We don’t want to neglect Disney’s Animal Kingdom, despite the fact that there aren’t really any major ongoing projects happening inside the Park. Outside, work continues on moving bag check farther away from the main entrance, in addition to rerouting the parking lot tram.
We’re arriving just after 12:30pm, so we can take a few minutes to enjoy the sights and sounds in The Oasis. Typically, we arrive early for rope drop, and have to hurry through the calming area that leads into the Park as we try to make it to the holding area in front of the bridge over to Pandora for Flight of Passage as quickly as possible. Fortunately, touring strategy hasn’t changed much at Animal Kingdom over the last couple of years. We’ll still get back out there to see how things are looking in Avatar Land first thing. For Flight of Passage, an arrival 60 to 75 minutes before Park opening is ideal. That will put you in front of the crowd heading to what is now Disney’s second most popular attraction, and allow you to easily ride Na’vi River Journey in standby after, before continuing on with your day in Africa, Asia, or DinoLand.
It was feeding time up front.
Not all of the birds hanging out here belong, but you’d be a fool to be in the area and not try to take advantage of a free buffet that comes around every few hours. Imagine if you could station yourself inside ‘Ohana and occasionally just steal somebody else’s shrimp or teriyaki noodles with an international treaty guaranteeing your protection. That’s basically what’s happening here.
You can tell how successful a bird is at collecting food based on the color of its feathers, sort of like a progress meter in a video game.
I’m guessing that I would be the pinkest, fluffiest bird there ever was. I’d also steal an above average amount of teriyaki noodles at ‘Ohana. If only.
The poor anteater was just walking around and minding its own business, while occasionally digging for buried treasure. There might be some Rise of the Resistance paper re-adds down there. You or may not be able to tell that she’s dry in this picture.
Then out of nowhere, this deluge of water came over the fence and drenched the poor thing. I’m not even sure they had the courtesy to yell, “SHOWER TIME” before it started.
Fast forward a few months and they will hose me off before I’m allowed inside the Park myself.
The weather here in February is largely pleasant, if not a little erratic. Wednesday’s high is 80+ degrees, while Friday’s low will drop below 40 degrees. Variety is the spice of life. I don’t really bother looking at the weather report from late May through the end of September. It’s going to be miserably hot and humid and then the worst of the rain and storms will come when there’s supposedly a 0% chance of precipitation. Every day.
Crowds and wait times have been high most of the month. These pictures are from February 10th, so we’re rewinding a couple of weeks in order to focus more on everything that’s happening at Epcot and Hollywood Studios. By the time we get to Kilimanjaro Safaris, the posted standby wait is going to be 95 minutes, and the majority of the standby and FastPass+ queues will be full.
I stopped by the Otter Grotto.
The little sea otters are as playful as ever.
It looks like we’ve got an itch that we can’t quite scratch. That’s probably like trying to go anywhere other than California Grill for brunch. It’s just not the same.
Teamwork makes the dream work. It wouldn’t surprise me if these little guys pull boarding group one every morning at Rise of the Resistance.
It was snack time at the cotton-top tamarin exhibit.
I have the same look of anger and desperation on my face when I see the Italy Festival booth menu for the first time.
Then have a brief existential crisis.
And thank the heavens that Italy will only have four food items this Festival, instead of five. Maybe I will be able to send my kids to college after all.
Now it’s time to check the mail.
But nothing shakes our memories of the Italy booth.
It looks like nothing good arrived today.
So we’ll scream some more about the Italy booth.
I’m on my way to use my first FastPass+ of the day at Kilimanjaro Safaris. The Flower and Garden Festival is exactly one week away, debuting on March 4th, alongside the opening of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
It’s 12:49pm, so it’s not like a Lion King show just got out.
But the crowds remain thick nonetheless, particularly for early February and a full week before Presidents Day.
To fill my contractual agreement, I present this photo across the water.
While Burudika Band is long gone, Kora Tinga Tinga can still be enjoyed at 9:30am, 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, and 2:30pm.
Kora is the instrument.
If you’re as big on corn as I am on pickles, then you may want to stop at the Harambe Fruit Market, which is located to the right as you approach the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris.
