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News and Views Around Walt Disney World-2nd week of January

News and Views Around Walt Disney World-2nd week of January

Let’s visit Animal Kingdom today!  It is a beautiful day here in central Florida.  Animal Kingdom has been testing the FastPass+ system for all visitors for about a month now and I want to see how it is working at this point.  I did not see any kiosks immediately upon entering the park, which I expected to see from previous reports.  We did come across some kiosks pretty quickly outside Disney Outfitters. You will want to remember where the FastPass+ kiosks are located to maximize your time in the parks. In Animal Kingdom the FastPass+ kiosks/customer service CM’s with iPads are at: Disney Outfitters, Kilimanjaro Safaris®, Expedition Everest-Legend of the Forbidden Mountain®, Kali River Rapids®, and Primeval Whirl®.

 Those without MagicBands must make their day-of FastPass+ selections, or change them; those with MagicBands can also make their reservations there if they do not want to use a Smartphone at these locations.  When you visit one of these locations they direct you first to a CM with an iPad rather than first to an open kiosk. It doesn’t seem they want you to use the kiosks first.  I would have preferred using the kiosk to really be confident in them in the future.  The CM that I was directed to swiped my plastic ticket and asked me which attractions I would like a FastPass to. I told him the two I wanted and was not given the option of choosing what times or the order I would prefer them in or that I must select three locations or they would do it for me.  So after waiting a couple of minutes for him to search I was given times for the two attractions I asked for and a third that he selected with the explanation that it could be changed now or later.  The first one started within one hour, and the second one hour after that. It is up to us to write down the times on a piece of paper or the CM suggested taking a photo of the screen with my Smartphone.  If I do not have a Smartphone then I would need to write it down but no pens are provided. I wrote it on my park guide.   I do appreciate being able to make these at one location without having to run to the attractions to get a Fast Pass before enjoying the park. It is a very light crowd today though.  I am wondering how this will work arriving mid-day on a very busy day with much of the crowd being able to have booked their Fast Passes 60 days prior. I also don’t like having to take a FastPass time for that third attraction knowing I was never going to use it.  What if that attraction was one that someone else really wanted and could not get?

Let’s go enjoy the park.  Walking over beside Pizzafari we see the construction walls are up preventing us from going back to where Camp Minnie Mickey had been.  This is the area that Avatar-land is beginning.  Let’s head back to Africa and see what progress is being made there.  As we cross the bridge to Harambe the left side is completely walled off up to where the Dawa Bar used to be. Behind these walls is where the new Festival of the Lion King is being built.  The first open section we come to here reveals the waiting area for Tusker House guests.  The Dawa Bar is to the right of this in its new location.  The back of the bar has the same bottles and basic décor as before but it is missing the open area that let the sunlight in from the back before.  It is nice that there have been seating areas added around the bar itself.  A sign promotes the Sugar Cane Mojito and the African Margarita.  There are many guests enjoying the strong drinks sold here sitting at the bar and at tables in the area. I can hear the street party music beginning.  This is a nice place to take a rest, maybe a cold beverage, listening to the music while waiting on a lunch reservation at Tusker House for Donald’s Dining Safari Lunch character meal.

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For a no obligation, FREE Quote with new bookings contact our sponsor Magical Vacation Planner by calling: 1(407)442-0289 Or for a free no obligation quote with new bookings you can fill out the form by Clicking HERE!

It is time for our Kilimanjaro Safari FastPass+ time.  We touch our plastic ticket to the Mickey head just like on entering the park and we are in.  We can board within a few minutes and bounce off in our giant safari vehicle.  We spot Okapi and Saddle-billed Stork almost immediately. There is a pod of hippos below the water and Pelicans on the island in the middle of the water. The guide explains that hippos will often just walk across the bottom rather than swim across.  In the next area we see dozens of very large Nile Crocodiles enjoying the afternoon sun. Ankole Cattle are grazing in the savanna.  We can see four more ride vehicles backed up near the end of the savanna road.  As we approach they start to move and we see what the slowdown is about, a herd of giraffe are very near the road, some on one side, some on the other.  We are going to get a really close look at these beautiful animals.  And yes! The baby giraffe is out today. Around the corner we are treated to a great view of a herd of elephants, and the baby is seen sticking close to its mother.  Our safari guide tells us that female elephants are pregnant for 22 months and that young elephants stick close to their parents for their first 15 years or more. Elephants are the only other creatures that this occurs in other than humans.  Pink flamingos are seen in the water and on their tiny island with palm trees.  Next we are given a rare view of Cheetahs lying on the rocks.  They have their backs to us but they are alert and watching something near the back of their woodsy area. Around the corner is a large rock outcropping and the male lion and a couple of the females are just visible above some rock formations.  The sun is directly behind them so it is difficult to get a photo of them, but they are truly magnificent.  As we come near the end of our trek we spot some Zebras right next to the road.  It has been another great Safari ride.  You can ride this multiple times and it is always different and exciting to see these wild animals of Africa.  We can continue our journey on the nearby paths among more wild animals. The Gorilla is really big!

Are you feeling like doing something wild? Good, we have FastPasses for Expedition Everest!  Whoa, that is quite a ride! I think I need something a little quieter next.  Let’s hop on board the train to Rafikis Planet Watch. We are riding sideways on these train cars back to an area dedicated to conservation, animal encounters, and a petting zoo.  The train runs every 5 minutes here so it is easy to do as little or as much as you like here and still get out in time for a reservation in the rest of the park.  The first building we enter has giant animal murals on the walls and across part of the ceiling.   On the left are sound booths that are part of the Song of the Rainforest exhibit.  Let’s go in. Inside we find headsets and a button to start the program.  As we begin to listen the room is darkened so that we can focus on the sounds of a rainforest. There are creature sounds, thunderstorm sounds, and then sounds of machinery and saws followed by the sound of trees falling and the loss of natural sounds we heard in the beginning as the speaker tells of the destruction of the rain forest and the need for all of us to protect them.

