You guessed it, Day 4 - sadly our final day in Disney - began with one last sprint. This sprint, however, was much more orderly and really should be called a speed-walk mob, if you will. And this time, it was through Animal Kingdom.
As with Hollywood Studios, the crowds were allowed through the turnstiles and then held up just before crossing the bridge by a troupe of cast members holding a rope across the entrance. Jackie and I managed to our elbow our way to the front, and when the park officially opened, the cast members set off. I'm beyond impressed that they were able to maintain their steady pace and not run in fear of being trampled. We weren't so lucky. Jackie suffered from a few people stepping on her feet, and at one point I had to tell her to go on without me as I literally leapt over a stroller to avoid being taken out at the ankles. I was dreading the moment the cast members left us and all hell would really break loose, but bless their hearts, they escorted us all the way to the queue for Expedition Everest, our destination.
Jackie and I had already mapped out what rides we wanted to hit, and Expedition Everest was the first step in our game plan. We hopped in line and were in one of the first trains to leave the station. Being unfamiliar with the ride, we weren't sure where the best place to sit was, but we ended up towards the back, which is usually a pretty good bet on roller coasters.
Well it turns out it doesn't matter where you sit on Everest, because half way through the ride it starts to go backwards. That's right. Backwards. The back becomes the front and the front the back. I was definitely not expecting that, but holy moly, so much fun!
When we got off the ride, we ran next door to Kali River Rapids to grab FastPasses, but then headed right back to Everest. The wait time was still incredibly short, so on principle, we had to ride again. Afterwards, we crossed the park to get on a safari ride while it was still early in the morning - supposedly the best time to see the animals. And I think that's pretty accurate, because we saw some mighty cool animals.
The giraffes and elephants were my favorite. The rhino you can see walking in front of our car actually caused a road block, and we were lucky enough to be stuck right next to the elephants. I was pretty pumped to enjoy a 10 minute party with Mama and Baby elephant. I wish we'd had the same luck by the cheetahs, but our safari guide blew right by them. I was only able to grab one photo, and it came out blurry. I'm not even sure it's a cheetah (hence why I didn't bother to post it here). I appreciate that they have to keep the ride moving, but I'd rather they cut out the fake drama about poachers and just drive us around while we ooh and aah at the animals.
After the safari, we trekked back across the park - stopping for a quick photo op with the Tree of Life - to Everest once more since our FastPasses for Kali River Rapids hadn't quite kicked in yet.
Seeing the length of the regular queue, we decided to take our chances with the single riders line instead. It was certainly faster than the regular line, but unless you get lucky, FastPass is still the best way to go. Jackie allowed me to go ahead of her, so when my turn came, I was assigned to ride with a cute, young guy who was traveling as part of a family reunion. What luck! He high-fived me when we were paired up and made conversation while we waited for our train. I looked back to see if Jackie had been pulled out of line yet, but I couldn't find her. Somehow she had made it onto the train ahead of me! What the? However, she was paired with a rude woman who took up most of her seat and Jackie's, so I'll take the cute guy, thanks. And did I mention he was funny too? When we boarded the ride, he turned to me and said, "When I rode this earlier, I threw up." He had a completely straight face, and for a second I was actually concerned, but then he followed it up with a wink. Yup, I love him. When we met back up, Jackie was less than thrilled for me. I guess that happens when you've been berated and nearly squashed. That's the luck of the draw when you choose the single rider line.
By that time, our FastPasses were ready at Kali, so we walked back next door and blew through the line. And may I just say, it's a good thing we did. Having now experienced the ride, I can safely say it's not worth waiting too long for. If it's hot out, sure, you'll get wet and cool off, but that's about it. There's only one major drop, and the entire ride takes about two minutes (if that). I was sadly disappointed. Thankfully, we were paired with a pretty hilarious group of guys, so they made the ride worth it.
After that, Jackie and I were done with Animal Kingdom. Nothing else struck our fancy, so it was back to the resort for some lunch and one last afternoon at the pool. This time, I managed to burn. I don't know why my skin had been vehemently repelling the sun all week, but I guess on the last day it decided to make up for lost time, because I was lobster red in under an hour. I sought refuge in the room, where Jackie and I spent the rest of the evening getting ready for our nice dinner. I say nice because we decided to wear dresses and actually put more than three seconds of effort into our hair. I meant to take a picture of us looking cute and presentable, but I didn't remember until hours later when we'd changed and were walking through Cinderella's castle. Oops!
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Jackie and I dined at Wolfgang Punk in Downtown Disney for our last night. It was pretty good, but after the meals we experienced earlier in the week at Bongos and Teppan Edo, I was a bit let down. Our waiter was pretty awesome, though, and recommended some great drinks and dishes, so bonus points for Anthony.
After dinner, we went back to the room, changed out of our dresses, and headed to the Magic Kingdom for one last night of Extra Magic Hours. As luck would have it, Wishes (MK's spectacular fireworks display) was just starting as our bus pulled in. Jackie and I booked it for Main Street (why are we always running?!) and ended up with a fantastic view of the show over the castle. Once again, I tried to take a few pictures, but then ended up just enjoying the show.
Towards the end, Jackie started edging us over to Space Mountain to try and cut off the inevitable crowd that would head that way right after the finale. We still ended up waiting in a pretty sizable line, so I can only imagine what it would have been like if we'd moseyed over. Somehow we ended up talking to the kids behind us, who felt the need to share their life stories. I tried to be polite, but it was exhausting. Thank gosh, again, that Space Mountain is worth all the trouble.
I was assigned to the very back of the car (rocket?), and it was the best ride yet. The back really zips and whips, so it was like a bonus to the already awesome ride. I also noticed as we were pulling out that the line had all but disappeared. You know what that means! As soon as we exited the ride, we turned around and got right back in line. This time we flew through - we didn't even have time for the games! - and once again found ourselves in the back. I let Jackie have the very back car so she could experience the awesomeness.
With two rides under our belts, we called it a night. Not before walking through Cinderella's castle, though. We took the long way back to the busses and passed through it because I'm convinced you can't go all the way to Disney and only walk around it. It was that photo op moment that made me realize we'd completely blown our opportunity to take a decent looking photo in our dresses, but what are you gonna do?
We made it back to the bus stop and thankfully did not face the nightmarish situation we encountered a few nights before. Soon we were back at the resort and packing our bags. I tried not to be too depressed as I threw my clothes back in, barely trying to maintain any sort of order.
The next morning, we gathered at the lobby bus stop with the rest of those mourning the end of their Disney vacation. The check-out of the hotel, check-in for your flight process was incredibly smooth and easy, but Disney should check it's misleading wording on the topic. They'd previously slid a memo under our door saying if you were checking a bag you couldn't do that at the Disney desk, but guess what, you can. Yup, can and can't are almost the same thing. Whatever, in the end, it all worked out.
Soon we were on our way back home. Back to real life. Twas a sad day, but I'm glad we had a magical time while at Disney. I can't wait to go back!