Posts Tagged ‘Animal Kingdom’

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on July 2, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For July, we are going to try something new around here. It’s our first ever themed series of articles for the SATURDAY SIX, and we’re going to put a spotlight on Walt Disney World. That’s right, we are going to take a look at each one of Disney’s four parks and explain why they are some of our favorite places on Earth. First up, the oft-maligned Animal Kingdom which has completely transformed itself from a “half day park” to possibly the best theme park in all of Orlando.


Disney’s Animal Kingdom. (photo by Tim Grassey)

While Animal Kingdom was originally designed to keep people on WDW property, and not make a side trip to Tampa for Busch Gardens, it has become one of the most interesting theme parks you’ll ever see. By far and away the biggest park at Disney (the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction by itself is larger than the entire Magic Kingdom) Animal Kingdom has a combination of terrific thrill rides, world class shows, and amazing safari adventures. Filled with unforgettable experiences, Animal Kingdom simply has it all. But what do we love most about this park? Well, sit back, pour out a 40 for Little Red, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – The Tree of Life

With Cinderella Castle and Spaceship Earth, WDW already had two of the greatest – and most recognizable – theme park icons in the world. With the majestic Tree of Life, Animal Kingdom’s park icon immediately joined them. Despite being completely man-made (even the leaves are made out of a special plastic called Kynar), the Tree of Life looks as if it sprung from the ground and it’s only when you stare at it do you begin to see over 300 animal designs carved into the trunk and roots. The details will make your jaw drop.

Recently the Tree of Life became even more breathtaking with the introduction of projection mapping for the Tree of Life Awakens shows. These three minute shows make it appear that some of the animals in the trunk come alive before your eyes, along with spellbinding special effects in the leaves above. This is true Disney Magic.


Tree of Life. (photo by Brian Carey)


The Tree of Life Awakens. (photo by Brian Carey)

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Animal Kingdom at Night: What You Need to Know

by on June 22, 2016



Ever since the Animal Kingdom Park opened in 1998, guests could only enjoy the park during the day as it regularly closed at dark. Fortunately, that has now changed! On May 27th, Animal Kingdom introduced new extended hours and rolled out a variety of new nighttime entertainment and experiences. However, it’s important to note that Animal Kingdom is a different creature at night; and its signature nighttime show, Rivers of Light, and new land, Pandora – The World of AVATAR, haven’t even made their debuts yet. So, if you’re planning a night venture to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park in the near future, here’s what you need to know…


Kilimanjaro Safaris Artificial Sunset

Opt for a Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris

When Animal Kingdom first announced it was staying open after dark, it also promised a nighttime version of the park’s famous Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction, but with a constant sunset! While it sounds awesome and was highly anticipated, it has been met with criticism since it debuted. Why? The problem is that animals can’t be controlled. If they don’t want to be in view of the safari vehicles, they won’t; and while this is true of the daytime safaris as well, the animals are still often visible. This is not the case at night, even with new lighting effects.

Speaking of lighting, I can say that I was impressed with the constant sunset. While it wasn’t totally realistic, it looked fantastic and the glow and shadows from the effect looked great. I was, however, completely fooled when it came to the artificial moonlight towards the end of the safari, but it still did little to reveal the animals.

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Tiffins Dining Review

by on June 3, 2016

We’ve spent many months anxiously awaiting all of the new offerings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and while many of my friends couldn’t wait to try out the new nighttime Kilimanjaro Safaris or see the Jungle Book: Alive With Magic show, I’ve been counting down the days to the opening of Tiffins (and neighboring Nomad Lounge). I dropped in for a dinner reservation this past weekend with several friends to see if Tiffins could meet the high standard set by other signature dining locations around Walt Disney World. You’ll find my thoughts on this epic meal below, along with those from a revisit a few days later (to see if the high-quality service and food was consistent).

