Dino-Rama is a large area devoted to carnival style games. The decor is brightly-colored and full of fun toys for kids to try and win. Like a traditional midway the games include a ring toss, a mallet test of strength, a basketball toss game, and a few others. However, I have found the games to be difficult and you have to purchase tickets to play each game. My kids usually walk away empty handed and I have spent more money...Tip: save yourself the aggravation and head straight to the gift shop nearby.
There are two smaller attractions here which are of some interest. The first is the TriceraTop Spin. Picture the Dumbo ride, but with a Triceratops. This attraction is obviously very kid friendly. The other is the Primeval Whirl. Similar to an old-fashioned roller coaster, the Whirl is a rough and very jarring. The height restriction of 48" is also one of the highest in the entire park. So yes, its a ride, but not my favorite by any means.
Arguably, the one redeeming true attraction in Dinoland U.S.A. is the ride Dinosaur. The ride itself is a travel through the past to the Cretaceous period in search of an Iguanodon to bring back to the present time. As you might imagine you also encounter other dinosaurs, herbivores and carnivores alike, as well as the impending meteors crashing into Earth. This is not a smooth ride, but fun with lots of twists and turns, and a few surprised. The ride is also a bit longer than some which makes it feel worth the wait time. However, I usually dont have a problem finding a Fast Pass for Dinosaur. While this ride is fun, there are other, better rides in Animal Kingdom. If you are running short on time, don't feel like this is one you have to do.
Food in Dinoland is also not as appealing as other areas of the park. The one counter-service location in Dinoland is Dino-bites Snacks. They serve ice cream, Mickey pretzels, and and cookies. There is some indoor seating, so this is a good option if you don't want to walk any further, but need a rest.
While dinosaurs will forever remain a topic of interest to kids and adults a like, this area has seen better days. Lately there have been a lot of rumors that this area is on the chopping block to be re-themed into Indiana Jones complete with a major attraction like at Disneyland. However, these remain strictly rumors and with the ongoing constructions of Toy Story Land, Star Wars Land, Ratatoille in Epcot, I would not expect this re-theming to happen any time soon. So for now, I think we have to accept Dinoland as it is....or skip it all together...
One of the best "secrets" of Disney World is the amazing plethora of unique, fun spots to grab a drink, both in the parks, at the resorts, and in Disney Springs. Most people assume that Disney World, being an amusement park aimed for kids, is only for kids. Boy are they wrong! Disney puts a lot of thought and mixology into their bars and it shows. However, don't let the fact that these are "secret" spots fool you. They can and will have long lines to get in and find a spot to sit.
1. Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
Located inside the Polynesian Resort, Trader Sam's is perhaps my favorite spot in all of Walt Disney World. Why? SO MANY REASONS! First, the theming: It is a Tiki Bar set in the South Seas where depending on the drink ordered at the bar numerous special effects take place. For example, order a Krakatoa Punch and you can watch the skies darken and the volcanoes in the windows erupt. This place is a Tiki-lovers paradise! Second, the drinks are delicious and creative. My personal favorite is the HippopotoMai-Tai which blends run, orange curaçao and lime juice to make the perfect (STRONG) concoction! But my second order is always a Dark and Tropical Stormy. Third, the food is also on point. Their menu focuses on shareable bites such as Hawaiian poke, Chicken lettuce cups, and banh mi sliders. I tend to go for the pan-fried dumplings, but everything there sounds amazing! My one note about Trader Sam's is to get there early! They open at 4pm, but by 3 there will already be a line forming outside. The bar is not very large and seating is limited. My advice is to get there around 3pm, put your name on the list. You will get a pager and then can wander to the outside tiki bar area and enjoy the sunshine and drink until time to open. Also, if you get a choice, sit at the bar!
2. Nomad's Lounge
Found inside the Animal Kingdom near the entrance to Pandora is Nomad's Lounge. Inspired by the Asian and African travels of the Imagineers, Nomad's Lounge is designed to be an oasis in which to relax and enjoy a drink during your travels. The vibe of the lounge is laid back! The chairs are mostly low slung couches with indoor and outdoor seating. It invites you to order a drink and sit for a while.
The cocktail list also reflects the nomadic theme by featuring fusions of exotic liquors and mixers. I went with the Annapurna Zing which mixes Sapphire Gin with passion fruit, lime juice, syrup and ginger beer. This fruity drink is the perfect cocktail is sip away the time with.
