RideMax Roulette Plan in Action at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Tree of Life - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

In my previous post I reviewed the RideMax plan I had made for my daughter and I to get through several attractions at the Animal Kingdom this past Thursday, December 9th. This is a report on our vist.


If you want to know more about the plan details, be sure to see the previous post here on the RideMax blog, where I outlined some of the decisions that went into this one. For those who don’t want to take the time to do that, I’ve copied the plan above.

As you can see, we were set to start the day with two rides on Expedition Everest. The plan was to ride in the standby line first, then use our FastPass+ reservation for the second ride.

Low crowds at rope drop - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

We arrived inside the park fifteen minutes before opening time. The picture above shows the “crowd” lined up heading in the direction of Expedition Everest. Not too bad, really.

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RideMax Roulette at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Tomorrow

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Expedition Everest

OK, it’s been a while since I’ve done any RideMax Roulette, so I plan to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom with my daughter tomorrow, December 8th, for the next round.

For those not familiar with this proud tradition, RideMax Roulette is something of a game I play, where I select my attractions with a random-number generator, then plug this list of attractions into RideMax and use it to create an optimized game plan to follow. I then take the resulting RideMax plan to the park to see how well it works. This lets me test RideMax plans in the real world, plus it gets me out of the house for a while, providing some welcome solitude for my wife. (Those of you who also work from home likely know what I mean here.)

The list of activities for tomorrow are:

  • The Boneyard
  • Discovery Island Trails
  • Expedition Everest
  • Expedition Everest (yes, again)
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Finding Nemo, the Musical
  • Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch

After looking at this list, I decided to use FastPass+ for Expedition Everest and for Kilimanjaro Safaris, and gave that information to RideMax when I was creating my plan.

Here’s the RideMax plan we’ll be using:


Note that the plan has us visiting Expedition Everest twice right off the bat, and I probably don’t need FP+ for that second visit. I think RideMax is just trying to cut down on some walking here by getting them both out of the way early, as we don’t have any need to return to this area of the park later in the day.

After I had created the plan, I also was able to get a FP+ reservation for that 4:00pm FOTLK show, though I doubt we’ll really need it there either. The Safaris is likely the only place we’ll find FP+ all that helpful with this particular plan.

I expect to post “live” to Twitter and Facebook during the day, so if you want to follow along, you can do so here and here.

I also plan to report back with a blog post next week on how the day went, so stay tuned for the follow-up!


I’m Baaaack! Plus Low Labor-Day Week Crowds at Animal Kingdom, New Food Items at Nomad Lounge Review

OK, it seems like every summer I end up crazy busy, and this summer was no exception. And you may have noticed that the frequency of blog posts over the summer has suffered. Between a large extended family reunion at Disneyland earlier in the summer, an out-of-state high school reunion, and helping our daughter prepare as she headed off to live in Cambodia for an extended period of time (she’ll be back early 2018), it’s been pretty crazy around here.

But with the fall comes more time, and with more time comes more frequency posting here. It’s a fairly short post today, so let’s dive in!

Primeval Whirl No Line - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

As a Disney “expert,” something I’m often asked is when is the best time to visit Walt Disney World? And my normal response is that the days right after Labor Day are hard to beat. All the schools are back in session, and none of the fall school breaks have started up yet, leaving the park very uncrowded.

The picture above sort of tells the story. This was the scene at Primeval Whirl on Wednesday, September 7th, at just before 10:30am. No waiting here.

Expedition Everest Short Wait - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Same story with low crowds at Expedition Everest, just a few minutes later.

Kilimanjaro Safaris Short Wait - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

And… well, you get the idea. This was at 10:44am.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself something like this:

“Wow! I’m visiting next month! Hopefully the crowds will stay low until my trip!”

Sorry to disappoint, but no, you likely won’t see crowds this low in October. At Disneyland, you have all sorts of fall breaks in Arizona and Utah, and fall breaks abound here in the east as well. The Food & Wine Festival, which starts tomorrow at Epcot, also serves to draw guests into the parks. So, if you’ve been visiting the parks over the last week and a half, enjoy it while it lasts!

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

In Animal Kingdom news, the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail has been renamed back to its original moniker, the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. Personally, I think this was a good move, as it should help guests know immediately what to expect as the “star attraction” on this trail.

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail - New Sign - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Another new sign outside Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

Nomad Lounge - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Somehow, Liesle and I had never made it to Nomad Lounge, so we decided to stop in for lunch before Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival starts consuming most of our discretionary eating time, beginning tomorrow. We arrived to a completely empty lounge right after Nomad opened for the day at 11:30am, though a few groups of guests did arrive later as our lunch progressed.

For those who don’t know, Nomad Lounge shares its kitchen with Tiffin’s, which is the Animal Kingdom’s newest restaurant, located near what will someday be the entrance to Avatarland (or on the way to the old Camp Minnie-Mickey, if that helps).

Nomad Lounge Small Plate Menu - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

As usual, you can click on any image here for a larger view. We were mostly interested in the Small Plate Menu, which listed a couple of new offerings. These two didn’t appear on Disney’s app yet — the Sustainable Fish Tacos and the African-Spiced Wagyu Beef Sliders. (These have replaced the Fish Balls and Beef Skewer, respectively.)

Nomad Lounge Kiama Mamma - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

We first ordered the non-alcoholic Kiama Mamma, which was basically watermelon-flavored Sprite, complete with a wedge of the fruit. It was a refreshing beginning to the meal.

