I've had so many wonderful things to say about Disney's Animal Kingdom lately. Yes I know it's the hottest park and we're in the middle of July. I don't care. It's my favorite place in the world to be this summer.
Not only is there a new Rivers of Light: We Are One evening show. Not only is there the cutest baby gorilla I've never seen. (And okay, yes, she's the only baby gorilla I've ever seen. But she's SO cute.) Not only is Nomad Lounge serving up some of the best food and drinks on property in one of the most relaxed settings around. But now it's the place to be to celebrate the release of The Lion King and know that you're doing some good for the world around you at the same time.
Disney was amazing enough to invite me to experience Animal Kingdom's celebration of The Lion King and learn about their related conservation efforts this past Friday and I could not wait to get home to start writing about it for all of you…
Kilimanjaro Safaris – Protect the Pride
Since the original Lion King movie was released 25(!) years ago, lion populations have dropped by HALF – from 40,000 to 20,000. True to form, Disney is using the release of the new, live action version of The Lion King to do good by drawing attention to this devastating fact and making way for change. They've launched The Lion King “Protect the Pride” campaign together with the Wildlife Conservation Network's Lion Recovery Fund in an effort to double to lion population – returning them to their original numbers – by the year 2050. To this end, get yourself and your family to Kilimanjaro Safaris if you can this week – because the Disney Conservation Fund will be donating $2 to the Wildlife Conservation Network for every person that rides (up to $350,000) in support of these efforts.
Special Edition Simba and Nala Plush Lions
You can also purchase one of these special edition Simba and Nala plush lions in Disney stores – including the ones at Disney's Animal Kingdom. 40,000 were made (that number should mean something to you now…) and for every one sold, Disney will donate $5 to the Wildlife Conversation Network in support of the Lion Recovery Fund.
If you're doing the multiplication and addition along with me, we're both figuring out that we could be closing in on more than $500,000 here between just the Kilimanjaro Safaris pledge and these special edition plushes to support conservation efforts. Imagine how much good that could do.
Lion King-Inspired Entertainment
There's also a ton of Lion King-Inspired entertainment at Disney's Animal Kingdom right now!!
Needless to say, there's still the Festival of the Lion King show – which has always been one of the absolute best shows on property. You can assure yourself reserved seating at this show with a lunch or dinner dining package at Tiffins Restaurant. And did I show you guys my last meal there? Omg….I'm still dreaminng about this tuna and cous cous. Easily one of the best meals I've ever eaten on property, and that's no small statement.
The Tree of Life Awakenings laser show also features stunning views of The Lion King, as does the new Rivers of Light: We are One nighttime show.
But before all of that after dark entertaiment, you can dance the day away with some of the characters from The Lion King at the Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party on Discovery Island. You'll find it by turning right and following the music as you approach the Tree of Life from the entrance.
After you've finished dancing and saving the world, you can take the train over to Rafiki's Planet Watch for one of my absolute favorite experiences in all of this – the Animation Experience at Conservation Station.
You'll get incredible step-by-step instruction on how to draw a Disney character…and also catch some amazing video about Animal Kingdom's animals at the same time. Not gonna lie – I was kind of proud of my Simba. Fast Passes for this appear to be available for booking but you can also head over and look to do it standby.
There's also a new Lion King-themed scavenger hunt available at Mombasa Marketplace! My kids love doing these so we're looking forward to getting back to Animal Kingdom to tackle this and find out what the prize for completing it is!
And of course we all love a good photo opportunity. There are some great Lion King-themed backdrops throughout the park – like this one near Tiffins.
As of course there are a few great Lion King-inspired Magic Shots!!
You can check out my guide to all of Disney's Animal Kingdom's Magic Shots and other PhotoPass opportunities right here!
And last, but never, ever least, the food. There are a number of snacks and other treats available throughout Disney's Animal Kingdom that are inspired by The Lion King – like this Bugs ‘n Grubs Waffle Cone that you can get at the Anandapur Ice Cream Truck and Trilo-Bites.
But the biggest thing here in my always humble opinion is the Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night experience. It's going to be available on certain nights starting July 24th and will be a full experience throughout the park centering on food, music, and animal conservation. We got to see and taste the assortment of desserts that will be available on this tour and let me just say OH. MY. GOODNESS.
Truth told these things deserve a post of their own but instead they're getting a shout out in this all-things-Lion-King-at-DAK post. They're next level as far as Disney food. Some of the most beautiful treats I've seen on property and one tasted better than the next.
This s'more lion pop was unreal.
My personal favorite was this sort of deconstructed s'more that featured a macaron, homemade marshmallow, meringue, strawberry (I think?) sauce, and a bit of chocolate.
But these lavender caramel bars were pretty amazing too.
And perhaps the biggest surprise was the amazing virtual reality experience that guests on the Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night tour will get to try. I don't want to give everything away…but let's just say you're going to get closer than you ever thought possible to Kilimanjaro Safaris' Pride Rock and lions.
Don't I look straight out of Carousel of Progress? “Take that you nincompoop!”
In all seriousness though, I am SO excited to see Disney embracing virtual and augmented reality experiences throughout the parks. I can only imagine where they'll go with possibilities like this at their fingertips.
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So there you have it!! Disney's Animal Kingdom's celebration of The Lion King and incredible efforts to Protect the Pride. If I hadn't already convinced you to head over there to relax and have a drink and a nosh at Nomad Lounge, see baby Grace the gorilla, or grab some amazing PhotoPass pictures, then hopefully I've convinced you now, because there are AMAZING things happening in this park this summer.
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To learn more about Disney's efforts to Protect the Pride, visit Disney.com/LionKingProtectThePride.