7 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Dinosaurs

If you grew up in the 1980s or 1990s, you probably have fond memories of The Land Before Time (before it had a dozen or so sequels). It’s not a Disney film, I know, but when I think of dinosaurs, that’s one of the two movies that come to mind. The other is, of course, Jurassic Park. Between these two movies, we have the two popular images of dinosaurs: cute, gentle giants or man-eating monsters. Both perspectives are found in Walt Disney World, from the friendly triceratops in TriceraTop Spin to the roaring Carnotaurus in DINOSAUR.

Whichever way you prefer to imagine dinosaurs, here are seven things to do in Walt Disney World if you love dinosaurs.

1. Dinoland, U.S.A.

While it’s the obvious first stop for dinosaur devotees, Dinoland, U.S.A. at first seems a bit out of place in Animal Kingdom. It all looks so cheesy, but it’s actually meant to be that way. Dinoland, U.S.A. has an elaborate backstory involving a discovery of fossils, which caused scientists and tourists to flock to the site, which explains both The Dino Institute and the roadside attractions. Take a ride on TriceraTop Spin (Dumbo with dinos), and if you’re braver, Primeval Whirl, and if you’re braver still, DINOSAUR. Dino-loving kids will enjoy digging up bones in (where else?) The Boneyard, and you can grab a bite to eat at Restaurantosaurus.

View of Dinoland, U.S.A. from TriceraTop Spin

View of Dinoland, U.S.A. from TriceraTop Spin

2. T-REX Café

I’ve not yet had a chance to eat at this dinosaur-themed restaurant in Downtown Disney, but it seems pretty similar to Rainforest Café but with dinosaurs. You can see photos over at the DIS and the menu on AllEars.Net. If your child is the one who’s into dinosaurs, they might enjoy picking out their own dinosaur at Build-A-Dino by Build-A-Bear Workshop in the restaurant’s gift shop.

3. Ellen’s Energy Adventure

This 45-minute attraction at Epcot is often skipped or used as an air-conditioned place for a nap, but if you like dinosaurs, it could be one of your favorites. When you get to the primeval diorama portion, you can see a wide variety of dinosaur species in animatronic form, including Edaphosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus, Megalosaurus, Trachodon, Ornithomimus, Elasmosaurus, and Pteranodon. During the rest of the attraction, you can entertain yourself by trying to find Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfeld) as a caveman in one of the films.

4. Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction

One of the more random sights in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a giant green dinosaur by Echo Lake. It’s an example of the “California Crazy” architecture style, and the name is a reference to an early animated short, Gertie the Dinosaur. The menu isn’t distinctly dinosaurish (they serve ice cream cups, cones, bars, and sandwiches), but it makes for a good photo op.

5. Rex at All Star Movies Resort

You’ll find another opportunity to take a photo of yourself with a dinosaur over at All Star Movies Resort. As I mentioned in my post on Toy Story, you can find giant-sized characters here, including everyone’s favorite nervous dinosaur toy, Rex. While you can find Rex in the Toy Story-themed attractions in Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, All Star Movies is where you can get the best photo with him. Hop a bus there from any park. Just don’t bring any other dinosaurs with you. Rex couldn’t take that kind of rejection.

6. Brachiosaurus in the Electric Water Pageant

Here’s where we get even more obscure. I have to credit my roommate for remembering this one: one of the floats of the Electric Water Pageant is a dinosaur. According to buildabettermousetrip.com (click the link for a video), it’s a brachiosaurus. I love how it’s chewing and looks just like one of the animatronic dinosaurs Disney made for the 1964 World’s Fair (they’re now in a diorama seen from the railroad in Disneyland).

7. Dinosaur Skeleton in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Here’s one last photo op that may be a little difficult to capture, because you’re moving along at a rather brisk pace. During one scene in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, you ride through a dinosaur’s skeleton. (This prop actually turns into a plot point in The Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson.) It’s not much, but it’s the only dino reference I can think of in Magic Kingdom. (Can you think of any others?)

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This dino-themed day is a bit challenging, involving all four parks and Downtown Disney. The logical place to begin is Dinoland, U.S.A. Arrive 15-30 minutes before opening to maximize your time, as it will probably take a couple hours for dinosaur devotees to get their fill there. After Animal Kingdom, take a bus to All Star Movies for your photo with Rex. From there, take a bus to the next closest park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, for your photo with Gertie (and maybe an ice cream). Then head (via boat or bus) to Epcot. Once you’ve experienced Ellen’s Energy Adventure, it should be getting close to dinner time, so head over to Downtown Disney to eat at T-REX Café (make sure to get advanced dining reservations). From there, head to Magic Kingdom to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and watch the Electric Water Pageant (from outside the Magic Kingdom gates).

So what’s your take on Dinoland, U.S.A.? How does knowing the backstory affect your experience there?

5 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Fish

Two weeks ago we talked about four things to do in Walt Disney World if you love birds. Today we’re going to do another animal-themed post, but we’ll turn our attention from the skies to the seas and talk about the fish of Walt Disney World. I’m going to use this term loosely to mean animals that live in the water, whether or not they have gills and such.

Some of you might like keeping fish as pets, swimming with them, or even eating them (no judgment here). Regardless of how you enjoy them, here are five things to do in Walt Disney World if you love fish.

1. The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion

The obvious first stop for a lover of the sea in Disney World is The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion in Epcot. If your preference is animated fish, take a ride in a clammobile on The Seas with Nemo & Friends and catch a showing of Turtle Talk with Crush. (A Turtle Talk tip: get one of your kids to ask Crush how many kids he has—it will be a large number—and get another one to ask Crush his kids’ names. I’ve heard him list all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all the Beatles, and Lisa Turtle from Saved by the Bell.)

