Animals, Avatar, and Abominable Excursions

Our AK day dawned way too early for all of us, but especially me. It was time to pay the piper for my antics the night before at EPCOT. We were all up between 6:30-7am and out the door for our Lyft just after 8am. After the ride and walk we were at the gates by 8:30am.

Our fist stop was at the tree of course!

A little snow globe video PhotoPass put together for us

Next up was the AK postcard they had set up – Kyra was up first

Jinx then jumped in

Jinx on his own

And finally Me

We moved ahead and said good morning to some happy birds including a group of flamingos

Then we wound our way on thru the windy paths and across the bridge and onto the hub and centerpiece of AK, the Tree of Life! First image provided by PhotoPass

And now the “live” version

It really was a beautiful day to be here, starting out just a little cool but not too humid and it was only supposed to get into the low 80s. These are the days that really make coming in December worthwhile! Love the subtle touches that they use for the Holidays like these flowers.

The deer and elephants greeted the sun with us


Family hugs – love Kyra’s “claw” hugging Roxy’s waist

I must say this one is an odd flex Disney

We’re smiling under there, really

Love ya bunches!

Kiss kiss!

Great look you two!

These three looked way too cheery for this early in the morning

Kyra grabbed a quick selfie with the beautiful Tree of Life painted gate

From there we debated which way to head, but came to a consensus that doing the safari first thing would be the right call in relation to having more animals out. So off to across the bridge to Africa. On the way I had to catch a shot of the cool wreaths they decorated the light with.

While we waited in line I got a quick shot of the four of us in all of our colorful regalia. Roxy had gotten a little chilly so it was flannel time for her.

The wait wasn’t too long, maybe 15 minutes total and we were on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Sorry I don’t keep track of the animal names so first up are stripey backside deer things!

More Stripey things! Antelope maybe?

On to the hippo pond, where the birds were active as usual

The hippos themselves were still pretty chill with at least one in the water and this guy just snoozing away on the beach

From there it was out onto the plains and a greeting from the giraffes

The we said hi to a momma zebra and her foal

I’m guessing this is dad?

Then we rounded the bend back to the giraffes. They were in a very cordial mood so we got several good shots of them.

Off in the distance we could see some elephants

One of them was bashful so we only managed a shot of one of them

Onward to a single wildebeest if that isn’t gnu to you ;D

And in case you didn’t get enough of the flamingos earlier, here’s a whole pond of them!

For those who have been on the safari you know what’s coming up. The star of the show, the grand poobah of pride rock, the literal king of the jungle!

As the safari wrapped up we managed a couple of shots of the white rhino

We disembarked and stopped by to say hello to the gollias

Then we took a little time at a merch stand, lots of cool animal-themed stuff to be had.

Then back to the marketplace for a quick pit stop and some Harambe grilled corn. After I finished mine I took a few pics, I just love the attention to detail in everything here.

Corn consumed and pit stops completed we decided to go back the way we came to experience It’s Tough To Be A Bug, one of Kyra’s favorites that she had missed out on during her 21st birthday celebration at Disneyland/Cali Adventure in 2017 as it had already been closed in prep for the Marvel land.

On the way I got the river coming and going – love that peek at Everest upriver!

Back to the Tree of Life with bright sunshine bathing it

We got in line and Kyra shot a selfie a pic with Roxy to commemorate it

On to many animal carvings accompanied by a pretty flower

Somebody was hungry!

I feel someone wasn’t paying attention to proportions with these two

Looks like …SLYTHERIN!!!

Ghost riders in the sky?


Brace yourself, the puns are getting worse. You know what’s coming…


Try newly improved Degree Antiperspirant


On Dasher, On Dancer!

Lemur me alone you naughty little monkey

This one looks too serious for monkey business

Okay, okay its finally over – we made it!

I do love the theme and lighting down here

We settled in to wait for the last show to finish

With it being largely a 3D show my only goal during it was to try and catch a decent shot of Hopper

After the show we decided to experience Pandora for the first time. Insert PhotoPass-provided imagery here:

Before riding a ride or really checking out the land, we decided to refuel at Satu’li Canteen. The process for getting in involved some app wrestling followed by around a 30 minute wait. But soon we were inside.

Here come the obligatory foodie pics!

We all enjoyed the interesting grub

After getting our fill we headed out into the land. Hello Christmas Mech!

It was time for Flight of Passage and the line began out the secondary path towards the Festival of the Lion King show building. Either Roxy or Kyra grabbed this video of one of the musical barges while waiting.

The queue wound around and moved on to the star of the land – the floating mountains and waterfall!

The color for the PhotoPass pic here was a little blue and washed out since the area at the base of the falls was still in shadow.

From here you could just see the entrance sculpture in silhouette

I finally looked down and noticed there was more to the land than just what was hanging above us

And then back to the waterfall in a short video

Up to this point we had been taking pictures in the extended queue for Flight of Passage. Then it was time for us to join the proper queue! We were all still talking about how cool everything looked.

