We pick things up at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on what is easily the least-crowded day that I’ve ever seen since Pandora opened. Granted, I don’t make a habit of going on hurricane day, but wait times around the major storms over the past couple of years have been higher. Today, we enjoy blue skies, 115-degree RealFeels, and a dew point that I’ll keep to myself.
So far, this is what I’ve accomplished:
- Avatar – Flight of Passage – 7:52am – 8:21am
- Na’vi River Journey: 8:23am – 8:33am
- Starbucks and a meander: 8:35am – 8:58am
- Kilimanjaro Safaris: 9am – 9:30am
- Kali River Rapids/Lockers : 9:40am – 10am
- Character Cavalcades and Water: 10am – 10:20am
- TriceraTop Spin: 10:22am – 10:27am
- DINOSAUR: 10:33am – 10:43am
If you’re curious about how we got here, you can pull up the Last Part, which links back to what I’m sure are many previous Parts. If you don’t want to pull up any Parts, and don’t want to read any more, then you can rest assured that at the moment, you can show up to Animal Kingdom whenever you want and do just about anything you want without an appreciable wait. That will be slightly less true on weekends, when crowds are naturally heavier. The early arrival remains your best bet to accomplish as much as possible. If you’re not up for an early morning, then arriving later and staying through close is your best bet. Wait times fall off again after 3pm and only get lower as the current 6pm close approaches.
It’s Tough To Be A Bug has more social-distancing stickers than Slinky Dog Dash at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can probably guess which attraction actually needs them.
We’ll continue on until we find the comfort of our dot:
Since Dot is a character in “It’s Tough To Be A Bug,” the theming checks out. And you thought I didn’t know anything about Disney.
As if entering the theater wasn’t terrifying enough, you’ll now find these plastic dividers every four seats or so.
Just in case there are ever more than 15 people watching the show, the dividers theoretically allow most every seat to be filled “safely.”
Try not to run into the clear plastic as you barrel towards the exit when the spiders descend from the rafters.
It’s Tough To Be A Bug is another show that I don’t necessarily make a habit of seeing. There isn’t a whole lot of touring advice to offer when it’s “just go whenever you want if you want to see it. And if you somehow have to wait through two shows until it’s your turn, you’ve got much bigger problems.” This is the first time I had seen it without the Hopper animatronic in action. The show still works okay without him actually appearing, but his presence is certainly foreboding.
We tried to time Tough To Be A Bug so we could go see the 11:30am Bird Show in Asia after.
Something tells me we’ll be able to find seats for the 11:30am showtime as we head over to the Caravan Theater at 11:15am.
As an open-air show, it’s likely “safer” than some of the indoor attractions.
Every other row is closed and seating is arranged so you’ll basically have two empty rows in front and behind you. While a lot of people have been focusing on the roaming mask enforcers at Epcot, Disney needs to announce before shows that masks need to be kept on for the duration.
I prefer to sit in the back where we’ll enjoy a clear view of the entire stage. The best seats are always the ones as far from the other people as possible. It doesn’t really matter if you’re front and center when the people next to you are talking the whole time. At least the Eiffel Tower doesn’t make an appearance. We are always impressed when people can loudly identify that.
It may be hard to tell, but that’s a bird walking across the stage carrying a plastic bottle. This is already a better ride than Fast & Furious Supercharged.
Yeah, that’s a lot of masks down. As I’ve mentioned in the past, people typically get away with whatever they think they can get away with. Even Disney’s own photographer at the show wasn’t wearing his mask properly until I side-eyed him with my much larger lens.
You’ll remember that this show is called “Feathered Friends in Flight” and replaces the much-maligned UP! A Great Bird Adventure. Disney has likely not given up on the UP! characters. They make the show tremendously more popular. But the company is still embattled with the Actors’ Equity Association over the safety of the performers it represents.
In Feathered Friends, the birds steal the show. That’s one flying through the arms of a couple of spectators. Mask compliance looks to be better over there. Maybe places will start adopting mask/mask-free zones like the old smoking sections at IHOP. Want to increase your risk of death? Right this way…
In the new show, the emphasis is squarely on the birds, which hearkens back to the days of Flights of Wonder.
The big problem with the UP! show was that Russell and Dug had no way of ad-libbing, in addition to no mechanism to really move their mouths when they spoke.
A big part of the charm of the live animal shows is their behavior and how the performers react.
Things don’t always go quite as planned. That’s part of the fun.
We enjoyed an a capella duet by a couple of parrots. They could probably teach the Shaman of Songs something about pitch.
We saw birds flying all over the place. That’s one hanging out above the lighting.
And learned a lot in the process.
Have you really been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom if you don’t see Dr. Frasier Crane?
With Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical dark, it was nice to sit down and relax in relative comfort for 25 minutes.
Considering Disney probably didn’t have a lot of time to put the show together, I thought it was a great, thoughtful addition.
If you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom when the show is offered, I’d take the opportunity to see it. With the low wait times and no Lion King or Nemo performances, you should have the time.
The showtimes will be posted outside the theater, but expect them to be:
See whichever show is most convenient, keeping in mind that performances may be cancelled with rain or lightning in the area.
