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Monday, October 4, 2010

My Special Date at Disney World (review)

**Thanks to Walt Disney World who provided us with 2 one-day park hopper passes in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. My opinions are mine and mine alone. Other opinions may vary.**

A couple days into our vacation in Orlando, Florida, I had the opportunity to take Alex on a special mother/son date.

Where did we head? Well, we had enough time and energy to visit two places. Since we just went to the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World the day before, we stopped at Animal Kingdom first and then headed over to Hollywood Studios.

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The Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Being that we arrived right as the park opened, we headed straight to the back of the park and into Africa so we could get on the Kilimanjaro Safari while the animals were awake and active.

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What we saw was nothing short of amazing. The truck drove us through winding roads and into habitats that made me feel like we were truly in Africa. We saw Black Rhinos, White Rhinos, Giraffes, Gazelles, Wildabeasts, Elephants (including a sweet baby), and much more. I asked Alex what he thought about everything and he was giddy with excitement. He says his favorite parts were the giraffes and elephants. I can't say I blame him. Majestic, and beautiful creatures were all over this safari.

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After the fun safari, we headed over to take the Wildlife Express Train out to Rafiki's Planet Watch and the Affection Section where Alex could walk right up to sheep and goats to pet and feed them. He also learned about how elephant's use their trunks and saw many bugs and reptiles that he enjoyed visiting.

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Alex hugging a baby elephant statue. Too cute.
A bit of this can be seen in this video.

Now, there are many animals to see and many things to do at Animal Kingdom. There are even dinosaurs. Unfortunately, Alex was afraid to see the dinosaurs and didn't feel like walking down any of the paths there. I showed him the map and decided to play things by ear to make sure he had the best time possible. After all, we were on a date and a big part of having a good time on a date is doing what your date likes, right?

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We went as fast as we could over to Camp Minnie Mickey where we looked and waited for Mickey Mouse. Alex wanted to see him more than anything.

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We found some ducks along the way who Alex was tickled to see.

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The things I enjoyed the most at Animal Kingdom were the different environments to experience. From Africa, to Asia, to prehistoric times, and more, the settings draw you in as you travel from place to place. It absolutely amazes me the amount of detail that goes into these parks. 

I also enjoyed the many different ways to learn about animals and our world around us. Alex had access to so many people who taught him about how things work and why. I know when he's a bit older, he'll be able to focus more on the park's activities and walk away with a wealth of knowledge.

Beyond that, there are incredible rides, a "Lion King" show, an "A Bug's Life" show, parades, and many other things to entertain a family for hours on end.

Thankful for our park-hopper passes, Alex and I went to the free bus that drove us to Disney's Hollywood Studios. I loved being able to skip driving us to another park just to have to unpack the van all over again. 

As you can guess, Hollywood Studios is all about movies and taking you back to old Hollywood. The staff there even walk around in "old Hollywood" attire. I actually felt like I had just walked into the movie, "Dick Tracy". Since the park is focused on movies, there are many shows and rides that are themed on different, famous films.

Alex was only interested in visiting Toy Story Mania upon arrival, so we headed straight back that way first. While waiting in line for the attraction, we were entertained by a larger than life Mr. Potato Head who would sing and tell jokes. Alex couldn't believe his eyes.

The ride was very fun as we were zipped from game to game and tried our hand at the different, 3D target games. I could hear Alex giggling the whole time.

After visiting this attraction, I decided to take Alex over to the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids playground.

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He had so much fun running around and later realized how much bigger everything was compared to us. I explained that we were the size of bugs and could pretend to be like the worms and ants that crawl in the ground. He loved the idea of this and ran around making little "bug" noises.

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We also enjoyed visiting the Muppet*Vision 3D attraction. Alex wasn't sure he would like this at first, but he couldn't help but laugh out loud and reach for the characters and things that flew in front of him. It was too cute.

I could tell he was a little disappointed that the show was over before he was ready for it to be so I walked him over to a nearby stand where I bought him a frozen banana. The girl at the stand told us not to miss the parade (The Block Party Bash) coming by and gave us a great tip on where to stand.

The float that carried Woody the Cowboy, Jessie the Cowgirl, and Buzz Lightyear stopped right in front of us and Alex got to meet these characters. He was beside himself, excited. We also got to see a full show of singing and dancing while seeing other characters from Toy Story 3 (like "LotsO') and Monster's Inc.

You can see a bit of that in this short clip.

After this, Alex was having a hard time staying awake so we headed back to our rental home for the evening. By taking the bus, we quickly got back to Animal Kingdom and ran over to the tram to get back to our van.

If you ever take your family or even just one child to any Disney Park, I highly recommend following your little one's lead on the activities they would like do. I found that Alex was more willing to try new things if he could make his own decisions too. Also, I saw way too many parents stressed out and angry while trying to keep their crying children on the agenda they mapped out and were set on sticking to no matter what. Disney is an experience that everyone deserves to enjoy and that means a little bit of give and take.

And don't forget, should you choose to buy or win something early into your visit at the park, you can always have it sent to the entrance gate for pick-up before you leave. That means you don't have to carry anything around with you and you can keep your hands free for fun, pictures, and good snacks.

We had a very memorable time visiting the parks and I don't think Alex will soon forget it. Walt Disney World really is a magical place and we were very blessed to have been able to visit.

What sort of things do you like about Walt Disney World?



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