Though we are still waiting on official opening dates for both Rivers of Light and Pandora: The World of Avatar, there is still plenty of new and interesting things happening right now at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If you haven’t been to this park in the past several weeks, here are all the developments that have happened in the past month at this park that you might have missed!

1. The Tree of Life Garden walking path reopens to guests after lengthy closure

The Tree of Life Garden, which offers spectacular views not only of the Tree of Life, but also of the Discovery Island wildlife (including lemurs, kangaroos and more) was a great “hidden” attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom up until a few years ago, when it was unceremoniously closed, seemingly indefinitely.

However, without warning, Disney surprised guests by officially reopened this walking trail just a few weeks ago. While the trail itself looks to be essentially unchanged from before, guests walking around this area will notice that the nets that used to be posted overhead are no longer there, which is great news for those who enjoy taking pictures in this scenic area. Hopefully this walking trail stays open from now on, as it provides a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the park.

2. Merchandise for Rivers of Light is now available online and inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Image: Disney

Even though no opening date has been announced for Rivers of Light, in an interesting merchandising development, guests who take a walk around Disney’s Animal Kingdom right now will be able to find keychains, cups, and even glowing wands bearing the Rivers of Light name, which seems curious considering Disney’s lack of updates on this project.

Beyond merchandise availability in the park (which is plentiful), guests can also view a selection of merchandise related to this show on the Shop Disney Parks app as well! Though we don’t know for sure, some are hoping that the fact that guests can buy something for a show that doesn’t technically exist yet may be a sign that Disney is getting ready to make a big announcement about the future of this show, and is getting its merchandise strategy together in advance to ensure that there is enough supply to meet demand.

3. Discovery River amphitheater now open for guests to hang out in during the day

And speaking of Rivers of Light, guests who visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2016 may recall that in the run-up to the originally scheduled opening of this nighttime spectacular, Disney kept the Discovery River Amphitheater off-limits, blocking off guest access using temporary walls.
However, in the months since this show has been delayed, this amphitheater has been opened up for guests to use during the day. While there’s nothing specific going on here, guests are now able to have a scenic picnic, or even grab a nap in this wide open space during regular park hours. Disney has also been testing various Rivers of Light barges intermittently on the Discovery River, so if you sit in this amphitheater long enough, you might just get a little preview of this long-delayed show as well!

4. New elephant calf can now be seen with mother at Kilimanjaro Safaris

Image: Disney

Late last year Disney announced that one of their female elephants, Stella, had given birth to a healthy baby girl. And now, after a brief time backstage while mother and calf were bonding, this adorable pair have been moved to the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction, where they can be seen every day interacting with the other elephants who call this attraction home.

5. Brand new baby otters debut on Discovery Island

 Image: Disney

And speaking of new additions at this park, on Wednesday, January 18, three Asian small-clawed otter pups entered their habitat near the Tree of Life for the very first time. The pups have been growing and bonding with their parents in backstage areas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for a few months, but now they can be seen scurrying around on land and swimming under water. Be sure to keep in mind that the otters are being introduced to their new habitat slowly, so they may not always be visible to Guests visiting the park.

6. Hair wrap kiosks removed from Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Though it has been decades since we actually saw someone with a hair wrap at Walt Disney World (or anywhere else for that matter), kiosks providing this service have continued to exist at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, even after they were removed at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot last year. However, it looks like, as of January 2017, these kiosks have finally been removed at this theme park. However, it looks like Hair Wraps still aren’t gone from Walt Disney World entirely, as guests can still find them at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.

7. The View talk show to broadcast live from Disney’s Animal Kingdom in March

Image: Disney

Finally this month, it was announced that daytime talk show The View will be broadcast from Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in this spring from March 6-10. Like other tapings that have happened around Walt Disney World in the past, the effect of this taping on regular park operations is expected to be minimal. Guests who want to attend one of the tapings can get free tickets here.

Because of the location (and timing) of this taping, many are wondering if Disney will be using this platform to present its first look inside Pandora: The World of Avatar, which is widely rumored to debut sometime around Memorial Day, if not a little sooner. Hopefully we’ll know soon as this taping date gets closer.

Have you been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom yet this year? Are you planning to stop by when Pandora – The World of Avatar and/or Rivers of Light debut? Let us know in the comments!

Originally published in Theme Park Tourist by By , Wednesday, January 25, 2017 05:25



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