Disney World Reopening Weekend: Animal Kingdom

Disney World Reopening Weekend: Animal Kingdom

If you missed my post on Magic Kingdom’s Reopening Day – Read it HERE!

When I secured my park passes for Magic Kingdom I was also able to grab a park pass for the next day at Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom both had their reopening on the same day so Sunday was actually the second day AK was open!

Not only was this my first Disney SOLO Weekend…it was also my first solo day at Animal Kingdom. And guess what other “Disney first?”

I. Slept. In. I figured with the limited capacity at the park, why bother getting up early to get there? I had to check out of the hotel and I was up past midnight the night prior updating all my IG Stories after my big day at MK and I just wanted to SLEEP.

So not my usual Disney style as yall I’m always up and ready to HIT THE PARKS. But I knew I had a long drive home and a perk of being on a solo trip is that you should get to RELAX a bit. So I made myself sleep and take my time and I have no regrets!

I arrived at Animal Kingdom at 10:30 and it was DEAD. I believe the park opened that morning at 8 but I can’t remember for sure.

Again, I reminded myself that there was NO PRESSURE to stay. I’m not a huge Animal Kingdom fan. It’s fine to hit the highlights and then hit the road!

Parking was also a breeze and I lucked out big time. They are spacing cars out when parking and then coming back in and filling in the empty spaces…so I was later in the morning and was a “filler” space that just so happened to be right beside the walkway to the entrance.

I’m used to walking SO FAR to AK and had been dreading that sweaty walk so it was a great start to my day!

I already did my complaining about the bag check security so I won’t go through that again…but, yes, I did set off the detector thing even after trying my best to remove everything I could. Super annoying.

Again, I had no real game plan. Especially not at Animal Kingdom where I don’t ride majority of the rides and I wasn’t about to hang around in 100 degree temps with a mask on looking at some animals by myself πŸ˜‰

I grabbed a map and, yup, theirs are also up to date with the health and safety reminders as well as clearly marked relaxation stations for guests too. And guess what is missing from the map? Primeval Whirl! Guess it’s gone forever.

I popped by the Otter Grotto and didn’t see a single otter. I’ve heard SUCH great things about how much people love the Otter Grotto but I’ve never had much luck. I did find this sign funny about staying behind a line to protect the primates. I’m assuming from corona?

My plan was to head for the safari because it’s an Animal Kingdom must-do. On the way I walked by the Starbucks and couldn’t believe it was TOTALLY EMPTY.

I am notttttt a Disney and Starbucks girl. I honestly DO NOT GET IT. You’re paying all that money to be in the parks and you’re going to spend precious park time in a crazy long line to get a coffee that you can get anywhere? It just baffles me! My favorite is when we get early park access somewhere and I see all these people running to Starbucks. Like you’re in the park EARLY. Take advantage of it!

But I’m also super glad so many people ARE Starbucks and Disney people because it means less people in line for us πŸ˜‰

Needless to say, I’ve never ever had a Disney Starbucks. I decided since there was no line that maybe it was time to have one!

It was a really fun experience chatting with all the cast members. I met a fellow Emily who spells her name Emmalee and 12 year old me is crazy jealous because I TRIED to start spelling my name that way and it never stuck πŸ˜‰

I got a s’mores fancy frozen thing and they hooked me up with a big size. I also wanted to have the full experience so I asked them what the most cliche Starbucks purchase was. Cake pop and a Gouda breakfast sandwich thing so I went for ’em. And ALL of the things I ordered were fantastic!

It’s not going to convert me into a Starbucks and Disney person. It’s also not good enough to turn me into a Starbucks over McDonald’s person either. But it was good! And I’d totally have it all again sometime, just not probably at Disney πŸ˜‰

I am really hardcore anti paper straws. They are THE WORST. And Starbucks is GENIUS because they sell reusable straws for just $1! I had my own travel straw with me but wasn’t sure I’d be able to drink a frozen drink from it so I invested that $1 and it was so worth it! I saved the straw and used it other times throughout the day.

The cast member at Starbucks said that so many people at the parks complained about the paper straws that Starbucks decided to start offering the reusable ones as an upcharge and that they are making a killing from it. It’s so smart and ALL places should offer it!

