We’ll have a nice Epcot post finishing up our day there ready to go shortly after this post goes up, so there’s that at least.
Harambe Market at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is set to open for the first time since March this weekend, operating from 10am to 3pm on Saturday and Sunday. The Park will be open from 7am to 7pm on both days. Those are easily the longest hours that we’ve seen since the Park reopened in July and would rival a week like Thanksgiving or Christmas during ordinary times.
While Animal Kingdom will be open for 12 hours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Hollywood Studios remains open for just ten, which seems bizarre given the high demand and wait times over there. If Disney was actually interested in improving the guest experience, spreading out the crowds, reducing wait times, and getting more people on Rise of the Resistance, the Studios would be open from 7am to 10pm and not 9am to 7pm.
Harambe Market’s menu looks to be similar to what the quick service offered before:
The Harambe Salad, both with chicken and without, are new, along with the Plant-Based Hot Link Bowl, the Combo Bowl, and a cupcake that you can probably get in six other locations. The Market didn’t previously serve French Fries, either. Chicken Nuggets are also on the menu for kids and Disney Food Blog.
Here’s what you would have seen in March:
So we’re losing the two Gyros, the Pork Sausage, and the Roasted Vegetable Bowl.
From my previous review on the Ribs:
This certainly looks good, but the ribs were impressively bland and almost entirely devoid of flavor, while still somehow being both fatty and tough. There’s barbecue sauce packets that help a little with the dryness of the meat, but that seems to defeat the purpose of serving the ribs over rice. On the other hand, it seems a little odd to serve bone-in ribs as part of a rice bowl. You basically have to eat the parts separately unless you’re going to try to use a plastic fork and knife to pry the meat off the bone. It’s probably not worth the effort.
A classically positive take.
If you’re looking to visit Animal Kingdom to see the Tree of Life Awakenings and holiday lighting, I’d suggest visiting on Friday if you can, when Harambe Market wouldn’t be open unless the Park was expected to be unusually crowded. This Friday, the Park will also be open from 7am to 7pm, but I can guarantee you that waits will be shorter than Saturday or Sunday. Harambe Market is not scheduled to be open on weekdays during Thanksgiving Week, but that could potentially change. The 8am openings over Thanksgiving are later than this weekend, just in case you need any further confirmation about the size of the crowd Disney is expecting over the next few days. You can check Harambe Market’s hours and pull up the full menu at DisneyWorld.com here.
Even if Harambe Market is open, I would favor Flame Tree Barbecue or Satu’li Canteen on convenience, value, variety, and just about anything else. Harambe Market doesn’t offer a lot of seating as it is, and with at least half of the tables designated as off-limits, seating may also be an issue. But if you are headed to lunch at Animal Kingdom on a Saturday or Sunday, Harambe Market’s presence will at least pull some number of people away from locations that we would prefer to visit. And if something on the menu sounds particularly good, you can certainly go for it. Everyone’s tastes are different. There is somebody out there drooling over the thought of dry, chewy, bone-in meat served over the equivalent of white rice.
According to the menu, the “Harambe Salad” sounds suspiciously like the Mediterranean Salad that ABC Commissary no longer serves. Typically, “ABC Commissary” and “no longer serves” would be a good indication that you want to treat it like a lion or a cheetah on Kilimanjaro Safaris and either run away if you are fast or play dead and hope somebody else looks tastier. But the Mediterranean Salad, which was described as “Mixed Greens, Tomatoes, Onions, Pepperoncini, Kalamata Olives and Feta tossed in a Mediterranean Vinaigrette served with Hummus and Grilled Flatbread” sounds similar to the Harambe, which is listed as “Mediterranean-influenced Salad with Pepperoncini, Kalamata Olives, Cucumber, Tomato, and Feta served with Greek-style Vinaigrette Dressing.” So we may have gotten to the bottom of that mystery right off the bat. Somebody get me a Scooby Snack.
Flame Tree is set to open at 10:15am with Satu’li following at 10:30am this weekend. So Harambe Market does have the advantage of time with the 10am start. On the other hand, if you’re looking to grab something to eat come 3:01pm, you’re out of luck at the weekend-only quick service. But I would only brave Animal Kingdom on a Saturday or Sunday if you’re prepared to arrive early or stay through close, and would do what you can to visit on a Friday with the same hours if at all possible.
My review of the previous menu, which includes items like this Chicken Bowl, is available here, should you have interest.
And while it’s entirely irrelevant, I did spend a lot of time and money on Circle of Flavors Harambe at Night with part one of the review here and part two here. If you could just click and slowly scroll while you’re doing something else, I would appreciate it.
Circle of Life certainly was an interesting event, with unlimited food and alcohol, along with a virtual reality experience of what it would be like to share a rock with the lions on Kilimanjaro Safaris and a meet and greet with Rafiki and Timon.
