Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studio Tips for LSCon Attendees
Except for the Rainforest Cafe at the park entry, I can’t think of any eating experiences beyond very basic park concession stands. This may be my own oversight. I don’t feel like eating often when I am at any zoo attraction.
There are a surprisingly good amount of characters available at Animal Kingdom, including safari versions of the Fab 5, Russel and Dug from Up, Flick from Bug’s Life, and Rafiki from the Lion King. Pocahontas is ONLY available at the Animal Kingdom and only for short timespans (Miko, her Racoon is available after she leaves).
Despite having a few less rides than many of the other parks, Animal Kingdom does offer some of the more intense ones.
- Expedition Everest is a fast roller coaster. No loops, but very intense. A well done ride with a lot of surprises and thrills and an interaction with a Yeti that is really something else. The line tends to be long and the wait is not air conditioned, so FastPass is recommended.
- Kali River Rapids is a huge “log flume” style ride in a round inflated raft. They have plenty of storage to keep your things dry. My experience with the ride is that there are two modes- you are surprising spared and get a gentile misting, or you get waterlogged. Seriously- waterlogged. The last time I came off the ride, I was asked if I had fallen into the river (I was that wet). You’ve been warned. The line is very long, not air conditioned, so FastPass is suggested. This is a “must do” in my opinion.
- DinoLand USA featurs a few carnival-style rides and a Boneyard (Dino-inspired kids play area). Cute and fun, but nothing you don’t see at an average travelling fair that has rides.
One of the rides I didn’t cover is the Safari, because it isn’t about the ride itself, it is about the animals. Even having a world-class zoo in my hometown (Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo), I can easily recognize Disney’s Animal Kingdom in a class of it’s own regarding animal encounters and education (that is no slight to Lowry, which is also superb). During the safari you can get quite close to elephants, zebras, and giraffes, and see some other animals it is very difficult to see (not just because of where we live, but because of their endangered status, like the Rhinos).
Even just roaming the park you will see birds, monkeys, lemurs and other animals and often animal handlers will bring out some critters for a personal encounter. If you are lucky, you might even get a chance to play “name that dung”. Yes, it’s exactly what you think.
Lion King Show
Good singing, classic songs, a little audience participation, animatronics and acrobatics…. plain and simply stated: it’s just plain fun to experience the show.
Spoiler alert: You will notice a great deal of construction going on at the Animal Kingdom. A major expansion is underway to make a new Avatar-themed area that is supposed to be one of the most advanced expansions they have ever done. I know a few cast members have noted how secretive the park has been about any cast member getting any access or information to this project. That mystique has them thinking it is really going to be unique, even by Disney standards.
The large Sorcerer’s Hat is missing currently. I don’t know the story behind it. I am eager for this icon to return to the park.
Food & Shopping
Even the “park food” at spots seems a tad better than the food at most the other parks (except EPCOT). However, there are a few decent eateries, like the Brown Derby, to enjoy some sit-down dining (reservations highly recommended).
Hollywood Studios also has some of the best shops which features more Disney “couture” inspired items.
There aren’t as many characters at this park as the others, but you will see some characters out and about. The Disney Junior area has characters from the Disney Junior Shows (Jake, Sophia the First, DocMcStuffins). Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc are at a visiting area just beyond A Bug’s Life. Mater and Lightning McQueen just beyond the Muppet 3D Theater (Sometimes Phineas and Ferb appear next to that location).
This park has some of the craziest rides of any. For thrillseekers, it’s heaven. If you get motion sickness, this is not a place to experiment with rides.
- Star Tours- 3D Star Wars flight simulator. <yoda> Do this, you must </yoda>. Seriously, the force is strong with this one. Even if you aren’t a Star Wars Fanboy/Fangirl (clearly, I am), the ride has over 20 interplayable adventures to switch up the experience. It can cause motion sickness and dizziness. Lines tend to be moderate, but the wait is indoors and climate controlled with well-designed ambiance. I would still recommend a FastPass to ensure you don’t miss this (but see my next comments).