If you prefer seeing the real thing, take your time wandering around The Sea Base and check out the stingrays, manatees, and more.

2. Coral Reef Restaurant

If you like to combine viewing fish with eating them, you’re in luck! Also in The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion is Coral Reef Restaurant. The restaurant overlooks the Caribbean Coral Reef Aquarium, and during your meal you could spot 85 different species of tropical fish. The menu includes seafood and non-seafood options, and most dinner entrees are between $20 and $30.

I ate there once a few years ago, but I can’t say I remember what I had. This isn’t that unusual; I’m just not that food-centric. My apologies for when I get around to writing the post on things to do in Walt Disney World if you love food. (Maybe that will be a guest post.) Even having been there, my primary association with this restaurant is that episode of Full House where the Tanners go to Disney World and Danny and his girlfriend eat at Coral Reef.

3. The Seas Pavilion Tours (The Seas Aqua Tour, Dolphins in Depth, or DiveQuest)

If you want to actually swim with the fish in The Seas pavilion, you have the option of three different tours. On The Seas Aqua Tour ($140), you get to swim on the surface of the tank using a snorkel system. The experience lasts two and a half hours, and about 30 minutes of that is spent in the aquarium. If dolphins are more your thing, the Dolphins in Depth tour ($194) enables you to learn more about them, talk to their trainers, and have an “up-close interaction” with one. The Disney website doesn’t specify how much time of the three-hour tour you actually spend in the tank. The most up-close-and-personal experience is the Epcot DiveQuest ($175). This tour actually requires you to be SCUBA-certified, because you spend around 40 minutes underwater in the aquarium. For more information on any of these tours, visit the Disney Tours and Experiences website or call (407) WDW-TOUR.

4. Finding Nemo—The Musical

Now, if you happen to like your fish to be puppets, Finding Nemo—The Musical was made for you. I already professed my love for this show in my post on musical theater in Walt Disney World. The puppets are amazing and inventive, and this is the only place you’ll see a stingray/tricycle hybrid (just trust me, it’s cool).

5. Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Finally, if you prefer fish who long to be human, Ariel is your girl. While this attraction has less razzle-dazzle than Finding Nemo—The Musical or Beauty and the Beast—Live on Stage, you still get the basics of the story and musical highlights from the movie. The usage of black lights is especially cool.

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So, are you ready for a day of fishy fun? Your itinerary will vary depending on which tour you do. According to AllEars.Net, all the tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday, but the times differ. The Seas Aqua Tour is at 12:30 p.m. Dolphins in Depth is offered at 9:45 a.m. Epcot DiveQuest is at 4:30 and 5:40 p.m. Choose your tour and then build your day around it. Finding Nemo—The Musical will be the trickiest thing to fit in, as it’s only performed at selected times throughout the day. Remember that it’s easy to go between Hollywood Studios (where Voyage of the Little Mermaid is) and Epcot using the water taxis. The only bus you’ll need is for Animal Kingdom.

So which fish-related song gets your vote: “Under the Sea” or “In the Big Blue World”?

4 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Birds

The movie The Big Year comes out tomorrow, and apparently it’s about competitive bird watching. Now, I’m not much of a bird person myself, so I wasn’t aware that bird watching can actually be a competition, but to each his own. That’s kind of what this blog is about: each person finding joy in their own unique interests. And what better place to indulge your interests than in Disney World?

So, for those of you who were not scarred by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, here are four things to do in Walt Disney World if you love birds.

1. Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

Starting off is an attraction I very much like (perhaps because the birds aren’t real): Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. I love its connection to Walt and the history of Audio-Animatronics. (Jack over at AllEars.net has a great post on this.) What I didn’t love so much was the show when it was Under New Management; Iago annoyed me, as he did many other people, which is in part why back in August they opened a reimagined show that’s much more like the original. Bird-watchers can spot two hundred Audio-Animatronic birds, including macaws, cockatoos, and toucans, because while “most little birdies will fly away . . . the Tiki Room birds are here every day.”

2. Flights of Wonder

If you actually want to see the real thing, Flights of Wonder is the show for you. Flights of Wonder is a 25-minute show that plays several times a day in Animal Kingdom. I have to admit I’ve never seen this show, because of this line in the description on the Disney website: “the birds . . . sometimes swoop just above your head for some high-flying surprises.” But if you’re up for high-flying surprises, you can see at least twenty species of birds, which could include eagles, hawks, falcons, cranes, macaws, toucans, parrots, and others.

3. Aviaries in Animal Kingdom

Flights of Wonder isn’t the only place in Animal Kingdom where you can see exotic birds; there are walk-through aviaries on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek. There are also birds found in the Oasis Exhibits. For an idea of the types of birds you may spot, take a look at the bird photos on the My Mobile Adventures blog.

4. Seagulls by The Seas with Nemo & Friends

No discussion of birds in Disney World would be complete without mentioning the seagulls from Finding Nemo who reside outside of The Seas with Nemo & Friends in Epcot. Take a photo of yourself with them, and then get out of there before the “Mine! Mine!” drives you crazy!

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It’s easy to have a bird-themed day in Disney. I’d suggest starting in Animal Kingdom since that’s where you’ll see actual live birds. Then head on over to Epcot and then Magic Kingdom (or vice versa) to get your fill of the Audio-Animatronic kind.

So are birds your friend or foe? Do you have a favorite Disney bird?