Oak Trail Golf Course Review

Oak Trail Golf Course is a 9-hole golf course in Walt Disney World.  This golf course is located right by the Shades of Green resort and across the street from the Polynesian Village Resort.  If those landmarks don’t make much sense to you then it’s a short 5 minutes drive from the Magic Kingdom Parking Lot.  There is no bus service to this area but you can drive there or take an Uber/Minnie Van.

Walt Disney World was, and often still is, referred to as the Vacation Kingdom of the World.  Magic Kingdom and the surrounding resorts were given this title even prior to opening.  With only one park though, there was a need for more to do.  That came shortly in the way of golf.  Jump to current day and there are plenty of golf courses to go along with 3 more parks, numerous hotels and plenty of other options.  One of these golf courses is Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course.

Now, you would think that golf at a resort that already has inflated prices would be very expensive.  That’s certainly true for some courses that are state-of-the-art.  Fortunately though, Oak Trail is a little less nice but at a fraction of the price.  Nice rhyme.  Nine holes at this course is actually included with the park hopper and more (formerly known as water park and more) ticket option, as well as some annual passes.  If you have either of these tickets then the only thing you will likely have to pay for is renting clubs, unless you brought your own.  If memory serves, the cost for those was under $20.

The actual golf course is 9 holes with a par of 36.  While not as inventive as the courses around it, the course is still fun with a nice mixture of short and long holes.  Compared to other places, Oak Trail is not very hard.  The longest par 4 is 378 yards.  There are a couple of par 5’s but nothing too tough.  This is a decent place for a beginner to start or for an average golfer to play.  I’m not very good (I usually shoot around 100 on an 18-hole course) and I enjoyed the course.

Aside from playing, it was fun to see the landscaping and a few animals around.  I’ll get this out-of-the-way now… Golfing is your best chance to see an alligator while at Disney World.  For those that don’t live nearby and alligators aren’t commonplace then this might hold some level of attraction.  We saw two while playing here.  In fact, my dad and I both hit shots about 5 yards from a pond with a gator in it.  We left those golf balls.  Obviously use caution if you do see one and yada yada.  There have also been deer spotted around here.  On top of that, this is just a pretty place to walk around.

The one downside of golfing is that it’s hot and takes time.  You can’t use a golf cart on this course and the walking will be around 2 miles.  There is some shade, depending on where you are on the course.  The walking isn’t very vigorous since Oak Trail is mostly flat.  That just leaves the decision (for those interested in golf) to if you’re willing to take the time out to go golfing.  The round will likely take you 3 hours once you include parking, checking-in and then going on to wherever your next location is.

For some, this is a no-brainer and one of the best hidden values at Disney World.  If you have a longer vacation with a bit of a free day then go, again assuming that you’re interested in golf.  I think anyone would enjoy this course at least once.  It’s worth the hassle of getting there and is a nice change of pace from most other activities at Disney World.  Maybe you’re looking for a little extra something for a guy who isn’t all that excited about your Disney trip.  This could be a nice little perk for them.  Golfing at Oak Trail probably isn’t worth your time if it’s unbearably hot, you don’t have much time at Disney World, or you don’t have the ticket options where this is included.

Overall, I thought an afternoon at Oak Trail Golf Course was really fun.  While it’s not something that I’d do every trip, I did think that it was well worth our time to try.

Have you ever golfed at Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course or any of the other Disney courses?  Do you have any questions about this course?  Let us know in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

Trail’s End Restaurant Review

Trail’s End is a restaurant at Fort Wilderness Resort in Walt Disney World.  The restaurant features a buffet that is open for both breakfast and dinner, as well as brunch.  Brunch largely consists of the breakfast items as well as some dinner options.  Trail’s End counts as 1-credit on the Disney Dining Plan and does accept Tables in Wonderland and Annual Pass discounts.  We recently had brunch at Trail’s End, this review will cover that meal.

Pioneer Hall

Fort Wilderness definitely does not lack in character.  If you walk around the campground and cabins enough it’s easy to forget that one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world lies a mile or two away.  The campground has no shortage of critters running around and many paths to explore.  The building where Trail’s End resides is Pioneer Hall, the home base of Fort Wilderness.  To get here you will either need to walk 20 minutes (or so) from the bus stop, take internal busses from the bus stop or take a boat from Magic Kingdom.  If you’re at Magic Kingdom or one of the resorts nearby I would definitely recommend the boat.

The inside of Trail’s End fits the rest of Fort Wilderness.  A southern charm mixed with a western exploration feel, Trail’s End could double as a place to grab some food after a day hunting or hiking.  The restaurant is rustic and charming, featuring a few rural items on the wooden walls.  I thought the inside was quite beautiful, although the TV’s at the bar take a little bit out of the environment.  The seating layout was a little squished, especially considering this was a buffet.  These are just minor quibbles though on what is a fun, beautiful environment.

Trail's End fan and ceiling

Unfortunately, the food didn’t live up to the rave reviews I’d seen of the restaurant.  Full disclosure: We ate here after we finished our half-marathon so my body was probably somewhat out of whack.  I thought I was extremely hungry but didn’t actually eat as much as I thought I would.  My parents dined with Melissa and I and they didn’t run the half-marathon.  They too thought the food was nothing special.  With that said, let’s take a look at some of the highlights of the buffet.  Here’s a link to the menu before I forget!