The food menu is comprised of small tapas sized portions. While the food is not as exotic and exciting as the cocktail menu, they do appeal to a wider audience including kids if they happen to be with you. The charcuterie board and artisanal cheeses is always a good bet, but the wagyu beef sliders and the beef brisket poutine are the standout dishes!
Another personal favorite bar/lounge for me is the Abracadabar on the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is a often missed area of Disney World because it is tucked behind the International Gateway of Epcot and just a walk away from Hollywood Studios. Abracadabar has also a unique, but distinctly cool theme. The alleged backstory is that it was the hangout spot for magicians and other entertainers back in the early decades of the Atlantic Boardwalk. The wallpaper and drapers are heavy and rich giving you a full respite from the hot and sunny Florida sky. The walls are also lined with glass cases holding vintage magician props.
The menu consists of both "curious cocktails" and small plates. While the cocktail menu does feature lots of imaginative and fun looking cocktails, the vintage vibe of the place had me wanting a French 75 (my favorite!). On the food menu, the Thrice Spiced Fries and the Kurobuta Pork Belly are amazing!
While Nomad Lounge definitely was kid friendly, this bar is not. They certainly won't bar kids from entering, but Im not sure they would enjoy the food or the vibe of the bar. So definitely take that into account.
4. Jock Lindsay's Hangar
Jock Lindsay's Hangar at Disney Springs is also an awesome spot to grab drink, bite to eat, and just sit and enjoy the scenery. This is also a huge favorite of locals and cast members, so while kids are very welcome here, it certainly has a most adult, local vibe than say, T-Rex Cafe.
The theming inside the Hangar is Disney's imagining of the back story of Jock Lindsay, Indiana Jones' laid back pilot. Most people don't remember the character at all, but Disney has give Jock a new life, or past...The details are set around a globe-trotting, adventure-seeking pilot's vintage aviation collection. The walls are filled with maps, photos, and memorabilia from Jock's imagined life. There are a number of seating options which I like as you can choose where to sit depending on if you're there for a drink, some food, or just in search of a water view. But did I mention the Diver Bell? You can cozy around a small table inside a large, rustic Diver Bell. Definitely one of the cooler seating areas I've ever seen!
To drink I went for the Bedtime Story, a mix of Mandarin Vodka, Ginger Liqueur, Hibiscus Syrup, Lemon Juice and Ice Tea. It was delicious! And the Hibiscus Flower on top is actually edible. While the flower was not that great tasting, that was a cool touch.
5. La Cava del Tequila
My final favorite (but definitely not my least favorite) is La Cava del Tequila. This is a cult hit among those who have ever ventured down into Epcot's Mexico Pavilion and waited in the 20+ minute line. But what is on the other end of that line? Delicious margaritas and a well of over 100 tequilas! I do like tequila, but an icy margarita to walk around the World Showcase is always a winner. My favorite is the Avocado. While initially I was skeptical, it is creamy and delicious. Really give this a try! Another major favorite is the Blood Orange margarita topped with berry foam. I really cannot recommend this place enough for an amazing drink! Now that Epcot has opened Choza de Margarita, a "margarita shack," outside the line may shrink a bit. Either way, its worth it!!
In our Animal Kingdom 101 post, I mention the Kilimanjaro Safaris as one of the best attractions at Animal Kingdom. While not a fast paced roller coaster like Expedition Everest or as technologically amazing as Flight of Passage, Kilimanjaro Safari remains my top attraction in the park. While these other rides are equally as fun and exciting, there is just nothing that compares to the thrill of reality that you are in fact driving through the actual habitat with some of the earth's most majestic animals. Take a look below at why I love Kilimanjaro Safaris!
Once you enter the attraction line and meander through the wait area, you will board a large transport "bus" that seats several per row. The transport bus is open-sided for maximum views of the animals and the landscapes.
A few things about the ride itself: This is an actual bus/jeep contraption. There are no rails and no set path it must follow. The driver, not only is your tour guide helping you spot and identify the animals, but they are also the actual driver who controls the speed and path of the vehicle. So I do recommend having your camera on a sport motion or other high shutter speed setting to make sure you get the pictures you want, because the driver does have to keep the vehicle moving.
But why do I love this ride? Because it never disappoints! You can see antelopes, baboons, lions, hippos, crocodiles, cheetahs, zebras, and so many other animals walking freely about. While Disney has used hidden measures to protect the wildlife and you, they are very well hidden. You feel like you really are out on the savannah with the lion pride, because you ARE out there with that lion pride. That reality is simply hard to compete with.
