Fan Mail from Australia, February Crowds, Rivers of Light Construction Update, Flame Tree Barbeque Dinner and Dessert Review

World of Color - Disney California Adventure

First up today, I hope you’ll indulge me as I share some RideMax “fan mail” sent in by Leon from Australia, who visited Disneyland this past holiday season. He writes the following:

I spent 5 days at Disneyland (2 days) and California Adventure (3 days) with my wife and 2 children (ages 6 and 9) which included New Year’s Eve which I understand is the busiest day of the year.

Coming from Australia meant we needed to make the most of our trip. Your software and tips meant we saw everything we wanted with minimal queuing. I could not be happier. All up we saw:


  • Indiana Jones
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Tiki Room (twice)
  • Splash Mountain
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Disneyland Parade
  • Dumbo
  • King Arthur Carousel
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Mr Toad’s Wild Ride
  • Paint the Night Parade
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Small World Holiday
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • The Laughing Stock Co. Show
  • Mickey’s House
  • Minnie’s House
  • Fireworks (From Main Street and Rivers of America)
  • Fantasmic!
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Astro Orbiter
  • Buzz Lightyear
  • Finding Nemo Submarines
  • Hyperspace Mountain
  • Star Tours (and they both got to be Jedi in the Jedi Academy show)

California Adventure:

  • It’s Tough to be a Bug
  • Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (twice)
  • Radiator Springs Racers (twice)
  • Little Mermaid
  • Grizzly River Run
  • Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
  • Soarin’ Over California
  • Aladdin Show
  • Animation
  • Disney Junior – Live on Stage!
  • Frozen Sing-Along (twice)
  • Monsters Inc.
  • Pixar Play Parade
  • Mickey’s Fun Wheel
  • Silly Symphony Swings
  • World of Color Show

Thank you for your excellent software. It made a great holiday even better.

And thank YOU Leon for sharing. I’m glad you had such a nice trip, and that RideMax could help!

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Crowds

On to the parks… I decided to stop into Disney’s Animal Kingdom again last Friday, February 12th. I have to confess that I’m somewhat obsessed with the new Rivers of Light show coming soon to the Animal Kingdom, so I wanted to see the construction progress since I last checked things out two weeks ago.

Before we get to the Rivers of Light, though, I wanted to point out that the parks have seen some pretty decent crowds over the last week or so. The picture above shows the wait at the Safaris on Friday at 4:35 in the afternoon. Not something you’d really want to mess around with if you could help it.

Kilimanjaro Safaris FastPass+ Queue

Above is the queue for the FastPass+ entrance at around the same time, which goes into the “hut” on the left, and extends back outside to the right of the frame for about as far as the eye can see. The lines for the Safaris can sometimes get backed up due to animals on the roads inside the attraction itself, but even so, this is a bit crazy.

“But isn’t February supposed to be a low-crowd time of year?” you might be asking. The answer is, it depends.

Normally, the first half-ish of February will see some low crowds, but you still have to avoid the dreaded Presidents Day week in the middle of the month, and especially that weekend itself (this applies to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World). In addition, Mardi Gras falls somewhere in February or early March, and for Disney World at least, this brings in extra crowds as well, as Louisiana schools are normally on break for the entire week.

Things can REALLY get crazy in years when both Presidents Day and Mardi Gras fall in the same week, but fortunately, this didn’t happen this year, as Mardi Gras was last week, and Presidents Day this week. (For those planning WAY ahead, the next time this overlap occurs is in 2021, just in case you want to make a note to stay away — or to get those ADRs lined up early.) Still, this past weekend was sort of an overlap of the two events, with crowds still in town from Mardi Gras week and folks getting an early start on PD week.

Animal Kingdom - Rivers of Light Construction Wheelchair Ramp

OK, on to the Rivers of Light construction. Above is a picture taken over the construction wall just outside the entrance to the Finding Nemo show building. As you can see, there is still a fair amount of work to be done here on the near side of the river.

Rivers of Light Seating Area

Across the way, we can begin to see what the seating area will look like. (Click on any of these images for a close-up, then use your browser’s back button to return.)

I have to say that I’m impressed by the aesthetics Disney is using here, especially with the rock work used on those first seven rows. The bleacher-seats in the back have also been tinted to a nice brown color, to help blend in better with the overall vibe of the park. (I’m really glad they didn’t just leave this as bare aluminum, like you see over at Fantasmic!)

Also of note in the image above, the aisle downlights appear to be turned on and working, which indicates some very decent progress on that side of the river.

Rivers of Light Panorama

Above is the obligatory panorama showing the entire seating area. We’ll check back again periodically as construction continues here, so do come back again soon if you want to follow along.

View from Expedition Everest at Sunset - Disney's Animal Kingdom

What visit to the Animal Kingdom wouldn’t be complete without a quick ride on Expedition Everest? I used FP+ and boarded right around sunset, which offered this nice view to the left as we neared the top of the mountain. You can almost make out the Swan/Dolphin hotels and Spaceship Earth off in the distance.

Expedition Everest - Nearing Summit

Expedition Everest - Disney's Animal Kingdom

Always a beautiful view up here.

Flame Tree BBQ Menu - Disney's Animal Kingdom

As is often the case when I’m visiting the parks, I also stopped in for a quick counter-service meal, this time at Flame Tree Barbecue. (You can click the picture above for a more readable view of the menu, then use your web browser’s back button to return.)

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad - Disney's Animal Kingdom

Don’t ask me why, but sort of like ordering steak at a seafood place, I ordered the chicken salad at a BBQ place, and basically got what I deserved with this, the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad.

To cut straight to the chase, I didn’t really enjoy this very much. The salad base is composed of mixed greens, but mostly iceberg lettuce. Black beans and chicken topped with ground croutons (or something similar) round it out, but I just didn’t find it terribly flavorful. The dressing was sort of bland and didn’t add much to the overall experience here. I give this 2 out of 5 stars overall.

Lime Mousse - Flame Tree BBQ at Disney's Animal Kingdom

On the other hand, I really enjoyed the Lime Mousse. At $4.59, it did seem a bit overpriced for the portion size, but the flavor combination was decent. Nothing too surprising here, which I guess is a good thing. This is basically key-lime pie filling and whipped cream on top of a graham cracker-based crust. If you enjoy key-lime pie (as I do) you’ll find this a perfectly respectable dessert. It would just have been better after one of the BBQ meals on the menu, rather than the salad.

Lesson learned. 🙂

Primeval Whirl - Disney's Animal Kingdom

One thing I’m looking forward to with Rivers of Light coming to Animal Kingdom, is the potential for much later closing times. There is something magical about the Animal Kingdom in the early evening and nighttime. Even Primeval Whirl looked sort of cool with its lights on in the early evening.

Expedition Everest at Night

I didn’t have my tripod handy, so this shot of Everest in the early evening will have to do, but hopefully you get the idea of the potential for a really cool atmosphere around Animal Kingdom when it starts closing after dark on a regular basis.

Coming up, I’m hoping to pay a visit to Epcot this week, complete with a Periscope broadcast of rope drop. Feel free to follow me on Periscope if you’re interested in seeing the process I like to follow in making my way to Test Track right when the park opens.

And as usual, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please feel free to chime in below. I’ll do my best to respond!