When my party arrived, we were promptly greeted at the host stand and checked in, but also warned that they were running about ten to fifteen minutes behind in seating tables; we were told we could wait in the lobby, or next door in Nomad Lounge, and that we’d receive a text message once our table was ready. We didn’t much mind the wait, and a few of us took a chance to wander the indoor and outdoor seating areas of Nomad in the meantime (what an incredibly gorgeous space – this really set the tone for what to expect inside the restaurant). About ten minutes later, we were summoned to be seated, and led to our table – not a bad wait at all! Our server, Deandra, was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly – she gave us a quick introduction to the restaurant and then went through the menu with recommendations and commonly asked questions.

I was happy to hear her make solid suggestions, rather than just dance around which dishes were her personal favorites compared to what the house suggests. As we were a larger party, we chose to sample several appetizers and then each ordered an entrée for ourselves, both orders taken at once by Deandra. I have to admit – sometimes this approach by servers scares me; it definitely speeds up the meal by not waiting around to order after appetizers arrive, but it can sometimes throw off the pacing of a meal (like the dreaded “ending up with appetizer and entrée plates on the table at the same time” debacle that can put a halt to a good meal). As we discovered later, and you’ll see below, though, this fear was absolutely unfounded.

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7 new things we didn’t expect at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on June 1, 2016

Night has awakened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Thousands of guests descended upon Walt Disney World’s youngest park this past week to check out all the new night time entertainment, as well as the new signature restaurant and lounge, Tiffins and Nomad Lounge respectively. I was one of those guests and encountered a view surprises during my adventures in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Overall, the night time offerings are great additions, as are Tiffins and Nomad Lounge. But there are some aspects that might be a little unexpected to some guests, including myself.

Souvenir cups (that strongly resemble Rivers of Light)

The most discussed component of night time at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is “Rivers of Light” night time spectacular,… and sadly it’s not ready to debut. But of course, some of the merchandise that is not specifically labeled as such did make its debut this weekend. The most notable items are a pair of souvenir cups.

Photo by Julia Mascardo

Photo by Julia Mascardo

These little beauties light up and change color. One is a collapsible cup that resembles a paper lantern ($12.99). The other is more detailed, resembling an ornate oil lamp ($13.99). It is pretty clear that these were designed to match the style of the Rivers of Light show, however, they do match the Indian style of “Jungle Book: Alive with Magic“. While selling souvenir cups is nothing new at Disney, to say the least, I don’t think many of us were expecting these cups to debut with the temporary Jungle Book show.

Size and scope of Nomad Lounge

Tiffins restaurant and Nomad Lounge are two highly anticipated dining venues that debuted this weekend. Both bring a necessary sophisticated flair to the park; Tiffins especially is a signature experience. We’ll discuss the difference between Nomad Lounge and Tiffins momentarily, but I just have to point out how pleasantly surprised I am at the size and scope of Nomad Lounge.


When I arrived I headed left and didn’t even bother going inside. The outdoor, wrap around seating area is the most posh outdoor seating area I’ve ever seen at one of the four Walt Disney World theme parks. Plush sectional couches flank the right side of the porch, while pairs of chairs line the outer rim and overlook the water.



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What I Wish I Knew Before My Trip to Animal Kingdom

by on May 13, 2016

Head under this majestic sign to enter the wild Magic Kingdom.

Head under this majestic sign to enter the wild Magic Kingdom.

If you are planning your very first visit to the Walt Disney World Resort, I’m sure you’ve made lists of what attractions you want to see, what characters you want to meet, and I bet you even made those dining reservations the day you booked your trip, right? But despite all your planning and newly accumulated park knowledge, it’s still easy to make those Disney World Rookie mistakes. My goal today is to let you in on some tips and info that I wish I had known before my park visits to help your first time trip to Walt Disney World run smoothly. I’ve already covered What I Wish I Knew Before My Trip to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot; and so for today, I’m tackling What I Wish I Knew Before My Trip to Animal Kingdom!


