Our meandering visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom continues before we refocus on some fall touring strategy with the daily (Extra) Extra Magic Hours coming to an end in about a week’s time. Those who were able to take advantage of Extra Extra Magic Hours, particularly throughout September and into early October, enjoyed a real treat with some of the easiest touring and shortest waits that we may see until the next major recession/hurricane hits. You can pull up how much I was able to do at Animal Kingdom in this post. We’re talking about two rides on Flight of Passage with waits shorter than it would take with FastPass+ later in the day, followed by virtually no waits for any other attractions for several hours thereafter.
As part of this series, we began by taking a look over the updated quick service menus, which are now much heavier on so-called “plant-based” offerings. I reviewed a couple of the new vegan items, including pizza and sausages of all things. I followed that up with my late afternoon arrival at Animal Kingdom, with a review of the updated UP! A Bird Adventure show. and Rivers of Light: We Are One, with stops in Asia and DinoLand.
We pick things up at 6:23pm on a day with a 9pm close. That gives us a little more than two and a half hours to enjoy the surroundings.
We’ll take a look at the current Tiffins menu:
Tiffins remains an outstanding stop, but the menu has probably been “dumbed down” a bit since the restaurant opened with head cheese and fish crudo on the appetizer menu.
For a while, there was even a Chicken and Waffles entree available.
I know because I ordered it.
You can pull up my most recent review of the restaurant here.
The Lion King Dining Package, which includes a full 3-course meal at Tiffins, front row seats to a Festival of the Lion King show, and a special ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris with more behind the scenes facts than most trips through the savanna, has been extended for the foreseeable future. You can pull up my review of that experience here, including my overall thoughts on value. The official word on the Dining Package, and the ability to search for reservations on Disney’s site, is available here. The adult package price is $99 and it includes choice of any appetizer, any entree, and any dessert at Tiffins, along with a welcoming glass of sparkling wine and choice of wine, beer, or non-alcoholic specialty drink served with the meal.
If you ordered the $17 Charcuterie to start, followed by the $65 Surf and Turf, and $13 Dessert trio, the value of just the food comes to $95, or just four dollars shy of the entire cost of the Lion King Dining Package. If you’re looking to go big at Tiffins, then it’s a no-brainer.
Here’s a look at the Kids’ selections, which includes “Impossible Foods Bunny Chow,” which doesn’t sound like it would be particularly popular with the under-nine set. At least they can get it with Multigrain Rice and Greens Beans, though.
Here’s a look at the current Nomad Lounge menu next door. The correct Chicken Satay price is probably now listed on the menu as $10, instead of the $19 that you see here.
I would call your attention back to an item on the Tiffins’ enhancements portion of the menu, which is also available at Nomad Louge, in the Gobi Manchurian. The Crispy-fried Cauliflower with Manchurian Sauce and Green Onion is deliciously spicy and the cauliflower brings an outstanding crunch. I’m almost always after items that I haven’t tried before, but I make the Gobi a rare exception as I attach a side to almost every visit to either Nomad or Tiffins.
Live look at me and the boys heading to Nomad. What a life.
We’re heading into Pandora just after 6:30pm.
Depending on the angle of the tilt, it’s either crowded or not.
But it’s not really with a 30-minute wait posted at Na’vi River Journey.
But the wait was probably much closer to 15 or 20 minutes.
The average posted wait at this time of day is an even 60 minutes.
With FastPass+, I’ll be on-board in about four minutes:
With FastPass+, I got in line at 6:36pm and was back out front at 6:49pm, for a total experience time of just 13 minutes.
The sun sets here in sunny Florida around 6:45pm these days.
Pandora is a particularly pretty spot to enjoy taking in the changing colors in the sky.
That then illuminate the rest of the Valley of Mo’ara in interesting ways.
One thing that I’ve always enjoyed about Animal Kingdom is the great opportunity to savor being outdoors.
Pandora’s arrival, and its incredible popularity, has made slowing down and enjoying the details a little more difficult. Compared to 2016, Animal Kingdom’s attendance should be up about three million people this year. Pandora is obviously a substantial enough addition that it swallows some of these people up, but other attractions, walkways, etc., are all much more crowded now than they would have been even three years ago. A thirty percent increase in attendance is a big number. On one hand, it’s nice that more and more people have the opportunity to enjoy visiting Disney’s most picturesque domestic theme park. Selfishly, however, I wish I was the only one there.
