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February 17, 2013

Nicholas – The King of Expedition Everest

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Have you ever received an e-mail that just warmed your heart?

Have you ever read an e-mail and thought, “That’s what I mean! That’s what Disney Magic is all about.”

I got one of those e-mails just a few weeks ago. It came from my friend John Ames who is a Travel Agent/Vacation Planner with Mouse Fan Travel. John received it from one of his fellow Mouse Fan Travel agents, Nancy Swope, and Nancy received it from her client Trena.

Trena was telling Nancy the story of her son Nicholas and his amazing feat at Expedition Everest.

There’s just no way I could tell the story as well as Trena did, so here is the story in her words, the same words that made me think, “That’s what I mean! That’s what Disney Magic is all about.”

QUOTE

When we visited Walt Disney World in January 2011 for Nicholas' 12th birthday, he ended up riding Expedition Everest 33 times in one day.

It took him from park opening at 9:00 a.m. until about 2:00 p.m. He mainly worked the single rider line, with a few fast passes thrown in for good measure.

As soon as we told Nicholas we were headed to Disney for his 14th birthday, he said, "I'm going to beat my record. I'm going to ride Expedition Everest 50 times!"

I tried to convince him that 34 times would beat his record and be good enough, but he was having none of that!

So, on the morning of January 21, 2013, Animal Kingdom had Extra Magic hours and opened at 8:00 a.m. and, yep, we were at Expedition Everest ready to help him achieve his goal of 50 times in one day.

Nicholas_on_the_train

Eventually the cast members working the ride realized he wasn't joking about riding it 50 times in one day as they saw him again and again (as they rotated through their positions). I was keeping a time log of every time Nicholas got off a ride so we would not get confused.

Everest_Time_Tracker

We were getting fast passes as quickly as we were allowed and really had to rely on those this time around as the single rider line was at a 20 - 30 minute wait time by mid-morning.

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The morning manager on duty, Holly, heard about what Nicholas was doing and came out and gave us four anytime fast passes to use. Later a few of the cast members gave us swap passes to use as fast passes. Then a Season Passholder family of four saw my time tracker and asked what I was doing. When they heard the story, they said if we were still at the ride when they came by on their way out of the park, they would get us 4 fast passes to use. So, 45 minutes later we had 4 more fast passes for Nicholas to use.

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When Holly went off-shift, she came to tell us good-bye and assured us she would let the next manager know about Nicholas. Actually, everyone knew Nicholas by name at this point :-)

Nicholas was making great time, averaging 8 - 12 minutes per wait/ride. Then we ran out of fast passes and his wait/ride time was more like 25 – 30 minutes.

It was about 2:45 p.m. - he had just completed ride #42 and was waiting in line to get on the next train, when the ride shut down. We later learned that two of the monitoring computers disagreed, which brought the ride to a screeching halt. They even had to walk folks down off the mountain.

We waited around for a bit hoping for some news when Michelle (the afternoon manager on duty) came to get us. She, along with Bill (the afternoon supervisor), explained that they were going to get the ride back up and going, and when they did, they were going to personally make sure that Nicholas made his goal of 50 rides in one day. The four mechanics on duty came out to have their picture taken with Nicholas and promised they were doing everything they could to get the ride back up and going.

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Just before 4:00 p.m., Expedition Everest was back up and running. Bill (a supervisor) and Don (a cast member) personally escorted Nicholas to the last train car (his choice) each time he finished a ride.

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Several of the cast members stayed after their shift ended because they wanted to ride #50 with Nicholas. As Nicholas was waiting to take his seat for ride #50, Bill announced to all those within hearing that Nicholas had been riding Expedition Everest all day long and was now going to take his 50th ride of the day. Folks started cheering and clapping for him and even taking his picture!!!! And, as you can see from the photo below, Nicholas had three cast members ride with him to celebrate his 50th ride in one day!!

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When he got off the ride, everyone was cheering.

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The cast members, supervisor and managers gave him a T-shirt and they all signed it. They also gave us the picture of his 50th ride.

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AMAZING DAY!!!

The next day, we headed back to Everest because Nicholas wanted to get a few of the early morning cast members to sign his T-shirt. He was like a celebrity! All the "new" cast members had already heard about him and made a huge deal over him.

Only at Disney!

END QUOTE

Isn’t that a great story!

That’s the kind of story I like to tell when my friends ask, “Why do you keep going back to Walt Disney World?”

Nicholas met a lot of very caring cast members that day. So many different people pitched in to help him live his dream; to help him achieve his goal . . . the cast members loading the ride cars, their supervisors and even the mechanics!

It is that kind of caring cast members that sets Disney apart from other theme parks. And it’s infectious; The wonderful attitude of the cast members often brings out the best in park guests too. This is what keeps so many of us coming back again and again.

Aaah – that’s Disney Magic!

Special thanks to Trena and Nancy for sharing this wonderful story. Congratulations to Nicholas on an amazing achievement. In my opinion he's the newest Disney super-hero!

Nicholas, if you and I should ever meet at the park I would be honored to ride Expedition Everest with you . . . but only once!
That’s my limit.

July 22, 2012

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Disney Things

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What is your favourite park at Walt Disney World?

What are your “must-do” rides or activities?

What are the things you only do once in a while?

Main Gate

One of the greatest things about Walt Disney World is the diversity of experience you can enjoy there. With the four theme parks, two water parks, golf courses, hotels, campground, scores of restaurants and all the surrounding attractions there is virtually no limit to the things you can enjoy.

