Disney’s Art of Animation resort is the newest addition to the value resorts and is a great place for families to call home during their vacation stay. But you don’t have to book a room to take in the fun atmosphere there. Wander the grounds to see the terrific themed areas and to find a cool learning opportunity.
Head straight to the back of the resort, past the Big Blue Pool and playground area, to Hourglass Lake. There you’ll find a 1.38-mile trail around the lake (sponsored by New Balance) that’s suitable for walking or jogging. It’s great for getting in some exercise or taking in the sunset, but this trail also provides some fun facts to learn on your way.
Signposts along the trail share info and trivia about the four Disney films that are represented at the resort. These facts range from how characters got their names to the type of equipment that was used to animate the films. And it doesn’t matter which direction you choose to head on the trail; there are different facts going in both directions.
The trail is great for film buffs. Be aware that there are smoking areas situated at a couple of spots along the trail. It also connects to the trail at Pop Century, making a full loop around Hourglass Lake.
Opportunities for learning about animals and their habitats abound at Animal Kingdom park. To help identify the many animals you may encounter during your visit, Animal Guides are available wherever you pick up park guide maps.
These guides point out all the animals you may possibly see, organized by land. There are over 100 species listed! The animals that have a highlighted icon are supported specifically by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. You, too, can contribute to the Fund at Guest Relations and at merchandise and select dining locations. During your next visit, pick up an Animal Guide and challenge yourself to find as many animals listed as possible.
The Oasis is the first themed area that you encounter when you step into Animal Kingdom park. Many guests breeze through this area on their way to the attractions that lay beyond. But if you’re an animal lover, take some time to explore the Oasis Exhibits.
The Exhibits showcase some interesting and rare species of both animals and plants. Look up and around you to see beautiful orchids and tropical plants. And many of the animal habitats provide a closer look than the other walking trails in the park. Some of the species you may encounter include the rhinoceros iguana, wallaby, babirusa, and many different kinds of birds.
Plaques provide information about each animal, such as where it lives in the wild, what it eats, and special features or characteristics. The plaques also include quotes from famous naturalists and peace figures. Be on the lookout for a very special plaque near the entrance to the Oasis that marks the dedication of Animal Kingdom park. It emphasizes the wonder, beauty, and chance to learn from our natural world.
FL Sunshine State Science Standards:
SC.K.L.14.3, SC.1.L.14.1, SC.2.L.17.2, SC.5.L.17.1
There’s a spot in DinoLand U.S.A. that’s a bit off the beaten path and is home to some hidden treasures. It’s even more elusive to many guests because it’s not actually on the guide maps. But between Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama and the DINOSAUR attraction is a little area called the Cretaceous Trail. There are two entrances, but a plaque explaining the trail is posted on the Dino-Rama side.
It’s a short walking trail, but as you wind your way through you’ll see Cretaceous era plant life and may even spot (and hear) a few dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the trail doesn’t include any other signage, but you can certainly get a feeling for what the Cretaceous era might have looked, sounded, and felt like.
The trail is also now home to a character greeting location with Donald Duck. That section is usually bustling with activity, but there is some fun dino info posted and a duck-billed dinosaur to pose with alongside Donald.
You might find the Cretaceous Trail to be a good family or class spot to sit, close your eyes, and use your imaginations a bit.
FL Sunshine State Science Standards:
SC.K.L.14.3, SC.K.N.1.2, SC.K.N.1.5, SC.1.L.14.1, SC.1.L.14.2, SC.3.N.1.6
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a great place to explore no matter what your preferred pace.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has some terrific walking trails that let you see animals up close and personal. If you don’t want to wait for the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction, and are up for the walk, head next door to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. You’ll get to see a few of the same animals you’d see on the Safari, plus a bunch more.
The Pangani Exploration Trail is presented as a research facility and conservation school. Throughout the trail, you’ll see notes, bulletins, and photos left by the researchers and students. (This is just another of Disney’s famous themed touches meant to immerse you in a different place.) School kids might be interested to see how the kinds of notes and observations they make in science class could translate to a real-world scenario.
The Trail leads you through forest habitats where okapi and monkeys dwell. A Research Center is home to naked mole rats, tortoises, bullfrogs, and some real creepy crawlies! Don’t be afraid to open the drawers, too – they house specimens ranging from bird wings to shells to insects.
Be sure to grab a bird-spotting guide when you enter the aviary. There are over 20 species of birds that could be flying or waddling around!
The big draw at the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is the gorilla habitat. Cast members are frequently at these viewing spots to impart facts and answer questions about the gorillas. You never know what they’ll be up to so keep an eye out. We’ve seen them grooming, sleeping, climbing trees, and even arguing.
There’s so much to learn on this trail. You can certainly get a lot out of just observing the animals and talking to the cast members. If you want even more info, stop and read the research notes along the way. This is a self-guided trek so take as much time as you like.
FL Next Gen Sunshine State Science Standards:
SC.K.L.14.3, SC.K.N.1.2, SC.1.L.14.1, SC.1.L.17.1, SC.2.L.17.2, SC.3.L.15.1, SC.3.N.1.3, SC.4.L.17.4, SC.7.L.17.2, SC.7.L.17.3