Wednesday, April 27, 2022

2022 Disney World Vacation Day 3 - Animal Kingdom

Tuesday, April 5, we were in Animal Kingdom and that also happened to be… MY 40TH BIRTHDAY!!!!  Can I just tell y’all how cool it was to be able to experience my 40th birthday at actual Disney World?!  So much fun, y’all!

Anyway, Animal Kingdom opened to the public at 7:30 AM on Tuesday, and since we were staying on a Disney property, we were allowed to enter the park at 7 AM.  We had originally planned to get there right at 7, but we were all so exhausted from our long day in Hollywood Studios that we ended up sleeping until 5:55 AM and therefore, we didn’t arrive at the park until 7:30… it was worth it to get a few minutes of extra sleep, though.  We all needed it!

To mark the occasion of my big birthday at Disney World, I’d gone all out and purchased a special birthday tee as well as birthday ears, and I also had my birthday pin that they’d given me at the hotel.  I was decked out, y’all.  Haha.  And if you aren’t aware of the whole “birthday pin” thing, Disney will give a pin to you that you can wear on your birthday and all of the cast members will make your day extra special.  I received tons of birthday wishes in the park all day long and it was so fun!

All week leading up to this day, the weather was showing rain, but yet again, we lucked out with none.  It was, however, cloudy the majority of the day, and therefore, not ideal for pictures, but we were actually grateful for the cloud coverage because the high was 91 degrees which would have been miserable in the sun.  Even with the clouds it was still hot, y’all.  So humid, too.  It was definitely the least comfortable weather day of our whole trip.

On the bus drive to Animal Kingdom, B and I were able to get lightning lane reservations for our top two rides – Kilimanjaro Safaris and Avatar Flight of Passage – so we were all set.  That meant that we didn’t have to rush too much entering the park, and we were able to stop and take pictures at the Tree of Life before it got too crowded. 

First, we had a Disney cast member snap a few of us for our PhotoPass experience...

And then we took some ourselves before hurrying to Na’vi River Journey. 

When we arrived at Na’vi River Journey, the wait was 20 minutes, which wasn’t bad at all, and the kids passed the time by eating their breakfast bars.  We were on the ride in no time!

Once we left that ride, we snapped a few pictures in Pandora because it’s just so cool... 

Then we stopped at a PhotoPass spot, too...

And then we decided to head to Dinosaur next because the wait was only five minutes.  Sure enough, we only waited a couple of minutes before getting on that ride and we all enjoyed it.  Olivia and I had opted out of that one when we went back in 2018 because we were worried it would be too scary for her since she was only four, so we were pumped to ride something new.  With our PhotoPass, we were able to get the picture that was snapped of us while we were on the ride, and I cannot stop cracking up over Olivia’s face.  Despite that look on her face, she loved the ride.  I promise she did!  Lol.

By the time we were done with Dinosaur, it was time for our LL for Kilimanjaro Safaris, so we headed that way.  On the way there, we found the best spot on the backside of the Tree of Life where you can get pictures with the tree with absolutely nobody else around.  The place was totally deserted!

By the time we arrived at Kilimanjaro Safaris, the line was insane, so we were grateful for our LL.  However, when we arrived, we heard the announcement that some of the animals were blocking the path of the vehicles, so they were waiting for them to move before anyone else could proceed.  I got worried it might be a while, but thankfully, we only had to wait about 15 minutes and we were trekking through the African Safari. 

We got to see giant gators, giraffes (my favorite!), elephants, flamingos, lions, and a baby rhino among lots of other animals.  We all LOVED it… it’s one of our favorite rides.  Back in 2018 when we were there, the kids got to see a rhinoceros peeing in the wild and they have talked about it nonstop since then.  They were both verrrry disappointed that they didn’t get to see it happen again on this trip.  Hahahaha.

Once the safari was over, it was already time for our LL for Avatar Flight of Passage, so we headed that way next.  Avatar always has a wait of at least 120 minutes, so we were incredibly grateful that we were able to get the LL for it.  Even with the LL, we still had to wait about 15-20 minutes, but it wasn’t a bad wait. 

I was suuuuper nervous for that ride because it’s suuuuper intense and so realistic.  Olivia and I had skipped it on the 2018 trip because we were worried she wouldn’t do well, and we were so glad we did, because the ride completely traumatized Jacob and he is 2.5 years older than she is.  Haha.

