Taste Of Africa And Animal Kingdom

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There are many advantages to living close to Walt Disney World, as I’m sure many of you have contemplated in the throws of your Disney addiction.  One favorite of mine and my wife, Cheryl, is that we can almost always be at Disney World with friends.  And this past weekend was one that I’d been looking forward to for the past few weeks.

We’d made plans to spend the day with J.L. Knopp, @NDM_1 of The Disney Driven Life, and her family. They are recent transplants to the Central Florida area, and are now living close enough to us to be called neighbors.  We had agreed to meet at Lou Mongello’s Meet of the Month to start off our day.  To me this was perfect as J.L. and I met in person for the first time at Lou’s 24-hour live show and bonded as we took over “the box” for a bit to answer viewer questions.

As an added bonus, one of our dearest Disney friends was in town, the globetrotting travel guru herself, Kimberly Knight along with her mom and cousin.  We’d been failing to meet up with her all week, and so I finally suggested she join us at Lou’s meet.  This was brilliant as it was also an opportunity for Kim and J.L to meet in person as well.  I love bringing my Disney friends closer to each other like this when possible.

At the meet it was clear there was really only one way everyone who was there wanted to finish out their day.  You see it was the very last scheduled day for the Taste of Africa Street Party.  Without question, it was settled – at the end of the day, when all was said and done, and rides had been ridden, we’d all meet in Animal Kingdom for the party.  This is one of the other advantages of being local, you can almost always get to the various special events at WDW.

So Cheryl and I, along with J.L. and her family hopped into NDC#1 (Neurotic Disney Car) and headed over to Animal Kingdom.  It was a gorgeous though definitely “Animal Kingdom hot” day, and we walked in from the lot.  Before heading through the turnstiles everyone else needed a pit stop, so I headed through the gate to guest relations and got NDKs 1, 2, and 3 each a “Wild About Safety” set of cards and booklet from Guest relations which they were presented with as they entered the parks.  I love watching how excited kids can get over such treasures.

On walking through the Oasis toward Discovery Island and the Tree of Life we asked the kids what they wanted to do, and they all decided that our destination would be Dinoland.  Now, I sort of dig Dinoland, no pun intended.  Is it the greatest land in WDW?  No.  But it’s not terrible, it actually has a clever story to it, and the theming and decor of the area is something I sort of find appealing.

Our first stop was Primeval Whirl a.k.a. the roller coaster of spinning doom.  This ride takes quite a verbal beating from the online Disney community, but I honestly don’t mind it. However, because it’s so reviled I generally don’t find people to ride it with – to me, this was opportunity.  However, there was one small snafu, NDK#3 was too short to ride – J.L. planned to take her on TriceraTop Spin while the rest of us rode Primeval Whirl.  Then we’d change up and give J.L. a chance to ride Primeval Whirl as well.

From there we headed over to Dinosaur a.k.a. whiplash central.  The height requirement for this ride is much less so NDK#3 had no problems this time and she was psyched.  This is where I learned that this little girl is as fearless as they come, and she wanted nothing more than to find that baby dinosaur egg from the past, rescue it, and bring it back to the future.  Pesky Carnotaurs beware!  Fact: Most of the eggs later find their way to the area surrounding the lion kopjes on the Kilimanjaro Safaris.  No, really, I swear.

Next we stopped for a much needed break – did I mention it was hot?  After resting, we decided it was time to get wet, so we headed over to the Kali River Rapids.  And we did get massively soaked – I’m pretty much a water magnet on this ride, don’t sit next to me – I always get wet.  While we were in line, Kim texts me to let me know she’s on her way over to AK, and we arrange to meet up in Africa once we’re off the ride – fortunately when on the Disney travel plan Asia isn’t all that far from Africa.

And suddenly there we all were.  We’re coming from Asia, Kim and her group are coming through the Harambe gate , and we’re strangely drawn to together at the Tamu Kibanda where we find the terrible trio of Lou Mongello, Glenn Whelan, and Scott Otis filming a future video segment for WDW Radio.  After chatting and watching the tail end of a Samosas demonstration, we agree to get some food and meet over at the Dawa Bar’s outdoor, but covered, seating area.

So I purchased a plate of the Samosas with Mango Chutney and headed over to meet with everyone.  What a great way to start the celebration, the potato and pea mixture of the samosas was extremely well seasoned and had a great flavor.  This contrasted well with the sweetness of the chutney.  I shared my plate with J.L.’s kids and they really seemed to enjoy it also which is good as the spices were not strong enough to overwhelm the palette of a child.

After sitting for a bit Cheryl sent me off to get her a Mango Shake that was over at the Tamu Tamu.  While there I bought myself a plate of Bobotie with Blatjang.  This is a very traditional dish.  You can find it at both Boma and Tusker House as well as it being a yearly regular during Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival.  Bobotie is a curried meat and fruit pie and is traditionally paired with blatjang which is an apricot chutney.  It’s also one of my all time favorite dishes, and this version did not disappoint.  Cheryl’s shake was a bit too sweet for my liking, but had good flavor, and she really enjoyed it.