Trail's End juice

As you can see, we were thirsty.  We’ll start with the highlight of the meal for me… The juice!  This juice goes by many names, here it’s called Moonshine.  Don’t worry, this is legal in all states and doesn’t contain alcohol.  The juice is a mix guava, passionfruit and orange juice.  It’s delicious.  Moonshine also goes by the name of Jungle Juice over at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom.  Order this and many other drinks, as it already comes with your meal.

Plate Trai's End

Here’s a look at my first plate from the buffet.  As you can see, there’s quite a bit going on here.  Don’t judge me.  Let’s knock out these items quickly.

The pastries were nothing special.  Don’t get me wrong, they were still delicious because they were pastries but nothing out of this world.  Same should be said about the biscuits and gravy.  The biscuits were decent but had been sitting out for just a little too long.

The egg looking item was called a breakfast pizza and was one of the better items offered.  It was mostly egg but had some nice spices on it that made it interesting.  Likewise, the ham was juicy and delicious.  This was at the carving station and was a definite highlight

Keeping up with the meat, that is Brown Sugar-glazed Applewood Smoked Bacon on the back of the plate.  I liked the flavor of the meat but did find it to be pretty fatty.  Not that I’m one to complain about a fatty piece of bacon.  That was just a heads up!  The sausage was fine.

The other highlight of the meal was the Fried Chicken and Corn Muffins.  Both of these are the same as what is served at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue (the restaurants share a kitchen) and both are delicious.  I imagine I would have thought more highly of this buffet if we hadn’t gone to that dinner show a few nights before.  I really stuffed myself with fried chicken that night so I only had a piece at the buffet.  That dish is certainly a highlight here.

iced salads seafood Trail's End

Along with the fried chicken, there were a couple of cold salads along with shrimp and smoked salmon.  I love shrimp but nothing here was anything out of the ordinary.  Again, nothing tasted bad but this was rather bland.

Trail's End doughnuts cinnamon roll

The desserts were pretty good.  I liked those little red velvet cakes you can see in the back of the picture above.  The cinnamon rolls were good but you can certainly find better around Disney World property.

Trail's End waffles

There are Mickey Waffles and people seem to like those.  The French Toast Bread Pudding was a little bit dry but still pretty tasty.  Plus, it has French Toast in the title so it counts as a breakfast food!

With my lukewarm (like most of the food we ate) review here, you probably think that I’m pretty down on this restaurant.  Instead I’m lukewarm.  Mainly I just wanted to use that phrase again.  The reason Trail’s End doesn’t get a hard pass from me is twofold.  One, I think I was in a bit of a weird food mood and think that we may have caught the buffet at the wrong time.  And two, the price is really good relative to all other Disney World buffets.  The cost for the brunch buffet was $23 per adult but we were able to add our 20% Annual Pass discount on top of that.  That makes for an $18 all you can eat meal per person, which is a good value in Disney standards.

Trail's End sign

With that in mind, I wouldn’t say I recommend the restaurant but rather take it on a case-by-case basis.  If you really like comfort food or fried chicken then you probably will like this.  If you’re looking for something a little more exotic then pass.

Overall, we had an average experience at Trail’s End and probably won’t be going back anytime soon.  With that said, I can see why people really like it and it certainly has a place among Disney World’s vast array of restaurants.

Overall Rating – 7.5/10

Have you eaten at Trail’s End?  Do you have any questions about the restaurant?  Let us know in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

Rating the Shows – Disney’s Hollywood Studios

After Disneyland, California Adventure and Animal Kingdom, we jump ahead in the series to Hollywood Studios.  If you missed any of the previous installments click on the corresponding park to catch up!

Fantasmic! sign DHS

Attractions are just one part of theme park experience.  Live entertainment can help to balance out a day full of rides.  Hollywood Studios was built with the idea of being a working studio that guests would come to visit.  While today’s version of the park didn’t end up that way, the theme (or lack thereof) still lends itself to large stage shows.  Let’s brush up on the rules before the ratings.

  • The show has to be live, also no meet & greets – I covered 3D shows (and the like) in the attraction rankings. Meet & greet experiences differ from person-to-person so it’s nearly impossible to rate a typical experience, seeing how there really isn’t a ‘typical experience.’  For the record, I don’t often like meet & greets unless they involve King Louie.
  • I’ll try to keep up! – Some of the temporary live offerings will be on here but some I simply won’t be able to keep up with.  If I’m behind, feel free to drop me a note in the comments below!  Hollywood Studios has a decent amount of entertainment coming and going, especially.  I apologize for any inconvenience.  In this same vein, there are some shows that I haven’t seen and I will skip reviewing them.
  • Shows are rated mostly on production, minimally on subject – I’m not the target audience for Jedi Training but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad show.  I’ll try to be as fair as possible, regardless of subject matter.
  • Make up your own opinion – I’m always right… Except when I’m not.  If I don’t like the show, that doesn’t mean you will feel the same.  I don’t think my opinions are too outlandish and I try to rate things on show quality instead of subject but that doesn’t mean you should take my word as gospel.

The shows are rated on a scale of 1-10, 1 being “you’d be better off getting run over by a boulder than seeing this” and 10 being “you should be run over by a boulder if you decide not to see this show.  Let’s begin!

Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage – 7/10

This is a truncated version of Beauty and the Beast, hitting on most of the classic songs while quickly telling the story.  The show is driven by the live singing sand dance performances.  Strangely enough, some of the singing is live while some is pre-recorded with lip-synching.  That is my biggest problem with the show along with the shortened version lacking any emotional punch.  The performances are good but the writing and directing choices are somewhat odd.  I also think the show is a little tired and past its prime.  I’d like to see a replacement in the coming years.  For now, this is skippable unless you are a big Beauty and the Beast fan.  Even then, I wouldn’t make it a top priority.

Gaston's gang

Citizens of Hollywood – 8.5/10

The Citizens of Hollywood are a very good streetmosphere act on Hollywood Boulevard.  These actors portray citizens of the street in the early 1900’s.  They sing, tell jokes, and interact with guests.  This isn’t the type of act you plan for but I would absolutely recommend stopping for 5 or 10 minutes if you see them performing.  They really add life to the park.

DHS actors car

Fantasmic! – 8.5/10

This is probably my least favorite of Disney’s nighttime spectaculars.  I love Fantasmic! at Disneyland but this show is missing something.  With that said, it is still very impressive.  Located in a large amphitheater, the show’s production value is high and the story is timeless.  The Pocahontas section is too long and takes some of the flow out of the show but there are still some amazing moments.  This is a must-see if you have never been to Disneyland.  If you have, then this is skippable as that version is far superior.

Mickey sword Fantasmic

For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration – 6/10

This wins the award for longest show title in Hollywood Studios.  Unfortunately, it won’t win any other awards.  This show consists of two narrators telling the Frozen plot very quickly.  Occasionally characters will pop out and lead the audience in a sing along.  The whole show seems very thrown together and is really lacking.  If you have a kid who loves Frozen then this might be for them.  If not, then I’d try to avoid this.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – 8/10

This is a pretty fun show that goes behind the stunts that they do in movies.  It is all based around Indiana Jones.  I’ve always thought that the show has somewhat of a funny pace but overall I think that it’s enjoyable.  Another negative is that the theater can be very hot if you go at the wrong time of day.  Overall, there aren’t many shows like this in Walt Disney World (or Disneyland for that matter) and that makes it more interesting and enjoyable for me.  I’d say go and see this unless you don’t care much for action movies or Indiana Jones.

Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple – 10/10

This show is for kids (which I am not) but I think it is great.  Kids can sign to take part in Jedi Training and will eventually learn some moves with a light saber before battling Darth Vader or Kylo Ren.  Even as an adult, Jedi Training is a blast to watch and will definitely be enjoyable for parents.  The times I’ve watched I have been very impressed with the organization, production value and handling of the kids.  If you have little ones that are Star Wars fans you should definitely do this.  Even as an adult, stopping by and watching the fun for a few minutes is worth your time.

March of the First Order – 6.5/10

Others seem to love this and I feel like I’m missing something.  This is a mini-parade, with a few storm troopers and Captain Phasma marching to the stage right outside of the Chinese Theater.  I mean, it doesn’t hurt anything and is a fun little addition but I don’t think it’s worth lining up for or waiting in a crowd under the hot sun.  But as I said, some people really love this.

Star Wars light sabers

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular – 8.5/10

This is the other nighttime spectacular at Hollywood Studios.  I gave this the same rating as Fantasmic! but I do like this slightly better.  This show is basically the greatest hits from the Star Wars franchise.  They use building facades for projections along with some pyro.  They have continuously cut back on the pyro in recent months and that certainly limits the show.  If not for that I would definitely give this a 9 or higher.  Even with the negatives, the show is a blast and a quality nighttime spectacular.  Try to get fairly close to the Chinese Theater for the best view.

Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away – 6.5/10

The lacking parade I mentioned earlier?  It all leads up to this show that is also lacking.  This is like the nighttime spectacular in that it’s more or less a montage of great Star Wars moments.  These are shown on big screens with a few character appearances interspersed throughout the show.  There is no discernible plot.  This is basically like a Star Wars hype video, which isn’t the worst thing really but not needed.

Chinese Theater DHS

Voyage of the Little Mermaid – 7.5/10

This is a short retelling of Little Mermaid that uses screens and live actors.  The show is pretty short (about 20 minutes) and uses a few old-fashioned but fun effects in the theater.  I’ve always enjoyed this show overall but will admit that it’s nothing to write home about.  Unlike most of the others on this list, Voyage of the Little Mermaid is inside and a nice way to escape the heat.  If you’ve finished the big rides and shows at Hollywood Studios then this is a perfectly pleasant way to spend a few minutes.


Hollywood Studios has quite a bit of live entertainment, especially considering how few attractions the park has.  I didn’t include the Disney Jr. show, the new projection show, or the Christmas nighttime show as I haven’t seen them.  There has also been some temporary entertainment added and I hope this continues over the next few years as the park grows.

As Hollywood Studios stands right now, there are a lot of good shows but nothing great that everyone would love.  Jedi Training is worth your time but more for kids than anything.  The nighttime spectaculars are good but don’t quite live up to other parks.  The stage shows are good but not jaw-dropping.  All in all, Hollywood Studios has good entertainment options but nothing out of this world.

