Wednesday, March 11, 2009 - Disney's Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom

Today was another day of park hopping at the Disney theme parks, starting at Disney's Animal Kingdom and then finishing at the Magic Kingdom.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Expedition Everest - 01 Disney's Animal Kingdom - Expedition Everest - 02 Disney's Animal Kingdom - Expedition Everest - 03

The views from on top of Expedition Everest were excellent.  It was a clear day with good visibility considering the usual summertime haze that plagues Central Florida.  In the last picture you can clearly see Spaceship Earth on the left, the Swan and Dolphin hotels near the middle, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror on the right.  Between Everest and the Swan & Dolphin lies Disney's Coronado Springs Resort.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Primeval Whirl - 01

Going up the lift hill on the left side of Primeval Whirl.  The line queue was only about a fifteen minute wait this time, though this trip would end up being very fateful for me.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - DinoLand USA

Looking down at DinoLand USA and TriceraTop Spin from the top of Primeval Whirl.  This part of the park looks completely empty from up here.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Primeval Whirl - 02

And yes, this is the last picture I took before I lost my hat on Primeval Whirl!

I'm a hat guy and can usually wear my hat on fast rides such as this one, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain and even Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  As long as I don't have a headrest behind me then I'm fine.  By turning the hat around backwards it allows for smoother airflow over the top and it should remain in place as long as it has a decent grip on the person's head.  But none of that matters when the car suddenly pitches forward into a steep dive, the headrest hits the bill of the hat and lifts the lid and a huge rush of air fills the hat and yanks it right off of your head.

It was a cheap hat and I can easily get another one, so that part isn't a big deal.  It fell in an inaccessible part of the ride and wouldn't have been turned in to lost and found until the end of the day.  Since we were leaving to go home the next day, it wasn't worth it to go back to Animal Kingdom with the hope of chasing down a cheap $5 hat.  The point is that somebody as experienced as me on these rides shouldn't have ever had something like this occur.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - howler monkeys

The howler monkeys were out hanging around at the front of the Asia section of the park.  They were very quiet here and didn't do any of their loud howling until we were across the park.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Kilimanjaro Safaris - 01

The Savannah area was empty of wildlife near the middle of the day on Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Kilimanjaro Safaris - 02

But the elephants were out and lined up while eating a snack and taking a drink of water.

After lunch the park was noticeably busier.  Discovery Island felt like it had a huge mob of people, and it was quite crowded and uncomfortable.  The reasoning behind the surge in people was that this day was an extended Magic Hours day in the park.  The resort guests could stay in the park a little bit longer and keep going on the rides.

Again, I don't quite understand the reasoning behind this traffic pattern at this time of the year.  One of the biggest reasons for visiting the parks in the off-season is to get away from the major crowds in the Summer and during the Christmas and New Year holidays.  So why would you want to get crowded with other resort guests in the off-season of all times when you could have just gone to the park a day sooner or later and experienced much shorter lines?  The surge in traffic alone is one of the main reasons why I avoid the parks doing the extra Magic Hours, even when I'm a resort guest and staying on Disney property.

After leaving Disney's Animal Kingdom we drove over to the Magic Kingdom parking lot at the TTC.  We hopped on the Express monorail (the first monorail ride of the trip, another strange occurrence for it to happen this late in the trip) and headed around to the Magic Kingdom.

Disney's Contemporary Resort - Bay Lake Tower construction - 01 Disney's Contemporary Resort - Bay Lake Tower construction - 02

The new Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort is looking more impressive than ever.  It looks like the major construction on the outside is complete except for the landscaping and new parking lot.

express monorail

Again, it wasn't that busy heading into the park.  We had an entire cab on the Express monorail to ourselves.  Here you can see the new Mickey-shaped balloons on the windows of the monorail.

Magic Kingdom

A distinct lack of people in the front entrance area of the Magic Kingdom.  Like the last visit, the wait times throughout the park were very low for most of the attractions.

Magic Kingdom - Main Street USA

There's no love for Goofy over here on the park bench.  The cast members standing patiently behind him seem to be bored and looking for something to do.  It's nearly impossible to get this picture with nobody in it at any other time of the year.

Magic Kingdom - Walt Disney & Mickey Mouse statue

The famous Walt Disney & Mickey Mouse "Partners" statue in the hub in front of Cinderella Castle.  I love it when people see you standing there with a camera and waiting for them to move out of the way, but they instead keep standing in the way and move into an even worse spot (not even posing for a picture or anything) until you make gestures for them to get out of the way.

Like the other days in the other parks, the theme of the day was the general lack of crowds and easiness of getting on most of the attractions with a very little wait.  At the end of the day we took the monorail around to the Grand Floridian Resort for a special reason.
And what was that reason?

Why, it was to have an excellent spot to view the upcoming night launch of Space Shuttle Discovery.  When we were in Florida, one of the shuttle launches was scheduled for 9:45 pm or so on Wednesday the 11th.  We've seen a daytime launch of a space shuttle from Epcot before (you can see a small black dot cruising up to space with an orange flame and a massive cloud of white smoke behind it; much more intense than an airliner making a contrail), and we've heard several shuttle landings from inside the parks.  As the shuttle races overhead you can easily heard a loud double bang sound as it cruises at supersonic speeds to the Kennedy Space Center.

The night launch was going to be a new experience for us and we wanted to be in an open area to try to see it.  So what better open spot was there than being on the docks at the Grand Floridian looking eastward across Seven Seas Lagoon to the Contemporary?  If the exhaust was bright enough, that could have been a really cool motion blur picture with the Contemporary Resort and night sky in the background.  The skies were clear and there was a full moon.

Disney's Polynesian Resort - night

Alas, the shuttle launch was canceled because of a hydrogen leak, and the shuttle wasn't launched until the following Sunday.  We didn't find out about it until we were already in the Grand Floridian and just wasting time until the scheduled launch.  After hearing about the cancellation, we headed back to the TTC on a long walking tour past the Wedding Pavilion, throughout the Polynesian Resort and Great Ceremonial House, and to the TTC and its massive parking lot.