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A Really Bored Gorilla at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Last Friday, while in Florida, I visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You know, the fourth big attraction on the Disney property after the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, and MGM Studios.

The admission for me and my wife was $159.76. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of money.

And for that kind of money, I expect some top notch entertainment.

I didn’t find it.

In fact, the “adventure” was soured even before we entered the park…

See, the person we purchased the admission from was very pushy with the up-sell.

“Well, a ‘Park Hopper’ pass will allow you to go to a different park within the Disney resort.”

“Yes, I’m aware of that. I just want two adult tickets for Animal Kingdom, thanks.”

“Are you sure you don’t want a multi-day pass? They’re valid indefinitely and,” blah, blah, blah…

I said, “No. Just one day, one park, thanks.”

She went on and on and on — holding on to my credit card and passes so I couldn’t just walk away from the pitch.

“Where y’all from,” she said.

Odd that she worded it that way — her name tag said she was from Syosset, New York. I’ve never in my life heard a Long Islander use the term “y’all”.

“Connecticut,” I responded impatiently…

Then, as if Connecticut was local (a mere 1200 miles away), she suggested a year-long pass…

Sigh… “Two adults. One day. One park. Thanks.”

I’ve always found it funny that their tickets are valid for so long, but they’re still just a flimsy piece of cardboard. I actually have 1 day remaining on one of those “passes” from 1997, but the cardboard has all but disintegrated in my wallet since then…

Even up here, a season pass for Six Flags comes on a laminated plastic credit card type of thing — they even put your picture on it. At Disney, it’s cardboard. Go figure.

Anyway, the experience of purchasing tickets was invasive and uncomfortable. She was just prying for an opening to toss another sales pitch my way. What, am I buying a car here? Certainly not very Disney-esque…

Then, as I’m sure many of you know, you get your finger scanned as you enter the park — otherwise the turnstile won’t turn. What is up with that?

Every time I go to Disney, about once every 5 years, I conveniently forget about that, as I’m sure most other visitors do too.

But I’m sorry, they’ve got my credit card number, my address, my signature, and my finger print.

That’s the exact same amount of information I provided to get my green card.

Think about that.

It’s a freakin’ theme park?! Disney has more of my information than the Department of Homeland Security.

What does Disney need all that for? Imagine what they use it for?

Considering how many people claim to be worried about identity theft or big brother watching over you, well, I’m surprised so many people continue to visit the Disney parks.

The TSA doesn’t even take a finger print at the airport?!

Anyway, once inside the park, it screams Disney. Other than the overpriced knick-knacks, that’s a good thing.

Great landscaping, it’s nice and clean, and it looks and feels like you’re guaranteed to have a wonderfully memorable day.

Then you notice that there aren’t any animals. Anywhere.

This is “Animal Kingdom”, right?

I see a big concrete tree. Oh, and a fake concrete mountain off in the distance too…

Oh! There’s the ever elusive Mallard duck. Finally, some wildlife!

But we have those in Connecticut. You don’t even have to pay to see them.

So we immediately head over to the safari ride. Rafiki’s Rover or some such silly name.

They have this thing now where you can get a “Fast Pass” by swiping your ticket in a machine. It’ll spit out a time later in the day when you can come back. The idea is that you won’t have to spend the day standing in line.

So I walk up to a vacant machine and stick my ticket in. It spits it back out.

Nothing.

I tried my wife’s ticket. The machine spits it out too.

Seeing that I’m having trouble, and I’m not alone, a Disney employee tries again for me — like maybe I’m a moron and I’m putting the ticket in upside down or something.

Same problem for her. This is what she says:

“Yeah, did you have this in your wallet? Sometimes that can mess up the mag-strip so the machines can’t read them…”

Are you kidding me?

Where was I supposed to put my cardboard tickets that are apparently valid until the end of time? The woman I purchased it from made it out as if it was one of the most valuable things on earth — I put it in my wallet for safekeeping.

What if I had run through the mist machines a few times on the way here? Or gone on the water ride? I’m pretty certain the ticket wouldn’t have survived anywhere but in my wallet. I couldn’t believe it.

And by the looks of those around me, most people were keeping their tickets in their purse or wallet. Um, Disney? You might want to make a design change…

After three or four tries on each ticket/card, it eventually worked. We were to come back in about 3 hours. Fair enough.

We walked around some more and eventually stumbled across a few tigers (sleeping, of course) and the obviously bored gorilla pictured above.

Okay, those are two pretty impressive animals to have in the collection, but you can see those at nearly every metropolitan zoo in the country — usually for admission of around $20 (or FREE in Chicago!).

For more than three times that amount, I want to see something, well, let’s just say that if I’d gotten to see a polar bear fight a gorilla, I’d say that I got my money’s worth.

Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

They didn’t even have a polar bear.

Somehow three hours pass — mostly just walking around nicely landscaped swamplands looking at birds just like the birds that lined the highway on the way there. Seriously, those stork looking things look pretty much the same when you speed by them at 70 mph.

We head back to the Safari ride and, well, stand in line.

So much for a “fast” pass.

Seems everyone uses the fast pass so the line at 3 o’clock is the exact same line that would have been there at noon. I’m not sure the whole idea is working as planned.

So we drive out into the “wilderness” (I use the term loosely) with an over enthusiastic Disney employee having a pretend conversation with a recording blabbing about poachers in the area or something.

I’m not knocking it, I mean, I realize they’re trying to add a little excitement to a rather boring truck ride, but sometimes I wish they’d tone down the Disney-ness of things.

The concrete ostrich eggs left out in the open didn’t need to be displayed…

Or the showcasing of the “upside down” tree that apparently took 2000 years to grow — again, obviously made of concrete and fiberglass.

