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Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney-MGM Studios One-Day Touring Plan
by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa
This article appeared in the July 20, 2004, Issue #252 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Editor's Note: ALL EARS® readers will probably recognize the names Sehlinger and Testa as two of the principals behind the very popular Unofficial Guide to WDW book. They have graciously granted ALL EARS® the exclusive debut of their new "Animal Kingdom and Disney-MGM Studios One-Day Touring Plan."
Many Unofficial Guide readers, especially those visiting Disney World for only a few days, have asked for a one-day touring plan that covers the highlights of the Animal Kingdom and another park. The Disney-MGM Studios' size and relative popularity, coupled with FASTPASS at all of its headliner attractions, make it the best choice to combine with the Animal Kingdom into a one-day tour.
The touring plan shown below offers a "greatest hits" tour of both the Animal Kingdom and the Disney-MGM Studios in one day. It is the result of more than 18 months of field research and testing. The plan requires that you have a Park Hopper pass and a fair amount of energy. The plan assumes a willingness to experience the "must-see" rides and shows at both parks. This is not an appropriate touring plan for families with children 9 years and younger.
We believe the plan works best, especially for non-Disney resort guests, on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, when Extra Magic Hour is in effect at neither the Animal Kingdom nor the Disney-MGM Studios. While we do not generally recommend visiting the Animal Kingdom when its Extra Magic Hour is in effect, Disney resort guests should experience no adverse impact when using this plan on the Animal Kingdom's Extra Magic Hour days.
Since there are fewer attractions than at the other parks, expect the crowds at the Animal Kingdom to be more concentrated. If a line seems unusually long, ask an Animal Kingdom cast member what the estimated wait is. If the wait exceeds your tolerance, try the same attraction while a show is in progress at the Theater in the Wild in DinoLand U.S.A., or while some special event is going on.
Inside the Touring Plan
Upon arriving at the Animal Kingdom, pick up a park map and a copy of the daily entertainment schedule. The schedule lists the show times for all live performances, such as Festival of the Lion King, and will come in handy when working those shows into the touring plan.
From the park entrance, walk through the Oasis to Discovery Island. The lush vegetation, water effects, and detailed design make the Oasis one of the best transition areas in any Disney theme park. If we ever win the lottery, our back yard will look something like this.
The first stop on the touring plan is the Kilimanjaro Safaris, the premier attraction in the Animal Kingdom. One of the great things about this attraction is that you'll almost always see a different set of animals on each trip. If you've been on this attraction several times, some of the more interesting details to look for are how Disney keeps the more aggressive animals away from guests. Hidden behind a mound of dirt or rock outcropping, for example, might be a large, deep trench between you and the wildlife. A stand of bamboo might actually be reinforced steel bars.
After exiting the Safaris, follow the signs to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Explore the Trail, and then it's time to ride Dinosaur in Dinoland USA Dinosaur is sponsored by McDonald's (generously sponsored, we've been told... and told... and told. If there's ever a line not to get stuck in, it's Dinosaur's!) and we've heard that inside the loading area, the writing on the yellow, red and white pipes contains the scientific formulas for mustard, ketchup and mayo.
When you're done with Dinosaur, it's time to check the daily entertainment schedule for the next performance of Festival of the Lion King. There's usually a performance around 10:45 a.m., so if the current time is 10:15 a.m. or later, head towards Camp Minnie-Mickey and pick up a snack on the way. If you've got more than 30 minutes until the next performance of the Lion King, however, you've got enough time to fit in It's Tough to Be a Bug first, so do that instead.
Either way, your next stop should be the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia. On your way to the Jungle Trek, you'll pass by the Kali River Rapids. Kali River Rapids is not on this touring plan, but it deserves special mention for having one of the best queuing areas in any theme park we've ever seen. We've spent a lot of time in lines at Walt Disney World, and the queue for Kali is practically good enough to be an attraction in its own right. If you're touring during the off-season and you have a few extra minutes, take a quick walk through and see for yourself.
