November 25, 2009: Rainy Animal Kingdom Day

Today is everyone’s one day scheduled to do Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  They were all up and out the door early.  Last night, after our EPCOT dinner at Akershus with the princesses, we were able to get back and get to bed a little earlier than we have been many of the days so getting up this morning was not too bad.

I got up and got right to work.  Today is my big treat, lunch at the new Tusker House restaurant in the Animal Kingdom.  This is the event that I have been looking forward to the most my entire trip.  All of the adults got to pick one restaurant that they really had to eat at and this was my one pick.  So I worked all morning without really taking any break and never even looked outside to note that it was really, really raining today.

Our lunch was scheduled pretty late so that I would have time to get there during the lunch period at work.  The All Star Music resort is really close to the Animal Kingdom so that made that easy as well.  At least in theory.  Buses are supposed to run roughly every twenty minutes.  Today, however, they were not.  There was a family who had been waiting for a bus for almost fifty minutes while I was waiting there and lots of people who had been waiting over half an hour.  The family who was there, in the rain, for close to an hour had had the resort call to find out what had happened to all of the buses some time before and were still stuck waiting.

When a bus finally came to get us it was not a dedicated resort bus but was shared by all three All Star Resorts so it was only able to pick up seven people.  Let me repeat that, after waiting for fifty minutes they only picked up seven people.  There were roughly forty people in line for that bus!  That means that at that rate it could take you three and a half hours of waiting at that bus stop before you get onto a bus!  And the family who had been there the longest and who had called to complain that no buses had shown up did not get to get onto this bus either.  The bus driver claimed that it was because they had “stepped out of line to get out of the rain” but we were pretty sure that it was because they had called to complain since the driver was told that it was them who had done so.  At the next resort we dropped off just five people and picked up just five leaving twenty or more people out in the rain there.  This is why you don’t stay at the All Star Resorts, Disney really does treat you differently no matter what people say.  The resorts themselves might be fine but the transportation definitely does not consistently treat you like first class Disney guests.

I rushed over there around one and ended up getting to Tusker House long before the rest of the family did.  So I waiting there for a while and had a chance to do a little Animal Kingdom shopping.  I found Liesl a cool, limited edition (whatever that means in WDW) Thanksgiving 2009 trader pin with Stitch on it.  Liesl loved Stitch when she met him at O’Hana and this is her first Thanksgiving (other than the day that she was born that she did not get much time during to enjoy) and definitely her first Thanksgiving in Walt Disney World, so the pin was perfect.  I had previously purchased for her a pink Minnie Mouse princess pin and a Disney Holidays 2009 pin from the All Star Resort store so that she would have something but this was just too perfect for her so she had to have it.

The family arrived just in time to make it to our reservation but somehow in the last few feet to get to us Bennie wandered off from the group with the girls and had gotten lost.  No one was watching him and he stopped to see some fish and then didn’t know where we were meeting so ended up going to a different “land” in the Animal Kingdom.  So it took a while before the three of them made it to join us for lunch.

Dominica and I ate at Tusker House a few years ago back when it was counter service and, at the time, I had commented that this was a really great venue and a real disappointment that they were doing bland counter service there rather than offering a real restaurant.  Well, Disney heard my complaint and they turned Tusker House into an African-flavoured buffet inspired by Boma, Dominica and my favourite restaurant.  (I mentioned on SGL back in March how much I wanted to eat here too – which shows how much planning has gone into this trip!)  I looked up when it was that we last ate at Tusker House and found that it was not mentioned previously on SGL.  I was shocked, because I document everything, so I looked through my Flickr feed and found the picture taken there on November 3, 2005.

The new Tusker House was definitely not as good as Boma, but then again what is.  The food was excellent while toned down from the level of exoticism that you get out at the Animal Kingdom Lodge making it more palatable for the average Animal Kingdom park goer.  The food quality was very good and there were some really good, unique dishes there.  Tusker House basically seems to function as a sampler of the styles from Boma, Jiko and Sanaa which are all at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  So this is like a teaser – if you like Tusker House, head on over to the lodge and try the real thing!  Tusker House is most definitely one of the best restaurants inside of the parks and without a doubt the best in the Animal Kingdom (and likely the best outside of EPCOT.)  A new bar has been added as well that is located directly in front of Tusker House which works well if you need to eat there but do not have reservations, have a few drinks and wait for a spot to open so that you can sneak in.