I found a nice little area where no one was hanging out and just enjoyed my me-time! I had my mask off the whole time while standing there and several cast members passed by and said good morning and none got onto me for the mask. Which made me feel better about the masks because the rule itself is kinda ridiculous…if we’re outside and NO ONE is around then why do we need them? Since I was outside and by myself and the cast members passing were well over 6 feet away I’m appreciative of them for not being overly hardcore about mask compliance in a moment like that!

It was 11:30ish when I checked the wait times…C-RAZY!

It’s a well known legit FACT that Animal Kingdom is THE hottest park. Apparently it was constructed that way on purpose for the animals to have the warmest temps possible.

I felt way more miserable in my icky sweaty vibes on my Animal Kingdom day than I did on the day prior at Magic Kingdom. It probably also had to do with me arriving at the park later in the day, my body didn’t slowly adjust to the temps rising!

As I walked along I heard some music and saw my first boat entertainment! It was so cute and such a fun moment!

I walked right onto Kilimanjaro Safari. Back on our last family visit to Animal Kingdom in January (it feels like a MILLION years ago!) we skipped the safari as it had CRAZY long wait times. I feel like it was 180 minutes? It felt so, so eery to just walk right on with just a 5 minute wait.

The line had markers on the ground all the way through as well as partitions in place. It felt very cramped and that was with me alone! I can’t fathom how crowded it would feel with my whole family in tow, especially when it came time to load in the jeep. I had to turn sideways to comfortably fit!

Usually the safari is a nice chance for a breeze but the partitions between the seats really trapped the heat and didn’t allow for as much airflow. It was also just a really hot day as the elephants were even laying in the water and hosing themselves down with their trunks!

It WAS a worthwhile endeavor however because we got to see NEWBORN FLAMINGOS. Omg yall they were THE cutest things. I tried to get some pics but they are the little fuzzy grey balls you see in the photos πŸ˜‰

As we exited the jeep I stopped to compliment the driver. He was the BEST driver I’ve ever had on the safari. He was truly SO into it and you can tell he was very genuine in his excitement and it brought new life to the ride for me too and hearing him say “oh wow this is so cool look at this” made ME feel like it was so cool and want to see it.

He told me after being out of work for so long, he WAS truly genuine in his joy and excitement to be there and just had new gratitude and appreciation for what he gets to do each day and was so happy to get to be back seeing the animals.

As I chatted the cast member also encouraged me to get photos of the jeeps so yall could have a good idea of what to expect!

Overall my day at Animal Kingdom felt much creepier than my day at Magic Kingdom. I think it being opening day that MK was probably close to the limited capacity…Animal Kingdom couldn’t have been anywhere near it.

So many times I felt like “is this real life?” while walking around. Getting off the safari to a COMPLETELY EMPTY stroller parking area was super sad.

I will say that at both parks I mostly saw adults. And a LOT of those adults were people filming and taking photos and seemed to be in some sort of media or travel agent or some other career field.

It hurts my heart that kids aren’t filling up the parks like the should be. I know that will change with time and I’m sure opening weekend isn’t a true representation of the parks and what the guests will be to come but it felt SAD. Eery and sad.

I mean to have a Cast Member say “HEY there is a GORILLA over here!” To try to entice the guests exiting the safari to come see an animal was sad too. The animals DID seem extra active. I’m sure THEY have missed having all the attention from guests!

I checked the wait times…and yup…still crazy low.

My plan at that point was just to walk around the entire park. Yes it’s huge. Yes my feet would be killing me. Yes I’d be a hot mess of sweat. But I just love a good photo pass and there are so many spots around Animal Kingdom to get a pic so I figured it’d be a fun way to enjoy the park and soak it in a bit before driving home.

I’m going to share all the photo pass pics at the end of the post πŸ˜‰

As I mentioned in my Magic Kingdom post I saw a ton of media type people but had NO CLUE who they were. I just don’t absorb a whole lot of content because I spend every free minute I have creating my own.

