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Become Senior Wilderness Explorers in One Day! ~ By Guest Author Kelly

Published November 9, 2013 by Kelly of Simply Kelly Designs

Are you excited to learn some great tips on how to become Senior Wilderness Explorer in one day? This fun, interactive game has taken the Animal Kingdom Theme Park by storm and I have only heard great things about it. This fantastic post comes to us from guest author Kelly! Kelly loves to share her passion for digital scrapbooking and preserving memories. Her blog features tutorials, tips and designs to help make scrapbooking your memories easier! You can check out her blog HERE. Thank you Kelly for your wonderful contribution!

Become a Senior Wilderness Explorers in One Day! ~By Guest Author Kelly

BadgeStationsLast month we went to Animal Kingdom for the first time since the beginning of the year. We got there soon after the park opened and we stopped at the Wilderness Explorers booth at the end of the bridge leading to the Tree of Life. My 4 and 6 year olds, each received their own Wilderness Explorers handbook from Disney cast member. I was only half listening when I heard the cast member say that there was 31 badges the kids needed to earn to become Senior Wilderness Explorers. 31? I remembered there were only 5 or 6. The new Wilderness Explorers program replaced the Kid’s Discovery Club at Animal Kingdom. Kids take their handbooks to stations throughout the park to earn badges. Earning badges consisted of different activities like a scavenger hunt, reading signs for information, finding animals, etc. A Wilderness Explorers guides give each child a sticker for their handbook when a badge is earned. The sticker for each badge is different. Here is the handbook map of all the badge stations.

WildernessExplorersBadgesMap

The cast member explained to us that they didn’t have to earn all the badges that day and that their handbooks would be good for years. I think what my daughter heard was that it could all be done in a day! From that point on she was on a mission. Can it be done in one day? YES! Will you be exhausted? YES! Will your kids learn a ton of great information about animals and the environment? YES! Will you get to see all of Animal Kingdom? YES!

Here are my tips:

  • Get a fast pass. My husband made a beeline to get a fast pass for the Kilimanjaro Safaris as soon as we got to the park while the kids and I took our time getting the handbooks and taking photos.
  • Plan out your day (rides, shows, dining) so that you only have to go through each section of the park one time. We started with Festival of the Lion King at Camp Mini Mickey and worked our way around the park in a clockwise direction. In order, we earned badges in Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia, Dinoland U.S.A. and then Discovery Island.
  • Bring a stroller if you have young kids. My 6 year old barely fits in our double stroller but that doesn’t keep her from sitting in it to be pushed all over the park. At the end of the day my husband and I were exhausted from all the walking but my kids were still full of energy.
  • Take time to enjoy the park. If you can’t get it done in one day, you can always come back. Beyond earning all the Wilderness Explorer badges, we also saw the Festival of the Lion King, went on the Kilimanjaro Safaris and had a delicious lunch at Yak and Yeti Restaurant. The kids spent extra time at Conservation Station and the Boneyard (Dinoland USA).
  • Keep an eye on the map in the handbook. My daughter was our navigator and she is great at reading a map but she missed a few stops so we had to backtrack once.
  • Make this a learning experience! The Wilderness Explorer guides were great at teaching the kids important facts at each station and making sure they understood. My husband and I took the time to discuss the topics with the kids and we learned extra information from reading the signs, etc.

WildernessExplorerBadges

  • Make sure your kids want to do this! Both of my kids were self-driven to earn all the badges in one day. I think both my husband and I would have preferred a more relaxed pace but the kids were having fun so we decided to go with it. If they hadn’t wanted to do it so badly, I think it would have been miserable trying to push them through the park. We have also been to Animal Kingdom many times so the kids have been on all the rides and seen all the shows.

My kids picked up their handbooks at 9:49 am and at 5:55 pm they were taking the pledge to become Senior Wilderness Explorers!

SeniorWildernessExplorers

I could tell that the sense of accomplishment and all the information they learned made this day of the best my kids have ever experienced at Disney and a day that I will never forget! Enjoy your Disney Adventure!

