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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