I did FINALLY see someone who I did recognize and I totally FAN GIRLED OUT. If yall have been here long then you know I’m ALWAYS recommending Touring Plans. I consider their book, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, to be my DISNEY BIBLE. My first Disney trip as a mom this book is how I planned it all and I still have it with all my sticky notes and highlighted pages. I was SO sad I didn’t have it with me in my bookbag so I could get Len Testa to sign it when I met him!!!

I ran up to him and said “Touring Plans, right?” And then basically launched into this whole thing about how much I love them and how even as a passholder I STILL use their plans and how I’d even JUST purchased their plans for Universal right before coming on the trip. If you’re planning a trip to any of the theme parks (in Florida or Cali!) then Touring Plans is where it’s AT yall!

He was SUPER nice. He was filming a Live when I walked up and I tried to be quiet and not interrupt but he stopped filming to chat and THAT impressed me. The random dude the day prior who told ME to stop talking to HIM because he was LIVE was so rude and I was awesome to meet someone who was so nice and valued in-person conversation and connection over the viewers.

I basically made a fool of myself praising him and thanking him! The experience also made me wish I’d been more ballsy when I did see people who had to be media around the parks. I should have just chatted them up and asked who they were! I’ve become a lot more active on Twitter as it’s been the only place to really find out Disney info here lately and I KNOW I passed by a lot of the Disney Twitter community because I saw their postings on their feeds so it would have been cool to chat some of them up.

I continued on my walk and did meet some more Disney Travel Agents! These ladies from Coasters and Castles Travel were super sweet and shared some great tips for surviving mask-wearing at the parks (they wore a gaiter UNDER their masks and put an ice pack inside the gaiter on the back of their necks…genius to stay cool).

As I was walking I heard this super crazy loud sound and realized it was monkeys! They were hilarious and it was the largest crowd I saw gathered at either parks as people stopped to watch them. I think we were all waiting for the monkeys to start mating haha No action happened but they sure were making a lot of loud courting sounds (see the video in this post!)

I’ve mentioned before that safari Mickey and Minnie are my favs because they are SO cute in their little coordinating outfits (totally goals for me to someday get Zach to match with me the way Minnie and Mickey do!) and their meet and greet is so great because they are TOGETHER which is a rare experience at Disney to get them both in one meeting!

I was SO THRILLED that I got to see Mickey, Minnie and Pluto come along on their adorable little boat. It was my favorite moment of the day and just filled my heart so full to see Mickey waving at me. And yes, I believe in characters.

I mean I KNOW reality. But to me IT IS MICKEY. And he’s precious.

I wanted to walk by DinoLand USA to take some pics of Primeval Whirl as I’m sure it won’t be long before it’s gone completely. As I was walking I passed by a couple who I’d noticed the day prior at Magic Kingdom because the wife had a super cute Disney purse and I remember thinking I wish I could carry a cute little purse around the parks but there is just NO WAY that could happen!

We got to talking and I did ask them who they were and he is Doctor Disney and she is Stacy from Minnie_and_Memories both were SUPER nice and I enjoyed our visit and have enjoyed interacting with them on IG since πŸ™‚

I did buy new masks for my trip, I won’t be doing that every Disney visit but for the first one back I wanted masks to match my outfits, duh! My mask for Animal Kingdom day has a Lion King nod and is also reversible to animal print. It’s by Tiny Tales Creations – she has TONS of great Disney Options!

I made my way around the entire park doing photo pass locations and ended up back where I’d started. By that point in the day they’d swapped photographers so I told the new one that I’d already had a picture with Simba and friends and asked if there was another background she’d want to take some pics with for fun.

She was SO EXCITED and we had such a blast. We chose a random sign post and did some pics (sharing them at the end of the post) and it was even funnier when other people came up and started forming a line in order to have THEIR pictures taken with the sign post too. I totally created a “must have” photo spot πŸ˜‰

I love an Orange Fanta Float and you can get one in Dinoland USA so I drank mine as I walked from DinoLand back to the front of the park. I was super thankful for my handy $1 Starbucks straw!!!

RIP Primeval Whirl

Once I made it back to the front of the park and had completed my circle I then decided I should check out Pandora before leaving.

Confession: I don’t LOVE Flight of Passage. I think I’d ridden it twice? We have spent many early mornings getting up super early to get to AK so the kids could ride it and it just was so insane to see a FIVE MINUTE WAIT for an attraction that typically has 3 hour wait times.