I was soooo close to wanting to bail again, but B calmed my nerves by telling me that it’s easy to “escape” the ride by closing your eyes or looking away from the screen.  I told Olivia the same thing before we entered the chamber, and I was so glad I did because she ended up looking at me for almost the entire ride.  Haha.


That ride is, perhaps, the coolest ride of all rides in the history of forever.  I’m not an Avatar fan at all, but I could not get enough of that ride.  It was incredible.  You truly, feel like you’re flying through Pandora (the Avatar World) and it is just amazing and immersive and beautiful and all the things.  It is INTENSE and it scared the crap out of me and made my stomach flop on several occasions, so I spent a good chunk of the ride looking at Olivia or watching out of the corner of my eye, but y’all, if you ever go to Disney World it is a MUST DO.  I would have loved to see my expressions while riding it because I bet it was hilarious.  I had all the emotions on that ride – I laughed.  I was delighted.  I was terrified.  And I even teared up a little because of the sheer experience of it.  And because we were finally at Disney World.  Lol.

Poor Olivia kept her eyes on me almost the entire time and I could see her wincing through parts of it, but she did great, and she ended up being just fine after it was all over.  Brian loved it, of course, and Jacob loved it this time, too. 

By the time we were done with that ride, the kiddos were hungry, so we stopped at a spot in Pandora and pulled snacks out of Brian’s backpack.  B had secretly purchased some Baby Yoda rice krispy treats in Hollywood Studios the day before, so the kids split one of those while we rested a bit.

Everyone was refreshed after our little break, so we headed to TriceraTop Spin next as it had the shortest wait in the park at the time.  I honestly don’t even remember how long we waited, but I don’t think it was more than 20 minutes or so. 

Once that was over, the kids wanted to play some of the carnival games in that area, so we did that next.  When we were there in 2018, we were able to play a lot of the games and they didn’t cost very much, but this time the price was outrageous, so we limited the kids to just a couple of games apiece.  They were both determined to win stuffed animals like they did the last time, but neither of them had any luck this time and they both left empty-handed and a little dejected. 

We decided at that point that it was time to get some lunch because we could tell the kids’ moods were going downhill, so after a quick stop to take PhotoPass pictures by the big dinosaur, we headed to Satu’li Canteen to pick up the food we’d ordered in the app.

We had eaten at Satu’li Canteen back in 2018, and my meal was so delicious that I’ve thought of it on several occasions since then, so I was excited to finally be back!  This time, I opted for the Chopped Wood-Grilled Chicken Bowl, and it did not disappoint.  They put those little Boba Balls all over everything at Disney World, and my gosh, are those things good!  They add little bursting pops of flavor to each bite and I just love them so much.

After lunch, we walked over to the Tree of Life for the show It’s Tough to Be a Bug.  We had never been, and Brian said that he’d seen several people mention that it’s actually pretty good and very underrated.  It never has a long wait, and they said that it’s definitely worth checking out, so since the lines for everything else were really long by then, we made our way there. 

The show is inside the Tree of Life, so you get a really cool look at the underside of the tree while you wait.  Sure enough, we only waited about 5-10 minutes, and we were in!  The show is short – about 10 minutes – but it was SO cute and totally worth seeing at least once!  It’s a 4D experience, so all of your senses are stimulated (except for taste), and it was really unique.  I wouldn’t say that it’s scary, but it could be a little overwhelming for a little one… even Olivia didn’t like a couple of the parts.  I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, though, so I won’t go into major detail.

After It’s Tough to Be a Bug was over, we decided to go look at some of the animals.  The last time we were there, Jacob wanted to see the Komodo dragons, but we weren’t aware that their exhibit closes earlier than the rest of the park, so we missed them.  We wanted to make sure that we saw them on this trip, so we headed that way first.

Unfortunately, it was nearing the hottest part of the day when we got there, so the Komodo dragon was fast asleep.  Therefore, it was kind of boring, but at least we got to see it. 

That same area also houses bats and tigers, so we continued the walk to the bat house.  Y’all!!  The bats we saw were HUUUUGE.  I had no clue that giant bats were a real thing – I thought that all bats were pretty small – but no… bats can be gigantic!!  The ones we saw had FIVE-FOOT wing spans.  Can you even imagine?!?!  That is the thing of nightmares.  Haha.

Unfortunately, they sleep during the day, so they were all wrapped up and hanging upside down, but even seeing them all wrapped up was impressive.  I could not get over how huge they were.  I would have loved (and been terrified) to see them with their wings open.

After we left the bat house, we continued to the tigers, and we were able to see one sleeping and one pacing.

