Disney World’s Animal Kingdom: Hear Me Roar!

I was prepared to love Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland and seeing all four parks dressed up in their Christmas best. What I was not prepared for was falling in love with Disney World’s 500-acre Animal Kingdom, the largest of Walt Disney World’s four theme parks. I only enjoy the zoo on occasion and I figured this would be one, oversized sanctuary.

I’m so glad I was wrong. Not only does the park lead the way in animal care, education and research (with 1,700 animals), but it has the perfect blend of education and family fun in some of my most coveted bucket-list destinations. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is divided into seven areas and we started with the most important one: where the food was.

In our defense, it was 11 a.m. when we arrived at the park and had not yet eaten.

We opted for Flame Tree Barbecue, a surprisingly affordable quick-service restaurant with house-smoked barbecue chicken and rib meals. While I waited for our order, Jamie and Co. found seating in one of the tropical outdoor pavilions overlooking Mount Everest.Just your average day at Disney World.

Poor Bode had thrown up at 2 a.m. so we were walking on eggshells to ensure he’d be OK. We rented him a stroller (best $30 we spent on the trip) and let him take the lead and our little guide told us Dinoland, U.S.A.® was the place.

What a fantastic way to start and he was in his element!


From there, it was onto Asia and something within me was triggered. For as long as I can remember, I’ve yearned for this region of the world–particularly Nepal and Tibet–and have been obsessed with REI Adventures’ Everest Lodge to Lodge Trek (anyone have $5,000 to spare who wants to go?) I could have sworn I’d been transported to the streets of Kathmandu (though they named it Anandapur, which means “place of delight” in Sanskrit).

The township breathed its traditions, architecture, culture and people—from crumbling ruins to mysterious temples to rickshaws to lush vegetation to castoff backpacking gear to prayer flags to the Tiger Tree decorated with scarves and bells as a tribute to the spirits for wishes that have been granted.
I was in my paradise when I boarded Expedition Everest and didn’t come down from my high—it was by far my favorite attraction EVER as it raced around the “Roof of the World” with an ephemeral Yeti sighting (didn’t see it), a broken track and roller-coaster that careened backward into darkness (couldn’t miss ‘em—AHHHHHH!)
“I cried because I was so happy!” I exclaimed at the end.
“I cried because I thought I was going to throw up!” Hadley countered.

Following Jamie’s birthday dinner at Yak and Yeti (delicious Pan-Asian dishes such as maple tamarind chicken and mango pie), we were able to bribe Hadley to go again, with the reward of her very own Lion King Nala souvenir.

Money speaks louder than fear in our family.


Bucket List Item No. 2: Go on a safari and that is just what we did on the Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition. Riding in open-aired safari vehicles, we were thrust into the 100-acre savanna as we spotted giraffes, lions, hippopotamus, crocodiles, zebras and so many more.

We traversed rickety bridges, rocky hills and even forged through rivers in the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. At one turn, our vehicle came to a standstill because of (what else) exotic animal crossings.

I was amazed how, just the day before, we had been waging the war in the concrete jungle and now were transported into an entirely different, unexpected and magnificent oasis.

And an Animal Kingdom I hope to visit again and again.


My Disney World coverage:

Disney World’s New Fantasyland: A Dream Come True!

New Fantasyland’s Fire-breathing Dragon, our Orlando TV Debut and Jamie’s Famous Body Part

Disney World’s Epcot: The Amazing Race Gone Bad..and Then Good

Epcot’s Newly Revamped Test Track Quenches the Need for Speed

Disney World’s Animal Kingdom: Hear Me Roar!

The day We Lost Our Daughter at the Airport


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