I recently took the Caring for Giants tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. This tour takes you as close as possible to the African elephants that reside on the savanna you experience during the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction. I was not hosted or invited by the Walt Disney Travel Company to take this tour, I paid my own way. As such, I feel no obligation to inflate the experience or refrain from my honest opinion of it. With that out of the way, here’s what I thought. Wow, that sounds ominous, but I promise-I’m just making a disclaimer!
First, you should know the Caring for Giants tour can be booked up to 180 days in advance, but we walked up and booked it the same morning we took the tour. There happened to be two spots left on the second tour of the day. You can chat with a booking agent at the kiosk just outside of the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction queue. However, if after you read this blog and decide you really WANT to take the tour, book as soon as possible.
If you’ve been following along with us here at Get Down to Disness, you probably already know I am a tour junkie! I love going behind the scenes, learning all kinds of neat facts and seeing how things work. Those peeks behind the magic curtain don’t ruin anything for me, in fact it makes me appreciate the world of Disney even more so! Check out my review of the DestiNations Discovered tour here.
While you do technically go behind the scenes during this tour, it really isn’t all that much. Sure, they walk you behind one of the walls into a CAST MEMBERS ONLY area, which is pretty cool, but you are really only seeing a parking lot and the back of Pandora. While the Cast Member escorting you to your tour vehicle points out some interesting facts about the buildings you see, it’s not full of juicy details. It’s just not that kind of tour. Once in your ride vehicle, most of the view is behind the scenes vegetation and natural area. You do see the outside of the pens that shelter the elephants, but don’t get closer to those than a glance as you pass by.
Speaking of Cast Members, on the Caring for Giants tour, you’ll encounter a staggering SIX different ones! First, you’ll be escorted to your vehicle by one person. Inside your vehicle are two Cast Members, the informational/on foot part of the tour is handled by two additional Cast Members and finally a sixth escorts you back on stage. I loved this element of the tour because I truly enjoy chatting it up with Disney folks and typically they have the A-Team working these tours, so no Grumpys to put a damper on the magic.
Once you arrive at the elephant area, you are greeted by a Cast Member that teaches you all about the elephants you are going to see. What their names are, how they are related, what their temperament is like, etc. You’ll learn about their social networks, hear some stories of their unique personalities and take some photos. You are about 50 yards (half a football field) away from the elephants. I have to admit it’s kind of cool watching the ride vehicles from the Kilimanjaro Safari go by while you are “backstage”. After this Cast Member has finished telling us about the specific elephants at Animal Kingdom, a second conservation specialists Cast Member explains all about where they are from and all the measures both countries are taking to protect them from becoming endangered. Really interesting stuff -the kind that could get your kid excused from school a few days for your Disney vacation. (wink wink) 😉
The Caring for Giants Tour is about an hour long and costs $30 per person at the time this blog post was written. They do offer discounts though for Annual Passholders, Disney Visa Card holders and DVC (Disney Vacation Club) Members! We got a 15% DVC Member discount. But is it worth around thirty bucks? It depends. I would not recommend this tour for everyone. Not that it isn’t suitable for all ages, or that it isn’t interesting, but for the fact that Animal Kingdom theme park already has so much to offer (included with price of admission) without having to pay a premium for a tour. In truth, we got about as close to the elephants on this tour as we did to a gorilla on the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. It’s not a get up close and touch the elephants experience-it can’t be for your safety- and there is no guarantee the elephants will cooperate and let you see them-it’s nature-not animatronics.
We were able to get wonderful photos of the elephants because we were standing still vs. moving in the ride vehicle on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, but you aren’t much closer to them-as you can see in the photo below. If photos of elephants are what you are after, you could potentially get some great shots!
I would recommend the Caring for Giants tour for those who:
- absolutely adore elephants
- have been to Animal Kingdom several times already and are looking to do something new
- who want to take every tour Disney World has to offer
- have a deep interest in learning more about the conservation of these animals and how their native country is also working to protect the species
I fit into this category and I truly enjoyed the experience! It was 100% worth it to us! Anytime I can go somewhere with no crowd, no wait and get an insider’s look-I’m all over it! Plus, we met two incredible fun and sweet Cast Members, Esther and Frank that added a little pixie dust to our day just because they were fun people!