The walk through was hot, so we sought out refreshments after we were done there.  We made a stop by a snack cart and grabbed Mickey ice creams, and then we found an empty bench and watched the monkeys play. 

We were nearing our LL for Kali River Rapids at that point, so once everyone was done with their snacks, we pulled out our ponchos to get them ready for the ride.  We’d read that you can get wet on Kali River Rapids but that it’s not highly likely or anything, but we all decided to wear ponchos just in case.

Well, I’m so glad we did, because y’all, even with the ponchos on we all got SOAKED.  It was so fun, but man, we all got soaked.  The only dry part of me was my torso.  Haha.

After that ride was over, we headed over to see Expedition Everest.  It had been closed for months for renovations, so we weren’t able to ride it, but the kids wanted to see what it looked like in person. 

When we arrived, we saw that there was a Disney cast member taking PhotoPass pictures with that as the backdrop, so of course, we had to get some pictures.  In that first picture that he took, he asked us all to point to the troublemaker in the family and we all pointed at Olivia.  She pointed at Brian.  Lol. 

B had snagged an LL for Festival of the Lion King earlier in the day, and by the time we were done taking our PhotoPass pictures, it was time to head that way.  At that point, we were all exhausted, our feet hurt, and we were sweaty and tired of being in the heat, so we were all relieved and excited to be going indoors to an air-conditioned building where we could sit for 40 minutes.  Yes please!!

The show was fantastic just like it was in 2018, and yes, yes, I did tear up yet again during the performance.  That music transports me straight back to such a happy time in my childhood, and I just couldn’t help it.

By the time that was over, it was pretty late in the afternoon, but our dinner reservation wasn’t until 6 PM, so we still had some time to kill.  We hadn’t yet visited the hippo and gorilla habitat, so we headed there next. 

Unfortunately, the hippos weren’t very active, but we did get to see one of them briefly and it opened its mouth above the water.  It was quite a sight to see!  We also got to see some baby ducks and zebras.

We moved along to the gorillas next, and y’all, I could watch gorillas all day.  They are so interesting!!  And so much like humans!  We watched some of them through the glass on the underside of the habitat and we got to see one of the babies nursing with its Momma.  The baby would leave and goof off for a second and then come back for more.  It was so neat to watch!

After watching them for a while, we walked up to the main part of the habitat where you can see them outside (instead of through glass), and there was another baby gorilla up there and she was ABSOLUTELY DARLING.  She was so so tiny – only eight months old we were told – and all of the other family members were just sitting around watching her play.  She kept running off and all of the others would follow her around to make sure she wasn’t getting into trouble, and then some of the older “kid” gorillas kept trying to wrestle with her.  Lol.  I could have seriously watched them all day, but after a few minutes we moved along so someone else could see.

By the time we were done there, it was time to wrap up our day and head to dinner.  Jacob wanted to grab an Avatar souvenir that he’d seen, so we headed back to Pandora.  My toe had started hurting (I’ve been having lots of trouble with my right big toe for months), so I found a bench and sat down while Brian took Jacob and Olivia. 

When they got back, we made the walk towards Rain Forest Café where our reservation was, and we stopped at a bench just outside to Facetime with my parents for my birthday.  We chatted with them for about ten minutes, catching them up on our trip, and then it was time to head inside for my birthday dinner!

We only had to wait for about ten minutes and then we were seated.  B and I both got fancy cocktails – I had to cheers to 40!! – and he and I split a bunch of appetizers for dinner… chimi-cha-chas, spinach & artichoke dip, cheese sticks, and chicken strips.  Yes ma’am!! 

Once we were done with dinner, the servers came out and sang happy birthday to me, and then we all had dessert.  I opted for the key lime pie, and it was delish!! 

We were all exhausted by the time dinner was over, so we headed straight to the bus terminal when we finished up.  By 7:45, we were headed back to our hotel.  

The kids had run ahead of B and me and gotten into our room before B and I did (as they did the whole time we were there… they thought it was so cool that their Magic Bands unlocked the room), and when B and I walked in the door, the kids were standing there holding a giant bunch of balloons and yelling, “HAPPY BIRTHDAAAAY!” 

It turns out, B had planned a little birthday surprise for me, and a Disney cast member had delivered balloons and chocolates to our room while we were gone.  The balloons were a 40 for my age, Baby Yoda (my fave!), and also Belle with a couple of other Disney princesses (since Belle is my favorite!).  I was shocked as it was totally unexpected, and it was such a fun way to end our day.

