We’ll take a trip out to Animal Kingdom to see how construction on its many projects is progressing, in addition to checking to see if there are any menu updates of note.
The rope drop procedure that started back in July continues here at Animal Kingdom. That means guests will ordinarily be let through the Mickey readers at 8:30am with ropes set up in front of the Tree of Life to hold them until closer to 8:50am. At that time, guests are walked toward Africa, Asia, and DinoLand. Combined with a shakeup of the theme parks’ top brass, similar rope drop procedures have taken hold at Epcot and Hollywood Studios. At Epcot, guests are let into the Park from the main entrance and International Gateway at 8:30am. Here, you’re held at the Fountain of Nations until 8:50am and then walked toward Test Track or Soarin’. At Studios, the Mickey readers again open at 8:30am. Here, there are three different sets of ropes – one at the turn onto Sunset Boulevard for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror; one at Min & Bill’s next to Echo Lake for Toy Story Mania or Great Movie Ride; and one near 50’s Prime Time Cafe for Jedi Training Academy and Star Tours.
This might help visualize the locations, where the thicker red lines are the ropes:
Be on the lookout for that. The change shouldn’t affect morning touring much, though it can be uncomfortable waiting in such a large mass of people that are trying to jostle their way in front of you.
Avatar construction continues on the old Camp Minnie-Mickey plot. It’s gotten so tall that the tops of the floating mountains are visible from around the Park:
Disney confirmed the name of the new land, Pandora – The World of AVATAR, in addition to describing the attractions that will arrive alongside at D23 here and here. I’m not sure how useful it is to continue the debate about whether or not Avatar “belongs” at Animal Kingdom, but here we are anyway. I think the answer is that it probably doesn’t, but when you’ve got James Cameron putting up hundreds of millions of dollars to build a major expansion to your theme park, you sort of do what the man wants. I fully expect to be blown away by the new land and its attractions, even if I don’t necessarily connect with the Na’vi. And with Cameron expected to helm multiple Avatar sequels, it’s likely that he and Disney know something that we don’t.
The thing about Avatar that never made much sense to me is the merchandising aspect. As of 2011, Cars had done over ten billion dollars in retail merchandise sales. Hence, Cars Land at California Adventure. Since then they’ve probably added a couple more billion, in addition to the Planes merch. Avatar merchandise sales are in the low hundreds of millions. But you never know, Avatar 2 may well bring some cutesie characters, princess dresses, and a singalong. We can hope not at least.
Anyway, we’ll be able to argue back and forth about that for the next 2+ years.
Work continues on expanding Disney Outfitters.
You may remember they lost the Creature Comforts store to Starbucks and Beastly Bazaar to the Adventurers Outpost Mickey and Minnie Meet and Greet.
There’s a smaller addition to the Outfitters on the DinoLand/Flame Tree Barbecue side.
Island Mercantile is partially out from behind walls. It joins the darker, more subdued color palette that is New Discovery Island.
Walls remain around the corner.
Another example of the new color scheme. Here’s the old, brighter version of the Discovery Island Kiosk, which was closed for a few days for repainting.
It looks like this now.
Flame Tree used to look like this with bright blues, oranges, and reds.
After. It’s a pretty major aesthetic change. I think I prefer the more vibrant color scheme.
Beastly Kiosk across from Adventurers Outpost is currently closed for the same treatment. It should reopen on the 23rd.
Pizzafari is closed through October 19th for repainting and the possibility that a portion of it will be repurposed into a separate restaurant.
That basically means there’s a wall from Island Mercantile past Pizzafari, in turn narrowing the pathway to Africa from Discovery Island.
Speaking of the Discovery Island Kiosk, which used to be called Gardens Kiosk and colloquially, “The Allergy Kiosk,” serves the same menu as before it closed for its face lift:
This is located across from the Creature Comforts Starbucks and just before you arrive in Africa. In addition to providing a variety of snacks, the kiosk is also equipped to offer advice for diners with allergies. They should have ingredient books and be able to make recommendations. It’s worth a visit if you’re concerned about being accommodated.
They also added Magners Pear Cider, in addition to Angry Orchard Crisp Apple, Redbridge, and Omission Pale Lager.
Orlando enjoyed a few days of very humid, very grey weather as the remnants of Erika passed through. Things have brightened a bit in the last few days, but September remains very hot and very humid. It’s my least favorite of the summer months, but that could be the fact that this is month five of it. There’s no worse place to be hungover than Magic Kingdom in July. Trust me. I’ve been hungover all over the world.
Dawa Bar remains a disappointment. There was once a time when drinks were made fresh and the beer menu included a half dozen African choices. Now they’ve gone Full La Cava, pre-mixing drinks in large batches. You can see the dispensers in the back there. At least it’s not jugs.
While it’s not at all obvious, you can save $6 by ordering the drinks without the plastic souvenir cup.