Many of our friends who, like Carol and I, are frequent visitors have established some favourite attractions and activities, things they “must-do” every time they visit Walt Disney World.

Here’s my list of favourites. Let’s start with my favourite park, the Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom

Why does this park top my list? Well, it’s the classic, the first Florida park. This is where I first took my children in 1977. It is chock-full of good memories and will probably always be my “special place”! I remember the huge grins on both my daughter Michelle and son Steve’s faces as we rode Dumbo together all those years ago. They loved It’s A Small World and Peter Pan’s Flight.

Peter Pan

About two years ago my son Steve took his family and they stood in line for 90 minutes to see Peter Pan. His comment? “What a hokey ride . . . why did I stand in line an hour and a half for that?” It will never be hokey for me because I’ll always remember Steve’s reaction when we rode it together in 1977. Peter Pan is one that Carol and I ride every visit.

The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are two more that we never miss.

Mansion

Pirates

These rides are not “hi-tech” like some of the newer attractions but they still transport me to another world or another time. As I ride I sing along with the 999 happy haunts and the scallywag pirates. “Yo-ho, Yo-ho, a pirates life for me!” As we pass through Adventureland we are always compelled to savour a cold treat. Carol heads to Sunshine Tree Terrace to pick up a Citrus Swirl while I scoot to Aloha Isle for a Pineapple Float. We meet in the middle somewhere and try to achieve simultaneous brain-freezes.

We take a spin with Buzz Lightyear almost every trip.

Buzz

This ride brings out the worst in us. We become ultra-competitive, each trying to outscore the other as we blast Emperor Zurg into the next galaxy! It’s great fun!

We enjoy many of the other rides as well but we don’t feel compelled to enjoy them every time we visit. Once in a while is good for most of them. Of course, Wishes, the fireworks spectacular, is a “must-do” as well. We try to position ourselves at the back of The Hub, near Casey’s Corner to get the best view of the show with Cinderella Castle in the foreground. That leads me to the one other snack we always stop for . . . a Casey’s hot dog. Yum!

Many will probably be surprised at my second place ranking. Disney’s Animal Kingdom ranks second for me. Why? Well, it’s all about the animals.

Tiger

Meercat

Both Carol and I love seeing the animals. We walk all the back trails around the Tree of Life to see and photograph things most visitors miss. Hint: If you walk these trails at noon you will often see cast members feeding the animals and the animals will be front and center for you. There are plenty of photo-ops around noon on the Tree of Life Trails.

Kilimanjaro Safaris is an irresistible draw for us. We sometimes ride it twice, once in early morning and then again just before the park closes. Hint: You can get better pictures from the back row of the truck, but be prepared for the bouncing! It’s the bumpiest seat!

Lion at Coppies

Carol is not a fan of roller coasters; she does not like the upside-down experience, but for some reason she really enjoys Expedition Everest. I don’t understand why, but I’m glad she does. We ride together once and that’s enough for her. I sometimes go directly to the single-rider line and take another spin.

Expedition Everest

After coaxing for a while I finally convinced Carol that coasters are smoother and less stressful if you raise your arms and stop fighting against the rocking and shaking motion. Once she tried it she agreed with me and now she often rides with her arms in the air. The only problem is that she cannot stop giggling when her arms are up. So if you see a woman on Everest, arms in the air and giggling like crazy – that’s Carol!

Flights of Wonder is another great show we always enjoy. It always surprises us how many people walk by and skip this awesome performance. The need for conservation is delivered in an entertaining and inspiring fashion. Carol has co-starred in the show four times.

Flights of Wonder

When they ask for volunteers in the owl segment she is always up and waving her hands. Another regular stop is at the gibbon habitat near Kali River Rapids; we love to watch them swinging around their island. If you ever hear them calling to each other you will never forget the experience!

Gibbons

If we have lunch at Animal Kingdom it is almost always egg rolls from the quick service counter at Yak & Yeti; try them – they’re great!

Third for me is EPCOT. This park is all about education . . . but the learning at EPCOT is all bundled up in a package of fun so you really don’t notice. Educators need to look into this to see how it’s done . . . learning can be fun!

Our first “must-do” is the very first attraction, Spaceship Earth.

Spaceship Earth

History, communication and science in one easy lesson; we seldom miss it. Another regular is Soarin’.

Soarin

I like the hang-glider ride one more than Carol but she humours me and rides along with me. It all evens out when I stifle my yawns as I wander through Germany’s Der Teddybar shop with her.

We always look for Off Kilter, the celtic rock group who play beside the Canada pavilion, we both enjoy them.

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When I hear the Jamitors or The British Revolution I stop to listen while Carol dashes off to shop. Our interests aren’t always the same but there are so many things to do that we can both enjoy ourselves at all times.

Dining at EPCOT is great, there are so many good restaurants, but our favourite is Canada’s Le Cellier. We seldom miss having dinner at Le Cellier.

Last, but certainly not least is Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is also a wonderful park full of many terrific attractions, rides, sights and sounds. I love the “Streetmosphere”, the many street entertainers who put on such entertaining shows.

Streetmosphere

I can sit and watch them again and again, which works out well because Carol can shop again and again!

Studios is home to the newest ride at Walt Disney World, Toy Story Midway Mania. Similar to Buzz Lightyear it’s a giant video game that places you in the middle of the action. We try to ride Toy Story several times each trip if we can.

Toy Story Potato Head

We don our 3D glasses and turn into shooting demons, each of us once again striving to totally annihilate our beloved spouse. “I am not your mother . . . break those plates!”