But those crowds were not present in early October, here with just a 50-minute wait for Flight of Passage with more than two hours left until Park close. At 7pm, the average wait here is still 120 minutes, which is two hours, rather than an hour and twenty minutes.
I’ll be using Pandora’s side exit to walk over to Africa for a ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris with sundown approaching.
This pathway begins and ends next to the Festival of the Lion King theater.
Here to the left of that theater is the eventual addition of Club 33.
Here in the fall, as we look towards November, there’s almost no better time to be in the Parks than sundown.
Granted, Sunday’s high is still set for 90 degrees, but we should be “just” a couple of weeks away from lows that inch towards 60 degrees.
I can’t wait.
Crowds have thinned out even more later in the evening. When we first swung by a couple of hours ago, Kilimanjaro Safaris was already posting just a ten-minute wait. That wait can potentially go up, even with fewer people in line, if the number of safari trucks is reduced and demand stays strong. Hopefully that is not the case here.
You might also remember that Kilimanjaro Safaris closes its queue an hour before the rest of the Park.
The typical posted wait at 7pm is a solid 45 minutes, due in large part to those capacity reductions. It’s probably also Disney exaggerating the wait in an attempt to push people towards other attractions so that they can get the process of moving the animals backstage started.
These guys seem less impressed by the short wait than I was.
There was “literally” nobody in front of me in line, which caused me to have to take this blurry picture of the situation while still on the move.
The nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris, which was heavily touted a couple of summers ago, largely turned out to be a bust.
It turns out that you can’t see much of anything in the dark.
I still like to ride around sunset, which is the time that a lot of the animals are served dinner.
I bet that tastes better than what the Italy kiosk is serving for Food and Wine this year.
Some of the animals may also be a bit more active as they prepare to head backstage for the night. Seeing the rhinos do anything other than stare at the wall in the back of their enclosure is relatively rare.
Others are a little less on the prowl, regardless of the time of day.
We’re a little bit late for the giraffes, who are already moving close to the door that will lead them out.
Because I’m an idiot, and never really thought about it, my assumption was always that the animals would be led along the path that the truck takes to exit the savannas and head back to bed. Thus, the rhinos were first out, and the elephants had some distance to go.
This is obviously not the case, with most of the pens for the animals directly behind where they sit out in view of guests.
This was a particularly pretty night, which may not be evident from the camera phone picture.
But the colors make for a beautiful background.
My ride took 29 minutes, with about three of those spent sitting at the station waiting for more people to fill the truck.
Here’s a night mode shot on the iPhone 11, showing off just how few people there are back in Africa with the Safaris ride and Tamu Tamu Refreshments still open, among other locations that include Tusker House, Zuri’s Sweets, and Mombasa Marketplace.
It’s been just about an hour since we were last in Pandora.
The posted wait for Flight of Passage hasn’t budged, with the 50 minutes posted at 7:51pm probably proving to be accurate.
The actual wait will continue to drop as Park close approaches. We’ve got a little bit over an hour until that happens. Those who got in line at 8:59pm, or one minute before Park close, probably saw actual waits of fewer than 30 minutes.
Right around 45 minutes should be the average for those getting in line for Flight of Passage last thing.
River Journey was all the way down to 20 minutes, with an actual wait that’s probably closer to half that.
While it’s not yet Halloween, we’re probably only about two weeks away from Maximum Christmas at the theme parks. Decorations are already going up at Hollywood Studios, in anticipation of the start of their Christmas program on the 8th of November, which is also the date of the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This year, Animal Kingdom will premier an enhanced version of their holiday overlay on the same date.
Here’s a full rundown:
If this is what it takes to sell a few more seasonal cupcakes, then I guess I’ll take it.
I’m particularly excited about adding a new Tree of Life Awakenings show.
This Lion King version debuted alongside Rivers of Light: We Are One earlier this year.
Discovery Island also sounds like it promises something special. Perhaps Kevin will wear a festive wreath around her neck.
That just about does it as we look towards the construction outside the Park, which includes moving security further away from the entrance and rerouting the tram.
Hopefully(?), crowds will increase to a point where it makes some sense to cover touring strategy. With everything outside of Pandora basically sporting a zero minute wait with three hours until close, there isn’t a whole lot that we can do to look smart, other than simply being there at the right time.