The SweetWater IPA and Victory Golden Monkey Tripel Ale are very good, but paying the 6-pack price for a bottle is pretty rough.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, Disney updates every quick service menu on property towards the end of August each year, which is why we’re going through this stuff. Table Service menus should be updated over the first week of October. Buffet prices go up that same week as well. Pricing is already available and most meals look to be up about $3/adult and $1/child, or 7-10%. Lunches are going up in price the most, probably because Disney realizes they can fill their restaurants in the afternoon without having to offer a lower priced affair. With tax, Tusker House lunch is currently $37.27/adult and $21.29/child. It’ll go up to $40.46/adult and $24.49/child as of October 4th. I think Akershus over at Epcot is seeing the biggest increase. Dinner is currently $51.11/adult and $29.81/child. It will be $57.50/adult and $34.07/child come October. Dinner for a family of two adults, an 11-year old, and a 7-year old would run you over $240 with 18% tip.
The addition of the Lion King theater in New Harambe and Harambe Market have arguably transformed the Africa section into Walt Disney World’s most cohesive, immersive land. A few details:
The area past the bathrooms is currently walled off, but will likely connect Africa with Pandora when it opens.
A crane stands tall above the trees.
Lion King has otherwise added an external queue that winds around outside.
Tamu Tamu Refreshments across from Tusker House is still serving its dessert menu. Kusafiri Coffee’s menu is the same:
The Elephant Ear Pastry and Cookie are up about 40 cents each. The Crispy Treat is a dime more expensive.
I feel the same way taking the pictures.
Most of these pictures are from Labor Day, Monday September 7th. Kilimanjaro Safaris sits at a reasonable 30 minutes.
You may remember that FP+ lines here had gotten so long that Disney reconfigured the FP+ queue to go underneath the hut that used to house the old FASTPASS machines.
Zuris’s Sweets is outside Harambe Market and attached to Mombasa Marketplace. They sell Flame Tree’s spice rubs and barbecue sauces, among other things. It’s also home to a Main-Street-Confectionery-style case:
It’s worth checking out for a unique treat.
Harambe Market opened back in May. I have an initial look around the area along with a review of the Grilled Beef Kabob Sandwich here and then reviews of the Sausage and Ribs at the end of this post here.
The drink window added a new Leopard’s Eye drink and cut the wine list from six to four:
$17.25 is pretty rough on those drinks, even when they come with a souvenir tumbler. People complain about Trader Sam’s prices over at the Polynesian, but at least those are actual glasses that you might use or display at home. Originally, three of the wines on the menu came in at $6.75 or more. Those have been eliminated in favor of less expensive offerings. I’ve seen exactly one person order wine in my four visits (Lisa), but the pour looked pretty decent.
The aptly titled “Grill” added a Grilled Vegetable Stack. You may remember that the menu debuted without a vegetarian entree. Interestingly, the “All-Beef Gyro Flatbread” was originally called the “Ground Beef Kabob Flatbread.” On my original review, I commented:
“The Beef Kabob Flatbread comes in two pieces, each with two slices of mildly spiced beef with tomato, cucumber, and diced tomatoes with a yogurt-y sauce inside of the soft pita-like flatbread that isn’t altogether unlike a gyro.”
Pricing and offerings are the same at Mwanga’s Ribs.
As I’ve mentioned in each of my previous reviews, Harambe Market has a few major weaknesses. The first is that it’s all outside – the lines to order food are mostly uncovered save for a few umbrellas and short awnings. The seating area is also outdoors and modestly sized. They’re also horrendously slow at preparing and serving food, even given relatively short lines. I got in line at 1:48pm and didn’t have my food until after 2:10pm. 20+ minutes standing outside in the heat is a little frustrating, particularly when we’re talking about an off-peak meal in what’s left of the off-season. My advice is to get here as close to the 11am opening as possible or as late in the afternoon as possible. Harambe Market operates through official Park close.
This time around I went with the $8.49 Grilled Vegetable Stack with Herb Pesto and Chickpea Salad.
Topped with greens.
Most of the pesto seemed to be spread on top of the tofu that tops the stack. I was impressed by how much of a “real grilled flavor” it had, not unlike what you’d taste from a nicely seasoned steak. The pesto added some garlic and basil to the flavor profile. The tofu gives way to a few slices of chewy yellow and green zucchini with a big slice of mushroom underneath.
The mushroom was too gummy for my sensibilities and I didn’t care for the texture, but I am also not a vegetarian and this may well be the ideal way to prepare it.
I thought the chickpea salad was going to be different than what’s served next door with the ribs at Chef Mwanga’s, but it ended up being a larger portion of the exact same thing. The flavors are fresh and cool and complement the hot grilled vegetables nicely.
Overall, I think the Grilled Vegetable Stack is a nice addition, though I would have preferred them to be served inside of the same flatbread as the Gyro Sandwich.
For about five seconds, the Bradley Falls kiosk along the pathway that connects Africa and Asia was serving a Teriyaki Beef Slider with Pickled Cucumber for $4.99 or a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan. That’s in line with what Disney has done with other kiosks around Discovery Island, each serving a Food-and-Wine-Festival-style snack for four or five dollars. But this place is almost always closed.