After the Jungle Trek, see It's Tough to Be a Bug if you've not already done so. Then it's time for lunch. One of our favorite counter-service restaurants in any Disney theme park is the Flame Tree Barbecue on Discovery Island (menu: http:// www.allears.net/menu/menu_ftb.htm). The smoked ribs and chicken entrees are both tasty and filling, and the smoked beef sandwich isn't bad either. At the very back of the restaurant's seating area is a covered gazebo with padded seats, ceiling fans, and a great view of the water. It's a great spot to sit and relax while you dine.
After lunch, it's time to leave the Animal Kingdom and head to Disney-MGM Studios. As you enter the Studios, be sure to pick up a park map and daily entertainment schedule.
The first attraction in the Studios part of the touring plan is the Great Movie Ride, straight down Hollywood Boulevard. The preview film here is quite good, and the attraction always makes us wonder why Hollywood doesn't produce any "swimming" movies like the ones that made Esther Williams famous.
After the Great Movie Ride, check the daily entertainment schedule to see when the next performance of the Motor Stunt Show (opens 2005) and Beauty and the Beast will be. See whichever show starts next. You probably know most of the words to every song in Beauty and the Beast, so feel free to sing along. We doubt there'll be many musical numbers in the Motor Stunt Show, as it's very difficult to rhyme anything with "Aaaaaaaaaaaggghh!"
After the first show, it's time to pick up a FASTPASS for the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster just off Sunset Boulevard. Then see the next performance of the show you did not see above.
Next up on the touring plan is the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. While we're generally fans of any attraction (or party) that involves fire and explosions, we've got to say this show is getting a little long in the tooth. Still, it is good entertainment for first-time visitors to the park, and the show's capacity is fairly large, so finding a seat shouldn't be that difficult. After Indiana Jones, take the Backlot Tour.
After the Backlot Tour, see the MuppetVision 3-D film. As with Kali River Rapids, the queuing area for MuppetVision is almost an attraction unto itself. Besides the puns and gags written all over the waiting room, Rizzo the Rat's part in the pre-show film is hysterical. Sam the Eagle also has some memorable lines towards the end of the show.
If you wanted to grab something to eat, Mama Melrose's is an air-conditioned, sit-down restaurant nearby (menu: http:// www.allears.net/menu/men_mmd.htm). We're fond of the appetizers, soups and salads here. One of those, along with the free bread and some cold water (we're not being cheap -- water's good for you) combine quite well into an inexpensive meal.
Next up is Star Tours. Those of you prone to motion sickness should skip this ride. It's probably just an urban legend that Disney put plants around this attraction so guests can exit the ride and throw up in the foliage, rather than on the concrete. Don't let that stop you from riding. After Star Tours, stagger to Voyage of the Little Mermaid and enjoy the cool, dark, motionless theater setting.
After the Little Mermaid, your FASTPASS for the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster should be valid, so head over to that attraction. We like the queuing area here quite a bit, too, especially the vintage concert posters. We note that it was once possible (before we were born, of course) to see Jimi Hendrix live in concert for about four bucks. Kids, notice that none of the posters mention Ticketmaster. Ask your parents why. Finally, the best thing in the pre-show film for the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is Steven Tyler. Be sure to keep one eye on him, even when he's not the focus of the scene.
Our last ride in the Studios is the Tower of Terror, one of the best attractions in any Disney theme park. Not only do we love this ride, but the lighting effects on the exterior of the building at night add immeasurably to the overall ambiance. And the background music is neat, too. The random drop sequence added to the elevators a few years ago is a great improvement to this attraction's repeatability. We find ourselves visiting it more often now, just because we're not sure what experience we'll get. It's not as dynamic as, say, water elements in Splash Mountain, but one wonders why the obvious benefit to this attraction didn't make it into Mission: SPACE. But that's another article.
After Tower of Terror, it should be time to obtain seating for Fantasmic! If you have time to grab a snack beforehand, plenty of options should be available to you on Sunset Boulevard as you walk towards Fantasmic! After Fantasmic! do some last-minute shopping before heading for the exits.
We hope you enjoy this touring plan as much as we enjoyed researching it. Some of Walt Disney World's very best attractions are included here. If you'd like to make suggestions for the next version of this plan, drop us a line at Webmaster@TouringPlans.com.
