Posts Tagged ‘Disney’s Animal Kingdom’

Wilderness Explorers Overview

by on July 14, 2015

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

Head under this majestic sign to join up as a Wilderness Explorer.

Animal Kingdom is undergoing a season of change, and one of the first things that was introduced was the Wilderness Explorers game. Animal Kingdom has a rather unfair reputation as a half day park, but if you’re interested in seeing everything, it will take you a full day, especially with the relatively early closing time for most of the year.

While that early closing time will change soon with the new nighttime entertainment options, the very nature of the park makes it ideal for a more leisurely day, using your touring plans to get where you need to go quickly to allow you truly enjoy the animals. In addition, the Wilderness Explorer game is completely interactive, with a go at your own pace that makes it great for weaving it throughout your day and allows you to play across multiple visits. Not only is the game entertaining, it is free to all park guests; and since you receive actual things to keep, it makes for a fun and free souvenir.

Let’s look at the game more closely!

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Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes – 7/7/15

by on July 7, 2015

Happy Tuesday! I’m here with some more little nuggets that will help make your next Walt Disney World vacation that much better. (Well, hopefully.) Who’s ready to jump right in to the fun?

  • The Tomorrowland Terrace Dessert Party at the Magic Kingdom has officially been replaced by the Wishes Dessert Party. The new version is relatively similar to the previous version, with a few additional desserts, and a higher cost–$49.00 per adult (ages 10 and up) and $29.00 per child (ages 3-9).
  • Also at the Magic Kingdom, as a reminder, Liberty Tree Tavern is now closed for refurbishment as they work on the kitchen area.
  • There has also been a character meet and greet location change. Now guests can meet some of your favorite characters from The Princess and the Frog at Heritage House in Liberty Square. The location was previously a FastPass+ Kiosk Station and prior to that, the location sold merchandise.
  • The Move It! Shake It! Dance & Play It! Street Party will be presented at only 12:30 p.m. and 5:40 p.m. on the following dates:  July 10, July 14, July 15, July 21, and July 22.

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Selfie Sticks Now Banned Across Walt Disney World Property

by on June 26, 2015

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©Seth Kubersky

Due to safety concerns, selfie sticks (the extendable poles where you can attach a phone or a camera to the end) are now banned property-wide across the Walt Disney World Resort. This means you cannot use them at the theme parks, the water parks or DisneyQuest Interactive Theme Park. This new rule will go into effect on June 30.

Guests who attempt to bring selfie sticks into the park will be stopped at bag check and they will be escorted to Guest Relations where the device will be tagged and the Guest will be given a claim ticket to retrieve it upon exit. For those who get caught using a selfie stick in a park, a Cast Member will escort the guest to a regional Guest Relations area where the device will be tagged and a claim ticket will be given to the guest. Again, the Guest will be able to claim their selfie stick as they exit.

All guests must relinquish their selfie sticks, they cannot simply put them away if a Cast Member approaches them about it.

Recently, Disney banned selfie sticks on attractions, however, it seems that more drastic measures needed to be taken regarding these devices.

What are your thoughts on the ban? Do you think it’s a good idea or were you a fan of the selfie stick?

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Backstage Tales Tour Review

by on June 25, 2015

Earlier this year, Disney discontinued two of their behind-the-scenes tours at the Animal Kingdom (Backstage Safari and Wild by Design) and replaced them with a new tour called Backstage Tales. The new tour a mashup of the two, weighted heavily with Backstage Safari experiences. If you’ve previously been on Backstage Safari, consider yourself covered.

Bird food

Bird food

A key difference between the old tours and the new is a change of the participation age limit. Backstage Safari (which, not surprisingly, took place backstage) had an age requirement of 16. Wild By Design (which was an on-stage experience) had an age 14 requirement. The new Backstage Tales allows guests as young as 12 years old to participate. I took the tour with my 15 year old twin daughters.

Disney used standard-sounding boilerplate language when they described why the tour was changed — something along the lines of “due to guest feedback and demand.” While I’m sometimes suspicious of the real motivation behind comments like that, I can assure you that when answering questions on the Disney Parks Moms Panel, we did indeed get many questions from guests requesting behind-the-scenes educational experiences for their younger children. The reduced age requirement is terrific news for budding veterinarians and zoologists who want an early look at the inner workings of animal care at the park.