Mr Kamal’s is the kiosk located across the way. Above is the new menu. Below is the previous menu:
The Falafel is now served in a snack size portion for about half the cost of the sandwich. And in a surprise twist, the hummus now costs $1 less (but omits the ‘fresh’ designation).
Drinkwallah is located across from Yak & Yeti. I’m guessing nobody reading this has ever been inside.
They’ve added a Frozen Coca Cola with a shot of Captain Morgan’s rum to the menu. The Fruit and Cheese is also a new addition for a snack credit and the Asian Noodle Salad moves over here for a snack credit.
This is an old shot of the Asian Noodle Salad. Feel free to forward a picture if you order the current version.
Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe rearranged the order of its entrees, which is about as exciting as this round of menu updates has been. Honey Chicken has been listed as entree #1 for years as that’s their “signature” dish, but now it lists items by cost. The Pineapple Coconut Cake for dessert is new and sounds intriguing, replacing the kind-of-disgusting Banana Pudding.
Kali River Rapids continues to see the longest peak and average waits as high temperatures are still into the 90s. That should continue until around mid-November, when highs drop to the low 80s.
As I mentioned in the Magic Kingdom post, waits over the first few days in September have been the lowest of the year. Here on September 1st, Kilimanjaro Safaris’ waits never rise above the default ten minutes. Everest averages just 12, including a zero minute posted wait in the last hour. I don’t remember seeing that this year. Part of the reason why waits were so low is probably due to the Hurricane Erika hype. And while Orlando wasn’t on the receiving end of Twister, the system did bring some of the worst humidity I’ve ever experienced here as well as grey skies and some rain.
My visit on Labor Day saw considerably higher wait times, though this is still considerably better than the summer.
Anandapur Tea Company is the Joffrey’s kiosk located across from Yak & Yeti. I’m guessing 96.2% of people don’t realize it’s there. These are the current signature beverages.
These kiosks don’t really participate in the Disney Dining Plan with just one drink included. Their updated tea list:
Remember you can order any drink in any size at Starbucks for a snack credit.
Walls still line the walkway from Asia all around past DinoLand.
Construction continues on what’s expected to be a food and beverage location near Expedition Everest and what will eventually be the main seating area for Rivers of Light.
A fairly modest wait at Everest. Disney ended up extending the operating hours this past Saturday and Sunday and I have a feeling that crowds were heavier than they anticipated, though I won’t be able to tell you that for a fact until next week.
One more look at construction.
Until that project is complete, you’ve got this snack stand:
The Yeti Stout is a terrific beer, particularly at 9.5% ABV. That’s over twice a Bud Light and a very good choice if your significant other keeps tabs on how many beers you’ve drank. “But hunnyjlsadhsjk I’ve oly had fthree stoutpts.”
Last call for FastPass+ users at Finding Nemo at 2:50pm for the 3pm show. Most people will want to use FP+ elsewhere.
The wall that used to block access to the path down to the right is gone.
Dino Diner is still home of the Nachos Supreme:
It looks like this.
Primeval Whirl is closed with an expected reopening date of November 13th.
Scaffolding is up all around the ride.
Walls line the “attraction” all the way around.
A couple of Restaurantosaurus’s entrees are up 30 cents, but that’s as exciting as it gets.
The Cheesecake Topped with Strawberries is new for dessert and the “Cretaceous Cooler” replaces the Wildberry Mango Rum Lemonade.
Nothing new at Dino-Bite Snacks, but a reminder that they do offer two recent additions on draft. The Sunfish is better.
Trilo-Bite Snacks continues to serve the very good Buffalo Chicken Waffle Slider for a snack credit.
This is what it looks like.
Flame Tree Barbecue finally reopened after a refurbishment that went a couple months longer than expected back at the end of June.
The Turkey Leg is up 50 cents, but that’s it.
You may remember that I didn’t care much for the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad. I’m not sure if anybody has had a better experience.
Gardens Kiosk is located to the left of Flame Tree Barbecue’s seating area and to the right of Adventurers Outpost.
It added edamame for a snack credit. I have reviews of both salads and a variety of the other new snack items in this post in case you missed it (and you better not have).
In short, I liked the Farmers Salad but didn’t care much for the Trek Power Salad.
The Adventurers Outpost Mickey and Minnie Meet and Greet was posted at 15 minutes at 3:10pm with “literally” nobody in the standby line.
Here’s nearly a full resolution shot of Rivers of Light construction across the water.
Seating doesn’t look to be particularly plentiful or particularly comfortable.
We’ll see what it ends up looking like.
I got a kick out of this shirt, which is Disney-branded.
And matching hat.
I don’t remember seeing these shirts before, but they’ve probably been around forever.
That’s what’s going on around Animal Kingdom. Things aren’t exciting quite yet, but they’re going to be.