And how about those phony termite hills?

On the ride, we saw some alligators (also available on the side of the highway in much of Florida), some giant horned gazelle things, a giraffe, a couple of different kinds of rhinos, and some elephants.

No doubt, some pretty decent stuff. But we waited three hours for that?

At a traditional zoo, again, with an admission 3-times less, we could have seen all of those things in the first hour?!

In the end, I felt ripped off.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando can’t compare to any of the zoo’s I’ve been to in the past few years.

The Bronx Zoo has more gorillas. The Brookfield Zoo has more tigers. The Toronto Zoo has orangutans and gorillas. The Lincoln Park Zoo has FREE admission (and more animals). The Pittsburgh Zoo has more stuff for kids to do.

The only thing Animal Kingdom had was more employees and a HUGE fake tree. Oh, and a pushy sales pitch.

So *NOT* worth a $75 admission fee.

5 4052

Yesterday, we traveled up to Vermont for the 7th annual “Strolling of the Heifers“. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a parade of cows.

This year didn’t seem to have as many cows as last, but that could have been due to the weather. It was damp and misty in the morning and soon turned oppressively hot and humid. I’m not sure what the ideal weather for a cow is, but I’m guessing they’re not at their best in these conditions.

So, at the risk of turning PIAC into a weekend photo blog (And with this new layout I debuted last week, I can make the photos even larger — not always a good thing!), here’s this past weekend’s recap of the FREE entertainment…

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
The parade stepped off about 15 minutes late, but word spread quickly among the crowd that the cows were ‘moo’ving and the excitement began to build. Notice the kid on the pogo stick out front. How he managed to bounce all the way up a street for the length of the parade astounds me. Have you ever tried one of those things? They’re darn near impossible…
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
YES! There’s nothing cooler than a huge fiberglass cow that’s sponsored by a make-up company. Is Udderly Smooth Udder Cream for people? Or is it for cows? I’m not really sure.
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Spencer the Cow
Here come the real thing. Moo! I think Spencer was my favorite. Usually I like the brown cows (they make the chocolate milk), but Spencer looked pretty neat. Friendly too!
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Gay & Lesbian Pooper Scoopers
After the cows paraded by, an eclectic mix of superheroes, all of indeterminable sexual orientation (not that there’s anything wrong with that), came around to scoop up the poop. They were, well, odd but par for the course in this part of Vermont.
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
Seems tractors are all the rage these days in parades — agricultural or patriotic. The funny thing is — the tractors were a lot more impressive in hoity-toity Connecticut. Go figure.
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
After the tractors came the bands…

I like how low-key things are in Vermont. Notice that neither group is wearing an uncomfortable uniform in hot and humid weather. I dunno, most of the bands in local parades (especially the school bands) look sloppy all on their own. Dressing them up isn’t going to change that, so why pretend?

The high school band in the second picture even did a little square dancing as they marched up the street. It was a lot more entertaining than watching a bunch of stiff, yet still out of step, marchers like we did for Memorial Day.

Musically, it was a little odd. They were playing “Hoe Down” from Copland’s Rodeo. For those that aren’t dorks that stayed in the high school band all four years like me, that’s the song from the “Beef… It’s what’s for dinner” commercials from the early 1990’s.

Hey with that at your back, it’s no wonder the cows were willing to march.

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Plastic Bag Monster!  AHHHHHHH!
Then the parade took a turn towards the edgy and controversial side. Yep, that’s a bag monster. It kills baby seals and suffocates birds. Nice, huh? Well, just be sure not to use plastic bags anymore.

Paper, apparently, is still okay in Vermont.
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
Some sort of hippie hand drum band or something. Not sure what their message was exactly — something “green” I’m sure — but they certainly made a lot of noise.

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
Hey look, it’s Miss Vermont, Ashley Wheeler, sitting on a bale of hay! She looked a lot better when she was crowned.
Sometimes I wonder if these girls know the hardships of the job – I may be off base, but it looks like it’s taking a toll on her.
From her own blog, “I am not sure exactly what to expect but I am certain cows will be ’strolling’ down main street. I am contemplating dressing in black and white as to blend in with the heifers.”
I mean, I wouldn’t really like to go for a hay ride all dressed up. Would you? And is it just me or is it really stupid to wear white when you know you’re going to be sitting in a rusty trailer filled with a bunch of hay? Apparently, she didn’t know.
Really though, can a parade really be called a parade without at least one beauty queen swiveling her forearm like the real Queen?

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Brattleboro, VT
You know, when I was in elementary school, they didn’t teach us that “Composting saves landfill space and money.” We also didn’t make giant rotting fruit picket signs or gross hoop monsters that look like earthworms either. I think the schools should spend a little more time teaching kids to look both ways.

In the end though, these kids were *very* enthusiastic towards their cause.
Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Sometimes I wish I were more skilled with the hula-hoop.

A group of hula-hoopers made their way by us. One kid was really young. None of the pictures of him came out, so I used this one instead. There’s just something neat about people who can hula hoop with ease. The little kid was amazing.

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — Country Bumpkin?  You decide.

I honestly don’t think she was wearing a costume. That’s just how they dress up there.

Strolling of the Heifers 2008 — And King Nepture is here because...
What is happening here? I mean, seriously…

I like to think, with the octopus and all, that Vermont was just celebrating the Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup season a few days late. (You’d have to be a hockey fan to pick up that reference).

I dunno — just some more weird Vermont culture I guess. You have to admit, that is a pretty neat octopus though. Not sure what it has to do with cows, but still, it was an exciting finish to the parade.

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