I would guess the UP! characters will return after the actors’ union caves. There’s too much signage to do away with it. Hopefully Disney notices people reacting more positively to the focus on education and rewrites the script for a fifth time to incorporate more of that. “Frozen” is all over the Sing-Along at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Elsa doesn’t even appear until the last two minutes of the show. Something like that would work here too. UP! only got worse with each subsequent rewrite.
It was going on noon, which meant we had spent about four hours in the Park. We headed for the conditioned air, fine food, and drinks of Yak & Yeti Restaurant. If you don’t have one already, you want the Landry’s Select Card, which you can purchase here. It costs $25, but it comes with a $25 credit that you can use at any Landry’s restaurant, which includes T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe on property, in addition to all of these. More importantly, that’s the only money you’ll ever have to pay for it and they load another $25 in credit every year during the month of your birthday, among other promotions. Even more importantly, flashing your Landry’s Card at check-in will put you ahead of those with reservations. We didn’t have a reservation and were the next table seated. All thanks to the Card. Membership has its privileges.
This is basically me with my Landry’s Card out. You can hate all you want, but I’m the one with the creepy scepter and cool hat.
Like most other restaurants, Yak & Yeti is working with a somewhat limited menu:
You can pull up the current menu here.
Here’s what we saw last time:
It’s not a huge departure, but there is no steak on the menu, for example. Items like the Dim Sum Basket are also out.
The Ahi Tuna Nachos are one of my favorite items across property. It’s a whopping portion with a ton of perfectly-crispy fried wontons piled high with incredibly fresh ingredients – a ton of tender tuna and crunchy lettuce topped with an irresistible mixture of a sweet and salty soy glaze and a spicy, creamy wasabi sauce. Two people could easily make a light meal out of these – it’s a ton of food but it does’t really “feel” like it with the airy quality of the wontons and the freshness of the vegetables. It’s just lettuce, right?
This time around, our server informed us that they had just added an alternative tuna nacho option to the menu with fries instead of the wontons. This did not sound better, but such is the obligation of a blogger. We ordered it.
I’d probably stick to the Crispy Wontons, which add a more satisfying crunch to each bite, while still allowing the sizzle of the sauce and the flavor of the tuna to show through. The french fry version was good too, but potato and salt dominated the palate instead. Assuming these are still available when you visit, you might consider them as a shareable side to split alongside an entree. Obviously fries don’t go with everything on the menu, but they’d accompany items like the Coconut Shrimp or Ribs nicely. The Crispy Wonton version would get a 10/10 from me. These were closer to a 7.5/10, which is still well above-average.
I waffled between one of the Wok entrees and the $15 “Korean Fried Chicken – Hand breaded tenders tossed in gochujang maple syrup, dipping sauce.”
I asked the server, who said she loved the Korean Fried Chicken, but the Wok was more of a complete meal. Considering the sizable French Fry situation, something smaller sounded better. This turned out to not be small, with eight large, crispy tenders tossed in a spicy chili sauce with a touch of sweet maple syrup. These, along with the Ahi Tuna Nachos with Fries, would be plenty of food for two people to share for less than $35. Not a very healthy meal, mind you, but both theme-park-friendly, and different enough to be interesting.
The $21 “Kobe Beef Burger – 10 oz. grilled American Kobe beef burger, sesame-soy mayonnaise, crispy fries. Topped with choice of shiitake mushroom & scallion compote or Asian slaw” is another fan favorite. The burger is tender and juicy in between the fresh bun and crunchy slaw with just a hint of vinegar. The sesame-soy mayonnaise, which we also saw with the Fried Chicken, adds a creamy, slightly toasty element. The crispy, thinner fries dip nicely, making for a substantial, filling meal.
It’s only six dollars more than this significantly worse burger that they serve outside at the quick service.
The restaurant looked to be doing a great job with cleaning and social-distancing.
Once a party left, someone immediately and thoroughly wiped down the table and chairs. The whole physical-distancing thing also meant that we didn’t have another table basically on top of us, which allows for a more private, relaxing experience.
While Yak & Yeti is not Morimoto Asia, it works well in the theme park environment, offering large portions of tasty food that’s crafted specifically for your average tourist looking to get out of the heat of the day. It’s always my top choice for a casual table service meal at Animal Kingdom that won’t necessarily break the bank.
Back outside, Eight Spoon Cafe is closed:
Epcot currently offers more macaroni and cheese options for less money. Considering it’s a Park that doesn’t offer much else at the moment, you may want to save your macaroni bucks for that.
We’re heading back out at 1:32pm.
Crowds and wait times will only go down as Park close approaches…in about 4.5 hours.
Tiffins remains open with the following menu:
Tiffins is my favorite overall theme park restaurant. I’m not sure if it’s the “unprecedented times,” the heat of the day, the limited menu, or what, but it didn’t sound particularly appealing at the time. They do take reservations up until just before 6pm, so you could extend your day at the Park by visiting for a restful dinner at the end of the day. Ordinarily, I’d recommend getting in line for Flight of Passage to enjoy a short wait at the end of the night there, but as we’ll see momentarily, that won’t be necessary. Certainly, Tiffins is on another level than Yak & Yeti. I was certainly satisfied with my $15 chicken, but there’s a time and a place for $38 chicken too.
