Published: February 9th 2009January 15th 2009
Animal Kingdom Tree of Life
Note the detail of the trunk
Well...we are actually in Puerto Vallarta right now and turning our travel pages back to catch up for those who have been waiting (at least they tell us they've been waiting). We'll finish Florida first and then back track to finish Route 66. Here's Florida Adventure Days 11-12.
Day 11 - Wednesday, January 14th - Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios Animal Kingdom
was really not on our top list of things to do in Orlando. However, my brother Charlie, our family's Disney expert, urged us to go. And then Rita's nephew Brian told us we simply HAD to go. Well, after that, we had to make time for it and wow, are we glad we did. As we proceeded into this Disney park, it was not hard to miss the Tree of Life. Pictures cannot do it justice as there is so many animals to search for amidst the wide trunk, it is a spectacle to be seen. Pangani Forest Exploration Trail
This was an educational and entertaining attraction enjoyed at one's own pace along a walkway that easily accommdated Jerry's scooter. There were exhibits, including a hippo's skull, and various animal enclosures. We were
fortunate enough to see almost all of the animals because many have areas of their habitat that are not necessarily visible from the pathway. The prairie dogs were cute, the deer very elegant, but the gorillas captivated us the longest. It was great! Kilimanjaro Safaris
This was everything and more of what Rita's brother and nephew explained. Animals are presented in natural and very spacious habitats. Vehicles are driven by knowledgeable and humorous safari guides. There are no glass displays or even visible fence enclosures. These animals roam quite freely on both sides of the somewhat paved roadway. We recall quite a stir years ago when this attraction opened due to concern for the animal's welfare. We really could not understand what people complaining were thinking because these animals have more space and natural habitat than any zoo we have seen, including the Milwaukee County Zoo for which we have great pride and respect. They all looked well cared for and free to roam or not. It was absolutely awesome. Words and pictures do not do justice - you just have to experience it! Hollywood Studios
This park is just simply fun. We walked (Jerry scootered of
course) through most of this park including the Streets of America, Pixar Place where we met two from the movie “Cars,” Mickey Avenue” and Sunset Boulevard. We did our favorite attraction, “The Great Movie Ride” and the “Star Tours” flight simulator. We had hoped to see the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show” and/or the “Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular” but alas, both were 30 minute live shows that did not coincide with our time at Hollywood Studios. We also caught some of the Hollywood Studios parade. We felt somewhat inappropriately dressed as we walked the Streets of America, only because as you went from one studio drop to another, it seemed like a costume change was in order. If you go, make time for the live shows running throughout the day but for certain, do not miss “The Great Movie Ride” which runs continuously.
Day 11 rounded out our Disney World time. Certainly not the warmest of weather but considering what our hometown was experiencing with temperatures below zero, we took Orlando weather in stride. Walt Disney World is great and well worth the time and money whether you have children with you or not. So much we
didn’t see or even touch on…you could easily spend a month at Disney World alone and likely still miss something. There’s always the next visit
Day 12 - Wednesday, January 15th - Sea World
Upon discovering that Jerry had never been to the Kennedy Space Center, it was a last-minute add to our adventure. So, instead of taking a slow ride back home (and also seeing as temperatures in northern Florida were not cooperating), we decided to head to the Florida east coast for a day or two so he could experience the Kennedy space center. Before leaving however, to be so close to a Sea World and not stop in for a visit would be sinful. So, in spite of this being our pack-up day from the Hilton Vacation Club condo, we made a wonderful stop at Sea World before heading on to Cocoa Beach.
Both of us have been to a Sea World before. Yet, somehow each visit seems anew with birds and animals constantly entertaining. We were unable to see the Shamu show because of show timings, our arrival and desire to leave before 5pm. However, we were able to sneak a
peak in the stadium and see him in his holding tank. Though not as glorious as the actual show, it was neat to see him happy and just doing little pranks to try and get the attention of the handlers. We saw the pirate seal show which was hysterical. There were a few mishaps in the performance - an otter that wasn’t quite going along with the script and a human from the audience who really kind of missed the mark for his unscheduled part. The actors/trainers went right along and their quips were outstanding. A little boy who was chosen from the crowd was absolutely outstanding. He’s definitely destined for Hollywood if you ask us - what a natural character!! If you ever go to this seal show at Sea World, be sure to get there early. There was a mime person who was playing antics with people as they walked in and that was as humorous as the show itself.
The outside seal display held many seals, young and old, many of whom were squawking up a storm for people to throw fish. You had to buy them and of course, Rita fell prey to their calls.
Animal Kingdom Pangani Forest Exploration Trail 4
The ducks with the fish swimming underneath were fascinating
As she went to the fence to feed them the meager fish, one of the security folks said watch out for the birds. Totally enthralled with being able to feed the seals, Rita had no clue what the security person was trying to tell her. As she picked the first fish up in her fingertips and began to throw it out to her pick of seals, the security person’s warning became crystal clear. Out of seemingly nowhere, a bird came and snatched the fish before it got to the anxiously waiting and salivating seal’s mouth. Ahh, no wonder there were so many birds sitting alongside the enclosure. Rita was much more creative with the remaining fish and the seals were very grateful….they told her so
The dolphin nursery was another attraction that held our attention for quite some time. We couldn’t necessarily tell the moms from the babies or even which ones were pregnant but they were quite attentive to us, playing tricks as they circled their nursery pool. What a treat!
One more attraction that held our attention was the penguin exhibit. It is a walk-through theater with the history of penguins as well as a
couple of different displays. They were quite active while we were there so it was very entertaining to watch them go in and out of the water, waddle around out of the water and play or sleep to their little heart’s content. We had not recalled seeing Alcids, Puffins, and Murres before (flying birds that represent the arctic equivalent of penguins) but they too, were entertaining and the information interesting.
The last attraction we visited was the Clydesdale horses at the Budweiser exhibit. We still can’t quite figure out how these magnificent horses fit into the Sea World umbrella but no matter, it was awesome. Jerry was especially captured by them in spite of the fact they are so heavily associated with Budweiser beer. Though he walked and talked with the Clydesdales, he did not cave in enough to actually drink a Budweiser. He’d save himself for Miller time later on.
The time went quickly but given the chilly air, it was not too difficult to decide to move on. We took the beautiful ride to Cocoa Beach and after a mix-up with our hotel, we went to the alternate with what we ended up believing was better
Animal Kingdom Pangani Forest Exploration Trail 6
This is a hippo's skull. It was much larger in person
for us in the end. It was ocean front with a balcony - what more could one ask for in Cocoa Beach. There’d be time tomorrow to explore. With Kennedy Space Center on our docket for tomorrow, a quick microwave dinner was all for which we had energy.
There are more photos below