By this time I was really enjoying myself.  There was a DJ on top of the building where the restrooms are, and he was doing an awesome job working the crowd.  I was eating and bopping my head to the music.  It was a great time hanging out with Kim and her mom and cousin – Kim has one of the most contagious smiles I’ve seen.  Cheryl wanted me to go find out if she could get some of the Joloff Rice without the Curried Chicken as she won’t have meat outside of our own home.  So I danced my way over to the Kusafiri Bakery.

Along the way I watched some sugar cane getting beaten, broken, and then juiced.  And then I danced with a few castmembers and tried out a musical instrument before the line had finally died down enough to get some food.  They had no problem giving me a double portion of rice instead of rice with chicken, and even alone, the rice was fantastic.  I got myself a Banana Bread Pudding.  This was a to die for desert – it was warm and rich and was accompanied by a vanilla cream sauce.  Kim and her cousin both tried this dish and without a doubt they approved – Kim’s cousin is a foodie in training.

I can’t say enough good things about the Taste of Africa Street Party.  It was amazing fun, awesome food, great times, and a much needed addition to Animal Kingdom.  Normally many guests leave each day right after Mickey’s Jamin’ Jungle Parade, but for the street party Harambe Village remained not just full, but full of life.  There was this fantastic energy permeating the event, and everyone there seemed to be having a great time.  Not only were park goers engaged and spending money, but the castmembers were having a great time too.  And something that engages both staff and guests at the levels I saw should always be considered a win.

I’m hoping that the powers that be at WDW deem the Street Party to be the success that it appeared to be and bring it back regularly.  This is an event they could run year round, though they’d have to push up hours for the parade on the shorter days of the year due to their “close at dusk” restriction.   At the very least they should consider fixing any kinks in the system they saw, get it going again come August, and run it through Labor day.

Afterward we all finished up with a ride on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, where were filled an entire truck ourselves.  It was a great way to finish out a fantastic Disney day.  Good food, awesome fun, and great friends to spend the day with.  I couldn’t have asked for anything more while getting my Disney fix.

What about you?  Did you get to try the Taste of Africa Street Party?  If so, what’d you think?  If not, would you want it to come back so you could?  What other sorts of similar events might you add to Animal Kingdom to bring it that much needed evening energy boost?  Kwaherini.

This post is a proud part of the 8th Disney Blog Carnival

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Posted on July 29, 2010

22 Responses to “Taste Of Africa And Animal Kingdom”

  • Todd, thank you for this post. I laughed heartily as I relived our day together through your storytelling. It was a fantastic event with fantastic company. I will be shocked if AK does not repeat Taste of Africa because it is a success in my opinion. The food is great. The atmosphere is festive and engaging. It is a pull for people to visit that particular park (which Disney does need to focus on a bit more), and it would be a mistake to not repeat it.

    • Thanks JL. My favorite pic of the day is that one above with your family heading out of Dinoland. I wish I could take shots like that all the time :) I agree, bringing ToA back is a step Disney needs to take.

  • Great Article on the event Todd. I didn’t even hear about it until this week, not that I could attend. I do hope that they will bring it back on a more permanent basis. This might be another excuse for me to visit Animal Kingdom as there are not too many things that make me want to visit this park.

    • Hey Ray, thanks for stopping by. Animal Kingdom is probably the hardest park to love. I was always iffy on it until a day a few years ago when I visited it solo. I spent a lot of time sticking to the shows rather than the attractions, and I really learned to love the park. It’d be great if Taste of Africa did come back and it brought people like yourself who are not quite thrilled with AK back into the park.

  • by Amy from KC on August 2, 2010, at 8:26 am EST

    Great article, Todd! My family likes the shows at AK, and many of the rides. We have been to some really incredible zoos, so those parts don’t excite us as much… Taste of Africa would be a draw for us, though. During vacation we spend one day at AK. The other parks get at least 2 days of our time, each.

    • I love the AK shows too. I’ve spent some days there ignoring rides in favor of shows. I understand the Zoo thing, my parents travel the country to go to all the major zoos, it’s one of their things, and my stepfather is constantly comparing this thing or that to one zoo or the other. It’s nice to hear that people are attracted to the Taste of Africa. I do hope Disney is listening.

      • Todd, would love to know which zoo’s your FIL ranks the best as I have always loved zoo’s. Maybe you can start a thread on it Backstage on the chat. As for TOA sounds exciting. Would love to see it back Christmas week. Also, we always do AK over two days. One day for the rides and one for the shows. However, when we take short trips to the world we (3 days) that is usually the park we skip.

