You’re invited to a private evening party at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The stifling heat of day gives way to a refreshing evening breeze. A golden sunset bathes the savanna and paints the peak of Expedition Everest a remarkable tint of rose. The crowds are gone. Surprises await you around every turn.
Welcome to the Disney Vacation Club Safari Spectacular.
Disney Vacation Club: “Celebrating 25 Years…And Beyond!”
As part of its 25th Anniversary celebration, Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is hosting special “membership magic” events. These have included advance movie screenings, a new Member Lounge at Epcot, and after-hours parties in the Magic Kingdom and Typhoon Lagoon. Coming this fall – an after-hours party in Disney California Adventure park.
DVC members also received email invitations to reserve a special event night (September 6, 13, 22, or 27, 2016) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Exclusive Membership Magic in Animal Kingdom
Although the official festivities were scheduled from 9:30 pm to midnight, DVC members could check in for wristbands from 7 pm at the front gates of Animal Kingdom. Each guest was also treated to two tickets for the midway-style games in Dinoland. With a bit of luck, we came home with a blue dinosaur friend to commemorate our evening.
Imagine screaming past the Yeti on Expedition Everest, with no crowds. (Although the front-row line was considerably longer than usual). Or walking on to the Kilimanjaro Safaris (open until 11 pm) for a balmy journey through the savanna. Kali River Rapids, Primeval Whirl, TriceraTop Spin, and It’s Tough to be a Bug were also open for exploration.
Here is the official map for the event. Note that there are no explanations of where the “lands” are (DVC members already know). There are just big symbols to show where things are happening.
Unique Character Meet and Greets
DVC members know the Disney parks and resorts, and it takes a bit to impress them. For the Safari Spectacular, Disney Vacation Club created unique opportunities for Character for meet and greets. Although the last Lion King show was at 6 pm, the Festival of the Lion King theater was open for members. We were charmed by four stilt walkers before meeting Rafiki, Timon, and Pumbaa.
Carl Fredricksen was a star, as he joined Dug and Russell at the Disney-Pixar UP character station. Hugs were available from Baloo and King Louie (Jungle Book), Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Launchpad McQuack (Duck Tales), Flick and Princess Atta (A Bug’s Life), and Mickey and Minnie of course!
Tip: The character greeting lines closed promptly at the stroke of midnight, so plan carefully!
You Had Me at Mickey Bar…
Then, there were the Mickey ice cream bars. Mickeys marked the food locations on the event map. Five complimentary snack stations, highlighted by DVC event balloons, magically appeared after 9:30 pm. In between rides, live entertainment, and character greetings, members were treated to Mickey bars, Mickey ice cream sandwiches, fruit bars, and orange creamsicles.
Tip: If you want a Mickey bar or Mickey ice cream sandwich, find a snack station right at 9:30 pm. They went quickly!
Crates overflowed with bags of Doritos and Lays chips (original and Baked Lays) throughout the night. Cups of cold water and lemonade were available from dispensers. Needing more of a meal? The Flame Tree Barbecue remained open for dinner.
Festive Music Through the Night
Live entertainment energized the stage in Africa near the safaris, and just outside the Flame Tree Barbecue. Dinoland hosted a Dance Party with characters from Zootopia, adding to the midway game fun. Discovery Island presented a Carnivale of dancers and musicians.
Disney Vacation Club: We’re Listening
DVC has learned that Members are passionate – and vocal – about their experiences. On the event map, members were invited to “Come and visit with Disney Vacation Club Executives from 9-11 pm” just outside of Pizzafari.
This was a casual gathering with about a half dozen DVC representatives. We thanked them for hosting this special evening at Animal Kingdom.
We also shared positive feedback about the DVC Member Lounge that opened above Epcot’s Journey into Imagination on June 6, 2016. A haven from the heat, the glass-topped Lounge has elevated views of Spaceship Earth and monorails gliding by.
The Lounge boasts three Coke Freestyle machines with an astounding array of complimentary drinks (as well as a Keurig coffee maker). A DVC host comes by intermittently with a cart of snacks including: Lays and Doritos chips, granola bars, and gummy bears (remain seated please, and one per person). See Jeremiah’s review of the lounge here.
If only there were DVC Member Lounges in the other parks…
Disney Vacation Club: What’s Next?
Since the Wilderness Lodge front desk still won’t authenticate why the entire east wing of the Lodge has been taken down to metal framing, we asked a DVC executive. He confirmed that these will be DVC Villas (think: Polynesian, he says), in addition to the newly-constructed Cabins lake-side. Due to legal restrictions about timeshare advertising and solicitations, Disney Vacation Club has been slow to officially announce any new additions, he explains.
Construction is progressing at Wilderness Lodge. A number of trees have been removed so that many existing Villas that had a ‘woods view’ now have a serene lake view.
Several lake-side Cabins have foundations and are seeing vertical construction (these will not be over-the-water bungalows as originally rumored). In place of the Hidden Springs pool, a new zero-entry pool is taking shape.
Adding Value to Membership
The Disney Vacation Club has grown significantly in its first 25 years and does not show signs of slowing down. From the first Villas at Old Key West to the ongoing construction at Wilderness Lodge, DVC has expanded to 14 (soon to be 15) properties.
Speaking with DVC members, they are generally very happy with their ownership. Many are proud of where they own, having points at multiple properties for priority booking privileges.
The 25th Anniversary celebrations – such as the Safari Spectacular at Animal Kingdom – have been very much appreciated by the DVC members. Investing in these exclusive bonuses, Disney Vacation Club is consciously adding value to the meaning of “Membership.”
I know they’ve made more than one very happy Member along the way.
Gloria Hasler is a freelance travel writer and photographer. She is a professional travel consultant, owner of Chrysalis Travel, and – together with her husband – co-founder of the Six Castles Club.