Tag Archives: Florida

Twenty Years of Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom turns 20 this year. This truly unique park opened on Earth Day 1998, April 22, 1998. A month later, I got married and spent part of my honeymoon at Disney World and we both enjoyed our day at this brand new park immensely. It was great then, but 20 years later…it’s so much better!Animal Kingdom

The newly added Pandora, World of Avatar land is a must see even for non-Avatar fans. Just the visuals, pictures don’t do it justice, you have to see it in person for the full effect. Mountains suspended in the air, waterfalls descending into pools seemingly on the rainforest floor, the colorful plant life and at night it all takes on an incredible luminescent glow.



This area brings with it two new attractions, one of which is hands down the best attraction in all of the Orlando theme parks according to me at least. Flight of Passage takes you on a Banshee ride! You fly…on a banshee! It is the best simulator I’ve ever experienced. It’s even worth the long lines. There is a height requirement of 44″ on this one, but the Na’Vi River Journey is family friendly. It’s a leisurely boat ride through the bioluminescent forest of Pandora.


Animal Kingdom has extended their hours and are open into the dark hours now adding a nighttime show, Rivers of Light which is also worth a look and don’t miss the projections on the Tree of Life after dark.


Of course, one of my favorite rollercoasters of all time is Expedition Everest, it wasn’t there in 1998, but I have since made up for that. Single rider line means no waits and the ability to ride it over and over and over again in quick


Some of my favorite things at Animal Kingdom aren’t even the attractions though. There is just so much to see. The trails that take you into the animal habitats are wonderful. Pangani Trail brings you up close to gorillas and so much more. The Maharajah Jungle Trek bring you up close with Bengal Tigers. A walk around the Tree of Life just marveling at its carvings could take hours and there are hidden spots with animals dispersed around the tree. And of course, Kilimanjaro Safari is a classic and now available at night as well for a completely different experience.

This park has truly become a full day park.


Spirit of the Swamp Adventure

Our recent trip to Florida included this wonderful first for us.

Air boat adventure on Spirit of the Swamp Air Boats

We drove out to Kissimmee and Lake Tohopekaliga to the address from the website. We were a little worried as it was raining most of the way and a hurricane was bearing down on Florida.  We didn’t know what to expect and we arrived to a park with a playground, a restroom, a dock area with the air boats and the address was a private residence. You check in right at the dock and they use the private house address so your GPS will get you there, it was a tad confusing when we first drove in, but it worked. There appeared to be another air boat company there as well.

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We met Captain Lynne from Spirit of the Swamp and boarded our boat after she put the canopy up since it was sprinkling. It was a small boat and it was just our family, which was really nice. We booked a 1 hour ride. We got on and were told about the headsets, we could hear the Captain and we could all speak as well without pressing anything and we could all hear each other. The boat is quite loud especially when going fast so the headsets are a must. As we were making our way along the canal out to the lake, Captain Lynne told us safety features and how the boat works.


Once we arrived onto the lake, we immediately started spotting wildlife. Mainly birds, interesting birds everywhere. Vultures and egrets I believe were the first we saw. Captain Lynne was full of information about the birds, the lake and the alligators and she was funny too. We very quickly found our first alligator, it was hatchling season, so there were mama gators guarding their nests and babies in spots and Captain Lynne knew them all. We got to see several nests and the babies are hard to spot, they are so tiny, but at one nest we saw tons of them. Unfortunately, the mother was nowhere to be seen. Captain Lynne said she hadn’t seen her in days and was afraid she had been caught as hunting season had started 2 weeks earlier. It seemed really wrong to us that they would allow hunting of female alligators right during hatchling season. Now those babies will probably not survive much longer without their mother.

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We were not sure what to expect, but we had a really good time on this excursion and am so glad we did it. It sprinkled a bit, on and off, but we were covered and stayed dry.

I had been on an air boat once when I was a child in the everglades, but I barely remember it. I do remember it being a big boat with lots of people. This was so nice because it was just us, we all had a great view, Captain Lynne would turn the boat around so we all got a great view.


From Disney World, it took about 40 minutes to get there with some traffic. It took us under 30 minutes to get back.



I highly recommend this “off the beaten path” adventure while in the Orlando area.