Liesl absolutely loved Tusker House.  She just devoured spicy curried rice and couscous dishes.  She ate all kinds of food and just loved it.  This is her kind of place.  Most of the family was not into the cuisine at all, though, and overall this was not a hit but, I don’t think, as unpopular as the tea that we had on Sunday afternoon.

The family was completely soaked and had been out in the rain all day living completely under their ponchoes making everyone soggy and irritable.  No one really wanted to do anything more given how wet they were.  I was not in rain gear, other than my hat, but was staying reasonably dry.

Since it was raining the safari ride had been mostly a bust that morning as the animals were all hiding.  They skipped the two “zoo” walks which are so excellent there because they were exposed. Everyone felt that Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which is effectively one “land” of the AK, would be too boring so that was skipped.  And no one was up to riding the Expedition Everest rollercoaster.  So most of the attractions were missed.  After lunch we had just enough time to kill to do one thing before we had to get to a scheduled appointment so we were going to venture to do one of the “zoo” walks, the one in Asia, when on our way there we noticed that there was no wait on Kali River Rapids – which due to rain they had been planning to skip.  I said that if there was no wait that I would like to do it.  Dominica agreed that it was fun if there was no wait.  Her dad is normally game for a ride, especially an adventure ride like this, so he was in and the girls definitely wanted to ride something.  So the five of us, those willing to get more wet, went and rode without any wait at all.  The ride was better than I remembered it from many years ago and we barely got wet at all.  Dominica and I remembered how to sit and placed the girls next to us to reduce the weight on our side and the people sitting across from us got the big splash from the waterfall 🙂

After the Kali River Rapids it was time to go get our VIP seating, that we got because of our lunch at Tusker House, at the Finding Nemo show.  We had to be there quite early to get the good seats right up near the front.

The Finding Nemo show was really excellent.  It is like a short, all out Broadway production (except good which rarely happens on Broadway.)  The shows is an amazing blend of puppetry and live acting.  Extremely entertaining.  One of the best things that you can do in the parks.  Well worth the wait.

No one wanted to stay in the parks after Finding Nemo, except for me of course who had just arrived, and so we all went back to the hotel.  I was all set to have stayed in the park for a while and was disappointed that the day was ending just as I had left work so Dominica’s dad and I turned around and went right back out to the Magic Kingdom, which I had mostly missed out on, as soon as everyone else was settled in to the resort for the evening.

It had been quite a while since lunch at Tusker House so I started out hitting the bakery on Main Street USA and picking up an ice cream sandwich.  The girl working at the bakery was from SUNY Geneseo!  What a small world.  After that we went to the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor which is always hilarious although far too short and with too much filler.  It is a great concept and the live people behind the scenes are excellent.

We hit the Tomorrowland Noodle Terrace which I have always wanted to try and I got the massive tofu noodle bowl which was just awesome.  That is one great value in noodles!  Definitely make the effort to stop there for some very good and very different Disney fare.  Now that Tusker House is no longer counter service I can safely say that the Noodle Terrace and the Columbia Harbor House are my two favourite counter service restaurants.

We hit Mickey Philharmagic and rode Peter Pan.  Being as late as it was there were pretty much no lines anywhere.  Peter Pan did have a twenty to thirty minute wait but that is really good for that ride.  Philharmagic we literally walked straight in to.

Then it was off to Liberty Square where we did the Hall of Presidents.  The HoP is updated whenever a new president takes office and the new animatronic of President Obama is really amazing.  It is kind of creepy how real it is.  It was like he was standing up there talking to us.  Well worth the trip.  I can’t believe how many people skip this awesome attraction.

We headed over to Adventureland hoping to do the Tiki Room but the ride had been closed for about an hour.  Adventureland just closes really early.  It is crappy.  It has some great stuff but just doesn’t get the people at night.  They need to beef up its food, shopping and add like one more good ride that is still good after dark so that it becomes and additional late night hotspot in the park.  Right now the other areas get too many people congesting there and it makes it hard to enjoy the other areas late at night.

Since the Tiki Room was closed we decided to just call it a night and head on out of the park.  It was probably a little after midnight when we got back to the resort.  It was a long night but it was one of my few chances to really get to spend time in the parks so if I had not done this I would have missed a lot of stuff later.

I was hoping that by going out late tonight that it would help put me in line with everyone else in terms of exhaustion and walking.  They have been in the parks a lot more than me during the daytime so I figured that wearing myself out at night might help keep us on an even keel.

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