Nomad Lounge next door is particularly fun with the characters motoring by the outdoor seating area. The floating characters are a lot of fun, but they’re more difficult to see than the various processionals at the other Parks. The characters are also farther away, which makes things even less personal. Over at Magic Kingdom, Mickey or Ariel is waving specifically at you from ground level. At Animal Kingdom, it’s more of an in your general direction thing from a good distance away. You may care less after a Tempting Tigress cocktail.
At 1:36pm, crowds in Pandora remain light.
Those lines on the right are the social-distancing markers for Flight of Passage. They start for Na’vi River Journey right around where those garbage cans situate themselves on the left.
It will certainly be interesting to see how soon anyone is backed up this far.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom still routinely runs out of Park Pass availability for Passholders, but not for Disney Resort Guests or Theme Park Tickets Guests. You can always pull up a live version of the Park Pass availability calendar for the three segments at DisneyWorld.com here. If the Parks are showing no availability for one or more of the segments, then you can be pretty sure that they’ll be busier.
Satu’li Canteen added the adult portion of the cult-favorite “Cheeseburger Steamed Pods – Bao Buns Steamed Cheeseburger Pod stuffed with Ground Beef, Ketchup, Mustard, Pickle, and Cheddar Cheese served with Crunchy Vegetable Slaw and Vegetable Chips” back on the menu for $11.49.
I would admit that I don’t really get the attraction. It’s mostly breading. You could rock half of the Kobe Burger meal from Yak & Yeti for less money and come away with more beef. But just because they’re not my favorite doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy them. It’s always nice to have options. It didn’t make a lot of sense that Disney kept the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods on the kids’ menu, while eliminating the adult portion.
I may just be bitter that they got rid of the “‘Teylu’ All-Beef Hot Dog wrapped in Parker House Dough.” It used to be a kids’ picks choice for about seven dollars and made for a great snack or light meal. A regular old hot dog takes its place.
Just a pretzel from Pongu Pongu next door will set you back $10.49. And the kids’ meal at Satu’li, for about $3 less, comes with a drink.
That is a 10-minute posted wait for Flight of Passage, which is two hours below average for this time of day.
But why do that when you can go on Na’vi River Journey?
Where there is also a 10-minute posted wait.
Unlike my ride first thing, I’m expecting to run into a few people in line.
Then again, maybe not.
Okay, this time around, there are six people in line:
Five minutes after entering the queue, we were on our way:
We were back out front at 1:56pm, for a total experience time of 16 minutes. That was largely because we moved through the ride so slowly with the boats backed up. I’m not sure why. I don’t remember spacing being an issue in the past until the very end of the ride.
We’ll head up through Flight of Passage, where the posted wait is still 10 minutes:
One thing that can potentially slow you down is when cast undergo one of their “deep cleans.” They typically happen every two hours. A deep clean at Na’vi River Journey takes about 15 minutes as they cycle through and spray down every boat. During that time, the line will not move. At Flight of Passage, we waited through a “deep clean,” which took about ten minutes, if that. Even with the delay, we got in line at 1:56pm, and were back out front at 2:29pm, for a total experience time of 33 minutes. That’s only about eight minutes longer than the ride historically took with FastPass+. Eliminate the cleaning and the timing is basically the same. We could have gotten right back in line and experienced the attraction in about a half hour again.
With 3.5 hours to close, we would have free reign to do whatever else we wanted.
So long as it’s operating.
With not a whole lot of people coming in. Four cast members. One guest. Leaving.
The early morning arrival remains intelligent if you want to have plenty of time to enjoy everything that the Park offers. It’s also the best and easiest way to guarantee short waits moving forward. My 7:40am arrival didn’t “feel” bad at all. I have undergone a number of hot, crowded, unpleasant rope drops in the past. Certainly, more than anyone else.
I’m used to this. Not a 5-minute wait for Flight of Passage at 2pm.
I don’t see crowds at Animal Kingdom increasing significantly anytime soon. You will likely see a few more people than in these photos, which I occasionally took at opportune times. There is a narrative to further, after all. This past Saturday, July 25th, was Animal Kingdom’s busiest day yet. The wait for Flight of Passage at 1:30pm was still 10 minutes. If the wait for a ride is prohibitive at some point in the day, simply put it off until later. Flight of Passage could be be 25 to 40 minutes around 11am, but will reliably drop to 15 minutes or less after 3pm.
In the near-term, the only thing that will boost crowd levels is local visitors. Disney is targeting Florida residents with a variety of ticket and resort offers. You’ll still find yourself outdoors, in Florida, in a face mask, during the summer, with a large number of shows, attractions, eateries, stores, and other outlets shuttered. That’s probably enough to keep a lot of people away, even if Flight of Passage hasn’t sustained a wait of more than 30 minutes since the Parks officially reopened a couple of weeks ago.
We’ll certainly keep an eye on how things develop over the coming weeks and months. At the moment, you’d have to put in some effort to get within six feet of someone.