Star Wars Darth Vader

What do you think of Hollywood Studio’s live entertainment?  Do you have any questions?  Let us know in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

Top Ten Walt Disney World Attractions to Experience at Night

While Disney Parks are magical at any time of the day, night-time there takes on a more whimsical feeling.  While many attractions have a similar feel in both day and nighttime, namely the indoor rides, some rides are different and more enjoyable at night.  Around the time this blog started we ranked the top ten attractions to experience at night in Disneyland.  Almost three years later it’s time to move on to Walt Disney World and give you my top ten nighttime attractions there.

Before we start on the list, I’ll give you my criteria for these rankings.  The first mandate is that the attraction has to differ from day to night.  Space Mountain is great but it looks and feels the same during all times of the day (yes, sometimes the AC feels better than other times).  After that, the case for each ride will vary.  Some will make the list because they offer different views than the daytime.  Some will make it because they’re more mysterious at night.  Some will make it because they are just more fun once the sun sets.  Let’s get on to the list.  First, some honorable mentions.

Mad tea party MK

Test Track (Epcot) – Epcot is a wonderful place to visit at night.  That’s mainly thanks to World Showcase though.  With a lack of outdoor attractions, I threw Test Track in this list because I didn’t have any other Epcot rides that made the cut.  There are far more worthy picks than this that aren’t mentioned though.
Mad Tea Party (Magic Kingdom) – This mainly makes the list because my wife uses the attraction to wake herself up when it’s really late and she’s about to fall asleep.  It works well.  I will say that the area looks better at night.  When you’re spinning fast then it’s hard to notice that.  That’s why I don’t spin fast.
Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom) – The actual attraction doesn’t change at night.  Still, once the sun goes down and the mansion is illuminated there is a more mysterious and spooky feel to the attraction.  Not noticeable enough to make the top 10 but I still prefer night to daytime here.

10. Kilimanjaro Safaris (Animal Kingdom) – If you only have one chance to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris and it can be either day or night then do it during the day.  You are able to see the animals clearly and the attraction is a little longer and better overall.  With that out-of-the-way, the nighttime experience is pretty interesting.  The savannah portion of the safari is lit up in a brilliant color and is quite beautiful.  On top of that, several animals are more active in the evening including the hyenas and lions.  I’d recommend a ride on the safari right around sunset for optimal viewing but going in complete darkness is definitely an interesting experience.

Lion night safari AK

9. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom) – Magic Kingdom’s newest roller coaster has some fun views at night but, sadly, is a little bit of undiscovered potential.  I’ve never liked the lighting on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  Being the center piece of New Fantasyland and having some good vantage points should lead to a really great experience.  Instead the vantage points are the highlight and the rest of the experience is mostly equal to the daytime.  While I’ve been somewhat of a negative nelly, this still landed 9th on this list out of over 50 attractions.

8. Astro Orbiter (Magic Kingdom) – If there’s a time to ride Astro Orbiter, it’s at night.  The views high above Tomorrowland are great and you can even sneak a peek of the Contemporary Resort all lit up.  Along with the views, the Astro Orbiter is a little more exciting for those crazy people who like thrills.  The Astro Orbiter freaks me out but it is far better at night.

Astro Orbiter sign MK

7. Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover – We’ll stick in Tomorrowland for number seven.  The TTA (as the cool kids say) is great any time of day but is especially nice at night.  First of all, there is hardly ever a line so you can take a few laps around the attraction if your feet are in need of a break.  More than that, you can see the castle lit up and Tomorrowland in all of its neon glory.  Beware though, if you get too comfortable after a long day then falling asleep is fairly easy.

Tomorrowland TTA night

6. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Magic Kingdom) – I don’t have scientific proof available to me but I’m 97% sure that roller coasters being more fun at night is factual.  Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is certainly no exception.  The turns are just a bit more startling and the speed somehow seems a little faster.  Big Thunder is similar to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the somewhat interesting vantage points.  Where it excels is the lit up track.  There is a perfect amount of lighting where you can see some of where you’re going but it still leaves some surprise.

5. Storybook Circus – The Barnstormer/Dumbo the Flying Elephant (Magic Kingdom)
The attractions in Storybook Circus aren’t necessarily the best.  Dumbo is a classic but is somewhat dull.  The Barnstormer is a kid roller coaster that is not worth much time.  But, at night this area can be fantastic as no one goes over here at all.  I’ve ridden the Barnstormer 5 times in a row at night because there was no one else in line.  Dumbo is usually a tiny bit busier but it offers some great views.  Both of these attractions look great at night, lit up in their best circus colors.  While neither are the best attractions in general, they are a blast at night.

4. Jungle Cruise (Magic Kingdom) – The Jungle Cruise is fun anytime of day but once the sun sets the jokes can become a tiny bit more adult.  We aren’t talking crude jokes or anything but when you’re on a half-empty boat at midnight the skippers have a little more freedom to go off script.  This makes the whole experience more memorable and a slightly more personal, especially if you get the right skipper.

3. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios) – These next two are probably the most controversial on my list.  The Tower of Terror is an indoor ride that thrills guests with glimpses of outside.  Those glimpses are from 13 stories up so obviously they offer some dramatic views of, not just Hollywood Studios but, the entire resort.  This is especially stunning at night when you can see lights all across Walt Disney World.  The Tower of Terror also benefits from the “more spooky at night” reasoning.  The building looks more daunting with the lights on it and the dark sky behind it.  This is a great attraction anytime of day but is especially impressive at night.