We both enjoy the Tower of Terror and after riding it Carol generally heads down Sunset Boulevard to explore the Villains in Vogue shop while I head to the single-rider line for a spin on Rock ‘n Roller Coaster.

Another “must-do” at Studios is a trip to the Animation Courtyard and a visit with David Rippberger, the Disney Ink and Paint artist who works in the Animation Gift Shop. David creates the hand painted animation cels which Carol collects and we like to visit with him to keep abreast of what’s coming up next.

Our final irresistible lure at Studios is a relatively new discovery for us. Italian sausage in a bun at Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner. We shared our first sausage in a bun about a year ago . . . as soon we bit into it we agreed we would never share one again. They are just too good to share! Don’t miss this delicious lunch treat.

Of course no vacation would be complete without a trip to Downtown Disney. I always take my book along and find a spot to sit while Carol shops.

Days of Christmas Store

I read and people-watch while she scours through the Art of Disney Shop, the Disney Days of Christmas Shop and of course Disney’s Pin Traders. Once she has worked up a good appetite she joins me and we head directly to the Earl of Sandwich.

Earl of Sandwich

This place has elevated the simple sandwich to an art form. Wow they’re good! We often get back to “Earl’s” several times during our stay!

There is so much to do outside the parks that I may make that the subject of another blog sometime. For now I will just mention two more of our favourite “non-park” things. First is dinner at ‘Ohana in the Polynesian Resort . . . we never miss it. Great food, great location, great value! If you time it right and get a window table you can watch the Wishes fireworks extravaganza from your table. They pipe in the soundtrack too!

Second is a camping favourite, if we’re staying in our RV at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground we head to the beach at the campground a few evenings during our stay. There is a nice little patio beside the dock and we relax at a patio table as we watch Wishes. They pipe in the soundtrack here as well and as an added treat the fireworks are reflected on the waters of Bay Lake. It’s a terrific place to watch the show with no crowds! Shortly after Wishes is over the Electrical Water Pageant sails past . . . what a great way to end a day!

So those are a few of my favourite things! There are so many things to do at Walt Disney World that it just never gets stale for us and I doubt that it ever will!

What are your favourite things?

May 1, 2012

Tusker House offers Disney character meals with a taste of African cuisine

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Tusker House's dessert bar is the first thing you see -- as it should be -- in the Harambe Marketplace.

Tusker House at Disney's Animal Kingdom is home to Donald's Dining Safari Breakfast and Lunch, the only character meals at that Walt Disney World park. Recently, I was invited to experience the lunch buffet, which features African cuisine, as well as plenty of American favorites.

Our experience began after we checked in at the outdoor podium. There is a large, shaded waiting area with tables and even a bar for those seeking adult beverages. It's definitely one of the nicer waiting areas, though you don't have to be eating at Tusker House to sit there. It's open to anyone in the Harambe, Africa section, which also has a snack counter on the opposite side from Dawa Bar.

When our party was called, we were led around the corner to a queue to have our pictures taken with Donald Duck. As with all Disney character photos, guests may take their own photos in addition to the ones snapped by the Disney PhotoPass photographer. A photo package that includes one 6 x 8 in a decorative folder and four 4 x 6 prints plus a character-only stock photo will be brought to your table during the meal. It's about $31 if you choose to purchase it. These photos also can be added to your Disney's PhotoPass account after purchasing the prints.

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The Disney characters visit guests in four dining rooms.

Inside the restaurant, our hostess explained the concept of the Harambe Marketplace, which features quite a few short buffet lines. She stood in front of the dessert lines (yes, plural!) during her talk, and suggested that diners can even eat dessert first. The children in our party took her up on that, and I feel certain my kids would do the same, especially when they saw the chocolate-frosted donuts with colorful sprinkles.

For those of us who decided to eat our vegetables first, there were numerous salads, many with African-inspired flavors. As the main course, guests could choose from carved sirloin or pork loin, curry and rotisserie chicken and salmon, plus a selection of stews. And, of course, there were many side dishes. Vegetarians, there is a buffet just for you, too.

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Kids can choose from white or wheat bread when making their own PB & J sandwiches. Chilled applesauce is on this bar, too.

The kids' buffet had a lot of the usual crowd favorites, but there were two fun additions -- corn dog nuggets and a table to make real peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The PB&J bar was a nice touch, especially when so many Walt Disney World kids' meals come with Smucker's uncrustables. The young and the young-at-heart are invited to choose items from the kids' buffet. (See a complete menu at the AllEars page http://allears.net/menu/menu_tus.htm)

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Daisy Duck strikes a pose.

In between your trips to the numerous buffets, Disney characters circulate through the four dining rooms, meeting families at their tables. Donald stays outside, but Minnie, Mickey, Daisy and Goofy greet guests inside, posing for photos and signing autographs. They each patiently allowed our party to take multiple photos, and Daisy really was funny -- striking pose after pose, like a model. One character also leads the kids around the room in a makeshift parade, complete with handheld instruments.

Lunch prices vary slightly depending on the season: Adults are $27.68 to $31.94; and children ages 3-9 are $15.97 to $18.10. (Tax is included; gratuity is not.) A standard, non-alcoholic beverage is included in this price. Admission into Disney's Animal Kingdom is required. These prices are typical of character lunches at Disney World.

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Well-known Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde and his infamous earring are celebrated with these Tusker House decorations.

I would recommend Tusker House to those guests who love to try different foods and flavors, or those who already have a taste for African cuisine. And all the Disney character meals have one great advantage in common: They allow diners to meet many Disney pals in such a short time, which clearly saves time waiting in individual lines.

