Our third day at the parks, we headed somewhere new: Disney's Animal Kingdom. We arrived in time for park opening and quickly headed back to Kilimanjaro Safari's to ride before the animals got sleepy and the lines got too long. We had a great safari. We saw all sorts of animals: crocodiles, birds, impalas, giraffes, lions, hippos, rhinos, and elephants. The elephant section was quite educational: Aiden laughed hysterically when he saw daddy elephant poop, and there were a few giggles among the adults when we noticed that what made daddy elephant a 'daddy' was on display.
The safari is such a neat attraction. The animals roam among the ride, seemingly without boundaries, but they are all safely enclosed using hidden barriers and some very creative landscaping. Many of the animals (like those in the cattle family and the impalas) were grazing just inches from the side of our vehicle. It was so neat to see them up close and personal. There is a plot to the ride--basically, we our off to chase away some pretend poachers, but Aiden really got into the story. Afterwards, Stella's Granna was holding him and cuddling him when he said, very soberly, "Granna, those poachers disobeyed God." "Granna, in her adorable southern accent, replied, "Yes they did, honey, yes they did!" and gave him an extra-big squeeze and assured him that the animals were safe.
After our safari, we parted ways with the Foxes and headed to our character breakfast at Tusker House. We were greeted by Donald Duck, who took a picture with us all, then ushered inside to enjoy a delicious buffet brunch (the food was SO GOOD!) while Daisy Duck, Mickey Mouse, and Goofy each took turns coming by our table to greet Aiden, kiss Aubrey, and sign autographs. When we visited WDW when Aiden was 2, he enjoyed it, but didn't really "get it." This trip, though, Aiden really had a blast. Everything was so magical for him, and having the characters come to see him and sign his book made his day. He was so excited by all of the hoopla and would beam every time he hugged one of the characters. Aubrey was too busy stuffing her face with the food to notice much (that girl can eat!), but she did grab at Mickey's nose, try to eat Daisy's duck bill, and made her excited face when Goofy came by. Gramps even got her a rattle and took her to join in the "celebration parade" through the room, in which the kids galloped after Goofy with drums and noise-makers in a procession around the room. It was a great brunch--we all had such a fun time--and walked out absolutely stuffed with wonderful food.
After brunch, we headed to see "The Festival of the Lion King" show. It was a long show that took up a good chunk of our day, but it was really cool. There were acrobats and dancers, stilt-walkers and fire-dancers, and all of us really enjoyed it. After the show finished, we headed to grab Fast Passes for Dinosaur! While we waited for our ride time, Aiden rode Triceratop Spin and played some midway games while Aubrey napped in the stroller. Just before our ride time, I ran to grab Fast Passes for Everest, then we jumped onto Dinosaur. Dinosaur! is a pretty scary ride in which you travel back in time to ride in a truck past animatronic dinosaurs that try to eat you, all while trying to avoid getting hit by meteors. We warned Aiden beforehand what the ride was all about, told him it was a little scary, but he insisted he wanted to ride and see the dinosaurs, so we took him. He rode, wide-eyed, while I tried valiantly to warn him throughout the ride of all the upcoming surprises and scary parts. "Here comes a big dinosaur!" "A big one is about to pop out up ahead!" He didn't scream, didn't cry (although I think Brad screamed like a girl a couple of times), but he insisted that he did NOT want to ride that one again when we got off the ride.
We decided to take in the "It's Tough to be a Bug" show while waiting for our ride time for Everest. BIG MISTAKE! It is a 4D show featuring the characters from the movie Bug's Life. What's 4D you ask? In Disney terms, it is a 3D show that involves some extra tricks that coincide with the 3D effects. For example, when the stink bug blows a big one, they actually fill the air with the sulphur smell of rotten eggs. When the tarantula throws quills at you, they use air guns to shoot puffs of air at you. And when the wasps attack the humans, at Hopper's urging, giant animatronic spiders also fall from the ceiling above your heads. I kind of forgot about all of these things, and both Aiden and Aubrey were screaming and crying in terror by the end. Even Gran screamed at the end: just before they dismiss you from the show, they ask you to remain in your seats so all cockroaches, spiders and bugs and exit the theater--then they play the sound of scurrying legs under the seats and little rollers in the seat bottoms and backs move, making it feel like an army of bugs is crawling under your butt. It is quite a shock--and Livy screamed so loud when the seat poked her in the butt, Brad and I thought we were going to fall out of our seats laughing.
Since the kids were falling apart (a lack of sleep and a scary movie will do that to you), we decided to forgo Everest and catch an earlier shuttle back to the hotel. On the way out of the park, we surprised a family with 5 Fast Passes to the most popular ride in the park, making their day, then ran to catch our shuttle.
After naps, Brad and I met up with Emily and Jason for a kid-free night out, while the grandparents all got a little one-on-one spoiling time with their respective grandkids. We originally had reservations at a restaurant, but we decided to skip those and go back to EPCOT to enjoy the Food and Wine Festival. At the Food and Wine Festival, there are booths in every country in the World Showcase where you can sample small plates of each country's cuisine, paired with a wine, beer, or cocktail native to that country. We started off in Argentina with some chimichurri steak skewers and empanadas, then decided we needed some cocktails. We walked over to Mexico and ordered some rather large frozen margaritas, which we all downed in the stifling heat. About 15 minutes later, we noticed Emily swaying and decided we better get some more food, quickly! We ate our way around the world, stopping in South Africa for a crab soup and beef tenderloin, then beer in Germany, then tangerine mimosas and falafel in Morocco, sushi in Japan, crab cakes and lobster rolls in New England, escargot and chocolate creme brulee and frozen cosmos in France, and then we hit the Rose and Crown pub, where Brad ordered a scotch flight, Jason and I had beers, and Emily held up the wall for us.
By this point in the evening, we were all laughing pretty loudly, especially at Brad, who was trying to flirt with the little Brittish tart, Vicki, one of the bartenders at the pub, and who was unable to pronounce 2-syllable words. We closed down the pub--at 9:30!! Then we stumbled our way to the monorail, grabbed our hotel shuttle, and laughed as Brad attempted to ride the standing-room-only shuttle. Even the ever-stoic Jason lost it once our shuttle driver repeated his corny "Shades of Purple" joke for the billionth time that week. "Shades of Purple, baby!" he yelled, we all giggled, and everyone else stared. A family with small children was particularly staring, so I told them, "Parents with small children on a rare night out without the kids--we get tipsy, act silly, and still get in bed by 10:30," which prompted them to laugh (and not judge us quite so harshly for our loud laughter!).
While we were out enjoying our rare night off, the kiddos were well cared for. Aubrey splashed in the pool with Gran for a bit, then headed up to play with her toys and go to be early. Aiden and Gramps headed over to the Magic Kingdom to see the parade and fireworks, meeting up with Stella and her grandparents, then came back and had a pizza party. At one point, Aiden was being a little rambunctious, and his Gramps scolded him. Aiden, who at this point had been living on a steady stream of sugar, adrenaline, and no sleep, looked over at him and said, "I've had about enough of you!" and then laughed--what a little toot! Reversing all of the spoiling once we get home is going to be quite a challenge!