Crazy to have it all looming over us, truly seeming to defy gravity

Just the sheer scale of the background was amazing, it really did feel like a living world.

As we made one of the loops I got a better shot of the actual entrance weaving, which counts as the “sign” for the ride

As we wound our way around we picked up even more elements that brought us into the world of Pandora

Including more unique plant life that we knew would look even more interesting once night came around

More intricate sculpture

And of course you have to have the sculpture and the floating mountains together

They were pretty cool

Once more shot of the stunning vistas before we headed into the internal queue

Inside we found first natural cave-like formations with tribal art and naturalistic orb-like lighting

Then a door came into view giving a very clear transition from this natural world into the controlled structure of man- made architecture.

It started out pretty industrial but quickly started to brighten up, literally

It was a great prelude to seeing Pandora at night, right down to some vegetation

Let’s all learn about the Mountain Banshee Project

Don’t you know that you’re toxic?

It certainly doesn’t look like stuff you would want to make a spring salad with

Out wardrobe was certainly kicking in this area!

Then we found our way into the main lab facility area

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Mountain Banshee Ecosystem


Smile for the camera

The little spikey rolling orb was cool

Check out the samples of things

We had all been looking forward to seeing this guy

More science stuff

Now we move on to a demo of the Na’vi matching process

Big ole mural!

Well at least we come up to their belly buttons

Now on to the main event!

Kyra got a last selfie before our flight

The ride itself was pretty amazing, really immersive and visually stunning. We of course had the obligatory exit thru the gift shop.

Then back out into Pandora for one more selfie before we moved on. We were going to hit some other lands and come back once it got dark.

Out next stop was going to be Expedition Everest. It had been down for a while but we were hopeful it would come back up soon. While we worked out way around the lagoon we had another couple of barges come by with floating entertainment

While we waited Kyra and Jinx stopped in at the Restaurantosaurus Lounge to pick up some adult beverages.

Expedition Everest did finally open up and the line exploded as most of the park guests hadn’t had a chance to ride it either. Thankfully it actually moved pretty quickly and soon we were in the actual queue. I do love the prayer flags.

Happy Family enjoying our day!

We moved on to the interior queue. So many cool things to look at in here.

Always need to get a shot of the literal big foot!

Time to ride! It is such a fun one and we were up near the front.

It was nice having the car to ourselves for the PhotoPass pic!

After our ride we headed back towards Dinoland USA. Of course the line for Dinosaur was extra long also. But the kids took some time to tag team getting more adult beverages to pass the time while I held our place. I had of course had my fill yesterday.

Soon enough we made it in sight of the main entrance for some more family pics.

Getting to the front still meant some twisting and turning thru the outside queue. But it meant getting to say hello to this big guy.

I always appreciated the actual exhibits and actual fossils they have to look at. Get ready for archeology overload!

This guy has a great smile

And of course we have the big guy!

He’s got quite the smile too!

Dig his little cousin

Not a great way to go for sure

Are they turtley enough for the turtle club?

Got a pretty good PhotoPass pic – it is a pretty spectacular dark ride and I think it is a bit more fun than its sister attraction of Indiana Jones at Disneyland. We always get a good “yikes” moment somewhere on it.

They had some cute dino-themed t-shirts and hats in the gift shop.

Kyra liked the carnival-themed backdrop in the land.

Evening was approaching so you could just start to see lights coming on at the entrance.

We decided to make our way back to Pandora as it would be dark enough for the bioluminescence to start to kick in.

Kyra stopped off at the Tree of Life.

We discovered some Lemurs hopping around on the woodwork above the waterfall by the tree.

It was easier to see these three now despite the waning sunlight.

Back into Pandora and a welcoming Na’Vi

Doesn’t it kind of look like the floating mountain on the right is lifting up the one on the left?

This looks EXACTLY like something that would pop open when you got close to it and release something bad at you

Another interesting angle

Hi everybody!

We were ready for our next adventure, time for the Na’Vi River Journey!

Pretty cool lights in the queue

And interesting angle on the floating mountains from here

Prepare for the fascinating world of informational placards!

Lots of bits and pieces here

More cool lights before be boarded our boat.

We put the cameras down for the journey up until the Shaman came into view – had to try for some shots of her of course

And on the way out there was what seemed to be the Na’Vi version of the treasure trove in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride

Coming back out the land was just starting to come to life

The effect on the pathways with the leaves and tracks was very cool

We made a loop over past the canteen and drink stand

At this point we were all just kind of looking around and taking in the land. Roxy, Kyra, and Jinx were contemplating taking another ride on flight of passage.

Love the colors as the light faded from the sky making it look extra otherworldly

I had been looking forward to seeing what the yellow pods looked like lit up.

Lots of little details with the glowing plant life

What a view!

