Editor note: Due to a bit of a time crunch, this post is largely a collection of camera phone pictures collected over the course of February 1, 2017 at Animal Kingdom.
We’ll drop by Animal Kingdom on the morning of February 1st to see how we do with an easy counterclockwise touring plan that starts in DinoLand. “Touring plan” probably isn’t even the right phrase. More like, “Let’s start at DINOSAUR and see what comes our way.”
I say largely irrelevant in the title for a couple of reasons – namely, everything changes with Avatar opening this May. We won’t see anything resembling crowds or wait times this low over the summer with 37,000+ people expected daily. And with Pandora and Rivers of Light, touring strategy and crowd flow will change dramatically. You could still start at DINOSAUR with plans to catch the second Flights of Wonder, of course, but most people willing and able to arrive 45+ minutes before opening are going to be more interested in riding Avatar: Flight of Passage with a short wait.
But perhaps this post can be placed delicately in the time capsule to remember just how pleasant the Park was prior to May 27, 2017 as we approach the entrance just before 8:30am on a most-recommended Wednesday morning.
Disney had already let guests enter the Park and was holding them in the Oasis just past stroller rental.
At 8:35am, we were released to the next holding area in front of the Tree of Life.
Here, guests headed towards Kilimanjaro Safaris/Africa head left and those headed towards Expedition Everest/DINOSAUR/DinoLand head right.
Off to the left, the rope is in front of the Island Mercantile store.
And to the right, in front of Discovery Outfitters.
Come May, thousands more people will be headed left towards the old Camp Minnie-Mickey and the new Pandora.
Until then, macaws welcome us to the Park as they fly overhead just before 9am. You can duck, but you can’t hide. The birds just fly lower.
Sort of disappointed with the lack of people to elbow out of the way, but the Mouse Ears hat does offer a 2x multiplier if you’re able to knock a second child over within three seconds.
The crowd behind me, which may look daunting as it’s backed up to the bridge over from The Oasis, is of little consequence. At 10am, I’m not even going to see another person walking through the standby queue at Everest.
One potential positive at Magic Kingdom is just how many thousands of people Mine Train pulls away from the other Lands first thing. I’ve pointed out a few times how there is not much of a hurry to Space Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain these days – that would be less true if a thousand people weren’t waiting for the Fantasyland ride before 9:10am every day of the year.
And Avatar should have a similar impact at Animal Kingdom, where Pandora is far removed from DinoLand or Asia.
But with Animal Kingdom already being the most forgiving of rope drops thanks to the high capacity attractions at each end of the Park, the benefit will be minimal compared to how much longer waits will likely be in the afternoon with the higher attendance.
Here at 9:04am, about 20 people have beat me to DINOSAUR.
But the ride was down at open.
So around 9:13am, I made the executive decision to head to Primeval Whirl.
Ordinarily, I’d be shooting for an arrival around 10am here.
There’s just no big rush to DinoLand.
As is evident by the fact that there’s literally nobody behind me in line:
I arrived at 9:14am and was back out front at 9:22am, which was shorter than the call to my chiropractor immediately after.
TriceraTop Spin had about four dinosaurs full. I arrived at 9:23am and was off at 9:30am.
I checked www.easywdw.com/waits and saw DINOSAUR had a wait time, which meant it was back up.
Some queue additions may make the wait a bit more interesting should you run into one later in the day:
All of this is “real” – on loan from a variety of universities.
Nobody waiting at 9:35am.
You’ll notice a few key differences since the refurbishment wrapped up last November – all positive I think.
It’s 9:49am, which means the total experience time was 20 minutes after a minute or two of shopping.
It’s no Duffy.
A few more people streaming into DinoLand, but every attraction remains more or less a walk-on.
Previews for Rivers of Light begin today, February 10th, with the official opening on February 17th.
At 10:01am, Everest is still posted at 10 minutes.
But we literally didn’t run into a single other person in line. I probably could have taken advantage and actually stopped to take this picture.
Back out front just ten minutes later.
Just taking things as they came, we continued on to Maharajah Jungle Trek:
The Kali River Rapids refurbishment is expected to conclude in front of Presidents Day Weekend. I was impressed by the number of active construction workers and it looks like some TLC is going into the attraction for once, including some new stenciling at the turntable.
Just 15 minutes to meet Mickey and Minnie together – the only location where that’s normally possible.
I thought this was supposed to be a low crowd time? WE ARE NOT THE ONLY PEOPLE HERE.
Russel is the only guaranteed character at the Wilderness Explorers Meet and Greet though Dug has been appearing sporadically.
A walk around the Tree of Life:
And over to the 11:30am Flights of Wonder:
It’s such a delightful, educational, funny, easy to see show that it should be added to almost any itinerary. Trust me.
We used our first FastPass+ of the day at Kilimanjaro Safaris with a 30-minute posted wait at 11:07am.
The FP+ return queue had been backed up to the entrance, but it quickly dissipated:
Baby Stella was not even a month old.
Safaris took 38 minutes, which, according to the website’s listing for the attraction, is two minutes below average. The posted wait was ten minutes.
We stopped in for lunch at Tiffins, which is far and away the best restaurant at Animal Kingdom.
And with the $28 lunch that offers the choice of two items and rice…
It’s a relatively economical way to enjoy one of Disney’s most elaborately themed signature restaurants. We’ll see if lunch survives Rivers of Light Dining Packages.
With the low crowds and minimal effort, we were able to experience DINOSAUR, Primeval Whirl, TriceraTop Spin, Expedition Everest, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Flights of Wonder, Discovery Island Trails, and Kilimanjaro Safaris before a 1pm lunch. I then took some time to check out the Avatar construction, which I posted here, along with some thoughts on that opening.
Before heading back in for some babirusa.
Hunter and prey:
At 4:25pm, the posted wait at DINOSAUR is still 10 minutes.
Two people in FastPass+ and nobody waiting in standby.
Fortunately, the road was paved with the iPhone flash of the person sitting next to me and we survived. But it was close.
Finding Nemo the Musical:
Tree of Life Awakenings:
Just before 7:30pm, there were maybe 12 people in the entirety of Harambe and we were hoping that we’d score a safari truck to ourselves.
But the truck waited…and waited…and waited…for it to fill to at least 30% capacity. And then it raced around the reserve, making difficult pictures impossible.
Days with crowds this low and weather so nice are relatively rare these days and will be even more rare with Avatar increasing attendance. It will be interesting to see how popular Pandora proves to be and what its effects on crowds and wait times will end up being.
The website will keep a close eye on it.