ToT Boat

2. Splash Mountain (Magic Kingdom) – Much like Hollywood Studios, Splash Mountain is here because of the view it offers.  The attraction is largely indoors but there are a few nice moments outside that offer amazing views.  These different views are headlined by the view right before the drop.  This is one of the top views in all of Disney World, not just on rides.  Looking over Frontierland, out on to the river with the castle in the background is jaw-dropping, especially when they are all lit up.  The high speeds also feel a little faster in the dark.

Splash mt. night

1. Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom) – Our Magic Kingdom heavy list is finished off by Animal Kingdom’s best roller coaster.  With Animal Kingdom now being open later, Everest is available to ride once the sun sets.  The experience is absolutely heightened by the darkness.  The surprises, even if you’ve ridden Everest before, feel new and thrilling.  Because it’s dark outside, it’s easier to see inside of the mountain which makes the climax of the ride even more exciting.  The first time I went on Expedition Everest at night I was completely blown away by how much I loved the attraction at night.  The whole experience was more enjoyable.

Beware expedition everest

What are your favorite Walt Disney World attractions to ride at night?  Let me know in the comments.  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please like our social media pages and subscribe to the blog.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (8/7/17)

Every few weeks our writers get together and answer a Disney related question.  Here is this week’s question and answers!

Food and Wine entrance Epcot

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What’s the most exotic/interesting thing you’ve eaten at a Disney Park or Resort? How was it?

Leslie – I would say the most exotic thing that I enjoyed was haggis during the International Food and Wine festival. Going in with an open mind helped as I definitely tried lots of different food that day. Try anything once is my foodie phrase. I would definitely end up ordering it again if I had the chance.

Mickey Food and Wine Epcot

Andrew – The most interesting thing I’ve had is a whole fired fish at Skipper’s Canteen in Magic Kingdom. The fish is certainly not the most appetizing thing to look at but it certainly tasted good. The batter on the fish was delicious, as was the sauce that went with it. The other 3 people I was with couldn’t stop staring at the fish but I did enjoy it. I would order it again for sure!

Skippers fish

Melissa – Andrew and I went to the restaurant Tiffins in Animal Kingdom and tried the charred octopus appetizer. It was different, but also really fun to try something new.

Cassie – I think the most exotic thing I have ever had was also at the food and wine festival at California Adventure. I had Deviled eggs with smoked trout. Now that I think of it this may be the first and only time I’ve ever eaten trout, and it was lovely! There were so many interesting foods at the festival, I can’t wait to try more in the future!

What is the most interesting thing you’ve eaten while at Disney?  Let us know in the comments below.  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog.  You can do that on the right side of the page, along with finding links to our social media accounts.  Thank you for reading!

Rating the Shows – Disney’s Animal Kingdom

We move ahead in this glorious series to Disney’s Animal Kingdom after spending some time in California Adventure and Disneyland.  If you missed previous installments of this series just click on the corresponding park to catch up!

Blue and pink lotus RoL

Attractions are just one part of theme park experience.  Live entertainment can help to balance out a day full of rides.  Disney’s Animal Kingdom is no stranger to live entertainment.  Even while the attraction lineup could use a few additions, there has been no shortage of stage shows in the park.  Before we get to rating the shows, let’s brush up on the rules.

  • The show has to be live, also no meet & greets – I covered 3D shows (and the like) in the attraction rankings. Meet & greet experiences differ from person-to-person so it’s nearly impossible to rate a typical experience, seeing how there really isn’t a ‘typical experience.’  For the record, I don’t often like meet & greets unless they involve King Louie.  I should point out that King Louie does meet guests in Animal Kingdom so 10/10 there.
  • I’ll try to keep up! – Some of the temporary live offerings will be on here but some I simply won’t be able to keep up with.  If I’m behind, feel free to drop me a note in the comments below!  In this same vein, there are some shows that I haven’t seen and I will skip reviewing them.
  • Shows are rated mostly on production, minimally on subject – I’m not the target audience for Jedi Training but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad show.  I’ll try to be as fair as possible, regardless of subject matter.
  • Make up your own opinion – I’m always right… Except when I’m not.  If I don’t like the show, that doesn’t mean you will feel the same.  I don’t think my opinions are too outlandish and I try to rate things on show quality instead of subject but that doesn’t mean you should take my word as gospel.

ToL Awakenings AK

The shows are rated on a scale of 1-10, 1 being “you’d be better off renting a clown for a solo show on your 50th birthday then seeing this” and 10 being “a yeti might start chasing you if you don’t see this show.”  We’ll go in alphabetical order.

Burudika – 8.5/10

When Animal Kingdom started adding evening hours to the park, they launched a whole slew of fresh entertainment.  Burudika was one of those acts.  This band plays at the Harambe Street Party and plays African-pop hits.  They are energetic and perfect atmospheric entertainment.  Whether you’re browsing the shops or dancing right in front of the stage, you will enjoy Burudika.  This is a fairly high rating but, while I think it is fun to see them, I don’t go out of my way to see them.  Basically, if you’re at Animal Kingdom in the evening the chances are that you’ll happen upon this group playing and you have to be a Scrooge not to like them.

Discovery Island Carnivale – 9/10

There are several events that happen in this party.  The Viva Gaia Street Band performs a couple of times in the late afternoon/early evening.  They are a high energy act but not in the annoying dance party way.  This feels far more organic and the music fits the area.

