Festival of the Lion King Signature Dining Package — Fit for Royalty by Liliane Opsomer
If you’re looking for a memorable meal, Tiffins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the place to go. Rightfully regarded as Walt Disney World’s best theme park restaurant, Tiffins for lunch or dinner is guaranteed to impress. Add to this priority seating at the Festival of the Lion King show and a more personalized version of the safari tour, and you have a package fit for royalty.
Tiffins a Meal to Remember
Together with a friend, I recently experienced the package. We started our adventure following food critic MFK Fisher’s advice: “First we eat, and then we do everything else.”
Tiffins, located in Discovery Island, right next to the entrance to Pandora—The World of Avatar, has three elegant dining rooms. Each dining room is lavishly decorated with artwork inspired by the notes and field sketches Imagineers took during their travels to Africa, Asia, and South America.
We were seated in the Safari Gallery and welcomed with a glass of bubbly and a plate of Pomegranate Focaccia bread accompanied by a dip made of pomegranate, molasses, and olive oil.
The artwork on the walls of the Safari Gallery includes shadowboxes, photographs, and samples of African architecture. One of the most striking pieces is an artwork of woven yarn and cables with electrical utility components, which is entitled “Electrified.” The artist was inspired by the complex and interwoven electrical wiring in Swahili towns.
My favorite piece, however, was the miniature version of the baobab tree that is featured in the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Tiffins menu is seasonally inspired. The package is a three-course lunch or dinner that includes a glass of wine, beer, or a nonalcoholic drink. We started off with Charred Octopus in Romesco Sauce accompanied by an Olive Tapenade, Chorizo, and Squid Ink Aïoli and a charcuterie board (a selection of cured and smoked meats). Both were great choices.
The charcuterie board is great for sharing, and the octopus was the best I’ve ever had; unexpectedly tender, it left me wanting more.
For my main dish, I chose Surf and Turf. The delicious local beef tenderloin and butter-poached lobster tail came with Yukon gold potatoes, charred broccolini, and Cape Mountain Whisky butter. I picked a South African Unwooded Raats Chenin Blanc to go with it.
My friend went for the Whole-fried Sustainable Fish of the day. His yellowtail snapper was served with Thai green papaya slaw, peanuts, and a fermented black bean sauce. He paired his dish with a Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale, an African-inspired deep amber ale brewed exclusively for Walt Disney World. I truly believe one needs a great beer to debone any fish. I think he did pretty well under the guidance of our server. The white meat had a mild, fresh, even nutty flavor; however, unless you are an expert at deboning, I would recommend that once you take a picture of the whole fish (eyes, tail, scales and all), you let your server do it for you.
And what would a great meal be without dessert? We decided to share a Guava Mousse plus a sample of three desserts: Whipped Cheesecake with Amarula Panna Cotta, Sesame Crumbs, and Expresso Sponge; a Passion Fruit Tapioca Créme with Chocolate Crumble and Citrus Fruits; and, finally, the South American Chocolate Ganache with Caramelized Banana and Cocoa Nib Tuile. I liked the Guava Mousse a lot, but my favorite was the rich South American Chocolate Ganache.
At the end of our meal we received a commemorative cast photo and a miniature Joe Rohde print. We also received our vouchers for priority seating at the Festival of the Lion King show. In order to enjoy the meal, make sure to allow at least 90 minutes between the start of your meal and the start of the show.
Arrive at the Festival of the Lion King theater 15 minutes prior to the show and proceed to the exit of the theater, where dining package guests will be escorted in by Cast Members. The reserved seats are really front-row seats and perfect for families with kids, as they pretty much guarantee your children’s participation in the show prior or at the end, when Cast Members ask kids to join the celebration. It is also a great spot for taking up-close pictures.
The Broadway-style show does not need any further explanation. I still think that the show is worth the fee you pay to enter the park and that getting reserved seating and VIP treatment are extra touches.
Kilimanjaro Safari with a Twist
After the show, we were escorted out of the theater to meet our Kilimanjaro Safari tour guide. Our guide took us to the ride, where we had our own vehicle for the tour. During the regular Kilimanjaro Safari, your guide is also the driver; here you have a driver and a guide. While we took the same route that other safari vehicles do, but our guide shared information that you only get on this VIP tour.
Here is some of the insider knowledge she shared with us. I did not know that, before the opening of the park, the area that is now home to Disney’s Animal Kingdom was a cow pasture and a fireworks-testing area (not at the same time, of course)! Did you know that the sprinkler system and water along the route are actually there to help with the wear and tear of the vehicles’ tires?
It was fun to find out that some of the birds have their very own version of a Magic Band. In order to know which bird is a “Disney bird” (brought to or born in the park) versus a wild bird, Disney birds are fitted with a special band. If the band is on the right leg, it is a male bird; if it is on the left, it is a female bird.
Have you ever wondered how the animals are made to return to their night barn? Well, they are trained to respond to a special sound such as a cow bell. And no story would be complete without a hidden Mickey, right? So next time you take the tour, look closely at the shape of Flamingo island.
Good to Know
The Festival of the Lion King dining package is offered in two tiers, both of which include a meal at Tiffins and reserved VIP seating at the Festival of the Lion King show.
The Tier I version of the package also includes the safari tour with a dedicated guide. It costs $99 for adults and $49 for children ages 3-9. The Tier II version of the package is $74-$99 for adults and $29-$49 for kids ages 3-9.
Space is limited and the package, for now, is offered through November 21, 2018.
Liliane Opsomer is the coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids.
She visits the Orlando theme parks several times a year.