Harambe Marketplace Expansion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Harambe Marketplace at Disney’s Animal KingdomPhoto Credit – WDWNews.com

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Big things are coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom: expansions galore, a nighttime show (Rivers of Light) and safari, a Starbucks (the most beautiful one if I do say so myself), and of course the grand finale, Avatar! Although many of these improvements are still in the works, Guests will be able to experience one of them this spring: a new Harambe marketplace!

Harambe looks and feels like a city because it was inspired by real places in Africa. Joe Rohde, Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s lead Imagineer, explained Harambe’s creation during a “town hall” meeting I attended. The goal of this meeting was to teach DAK’s cast members about its exciting expansion. The feel of Harambe mimics the countries found in eastern Africa, like Kenya. Rohde and his team took thousands of pictures, more than UNESCO Rohde bragged, to get Harambe just right. Everything from the carvings to the doors to the plants are indicative to these real life cities.

Africa has been undergoing some reworking for the past two years. In May 2014, the Festival of the Lion King was reopened in a beautiful new area of Harambe, to the right after you cross the Africa bridge. Rohde described this expansion as the “art district” of the city. Here, it is a little nicer, cleaner, arts-driven; where you would find the music, shows, dancers, performers. The main path that Guests have been visiting and loving for years is Harambe’s “main street” if you will – this is where the merchants are found.

Now for the exciting part: the new addition to Harambe! If you’ve visited DAK recently, you may have noticed many construction walls by the Wildlife Express Train entrance. This area is going to open up Harambe big time! There, Guests can enjoy: 1) more room to walk around and explore, 2) added seating for dining and leisure, 3) quick service options to munch on, and 4) new shopping kiosks.

As for the theming, this is Harambe’s “rough and tough area”, as Rohde describes it. He said that the Imagineers are really “pushing the limits” on design, making it feel as authentic as possible. The idea is as if you stepped off the train, the travelers and merchants just threw all their goods down, and started selling in a fast-paced, somewhat gritty, but vibrant market place.

I am so excited for the Harambe Marketplace to open! Rodhe explains that when it does, in combination with the Festival of the Lion King’s expansion, Harambe will have grown more than double its original size. That is incredible and something I think all Guests will love. The tentative opening date is late spring/early summer. I know I will be there – and I hope you will too!

If you love Animal Kingdom as much as I do, here are a few articles you might enjoy:

Written by: Brittany Madden – Follow Brittany’s blog Britty Loves Disney

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Hidden Mickey Hot Spot | Rafiki’s Planet Watch At Animal Kingdom

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We’ve already discussed how much fun looking for Hidden Mickey’s can be, but did you know that the very best place to find them is at Rafiki’s Planet Watch inside Animal Kingdom? From the time you enter, and all the way back to Conservation Station, there are over 100 hiding along the walkways, in the gardens, and inside the building. The entryway of Conservation Station is adorned with huge murals of animals, and there are tons of Hidden Mickey’s hidden there. This is the perfect place to let your kids look awhile…while mom and Dad take a break 😉

Rafiki’s Planet Watch is just a quick ride on the Wildlife Express Train, which departs from the Harambe railway station in Africa. The trip takes about seven minutes, and I always find it thoroughly relaxing. You’ll see some of the backstage areas and holding houses for the animals along the way.

Go here to read more about Hidden Mickey’s and who’s responsible for starting the tradition. And if want to start the Hidden Mickey tradition with your family, I highly suggest grabbing the the official book (it’s less than $10).

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How To Have A Custom Cake Made At Disney World

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A few years ago it worked out that we would be at Disney during my daughter’s birthday. I had heard about having a custom cake made but had no idea where to start. After hours online, I finally found the The Cake Thread on DisBoards, which turned out to be a wealth of information! I could spend hours looking at all the pictures of cakes and reading everyone’s tips. In the end, I decided to go through the Grand Floridian’s bakery and dealt directly with the pastry chef Pat, who was amazing! She actually called me at home to go over all the details…sooo nice!!

DisBoard’s Official Cake Chatter Thread – All you’ll need to know!

I wanted an Alice In Wonderland cake for her (of course), and Pat went out of her way to create a cake that was PERFECT. To have the cake delivered to your table, you do have to dine at Grand Floridian Cafe, which can be as simple as ordering an appetizer and coffee. As far as I know, you can also pick it up from the bakery. That may have changed, so be sure to check the DisBoards forum. It’s the most up-to-date- resource I know of.

Our cake ending up costing just $78…shockingly affordable for what she created and the beautiful way they set it up at our table! My daughter is like me and very hard to surprise, so I had to enlist the help of my sister to pull it off. We told her that “Aunt Lisa” wanted to have tea at Grand Floridian, and we were going to meet her before having dinner. The bakery team went overboard and had set the table up with balloons, flowers, and the cake – it was beautiful! She actually loved the cake so much she didn’t want to eat it haha!

Disney loves to help you celebrate special occasions, so be sure to get a birthday or celebration pin from the front desk of your resort or the main gate of the park. And don’t be shy about reminding them either. I think everyone in the park knew it was my daughter’s “birthday WEEK” :-) We’ve received free desserts, cards, buttons and more.

FREE Custom Walt Disney World Maps | Perfect Keepsake

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Disney Freebies | FREE Custom Maps For Your Trip

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Did you know that you can order FREE Customized Walt Disney World Maps before (and even after) your vacation? Create up to four (one for each park), and customize them to your family’s itinerary and favorite rides, shows, characters, etc…

Choose from a vintage looking “Classic” style or bright colored “Characters” style, and then follow the easy steps to personalize them. Once you create a set you’re happy with, they’ll be shipped to your door totally free!

They make an awesome souvenir to frame or use in a vacation scrapbook! You can order a set of these every six months, so you can also get a set after your trip highlighting what your favorites were.

It’s so much fun for the kids and they make perfect keepsakes!

Also, you don’t have to order these for a vacation. If you have any fond Disney memories, create a set as way to celebrate them. I’ve seen these framed, and they are beautiful (especially the vintage looking style).

One of my favorite ways to use them is as a treasure hunt game for the kids. They come with stickers, so you can let the kids place the stickers as they find characters, landmarks, and attractions throughout the parks! Actually, they are printed on heavy duty paper and sort of look like a treasure map!

Just click the banner below to get yours!


Be sure you’re following my daughter’s Disney blog. She is doing a professional internship there for the rest of the year and posts all kinds of fun, informative things…and lots of pictures!

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