See the AllEars resource page http://allears.net/din/cbchar.htm to find out where all the Disney World characters dine.

Disclosure: As an invited media guest, my lunch was paid for by The Walt Disney Company. Opinions expressed herein are solely mine and do not reflect the opinions or policies of The Walt Disney Company or its affiliates.

July 13, 2010

Taste of Africa Street Party

by Guest Blogger John Kurowski

On Friday, July 9 the first official Taste of Africa Street Party kicked off at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Harambe Village in an attempt to heat up summer nights from now until July 24. The event promised “Eats, Drinks, and Culture” according to the in-park signage. A special guide map for the event informs guests that, “Our festival celebration brings nations from all over Africa together into the streets of Harambe.” The descriptions and materials for this event hint that what’s in store will be very close to a mini version of Epcot’s ever popular International Food and Wine Festival.

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Marketing for the event was relatively low-key as I overheard many people attending the party say they did not know about it beforehand, or they just happened to stumble upon it. Earlier in the day, I found a guide map sitting at the cash register station at Pizzafari Restaurant but it was not offered to me by the cashier, nor did she engage in any conversation about it when I picked it up and started to read it. I noticed a manager walking around from table to table with the guide encouraging people to stick around for it. Later, someone told me that he saw the guide maps located at the Tip Board but they were in an inaccessible spot and he actually had to ask the Cast Member if he could have one.

There was an announcement right before Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade stepped off made by the DJ/Announcer of the event, informing guests in that area that in a little while the streets of Harambe Village will turn into a street party. (Regular visitors to American Idol Experience will surely recognize the announcer.)

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The party kicks off after Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade returns to Harambe Village for its daily encore. Just before the gates close on the last performers and the crowd begins to disperse, the stilt walkers about-face and come back down the street while a new, live, soundtrack is supplied by the band Wassalou -- playing right on the street.

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Meanwhile, the entire parade cast (who have sneaked backstage around Tusker House) charge up the street from the opposite direction riding bicycles, waving flags, dancing, and playing percussion instruments. The instruments are then passed to the guests and everyone is invited into the street to join the celebration.

This start had much energy, the kind of entertainment Disney is famous for! I was amazed for all the people I saw coming into the area too. I have seen Mickey’s Jammin' Jungle Parade numerous times before and I always preferred to watch as it makes the trek back to Africa as that portion of the parade tends to be less crowded and makes for a more interactive experience with the performers and characters. Unfortunately, most of the crowd were there simply because they were following the parade from Asia/Discovery Island and a good number of those people left the parade at that point and headed over the bridge towards the park exit.

The house band, Wassalu, were a delight throughout the whole evening. They are a musical trio that would be intermixed with cultural dancers and singers throughout their sets. The African-inspired music played ranged from traditional (Pata Pata), to contemporary (Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al) to Disney (Selections from The Lion King and its spawned album Rhythms of the Pride Lands). During breaks the DJ would take over and play some other African tunes, which he would tend to teach guests the artists name and what the words they were singing meant in English. As opposed to other music-based events this summer, such as Disney’s Hollywood Studios Rock and Glow Party, the volume of the music is not intrusive and actually provides a great soundtrack to the event as well as compliments the entire theme of the party overall.

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“Eats”:

Each quick service food location reopened during the kick off festivities with a “Featured Festival Menu.” Taking its cues from Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, each item was priced as a sample. The portions were generous for the price and great for sharing. Disney foodies might not find any of the foods available here that unique as most of them are already regular staples on other Disney menus, namely Tusker House, Boma, and Sanaa. Each location offers two-three different food options, all listed on the guide maps and on special Festival Menu signage located in front of each venue.

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“Drinks”:

Wine enthusiasts will definitely want to check out the Beer and Wine Walkabout, located in the Tamu Tamu courtyard. Guests can buy a wristband and passport to sample 4 of the 12 wines available or the 4 different African beers.

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The courtyard is separated into five different sections. Three representing different South African wine regions, one for beer, and one for juice. The South African wine regions are Paarl, Cape Town, and Stellenbosch. Each station has four offerings, each wine station offers two white and two red wines, while the beer station features two beers from Ethiopia, a beer from Morocco, and one from Kenya. Then Kenyan beer, Tusker Lager, is available throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom as well as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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On a crowded night this area could end up congested and rather unpleasant. On the first night it was relatively empty the entire night. There’s not much seating to offer either.

The other drink offers exclusive to the street party are in the usual Africa watering hole, Dawa Bar. In front of the Dawa Bar a cast member demonstrates how sugar cane is juiced using a juicing mill which is then collected into a pail.

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The Dawa Bar still serves its full bar menu as well as two Featured Festival Drinks, a Sugar Cane Mojito and a Sugar Cane Sweet Tea Cocktail. Both drinks are very sweet and served with crushed leaves. The mojito has a sugar cane stick with it as well.

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The other drink available for the party is a Mango shake. A nonalcoholic, sweet treat that is served at Tamu Tamu. This proved to be very popular among the guests, as not only were guests enjoying it throughout the night but also the DJ was making many comments about it on the microphone.

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“Culture”

Besides the cooking demonstrations and sugar cane juicing there were two other cultural offerings. One was the Harambe School that usually takes place during normal operating hours while guests are exiting Kilimanjaro Safaris or Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This takes place behind the Harambe Fruit Market. The cast members staffed there tend to give little facts about different African animals, with trivia questions geared towards children.

