Thursday, February 9, 2012

Walt Disney World Vacation: Playing At The Parks (part 1)

Monday, January 23rd

We kicked off our park play days at the Animal Kingdom. It's such a beautiful park and such an awesome way to enjoy animals in a respectful and educational environment. The Africa and Asia areas are themed and decorated especially well and really transport you to another world. It was a great way to start playing and our dinner at Sanaa the night before was a great way to get in the spirit.
Jambo from Harambe!
Since it was a nice, cool morning we headed straight for the Kilamanjaro Safaris in the hopes that the animals would be out and about - and they were! We were surprised to see these African domesticated cattle standing so alarmingly close to our path. Yikes! 

Seriously mere feet away. In the photo below, you can see how close that bull is to the safari vehicle behind us. Yiiiiikes.

Our plan to go on safari first thing in the morning really paid off when we saw a lioness surveying the savannah from atop her rocky outlook. We've been on this safari a good number of times and have never actually seen a lion that wasn't asleep. Our safari driver said he saw a cub scrambling around, but the cub was too quick for our eyes. Later, we also saw a cheetah cruising across the grasses before laying down with his pals.

I had been concerned about hanging on to Alice on this safari since the vehicle is just a long bench with no seat belts or anything. The sides of the vehicle are enclosed, and quite high, but I don't think it would be too hard for a squirming toddler to go right over the edge and into a crocodile or hippo pool, or smack into the middle of a herd of rhinoceros. Thankfully, she sat still and didn't wiggle too much but Jon said it got tough to hang on toward the end when the path gets really bumpy. 

After our safari, we strolled through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and the Maharajah Jungle Trek and to visit some animal friends. The tigers were all sleeping and Alice signed "kitty" and "sleep." So cute. We also said hello to some of these guys:

Alice loves to beat her chest like a gorilla. He was not impressed.
When I say "bat," Alice laughs like Count Von Count. One! One bat, ah ah ah!
After a quick morning at the Animal Kingdom and a rest at the hotel, it was time for our first afternoon in EPCOT! Since we were playing at a more leisurely pace on this trip than on previous visits, we wanted to eat at some of the restaurants we've always been too busy to sit down for. First up was the Biergarten at the Germany Pavilion!
When Jon checked in at the reservation desk, he pronounced our family name in what we believe to be the proper German fashion, as "Zehng-eh." The nice young man had no trouble finding our reservation under that name and the lovely young lady pronounced our name the same way when she called our party. I'd say we should adopt the German pronunciation but people have a hard enough time as it is! Say it with me, "Sing-gheeee"

I was a little apprehensive about the lunch buffet but it was pretty delicious, especially the hot meatballs! Yum. Groups are seated at tables of eight and we joined a nice dad from Jersey traveling with his two boys and his parents. We enjoyed a good lunch, nice conversation, and humongous beers. Alice was totally into the polka band.

Nils and Hans played polka, the Alpine Horn, and the cowbells. 
Alice only got to boogie for a quick minute before the band took a little break.
After lunch, we stopped over in Italy to watch Sergio the mime. He was pretty hilarious, as was the young boy he plucked out of the audience to assist him. The kid could have been his son with the same animated expressions and comedic timing. Alice paid rapt attention because he was playing with her new favorite shape: 
Alice loved the "ba!"
Speaking of balls, we were hoping to film Alice's reaction when she saw Spaceship Earth, the iconic symbol of EPCOT. We thought the sheer size of this ball (aka Class 2 Frequency 16 Icosahedron - a variation of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome) would blow her mind. In our first filming attempt, we tried to point it out from afar but she didn't get what we were trying to show her. When we finally headed over to ride it, we didn't have our Flip cam handy as we approached. Instead, we got a hilarious bunch of photos of Alice doing the "so big!" hands and falling backwards out of the Ergo reaching out to grab at it, saying "ba!" over and over and over. Here's one winner:

The Spaceship Earth attraction takes a photo of each rider and incorporates their face in a little cartoon that plays on a monitor in the ride vehicle. Since I was wearing Alice in the Ergo, it caught both of our faces and made a super hilarious two-headed creature. Behold:

Jon also accidentally chose French when choosing our preferred language for the ride narration and the content displayed on the monitor. He thought it would just be subtitled in French, but we were instead treated to a French Dame Judi Dench soundalike soothing us with a history of communication. I did my best to translate the captions on the monitor but I'm a little rusty (and not really fluent!).

We cruised around the World Showcase a bit that evening. We had a pretzel and beer under the cuckoo clocks in Germany's square, and wandered through Japan's huge department store. We snacked on delicious pita and hummus as we meandered through the beautiful shops and alleyways in the Morocco pavilion. Alice charmed all of the shopkeeps, even though they must see millions of cute kids every day... We stopped by France to see if we could buy a corkscrew to replace the cheap souvenir we brought home from our trip to Paris that eventually became a casualty of TSA carry-on restrictions. We found a suitable replacement, and some other fun souvenirs and couldn't resist a little photo shoot with the display of Eiffel Towers.

Please allow me to explain... I bought a bunch of new little toys and things to keep Alice occupied on the plane. I knew she'd enjoy a Schleich animal or two, and was compelled to get an orange kitty. Then I saw the snow leopard and knew we had to have our own set of travel pals to match our set of kitties at home. The above photo was inspired by a real-life incident a few years ago:
We caught IllumiNations from the Norway pavilion, and despite 1+ hours of Ergo bouncing and stroller laying, Alice refused to fall asleep. Luckily, she enjoys fireworks and such so she settled down once the show started. On our walk home, true to form, she fell asleep just before we entered the hotel. We took photos of her sleeping in the elevator and then parked outside our room because this is such a rare occurrence. Alice will not willingly sleep anywhere but her own bed, and if she happens to fall asleep somewhere else, it will inevitably be just as we're turning onto our street or are just minutes away from whatever destination we're headed to. Silly girl.

And that was the end of our first day at the parks. I'll save the photos from the rest of the trip for another post!


  1. This post is so hugely helpful. As Jon knows, we are planning our first trip to Disney World later this year and I've been looking for advice from people like you that have been there recently. I'm going to subscribe to your blog so I don't miss subsequent posts. Just wanted to thank you for all the great information!

  2. Ooooooh, fun! I think we'll do a whole post with some specific travel anecdotes and tips and advice because we definitely learned some things and have some Disney-related observations. I hope we can pass along some useful tidbits!

  3. 2 tidbits:

    1.) In school I always spelled our name phonetically for graduations and other such occassions. I've tried multiple ways of doing such and yet no one seemed to say it even slightly close to correct until i went with "sang-gee." At least they got it right when I walked for my Master's.

    2.) Spaceship Earth is actually narrated by Dame Judi Dench. She became the new voice of choice when they updated the ride several years ago, so no substitue sound-a-likes there. Just the Dame herself :-)

  4. Did Dame Judi do the French narration, too?? Because that's what we enjoyed, but it didn't sound quite like original flavor Dame Judi...

  5. Never been to Disney-world but I'm loving all the information you're sharing! Our kids are not the sleep-on-the-go types either. However, if we are at Disneyland for the day we usually take one long walk in the stroller and they eventually tucker out. Its usually from Disneyland to the Pier in California adventure, which allows for mom and dad to have a corn dog and beer while the babes rest. Bliss!

  6. I love reading about your vacation - it sounds like you guys had a great time! I would love to see video of Alice dancing to the German jam band!!

  7. Oh wonderful! My hubby and I are going in September with our 4 year old- I cant wait to read more of your experiences!


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