- Toy Story Midway Mania – I can’t imagine anyone not loving this ride. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a bit like a Tilt-a-Whirl and video arcade shooting gallery mashup. Tons of fun. Lines tend to be VERY long. Despite being inside and air conditioned, the length of the wait demands getting a FastPass if you can.
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror- I think this is the most intense ride at any of the parks. The hotel “elevator” brings you up- way up, and opens up the windows high in the hotel to show you exactly how high you are, and then you drop. And when you think it’s over, it’s not. You cannot predict exactly how you will rise or drop in the sequence, it is randomized. Which makes the ride so much more intense than standard thrill drop rides. For serious thrill seekers only. FastPass recommended. The wait tends to be moderate to long, mostly outdoors.
- Aerosmith Rock-n Rollercoaster- a must do for coaster enthusiasts. It is everything you like about Space Mountain, less everything you dislike about Space Mountain. It is an indoor roller coaster, in the dark with only neon street signs whizzing by as you twist, turn and invert after the initial acceleration. That’s right, you don’t climb a hill to start this roller coaster, it’s a “shot out of a cannon” style start, which is a unique thrill if you’ve never been on a magnetic-drive coaster before. Great coaster (with a few inversions in the dark). The lines tend to be long, and only half is indoors. FastPass highly recommended.
There are lots of shows at Hollywood Studios (and that isn’t even counting the classic Hollywood inspired characters interacting with guests in the park, and the acts like the musical landscapers rocking out in the park).
- Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular: Spectacular is the right word. Pretty much a highlights reel of some of the great stunts from Indiana Jones, but you truly feel the the action (the heat, the sonic booms of explosions).
- Little Mermaid: 15 min broadway-style telling of the Little Mermaid. Includes under the sea puppets (actually the highlight of the show) and 1990s style laser lightshow elements while sprinklers mist audience members sitting in seats. Not strongly recommended by most visitors.
- Disney Junior Live: FOR YOUNG KIDS. Period. Everyone sits on the floor, puppets from popular Disney Junior shows tell stories, sing songs, blow bubbles into the audience, and drop gold coin confetti into the audience. Young kids love it. Young young kids. (under 6).
- Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show: Extreme, but be warned, it is quite a walk and quite a wait. However, to see how the actual car stunts in Hollywood are performed, the skill at which these drivers drive (inches away from each other in cases), and all the technology that goes into classic stunts is quite thrilling to experience live. Oh, and explosions, big ones.
- Muppets 4D: Exactly what you’d expect, Muppets, 3D, and a little extra (wind, water spritzing). Fun show, pretty quick.
- Frozen Sing Along: Karaoke meets Frozen. This has turned an empty space into a stage for kids to come in to watch what is essentially the sing along DVD of Frozen with a quick appearance from Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff. However, 90% of the work is done by the kids and two hosts who crack jokes the whole time almost signalling an awareness of how cheesy the attraction is (which to me, made it surprisingly bearable and funny).
- American Idol Experience: Tweens compete just like American Idol. And some of these kids are astounding. If Idol appeals to you, this can be quite an enjoyable experience, especially when you see a really talented kid shock an audience with their talent.
- Star Wars Jedi Academy: Next to the Star Tours ride, you can see young Padawans training. And Vader crashes the party. Kids use their training to fend off Vader. If you are passing by and happen to catch it, it is fun. Especially the rare case when Vader asks a kid to join the dark side, and they agree.
Last tip for your visit: Work with your hotel concierge. If you are staying at an on-site Disney hotel, they often have inside intel to help you navigate all of the offerings (I learned from one that my Disney Visa gives me a private character visit at EPCOT). Even if you are not at an on property hotel, most the concierge services at the surrounding hotels are very knowledgeable about the services in the area (Disney, Downtown Disney, Universal, CityWalk, etc.)