The delicious smell of the roasting corn wafts through Harambe.
With what I’m sure is a nice slathering of butter and salt, the maize may not be the healthiest choice, but the spice rub is incredibly addictive and the kernels are typically smoky and tender.
Safaris was posting a 95-minute wait, which “felt” long given the fact that it was 12:52pm on a Monday during the first two weeks in February.
FastPass+ was backed up a considerable distance from load and the standby line stretched far back down to the left into the extended queue.
It took about 15 minutes to board my vehicle, which is about as long as I can remember waiting with FastPass+:
I arrived at 12:53pm, and wasn’t back out front until 1:39pm, for a total experience time of 46 minutes, which is about ten minutes longer than average.
To add to your confusion, Kilimanjaro Safaris is the only attraction that comes to mind where cast members will tell standby riders to take their strollers with them in line. As you approach the loading platform, a cast member will park your stroller for you, where you can then retrieve it near the ride’s exit. You can never really be sure where the stroller will end up.
If you’re using FastPass+, or would prefer to park your own stroller, then you can do so off to the right as directed by the sign.
These days, the average wait for Safaris at 1pm is 75 minutes, so 95 minutes is decidedly above average. Regardless, I don’t think any of us want to wait in either of those lines. FastPass+ is great when you have it. And sucks when you don’t.
For years, Disney drink prices were probably below average for the restaurant/entertainment industry, and particularly for a company in the $5 water business. If it’s $4.50 for a SmartWater, or $6.25 for a Bud Light, then you might as well go for the Bud.
Drink prices caught up with higher-end restaurants last year, with your average pre-made cocktail now running you about $13 plus tax and tip, which will bring the cost over $16 a round. One of my favorite “details” is the beer list. Since we’re in Africa, the Tusker and Casa Beers are both domestic, while the Budweisers are the imports. On the other hand, Tusker is Kenyan, and Casa is Moroccan, so that part doesn’t check out either, unless all beers in North America are domestically-produced.
You’ll see a lot of these Simba popcorn buckets walking around. It looks like he’s training for the Olympics on the Rings. No word on whether or not he stuck the landing.
The souvenir canteen also features “The Lion King” here. I’m not sure how well the cap works, but theoretically, this would be a nice souvenir for about $14.
Despite the above average crowds, particularly for early February, we can still take a moment to enjoy the flowers.
We’ll head through New Harambe to Pandora, to see how things are looking there, and to use FastPass+ at Flight of Passage.
Just about every FastPass+ experience imaginable is taken these days, perhaps with the exception of It’s Tough To Be A Bug. And even then, most Bug shows after 11am distribute near the maximum number of FastPass+ with the lack of availability elsewhere. With 20 minutes to the next Lion King show, hundreds of guests with FastPass+ were eagerly waiting as their line backed up towards Tusker House.
While very few waited in standby.
I’m guessing that the now-open Club 33 is nice.
Disney keeps telling me that my membership card must have been lost in the mail. It’s been five years.
Earlier in the day, this bridge heading to Pandora is typically filled with standby riders waiting a couple of hours to board Flight of Passage.
Wait times for Pandora’s signature attraction still average more than two hours.
The 130-minute wait just before 2pm is right around average for Avatar Flight of Passage.
With FastPass+, I should be in the first pre-show in about ten minutes. That’s why the standby wait is so long.
Even with a decent FastPass+ backup, ten minutes was about right.
Flight of Passage took 32 minutes with FastPass+, which is right around average. The posted wait has since gone up ten minutes. You’ll hear people saying that an hour and forty minutes doesn’t sound that bad. The actual posted wait is almost 2.5 hours.
Despite the continued popularity of the rides in The Valley of Mo’ara, the Land rarely “feels” crowded, thanks to the wide pathways, entrances/exits on both sides (after the morning rush), and winding paths around the Land.
Another round of concrete painting is underway as Disney tries to keep the bioluminescence fresh.
That work may have had something to do with the fact that the waterfall was turned off.
In the next Part, we’ll head out to Conservation Station to see how things are going with the Animation Academy, and then take a walk through Asia and DinoLand to see if we can get away from the crowds and high wait times.