Welcome to our trip report covering the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios! The primary purpose of trip reports is to supplement our existing content (in this case, heavily) to let you know how our strategies are actually working at a given time! This post covers an afternoon at Animal Kingdom and big changes to our plans due to Hurricane Dorian.
About This Trip Report
This trip report covers a five-night visit to Walt Disney World for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the start of Extra Extra Magic Hours. As we’ve written elsewhere, the period from August 29 through November 2 is going to be a complicated one at Walt Disney World, as three parks will have daily Extra Extra Magic Hours.
For a full introduction to this report, visit Part 1. Otherwise, here are the currently available posts (links open in new tabs):
Disney World Galaxy’s Edge Trip Report Part 4 — Hurricane Changes, Animal Kingdom, and Sanaa (you are here)
If you don’t want to read the details of how and why our plans changed due to Dorian, and you just want to read about our time at Animal Kingdom (and dinner at Sanaa), click here to skip past the Dorian updates.
Hurricane Dorian Changes Our Plans
Having been awake since about 3AM, we weren’t in much of a mood for waiting for a bus from Hollywood Studios to Animal Kingdom, so we opted for an Uber, our preferred way of getting around Disney World.
The pickup spot at Hollywood Studios is pretty convenient, and we wound up getting matched with a driver who was already in the lot. The pickup probably took two minutes, and the drive took about 15 minutes for an $8.51 fare.
We had hoped to start at Nomad Lounge where we’d settle on our hurricane plans, but the bar didn’t open until 11:30AM (it was 11:05AM), so we settled for sitting in Pizzafari.
Before I go on, I want to clarify that nothing about how we were impacted should be taken to minimize the actual damage, especially the lives taken, due to Dorian. If I say something like “worst case scenario,” I hope you’ll appreciate the context and understand that I know things could always be much worse than being at Disney World.
At the time, Dorian was expecting to begin impacting Orlando sometime around late Sunday, with Monday (Labor Day) getting the brunt of the hit.
As it so happened, our first hotel reservation (at Pop Century) ended Sunday. We considered a few options.
The most straightforward was just to cancel the second half of our trip at Wilderness Lodge and book a flight home Sunday. If we could get our hotel deposit back (which we expected we could), we’d wind up saving over $1000 with this plan.
Alternatively, we could extend our trip. The thinking here was that we’d tack on the days we lost to the hurricane to the end of the trip. Unfortunately there was no way we could personally justify spending more money to stay in Florida through a hurricane, so this plan only made sense if we replaced our Wilderness Lodge stay with a value resort.
I have a soft spot for Disney World’s value resorts, but none is exactly the place you’d want to be bunkered in for maybe two days. And with five days at Pop Century already booked, we’d be looking at 12 straight days at the value resorts…which is a lot.
Finally, we considered some hybrid change where we planned two hurricane days in a deluxe resort and then a stay back in a value resort.
Ultimately, we settled on the safest course of action—heading home early, on Sunday. We made this decision for a few reasons.
First, at the time it looked like Florida’s east coast would be hit hard. Even if Orlando was spared the worst of it, Floridians evacuating inland might need the hotel space at Walt Disney World.
Second, money. Changing plans, we spent $1000 less on this trip than we originally planned, and we can use that for a visit later in the month if we want.
Third, any content we got from sticking around would be worthless anyways. I would have loved to have been there reporting the first Hollywood Studios Extra Extra Magic Hour on September 1 for you, but crowds won’t normalize until probably September 9, if not later, due to so many people changing plans.
In the worst case scenario, the resort would close for over two days and we’d be left occupying much needed hotel space and with no valuable content.
In the best case scenario, Orlando would be minimally impacted and we’d have an easy few days in the park still getting little valuable content.
And so we made the difficult decision to cancel our trip. We emailed Lauren Quirk, our Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, and she was able to secure us a refund of our deposit from Wilderness Lodge. Lauren also later helped us change the dates of our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets.
We booked a connecting flight through DFW (I never book connecting flights, but this was the only option under $200 per person) for Sunday morning. We spent $264.02 for two tickets. Getting the deposit back from our Wilderness Lodge room, we wound up saving $1,323.62 with our change in plans.
If there’s one thing that winds up bothering me about the change, it’s that we wound up with the worst use of five nights in a hotel—only four days in the parks. We checked in at 12:15AM and checked out at about 4AM, while I usually target early arrivals and late departures.
With our plans changed, we decided it was time to seize the rest of our trip!
Afternoon at Animal Kingdom
Before we get to the details of the afternoon, it’s time to share some recommended reading. Here are some of our cornerstone posts that you’ll want to read if you’re planning your own afternoon at Animal Kingdom (new tabs):
After changing our plans, we actually did make it to Nomad Lounge, where we enjoyed a quick beer. While I appreciate the love everyone has for Nomad—and I do think it’s a fantastic space—I still prefer Dawa Bar’s view of the entertainment in Harambe (Africa). You can read more about the bars of Animal Kingdom here.
I don’t recall my exact FastPass+ lineup heading into the park, but I was able to modify a 2PM Expedition Everest to 12:40PM, so around 12:45PM we headed over there, riding at about 1PM.
We followed up that with a Kilimanjaro Safaris FastPass+, boarding at about 1:50PM after a lengthy FastPass+ wait.