I felt like I HAD to ride it. So I did. It was neat walking through the line and seeing all the details. I’ve always been the “rider swap” parent who rides second so I’ve never seen the regular line before.

Personally I’m NOT an Avatar fan. Zach and I both feel like it’s a knock off of FernGully. Right?!?! It’s also not a kid-friendly movie in my opinion and isn’t something we’re in a hurry to watch together either. You can totally enjoy Pandora without having seen the movie!

I was walked into a holding room with a family of four and was told to stand on a red circle. It is a ride very much like Soarin’ so I regretted not asking if I could have a center seat as being on the end was a weird angle and did make me feel a bit more sick than I would have in the center.

When exiting the ride it was a large group of people leaving all at once and was probably the most people I saw together all day. It was impossible to be socially distanced and IF that sort of thing bothers you then truly you shouldn’t be at a theme park right now. YES, Disney is doing their BEST to have all these guidelines in place…but it won’t be perfect.

Disney’s done a phenomenal job but it’s literally impossible to control every single little tiny element in a theme park environment.

It really annoyed me to see so many people AT the parks solely to post ugly things ABOUT the parks and causing fear for people and basically trying to say why they shouldn’t COME to the parks. If you feel concerned or are at a higher risk – stay home but don’t GO to the theme park and then tell other people they shouldn’t.

I finished up at Pandora and then headed back to the front of the park and did a little shopping in the gift shop for some fun goodies to giveaway at some point! If you’re not already following me on Instagram you may wanna start as that is where the fun Disney stuff will be given away soon πŸ™‚

I was really surprise by just how much I enjoyed my day at Animal Kingdom! I did NOT expect to have as much fun as I did!

I got some heat in my DMs for saying that the Tree of Life just doesn’t give me JOY the same way Cinderella’s Castle does but I stand by that comment. Magic Kingdom is THE most magical park for me. Truly it’s the ONLY one I REALLY HAD to visit when it reopened. It IS Disney to me and it’s always my recommendation for families who only have a short visit to Disney World.

If you’ve never been, Magic Kingdom is the must-do park. Period.

But Animal Kingdom has a ton to offer too and I had so much fun at all the photo pass spots and the whole day just felt very chill and I enjoyed meeting and chatting with so many fellow Disney lovers too!

If you walk around Discovery River from Africa to Asia there are a few really great photo pass spots! One is an AWESOME view of the Tree of Life without anyone behind you and another is at the Wishing Tree near the Flights of Wonder stage.

Nothing like getting a photo pass picture in front of an attraction you never ride πŸ˜‰ Mama doesn’t do roller coasters!

There was also a fun photo pass moment near where the monkeys were loudly playing. The photographer wanted to try to get a picture of me WITH the monkeys and, duh, I was down to try! Then I heard music by the river and asked her if we could press pause on our little photo session as I really wanted to see whatever characters were coming by.

She was super sweet and followed me over and snapped pictures of me looking at the boat and seeing Donald and was SO PROUD of this picture of the back of my head and said she thought it would turn out awesome. Yall see for yourselves how “awesome” it turned out. Bless her heart!

One photo pass experience that did NOT disappoint was my new must-have spot…the sign post. We had so much fun and the cast members thanked ME for bringing THEM joy which made my day! I know they deal with so many people complaining and being annoyed so it was nice to be a bright spot in a probably very frustrating weekend for them.

I had a lot of comments about how awesome it is to be able to get photos at the parks with NO ONE behind you. And yes, it’s awesome to have an empty park picture. But yall. I’m in a DANG MASK. So, in my opinion, that ruins any perk of having less people.

Photo pass photographers will NOT take your pictures if you do not have on your mask but they do their best to make it a fun experience. Lots of “point to your mask” type poses. They did a great job with the kids I did see as well and they still encouraged everyone to SMILE because you truly can see a smile in your eyes!

ALL of the photo pass photographers I encountered throughout my day had FABULOUS attitudes and did their best to be upbeat and fun and seemed truly so happy to be back in the parks. That joy was contagious and it just cemented even more my love for photo pass cast members.