Once I had opened my gifts and we were settled back in the room, the kids showered and got ready for bed, and then we watched a little bit of the Epcot fireworks because we discovered we could see them from our room.  We couldn’t see much – just the tops of the fireworks over the trees – but it was still really neat! 

We finally got the kiddos in bed around 9:30 and then B and I went to bed shortly after that, and I went to bed a happy girl.  Between being at Disney World, and receiving tons of messages all day from family and friends, and being told “Happy birthday” by all of the Disney cast members all day, and receiving my birthday surprise from B and the kids, I sure did feel loved!!  My mother-in-law even sent this adorable message from Maui since we couldn't be with her!

I couldn’t have asked for anything more on my 40th birthday! 

Here’s a summary of our day...



Hours spent in park – 12.25 (7:30 AM – 7:45 PM)

Rides/Attractions – 8

Characters met – 0

Disney Photo Pass pictures and videos taken – 33

17,601 – Steps taken

7.8 – Miles walked



Arrive 7:30 AM

PhotoPass pictures in front of the Tree of life (everyone)

Na’vi River Journey (everyone)

PhotoPass pictures in Pandora

Dinosaur (everyone)

LL – Kilimanjaro Safaris (everyone)

LL – Avatar Flight of Passage (everyone)

Snacks (everyone)

TriceraTop Spin (everyone)

Carnival Games (everyone)

PhotoPass pictures in front of the dinosaur (everyone)

Quick Service Lunch – Satu’li Canteen (everyone)

It’s Tough to Be a Bug (everyone)

Komodo dragons, bats, and tigers habitats (everyone)

Snacks (Brian, Jacob, Olivia)

LL – Kali River Rapids (everyone)

PhotoPass pictures in front of Expedition Everest (everyone)

LL – Festival of the Lion King (everyone)

Hippos and gorillas habitats (everyone)

Shopping (Brian, Jacob, Olivia)

Facetime Momma and Daddy (everyone)

Reservation – Rainforest Café for dinner (everyone)

Left park at 7:45 PM (everyone)


And here are the other recaps in case you missed them!

Disney Springs

Hollywood Studios

Happy Wednesday, y’all!


  1. What a way to spend your 40th birthday which by the way I cant believe you turned 40! Glad it was so special!

  2. You had such a special birthday - I'm so jealous! I was there for my 34th and it was pretty good. And we were there when Zachary turned 5! He still says he shares a birthday with Donald Duck, even though they are actually a few days apart. (he wore his pin all week, not just that day!) I agree with you about the Avatar ride, it was so cool. I also love the safari and seeing all the animals! Animal Kingdom is sometimes unappreciated!

  3. Whoohoo what a great birthday. Really just perfect for sweet you.

  4. That sounds like a wonderful way to ring in 40! All your posts have me planning a Disney vacation for later this summer... I'm kind of dreading the planning/ work that goes into it but reading you wonderful posts help remind me that it will all be worth it!!

    1. The planning is definitely tedious. If you'd like the info for our Disney travel agent just let me know... her services are free to use and she does everything for us! Easy peasy!

  5. Oh my goodness - I have so much to say! First off, let me start by saying how happy and pretty you look in all of these pictures! You're seriously glowing! Next, the kids being disappointed about an animal not peeing this time around cracked me up. Oh and that Avatar ride - I agree, it's spectacular. I think we talked about it for four years straight after our trip in 2018! Soooo good! Lastly, the fact that Brian went so much out of his way to ensure you'd have a surprise in your room is absolutely so amazing! What an fantastic and memorable day you all had. I can't wait for your next recap!!!

    1. Aw, Marie, you are too too kind. I was truly happy and so very grateful to finally be there after two years of cancellations and waiting. The waiting just made it even more special! And yes, B is a keeper! He went above and beyond this year because I'm sure that was not easy to have everything planned just right for the surprise!

  6. It looks like the perfect birthday! Great pictures!

  7. The perfect way to celebrate a birthday! Yay for no rain and lucking out with the LL passes.

  8. What a great way to celebrate your 40th birthday. Looks like a ton of fun. I sooo want to go to Animal Kingdom.

  9. What an amazing trip and way to spend your 40th! Happy belated birthday!!! We JUST booked our first trip ever (well, first for my husband and three kids and first time for me since I was 9!) to Disney World for August and I am SO excited but also overwhelmed! When you reference LL, is that Genie+ bookings or the separate LL? I have so much research to do but really enjoyed these recaps!


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