Travel: Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration – Animal Kingdom

We’ve reached the fifth day of our trip and as you can imagine, here’s where things go wonky, which I guess is fitting since we were spending the day at Animal Kingdom {Read more about our first day at Magic Kingdom here, our first day at Hollywood Studios here, and our day at Epcot here! A Genie+ explanation is in the Magic Kingdom post.}

Travel Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration Animal Kingdom

To give you some background, the last time we were here, nine years ago, Tropical Storm Andrea hit Orlando and it was raining cats and dogs.

My then 5-year-old daughter freaked out in the It’s Tough to be a Bug show and wanted to go back to the hotel immediately. My then husband and I were only here to ride Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. My mom was only here to ride the Kilimanjaro Safari, which was closed due to the rain.

I was able to get my mom and daughter settled into Feathered Friends in Flight, not knowing it was an outdoor theater {the rain!}, and ex-hubs and I went to ride Everest. Once the show was over, my daughter was soaking wet and done! My mom and I stayed in the park and were able to ride the Safari later in the day.

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Needless to say, I was not in any rush to get back to this park and would’ve skipped it entirely, but my daughter really wanted to ride Avatar Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest.

What We Did

I woke up early and bought Ella an Individual Lightening Lane {ILL} for $15 for Avatar to be redeemed in the afternoon. I did not book one for myself because I can’t ride due to motion sickness and assumed I could escort her through the line like we did in Epcot for Soarin’ Around the World.

We spent the morning at the pool for some much-needed downtime. I was able to book Lightening Lanes {LL} for Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest using the two-hour rule while at the hotel.

Disney Pop Century Resort

We got to Animal Kingdom and rode Na’vi River Journey first.

Pandora Disney's Animal Kingdom

We then ate ice cream and went on the Safari, which took longer than expected when a herd of giraffes decided to hang out on the trail right in front of our car. It was great for photos because they were right there! After about 20 minutes, they were able to move the giraffes and we were on our way.

Kilimanjaro Safari Disney's Animal Kingdom

We then went to redeem the ILL for Avatar. And Yikes! This is where it really goes sideways.

Avatar Flight of Passage Disney's Animal Kingdom

I was told I couldn’t escort my daughter through the line because I had only purchased an ILL for her and not one for me. I got a little defensive about this. She is a minor and I’m a single mom alone with my daughter, it wasn’t like I had anyone else who could take her, or that’s what I would’ve done.

The ride supervisor was also defensive, so we went in circles for a bit. Me saying I didn’t want my minor child to go unescorted through the line, her saying I would’ve had to book an ILL for myself to escort her. Me – why would I pay to ride a ride I’m not riding? Her – You’re not paying to ride the ride, you’re paying to access the line. Round and round we go.

Mickey Mouse Disney's Animal Kingdom
Mickey Mouse Waving Goodbye to Good Business Decisions 

She finally let us go, but by then my anxiety was heightened and so was my daughter’s. We got to the next position in line and told them I wasn’t riding. They said no problem, you can stay with your daughter through the video presentation.

I had no idea what this meant since we had never been on the ride before. From the little we did know, we assumed it was like Soarin’. It wasn’t. I stayed with her, showed her where her “light cycle” was and I left. In the end, she didn’t ride the ride.

We went to Guest Relations to see what could be done. This experience, coupled with the Oga’s Cantina experience a couple days prior, had me over the Disney experience. I had heard they flat out don’t refund ILL or Genie + purchases. At the very least I thought we would maybe get a coupon for free ice cream, because it is Disney and they go out of their way to make sure customers are happy.

We got nothing. The Guest Relations Representative listened to what happened, left us for about 20 minutes to go “talk to his team” and returned to say, “Thank you, your feedback will be shared.”

My concern was that there was no room for individual circumstances such as a single parent not wanting to leave their minor child in a line, at an amusement park, in another state. We also pay a hefty price for this experience and if we wanted something less, there are other parks we could go to.

His stance, and his team’s stance, was that there are rules in place for a reason and the supervisor was doing her job upholding the rules. If they didn’t have the rules, people would take advantage and try to skip the line for free instead of paying for the ILL.

We left there feeling more like a dollar sign and a number as opposed to people. Where was the Disney Magic?! Where was the customer service Disney was famous for?! It was not at Animal Kingdom on this day, unfortunately.

Expedition Everest Disney's Animal Kingdom

We still had a LL for Everest, which we loved and rode twice – once redeeming our LL and once using the Stand by Line. The line for this is usually not long, which is great because it is a fun coaster.

Africa Disney's Animal Kingdom

Before we left we hit the gift shop and I was able to get some great 50th Anniversary souvenirs at Island Mercantile. I really wanted a Starbucks 50th Anniversary Where Are You Magic Kingdom mug, but hello supply chain issues, so they didn’t have any and didn’t know when they would get more.

Instead, I found a great Mickey Mouse mug originally issued in 1971 and released from The Vault Collection. I also got an awesome opening day sweatshirt, also released from the same collection. I hadn’t seen these souvenirs in any other shop, so I was very excited!

Disney World 50th Anniversary Vault Collection

To end the day, we took the bus back to the hotel and ate dinner there.

What We Ate {Nothing too Exciting on This Particular Day}

Petals Pool Bar – We had some light snacks while we were at the pool.

Ice Cream – We stopped at an ice cream cart outside of Pizzafari on the way to ride the Safari. I got a chocolate covered banana and Ella got a Mickey Mouse chocolate bar. Yum!

Everything POP – We had a leisurely breakfast here and for dinner, we both got Mac and Cheese and sat in the cafeteria to eat. You know Disney has the best Mac and Cheese, right? If you don’t, now you do!

That was Animal Kingdom! It is a very beautiful park and the attention to detail is admirable, but I honestly don’t see myself ever going to this park again. The first experience my family couldn’t get it together, the second experience Disney couldn’t get it together. I don’t think I need a third experience.

Africa Disney's Animal Kingdom

When we got home, I did write a Karen letter to Guest Relations about both the Oga’s Cantina and Animal Kingdom experiences. I was given a Disney gift card to cover some of the meal and ILL costs, which I was happy with. But they did reiterate that there are no refunds on ILL or Genie + purchases, so keep that in mind.

Stay tuned for day six and day two at Hollywood Studios!

Tree of Life Disney's Animal Kingdom

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