Dining Reviews

Review: Harambe Nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Offers Unique Food, Drink and Fun – But Show is Weak Link

Hi everyone!

We attended the first evening of Harambe Nights, a new event at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park that combines a show with an evening of food, drink and a lively street party with characters.

When Harambe Nights was first announced, I was hesitant about booking – not just because of the price point (we paid $250 for the two of us), but because the tickets are non-refundable once purchased. While Harambe Nights has been compared with Epcot’s Candlelight Processional, that factor is a big difference between the two events.

As I mentioned, we did pay for ourselves. That was one of the most frequent questions I’ve fielded this time around. While we usually cover our own expenses, there are times we don’t – but we always try to be honest in our reviews. I know how disappointing it is to spend money and not feel I received good value, whether it is a dinner show or a $10.00 meal.

We will be talking about Harambe Nights in Mousesteps Weekly #104 this week!

We arrived to Disney’s Animal Kingdom park at around 6:00 p.m. It isn’t unusual for Disney to open events a little early, so we decided to arrive early just in case (and it did start about a half hour earlier than stated).

Cast Members wore animal ears, including at the toll booth.

The one major concern I had before Harambe Nights was organization. New events sometimes don’t go off as well as they do later, but there was no worry here at all. Everything concerning the food, the street party, drink stations, etc. went smoothly. We never waited long for anything.

Cast Members waited by the turnstiles to welcome guests, as well as to give out wristbands. It was very similar to attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Each guest received this nice program, which lists drinks, food, the show musical numbers and more.

We were let in at just about 6:30 p.m., and we began with a Jungle Juice with rum. I don’t drink a lot, but one of the draws for some guests was having a variety of drinks available for 4 hours included in the price. The Cast Members didn’t skimp on the rum.

Jeff enjoyed the Jungle Juice – this is a drink we’ve enjoyed often at Boma for breakfast, but it is also served elsewhere under different names (including at Trail’s End at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground).

There was entertainment before and after the show.

Tusker Beer is a favorite of Jeff’s, and the other beers included were St. George, Bud Light and Corona. Wines included Spice Route Chenin Blanc, Fairview Pinotage, and Wolftrap Red. When Disney first announced Harambe Nights, they mentioned that they would have African-inspired beer and wine available. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant: was it going to be beer and wine from Africa, or just “inspired by”? But indeed, some of the wines and beer were the real deal.

I knew what the menu was going to be before we arrived. I also knew that I was going to prefer the appetizers to the dinner offerings, so the appetizers served more as my dinner. I liked the food trays that were clearly eco-friendly.

These were two of my favorite offerings on the Harambe Nights menu. Spicy Durban Chicken Tenders and Moroccan Beef Kefta. The chicken is spicy – I like spice, but not too much. It was just spicy enough for me without going overboard. I’ve had beef kefta at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, as well as at Epcot’s Tangeriene Cafe. Both items I may attempt in the kitchen, they are delicious! I cook curry dishes fairly often (one side of my family is from India), the Durban Chicken would go well with the rotation.

To the left was a Safari Cheeseburger Roll. I wasn’t sure what to expect with it and I only had one – but if there was no Beef Kefta and Durban Chicken, I would have had more. It was a bit greasy for me, but still very tasty.

Here is another look at the Durban Chicken, Beef Kefta and Pickeled Fennel Paneer Cheese. The food here was mostly top-notch, many items I would want to dine on again.

Special event merchandise is for sale during Harambe Nights. Jeff purchased two t-shirts for us.

Our friends Deb (from AllEars) and Catherine tried the face painting, which was also included.

The appetizer portion of Harambe Nights is standing room with tables, but dinner is seated. I am in a walking boot and scooter (I can walk some, but not long distances again yet), so I could sit in my scooter when my foot was tired. A lot of managers and Cast Members were very helpful to me on this night.

Here is a look at the beers again, flanked by two wines.

A Cast Members shows us his mask.

Senior Vice President of Walt Disney World Parks, Jim MacPhee was making the rounds. It was nice to see him in the park!

It was time to get ready for the show, “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild”. We had a wristband for the Zebra entrance, but because of my foot, we ended up in the Giraffe section (to the left side instead of the middle).

A Cast Member was pouring drinks for guests entering the theater. There was no shortage of drink stations.