I would NOT recommend the Caring for Giants tour for those who:
- are visiting Walt Disney World for the first time
- have allergies to animals or biting insects (it was buggy back there)
- are on a tight budget
- have children who are easily bored
There really isn’t much to “spoil” about this tour. It’s pretty “what you see is what you get” however, there is something VERY unique about the name tags they give you…I’ll keep that under my hat for now. If you want to know the secret, comment below! If you don’t want to know the secret, don’t read the comments!
Are you looking to plan a Walt Disney World Resort vacation and want to learn more about unique tours and offerings? Let us help! Send us an email or fill out this quote form and tell us a little bit about the Magical Disney adventure you are looking to have. Our Authorized Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations to Travel are out of this world!
Bust These Hollywood Studios Myths to Help Structure Your Trip!
by Suzanne Burmeister
Hollywood Studios being under intense construction could mean a significant savings to your wallet, thanks to the high anticipation of Galaxy Edge’s opening date. Bust these five myths to maximize your next trip! Don’t miss out on the amazing offerings you can still find in this wonderfully themed park.
Myth #1: You Won’t Find Anything to Do with All of This Construction.
Reality: Most people know that Hollywood Studios is undergoing a transformation, but if you’re planning on skipping this park because of all the construction, you could be missing out on some of the most fun attractions in Walt Disney World.
For instance, a newer and very open part of the park is Toy Story Land. Not only can you ride the beloved Toy Story Mania!, where you can play a 3D interactive game, but you can also check out two newer rides: Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers. Make sure you have your FastPass choice ready, because you can only choose one of these attractions.
Don’t forget about crowd favorites Twilight Tower of Terror and the Rock n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. You can also see shows including the new Lightning McQueen Racing Academy, Beauty and the Beast, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and Fantasmic!
You’ll also find plenty of character meet and greets, unique merchandise, and delicious treats to indulge in.
Myth #2: Because of the Construction, the Park Isn’t Crowded.
Reality: You may think people are flooding other parks instead of this one due to the construction, then you would be sadly mistaken. Because Toy Story Land is new, that area of the park sees a lot of activity. Slinky Dog Dash boasts one of the highest wait times in the entirety of Walt Disney World, so if you’re planning on climbing onto this fun roller coaster, you should try to get a FastPass. Let us help!
Heads up: Currently, this area of the park has only one way in and one way out, which means traffic can clog up quickly. The best thing to do is to show some patience, and try to check out this area during either opening and or closing times.
Myth #3: Hollywood Studios Doesn’t Have a Lot of Places to Eat.
Reality: Not true! Hollywood Studios actually has some of my favorite restaurants anywhere on property.
I love to visit the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant for lunch. You get to sit in tables fashioned like ‘50s style cars, chow down on burgers and fries, and watch silly sci-fi movie clips. Another must visit is the 50s Prime Time Café, which makes you feel like you’re sitting in a ‘50s kitchen and being taught good manners by the wait staff. The food is a real treat. My family loves both the fork tender pot roast and the golden-fried chicken.
Plan to make your reservations at these table service restaurants in that 180 day window. We can help with that!
Myth #4: For the Best Merchandise, Shop Elsewhere.
Reality: While you’ll still be able to find standard merchandise that you can find throughout Walt Disney World, you shouldn’t overlook the potential to find unique items.
Whenever I visit Hollywood Studios, I always check out the offerings at Hollywood Boulevard. Here, we often find the best men’s sweatshirts and pajama pants. Also, we can choose the best coffee mugs! Sometimes we see the same items elsewhere, but not always.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for an authentic park item, you can use your My Disney Experience App to see where to you can buy it. That sometimes can take the guesswork out of whether you’ll see that specific item in another park or at Disney Springs.
Myth #5: Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Won’t Open Until 2020.
Reality: Opening date is a lot closer than you think. Get excited for some blue milk, because Galaxy’s Edge opens at Walt Disney World at August 29! (Don’t get confused: It opens in Disneyland on May 31). The good means that you’ll get to experience the much anticipated ride, the Millenium Falcon. But the bad means that the highly anticipated crowds means the capacity may be limited.
Keep in mind: You may be able to find some unprecedented discounts at Walt Disney World this summer because so many guests are pushing their trips to after Galaxy Edge’s opening date. Let us help you take advantage of them!