Step-by-Step: Animal Kingdom/Disney-MGM Studios Combined One-Day Touring Plan
1. Arrive at the Animal Kingdom 40 minutes before the official opening time during summer and holiday periods, and 30 minutes before the official opening time the rest of the year. At the entrance plaza, pick up a park map and daily entertainment schedule/Times Guide. Wait at the entrance turnstiles to be admitted.
2. When admitted, move quickly through The Oasis without stopping and cross the bridge into Discovery Island. Turn left after the bridge and walk clockwise around the Tree of Life until you reach the bridge to Africa. Cross the bridge and continue straight ahead to Harambe and the entrance of Kilimanjaro Safaris. Experience Kilimanjaro Safaris. Unless the wait exceeds 35 minutes, do not use FASTPASS.
3. Walk the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
4. After walking the Pangani Trail, return to the entrance of Harambe and backtrack to Discovery Island. Pass Pizzafari on Discovery Island, and continue around the Tree of Life. Take the third bridge and you'll come into DinoLand USA After passing beneath the brontosaurus skeleton, bear right and follow the signs to Dinosaur. Ride.
5. Return to Discovery Island and check your daily entertainment schedule for the next show time for Festival of the Lion King. If the next show is within the next 30 minutes, turn left and continue to the second bridge and Camp Minnie-Mickey. If the next show time is more than 60 minutes away, see It's Tough to Be a Bug now, then see Festival of the Lion King afterwards.
6. Walk the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia.
7. If you have not already done so, see It's Tough to Be a Bug in Discovery Island. This is the last attraction in the Animal Kingdom part of the touring plan.
8. Return to the entrance of Asia and turn left over the Asia bridge into Discovery Island. If you would like to stop for lunch, Flame Tree Barbecue will be on your left as you enter Discovery Island. A covered gazebo behind the Flame Tree building offers an exceptional view of Asia and the surrounding water.
9. To exit the Animal Kingdom, continue around Discovery Island. Take the second bridge to your left and pass through The Oasis to the park's main entrance. Depart the Animal Kingdom for Disney-MGM Studios.
10. As you enter Disney-MGM Studios, obtain a park map and daily entertainment schedule.
11. Walk straight down Hollywood Boulevard past the giant hat. On the far side of the hat is The Great Movie Ride.
12. Exit the Great Movie Ride. Check the daily entertainment schedule to see whether the next showing of Motor Stunt Show (opens 2005) or Beauty and the Beast will start first. See the show that starts first. The Motor Stunt Show is near New York Street and MuppetVision 3-D, while Beauty and the Beast is located just off of Sunset Boulevard by the Tower of Terror.
13. Obtain a FASTPASS for the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.
14. See the next showing of Beauty and the Beast or the Motor Stunt Show, depending on which show you saw in Step 12.
15. See the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (FASTPASS).
16. Take the Backlot Tour. The entrance is down Mickey Avenue from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire--Play It.
17. Exit the Backlot Tour and pass through the Studio Catering Company counter service restaurant, exiting on New York Street. Go left on New York Street and then right at the fake tall buildings. See MuppetVision 3D.
18. Head in the direction of Echo Lake. Ride Star Tours.
19. Walk past Echo Lake and the big hat towards the Animation Courtyard. See the Voyage of the Little Mermaid.
20. Exit the Little Mermaid and head down Hollywood Boulevard. Make a left on to Sunset Boulevard, and bear left to the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Enter the line marked "FASTPASS Return."
21. After exiting the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, bear left to the Tower of Terror. Enjoy.
22. If time permits, grab a snack at the refreshment stands at the end of Sunset Boulevard before heading in to see Fantasmic!
23. This concludes the touring plan. Do any last-minute shopping and then exit Disney-MGM Studios.
Want to learn more about the Disney-MGM Studios? Visit: http://allears.net/tp/mgm/mgm.htm
Want to learn more about Animal Kingdom? Visit: http://allears.net/tp/ak/ak.htm
Visit the Unofficial Guide's website at: http://www.TouringPlans.com
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.