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Rare Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra Born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Published November 4, 2013 by Disneyways.com

There’s a new baby at Animal Kindgdom Lodge. A rare Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra…the proper term for her is a “filly”…and she was born in October 2013. I am hearing through the grapevine that her name is Prima, although this has not been confirmed by Disney. Her photo is below, isn’t she a cutie?!

Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog

Prima the baby zebra

Prima’s mom was pregnant for a whole year, so you know she is probably as overjoyed as the rest of us for this new arrival. The filly and her mother are bonding well and doing fine.

Typically found in mountainous regions of southwestern Africa, the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra is characterized by a striking pattern of narrow vertical stripes covering its head and body. They can weigh up to 800 pounds and grow up to eight and a half feet. This species is considered endangered, with only 50 of Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra in the United States and an estimated 7,000 throughout the world. Disney’s Animal Programs team is actively involved in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan for this critical species. The team is proud to have a successful birth of a rare species.

It might be fun to head over to the mara and celebrate the new baby with a zebra dome – or by doing some of the free activities that Animal Kingdom Lodge offers! I know I can’t wait to head out there to see if I can get a photo of Prima.

Photo property Disney

Photo property Disney

Some fun zebra facts:

There are three species of zebra, two of which live on the savannas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. You can see plains zebras as well as Hartmann’s mountain zebras during your stay. The Hartmann’s Mountain zebras (Prima and her mom) have thinner stripes that don’t extend around the belly.

Just like snowflakes, no two individual zebras look exactly alike.

Most scientists believe that the zebra’s stripes may serve to break up the outline of the zebra’s body in the herd and provide some camouflage when the zebra is standing in tall grass.

Mountain zebras eat mostly grass, bark, leaves and tree and shrub shoots. Though they prefer mountainous regions for their habitat, they are known to move to lower elevations to graze in cold weather and seek shelter in caves or wooded areas.

World Secrets – Zebra Domes! Are They Made of Zebras?

Published July 20, 2013 by Disneyways.com

Maybe you’ve heard of the iconic Dole Whip or maybe even the lesser known

School Bread?

The Disney parks aren’t the only place you can find iconic food items. Inside the fabulous Animal Kingdom Lodge you can find Zebra Domes – a culinary hidden gem – and possibly one of the best kept World Secrets at Disney! Some guests love Zebra Domes, and some don’t. I am one who adores these little striped treasures –  so get ready for a completely biased Zebra Dome blog post!

Despite what the name suggests, they do NOT contain bits of real zebra.

They get their name due to their striped appearance.

Zebra Dome

The main ingredients are actually espresso, heavy cream, and Kahlua. I am not usually a fan of strong coffee flavors and I don’t drink coffee at all. Zebra Domes, however, contain just a hint – and it is not over powering. They require refrigeration because they are so soft and smooth. They are not made of ice cream –  but beware –  they will melt in the heat. I tried to bring some home for my husband and they did not survive the 40 minute drive.

Zebra Dome

See the little thin layer of cake on the bottom? Mmmm….

Zebra Domes are always on the buffet menu over at Boma. No time to make a dining reservation? No problem! Just head on over to The Mara – where they are packaged in little clear boxes as a grab and go item! Bite sized pieces of heaven in a little box of 5 for $3.69 or a snack credit?! Yes please. I would like a herd of them…but once I am done they will surely be extinct. 

Can we head over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge right now? 

photo (56)

So what team are you on? Do you love Zebra Domes or maybe not so much? If you haven’t given them a try yet, now you know the secret!

I hope you will find inspiration to trot over and grab some for yourself…and please let me know what you think!

Lava Lounge now Open in Downtown Disney Orlando

Published July 6, 2013 by Disneyways.com
Photo Credit: DisneyFoodBlog.com

Photo Credit: DisneyFoodBlog.com

I was super excited to get to check out the brand-new Lava Lounge at Rainforest Café. Downtown Disney (soon to be Disney Springs!)  fans like me will love this place. The setting couldn’t be more perfect. It’s right on the waterfront, which is something I loved. The entrance is themed like a cave entering the side of the volcano.