One last tip: I recommend heading directly to the Safari early in the morning. That is feeding time and the animals are much more lively. As the day heats up, the number of animals you may see will decrease. That said, I've done the Safari at mid-day and its still amazing. Take a look at our favorite photos from the Safari over the years!
Located near the Kilamanjaro Safaris is a "hidden" area of the Animal Kingdom, Raffiki's Planet Watch. I consider it hidden because it is only accessibly by train and is tucked away out of view. Most visitors walk right by it without giving it a second glance. In fact, it was only recently when my sons became interested in the Wilderness Explorers Activity that we ever ventured there ourselves. While this area features no rides or major attractions, it does have three areas of interest: The Wildlife Express Train, The Petting Zoo, Conservation Station, and a few Characters.
The Wildlife Express Train
As I mentioned, the only way to see Raffiki's Planet Watch is to board The Wildlife Express Train. While the train itself is smooth and a quick 5 minute ride, it does provide some very interested backstage views of some of the nighttime living quarters of the Elephants, Cheetahs, and Warthogs.
Once you exit the train you will follow an outdoor discovery path that leads to the Planet Watch. Along the way are several small monkeys and a spot for earning a Wilderness Explorer Badge.
The Petting Zoo
Outside the main Planet Watch Building is a small petting zoo. Here kids can get up close with a few barn yard type animals: sheep, goats, bigs, and a cow is usually also present. There is also a conveniently located hand washing station there as well.
If your kids, or just you, love to meet characters (and really who doesn't?), then Rafiki's Planet Watch is home to both Rafiki and to Doc McStuffins. We have also bumped into Tarzan in here a few times during colder weather...
Overall, Rafiki's Planet Watch is an interesting area to see some animals up close and perhaps even view a veterinary procedure on one of the Safari inhabitants. You can meet some characters or just stroll through the exhibits. If you or anyone in your party is interested in animals and/or conservation, I recommend checking it out. It might not be a stop you make every trip to the Animal Kingdom, but certainly worth checking out once or twice!
One of the more recent additions to the Walt Disney World Theme Parks are the interactive quests that you can participate in at each park. These are awesome! They get the kids involved and interested in areas of the parks where they otherwise might be bored or not as into the attractions such as the World Showcase at Epcot. Well at the Animal Kingdom, they have the Wilderness Explorers.
The Wilderness Explorers has been around for years, but only recently have both my boys been old enough to understand and truly engage with the cast members. and THEY LOVED IT! If you are unfamiliar with it, the concept of the Wilderness Explorers stems from the movie Up, where Russell is in search of his final badge for his Wilderness Explorers Club when he meets Mr. Frederickson, the protagonist of the film. So in Animal Kingdom you get a chance to join the Wilderness Explorers and tour through the entire Animal Kingdom Park in search of badges which you must then earn from the cast members.
The starting point to pick up your Wilderness Explorer Handbook and earn your first badge is the "headquarters" located on the bridge between Oasis and Discovery Island. From there you will travel to different posts throughout the park on a self-guided pace to earn over 30 badges. Some of the badges include the Ecology Badge, the Hiking Badge, the Asian Culture Badge, and the Dinosaur Badge.
Each Post is marked with a small wooden sign that coordinates with the badge itself you can find in your Field Book. Another hint is to look for Cast Members carrying orange satchels. Those are carrying the badges and so they can help you find where you are looking for. Each badge took approximately 5-10 minutes to do and to be honest a lot of that time was spent trying to find the different stations!
Here is one tip that would certainly have helped us going into the Wilderness Explorers is that some stations close BEFORE the park does. There are 4 badges located over at Rafiki's Planet Watch which closes around 4:30pm. So if you are working hard on collecting every badge, I encourage you to make sure you look at the times at the different locations and prioritize the ones with earlier closing hours.
And did I mention, this activity is FREE? Making it a great way to spend time with your kids, explore the Animal Kingdom, and save some money in the process!
Overall, we truly enjoyed this activity! My children found it fun (and dare I say it, educational!) and we were encouraged to explore areas of the park that we had otherwise ignored and passed by without much thought. And it was FREE! I really can't ask much more than that!
UPDATE: On our most recent trip to Animal Kingdom, once again our kids begged to be Wilderness Explorers, and really how can I not say yes? This time they were flat our insistent on collecting every single one of the badges. So we set of to do just that, and a little over 6 hours later, they did it! They collected every single badge. The best part was that the Wilderness Explorer Leader made a huge deal out of it and announced it to everyone near by. The boys ate it up! Again, this is really a super cute and fun thing for kids of all ages.