Can you find the best offerings? Let us help! Send us an email or fill out this quote form and tell us a little bit about the Magical Disney adventure you are looking to have. Our Authorized Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations to Travel are out of this world!
You’re in Magic Kingdom and you’re STARVING, but you’re also not in the mood for traditional “theme park” food. After all, you’re in Walt Disney World for cryin’ out loud, you want to be immersed in theming! When your regular “run of the mill” burger won’t do, head to Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn & Cafe for some Frontierland fun. It’s the best food in the wild, wild West and I’ll tell you why.
Reason #1: Typically when I write these I like to ease into my most compelling reason, but not today. My number one reason is SO crucial it can’t be buried in text. Pecos Bill’s has the BIGGEST and BEST toppings bar in all of Walt Disney World. (Maybe even the WHOLE world, just saying.) Why is this so important you ask? Because this topping bar elevates EVERY meal to a whole new level. Picture your burger, your nachos, your tacos topped with (for free) red onions, banana peppers, cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, roasted corn, Chiptole Ranch dressing, limes, pico de gallo and…UNLIMITED GUACAMOLE! I’ll give you a minute to take that in folks, yes, unlimited guacamole.
Reason #2: The food is unique, there’s loads of allergy friendly options, it’s incredibly Keto friendly and even has a delicious plant based burger with vegan cheese and vegan avocado aioli. The absolute best, most mouth watering item on the menu is the Jerk Chicken Lettuce Wraps. It’s perfectly spiced and the lettuce is such a great compliment-it’s cold, crisp and light. What a way to combat the Florida heat and not being a total belly buster of a lunch!
Reason #3: The kid’s menu isn’t dopey. My kid is a foodie. Please don’t come at her with an Uncrustable. Pecos Bill’s SEES her and although there are items for any average kid eaters there are also Chicken Rice Bowls, Pork Carnitas Rice bowls and nachos for my kid. (And her potential foodie friends out there!)
Reason #4: It’s a Quick Service restaurant (and yes, mobile ordering IS available) that has a story to tell! You’re not just popping in for food, there’s “history” to see. If you didn’t know, Pecos Bill is actually a pretty popular piece of Old West folklore. The namesake “tall tales” are abundant when it comes to ole’ Bill who was rumored to have lassoed two rattlesnakes, rode a tornado like a bucking bronco and shot all the stars out of the sky except in his beloved Texas. Take a walk around the restaurant and see items showcased from Pecos Bill and other Western legends like Paul Bunyan, Annie Oakley and Wild Bill Hickok.
Reason #5: It’s hot, your feet are aching and you need a break. Pecos Bill’s has more than ample space for your family and tired bodies to spread out and pig out on all that guacamole. Plenty of a/c, plenty of shade if you need to spread out into it’s sister restaurant Tortuga Tavern. It’s a great place to rest and get lost in the Western Inn feel, it truly will transport you to another time and place if you let it.
Be sure to have your tiny cowpokes, cowboys and cowgirls get their official Sheriff badges (stickers) and let them restore some order in the wild, wild West while you take it easy. (Have I mentioned the unlimited guacamole yet?)
If you’re ready to stop dreaming about a Disney vacation, we can help make it a reality! Send us an email or fill out this quote form and tell us a little bit about the Magical Disney adventure you are looking to have. Our Authorized Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations to Travel are out of this world!
You’re in the Magic Kingdom, decidedly the most magical place on the entire planet and you’re PSYCHED! You’re being pulled in a million different directions to see Princesses, to ride Space Mountain, to cool off on Splash Mountain and oh my goodness does that cart have Mickey shaped ice cream?! Take a breath my friends, it’s hot, you’re tired and you deserve 11 minutes of good, old fashioned, vintage Disney fun. Do not miss out of “The Country Bears Jamboree.” It was important to Walt that you and your family see it. C’mon, you don’t want to let Walt down, do you?
The Country Bears Jamboree is an ORIGINAL attraction from the park’s opening in 1971. It was the last attraction that Walt reviewed and worked on before his passing. After it’s opening it became so incredibly popular that it was the first attraction original to Walt Disney World that Disneyland replicated it for it’s park.
The Country Bears Jamboree truly is old school Disney at it’s best. It isn’t what we’d consider by today’s standards to be “politically correct” which is part of it’s immense charm. The songs are catchy, the humor is fun for both kids and adults and the bears are just awesome. Our old pals had a refurbishment back in 2012 and they are all spruced up with new fur and new costumes but the music you loved as a kid is still hanging on. (Anyone have the original soundtrack? Did you know you can STILL buy it on vinyl?)
