I had assumed that Animal Kingdom was a bit of a glorified zoo and therefore thought it would be just a nice little add-on to the trip. Instead, it was one of our favorite parts! It's what every zoo should be, plus great theming, awesome rides, and cute shows. Leave it to Disney.
The Tree of Life is the literal centerpiece of Animal Kingdom. It has more than 300 different animals carved into the trunk and is the most impressive artificial tree I've ever met.
Our first stop was the Kilimanjaro Safari, which takes you through a wildlife preserve in an open-sided truck and provides all sorts of exotic animal sightings. It was neat to see so many different animals in their "natural" habitat. Fun for all ages, I tell you.
This giraffe was my favorite. Probably because its pose reminded me of the giraffe on Madagascar, and anything that prompts Madagascar quotes earns top points in my book.
We saw a few big cats -- a cheetah that slowly stalked toward the safari truck and a lioness who napped on her rock.
The sight of crocodiles always creeps me out. And although hippos look friendly, they're deadly, too. So just don't go swimming in Africa, okay?
And you should probably stay away from the horned animals, too.
Spotting a family of elephants is always exciting. Baby elephants are adorable. Okay, baby anythings are adorable.
Just ask Jake.
Flamingos are cute, too.
After the safari, we left Africa and headed toward Asia. Not before jamming out on the African drums, though.
The Himalayas are always lovely this time of year. Oh, and the Expedition Everest ride is a keeper. And so are the monkeys. And the tigers. And the Kali River Rapids. Okay, so we liked Asia.
Jakey made sure to get his naps in wherever he could get comfortable.
Dinoland was our next stop. We all loved Dinosaur, which is a better version of an Indiana Jones-type ride. In fact, we loved it so much that I spent $20 on a picture that I look ridiculous in (my teenage self would be mortified). But it's one of my favorite ride photos of all time. Check out that front row! Don't they look so perfectly terrified of the giant tyrannosaurus rex that's about to eat them? And isn't it weird that Nicole is sitting all alone in the back corner? That's the best part of the picture. Because she's not. That Joshie, he knows just what to do when being chased by dinosaurs! And if you look closely, you can catch a glimpse of the orange Joshie ball curled up between Matt and Nicole.
Then we had some time to kill before our next show, so my brothers dug for dino bones, I cuddled Jakey, and then Matt took a burp cloth and turned Jakey into Super Baby. Dads are fun like that.
Finding Nemo: The Musical was the final item on our agenda. It's the top-rated theme park show in America (tough competition, I'm sure), and it didn't disappoint. Very cute. And very worth jumping over concrete walls to sneak into after they cut off the line. My brothers may or may not know this from experience.
And then we couldn't leave without taking a picture with the giant Christmas tree. Everyone should have one of these.