You’ll now find the same Evolv scanners at the Transportation and Ticket Center and Magic Kingdom that Disney has already deployed at the other theme parks, beginning with Animal Kingdom on July 11th and most recently at Epcot on October 14th.
The good news is that you’ll no longer need to take most of your belongings out of your bag and have them physically inspected. Disney asks that you hold umbrellas and large aluminum water bottles out in front of you as you go through the scanner. I’d add large electronics like cameras with big lenses to that list even if you’re not prompted by words or signage. I go through with my camera held out in front of me and the machine triggers a positive reading, but they wave me past after seeing that the result isn’t due to something else hidden on my person. If you leave something in your bag that triggers the scanner, you’ll head over to a secondary screening, which is similar to the classic bag check where a person physically looks through your stuff. In these trying times, they basically just eyeball you and may ask you to move some of your things around rather than go clawing through themselves.
While it’s nice to quickly walk through the scanners at the other Parks, and now Disney Springs, and then basically be at the entrances to those things, bag check isn’t going to be what slows you down at the Transportation and Ticket Center at the moment. It’s going to be the limited capacities of the transportation options across the water. The line for the Express Monorail is already backed up down the ramp and around the corner just a minute after security first opened.
Nonetheless, a lot of people will prefer the contactless screening to the rifling through of the stuff. If you take one look at me at a theme park, there is not much question as to why I am present. I am here to blog. So I never had much trouble with my bag, but due to people trying to smuggle in various items, bag checkers could occasionally get a little handsy if you were carrying the traditional tourist accoutrements of everything you own, with an extra travel pack of Lysol wipes just in case. You can’t be too careful.
Disney added a very fast one-minute video of the Christmas tree at Disney Springs being installed. It’s sort of like assembling any other IKEA lamp.
The Parks Blog also offers a full look at what to expect from Disney Springs for the holidays here. We have a glimpse of that $25 “Milk and Cookies by the Fireside.” The cookies are on the smaller side, but this certainly looks like it’s designed for at least two. I would guess $25 pales in comparison to the rising cost of insulin. You can always take a couple to go.
The Parks Blog also added a very nice salute to veterans:
You can pull up the full post here.
My dad is a veteran. He was drafted into Vietnam early on in the war and operated a radar, taking pictures of enemy movements aboard an aircraft. He said they were often shot at, but never downed. He went on to work for Boeing for 38 years. I turned 18 myself in 2003 when there was some talk of reinstating the draft. Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary because so many brave individuals went to war in my place. If you have served, you’re probably familiar with Steve Bell’s site, Military Disney Tips. It’s the best resource for military families planning a Disney World vacation, particularly on discounts and the Shades of Green resort. Steve served 31 years in the military before starting his website. I have met him a couple of times over the years and it’s always been an honor.
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) November 12, 2020
Apparently, “a little stronger” is common verbiage at the National Hurricane Center, as they’re now saying the same thing about Theta as they did about Eta. I wasn’t aware that we were doing the rhyming thing with storm names. Hopefully Hurricane Josh, Hosh, and Bosh don’t follow. Eta ended up having little effect on the theme park corridor, passing over late at night for the most part and into this morning, with just moderate wind and rain.
We begin with our usual chart of Animal Kingdom’s average daily wait since it reopened on July 11th:
We’ll probably need to put an asterisk next to the date since it’s a rare national holiday that falls on a Wednesday. But Animal Kingdom’s average wait was well above-average and the longest of any Wednesday yet.
Here’s the chart:
Disney elected not to extend the hours, which certainly looks like it was a mistake. I think it’s been a while since we’ve seen a peak wait of more than an hour at DINOSAUR. Or at least three days. We’ll have to consider the day an outlier with the tropical storm in the area and the holiday status.
We basically have the equivalent of a Saturday at Epcot with even longer waits in the morning because it’s more tourists than locals visiting. Triple-digit waits are rare at the moment, and we have quite a few of them at Frozen, and even a couple at Test Track pop up early on. Test Track’s uptime remains a strange phenomenon as it manages to operate all day before going down for weather at 8:30pm. Apparently, they patched whatever was causing the hours of daily downtime that we saw in October.
Yesterday, when the Studios saw its longest average wait of all time (of all time), I joked that if we ignored the problem, maybe it would go away. And I think we can all agree that it would be absolutely hilarious if I skipped right over the Studios today. But alas, the Park is the train wreck that you can’t quite take your eyes off, even for the sake of guaranteed comedy. And I suppose I bring good news as Wednesday’s average was actually lower than Tuesday’s by 1.6 minutes. If you were to wait in ten lines over the course of the day, that would come out to 493 minutes in line versus 509 minutes the day before. That’s a savings of 16 minutes. Considering that’s still 8.217 hours in line on a day that the Park was open for just nine hours, I’m not sure you would notice the difference. Keep checking those crowd calendars though.