Our family’s favorite bear has also been Big Al. Did you know that Big Al’s singing voice is actually famed country music legend Tex Ritter? (Who is also the father to the late TV legend John Ritter.) Disney pulled out all the stops to give Big Al a true, authentic country sound.
While you enjoy the INDOOR waiting queue (look down to see the bears’ claw marks all over the floor), press yourself a Frontierland penny for a souvenir and check out all the fun bears immortalized in the artwork around the room. You’ve earned this break from the sun, drink in the coolness!
Space Mountain will wait, it’s not going anywhere. Take the time to enjoy this legendary piece of Disney history, after all, it’s the REAL laughing place in my opinion.
Bust These 5 Epcot Myths to Boost Your Disney Vacation Experience
by Suzanne Burmeister
If you want to sample some amazing dining options at Epcot, book early!
When I was a kid, I remember not being as thrilled about visiting Walt Disney World during the days when we went to Epcot. But lately, those have been my favorite theme park days—simply because Epcot offers relief from the crowds as well as boasts some of the best restaurants in the entire theme park area. Bust these five Epcot myths, and you’ll find yourself treasuring your vacation all the more.
Myth #1: Epcot doesn’t have any good rides.
Reality: You’ll find a lot of fan favorite rides here, such as Soarin’. Kids will love Frozen Ever After, The Seas With Nemo and Friends, Journey Into Imagination With Figment, and the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. Thrill seekers will love Test Track and Mission: SPACE. Plus, a lot of new attractions will be coming soon to Epcot, including a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction as well as Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
That means you have a lot of options for theme park guests looking for rides.
Heads up: When you make your FastPass selections, you can only choose one of these three highly popular rides:
- Frozen Ever After
- Test Track
Make sure you come up with a plan as to which ride your party desires most.
Myth 2: You can find better merchandise elsewhere.
Reality: According to many Disney experts (including me), the best place to find the memorabilia you want is at Mouse Gear, an enormous store in Epcot’s future world. You can find everything from plush toys to t-shirts to candy.
Bet bet: While visiting other parks, keep your eye out for future purchases. Then you can make all of them at once at Mouse Gear, because this store will most likely carry it. (However, I’ve found a few instances where we had to go back to Magic Kingdom for men’s pajama pants, because they weren’t here.)
Did you know? If you don’t want to carry all those bags, have them sent back to your resort—for free! Just make sure you’re not leaving early the next day, because it usually takes up to 24 hours for it to transfer.
Myth 3: You should avoid Epcot during busy times.
Reality: Epcot sprawls across 300 acres, making it three times the size of Magic Kingdom. (Technically, the largest park is Animal Kingdom, though I’d say the guest area is not). Epcot has so much more visitor area to explore than many other parks. Even when the crowd is at its peak population, you may not know it because there’s so much space. For instance, if you walked the entire World Showcase from Mexico to Canada, you’d be covering 1.25 miles!
That’s why this location is recommended when you’re trying to avoid feeling trapped by people!
Myth 4: You don’t need reservations for Epcot’s numerous World Showcase restaurants.
Reality: Epcot boasts some of the best restaurants in all of Disney World. If you fancy German, you can swing a stein at the Biergarten Restaurant. Looking for something out of the ordinary? You can try Moroccan at Restaurant Marrakesh. That being said, if you’re going to wait until you’re there to get a table, you might be out of luck. These restaurants book up to 180 days in advance, meaning you may find yourself scrambling to find something free.
Best bet: Figure out what restaurant you want to visit well in advance. Book early! Also, remember you will be charged $10 per party member if you don’t bother showing up.
Myth 5: Epcot is boring!
Reality: You may feel like Epcot doesn’t have a lot to offer, but you would be wrong. You can immerse yourself in a variety of offerings: from the different cultures featured in the World Showcase to the thrilling Test Track. Plus, Epcot features a lot of festivals during the year, such as the Food & Wine Festival.
If this sounds like your kind of Disney daydream, we can help make it a reality! Send us an email or fill out this quote form and tell us a little bit about the Magical Disney adventure you are looking to have. Our Authorized Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations to Travel are out of this world!