A well known "Challenge" among Disney lovers is to see if you can visit and "enjoy" the four main parks at Walt Disney World in one day. There are many variations on what "enjoy" means ranging from 3 - 5 rides, eating a meal, seeing a character, etc...My husband and I are always up for a Disney challenge and were excited to give this one a go. With the advent of the Magic Express Transportation that allows you to travel directly between parks, bypassing the bag checks and security, we wanted to make sure we still gave ourselves a bit of challenge, so here were our rules:
1. Ride 3 rides in each park
2. Eat a sizable snack/sit down meal in each park
3. Take a picture at the entrance.
Well, here's how we did it:
First thing: PLAN
I am always a huge advocate of being on top of Disney Trip Planning. Whether it is booking your dining at the180 day mark, or your fast passes, or just having an idea of what parks are the best to go to which days, having a plan and sticking to it (with some moderation of flexibility) can alleviate much stress from the crowds and heat and help any family enjoy their trip so much more. Well if you are thinking about doing the challenge, that is even more true! Check out calendars for ride closures, park hours, and estimated crowd levels. Then use that information to craft a plan that takes you to the park that opens first, through the day and ending at the park with the latest operating hours. Give yourself time to enjoy this!
Third: BE THERE EARLY
I cannot stress this enough. I suggest being at your first park, well before rope drop (when the park officially opens), for several reasons. First, you can use that time to get ready. Get your sunscreen on, check the maps and use the bathrooms! Second, the parks can open a few minutes early sometimes even if it is to just move you to a second rope. You are just that much closer to your first ride! Third, the crowd levels are always ridiculously low first thing in the morning. Walk (don't run) quickly and efficiently to your first attraction and you'll be on and off in under 10 minutes!
Finally: Have Fun and Check the App!
Once you've started, just enjoy it. Its crazy, yes, but if its not fun, then its not worth it. Be flexible if a ride's wait time is too long or you get hungry at an unexpected time. But also remember to keep checking that Disney Experience App for wait times and closures.
So how did we do?
First stop was Animal Kingdom and was there for rope drop! Headed straight for Kilamanjaro Safaris, then Mt. Everest, and finally Dinosaur. We grabbed a cinnamon roll from the stand in Africa and boarded the Magical Express. We were at Hollywood Studios by 9:45! From there, we did Aerosmith's Rock n' Roller Coaster, Tower of Tower and Star Tours. We grabbed a light lunch there and made our way to Magic Kingdom! We had plenty of time arriving there at approximately 2:30pm. This is where those Fastpasses kicked in! We were able to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Thunder Mountain, and Space Mountain. For our snack we grabbed a Nutella and Fruit Waffle from Sleepy Hollow and relaxingly headed to Epcot. Since we had plenty of time and could book more Fastpasses, we choose Spaceship Earth, Soarin, and Test Track. To end our eating, we enjoyed some of the booths still out at the World Showcase from the Flower and Garden Festival. We were done by 7pm! If planned well, the challenge is easy!
Have you ever done the 4 park challenge? What are your tips?!?
Officially opening May 27th is Animal Kingdom's Pandora, a land themed after the blockbuster Avatar. Pandora has been an ongoing project for what seems like forever, but it is finally here!!! During a preview last week, we were able to try the quick-service restaurant in Pandora, Satu'li Canteen and let me just cut to the chase and let you know its amazing!
The restaurant is quick-service which means you line up behind a cashier and place your order, then carry your food to the table.
The focus of the menu is Satu'li Bowls which you are able to customize to your preference. You choose from one of several "bases" such as salad, kale, or quinoa, followed by a choice of protein, roast beef, chicken, fish or fried tofu, and then top with a sauce. While we did not try the Satu'li Bowls, we have heard from extensive reviewers that they are delicious, but recommended against the kale base and the tofu protein.
The other entree item on the menu is the Steamed Pods which are steamed buns filled with either vegetable curry or cheeseburger. We went with the cheeseburger and really liked them! The bun helped settle our stomachs after riding Flight of Passage and yet, they were not too heavy to make you feel weighed down the rest of the day. The pods were served with a fresh slaw and kettle chips. I highly recommend the pods!
Updated: Finally tried the Satu'li Bowl
Tara is a Disney-obsessed Mom of two active boys!