While the band plays there are often dancers on stilts and a good group of people dancing and enjoying the music.  Again, this is the most natural dance party Disney does.  Even if you aren’t a fan of dancing, watching the performances is well worth your time.  While Animal Kingdom often has a more serious tone, this and the Harambe Wildlife Parti are beautiful and energizing.

AK harp

The last of the Carnivale is one of my favorite acts in all of Disney World, a harp player.  I’ve never particularly listened to the harp until I was standing by Flame Tree Barbecue one night and this guy took the stage.  Preconceived notions of the harp being a slow, peaceful instrument were left behind when this energetic music filled the air.  I was as impressed by this musician as any I can recall at Disney.  If you are interested in music at all, I’d make a point to go see the harp player.

Festival of the Lion King – 10/10

This is my favorite stage show in a park.  Like the parties, this show is a celebration with a loose theme built around the Lion King.  This festival takes on more of a variety show as there are stunts mixed with incredible vocal performances.  The theater that houses the show is impressive in its own right.  I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil anything, don’t miss this show.

FotLK Blue

Finding Nemo – The Musical – 6/10

Finding Nemo – The Musical is a fine show, retelling the story of Finding Nemo with songs.  Some of the songs are good but otherwise the show is fairly forgettable to me.  One big perk is that the show building is the coolest place (temperature wise) in all of Animal Kingdom.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much more to it than that.  I do think it’s worth seeing once, especially if you are a big fan of the film.  Otherwise, it’s somewhat of a mixed bag.

Flights of Wonder – 8.5/10

This is an outdoor (but shaded) stage show featuring birds from all over the world.  Your thoughts on it will likely depend on how much you enjoy learning and watching animals.  The show is very informative while still being enjoyable for young ‘uns.  Guests can get very close to the birds as they often fly overhead.  Flights of Wonder is like a local zoo show, in that it’s very animal based without much plot, but with much better production, acting and sights.  This is often overlooked and it shouldn’t be, I really enjoy this one.

Bird catching FoW AK

Harambe Wildlife Parti – 9/10

This party kicks off with the aforementioned Burudika.  Into the night the Harambe Wildlife Parti features two other acts – the Karibu Sisters and Harambe Village Acrobats.

The Sisters are a great act that is mostly acoustic and drum based.  They dance and sing, but are still energetic even without much music.  This trio is incredibly talented and I could listen to them all day.  They are wonderfully interactive, as well.

The Acrobats are very fun to watch as they tumble, dance and drum.  This group is a little harder to catch than the Karibu Sisters but if you happen upon them definitely stop to watch for a few minutes.  As with all of these parties, I’m not sure I’d make a hard-locked plan to go to them but rather end up at them naturally.  The authentic energy is very inviting at the Carnivale and the Wildlife Parti.

Rivers of Light – 9/10

Rivers of Light is Animal Kingdom’s nighttime spectacular.  The show is absolutely beautiful and fits in with the theme of Animal Kingdom.  Rivers of Light is on the Discover River and consists of water projections, floats and a few other little surprises. As I said, the show is beautiful through and through.  From the music to the floats to the loose plot, Rivers of Light will leave many very pleased.  With that said, some would argue that the show doesn’t have any jaw-dropping moments and that takes away from it especially compared to other Disney nighttime spectaculars.  For me, I like the different pacing that this has and really enjoy the show.  I certainly understand where the complaints are coming from though.

Elephant RoL

Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe – 7/10

To be perfectly honest, I’ve barely seen this group aside from passing by.  They play in the morning in Harambe and haven’t left me with a distinct memory.  Their shows are short and they are talented, this just isn’t as compelling to me as other acts in Animal Kingdom.

Tree of Life Awakenings – 10/10

Tree of Life Awakenings is perfect for what it is.  Around closing time, the Tree of Life will light up.  Eventually, animals start to move on it.  After that we get a short story about the animal told through projections on the tree.  Most of the stories are subtle and beautiful.  These look stunning and the stories are heartfelt.  If you’re expecting an extravagant show then you may be disappointed but if you are looking for a perfect way to cap off your day, this is it.  I like to end up by the tree right about closing time and then watch 3 or 4 of these stories.  Tree of Life Awakenings is a perfect envelopment of what Animal Kingdom is.  Don’t miss this.

Bird ToL Awakenings AK


There are a few other items around the park.  There is a no drum show in Pandora that happens throughout the day.  I’ll be catching that in a few weeks.  There is also Winged Encounters which is hard to find but is amazing if you do.  This is another little bird show.  There’s plenty to be found at Animal Kingdom by just exploring, including live entertainment.

Animal Kingdom has a subtle nighttime show and no parade.  You wouldn’t think that would bode well for the live entertainment at the park but that is far from the truth.  In fact, this park has my favorite live entertainment.  There are two great stage shows, the best atmospheric entertainment in all 6 U.S. Disney Parks, a beautiful nighttime spectacular, and one of the most subtle and beautiful projection shows I’ve ever seen.  I could go to Animal Kingdom and just see the shows and have a great day.

Harambe dusk

What do you think of Animal Kingdom’s live entertainment?  Let us know in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

Five Tips For Enjoying Nighttime Photography in Disney Parks

I am by no means a photography expert and wouldn’t even consider myself to be a good photographer.  With that being said, taking photos has become an integral part of going to Disney Parks.  Some of my favorite memories are walking around empty streets with Melissa, snapping pictures around every corner.  While taking photos is different and easier, in some aspects, during the day, I prefer taking photos at night.

