Animal Kingdom in 1998

Last year, Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated 20 years of being “not a zoo.” The park opened on Earth Day in 1998 (April 22). This was the first U.S. Disney park to open during my adult lifetime (I was a teenager when EPCOT Center opened in 1982). I considered making a trip out for the grand opening, but decided I’d wait a bit and let the crowds settle.

I wish I had visited earlier, because by the time I saw it in October 1998, things had already started changing — including the removal of one original attraction!

But I digress…

I wanted to share a sample of what it was like experiencing this park for the first time.

While I was walking towards the entrance, I noticed how beautiful the greenery was. This light caught my attention:

Disney’s Animal Kingdom parking area light October 17, 1998.

I don’t remember what it said not the rock, or if that is even still there. I’ll look for it my next trip.

I remember it being a long walk to get to the entrance.

Walking to the entrance of DAK on October 17, 1998.

I remember being amazed when I saw this waterfall. What a great entrance for this new park!

The waterfall entrance on October 17, 1998.

A minute later, and I would realize this was not the entrance at all. It was the Rainforest Cafe! Neat. Of course, today, you can’t even see the waterfall from here. The trees have grown in and blocked that view.

The real entrance was cool, but now I was a bit let down.

The DAK entrance on October 17, 1998.

I don’t recall what that truck was doing, but I’m betting it was trying to sell tickets to Pleasure Island 😉

I could continue with these photos and take you on a tour of my day, but instead we’ll stick to the outside of the park. Back then, the trees were freshly planted:

The trees needed a bit of help on October 17, 1998.

Even though it didn’t open with the park, we were still pretty excited to see what might come when the fantasy animal realm (Beastly Kingdom) was added. You could see the dragon in the logo, so we knew it would be happening…

Original DAK logo featuring the Dragon on October 17, 1998.

I’m still waiting.

I’ll end with two pictures from the outside of Rainforest Cafe. Click to open the full-size gallery:

I’m not sure how much the inside has changed since I never spent much time in it after this first trip. I got to visit the first three Rainforest Cafes in the Chicago area, so I already had my T-shirt collection started.

There. Now I’ve given Walt Disney World a bit more love. But they will be much, much more love to give in future installments.

Until then…

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