The tour consists of seven parts:

  • Introductions and Getting to Know You
  • Visit to the Aviary (Pangani Forest Trail area)
  • Visit to the backstage rhino and elephant habitats
  • Break time and snack, with presentation by animal care specialist
  • Visit to the animal nutrition center
  • Visit to the backstage area of Conservation Station, including an animal operating room
  • Visit to the backstage komodo dragon habitat

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Introductions and Getting to Know You

This tour starts early, 7:30am. While younger teens will enjoy getting to see the backstage areas, they will almost certainly NOT like the early hour. Theoretically, you should be able to get an “early character meal” bus from your resort to the Animal Kingdom, but I wouldn’t risk it. If you’re going to take this tour, plan to get to the park with your own car or via a taxi or Uber. Also note that the food cart outside the park gates may not be open when you arrive. You should grab breakfast at your hotel prior to leaving for the tour.

Guest check-in takes place just outside the park gates, toward the left as you face the park. There’s a bit of housekeeping when you arrive. Adults must sign waivers for themselves and any children in their care. Also, IDs are checked for adults. All guests are issued name tags and audio headsets that make it easier to hear the guide’s narration.

Your guide will introduce him or her self, giving a brief synopsis of where they’re from and their history with Disney. They will then ask the guests to introduce themselves, giving their name where they’re from, and some other bit of information. On various tours, I’ve been asked to tell my favorite Disney character, my favorite ride, my favorite animal, or what I’m looking forward to about the tour.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.08.07 AM

Once the business is out of the way, guests pass the park gate touchpoints using their admission media. (I was going to say swipe their tickets at the turnstile, but that’s so 2013.)

Visit to the Aviary (Pangani Forest Trail area)

The first stop on the tour is at the Pangani Forest Trail aviary. Along the way, the guide will share stories about the history of the Animal Kingdom park. Some of these are the same as what I encountered when I took the Wild By Design tour in 2014. Photography is allowed on the AK park paths and in the aviary, which is a public space.

At the aviary, we were greeted by a bird care specialist. He discussed the nesting and feeding habits of many of the species housed at the Animal Kingdom. A highlight for several guests was an opportunity to feed the birds by tossing mealworms to them. Guests who chose to do this were offered gloves, if they wanted to use them. The mealworms made our group extremely popular with the birds, making this a terrific opportunity to get photos. The feeding also made it easier to see that all the birds at the aviary are banded with identification tags. We learned from the keepers that every bird is located and counted every day.

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Visit to the backstage rhino and elephant habitats

After the aviary, we slipped behind the scenes and boarded a van to take us to the rhino and elephant barns. Before getting in the van, we were asked to put away our cameras. Most folks just slipped them into their bag or pocket. I was wearing a large DSLR and just put the lens cap on, which seemed to satisfy the guide that I wasn’t covertly snapping pictures.

At the rhino and elephant barns, we were met by a large mammal specialist who described some of the training the animals receive to facilitate their medical care. We were also welcome to ask as many questions as we wanted about life on the “savannah,” work at the Animal Kingdom, animal breeding, or anything else we could think of. The barns are spartan and much more zoo-like than the wooded areas that guests see inside the park. Backstage it’s mostly iron and concrete. The animals are given some “toys” and distractions, but the barns are primarily a business area. While at the barns, we did see elephants backstage getting cared for, but all the rhinos were out for viewing in public areas. This will vary daily depending on the needs of the animals and the facility.

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Visit to the backstage area of Conservation Station, including an animal operating room

When you visit the public areas of Conservation Station (the building in Rafiki’s Planet Watch at the end of the Wildlife Express train ride), you may see animal care specialists performing procedures on creatures from behind a glass wall. On the Backstage Tales tour, you get to go into one of those rooms and see the medical equipment up close. We learned about the different types of tools used to examine different size species and got an overview of the areas of expertise of the cast members that work at the Animal Kingdom.

During our visit, we happened to see part of an examination of a sedated fennec fox. This is one of my daughter’s favorite animals, so she was in awe. You may or may not see a live animal procedure during your tour, depending on the needs of the facility.

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Visit to the animal nutrition center

After another brief van ride, we stopped at the stop animal nutrition center. This is almost like the kitchen for a large restaurant. There are delivery bays for fruits and vegetables — from the exact same vendors that provide human food for the parks. The produce must meet the same exacting specifications as the food for the guests. We also got to see storage areas for hay and specially prepared pellet-style nutritional supplements for some specials. Additionally, there were freezers for the meat fed to carnivores.

The main room of the nutrition center features several work stations where staff have “recipe books” with precise measurements of food to be delivered to each animal each day. These were “plated” into individual storage containers for transportation to the feeding stations throughout the park.

A particularly interesting area was a shelf full of enhancement items to make the food more interesting for the animals. This included things like jam, peanut butter, and ground spices, which are periodically added to some animal foods to keep them interesting.

Break time and snack, with presentation by animal care specialist

Near the nutrition center, we visited a classroom area in the backstage education building. We were given an opportunity to use the restroom. Then we were provided with snacks (rice krispie treats) and given souvenir metal Animal Kingdom water bottles, which we could fill from a bottled water cooler.