We meandered back thru the gift shop and spotted a bag in full Disney Pin bling mode!

Roxy’s leggings were really working well with the environment

The pictures give a hint of how magical this place really looks in person


Waterfall coming down from on high

The floating mountains seemed at once more looming and more weightless at the same time

Looks kind of like an alien looking down on us

There were lots of these little pod flowers around

Roxy, Kyra, and Jinx decided to ride Flight of Passage one more time and I can understand why, it was an amazing experience. But I was feeling hungry and wanted to explore more of the park at night. The last time we were there they still shut things down around 5pm so AK at night was a new things for me.

So I headed out of Pandora to explore the rest of the park and they headed back thru the queue and were soon inside again.

Good close up of the cave paintings

On to the inside fluorescent area

Meanwhile I grabbed a quick bite at Flame Tree BBQ. I had one of the seating areas behind the stand to myself and just sat and listened to the sounds of the water and the park around me. It was a nice little relaxing pit stop.

Then I was off to do a loop around the park. First stop, Dinoland USA

I was really glad I came back thru here to see the dino lit up with full Christmas regalia

From there I walked the empty stands, enjoying the way the light strings looked with Everest in the background

Then on to the mighty mountain itself!

Again the clouds were really working well to add atmosphere to the location

I found a good spot and took a couple of short videos – one of the train going up the incline and a second one of it just coming out of the tunnel for the PhotoPass pic

From there it was on to the Asian marketplace, mostly shuttered at this point of the evening

On to the shrine next to the lagoon

Such a spectacular view from there!

On to the Tree of Life which was extra alive with projections

I loved the deep red tones too, amazing what they can do with its look

I had the African Marketplace all to myself!

So cool to see it like this after the hustle and bustle of the area when we stopped there after the safari that morning

Meanwhile the rest of the family had reached a familiar sign

So cool to see the different things that caught their eye in the area to give a new look at the queue

I know this was all indoors, but it does seem more alive now that it was night time outside

I don’t remember this thing at all!

You can really see how they built in the ecosystem taking back over from the old metal of the past human interlopers

Of course you can’t go by this guy without catching a couple of pics

I’m guessing this shot was taken by Kyra due to the waving kitty at the back of the desk

Such a great mural

Quick group selfie before they headed into the last leg of the ride queue. I know they had a great second experience on it.

Back to me as I finished strolling thru the African Marketplace and headed back over the bridge towards the hub. Had to get a shot with Everest and those cool lantern/wreaths

Followed by individual shots of each ;-]

Looking in the other direction from the bridge

Hello little giraffe

I strolled around the Tree of Life Garden a bit

This guy was interesting

One more stop at the Instagram Gate

And then I was back in Pandora with all of its visual wonder

This view was just epic

And Roxy had certainly picked out the right wardrobe for us to wear and really pop in the environment!

While I waited for their ride to finish up I hopped in the PhotoPass line. I wish the flash didn’t take away the glowing look of the shirt but the background was still cool

I stopped by the drink stand to hydrate with a non-alcoholic option

Then I just strolled around taking pictures of things that caught my eye. While I was doing so the rest of the fam came out and I’m sure some of these are theirs also.

One of us got in line for the PhotoPass photographer and after not too long it was our turn. I remember there was some technical difficulties or a changing of the guard but we got our pics!

Kisses! Nice to begin and end the day with them!

Standard family shot

I thing we were supposed to be acting afraid for this one?

And one with us being ferocious!

We went back to the gift shop and Jinx picked out a Banshee to take home. I have this pic of the Banshee area but for some reason did not have one of him with it.

Cool statuette of a Na’Vi on a Banshee

Last patrons getting drinks before things shut down.

Kyra was one of them and she caught a shot of it with the empty canteen in the background

Kyra’s backpack really popped in the lighting of the land

…as did Roxy’s nails

PhotoPass included a couple of spectacular professional shots so I added them here

At that point the park was getting ready to close and we were spent. We stopped by the Tree of Life one more time.

I think I filmed this after the Tree of Life Garden or maybe on the way out – either way here is its Holiday Show

And one more PhotoPass shot at the entrance tree – I detect smiles in the eyes of Kyra and Jinx and probably Roxy. I just look kind of lopsided and tired – lol

We ordered our Lyft and started heading back to the resort. On the way there was a general realization that 3 out of 4 of us never had dinner. So we had the Lyft driver stop at a Pizza Hut which was in the complex across the access road from our resort and Roxy and one of the kids got out and picked up a pizza to go.

Back at the timeshare pizza was consumed quickly

I believe Kyra picked up this little morsel for dessert

After that the standard routine of showers and such kicked in so we could collapse in our beds. It has been another 12hr park day because we don’t seem to know any other way to do it!

Tomorrow brings us back to Universal Studios where we would attempt the impossible – go to Universal Studios proper and NOT do anything having to do with the Wizarding World!