Searching for modifications to our Na’vi River Journey en route, I came across two open times for Flight of Passage in just over an hour. I grabbed a 2:40PM FastPass+ at 1:20PM.
Midday safaris can be pretty quiet, and while we saw a lot of sleeping animals, we also got a pretty great view of some giraffes.
Finishing the safari around 2:10PM, we decided to squeeze in TriceraTop Spin before Flight of Passage. A small rain storm delayed us, and we wound up tapping in to Flight of Passage at about 3PM. I quickly lucked into a 3:05PM FastPass+ for Na’vi River Journey.
Leaving Pandora around 3:40PM, we realized we were a bit pressed for time if we wanted to make it out to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which had reopened with a new Animation Experience.
We caught the Wildlife Express train at 3:48PM, just making it in time for the 4PM Animation Experience.
The 30 minute class took us through drawing Pumba. I’ve done a lot of these drawing classes in Disney parks, and this was by far the most complicated. Maybe not the most difficult, but the shapes involved includes tacos, bananas, and marshmallows, and (despite appearances) not much about Pumba was symmetrical.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is an interesting area. If you catch your trains with no waits and you walk at a reasonable speed, you’re probably losing about 30 minutes of your day just on the train to the land and associated walks.
That said, it offers a range of unique offerings, including a petting zoo, several veterinary exhibits, and the Animation Experience. Once years ago we even saw one of the park’s birds being treated by the vets.
It’s probably not too challenging to find 90 minutes in your day to visit Rafiki’s Planet Watch, but with the early-ish closing time (usually around 5PM), you could easily wind up with an entertainment and FastPass+ lineup that prohibits you from getting there. We arrived back in Africa at about 5:05PM.
At some point I grabbed a FastPass+ for DINOSAUR, so we headed there. En route, we watched the Hakuna Matata Dance Party, held on Discovery Island outside the path to Dinoland USA.
Across from that party is Flame Tree Barbecue. As vegetarians, we rarely find reason to visit this space, but I wanted to remind Emily of (and show you) some of the fantastic seating and views back here:
You can read more about the quick service restaurants of Animal Kingdom here. Tapping into DINOSAUR at about 5:25PM, we would have easily been able to find a FastPass+ for Kali River Rapids or the Mickey character greeting if we’d been interested.
We basically walked right onto DINOSAUR, and targeting the 6:30PM performance by Burudika, we had just enough time to watch It’s Tough to Be a Bug.
We had an 8:30 dinner reservation to make, otherwise any of these great Na’vi River Journey or Flight of Passage FastPass+ options might have worked:
This wasn’t the busiest afternoon ever, but here’s what it wound up looking like (times may be off by +/- 5 minutes):
12:55PM Expedition Everest (FastPass+)
1:50PM Kilimanjaro Safari (FastPass+)
2:25PM TriceraTop Spin (Walk-on)
3PM Flight of Passage (FastPass+)
3:25PM Na’vi River Journey (FastPass+)
3:48PM Wildlife Express to Rafiki’s Planet Watch
4PM Animation Experience
5PM Wildlife Express to Africa / Harambe
5:30PM DINOSAUR (FastPass+)
5:50PM It’s Tough to Be a Bug
Dinner At Sanaa
We took the bus over to Animal Kingdom Lodge, lucking out and walking right onto one as we exited the park around 8PM. I complain about buses—a lot—but sometimes they work perfectly. We were over at Kidani Village at about 8:12PM.
Both parts of Animal Kingdom Lodge—Kidani Village and Jambo House—are beautiful. Kidani’s lobby is much smaller but has some cool features. And of course the savanna out back is the highlight of the hotel.
Sanaa is another one of our favorites at Walt Disney World. The restaurant is famous for its bread service, a serving of five breads and nine dipping sauces.
Between us, we always manage to order way too much food at Sanaa. I made a mistake starting with a mango lassi smoothie because I was starving.
Besides bread service, we ordered one entree consisting of Paneer Tikka and Lentil Dhal, along with an appetizer of Tomato Paneer soup. (We didn’t take photos of everything, but here are a few:)
While we eat a ton of paneer at home, we forgot (or ignored) what a challenge these large portions of paneer can be. We wound up with a lot of leftovers, mostly because we also wanted to have the Kheer for dessert (which was great).
One perk was that the driver did offer to drop us off at the point nearest our room, not just the front entrance. We declined, but this is a nice touch.
Before I close out, I want to highlight that Disney Tourist Blog also has a report on their 20 hour day this same day, in case you want to read how someone else spent the day. Seeing that Tom posted his steps stats for the day, I can’t help but post mine as well:
Back at Pop Century at 10:30PM, we finished up our roughly 20 hour day at Walt Disney World, excited for…
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way.
Just starting out? Check out our Walt Disney World planning guide! If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.
When it comes time to book we’ll help you find discount Disney World tickets. Decide whether you need a dining plan in our Complete Guide to Disney World Dining Plans! And at 180 days out it's time to book those Disney World Advance Dining Reservations!
Don't forget to master your Disney World FastPass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! We've got park-specific guides as well: Magic Kingdom FastPass, Epcot FastPass, Animal Kingdom FastPass, and Hollywood Studios FastPass.
Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides! Plus learn about the water parks with our guide to Blizzard Beach and our guide to Typhoon Lagoon! And for some some fun prep, check out our Ranking of Every Ride at Walt Disney World.
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.