The other offering was a mask maker, who had various masks in the forms of African animals. These masks are very intricately designed and highly detailed. The artist told me that she works for the company that sells the masks in the Italy pavilion at Epcot and once the festival is over these masks will be sold there as well.

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With park closing at 7pm, the DJ took the microphone again as Wassalu was playing to kick off the event finale. Live performers came running back into the streets of Harambe waving large colorful banners, which were then used for guests to run under them, like an African version of London Bridge.

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The music then quickly turned into Wassalu playing the now famous song Wavin’ Flag by K’naan, the song that served as the theme to the 2010 FIFA World Cup games.

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The DJ bid everyone good night and each food venue closed up shop, forcing everyone to make its way to the exit.

It was rather unclear to me what Disney was expecting from this event. For the amount of managers on hand to witness what the first official night was like, they were clearly hoping for some strong results in revenue.

However the only tables to enjoy the food are in the Tamu Tamu courtyard, between Tamu Tamu and Tamu Kibanda, and behind the Harambe Fruit Market it does not offer much optimal viewing for the main street. The mood at the event is a good mix between energetic and relaxing as you have roughly three hours to enjoy it at your own pace, similar to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Also, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is usually criticized for being too hot, especially in the summer, and seeing how this is an event that’s held all outdoors, except for a few fans placed here and there, the air can get stifling on humid nights.

I would like to see A Taste of Africa make it as a hit and get extended longer into the season and beyond as I did have a good time sampling all its culinary and potable selections as well as the interactions with the people working the various stations. A manager that I spoke with said that this was a test to see how the turnout would be and maybe once they get their systems in place, more advertising and a better word of mouth will make this an event that will help Disney’s Animal Kingdom lose its stigma as a “half-day park” that many critics deem it to have.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Taste of Africa street party is running nightly until July 24 as a limited test run, with the possibility of being extended. The party begins each night immediately after Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade, and runs until the park closes, even on Extra Magic Hour evenings.

June 8, 2010

Animal Kingdom Youngsters - Part 3

Sharon Sipple returns with the 3rd and final part of her photo blog of the Animal Kingdom Youngsters.

Western Lowland Gorilla

The gorillas are the main attraction on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Did you know that when Animal Kingdom opened in April 1998, this trail was named Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail -- it was renamed a few months later.

On February 19, 2010 a baby western lowland gorilla was born in Animal Kingdom. The baby belongs to the gorilla family group which includes first-time mother, Kashata, father Gino, and two other females, Benga and Hope. Mother and baby are generally seen in the first gorilla viewing area which is under cover and behind glass.

Most gorilla mothers keep their offspring close for several months while the baby adjusts to the environment. In addition, gorilla babies typically nurse for approximately 12 months and may be weaned between the ages of four and five. (Read more on the press release issued when the baby was born.)


These first photos were taken in March 2010.

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 50D, ISO 640, 1/250 sec, F11, 400mm

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 50D, ISO 500, 1/125 sec, f14, 400mm

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 50D, ISO 1250, 1/160 sec, F7.1, 275mm

These photographs are from May 2010.

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 7D ISO 1000, 1/160 sec, F7.1, 100mm, +.3EV

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 7D ISO 1000, 1/160 sec, F7.1, 170mm, +.3EV

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 7D ISO 1000, 1/160 sec, F6.3, 275mm, +.3EV

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 7D ISO 1000, 1/160 sec, F5.6, 400mm, +.3EV

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 7D 1250, 1/100 sec, F10, 135mm

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 7D ISO 1250, 1/100 sec, F10, 285mm

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 7D ISO 1250, 1/100 sec, F11, 190mm

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 7D ISO 1600, 1/80 sec, F5.6, 400mm

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 7D ISO 2000, 1/125, F5, 200mm

Western Lowland Gorilla
Canon 7D ISO 2000, 1/125, F5, 135mm

In case you are wondering.....

The equipment I used to shoot the images are a Canon EOS 50D and a Canon EOS 7D camera, a Canon 100-400mm L (low dispersion) series lens, and a Canon 17-85mm IS (image stabilization) USM (ultra-sonic motor) lens.

I normally do not use a tripod or monopod to shoot.

The key to successful shooting of the animals while on safari is to be able to get shutter speeds fast enough to stop the action. I normally shoot at a minimum of 1/320 of a second. In order to do this, you often must increase your ISO settings. With the 7D, I am able to comfortably push my ISO to 4000 and get great images with very little digital noise. I will caution you that while some cameras will allow you to push the ISO to 3200 or 6400, you must be careful. Depending on your equipment, pushing the ISO too high can result in an unacceptable level of digital noise.

Prior to shooting something important, experiment with this in a low light situation either around your house or somewhere else where the images are not ‘once in a lifetime’ images.

I hope you enjoyed the blogs on Animal Kingdom Youngsters. Feel free to leave your comments below!

Hey, see this little green button? Well, it allows you to share this blog with your family and friends quite easily. Give it a try; it's pretty neat!

June 7, 2010

Animal Kingdom Youngsters - Part 2

Sharon Sipple returns with Part 2 of her photo blog of the Animal Kingdom Youngsters.

In this blog I will share photos of young elephants and giraffes that you can find on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.

Reticulated Giraffe

Giraffes are the tallest animal in the world and can grow up to 20 feet tall. Although they look graceful as they move about the savanna, they can weigh as much as 2,500 pounds. Despite its length and flexibility, the neck of the giraffe is too short to reach the ground. In order to drink, the animal must awkwardly spread its legs wide so its head can reach the water. (Field Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park)

These male giraffes were born one week apart in October 2009. Their names are Bolo and Bruehler. (You can learn more in the Press Release issued when the babies were born.)

