By Erik Johnson
Another quick a run around the Riviera and Caribbean Beach Resorts started my day. Still muggy from the previous day’s rain, I felt pretty run-down by the end of a quick 5K. Gotta work off those Cobb Salad calories somehow, right?
We were not aiming to get to the Animal Kingdom right at its open today. The park is open eight hours each day, from 9 to 5. We figured we could show up a bit later, experience what we could, and have a nice, late lunch at 3 pm. Sometimes that anchor of one meal in the day really helps direct the rest of your prep.
In the before-times, families would be running all over the parks, eyeing their My Disney Experience apps for the litany of appointments we were expected to fill. FastPasses probably directed more of the day than anything, but you definitely did not want to miss out on any coveted meal reservations. Make sure you’re ready with a good spot for the parade and for sure make sure you get into a dessert party to secure a great spot for the evening spectacular in the sky or water.
Times are different now, of course. There are no FastPasses anywhere to be found. If you want to get onto an attraction the quick way, you will have to use your disability pass or perform a rider swap. Parades and fireworks are temporarily canceled. All you have to schedule is meals. If you want to eat at a sit-down experience, that is. We sure do.
A quick sidebar here. Rider swap is pretty simple and involves speaking with a Cast Member at the entrance of the ride. They will scan your Magic Band and that of your party and tell you when you can come back. If it’s a rider swap situation, some of your party get to stand in line while somebody waits with the littles. When the first ride is over, everybody who waited gets to pop right back in through the quick line.
Dining reservations currently open up 60 days before your arrival date. Make sure to plan out your week with your travel planner. We will work to ensure you get those dates and times that closest adhere to your priorities, taking into account your preferred park reservations for the day. Hold on to that single (or double) reservation time! Your whole day might revolve around that idea.
Animal Kingdom felt more free-form and spontaneous than even our first trip when we had no idea what to expect. We entered the park well after the initial rope drop and it demonstrated again that most guests want to get to the parks as soon as they can. Nobody was walking in except for a newlywed couple we briefly befriended.
Wait times for the big attraction, Pandora’s Flight of Passage, were at 95 minutes. Crazy part is, that’s shorter than most other times, when you can watch the entirety of Avatar while you wait in line. We opted for a quick stroll through the park and a 20-minute wait for Everest, one of our favorite coasters.
Don’t be fooled by the giant lines that extend well away from your attraction! If the wait times on your app and the front of the line agree that the wait is 30 minutes, it will probably take you 30 minutes to get on the ride. As I mentioned yesterday, the lines are very well-spaced. Even a giant line like Flight of Passage can’t contain everyone if they are responsibly-spaced. It’s up to you to follow the snake of people until you discover the line’s starting point, though! There will usually be a Cast Member standing with a sign to help you.
Adding to this spontaneity was a delightful set of experiences along the Discovery River. This is the main body of water that surrounds Discovery Island and the Tree of Life at the park. There has been little reason to look at the water for a long time, as there are rarely boats or any other sort of movement down there. These days however, we are treated to mini boat parades! There is no posted schedule for these experiences, so guests are treated to seemingly random encounters through the day. The Discovery Island Drummers entertain with live music as they sail by. Donald’s Dino Boat Bash features some of your favorite Duckburg characters like Donald, Daisy, and Launchpad McQuack. You can also see Timon and Rafiki or Pocahontas with Meeko on the Discovery River Character Cruise.
At 3pm, our anchor experience of lunch at Yak & Yeti came up. We love the food here and often visit. We got to watch as the rain poured down on the park, emptying it out an hour before the 5 pm closure time. The downside was that we were far too full to enjoy a few more spins on Everest on our way out. The wait time was 15 minutes, which likely meant the only wait was navigating the queue. Oh well!
Together, this made for a great day in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While boats with characters aren’t the same a giant parade, it allowed everyone to get a quick glimpse of characters and have some fun without having to wait along a curb for an hour. The attractions were accessible and of course worth the shorter wait. (Flight of Passage only took an hour after noon!) There are plenty of places to sit down, remove your mask, and have a cool drink or a snack and relax in the shade.
The spontaneity of the day definitely changed up the usual Disney experience. We held on to that one reservation as an anchor, but it allowed us to make a wider variety of decisions. It was easier to choose some shopping and a few snack opportunities. Deciding to invest our time on Flight of Passage was an easy calculation since we knew accurately how long we would wait. This trip is shaping up to be a lot more relaxing than most.
After a quick rest at the resort, we hopped over to Disney Springs for dinner and drinks with our friend Jeremy of Spectro Radio fame. Check out his streaming station for 24/7 Disney Parks music! Disney Springs closes earlier these days, but there is still plenty of time to enjoy a full meal and some cocktail time or shopping. It was a great ending to a great day.
If you need more help navigating these changes, or if this post just introduced more questions than answers, get in touch with our planners! Click below or give us a call and start planning today!
This post is part of a series! If you missed out on Parts One or Two, check out the links below!