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0 Downtown Disney, Orlando

20 Sep 2014 | 13:09:00

Orlando . 2014 . Apr 26

This post is part of our Orlando USA Trip Report and Itinerary. Do check out the full itinerary and our reviews here.

We had half a day of free time after half a day of visiting Epcot for the second time and decided to take the complimentary shuttle bus from Pop Century Resort to Downtown Disney for some shopping.

For those of you who are not familiar with Downtown Disney, it is an outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment complex located near the Disney amusement parks.  There’s a similar one at Disneyland California as well.

There are plenty of shops along the streets of Downtown Disney Orlando that are bound to entertain, with their wonderful and interesting merchandise.

However, if you are looking at buying a bit of fashion, then this is definitely not the place to go to. Unlike the Downtown Disney at California, this one does not even have a Sephora…which is kind of essential for every gal.
The World of Disney store is the biggest Disney store in the world.

Be careful when you approach though, cos mischievous Stitch there spurts out water on unsuspecting tourists.

The Disney animation movie ‘Frozen’ was all the rage when we visited Orlando, so much so that most of the ‘Frozen’ merchandise were constantly sold out.  But the confectionaries never stopped churning out cute versions of my favourite ‘Frozen’ charter, Olaf. Cute isn’t it? It’s actually just sugared apple with a thick layer of icing.

Passed by this cordoned-off area that was still under construction.  Seriously, did Disney approve the use of such a name as ‘Pleasure Island’?  Sounds more like the name of a cheap erotic novel.

Our stay at Disney’s Pop Century Resort came with a booklet of vouchers for use at Disney World, and with it, a complimentary pass to Disney Quest at Downtown Disney.  Disney Quest is an indoor interactive theme park that consists of 5 levels of arcade-like fun.  Unfortunately, despite its very modern outer shell, it’s advertised 5 levels of fun were occupied by machines and technologies that looked like it was modern a decade ago, and left us wondering what the other tourists must have felt if they had to pay for a ticket to come in.

Downtown Disney is indeed a touristy place, and there were plenty of restaurants, from high class to mid-range occupying the prime spots around the lake.

However, if you are looking for affordable dinner at Downtown Disney, then the Earl of Sandwich is one of the few outlets there which provides food without burning a hole in your pocket.  But don’t leave it too late, because this restaurant is popular with like-minded people who wants to save a buck or two.

Our dinner of wrapped sandwiches.

Daytime and nighttime makes all the difference at Downtown Disney.  While sun-lovers (not me!) would generally love walking along the wide and unsheltered streets, night time is the time when the street comes alive with buskers and people looking for a watering hole and party place.

There’s another outlet of the Rainforest Cafe here at Downtown Disney other than the one we saw at Animal Kingdom.  This one has a volcano as it’s facade which ‘erupts’ at periodic times.

Downtown Disney can be easily covered in 2-3 hours time, and we strongly recommend to go only in the evening or night time to soak in busking atmosphere.

Join us back here as we explore Disney World Magic Kingdom next!

This post is part of our Orlando USA Trip Report and Itinerary. Do check out the full itinerary and our reviews here.

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0 Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando

14 Sep 2014 | 06:30:00

Orlando . 2014 . Apr 25

This post is part of our Orlando USA Trip Report and Itinerary. Do check out the full itinerary and our reviews here.

Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom is a curious mix of Disneyland’s characters dressed in safari style, an open zoo and an amusement park.    If you ask me, this is the one theme park that is the most unlike a typical Disneyland theme park.

Our early morning trip to the Animal Kingdom started with an in-house breakfast at Pop Century Resort. Then, it was off on the Disney Shuttle to Animal Kingdom!

It seems that no matter which Disneyland park we are at, the queues at the entrance is always long.

We totally regretted having breakfast at Pop Century when we saw the Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom.  For those of you not familiar with the Rainforest Cafe, it had a few chains across the world and is a combination of restaurant and shop space - a themed restaurant as they call it.  Their menu cannot be classified as cheap, but at least it was affordable, and the ambience spectacular.

Who wouldn’t want to dine here, right?

Disney World’s Animal Kingdom is segregated into 6 main regions:
  1. Oasis (where the main entrance and Rainforest Cafe are)
  2. Discovery Island (location of the iconic Tree of Life and a animal discovery trail)
  3. Africa (home to Kilimanjaro Safari, Wildlife Express Trains and the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail)
  4. Rafiki’s Planet Watch (place to get up close and personal with friendly farm animals)
  5. Asia (the most exciting rides here with Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest)
  6. Dinoland U.S.A (kids’ section mostly)
Animal Kingdom is relatively small in comparison with the massive Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  It also had fewer rides and attractions, so it is fully possible to finish the entire park in half a day or slightly more.

Every region in the Animal Kingdom has their own unique animals on display.

DinoLand U.S.A. - Look out for Tree of Life!

First stop for us was DinoLand.

Animal Kingdom unlike Epcot and Magic Kingdom, has a lot fewer visitors, so the walk around the park was a lot more pleasant and taking photographs was so much easier!