These photos are from March 2010.

Giraffe
Canon 50D, ISO 1000, 1/500 sec, F14, 190mm

Giraffe
Canon 50D, ISO 1000, 1/500 sec, F14, 190mm

Giraffe
Canon 50D, ISO 800, 1/500 sec, F10, 300mm

Giraffe
Canon 50D, ISO 800, 1/500 sec, F10, 250mm

Giraffe
Canon 50D, ISO 1000, 1/320 sec, F20, 330mm

Giraffe
Canon 50D, ISO 1000, 1/200 sec, F20, 300mm

Giraffe
Canon 50D, ISO 1250, 1/500 sec, F14, 100mm

I have often been asked how I can capture such great shots. The elephants and giraffes were taken while on Kilimanjaro Safari. As many of you know, it is not easy to get good pictures while on a moving vehicle. The other challenge is that some of the animals, such as the Gibbons monkeys are pretty far away. Lastly, the animals do not always cooperate. You must have patience and be willing to try multiple times, and at different times of the day. You never know what you may get on a given adventure.


African Elephant

As you ride along the Kilimanjaro Safari and pass the Flamingo Pool, you'll soon be in Elephant country!.

Moyo gave birth to Tsavo in 2008, the fourth elephant born at Animal Kingdom. Tufani, who is Moyo’s first male calf, was born in 2003; Kianga, a female, was born in 2004; and Nadirah, the youngest female, joined the herd in 2005. All remain on the savannah at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. (You can learn more in the Press Release issued when the baby was born.)

African Elephant

African Elephant

African Elephant

African Elephant

African Elephant

African Elephant

I hope you enjoyed this blog on Animal Kingdom Youngsters. Feel free to leave your comments below! Be sure and check back tomorrow for Part 3 of my blog, Animal Kingdom Youngsters!

Hey, see this little green button? Well, it allows you to share this blog with your family and friends quite easily. Give it a try; it's pretty neat!


June 6, 2010

Animal Kingdom Youngsters - Part 1

Hello. I am Sharon Sipple and have been doing photography for over 20 years. My specialties are entertainment and animals.

I am an avid Disney fan and travel to the World about 4 times each year. During each trip, I end up spending a majority of my time in Animal Kingdom. It is a fascinating place, being that every visit is different. On my most recent trip, I worked with Deb to cover the D23 Flowers and Fireworks event and the Polynesian Luau.

Sharon Sipple

Deb asked if I would be willing to share some of my animal pictures with everyone. We thought it would be fun to share pictures of some of the younger members of the Animal Kingdom family. Over the last 2 years, there have been at least 7 babies born at Animal Kingdom. So let's get started....


Black and White Colobus Monkeys

This group of monkeys are found just inside the entrance to Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Their diet consists of leaves, buds, seeds and fruit and in the wild (Kenya) are found mostly in trees. They are hunted for their fur, but today, their existence is more threatened by the destruction of forests. Unlike other monkeys, Colobus monkeys have no thumb. (You can read more in the Press Release issued when the baby was born.)

At birth, the Colobus monkey is all white and they get their black color later on. The two photographs below are the same infant, one taken March 2009, the other in August 2009.

The first photo was taken March 2009.

Black and White Colobus Monkey
Canon50D, ISO 200, 1/80 sec, F9, 300mm, +.3EV

The next photo was taken in August 2009.

Black and White Colobus Monkey
Canon 50D, ISO 1000, 1/160 sec, F5.6, 375mm, +1.7EV


White Rhinoceros

The white rhinos can be found on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.

These photographs are of the now, 6 month old, baby white rhino who was born Sunday, Jan. 17. The mother, Kendi, is an 11-year-old white rhino, who gave birth to her third baby after a 16-month gestation period.

The baby is the eighth white rhino born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom; her mother, Kendi, was the first. (Read more in the Press Release issued when the baby was born.)


A few interesting facts (Field Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park):
The white rhinoceros is not white at all but slate gray to yellow brown.
They can weigh between 4,000 and 4,500 pounds!
The white rhino can ward off any predator, except for humans.
They feed mainly on grasses.

These photographs are from May 2010.

white rhino
Canon 7D ISO 800, 1/400 sec, F7.1, 115mm

white rhino
Canon 7D ISO 800, 1/400 sec, F7.1, 210mm


White-cheeked Gibbon

The white-cheeked gibbons are located in Asia, just outside the Kali River Rapids.

This endangered white-cheeked gibbon was born Feb. 2. The male and his mother, Melaka, are bonding well according to the animal experts who oversee the daily care of primates. You can see him and his baby’s two sisters, Suki and Tuyen, in their habitat.

One fascinating fact about these animals are the way they change color. Adult males are black with white cheeks and adult females are a light tan/gold color with a patch of black on the top of their head. However, when both male and females are infants, they are the light tan color of the mother. Around six months, they both turn black, like the males. Then, when the female reaches maturity, she turns back to the light tan/gold color. (Read more in the Press Release issued when the baby was born.)

The first three photographs were taken March 2010.

White-cheeked Gibbon
Canon 50D, ISO 400, 1/320 sec, F7.1, 310mm, +.3EV

White-cheeked Gibbon
Canon 50D, ISO 400, 1/320 sec, F5.6, 400mm, +.7EV

White-cheeked Gibbon
Canon 50D, ISO 400, 1/320 sec, F7.1, 400mm, +.3EV

The following photos were taken in May 2010.

