This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the opening of Harambe Nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The party is running for the next nine Saturday nights through the summer. You can see our previous posts about Harambe Nights here and here. Our tickets to the event were complimentary, but all opinions are my own. Please note that this Saturday, June 14th is currently sold out completely, where all other nights are sold out for premium, but still have general tickets available.
We arrived at the park for Harambe Nights plenty ahead of time so we’d have time to wander around and not have to rush back to the Africa section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The party starts at 7pm with appetizers and drinks before the show, but we got there around 5:30pm since our tickets were at will call. When you arrive, you will receive a wristband with your designated section for the show. We were in the Zebra section, which ended up appearing to be the best of the options, so if you can, try to request the Zebra section.
The park was mostly cleared by the time we arrived since it was closing at 7pm, so we had no wait for security and only one person in front of us for our will call tickets. As we entered the park, we were given programs for the evening with the schedule of events for Harambe Nights along with the detailed menu and merchandise offerings. Cast Members told us we were welcome to enjoy the park, but to try to head towards Africa around 6:30pm. We decided to just head that way, taking our time with obligatory Tree of Life pictures along the way.
When we arrived in Africa, most of the seating area around Tusker House and the Dawa Bar was already taken. So, if you are going for this event only and aren’t spending time ahead of Harambe Nights doing attractions, get there early if you want to sit and relax with a drink, or get there closer to 7pm for the start. As 7pm rolled around, we entered the area to the left of Tusker House to head along the water back towards the brand new Harambe Theatre. Tables were setup to stand at while you enjoyed your appetizers and drinks. Several buffet tables were setup throughout the area with the appetizers and then multiple drink stations were spread out as well. Burudika played African music, face painters went around offering to paint guests’ faces, and cultural ambassadors were available to teach guests information about their home countries in Africa.
About half an hour later, we were advised to start queuing up in our respective animal sections to head into the Harambe Theatre for The Lion King: Concert in the Wild. The show is the heart of Harambe Nights, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of The Lion King film with a celebrity narrator, chorus, dancers, orchestra and film clips. Seating is done much like that during The Festival of the Lion King, so it is rather random where you will end up as far as in a low or high row, in the middle or on the end. We ended up exactly center in the second row back of our section and it was a fantastic view. If you can, try to time your seating accordingly to give yourself the best chance of a good view.
Our narrator for Harambe Nights was Viola Davis, star of movies like Doubt and The Help. The narrators, both celebrity and a cast narrator, serve to move forward the story in between clips, dancing and chorus singing, but also read lines as characters in addition to narrating. It would be interesting to see the different narrators and how they change up each show. Viola Davis was highly entertaining and did a great job. The group of about singers sat on stage off to the one side, while the orchestra was positioned on the opposite side of the stage. To me, the interpretive dancers really stole the show. Their dances were of a tribal nature, but seemed to combine elements of contemporary dance also to make very powerful performances. During the show, guests are able to snack on the Lion Chow, a trail mix of sorts created for the show, and guests were also permitted to bring in drinks. Premium seats are about 10-15 rows on the floor in front of the stage, and then the three sides facing the stage are used for bleacher seating general admission. A nice addition to the metal bleacher seats were pads that were taped down to add comfort since it is an almost hour long show. Another thing to make note of is that there is no intermission, so make sure you go to the bathroom before the show starts.
After the amazing Concert in the Wild, Harambe Nights really kicked into full gear. When we exited the Harambe Theatre, we entered the village of Harambe and were greeted by tables and chairs setup throughout the area. Buffet tables were setup with different stations, DJ Khalifa played music, while dancers invited guests to join them dancing in front of the stage. Several of the floats from Mickey’s Jamming Jungle Parade were setup like the giraffe for guests to have their pictures taken with, and other stilt characters walked around. In addition to this, several Disney characters walked around to meet with guests. This was a bit different experience because there weren’t any queues, you just kind of had to follow the characters around to get their picture. Timon and Rafiki from The Lion King were there to see Harambe Nights. Pluto and Goofy also joined in the fun. My favorites though, were Mickey and Minnie in costumes I’d never seen before that appear to be unique to this event.
After we hit the first buffet table, we grabbed seats at a table partially under cover since rain was threatening. Since Harambe Nights is taking place in the evening throughout the summer when showers are often prevalent, it may be advisable for someone in your party to stake out a table under cover in the event it does start sprinkling like it did for us. We then took turns going to get plates at each of the buffet stations, as well as exploring the dance party, seeing the characters, and just enjoying all Harambe Nights had to offer.
As far as the food and drink offerings, I was not disappointed. I started out the evening trying the jungle juice concoction that was pineapple and guava juice, which the bartender offered to add rum to, which ended up being a nice refreshing addition. My favorite of the appetizers were the beef kefta meatballs and the spicy durban chicken. I will say, if you are a fan of Jiko, Tusker House, Boma or Sanaa, you should really enjoy most if not all of the food available. Harambe Nights provides open bars for guests 21 and older from the time the party starts at 7pm up until the end of the party at 10:30pm. I noticed a selection of African beers, wine, rum, punch, soda and bottled water throughout the night. My favorite items from dinner were the samosas with mango chutney, bbq pork, butter chicken with basmati rice and legumes, and the bread service. They even have more tame things like macaroni and cheese, cheeseburger roll ups, and salad items for those less adventurous eaters. Because I tried a bite of literally every appetizer and entree, I did not have room for dessert. I also was avoiding the dessert table because there were items on it that I am allergic to, but was pleasantly surprised to see they also offered Mickey Ice Cream Bars.
Once we finished eating, we took our time heading out, stopping to take pictures with several of the photopass photographers. If you have Memory Maker, Harambe Nights is a great place to get some of those once in a lifetime, late night, empty park pictures that are so rare. We got a couple of really nice shots of us and were really glad we had Memory Maker to take advantage of for them. On the way out, we noticed a procession of more parade character animals and floats heading back towards Harambe from the Tree of Life where we were told by Cast Members to make sure we checked out on our way out. The Tree of Life had added blue twinkling lights to the usual lighting to add some extra sparkle to the night.
Overall, I was very happy with Harambe Nights. It was great entertainment accompanied by fantastic food from some of my favorite restaurants. I went in thinking the price was a bit high for a hard ticket event to be honest, but after experiencing everything, it is a great value and well worth the price. I would stick to the general admission as a shorter person since the premium floor seats aren’t elevated and would have been difficult for me to see the stage since it is only slightly raised. Make sure you go prepared for inclement weather and also dress for comfort. You may be inclined to dress up since it is similar to dinner and a show, but you are still going to a theme park in summer. Keep in mind you will be doing a bit of walking since Harambe Nights takes place in the back of the park.
Are you planning on going to Harambe Nights? Did you make it to opening night? I hope Disney continues with this wonderful new addition to nighttime entertainment after hours at the theme parks.
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