Tomorrowland lagoon night

A large part of the reason for that is because I just enjoy the park more at night.  The illuminated areas hold a little more whimsy once dusk falls and the capturing that in photo is both a challenge and exciting.  But, photography at night is much different from the day, which leads me to the topic for today’s post.

Before I get into a few tips on taking photos at night, I should explain that I’m generally taking photos with a Nikon DSLR.  While I use my iPhone camera from time to time this post mainly pertains to those using DSLR’s.  That’s not to say there is anything wrong with iPhone photos, in fact phones can take comparable pictures to those of high quality cameras.  The set-up will be different depending on the camera and I would say nighttime photography is harder with phones than daytime.  If you have specific questions on equipment or photography in general, please ask below in the comments (again, not that I’m an expert).

One other warning is that these aren’t really tips to help you take great photos at night.  I know a few things but you can find much better information elsewhere.  These are simply tips on helping you enjoy the experience more.  Sure, some of that enjoyment will come from taking photos that turn out to your liking but some of that experience is separate from just taking photos.

MK fountain castle

On to the tips! 

Use a tripod… or garbage can

Nighttime photography requires longer shutter speeds.  To achieve longer shutter speeds, something to rest your camera on is essential.  A tripod is the best way to balance your camera.  Unfortunately, this usually means carrying a tripod around with your camera gear all day.  This isn’t the worst thing but if you don’t want to spend money on a tripod or don’t want to carry it then finding something else to balance a camera on isn’t hard.

Tomorrowland Night

The ground and garbage cans are probably the most common ways to take photos at night without a tripod.  Yes, this will lead to people looking at you funny but it’s all in the name of art!  Or something like that.  There are also plenty of mini-tripod options to buy that mostly range between 10 and 20 dollars.

While shooting handheld photos at night is an option, it is hard to balance out a scene without using a slow shutter speed.  A flash will illuminate areas but not an entire scene, which is much of what photography and Disney is.  A tripod, or something of the like, is essential to nighttime photos at the parks.

ToL Awakenings Jungle Book AK

Find a different scene than park icon

The castles, Spaceship Earth and other park icons are some of the most photographed items in the world.  That doesn’t make them any less spectacular.  By all means, take photos there.

But my favorite experiences photographing at night have been in other places.  Part of this is because I feel like I can be more artistic and original.  There is something extremely inviting about photographing the icons but it is very hard to find a unique perspective.  Other places in the parks haven’t been quite so overdone and are easier to do something more original.

Ferry boat higher

The other enjoyable part of not just photographing the icons is that you’ll likely be by yourself.  Once the park closes, most people are near the icons.  While you should get there eventually, other areas are still available to walk through.  Empty areas with beautiful lights makes for a serene night which leads me to…

Start as far back in the park as possible

My favorite plan of attack when it comes to nighttime photography in Disney Parks is to start in the very back of the park as it closes.  This involves picking an area of the park to start in.  On my latest trip to Magic Kingdom, Melissa and I rode Pirates right before park closing.  Upon exiting I took photos there then headed back into Frontierland for photos of Big Thunder and Splash Mountain.  Eventually I ended up in Liberty Square before a subtle push towards Main Street by security.

Italy canal night Epcot

If you start near the back of the park as park closes, security is likely to give you a little leeway, as people are exiting attractions still.  Slowly make your way to the front of the park while taking photos.  Security is generally very kind and will allow you to take your time exiting.  As long as you’re courteous to them then the favor will probably be returned.

Use different settings

This goes for all times of day when it comes to photography.  And this tip is mainly for beginners, like myself.  With today’s technology it’s easy to rest on an automatic setting but the experience is far more rewarding (and usually comes up with better photos) if you do things manually.  For a long time I was unhappy that my nighttime photos ended up with a red tint.  I had always been afraid to mess with my white balance because I had read that I had placed where it needed to be.  Finally I decided to change it and my results turned out way better.  Like anything, experimenting can be nerve-wracking but it will make you a better photographer in the long run.  In that same vein, if you have the time then take multiple photos with different shutter speeds and apertures.  This will help you find a style that you like.

Haunted Mansion night

Bring someone with you… Or don’t

Last of all, make the experience into exactly that – an experience.  This doesn’t just need to be a few minutes of taking photos.  Instead it can be a romantic stroll in a beautifully lit park with some photography mixed in.  Or if you’re tired of being around people, take an hour and walk around the park alone while snapping photos.  This is my favorite time of day to take in all the sights and sounds, it doesn’t need to just be rushing from area to area taking photos.  As with all things in Disney Parks, take the time and enjoy yourself!

Splash mt. night

If you have any questions or comments about taking photos at Disney Parks, I’d love to answer them below in the comments.  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy our posts please subscribe to the blog and follow our social media pages.  You can find both of those on the right side of this page. 

– Andrew

A New Area(?) Coming To Hollywood Studios

This week will be a little light on content as I’m out-of-town and won’t have much time to write.  We’ll be back to a more normal schedule next week!

D23 ended less than 2 weeks ago but Disney is already making more news.  Word came today that a new, or perhaps reused is a better word, section is coming to Hollywood Studios.  This area will be called Grand Ave, inspired the present day street in L.A. with the same name.  Grand Ave will take up what is left of the former Streets of America, lying next to Muppet Courtyard.  This area will most likely be the last spot you go through before entering Star Wars Land.