Asia’s Maharajah Jungle Trek

It Is Meant To Be Explored & Discovered

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is all about the magic of nature and living things, and in staying true to that theme this park features a more organic design and encourages guests to explore. The Oasis–the entryway into the park–is quite a departure from the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A. or Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood Boulevard in that there’s no one way to reach the main part of the park and no visible icon pulling you down the pavement. Instead, The Oasis is thick, lush, and has a number of exhibits to enjoy at your own leisurely pace.


A resident of the Discovery Island Trails

Animal Kingdom also offers a number of wildlife trails throughout the park, such as the Discovery Island Trails and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Unlike centerpiece attractions or eye-catching shops, these trails somewhat blend in with the environment and may be missed if you’re not looking for them. Unlike shuffling through a line or seeing a choreographed show or effect, the trails are self-guided and can be enjoyed at a guest’s own pace. I also appreciate the little paths and hidden seating areas that lay off the beaten path throughout the Animal Kingdom Park and some of which offer spectacular views! So when you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, remember that this is a different kind of park that it’s meant to be explored and discovered.

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Best (and Worst) Attractions to Get Stuck On

by on April 6, 2016

Thankfully, I had the good sense to bring some reading material along just in case I got stuck

Thankfully, I had the good sense to bring some reading material along just in case I got stuck

It happens. You’re right in the middle of an attraction, and everything just grinds to a halt.  Sometimes you’re down for a few seconds, sometimes it’s several minutes, and sometimes you actually have to be evacuated from the ride.  I was talking with someone in line on a recent trip, and he relayed a story where he spent an hour at the crest of the big drop on Splash Mountain before eventually having to walk off of the attraction without experiencing its climax.  To me, that seems like a pretty awful way to spend an afternoon, and it got me to thinking — what are the best and worst attractions at Walt Disney World to find yourself so stuck that you actually have to exit the ride using your feet? This article attempts to answer this pressing quandary that I suspect most of you had never bothered to contemplate before.

Here are the parameters of the challenge: you’ll be in the midst of the ride, and then at either the most or least optimal moment, the ride will stop moving, although the effects and show elements other than motion will continue to work. You’ll thereafter spend 30 minutes plus whatever time it take to get you rescued in that spot, and then you’ll either be ushered out by Cast Members, or extracted from the ride if necessary. Shows that you could just stand up and leave do not count (i.e., you cannot get “stuck” at Hall of Presidents). Also, you should assume that any momentum-based ride (e.g. roller coasters) is going to come to a natural resting place, such that you won’t be stuck upside down or in the middle of a steep hill.

So, without further ado, let’s go!

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Where To Eat At Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on March 14, 2016

Disney's Animal KingdomIf you’re like me, you’re probably really excited about all of the new offerings on the way at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (nighttime Kilimanjaro Safaris? Rivers of Light? Count me in.). We’ll finally get the chance to see this park come to life after dark every night, spending a whole day exploring new and old attractions alike. Along with that extra exploring, though, comes a few practical considerations – mainly, where to eat. I’ve certainly enjoyed some great meals in Animal Kingdom over the years, but now I, like many of you, am faced with deciding where to eat multiple meals in one longer touring day at this park. To help tackle this problem, I recently dined with a few friends at the big three quick service locations in the park – Pizzafari, Flame Tree Barbecue, and Restaurantosaurus. Here, you’ll find a quick overview and dining review of all three locations (including some of the recent menu changes), and then a look at how the three compare to each other and the park’s various dining offerings to help you best decide where to head on your next trip.

First, I’ll address the elephant in the room – why only these three restaurants? It’s pretty simple: they’re the most popular, centrally-located, and accessible (menu- and price-wise) eateries in the park. I love the current table service offerings at Animal Kingdom, and really enjoy snacking my way around the park. More than likely, though, you’re going to find yourself looking to grab a quick and relatively cheap meal before taking in the park’s upcoming nighttime entertainment. Dining at these three restaurants doesn’t require a lot of pre-planning and they cover a pretty wide variety of cuisines suitable for palates of all levels of adventurousness. I’m skipping Harambe Market in this review, as it’s been pretty widely covered recently, and is located a bit further back in the park. Same for Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafe – it’s pretty remote, featuring Asian cuisine not unlike what you’d find at Lotus Blossom Cafe at Epcot. That’s not to say either of these aren’t great options for you to consider, but if you’re looking for food in a pinch (as you arrive to the park for the evening, or running between attractions on a longer touring day), the three restaurants outlined here are your most likely options.