White-cheeked Gibbon
Canon 7D ISO 1000, 1/250 sec, F10, 400mm

White-cheeked Gibbon
Canon 7D ISO 1000, 1/250 sec, F9, 330mm

White-cheeked Gibbon
Canon 7D ISO 640, 1/200 sec, f8, 310mm

White-cheeked Gibbon
Canon 7D ISO 640, 1/200 sec, F6.3, 400mm


I hope you enjoyed this blog on Animal Kingdom Youngsters. Feel free to leave your comments below! Be sure and check back tomorrow for Part 2 of my blog, Animal Kingdom Youngsters!

Hey, see this little green button? Well, it allows you to share this blog with your family and friends quite easily. Give it a try; it's pretty neat!

February 21, 2010

Yak & Yeti Photo Blog - Animal Kingdom

jeffobanner.jpg

One of my favorite restaurants to dine at when I visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is the Yak & Yeti. I am a creature of habit when it comes to restaurants. If I find something I like, I tend to keep going back for more.

There are a lot of other wonderful eateries at Animal Kingdom, but I always seem to find myself making reservations or popping in for an unplanned meal at Yak & Yeti. This is partly due to my preference for table-service dining over counter-service. At Animal Kingdom, that distinction narrows the choices down to two restaurants. I’m not counting the Tusker House since technically you serve yourself from a buffet there. And while I do enjoy the Rainforest Café quite a bit, it can be time consuming to walk to and from the entrance of the park for a meal; especially during Peak seasons when the park is more crowded.

I planned my most recent visit to the Yeti well in advance as I was ironing out the details of my recent trip to Walt Disney World. When I decided which days I would be visiting certain parks, I was on the phone with Disney Dining shortly thereafter making my Yak & Yeti reservation on Animal Kingdom day. I have never had a problem securing a reservation for my preferred meal time here. Mind you, I have never had dinner at Yak & Yeti. All of my meals have been during lunch hours.

I have been frequenting the restaurant since it opened, but when I first heard about its’ construction I was a bit skeptical about the location. Yak & Yeti is located just across the bridge as you enter Asia from Discovery Island.


Bridge into Asia


Naturally since it is Yeti-themed the restaurant would need to go in Asia. Close proximity to the attraction housing its’ namesake, abominable snowman also made sense. The addition of Yak & Yeti also fulfilled the need for another full-service restaurant in Animal Kingdom. Being the only restaurant in that area of the park also helps to disperse traffic from the other eateries.

I still wondered if the placement of a restaurant between several live-animal based attractions and exhibits would detract from some of the mystique surrounding them. As the months passed and the exterior of the building began to take shape, I was more confident that a spot next door to Flights of Wonder was not totally out of place. I am something of a purist when it comes to my love of the Disney parks, so I tend to over-analyze every little change. As you can see in the photos below, the building fits in perfectly.


Yak & Yeti Exterior

In keeping with its continental surroundings, Yak & Yeti is fittingly Asian-themed. The first time I saw the inside of the restaurant, I felt as if I had walked into a tavern in the Himalaya Mountains.

Yak & Yeti Waiting Area

Yeti Guarding the Lobby

Yak & Yeti Entrance

Yak & Yeti Looking toward Exit


You may get the feeling you are being watched. ;-)


Yak & Yeti Lobby Statue


They have a full-bar for weary travelers wishing to just stop in for refreshment from their hike. Even the furniture here is rich with detail. Notice the elaborate armrests of the barstools.

Yak & Yeti Bar

Yak & Yeti Bar

Seating is split between two levels, with various museum quality artifacts likening the décor to that of a shrine. It looks as if the villagers have gathered their family heirlooms in the hope of giving reverence to the Yeti inhabiting nearby Everest Mountain. Take a walk around the restaurant before or after your meal and check-out their amazing collection of relics.

The main dining room near the entrance is decorated like a temple. Other areas of the lower level have a similar vibe. They are dimly lit and have a sedate feel. Tables are nicely spaced apart, as you can see in the view from above.


Yak & Yeti Main Dining Room


Yak & Yeti Main Dining Room


Yak & Yeti Main Dining Room

Yak & Yeti First Floor Dining Room


Yak & Yeti Lower Level Dining

Yak & Yeti First Floor Dining Room


Yak & Yeti Statue Greeting Diners


It is possible to burn off part of your caloric intake here just by trekking the staircase to and from the upper level.

Yak & Yeti Staircase

Yak & Yeti Stairs

An elevator is available for those not wishing for an aerobic workout as a preface to their meal. Even the elevator area is decorated with cool memorabilia and trinkets.


Yak and Yeti HallwayTo Elevator

The seating areas upstairs are brighter and more festive. Each room is uniquely colored. Could this be symbolic of something?

Yak and Yeti Upstairs Dining Blue

Yak and Yeti Upstairs Dining Gold


Yak and Yeti Upstairs Dining Green


Yak and Yeti Art

If your party should happen to be seated upstairs, I recommend requesting a table by the windows. They offer great views of Anandapur.

Yak and Yeti Upstairs Dining Near Windows

In my experience, service here has always been good. I have found the Servers to be attentive, friendly, and able to answer any questions I have had about the menu. As is the case with most restaurants on-property, they will check to see if your party is on the Disney Dining Plan upon introduction. While they do not currently accept the Tables in Wonderland card, Annual Passholder discounts are available.