Heading outside we come to the petting zoo part of the land out here.  We enter through iron gates and are surrounded by goats running all around us.  There are goats of all sizes and types running free with sheep and pigs.  There are two areas that the animals can go into to get away from humans if they want and to keep humans out during feeding time for the animals.  A CM tosses out hay in these roped off areas and there are some tussling over it but for the most part it goes down pretty quietly.  One goat catches my eye as she is standing on a bridge area of a playground-type of equipment in the center of the roped off area.  She is contentedly chewing on a bunch of hay in her mouth. A CM tells me her name is Wilma, named after a Flintstone character.  He explains that the goats are all named after 70’s or 80’s TV show characters. Wilma is part of a “package deal” with a farm up north that Disney acquired the cow from.  This farm breeds rare and endangered animals and to get the cow, they said Disney had to take the three goats. These are the senior citizens of the group he explains. Wilma is actually a rare New Zealand goat and has longer hair than the other goats.  Wilma stands with her head held high chewing away on her snack while the other goats all have heads down trying to get to all the hay there. She is in stark contrast to her goat friends.  Here comes a very nice male goat named Willis who wants interaction with humans and comes out from behind the rope to let the young children with brushes provided by Disney to brush him.  They are young and brush in the opposite direction of the fur but Willis doesn’t show if he minds that or not.  There are two donkeys here, behind fences that don’t feel like interacting right now.  The same might be said of the cow as well.  It is late in the afternoon and they just want some quiet time.  The animals are roaming freely again as snack time is over.  It is interesting to watch goats getting up on steps and playground equipment.  Wilma wanders down now and comes near the rope. She almost looks like she is smiling at us.  We can pet her and as we do we see her eyes close and she really seems to enjoy the gentle touch of a human.  I am a fan of this goat.  The CM offers some more names and asks if we have petted everyone yet.  He says not to leave without petting every animal so we better get busy!  On our way out there are washing stations and signs advising everyone to please wash their hands before leaving the area.

I have not been to the Flights of Wonder bird show for awhile so let’s see if we can still get in.  The show started a few minutes ago, but the CM’s are saying we can still get in. There are birds talking, doing math, flying back and forth over the crowd, taking dollar bills from guests and returning it! I think my favorite was the majestic Bald Eagle.  We have time for one more ride, Dinosaur!  Alright, it is getting darker and the park is not open late tonight so we will have to leave Animal Kingdom for today. The park is looking to expand its hours into the evening for after-dark experiences including a night time version of Kilimanjaro Safaris. We will keep you posted on those new opportunities within this park.

Just last week Disney had groundbreaking with the help of giant, Na’vi-sized blue shovels for an AVATAR-inspired area of Animal Kingdom.  This begins the largest expansion of Animal Kingdom to date. We are told guests will fly over Pandora on banshees, meet Na’vi people and culture. The land will include the mountains that float in air and those plants that light up at night, like in the film AVATAR. This is being done in the area previously known as Camp Minnie Mickey. The Festival of the Lion King Theater closed last week to help clear the area for AVATAR-land. There is a new theater for the beloved Festival of the Lion King near Tusker House in Africa.  As we cross the bridge we see construction walls on the left side.

I went to Downtown Disney last night to see a movie and was pleased to see the Disney Food Trucks are downtown again, just to the side of Cirque du Soliel.  It was a pretty cool evening with windy conditions and I believe that is what is hurting the sales, along with people not realizing they are down there around the corner from House of Blues.  The Downtown Disney Westside was very busy with runners and their families as the Marathon after party was well attended.  One of the shops was especially busy, as you may expect it was the new Fit2Run shop. The shop runs a complimentary video of your gait along with iStep barometric scanning and they analyze them to determine your perfect shoe fit.

The Walt Disney World Marathon took place this past weekend along with two new races the Walt Disney World 10K and the Dopey Challenge. This race weekend is a family event which also includes 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, RunDisney Kids, Disney Family Fun Run 5K, Goofy’s Race and Half Challenge.  Disney’s Health and Fitness Expo that partners with these races was open for four days and among the merchandise being sold there were the new New Balance runDisney shoes.  If you would like to participate or be a spectator at a Disney World race event, you have only to wait until February 20-23 when the 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon occurs.  There is a new addition to this race line up as well, the Disney Enchanted 10K and Glass Slipper Challenge.  The runners who complete these new challenges will receive a special lanyard and medal. This Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend also has a family focus with the RunDisney Kids Races, the Cinderella Royal Family 5K and of course the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  The expo will be open at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex with speakers who are running experts and fashion and technology merchandise for sale.

This week the Magic Kingdom is beginning testing the FastPass+ Program to all park guests, including non-Disney resort guests. Guests are given a pamphlet at the parking lot booth to read on their way into the park, just as they do for guests going to Animal Kingdom.  The pamphlet explains the test, lists locations of kiosks, and which attractions, characters and shows are available for FastPass+ selection. The Be Our Guest lunch time FastPass+ is not on the list of those available for off property guests. Looks like we will still be standing in the line for that next time we want to eat there.

By Cassie

About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.