What to do at WDW when you don’t want to go to a Park?

BLASPHEMY!! Yes, I said that terrible line that no one in their right mind would ever shutter and I should be ashamed of myself. OR SHOULD I? When you have been visiting Disney World for as long as I have, PLUS you are spending the day with a cast member, sometimes, you really don’t want to have lineups and crowds and scooters ramming into you.

So, we decided to do a few things we have not done in a very long time, seems to be a theme for this visit I suspect. Nonetheless, a late afternoon of playtime was exactly what was in store. First though, we had to pick up our shirts for Goofy’s Mystery Tour, more on that next week. 😉  We were bound for Downtown Disney and I was starting to get rumblies in my tumblies…….for two people with Gluten Allergies and we were on Disney property, the choices were endless. We had just visited the Boardwalk last week trying Kouzzina’s for the very first time so we jumped at the opportunity to return to the Boardwalk and head just past Kouzzina’s and grab a bite at the ESPN Club.

Chef Michael came out, we chatted briefly about the afternoon possibilities, my brother Bob & I both going for the Philly Cheese steak sandwich. I have never had one, was briefly IN Philadelphia when I was flying here actually but no cheese steak was consumed. Today was the day, AND it was gluten-free so I was delighted. Not to mention, with the plethora of TV’s inside, we were surrounded by options. Being the great Canadian gal that I am, NHL playoff’s were on, Nashville and Phoenix were having an afternoon game, WHICH Nashville lost may I add…..BOOOO!!! Another time though. Bob was getting into a British “football” game, along with half of the restaurant because there was some pretty spirited guests.

But with lunch over and it was pretty late in the afternoon, I made the recommendation to head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for some critter time. Now, Bob works at Boma, which is conveniently located inside the Lodge, and when your off work, you want to stay as far away as possible, but he agreed that we would be exploring OUTSIDE and not in.

Kidani- the newest section of the Resort, nestled among the extended Savannah that Disney has created for our incredible creatures. I was extremely excited to see what the extension looked like. I had stayed at the Resort years back, had a Savannah view, but I was about to experience something new. We walked from the Jambo House, the main part of the Lodge to see what was happening. Lush greenery and tropical flowers were with us every step of the way. As we arrived, we ran into a very special friend of mine with whom I never expected to see. One of my leaders from my time working at Le Cellier at the Canadian Pavilion was luckily just transferred over to Animal Kingdom Lodge and as we entered Kidani, Carolyn was square in our sites. I briefly had mentioned to Bob we should have called ahead to see if she was here, but he reassured me that it was late and she was probably gone for the day. To my luck though, she was not, actually JUST heading out the door and my Pixie Dust was working because it was meant to be for sure. Carolyn spotted us before I spotted her as my eyes were adjusting from the light coming side the building. Plus, I was taking a look at my surroundings. What an incredible site it was. Another giant space filled with African inspired artifacts, masks, costumes, animals and some friendly faces indeed.

After my lovely visit and plans for another get together, Bob & I ventured outside to the viewing area to take a closer look. With the guidance of one fascinating cast member from South Africa, we were lead on an amazing journey with some pretty cool guests. Giraffes walking the Savannah in search of snacks was the first thing that caught my eye. Our lovely guide explained the finer points of what they eat and growth. These two little guys were fairly new to the reserve and were growing very nicely. Zebra’s were my next spotting. Did you know that in the wild, when they run, they are grouped together and all you see is flashes of white and black, sometimes brown which confuses predators? Some ostrich’s roamed around as well adding to my delight. It was early evening at this point and the heat of the day starting to retreat and provided us the opportunity to have some great viewings. We traveled up into the library of Kidani which also provided a bird eye view of the Resort. With rooms spanning around the Savannah, no wonder Disney guests and Disney’s Vacation Club Members chose this as their favorite. It was certainly an experience I will not soon forget.