Whenever I dine at one of my favorite Walt Disney World restaurants, I try to order at least one item that I haven’t had before. I tend to be far more adventurous in my restaurant dining when I know the outcome rests in the hands of Disney Chefs. This practice has served me fairly well thus far, with only a few misfires. Yak & Yeti is not Disney-owned. Landry’s restaurants own and operate the Yak & Yeti, Rainforest Café, and T-Rex (located at Downtown Disney).

In keeping with this mantra I tried something old and something new on this visit. My meal began with a favorite, the Won-Ton soup ($4.99). It’s served with a side of crispy, fried Won-Tons.


Yak and Yeti Won Ton Soup

For my second course I chose another favorite, the Pot Stickers ($7.99). These wrapped dumplings are filled with pork and available two ways: either steamed or seared. I chose to have mine seared. This entails cooking the outside of the Pot Sticker at a high temperature which gives the outer layer a caramelized, crunchy texture. They’re served with a tangy soy-lime dipping sauce and sprinkled with spring onions and diced tomatoes.


Yak and Yeti Pot Stickers

The appetizer choices also include Seared Ahi Tuna, Pork Egg Rolls, Lettuce Cups, and Wok-Fried Green Beans (pictured below - $6.99).


Yak and Yeti Wok Fried Green Beans

From there on I was in previously uncharted territory. I decided on the Shaoxing Steak and Shrimp ($24.99) for my entrée. It was absolutely wonderful, and would have been enough for two people to share. The skirt steak had a nice, char-grilled flavor and was decoratively speared around a bed of brown or jasmine rice. Skirt steak is a flat cut of beef renowned for its flavor. It is also known for being tougher than other cuts of beef. I did not find that to be the case at all. It was flavorful and tender. The shrimp were skewered and tempura-battered. The chili plum dipping sauce was sweet and went perfectly with the shrimp and rice.

Yak and Yeti Shaoxing Steak Shrimp

While all of the menu items do have an Asian-influence, there is a broad variety of choices. Seared Miso Salmon, Duck with Anandapur Glaze, Lo Mein, Crispy Honey Chicken, Maple Tamarind Chicken, and the health-conscious Mandarin Chicken Salad (pictured below - $13.99) are just a few of them.

Yak and Yeti Mandarin Chicken Salad


After this fabulous meal I was so full I thought I would need to be carried out on a gurney. In the name of research I still ordered dessert. I opted for the Mango Pie ($6.99), which had a consistency similar to pudding encased inside of a shortbread cookie crust. It was finished off with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. Notice the tiny leaves of mint that garnish the pie. I thought that was a nice touch. This dessert was cool and refreshing. I could see it being the perfect treat on a hot summer day. While I would definitely order it again, the cream cheese filled Fried Won-Tons remain my favorite dessert here.


Yak and Yeti Mandarin Mango Pie

Yak & Yeti is a triumph for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The theme is perfectly executed, with delicious food that lives up to the standards one would expect from a Walt Disney World restaurant. There aren’t any over-the-top thunderstorms or meteor showers to remind you where you’re at. One look at the foreboding Yeti standing guard near the entrance and you’ll feel as if you are in the foothills of an “expedition”. Clean those plates, your adventure awaits.

Related Links:

Yak and Yeti Menu

Yak and Yeti Kid's Menu

Reader's Rate and Review Yak and Yeti


jeffo.JPG About Jeff: I’m from South Central Pennsylvania, where I work for a Media Publishing Company by day. My first visit to WDW was at the age of 2, and I have been back around 35 times since then. I often travel solo to WDW, as well as with family. I make good use of my Annual Pass, and trek to Orlando about 5 times per year to visit my favorite travel destination and pursue another hobby of mine - photography. My favorite resort is the Polynesian, but I have stayed at all of the WDW resorts at least once. In fact, my favorite aspect of visiting the Walt Disney World Resort is trying out the different Resorts and Restaurants. I enjoy sampling different foods that I normally would never try at home (such as Escargot at the France pavilion).

June 24, 2008

Our Great Gorilla Adventure at Animal Kingdom

Hello! Amanda here again.

This week I wanted to share with All Ears® readers Norwood's and my great gorilla adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While at the Animal Kingdom Park the other day we walked the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail (Africa).

We knew that a person who took the trail had the chance of seeing a Gorilla or two but that morning we were quite lucky to see five different Gorillas.


The first one we saw was cuddled up under a rock sleeping. ..

Gorilla Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Disney's Animal Kingdom

The next one we saw outside and he appeared to be stretching…

Gorilla Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Disney's Animal Kingdom

As we moved along the trail we came to the exhibit where the Gorillas can come up to the glass. When we arrived there were two (a male and a female) just hanging out right there.

Gorilla Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Disney's Animal Kingdom

The male Gorilla was quite a ham, he loved the attention that the people on the other side of the glass were giving him. He would roll on his back stick out his tongue as we all clicked away.


Nearing the end of the trail we ran into one more male Gorilla. He was sitting out in the open watching all the people watch him and snacking on some leaves. Here are some shots of the last guy, who was also very photogenic…


Gorilla Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Disney's Animal Kingdom


Gorilla Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Disney's Animal Kingdom

It was an amazing morning. All the previous times we have been to Disney we have never encountered so many Gorillas.

Many say that in the morning you have a better chance of encountering the Gorillas. So the next time that you are in Animal Kingdom you might want to plan to see all the animal exhibits in the morning and ride the rides like Everest in the afternoon or evening.

Have a Disney Day!
Amanda

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About Animal Kingdom

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Animal Kingdom category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Baby Care Centers / First Aid is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.