Lava Lounge

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Not your average lounge lizard – the Lava Lounge has an animatronic crocodile in the front! He wakes up every few minutes to growl and show you his teeth. The kids were standing around in awe looking at this thing.

That’s not all! Without even trying the food here yet – I can tell you two of my favorite things about this place so far:

1. There was a wait to dine inside at Rainforest Café, but at the Lava Lounge, seating is first-come, first-served.

2. Not only can you order from the full Rainforest Café menu, but there’s also a special menu featuring items created just for the Lava Lounge!

With cool names for the assorted dishes such as “Volcanic Sliders”, “Tectonic Tacos”, and something called “The Jungle Runner” as a signature drink – how can you go wrong? There are lots of choices on the menu, so chances are there’s something everyone in your party will enjoy.

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Don’t let the “Lounge” title throw you off; it’s a space for all kinds of groups. The animals inside will be great for conversation, and may give you a chance to teach the kids something new.

Lava Lounge Monkey Lava Lounge Bird

For even more fun, The Rainforest Café Volcano erupts multiple times each evening with a sizzling display of flame spires, fireballs, steam bursts and fog that erupts in sync with a light and sound show. It is really impressive, and you can see, hear and even feel it from inside the Lava Lounge.  It’s the sort of thing you’d only expect to see at a Disney theme park…or maybe Las Vegas. Check out this cool video!

So have you tried the Lava Lounge yet? What did you think?

 

Mickey and Minnie New Meet and Greet Spot Inside Animal Kingdom May 15, 2013

Published May 14, 2013 by Disneyways.com

On May 15, 2013 Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse will begin making appearances at a new, indoor venue at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park called Adventurers Outpost.

MICKEY-AND-MINNIE-MOUSE

Adventurers Outpost on Discovery Island will be Mickey and Minnie’s exploration headquarters and the new location where Guests can meet the famous duo before they head onto their next adventure within the park.

Meanwhile, over at Camp Minnie-Mickey, Guests will still be able to meet other Disney friends and catch a performance of the incomparable Festival of the Lion King.

Lion King show

Over the next few months, additional character changes will occur at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park with the arrival of Daisy Duck. Also, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger will soon greet Guests in Camp Minnie-Mickey. Several of Guest favorites including King Louie, Baloo, Pocahontas and Chip ‘n’ Dale will remain in Camp Minnie-Mickey.

Eeyore will no longer greet Guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park after May 9. Eeyore appears at the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom Park.

Just in Time for the 15th Anniversary! Your GO-TO Source for Animal Kingdom Information!

Published April 9, 2013 by Disneyways.com

Have you heard? Monday, April 22nd is Animal Kingdom’s 15th anniversary! I wanted to quickly re-post for you what Disney has sent out so far about the occasion.

But first I need to let you in on a secret. If you are looking for more information on the entire Animal Kingdom Park in general – you really need to join Safari Mike at the MOST comprehensive site I have found so far on the web!

Read all the way to the bottom of this post to get the stuff from Disney and then head to:

JamboEveryone.com

DAK anniversary

The information from Disney about the anniversary begins below.

  • Special opening ceremony – Meet at the Tree of Life at 8:40 a.m., to hear from Josh D’Amaro, Vice President of Disney’s Animal Kingdom; Dr. Jackie Ogden, Vice President of Animals, Science and Environment; and Joe Rohde, Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering Creative. Make sure you arrive early for this!

 

  • Earth Day “Party for the Planet” festivities – Special interactive activities that focus on animals and nature will take place throughout the park from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Artists and other vendors will present their work on in Africa and on Discovery Island, with their work available for purchase.
  • Opportunity to purchase special 15th anniversary merchandise, available in limited quantities.
  • Special food & beverage.