While we snacked, we were visited by a conservation specialist. Our specialist spoke primarily about Disney’s efforts to support the wild sea turtles near the Disney Vacation Club resort in Vero Beach, Florida. We learned about turtle reproduction and migration patterns. This talk didn’t have much to do with the Animal Kingdom park itself, but it was a good opportunity to learn about Disney’s dedication to conservation issues, and to get out of the heat for a few minutes.

Visit to the backstage komodo dragon habitat

Our final stop was the backstage habitat of the Animal Kingdom’s komodo dragons. We watched a dragon trained to be step onto a scale to be weighed. When the dragon performed the desired behavior, he was rewarded with a “fuzzy,” a frozen baby mouse. The behaviors of the dragons, and all the animals, is completely voluntary. They are rewarded for compliant behavior, but they are never punished for non-compliance.

At the dragon habitat, as at every stop, we were allowed to ask as many questions as we wanted about animal care and behavior, Animal Kingdom operations, or staff training. The Backstage Tales tour is particularly nice because it’s one of the few behind-the-scenes opportunities for guests under the age of 16. If you have a child interested in a possible career in animal care, this is a unique chance to see what their future might be like. In my opinion, the price is reasonable for the amount of time and personal attention you get from the professional staff.

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The Details

  • The price is $90.00 per person, plus tax. All ages pay the same price. Disney Vacation Club, Annual Pass Holder, or Disney Visa Holder discounts may be available. Inquire at time of booking.
  • Theme park admission is required and not included in the price of the tour.
  • There is a 48 hour cancellation policy. You will be charged the full price of the tour if you no-show or cancel less than 48 hours before your tour.
  • The tour takes place from 7:30am to about 11:15am daily. The tour may not be conducted during holidays and during special events.
  • The tour takes place substantially outdoors, rain or shine. Come prepared for the weather.
  • Open to guests ages 12 and up. Guests ages 16 and up will need to provide photo ID. Children under age 18 must be accompanied by a paying adult.
  • Reservations must be made in advance, over the phone. Call 407-WDW-TOUR (407-939-8687).
  • Photography is not allowed during backstage portions of the tour. You make take photos during the on-stage portions of the tour.
  • Meet outside the gates to the park 15 minutes prior to start time.
  • Guests are given audio headsets to better hear the guide while walking through the park.

Have you been on the Backstage Tales tour? Is this something you’re considering for you or your kids? Are there any questions you have? Let us know in the comments below.

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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever June 25, 2015: Rainy Day at Animal Kingdom

by on June 25, 2015

best Week Ever Animal Kingdom

Rain or shine, it’s another Best Week Ever at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (photos by Seth Kubersky)

The humidity percentage and heat index have both been hovering around one hundred in Orlando, so where better to spend an “Africa hot” Best Week Ever than in Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Kidding aside, Animal Kingdom holds a special place in my heart, since it’s the first Disney park I ever got to attend before its official opening date, and it remains to this day the most beautifully landscaped of Mickey’s American parks.

Unfortunately, Animal Kingdom is probably also my least-often-visited WDW park, partly because there are only three rides there that I consider must-dos. While I love the Broadway-style shows at DAK, and the animal walkthroughs are truly world-class, it’s inevitable that thrill attractions are what I first focus on when picking a park to attend, and that’s one area in which Animal Kingdom lacks — at least until Avatar-land comes online in 2017.

Happily, there are a number of improvements coming to Animal Kingdom before then, so I headed out on an overcast Friday afternoon to explore the newest one.

My day started out on an awkward foot, as only one tram was servicing the parking lot when I arrived. By the time it finally arrived and transported me to the entry plaza, I practically had to sprint past the front ticket booths…

 

…Through the touchpoints…

 

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Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes – 6/17/15

by on June 17, 2015

Welcome back to another edition of Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes! The place for all your small, yet important Disney news! It has been a while again since I’ve had news like this to report, but the desk is full of small pieces of paper again, so I figured it was about time to clean off the desk and get the news to you! So, let’s get right to the good stuff!

  • Attention those planning 2016 Walt Disney World vacations! 2016 WDW vacation packages will be released on June 22.
  • Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom is now open during evening Extra Magic Hours.
  • Beginning on July 3, Tony’s Town Square Restaurant will serve guests continuously from 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. as opposed to offering separate lunch and dinner meal periods. The menu will continue to feature Italian specialties including pizza, pasta, and salad.
  • Beginning this week, the bats on Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be offstage for anywhere from 4-6 weeks while the exhibit is refurbished. During the refurbishment, the area will be inaccessible to guests. The Wilderness Explorers bat badge will continue to be distributed in the breezeway outside the exhibit.
  • The Wave…of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort has new breakfast and lunch hours. The breakfast buffet and a la carte will run from 7:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m.  The breakfast buffet only will be available from 11:00 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. Finally, lunch begins at 12:00 p.m.
  • At Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, beginning on July 5, the fitness center, salon and Casitas leisure pool will be closed for maintenance.  During this time, guests can visit the feature pool and the other two leisure pools at the resort. Additionally while the work is being completed, a temporary fitness center will be set up in the Casitas area. This refurbishment work is expected to last until October 12.
  • Guests staying at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort will be able to experience poolside service from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily at the Lava Pool Deck and beach.  Guests can choose to enjoy cocktails, flatbreads, sandwiches, kid’s meals, desserts and more delivered right to their spot in the sand.

