We left the room a little after 8am and arrived at Disney's Animal Kingdom about 8:45am. Strolled through the Oasis and onto Discovery Island. The app said 25 min for Kilimanjaro Safari so headed that direction. We had to walk almost the full extended queue but still only about 30 minutes. After our Safari stopped by Gorilla Falls and then returned to the front of the park to see the Merry Menagerie and meet up with some friends. Made our way out to Asia to find a spot for the 11:15 am Kite Tails. After the show grabbed a bit to eat at the Yak & Yeti counter service. Then returned to for the 12:15pm Kite Tails. Met some friends and hung out there for 1:15pm show. Walked through Dinoland USA and then took the trail around the Tree of Life and returned to Africa for the Celebration of the Festival of the Lion King at 2:30pm We were one of the last groups, just barely made it. After the show walked through Pandora on our way back to the front of the park. Decided to take a bus back to the hotel and regroup for the evening. Walked along the Boardwalk and over to the International Gateway. Took the Skyliner over to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Strolled up Hollywood Blvd then onto Sunset. Grabbed a bite to eat at the Sunset Market area and then watched a cavalcade on Hollywood Blvd. Circled back to Sunset Blvd and watched the Beacon of Magic and Sunset Seasons Greetings. Spent some time looking at the Fab 50 statues then Echo Lake Christmas decorations. Decided we were done at the Studios so caught a bus to EPCOT and watched the Beacon of Magic lights for a while. Stopped by the Land for Living with the Land Merry and Bright. Then strolled around World Showcase Lagoon starting in Mexico. Picked up a snack in Germany and watched the Candlelight before finding a spot for Harmonious to wrap up the night.
Thoughts & Observations:
- This morning our plan was to visit the Animal Kingdom. The park opened at 8am and early morning started at 7:30. For the morning Pandora, Everest and Dinoland attractions are open. We did not have a need to visit any of those so we got up and took our time leaving the room. We were down at the bus stop just after 8am and in the park around 8:45am. The queues for the buses looked long with a backup up the walkway toward the hotel but a bus for Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom one showed up and most people made it onto them. Once at the park we encountered no waits at Security or the tap points to enter the park.
- The app said 25 minute wait for Kilimanjaro Safari so we hiked out to Africa to start our visit. The wait turned out to be slightly longer, about 30 minutes. We had to walk most of the extended queue but luckily we moved at an ok pace. There did not seem to be that many Lightning Lane returns.
- The Merry Menagerie is a highlight of the Animal Kingdom Christmas offerings. We had great timing and there were a large number of puppets and two musicians out. It was great to see the engagement of the cast and guests.
- Disney Kite Tails takes place several time a day at the Discovery River Theater. There are two shows, one featuring The Jungle Book and one the Lion King. I really enjoyed these shows. The kites are unique and were great to see fly around and fun to watch land. The show fits into the Animal Kingdom ok but really has nothing to do with the 50th anniversary except being new for it. Note the Dinoland side of the theater has performers that interact and perform before and during the show, the Asia side does not have these elements. The section closest to the center waterway on the Dinoland side was reserved for Annual Passholders during our visit. We sat there for a couple shows and the view was good and the section was not as crowded as the others.
- We opted to eat lunch at the Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes. The original plan was the restaurant but we just did not feel comfortable eating in a crowded restaurant this early in the trip so changed plans and stayed outside. The meal was good but the food was not hot.. it was warm. The dining area was not crowded so we had no problem finding a table that was off by itself a bit.
- The Discovery River hosts a handful of different Flotillas throughout the day. While we were sitting and visiting between Kitetail shows we saw several of them cruise by. I thought these were great in January as a way to get characters out there for guests to see. Now they seem to be a little over used and wish they would look for other ways to get characters back into the park. Also I wish the boats would vary there speed a bit. They seem to cruise by at a good clip most of the time.
- A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King takes place a number of times daily in he Harambe Theatre. This show is a truncated version of the original with the big changes being the Tumble Monkeys, Aerialist portion and crowd interactive portions of the show have been cut. We showed up late and were one of the last groups to be seated. It was a full house with all sections full of guests, just like normal. There was no distancing. We were surprised at how warm it was inside the theater and how the A/C did not seem to be on or on high enough for the crowd. It was great to see the show back and enjoy the music and performers again. I would have hoped by this point they would have reintroduced some of the eliminated elements. Hopefully the full show can return sooner rather than later.
- We took a bus back to the Boardwalk in the mid afternoon. It was sharing the route with the Yacht and Beach Club resorts so it took a while to make it around to our drop off. It was nice not having to share with the Swan and Dolphin too.. when all 5 resorts would share a bus it was a really long drive sometimes. Note the Swan and Dolphin no longer use WDW transportation. They have contracted with some other company.
- We arrived in the studios as the sun was setting. As with the other parks the park felt crowded. We decided to grab dinner first. We ended up on Sunset Blvd. since there were a number of choices there. We enjoy the pizza but Rizzo's was closed already for the day. Catalina Eddie's serves the same pizza so that is what I had. I was disappointed that on mobile order you could not substitute or remove the salad. I went to a register and the cast member there had no clue how to ring it up that way either so in the end we were stuck with salads. This was rather annoying and I should have asked for a lead but I was hungry.
- The Mickey and Friends Motorcade was about to begin so I found a spot to watch it come up Hollywood Blvd. Interesting to note the cars circled the center of the park then returned back to Hollywood Blvd.. They did not continue up the parade route. Is this new? Or just something that is done after dark? Or some other reason?
- Found a spot on Sunset Blvd. to see the Hollywood Tower Hotel: Beacon of Magic. This was a standard projection moment, not unlike the Cinderella Castle one. It led off the evening shows and alternated with the Sunset Seasons Greetings projections. I was not impressed by the projections. They seemed run of the mill and not spectacular for the 50th. Several guests around us had similar thoughts as we overhead them say to each other is that it?
- Sunset Seasons Greets is nice to see back again but this year the snowfall was much more limited and there were no laser effects. The show was just projections. This was ok but not nearly as impressive as the version I saw in 2019.
- The Hollywood Blvd. and Echo Lake Christmas decorations looked great as always. I really like seeing the tree in the park in recent years.
- There are a handful of Fab 50 statues in the center of the park. The placement of the Soul statue was nice for photos. The others were just in planters and there. Wonder why they were not spread out throughout the park. For example the Star Wars ones near Star Tours (I can see they do not belong in Galaxy's Edge). Or the Toy Story one out near Toy Story Land.
- The waits for attractions we would want to visit were around an hour or more so at this point we decided to call it an evening and head to EPCOT since some in the group had not seen the Beacon of Magic there yet. I thought about sticking around for the projection shows but they were a couple hours out and there was no entertainment scheduled so I left too.
- We opted to take a bus to the front of EPCOT vs the Skyliner to save the steps. We had great bus luck and one showed up in a couple minutes and we were on our way quickly.
- The group agreed that the Spaceship Earth: Beacon of Magic is by far the most impressive offering of the 50th anniversary. They also enjoyed the holiday sequence.
- Living with the Land features the Merry and Bright Nights again this year. There was only a 5 minute wait when we arrived too so a win win! The lights looked great and this year the narration has been updated to talk about the lights and holiday traditions. The only improvement would be if they added some music to the audio. It was rather sparse in spots and several dead zones with no sound at all. Some holiday music would fill that in nicely.
- We took a stroll around World Showcase as we waited for Harmonious. The park was busy but did not feel as crowded as the previous evenings. The group was fading and wanted to watch from the bridge to minimize the time back to the Boardwalk.
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