 

We’ll have more details on Party for the Planet fun, food & beverage and merchandise closer to the event date – stay tuned!

To join the conversation about the park’s anniversary online, use the hash tag #DAK15 on Twitter.

Wild and Free nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge

2 AK Restaurants that Give You the Most Bang for your Buck

5 Things you May Not Know About DiVine

Awesome Animal Photos and More

World Secrets – Wild and FREE – Nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Published April 4, 2013 by Disneyways.com

Are you ready for a wild time? Zebra, Kudu, and Uzimas – oh my!  Altogether, more than 200 mammals and birds of nearly three dozen species can be found roaming the savannas of Animal Kingdom Lodge, 24 hours a day.

So we’ve covered the WILD part of this edition of World Secrets. But what about the FREE part? Well, as gorgeous and unique as the Lodge is during the day – it truly comes to life in the evening with some unusual (and FREE!) nocturnal activities that you just can’t find any where else. Activities that create a perfect way to cap off a (not free!) romantic dinner at Boma, Sanaa, or to unwind with the family after a long day at the parks.

The secrets begin with sunset.

sunset

As the sun goes down, you can make your way to the Sunset Savanna Overlook viewing area. It’s secret? THIS savanna is designed specifically for viewing at sunset. Giraffes, zebra, impalas and more will be active at this time of day, increasing your chances of seeing them up close. It’s free to take all the photos you want, and even tripods are welcome.

Next on the list of free night time viewing fun – check out the Arusha and Uzima savannas. Each has its own unique look and feel, and not all savannas have all the animals. For instance, ostrich are unique to the Sunset savanna, zebras to the Arusha savanna, and kudu will only be found spending their wild nights on t the Uzima savanna. Giraffes are the only animal found on all three savannas.

The next World Secret is pretty well-kept! Once you’ve gotten your fill of picture-taking at the Sunset Savanna – nightfall brings the opportunity to view animals with night vision goggles! A cast member will be on hand to teach you how to use the goggles to identify the animals, or you can also pick up a  FREE guide at the front desk. This activity is currently offered at the Uzima Savanna Overlook…the price of this activity? Believe it or not, absolutely FREE.

Giraffe through night vision goggles at AKL

Usually night vision viewing is available  from 9-11 p.m., but be sure to check with a cast member, as times may change through the seasons. At night, all the savannas are illuminated by artificial moonlight as if a full moon were ever present.

How about  some FREE African story-telling while you cozy up to the warmth and crackle of a camp fire? African cast members will regale you with a story each night around the fire pit in the beautiful lobby area, or at the outdoor fire pit under the stars – usually right around 7:30PM each night. Location and times may be subject to change so be sure to double check with a cast member.

Random fact for you – Victoria Falls (or Mosi-oa-Tunya (Tokaleya Tonga:the Smoke that Thunders) is the world’s largest waterfall. You can find it in southern Africa on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambiaand Zimbabwe.

Victoria Falls LOUNGE  is a relaxing, oasis perched above Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Boma restaurant. Here you will enjoy the sounds of a gorgeous indoor trickling waterfall that is 2 stories high. Every now and then you will also hear a duo of African drummers walking down the steps. Relaxing in the beautiful atmosphere in this  quiet lounge will make you feel like you have discovered a wonderful, FREE World Secret. You may just forget you’re at Disney World.

My son found the lounge to be the perfect place to practice his latest card tricks for my nephew!

Maybe your wallet is feeling heavy from saving all that money on these free activities – and you are ready to spend some dough? Here at Victoria Falls Lounge, you can buy yourself a glass of South African wine, or indulge in your favorite martini, beer or mixed drink. (I highly recommend the Victoria Falls Mist!)

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We hope you’ve enjoyed this Wild and FREE version of World Secrets. What do you love most about Animal Kingdom Lodge in the evenings?

 

 

World Secrets – 5 things you may not know about DiVine

Published February 19, 2013 by Disneyways.com

Experiencing a “DiVine” intervention during your visit to Animal Kingdom!