That’s it for this edition…thoughts?

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Zuri’s Sweets Shop Opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Soon

by on June 12, 2015

Harambe Market 2Harambe Market is the great new dining establishment at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the Africa section of the park, featuring lots of great items, such as ribs, chicken skewers, sausage corn dogs, beverages, and more. Well, now, there will be one more stop for guests. Zuri’s Sweets Shop will open on June 17, and it will be a unique shopping destination!

This new shop is an extension of Mombassa Marketplace and is a traditional candy counter with an African twist. It will features 80 exclusive food items inspired by the tastes of Africa. Guests will be able to purchase things like trail mixes, bottles of signature sweet and spicy BBQ sauces from Flame Tree Barbeque, themed sweets featuring The Lion King charactersand more!

In addition to sweets, guests will be able to pick up other unique merchandise such as decorative “Blessing Baskets,” which are handcrafted baskets created by artisans from Africa.

This shop rounds out the opening of Harambe Market and it sounds like the perfect stop for those looking to take home a little of Africa with them.

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Dining Changes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this June

by on June 5, 2015

image1Disney’s Animal Kingdom has seen quite a few dining changes recently, with the addition of Harambe Market and Tamu Tamu’s switch back to selling sweet treats like ice cream (and Dole Whips with rum!)

This June, there will be a few more dining changes in this park. First, the former Creature Comforts store, which has been announced as the most recent place to get a cup of Starbucks coffee, will reopen in Discovery Island on June 18.

This location will be just like the other Starbucks locations at the theme parks, offering coffee, espresso, frappuccinos, pastries, breakfast sandwiches, and Disney-crafted snacks and treats.

This location is the fourth and final Starbucks to be located in a park. The other shops can be found at:

There are also two additional Starbucks locations at Downtown Disney: one is a walk up window, found on the Marketplace side, and the other is a full-fledged Starbucks, found on the West Side.

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Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes – 5/29/15

by on May 29, 2015

Wow! It’s been a long time since I brought you the latest Newsworthy Notes for Walt Disney World. But that all changes today! I am back with those little nuggets that can help you navigate your next Disney vacation a little bit better. There’s quite a few great nuggets again, so let’s get to them!

  • The big news is that a new grab and go food and beverage location is being constructed in the Asia section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  It will be located where guests could previously get their FastPass tickets for Expedition Everest. No details are known about the location other than the fact that it will open in the fall.

Hoypoloi

  • At Downtown Disney, Hoypoloi has officially closed. The shop has made way for the United World Soccer store to return. (Wait…wasn’t that supposed to be temporary?) For guests looking for Hoypoloi merchandise, you’ll be able to find it at their sister store, Pop Gallery, which is located on the West Side. The United World Soccer store will transition from its current kiosk location found on the West Side into its new store in July.

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Harambe Market to Open May 23 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on May 20, 2015

©Disney

©Disney

For those of you traveling down to Walt Disney World this weekend, you may want to make a stop over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to enjoy the newest dining establishment on property. Harambe Market is slated to open in the Africa section of the park on May 23.

This new quick service/merchandise location will feature four different walk-up windows that will feature a wide variety of street market, African-inspired dishes and beverages for Guests to enjoy. They include:

  • Kitamu Grill: offering skewered chicken and a kabob flatbread sandwich.
  • Famous Sausages: features a corn dog, inspired by a South African sausage called a boerewors, dipped in curry-infused corn batter.
  • Chef Mwanga’s: specializes in a spice-rubbed karubi rib with green papaya-carrot slaw.
  • Wanjohi Refreshments will offer unique African-inspired beverages

The area will provided seating for over 200 under shaded canopies in the open air dining area to relax and eat.

Harambe Market’s backstory is that the area was built around a Colonial-era train depot complete with a 1960s water tower. Guests will be able to see pieces of that story, including the water tower on their visit.

This new addition to the park also includes a new pathway to Asia for Guest convenience from Africa to Bradley Falls and the Asia section of the park.

I am certainly excited to try out these brand new offerings and I think they make a wonderful addition to a fantastic area of the park already.

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