Bob decided as we headed off, said our good byes to our South African cast member who provided us a very special look at Kidani and the Savannah, Jumbo House was our next stop. Now, I have been here many, many times and it brings me such joy to enter. A sprawling Lodge with towering beams with light streaming in every nook and cranny, makes for one impressive entrance. There is one thing to say about the folks from South Africa, they are friendly. I mean they are genuine and continuously smiling and extremely helpful. They are one extremely proud bunch. What a fantastic way for Disney to showcase the culture than to bring in men and women? Seaters, Greeters, Escorts, you name it, they are everywhere and always there with a smile and some interesting information for you.

We took sometime to tour around Jumbo House, which if your still wondering what Jumbo means, in Swahili it means literally Hello or Welcome. Jumbo House, or Welcome House is the front lobby area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The art is overwhelmingly beautiful, masks and costumes everywhere on display, there are wood carvings and tributes everywhere and trust me, if you get the chance to, skip off to the Lodge and take a peak, you won’t regret my advice.

We needed something to quench our thirst after our trip through the Savannah so we headed over to the Victoria Falls Bar. When you have reservations for either Boma or Jiko at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you will have the opportunity to walk right past the bar. Everything is downstairs but you have a fantastic chance to meander down towards the restaurants. Beautiful surroundings, waterfalls and rock formations and beautiful wood are everywhere. When we got to the bar, I found that one of my favorite bartenders was working and oh what a surprise was for him.

Dustin is a familiar face behind the bar, he has actually been at the Lodge for some time, although he looks like he isn’t even old enough to be out of school yet. Warm smile and a talent for pulling together something fabulous, he made some pretty inspiring recommendations for us. A spotted lemur was recommended as I have a love for sweet beverages, and my brother had a tasty martini. Dustin and I caught up, the bar was slightly starting to fill up so Bob & I happily sat at the bar chatting and watching the people around us. As we did, we saw one of Bob’s leaders coming upstairs with some pretty exciting news for Dustin.

 You see, at Disney, they want to showcase and recognize their talent, each Month, guests and our peers alike have the opportunity to create magic for the cast. By taking a moment to recognize incredible service, a helping hand or a fantastic experience you have had, Disney offers a Guest Fanatic Award, This is for service excellence and anyone can fill one out. When you do, they go directly to that cast members leader and are then documented in our files and then distributed back to the cast member. Imagine how you would feel receiving this whilst at work? Not only do they do that, but they collect them monthly and award someone extra special. Much like an employee of the month, Disney offers extra special perks for being a Guest Fanatic Monthly Award winner. A prime parking spot, $75 Disney Dollar to be spent anywhere on property and a certificate from the President of Disney and your Area Leaders. You are also thrown into the pot for the yearly draw. I can proudly say, that for the Month of July 2007 I was the Epcot Guest Fanatic Award recipient. Dustin certainly deserved this and I was proud to be there when he was presented his award. Way to go Dustin!!

When we finished our delicious beverages, we said our goodbyes and continued downstairs for another extra special surprise. Another one of my former leaders, Vicki Thompson was also lucky enough to be offered a transfer to the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge but as an Area Leader in Jiko. We decided it had been far to long since I saw Vicki so we inquired with our friend Rumbi, a greeter at Jiko if she was available. I wanted to surprise her of course so Rumbi was a great sport and offered a diversion to get Miss Vicki to the front of the restaurant. What a great surprise it was. Vicki was delighted to see me, we spent some time chatting and catching up and the offer to share another catch up prior to my departure from Florida was made and we were soon our our way again. Vicki had a fantastic outlook, we shared some amazing laughs and a promise I would see her soon.

All in all, my visit to the Animal Kingdom Lodge was a success. Surprise visits from some truly inspiring women, some awesome animals and to witness someone being recognized for his hard work and determination at work…priceless as they say.There is truly a plethora of things to do outside the actual Parks at Walt Disney World so my question is, where are YOU going to explore today? Your only limits are your imagination. There are so many fun and interesting things to do here, go be inspired yourself.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have an African bottle of wine that needs my attention and photos to go through to remind me of the wicked day I just had. So, until next time, TTFN!!

 

Tracey

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