Lion Chow was being handed out. It is delightful, but we didn’t eat much then since we’d just had appetizers. The Lion Chow is presented in a lovely box, and consists of Sea Salted Toasted Pretzel, Chips, Benne Crumbs, Cardamom, Candied Pecans, Golden Raisins and Dried Cherries.

Disney says about the show, “This never-before-seen theatrical experience features animated scenes from the film presented with a live orchestra, choir and dancers bringing to life the humor, heart and stirring emotional power of Simba’s journey to find his place as the Lion King”. Our view of the performance wasn’t great, and maybe half of the show consisted of “The Lion King” film clips. I found myself drifting at those points, making my to-do list for the next day. The orchestra was terrific, and the dancing we could see during breaks from the film was wonderful. But there wasn’t nearly enough live performance.

Actress Viola Davis did a fine job with the reading, as did the Cast Member beside her. But having a celebrity isn’t really needed in my opinion. Even with Disney’s Candlelight Processional, my favorite part is the choir (although I do have some favorite narrators).

For me, the weak link of the whole event is the show. I would love to see much more dancing. I can watch the movie at home.

The fun started again with the street party and dinner.

The characters didn’t have a set area to meet, they were often moving around pretty quickly when out. I sometimes had a hard time catching up to them. Rafiki was the first character who passed by.

Timon was in a conga line.

Cast Members really did get the crowd on their feet. I loved that there was even a “no-rain” dance, which seemed to help, as the rain held off until right after the event.

Goofy and Pluto took to the dance floor.

Mickey and Minnie were hard to pin down, but we finally were able to get photos with them. It was worth the effort! It is fun to see them in unique outfits.

Here is our video of Mickey and Minnie!

I almost missed Timon, but his handler saw I couldn’t walk very well and stopped him. It was a nice moment.

A Cast Member hands out a beer and Jungle Juice.

I didn’t eat as much for dinner as I did during the appetizer hour. There are quite a few choices, however, including shredded pork.

I don’t eat lamb, but everyone at our table raved about the Seared Lamb Chops with Tamarind Pomegranate Sauce.

I didn’t have much room for bread, but I enjoyed some naan.

Jeff knows how much I like samosas, and brought some over. I wish I’d saved more room! Another friend brought a couple over as well. There was also Butter Chicken Thighs and Slow Roasted Chicken Legs, but I don’t eat dark meat chicken. Jeff enjoyed both. The menu can be a little confusing, they list the Slow Roasted Chicken Legs under “Breads, Salad and More”, but lists some salads and the Coriander Chutney Roasted Potatoes under “Surf and Turf”.

Here is a look at some of the foods set out during Harambe Nights.

This was one of the worst desserts I have ever tasted. I didn’t even make it to the rice pudding, the spiced dried fruit stopped me. I think it ranks right down there with a rum ball, which I don’t like either. I told Jeff I considered this the Beverly of desserts, but he likes Beverly, so he couldn’t agree with me!

The Caramel Salted Tanzania Chocolate Kenyan Coffee Bites were a little dry for me. On the other hand, I had heard so much about the Chai Cream, and I enjoyed that. We would have liked to have seen Zebra Domes added to the dessert offerings. Mickey bars were also available.

The party continued until nearly 10:30, but it wrapped up very quickly at that time.

Seating was located around Harambe, we enjoyed this quiet area (which also included it’s own bar).

Cast Members watch over the food table. My recommendation? We waited about 15 minutes for the crowds to thin before dinner. There were some lines, but they dissipated very quickly. Plus a few of the tables scattered around never seemed to have a line.

I enjoyed some tea before the drive home.

On the way out of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Tree of Life sparkled blue. Everyone thought it was Avatar related, including Cast Members we talked with. We heard later it was supposed to resemble the night sky from The Lion King, but I expect this isn’t the last we’ve seen of blue twinkling lights on the Tree of Life.

This is our video of the twinkling Tree of Life:

Here is the shirt we purchased, as well as the Zebra arm band.

Was it worth it for us? Yes, we had a great time. While we found the show weak, we enjoyed everything else that was offered and would do it again. But for those who might not want alcohol, or don’t like the type of food offered, the value will be less. And there is always a possibility that Disney will add more performance aspects to the show during its run.

For more information about Harambe Nights, which runs each Saturday through August 9th, visit the Walt Disney World website.