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Disney Haiku Challenge

by on March 11, 2016

"Disney Haiku"

“Disney Haiku” (yes, that’s really what it says)

I’m not sure why exactly, but I’ve always found haiku to be a fun little creative outlet. My law school roommate and I would often sit in the back of our Estates & Trusts lectures and compose absurd haiku as a way to pass the time. This might explain why neither of us do estates and trusts as a part of our practice, by the way, but that’s a discussion for another day.  

Anyway, as a reminder for those of you that have not encountered it since elementary school, haiku is a form of short Japanese poetry that follows a particular format: a traditional haiku is 17 syllables in three phrases that follow a 5-7-5 pattern.*  In other words, the first phrase is 5 syllables, the second is 7, and the final phrase is 5 syllables.  To the extent that it requires you to wedge your thoughts into a small number of words and still convey something worth reading, you can almost think of it as an ancient version of Twitter (minus the abbreviations, emoticons and vitriol).  Alas, I digress.

Haiku have traditionally been used to convey very Zen-like observations regarding the serenity of the natural world.  Accordingly, the juxtaposition of this simple, beautiful form of poetry and its traditional use, and different subject matter — like the decidedly un-serene and not-particularly-natural Disney Parks — can lead to some wonderfully absurd results.  Soooo, here’s a challenge for all of you — come up with some Disney park haiku and share them in the comments below.

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How Disney’s Animal Kingdom is Preparing for Rivers of Light

by on March 10, 2016

The most under-appreciated theme park in Walt Disney World is about to be the proud recipient of a brand new nighttime spectacular that promises to be unforgettable.  Rivers of Light is set to debut on Earth Day, April 22nd, the 18th anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disney has begun releasing more details about the show, its themes, and major visual elements. In fact, they held a brief chat on the Disney Parks Blog to share some information about the show and its development. I also visited my favorite Walt Disney World theme park a few days ago and checked out the construction of the show’s amphitheater. Finally, there’s some other preparations being made in the park to get ready for the arrival of Rivers of Light.



Disney reveals more details about Rivers of Light

Disney recently released a few videos showing footage of technical rehearsals as well as construction of some of the shows key floats. In case you’ve missed the concept art and basic storylines, Rivers of Light will take place on the lagoon in between the back edge of Discovery Island and Asia, essentially in front of Expedition Everest. Fountains, water projection screens, lighting, floats, boats, and live performers will bring this spectacle to life. Even the parks icon, the Tree of Life will become part of the show. If for some reason you are really wanting to stay away from any spoilers whatsoever then it may be best to skip ahead to the next section regarding the amphitheater construction.

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The Basics: Meeting Characters at Animal Kingdom

by on March 2, 2016

AK-Characters-1-467x700This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.


Character meet and greets – love them or hate them, they’re a pivotal part of a Walt Disney World vacation. I already waxed nostalgic on the magical memories that can be made at a character meet, and I encourage you to check out my first article (which focuses on Epcot) in the Character Meet and Greet portion of our Back to Basics series. For my second foray into the detailed world of characters and where they live, we’re headed off to the Animal Kingdom!

Animal Kingdom is not a park I traditionally associate with a large number of character meet and greets, but one major thing it has going for it is uniqueness. While you can find your traditional characters there (Mickey, Minnie, etc.) you can also find others who only appear in Animal Kingdom. In actuality, Animal Kingdom has a pretty solid line-up of characters! (I have no idea why I have some sort of mental block saying that Animal Kingdom isn’t prime real estate for characters – it is!) Before we start on the rundown of characters you can find here, let me give you some basic meet and greet tips. (Feel free to scroll past the following section if you read it in the Epcot article. Do I at least get bonus points for swapping out the photos?)

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