Both Nemo and Lion King shows weren’t in production during my visit so truly the only rides I experienced were the Safari and Flight of Passage. I think Na’vi is cool but didn’t want to wait in line for it (it was actually a 20 minute wait at the time due to cleaning…so weird for it to be a longer wait than Flight of Passage). And I enjoy It’s Tough to be a Bug but not enough to do it solo.

So I just enjoyed my 5ish hours of walking around and seeing the sights and then headed home!

Regarding masks I do want to say: they are miserable. I mentioned this in my Magic Kingdom post but Disney in July is ALWAYS miserable. So the mask just makes it extra miserable. The worst part to me though is wearing them for pictures.

I am not a hardcore person when it comes to masks. I understand the rule and decision but I think it’s excessive to have people have to wear them outdoors while socially distanced. I NEVER saw any guest making a scene regarding the mask rule. I truly felt like guests felt the way I did – if it’s necessary to allow the parks to open and stay open then let’s wear em and make the best of it!

There are opportunities for mask breaks. With so much open space there were times I was able to scoot around a corner and take it off for a few minutes. I saw other guests at times doing the same. I also saw children taking theirs off in strollers which I personally think is also fine.

We had park reservations for later in July for Tess’s birthday so I asked a lot of parents for insight about having their kids at the parks with the mask rule and they said it wasn’t as hard to comply as they’d thought it’d be and that there wasn’t an issue with the kids in the stroller for mask breaks and that little ones didn’t get in any trouble for not complying (my concern was the rule of ages 2+…Spear in a mask!!! YEAH RIGHT).

I left the parks feeling more comfortable and confident about bringing my kids and having a good experience!

I LOVED all the magic pictures at AK! I feel like they are really fun and different rather than the same Tinkerbelle every time πŸ˜‰

On my exit from the parks I saw the new 100% solar-powered McDonald’s and decided to drive through for a sweet tea and some fries to help me stay awake on the drive back.

I laughed at the bikes outside. Who will EVER want to ride those in the sweltering Orlando heat?

Of course they only had dang PAPER STRAWS so my Starbucks purchase came in handy again! Best $1 I’ve ever spent!

It was such a whirlwind weekend and I’m so thankful for Zach in supporting my Corona Life Long Dream of being at Disney World for the reopening. I am SO glad it all worked out the way it did. It was tough on my Disney loving heart to have the parks closed for so long!

No, the park pass system isn’t ideal. No, the lack of park hopping isn’t great. No, wearing masks isn’t my idea of magic. BUT just knowing it’s back OPEN makes me SO happy and eager to go back again soon!

The kids were all excited too, and a tad jealous that they didn’t get to go. The girls were so fun in helping me do the giveaway I held on Instagram with some of the fun items I’d picked up during my trip!

A video should auto play at the start of this post sharing my thoughts on reopening as well as some of the moments from my day!

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Emily Parker

Hey Y’all, I’m Emily! I’m a stay at home mom and consider parenting to be my passion. Disney is my happiest place and I love making memories as a family together. I’m a big believer in transparency and share all of my real-life moments as a mother of four.

My work has been featured on Love What Matters, Today Parenting and Babywise.Life. I’m also honored to be a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network.

You can read more about our family on my About Me page. Also be sure to follow along with me on Instagram, FacebookΒ and Pinterest!

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2 Comments

  1. Shay
    August 28, 2020 / 1:28 pm

    I’m sorry you felt sad on this trip not seeing people, but it makes me feel SO GOOD. As a healthcare provider and former data statistician, I can tell you that while the numbers are dropping, all it takes is a few people together to spread the virus again. I know Disney/Universal is being super careful, but for me, a day or fun is not worth the risk to myself or anyone I could potentially infect. I’m saying that as a true Disney Junkie. I visit the parks an upwards of 15x/year, but the data truly and honestly doesn’t lie. As for keeping mask on in open spaces when no one is around, they recommend you do that because studies have shown that COVID particles can remain in the air for up to 2-3 hours. Of course being outside means less chance of contraction, but that’s why they say it.

    • August 28, 2020 / 2:41 pm

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insight!!! That makes more sense about the particles remaining in the air for 2-3 hours!

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