Nomad Lounge Cocktail Menu - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

You can see the some of the other drink options listed above.

Nomad Lounge Wagyu Beef Sliders - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

These are the Beef Sliders, which we both very much enjoyed. The sandwich had a nice tangy taste to it, and was cooked just right. The vinegared potatoes were a pleasant surprise here, offering a very unique taste. Our server, Adriana, who was very knowledgeable and helpful with the menu, explained that the potatoes were first boiled in a water-vinegar mixture, and finished off with a vinegar salt. My only complaint here is that we could have used more of the potatoes — they were just very good.

Nomad Lounge Sustainable Fish Tacos - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

The Fish Tacos were also delicious. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but these are served in soft corn tortillas, and the overall flavor and texture profile is very well balanced, with the mellowness of the corn tortilla and the fish combining with the tanginess of the charred pineapple and other garnishes to create a very nice overall effect.

Nomad Lounge Dessert - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

We also couldn’t resist the Taste of Tiffin’s dessert, which consisted of a dark chocolate ganache topped with various flavorings, including hibiscus meringue, Sri Lankan chantilly, passion fruit curd, and Egyptian sea salt. The bowl itself sat in a lime-based liquid that served as a palate cleanser between bites, which added a nice touch to the overall experience. Although the portion size is small here, it’s fairly rich, and Liesle and I both thought it was done just right, and a very delicious way to finish off the meal.

Nomad Lounge Entrance - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

The view of Nomad Lounge from the pathway in front. We look forward to eating here again soon.

Expedition Everest Short Wait - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

We left the Animal Kingdom in the early afternoon, when the posted wait for Expedition Everest was still just ten minutes. It looked like Disney may have actually underestimated the crowd at this point though — my guess is that the wait was actually closer to 15-20 minutes. Still not bad for the busiest time of the day.

Liesle and I are both excited to head off to Epcot tomorrow for the opening day of the Food & Wine Festival. Stay tuned for pictures and food reviews!


RideMax Assumptions for Animal Kingdom Plans After May 27th

Rivers of Light Entrance - Disney's Animal Kingdom

In the “thanks for your patience” department, I have some good news for Walt Disney World RideMax subscribers: As of today, our Animal Kingdom park hours now reflect the 11:00pm closing time for RideMax plans created for May 27th and later (or at least through July 2nd, which is the last date for which Disney has officially committed to staying open late).

It’s always a bit tricky putting together the behind-the-scenes wait time estimates RideMax will be using when we haven’t yet seen the scenario we’re trying to model, so I thought it might be helpful to go over some of the assumptions RideMax will be using. Note that I expect we’ll adjust the estimates and the assumptions once I’ve had the chance to experience the late evenings myself, beginning with an in-park visit on May 27th.

Highlights of our current assumptions include:

  • Kilimanjaro Safaris and the DinoLand attractions will remain open until park closing, regardless of the time the park closes. Same goes for It’s Tough To Be A Bug.
  • Several attractions will continue to close around dusk. RideMax is specifically assuming that Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, and Maharajah Jungle Trek will fall into this category.
  • Expedition Everest will close sometime *before* the park closes, and RideMax plans will avoid having you get in line for this attraction after 8:30pm. The theory here is that Disney won’t want all of the noise from Everest to carry over into the new show area on Discovery River (in the same way in which California Screamin’ is closed during World of Color at DCA).

Regarding this last assumption (no Everest after 8:30pm), we’ll have to see how this plays out in practice, but I’ve noticed that for all of the dates after May 27th for which I can see FP+ availability, the latest Everest time slot begins at 7:25pm, which means the FP+ window closes at 8:25pm. My guess (and I know it’s just a guess), is that Disney wants to have everyone off the ride by about 9:00pm, so that they can “get on with the show” playing on the river.

As I said, these seem like reasonable assumptions for now, and I expect we’ll be modifying them once we’ve seen everything in practice the evening of May 27th.

Disney hasn’t yet released actual show times for the new Jungle Book show, but you can expect to see this listed in RideMax soon after the announcement is made.

Stay tuned!


Disney’s Animal Kingdom Changes Reflected in RideMax… Soon!

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Expedition Everest

As something of a personal note for Walt Disney World subscribers to RideMax, I’m sure you’ve noticed that we’re still listing the “old” park hours for Disney’s Animal Kingdom for dates beginning on May 27th, which marks the start of Disney’s new nighttime experiences available there, including the after-dark rides on Kilimanjaro Safaris.

I wanted to personally give some very focused attention to the behind-the-scenes-data that RideMax will be relying on for the new schedule, but came back to Orlando from a recent vacation more sick than I’ve been in a long time. Knowing that I’d want to be fully-coherent when putting the new wait time estimates together (or at least as coherent as I normally am), I decided to wait until I’m off the meds before I focus on these changes in earnest.

The good news (well, for me at least) is that I’m starting to feel better as we head into the weekend, and I do hope to get on the changes next week.

So, my apologies for the delay, and please stay tuned!

Note that I also plan to be in the park the evening of May 27th, both to look at the wait times up-close, as well as to personally experience Kilimanjaro Safaris (and hopefully the new Jungle Book show) after dark, so keep an eye on the blog here for pictures and updates on the new changes once everything has opened.

Even without Rivers of Light, these are still some exciting changes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and I, for one, am glad to see them coming!