        • It’s actually my dad, but I have no idea. I just know they always go to the zoo any time they go to a place. It’s a must do thing.

          Bringing back Taste of Africa during the holidays with a holiday flair would be a fantastic idea. With some menu and musical changes.

          You mean Lines chat?

        • I hope that you don’t mind if I jump in here, Todd.

          San Diego has two great zoos: The San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal Park. They are actually part of the same organization, but have a slightly different style. The Zoo is in San Diego proper in Balboa Park, and has pandas among other great exhibits. I highly recommend the behind the scenes tours at this park, but these are not necessary as the zoo itself is world-class. There is also a really high skyway tram that runs from the front of the zoo to the back. You get some really great views of the animals from the air, and a great view of Balboa Park, too. The Wild Animal Park began as a behind-the-scenes breeding facility and research area for the original zoo. Years ago, before it was open to the public, people would pull over on the edge of the property and stand on the roofs of their cars to peek over the fences. It is in Escondido north of San Diego proper, and has vast animal enclosures accessible by monorail (yup, an open-air monorail)trip or open backed safari truck. The truck, a photo safari, will cost extra. However, I fed apples to rhinos and biscuits to giraffes on our photo safari. There are other exhibits that are more typical in size along with the big enclosures. And, they even have campouts in tents there called Roar & Snore. (Guess who does what, it’s not just the animals they are talking about.) Like the Zoo, the Wild Animal Park is a great experience even if you don’t add on any extra expenses above general admission. It has been 4 years since we were at either of these parks, but we used to live pretty close and were members for years. If I had to pick only one zoo to visit for the rest of my life, it would be these two, known together as the San Diego Zoological Society.

          Next, the Forest Park Zoo in St. Louis is another great zoo. This one has a lot of private endowments, and admission is FREE! It is a really great zoo, with high quality exhibits designed to look and feel like natural environments. Did I mention it is free?

          The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha is another great zoo. It has a very unique exhibit that showcases nocturnal animals in a dark, nighttime environment…during the day. It’s pretty cool. This zoo has a lot of other great exhibits, too.

          The National Zoo in D.C. is also a zoo that I enjoyed as a child. That is the first place that I saw pandas in person, when it was the only place to see pandas in the U.S. There are so many other things in the D.C. area and surrounds that you can only see there…the Smithsonian, the National Archives, Mt. Vernon, all of the Monuments, and so much more, that you have to really pick and choose what you will see if you are going to D.C.

          Finally, I have heard a lot of great things about the Ft. Worth Zoo, but it has always been too hot when we are in Texas to seriously consider a zoo trip. One of these days we will get there. I hear it is a very good zoo, but I can’t personally vouch for it.

          I’m sure that there are other zoos that I left out. These are the zoos that I have been to multiple times, and would re-visit given the opportunity. Todd, I would also be interested in knowing which zoos your dad has on his list of must-sees.

          And I’m not knocking Animal Kingdom. We enjoy our visit there, and feel the park has a lot to offer. We just have a finite amount of time in WDW, so we have to prioritize what we will be able to accomplish on each trip.

          I really look forward to reading your articles, Todd, and always learn something new. :)

  • Todd, sorry about the mixup with your Dad. I was referring to the Lines Chat. Amy been to a couple of those zoo’s and San Diego is the best I’ve ever been to. A close second for me is the Bronx Zoo in NY and third is the Columbus Zoo in Columbus, OH. I have heard great things about the National Zoo my daughter starts college in DC soon maybe I’ll take a visit when we go to see her.

    • No problem, wasn’t sure if maybe I miss-worded something on my end.

      I figure I should mention that I’ve been to the San Diego Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, and the Stone Zoo in Boston. There was also another place in MA that was like a Zoo but for formerly abused animals… can’t remember the name.

      I’ve also been to Wild Safari at Great Adventure in New Jersey. What I remember best from my youth down here is Lion Country Safari – back when roofs were vinyl and monkeys used to rip them off and eat them.

  • I asked my parents the following:

    “What were some of your favorite and least favorite zoos, and why?”

    This is what my mom had to say:

    The San Diego Wildlife Park (Zoo) and The Bronx New York Wildlife Conservation Society Park (Zoo) are the best that I’ve ever seen so far. I heard that the Zoo in Dubai and the Aquarium in Madrid are the best in the world!

    We went to a Wildlife Park in St. Maarten which was not so good in that it had very few indigenous species represented there.

    Though I really do think that Disney’s Animal Kingdom has some of the best wildlife experiences available to us. My favorite animal-related ride is not in Disney. It is the “Rhino Rally” in Busch Gardens Africa
    right here in Tampa!

    • by Amy from KC on August 3, 2010, at 8:01 pm EST

      I read somewhere that Disney hired someone from the San Diego Zoological Society to come in and help with Animal Kingdom. I’m not sure in what capacity, though.

      Now, if we’re going to talk aquariums I have another list…

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