Disney’s Animal Kingdom is in the midst of a sizable expansion. Pandora – The World of Avatar was announced aaalllll the way back in 2011. Construction has moved at a glacial pace, but all indications are that this new land will be opening this summer. Pandora will feature nighttime attractions with bioluminescent plants and river ways. Because of this, the entire Animal Kingdom is starting to feature nighttime attractions and shows, to officially make this a “full day” park.
Unfortunately, so far there have been a couple huge swings and misses in the initial attempts. Rivers of Light is a sort of water show which is to feature mist screens, floating barges, projection mapping and live performers. This was supposed to premier on Earth Day of this past year. Weeks before the premier, it was discovered that the GPS technology used to guide the floats was totally haywire. As of this date, there’s no word about when it may come online.
Also newly featured is a Nighttime Safari. This was controversial due to the routines and natural rhythms of the animals potentially being disrupted. Disney animal care experts assure us that these animals were brought in specifically because they are nocturnal. That being said, the artificial “dusk” they have created using light sources is reportedly odd and there are really not many creatures to be seen. There are however, even at this early stage, good reasons to plan to stay at Animal Kingdom after dark.
We needed a little bit of a snack to remain fortified. On the way to snag an egg roll, we happened by this little structure.
This building had just two little stools and corner shelves inside. It overlooked the nearby water way.
This is just an example of the kind of detail that I love. There’s no good reason for this little oasis to be here other than that it adds to the overall theme. Not one more dime can be squeezed out because of it. I’m sure there’s some back story about it somewhere.
Perhaps because of the trouble I spoke of before Disney has stepped up all the nighttime entertainment. There were several live bands running back to back all through the evening. The people were loving it!!!
We were walking through to use a fastpass for the Kilimanjaro Safari. Not the night one, but the last daytime excursion of the day.
Our fastpass did help much. There was an “Animal stopped on the safari route.” (something I think they claim no matter the problem) that brought things to s stand still. Having already done one safari earlier in the week, we bailed and went back to the party! The band and finished up and now were treated to some acrobatic dancers.
After the festivities waned we headed over to the Tree of life for another new evening show.
The Awakening is a new nighttime presentation that is just three minutes long and runs several times per night. There are as many as four different shows. Special projection effects make it appear that the animals carved into the tree trunk have come alive. The series of pictures below only show the colorful lights.
This high quality video taken by a much more qualified videographer than I shows in detail how astounding this show is. At first you’ll see just a little movement here and there, then it totally breaks out. It’s just three minutes, you can do it.
After Awakenings we looped back around to Harambe for some more live music. A dance party was going strong.
It was now full on dark and I had never ever before been in this park at night. I was a bit more giddy about this than I care to admit. I wanted to cover as much territory as possible before we took leave for dinner. The one area we hadn’t yet explored was Dino Land. The “Dinosaur” attraction that we would have enjoyed there was down for refurbishment.
Turns out this is a meet and greet location for Donald Duck. According to Disney, “Donald just uncovered the bones of a Hadrosaur—the large duck-billed creature that lived during the Cretaceous period—but he’ll be thrilled to meet you!” Guess he’s got some gear along for the ride?
I hated to leave, but it was getting close to closing time, and we were ready for a sit down meal. One hotel that we’ve visited every single time we’ve been to Walt Disney World is The Animal Kingdom Lodge. This time would be no exception. We rolled on over for some dinner at Jiko-The Cooking Place.
I made very few reservations for dinners on this trip. I wanted to keep things fluid. Jiko has a solid reputation and I’ve been wanting to dine here for quite some time. They have a lounge that serves a full menu so I was banking on landing there.
I looked the lounge up online to get a feel for it and I was a bit duped. The pictures showed a cozy private wine room as a part of the bar. This is not the case. The lounge itself was quite spare and hanging out in the open. The bar only had four stools and they were not comfy whatsoever, not to mention that the restroom were like, right there. I know I’m whining here. It was fine, just not what I expected.
We chose to sit at one of the two small tables. The bartender was wonderful and took very good care of us.
On to the food! There was one appetizer I had heard enough about to just have to try.
These were fantabulous! Hit all the right notes. Next we chose a flat bread. This wasn’t terribly loaded with toppings but it was filling and a good value.
We added some Mac N’ Cheese for the kicker. We really didn’t need it. It was served in an authentic Le Creuset crock. This was another item that the devil on my shoulder wanted me to throw in my purse. Thievery in not normally in my nature, honest.
Everything was marvelous. If I had known that the bar was going to be more of an airport lounge, I may have made a dining room reservation. All in all it was a great meal. After dinner, we took a lap around the property.
When you spend enough in Disney circles, you get wind of cult foods. Even you normals may have heard of the “Dole Whip”. One of those snacks that’s been on my to-do list was Zebra Domes. You can find these at Boma, the buffet restaurant here (don’t get me started on buffets) or you can just pop down to the quick serve location and get them to go.
Next, we needed to have an after dinner cocktail. We stopped at the Victoria lounge for a couple of Manhattans. Hey, we’re on vacation. Victoria lounge sits on a mezzanine that looks down over Boma.
These delights are comprised of Amarula Cream Liquor mousse which is enrobed in white chocolate and drizzled with chocolate and chocolate shavings. The whole thing sits atop a thin cake base. They were as delectable as I had heard and more! The bourbon and the fire may have influenced my enjoyment.
We lounged by the fire for as long as our weariness would allow. We had a full day at Animal Kingdom. It’s hard to imagine what it will be like when all the new Lands and attractions are finally here. I look forward to finding out first hand.
Up Next: OMG…I’ve never been so full in my life.