The icon of Animal Kingdom - the Tree of Life, seen from DinoLand.

There are two main attractions in DinoLand that you should never miss.  One would be the ‘Finding Nemo’ musical.   The other one would be the DINOSAUR thrill ride.  Both have Fast Passes available, but we will not recommend using it for the Nemo Musical as that Fast Pass merely allows you earlier entry to the theatre - we wasted it by turning up the same time as the rest of the visitors without Fast Passes.

The Finding Nemo musical.  Disney never fails to impress with their musicals.

The ‘Star Animal’ of DinoLand is this huge American Crocodile.  Do you know that American Crocodiles occur in great abundance in Orlando?

Asia - Best Rides in Animal Kingdom

We moved in an anti-clockwise direction, so next stop was Asia.

Asia should be the most exciting part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, in terms of rides.   Two of the park’s star attractions are here:  Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain and Kali River Rapids.  Both are Fast Passes ride and we highly recommend you get them early, especially for Expedition Everest.

I never had the guts to try such a roller-coaster, so had to give this a miss.  But judging from the screams, this must be a really exciting ride.

I am better off with the Kali River Rapids - a much tamer ride, and wetter, so bring that poncho with you.

The animal highlights at Asia - Bats and Tigers!

Ever seen a bat feed?  I am pleased to say that I have seen it.

Wow, this was the closest I’ve ever gotten close to a tiger.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

On board the Wildlife Express Train that brought us to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

At the petting yard with farm animals!

Mickey’s Jammnin’ Jungle Parade

The only safari-dressed Disney characters in Disney World.

I managed to catch sight of Donald - my second favourite Disney character!

Africa - Kalimanjaro Safaris

The one attraction that augments Animal Kingdom’s reputation for conservation - Kalimanjaro Safaris.   This ride takes 20 minutes through the lush African Savannah to search for lions, rhinos, elephants, giraffes and more!  This attraction brought back fond memories of Taman Safari in Surabaya,  but despite Disney’s brand name, we still felt Taman Safari was much more impressive!

That’s the vehicle we boarded for the Kilimanjaro Safaris.

First stop was to visit the rhinos!

Florida has an abundance of huge alligators.  I am sure they had no difficulties filling up this pond with them.

The giraffes, elephants, deers, and zebras.

We simply loved this pond with the flamingoes.

Is that a deer….or a zebra?

We started on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail right after the safari.

That was the closest that we ever got to an Gorilla! But Mr Gorilla was obviously not in the mood for socialisation with us.

Another one sulking away by himself?

This one saw the touristy side of me and immediately struck a pose for my camera.  Handsome eh.

The last attraction we went to - ‘It’s Tough to be a Bug’.  I have nearly forgotten what it feels like to be a child, but seemingly, this 3-D show was a little to creepy for young kids.

FastPass+ in Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is much smaller in scale as compared to Epcot and Magic Kingdom.  Nevertheless, there are still 8 attractions offering Fast Passes and we summarise and recommend them below for you:

It’s tough to be a Bug (@ Discovery Island)
This is a 3-D show inspired by the Disney film - ‘A Bug’s Life’.  Features quite a number of creepy crawlies which could be frightening for young children.   While it is an attraction worth spending your time at, do not waste your quota of Fast Passes on this one.   Each sitting of the 3-D show could take in quite a number of people so waiting time would not be that long.

Kilimanjaro Safaris (@ Africa)
Keep this at the top of your priority list for Fast Passes, or do this attraction right when the park opens for the day.  Otherwise, queues could get too long for comfort.

Kali River Rapids (@Asia)
Fans of water-rides would love this.  Featuring small drops and rushing waters.  You are bound to get wet during the ride, but there aren’t any heart-stopping moments.  Perfect for a family day out.

Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain (@Asia)
The only roller coaster in Animal Kingdom.  You’ll hear screams coming from this coaster from a distance.  Set against the iconic Everest Mountain in the park, its hard to miss it.  It is obviously the most popular ride of Animal Kingdom, so coaster fans with a strong heart, please book your FastPasses early.

Finding Nemo - The Musical (@Dinoland)
While we love this musical, it is hardly worth spending a Fast Pass on.  That Fast Pass would merely allow you earlier entry to the theatre, hardly useful if you were rushing from another attraction.  

Primeval Whirl (@Dinoland)
A spinning roller coaster for kids.  Spend that Fast Pass on Mount Everest instead!

Dinosaur (@Dinoland)
Consisting of a dark and jerky ride into a dinosaur infested forest, guests experience loud noises and flashing lights.  Could be scary for young children, but perfect for adults. I would spend my FastPass on this one.

This post is part of our Orlando USA Trip Report and Itinerary. Do check out the full itinerary and our reviews here.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. To receive notifications on updates, subscribe to our blog via RSS feed and email.

Like us on Facebook @ Discover. Book . Travel and follow us on Twitter @Discoverbooktra!

Do check out our Flickr photos & Youtube videos too!
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