Let’s take a look at the chart:
Part of the culprit for Tuesday’s long waits was downtime with Slinky and Tower closed for technical trouble to start the day, in turn pushing up waits elsewhere as a couple thousand people had to find something else to do. And there aren’t a whole lot of options. Technical trouble at Tower persisted into Wednesday, which is why we see 100+ minute waits early in the day. The ride is running at half capacity. We remain interested in whether or not the move to the 7am boarding group signup is causing people to elect to arrive later, since they’re no longer required to be physically present at the Studios’ entrance prior to opening. That still does not look to be the case, but Tower is certainly skewing things early. Nonetheless, if I entered 60 minutes as the wait for the Twilight Zone, instead of the 100+ that it posted, those times of day would still be marked red, indicating an average wait of 50+ minutes. At least Muppet*Vision peaks at 45 minutes instead of the 60 that we saw the day before. Add an hour of rain in the middle of the day and we likely would have seen “the worst day ever” at the Studios in terms of wait times. The reality is that there probably isn’t a big difference between a day with a 42-minute average wait and a day with a 49-minute average. The Studios will either sell out of Park Passes or nearly sell out of Park Passes every day, meaning attendance doesn’t vary much throughout the week. You’re just as likely to be unlucky and run into technical trouble and rain on a Tuesday than a Saturday. We will actually see extended hours over the weekend, so we’ll see if that means more people and the same or longer wait times, or the same number of people and lower wait times. If you’re wondering which way I would lean, I would refer you to the positivity found in my review of the bowl of rice ribs.
Wednesdays are typically the best day of the week to visit Magic Kingdom. We’ll need the holiday asterisk again this week, but we certainly don’t see the jump that we saw at Animal Kingdom or Epcot, even if average waits went up by a little less than a minute compared to Tuesday and more than seven minutes compared to the previous Wednesday.
This is just about your standard distribution these days. The average wait over the last seven weeks is 26.8 minutes, which is within a minute of what we saw Wednesday. I’d likely plan your day around these wait times if you’re visiting on a non-holiday weekday over the next couple of months. Waits may be lower by a few minutes here and there, but that will only allow you to fit in a couple more attractions or a re-ride or two if it happens to be the case. We’ll see what this weekend looks like with the longer operating hours and the potential for a lot of people.
Current Disney Park Pass Availability
As of Wednesday morning, the Park Pass replenishment that happened Monday night for November 29th and 30th has been large enough to meet initial demand. All Parks remain available to book for Disney Resort Guests and Theme Park Tickets Guests.
In December, the Studios has only run out of availability on one date that Disney replenished on Monday:
And unsurprisingly, it’s the date closest to Christmas. The fact that earlier dates remain green means one of two things: either Disney added a lot of availability, or there wasn’t a lot of pent-up demand for Park Passes during the first three weeks in December. I would guess the reality is closer to the former, which won’t bode well for crowds and wait times. But we may get lucky. And obviously, people’s plans remain in flux more than they have in a long time, and December is still a few weeks away. We’ll see what happens.
Passholders are already gobbling up the weekend availability towards the beginning of December, so be aware of that if you’re looking to book:
You can always pull up a live version of this calendar here.
Operating Schedule Changes:
Friday should be the day for another round of extensions.
Disney released the initial operating hours for the week of January 17th to 23rd:
- Animal Kingdom: 9am to 5pm
- Epcot: 11am to 7pm
- Hollywood Studios: 10am to 7pm
- Magic Kingdom: 9am to 6pm
These are the standard operating hours for a new release and at least some of these days should see extensions as we get closer to and move through January. For example, the original hours for Animal Kingdom for this weekend were 9am to 5pm. The Park will end up being open from 7am to 7pm. You can always pull up Disney’s official operating hours here.
Interesting Menu Changes:
Speaking of the asterisk, Disney added two to the Jock Lindsey menu:
But it just means that “Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.” You would think they would have to add a similar asterisk to every item served at ABC Commissary. Maybe something like:
“Ribs* – A pile of dry and overcooked meat that clings to the bone like its life depended on it – $18.99”
*May put you in the bathroom for longer than you’d like.
Watching Disney struggle to update their menus probably isn’t very exciting, but it is labor intensive to cover all of the bases on new items. At The Artist’s Palette at Saratoga Springs, they originally listed all of their holiday treats as “Bottle” instead of “Serving:”
And they still missed one. Or at least I’m assuming the Peppermint Bark Cupcake doesn’t come in a Bottle. We’ve probably all made a copy/paste error like that. I’ve gotten pretty close to some calamitous ones myself. You’ll have to wait for the memoir for more on that.
Otherwise, I don’t see a lot of changes. Ale & Compass Market added their Trio of Holiday Fudge – $8.99, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies – $5.19, and Peppermint Brownie – $4.99 to the breakfast menu, so it’s comforting to know you can start your day there.
Hollywood Scoops at Hollywood Studios also confirmed their $8.49 Peppermint Bundt Cake Shake is on the menu for the holidays.
That should get you caught up.