Animal Kingdom Update – May 2019

Animal Kingdom is the next stop for our May 2019 Walt Disney World Construction Updates & Photo Reports. While park has the least work going on, there are a few noteworthy updates this month: Club 33 being built, Pandora – World of Avatar changes, new cupcakes, and more. Oh, and the glorious return of Otter Grotto!

That last one is basically the reason this update exists. After a couple of failed visits trying to see Emmet and friends, we finally found them on a very playful day. By way of background, Otter Grotto (sponsored by none other than Otterbox) recently reopened after about a year-long enhancement project. The otter viewing area is located along the path from the Tree of Life heading towards Africa, right across from Pizzafari.

Otter Grotto features an entire family of Asian small-clawed otters, informational signs, and above-ground and underwater viewing areas. The Asian small-clawed otter is the smallest otter species in the world, and the least aquatic, spending most of their days chilling on land.

I love otters. Ever since learning that many otters have a favorite rock that they carry around in one of their underarm pockets, I’ve been sold on the greatness of these little critters. They are cute, amusing, mischievous, and sometimes hilarious. (I’m not much for memes, but I enjoy otter ones tremendously.) Plus, Frogtown Hollow Jubilee Jug Band is one of my all-time favorite musical groups.

Here’s a look at the otter action in Otter Grotto. I think the photos of the adorable creatures speak for themselves, so I’ll spare you my attempts at humorous captions:

Suffice to say, Otter Grotto is fantastic. This is my new favorite wildlife ‘trail’ at Animal Kingdom. The grotto is well-done, with a cave-like environment (I was so busy taking otter photos I forgot to capture this, sorry) and winding above-ground path.

Beyond the otters being adorable and entertaining, Otter Grotto is also much more convenient than other animal viewing areas at Animal Kingdom. You can easily duck in here for a view minutes of shade on your way to Pandora or from Starbucks…or do the same as an escape from afternoon showers this summer. It took a long time (roughly one year!) for Otter Grotto to reopen, but the end result is quite nice. Kudos to Disney for putting those sponsorship dollars from the water-resistant mobile device box empire to good use.

In case you missed the big news, Christmas is Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

We have full details in that post, but we’re very excited and cautiously optimistic that this will be a solid addition. The entertainment and decor on Discovery Island has a lot of potential. If it even lives up to a fraction of the winter-themed, Tapestry of Nations-inspired offering I’m envisioning, it’ll be incredible.

With the important stuff out of the way, let’s resume this update at the front of the park.

Spot any famous animals in the photo above?

In Pandora – World of Avatar, there are new deals on merchandise at Windtraders. At some point in the last couple of months, they also introduced the new Night Blossom banshee at the Rookery.

I’m honestly shocked that some two years after Pandora opened, there’s still so much unique merchandise here. I would’ve expected this all to last like 6 months. Pandora is awesome, but is there really a market for Avatar stuff?

Speaking of which, there’s this little gem.

To be honest, that photo was shot a couple of weeks ago. This “new arrival” could very well be “just in” at the outlet by now.

As much as I enjoy Avatar Flight of Passage, sometimes I hope against getting FastPasses for it. Inevitably, doing that ride means we’re eating at Satu’li Canteen before or afterwards.

Don’t get me wrong, Satu’li Canteen is fantastic, but it’s no Flame Tree.

Here’s a look at the Combination Bowl: Grilled Beef & Chicken, which is currently $16.99–a few dollars more than each of the beef and chicken bowls individually.

In my side by side comparison, you’re definitely getting more meat with this bowl than the other two. I’m not sure it’s double those, but it’s close. I’d definitely recommend going this route if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan.

Heading back by Festival of the Lion King, berm work is visible. This is for construction of Animal Kingdom’s Club 33 lounge.

All three other lounges opened last year, with Magic Kingdom being the last one ready. Even if construction here is speedy, the Animal Kingdom lounge is likely to open over a year after MK’s. Not that it impacts me or anyone reading this, but I’m nonetheless curious as to what caused the delay.

It seems like every time we visit, Animal Kingdom has a new cupcake celebrating something or another.

Sorry, but I’m not dropping $6 on a comically phoned-in cupcake, but here’s a photo of the sign for those who are interested.

Finally, some praise for the performers of Animal Kingdom–specifically, every act that appears in this area of Harambe. We stop every time we see a live performance here, and it’s always entertaining. Burudika is an Afro-pop band that delivers high-energy music. I love their cover of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al.”

Overall, if you’re looking for the Walt Disney World park with the least construction, Animal Kingdom is it. That should remain the case for the next couple of years, as this park’s big addition has already opened. While we’d still expect some new offerings at Animal Kingdom for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, it’s unlikely they will result in a sea of walls. So, if you want a reprieve from construction or just to see adorable otters, plan on spending a full day at Animal Kingdom!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


What do you think of the latest changes at Animal Kingdom? Have you seen Otter Grotto in all of its glory? Purchased any Pandora merchandise? Other thoughts about Animal Kingdom? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

23 Responses to “Animal Kingdom Update – May 2019”
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