While walking through Animal Kingdom near Bradley Falls – on the pathway between Africa and Asia – you may see a curious site. A small crowd of park guests looking up, pointing and others walking by who will do a double take once they realize what is going on. Have they all lost their minds? Perhaps. It is more likely however that they  are admiring one of the most fantastic characters inside Animal Kingdom. Her name is DiVine, and she has been entertaining at Animal Kingdom since 1998.  She’s a character who is hired by Disney to help convey the park’s theme of teaching us that nature is invaluable.  She’s painted green, walks on stilts, and is wrapped in leaves and ivy to camouflage herself into the rest of the park’s foliage. In fact, if you get near her before the crowd gathers – you may find that DiVine blends so completely with Animal Kingdom’s dense flora that you may never notice her until she moves. These are photographs I took of her from a beautiful February day in 2013.

Look closely, I promise there is a person in every single one of these photos.

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Do you want to know more DiVine secrets?

1.Truth be told there is more than one person who portrays DiVine, and she actually does not work directly for Disney. She is contracted by Disney through a company called Living World Entertainment.  Not only does DiVine appear at Disney’s Animal Kingdom she can also be booked for parties or other special occasions and events outside the theme park. Imagine the laughs you could get watching your friends and family react to this amazing creature appearing in your own back yard!

2. Everyone who portrays DiVine must have a background in dance and fine arts, and is expected to meet certain height and weight requirements. How does she stay so fresh in the hot summer months? Well, she uses a special body spray so the leaves and ivy don’t fall off of her. It is amazing to think of the time and attention to detail DiVine must go through in order to entertain guests.

3. DiVine can typically be found near the pathway between Africa and Asia inside the Animal Kingdom.  But did you know she also has appeared on occasion near the front entrance to the park?  Normally you will want to look for her between 10:00AM and 2:00PM.  She is not always listed on the Times Guide, but on this particular day I really lucked out and she was there.

4. DiVine does not make eye contact. In fact she often keeps her eyes closed and the expression on her face looks much like she is enjoying pure nirvana. You will never hear her speak. Like most plants – she is a great listener I suppose. She obviously cannot sign autographs, but I found her to be very accommodating to my camera and almost it was almost as if she were posing just for the entire crowd. She continues her contortions and movements while entertaining the crowd.

5. DiVine is on stilts so her height can vary between 7 and 16 feet depending on what she is doing with her hands and legs. She was so gorgeous and graceful, I could not resist filming her as well, and you can see the results of that below.

DiVine is fabulous and really something special. Next time you are in Animal Kingdom, I hope you’ll take the time to see her if you can.

Christmas at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Published December 24, 2012 by Disneyways.com

The most widely spoken language in Africa is Swahili. “Jambo!” meant the cast members over at Animal Kingdom were saying hello to me, NOT calling me fat, as I originally thought.

Visiting Animal Kingdom Lodge at Christmas time means you may find the cast members saying “Kuwa na Krismasi njema!” – or – “Merry Christmas!” in Swahili. The decorations at Animal Kingdom Lodge are lovely, understated, and of course African themed, as you will see here.

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To check out Disneyways Animal Safari Sundays series click here.

Check Out This Eland Starting a WILD Fashion Trend!

Published November 11, 2012 by Disneyways.com

This was the most adorable behavior I have ever seen from an animal at the Kilimanjaro Safari Tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This Eland is making herself a grass hat. At least – that’s what it looked like she was doing. Watch her as she puts her antlers in the tall grass and turns just enough to entangle the grass so she can wear it on top of her head! Then she sort- of swings her tail and sticks up her nose as if to say, “I know I look HOT!” Everyone was cracking up. It was the cutest thing!

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November is a great time to do the Safari Tour because the weather is so nice! These photos were taken around 4PM and the animals seemed to be enjoying the beautiful day. I have more Safari pictures coming – I just felt that these were deserving of their own post.

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