Grand Avenue in downtown L.A. holds special meaning to Disney because of the Walt Disney Concert Hall put there.  While the street is not known for repurposed buildings, many other older buildings in L.A. (and nearly every other big city) are being repurposed and that’s where the theme of this area kicks in.

PizzaRizzo street

Grand Ave will take these older looking facades and repurpose them, creating a new pub called the Baseline Tap House.  This space was previously occupied by Writer’s Shop in Hollywood Studios.  Baseline Tap House will feature Californian beers and wines, as well as some small bites.

The back story behind Baseline Tap House (which seems unnecessary) is that this place is repurposing an old family owned print shop that had ties to Disney Studios in Burbank.  It is unclear if there will be anything else in this area or if there will just be remnants of the old Streets of America.

My reaction to the news:

I nearly didn’t write this post because I don’t have much of a reaction.  I’m not as nostalgic for Streets of America as many other Disney fans but I don’t think this addition harms anything.  The tap house will be a little different from what Disney has in most of their parks and I’m hopeful that the drink selection will be adventurous.

PizzeRizzo facade

What I do find most interesting about this addition of Grand Ave is what it says about the entire theming of the park.  Hollywood Studios never fully committed to have that 30’s Hollywood style but it was nearly there.  Sunset Boulevard and Streets of America certainly invoked a feeling of stepping back in time.  Now, they are keeping some of that Streets of America facade but trying to move the feeling into the 21st century.

Once again, I don’t have much reaction to that thought.  My hot takes aren’t coming out so hot today.  Updating themes to present day is an interesting idea and one that isn’t done all that often.  You can point to World Showcase Pavilions as an idealization of present day countries.  Grand Ave won’t be on that scale though.  Same goes for Asia and Africa in Animal Kingdom.  The castle parks don’t have any lands that are set in present day.  Lastly, California Adventure has a few areas set in present day, Paradise Pier and Grizzly Peak Airfield, but neither of those areas are city based.  All this to say, I’m curious what Disney ends up doing to make Grand Ave feel current.

Muppet Vision 3D sign

I’m also curious how well it will flow from Muppet Courtyard into Grand Ave into Star Wars.  I think the first two will be fine, as Muppet Courtyard has more generic architecture that can match most eras if framed right.  Grand Ave flowing into Star Wars will be more interesting but I think there will be a gap in between them.

All in all, this news is fine.  I’m glad Disney is doing something with this area and I get why there isn’t much to it.  The park is heavy on projects right now and they don’t want to add anything substantial to an already overloaded budget.  With that said, I’m slightly concerned about how many rides this park will have when Hollywood Studios reopens once all these projects are finished.  Muppets Courtyard or Grand Ave would be nice spots to add a small, little ride and the park could sure benefit from spreading more people out.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for now.  But, the new land seems to fit in fine with the park and will be a nice little area to walk through.

What are your thoughts on Grand Ave coming to Hollywood Studios?  Let us know in the comments!  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy our posts please subscribe to the blog and follow our social media pages.  You can find both of those on the right side of this page. 

– Andrew

Question of the Week (7/23/17)

Every few weeks our writers get together and answer a Disney related question.  Here is this week’s question and answers.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: As we finish off our D23 coverage, what Expo announcement are you most excited about moving forward?

via Disney Tourist Blog

Leslie – For me I would have to say Star Wars land is what I am most excited and anxious for. I remember when the Launch Bay came out as well as Star Wars weekends and how magical these were for me. To have a whole area to marvel and bask in the wonder of one of my favorite universes is amazing. I cannot wait to see the care and detail that will go into it and definitely am planning already my trip to see its completion.

Melissa – I think I’m most excited for the changes they have planned for Epcot. I’m still not sure what all they are changing, but I know part of it is to Spruce up the entrance and update Future World! I think it’s in need of something, so I’m excited to see what they will do!


Andrew – I would probably go with Star Wars Land as well but, since it’s already been said and it had already been announced, I’ll say Tron going into Tomorrowland. I think Tomorrowland has been somewhat of a wasted space for the last decade or so. While it should be a bustling, hopeful look at tomorrow, it felt more like an abandoned town with still working neon. The Tron: Lightcycle should help this immensely as it is partially outdoors which will bring some kinetic energy throughout the area. I also think the architecture looks more futuristic than any other facade in Tomorrowland aside from Space Mountain. It will be a welcome addition!

Tomorrowland monster

What Expo announcement are you most excited for?  Let us know in the comments below.  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog.  You can do that on the right side of the page, along with finding links to our social media accounts.  Thank you for reading!

2017 D23 Expo Announcements

In an effort to keep this site at least a little bit tidy, I’m going to put up this post with all of the D23 Expo Announcements on it.  I will link to each individual post I do on them.  This will make it slightly easier to find the post.  I will be adding several new posts over the next few days, along with updating the ones that I’ve already written.

Via Disney Parks Blog

This year’s D23 brought an unprecedented number of announcements and there is surely plenty to discuss.  And don’t call me Shirley.  So, here’s a list of what I’ve written about thus far.  Click on each individual one to get to the specific post.

That’s all for now, I’ll keep updating and posting new content as the week goes on.  While I’m still catching up, here’s a very quick rundown of what was announced.  I look forward to discussing all of this over the next week!