The Festival of the Lion King is one of Disney World’s best shows. Featuring all of the fantastic music from The Lion King film (and so much more), it will dazzle you, your partner, your friends, and your family…and to add icing to this cake, it comes with an absolutely fantastic dinner package. If you want to experience the best that Disney World has to offer, you are guaranteed an amazing evening with a Festival of the Lion King Dining Package.
- The Festival of the Lion King is one of the best shows at Disney World
- Fine for families with kids
- Great for couples
- Participating restaurants are examples of the best dining at Disney World
- The Tier 1 dining package includes an exclusive safari tour!
- Dining packages also include alcohol, which isn’t offered with many other dining packages
- Dining packages are super well organized and cut down on costs and wait times
- Might be a little pricy for Disney World visitors on a budget
- Difficult to criticize in a pros and cons list, because it’s awesome
Dining Packages: Two Tiers, Two Great Options
There are two different dining packages associated with The Festival of the Lion King.
Tier 2 Includes:
- 3-course gourmet meal from Tiffins Restaurant with your choice of beverage, including alcoholic options
- VIP second row seats at The Festival of the Lion King
- Cost: $79 for adults and $29 per child ages 3 to 9
Tier 1 Includes:
- 3-course gourmet meal of your choice with a free glass of sparkling wine from Tiffins Restaurant, as well as an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage
- VIP front row seats at The Festival of the Lion King, complete with no wait time!
- A VIP guided Savanna tour
- Cost: $99 for adults and $49 per child ages 3 to 9
Tier 1 is definitely my first choice. Tiffins Restaurant is fantastic: it has a cozy, lodge-style ambiance, a nice big bar staffed by knowledgeable, friendly bartenders, is decorated with paper elephant lanterns, and has a super creative menu that can’t be beat anywhere else in Disney World. Also, it’s an art gallery featuring gorgeous works from artists around the world!
Check out Tiffins menu. Get your money’s worth: I recommend a starter of artisanal cheeses, a main course of pomegranate-lacquered chicken (the brussel sprouts accompanying this dish are amazing), and whipped cheesecake for dessert. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, make sure to let the Tiffins staff know—they will accommodate you! The children’s menu is also great. If you want to drink, you need ID on you; I’m 32 years old, and I was carded twice during the same meal. (Thanks for always making me feel young at heart, Disney World!)
Festival of the Lion King: The Show
The Festival of the Lion King is a circus-inspired song and dance extravaganza highlighting the best songs from The Lion King film. It does not have a discernible storyline (this isn’t a scaled-down version of The Lion King on Broadway, for example); instead the show focuses on audience participation, dance, and original singing from the show’s human hosts. Nevertheless, this is one of the best shows at Disney World: the performers have fantastic vocal chops, the dancing is skillful, the acrobatics are impressive, and the staging is on point. The intimate, black-box style theater also makes for an enjoyable audience experience, as it really does feel as though you are part of the show.
The Festival of the Lion King opens with a live human cast dressed in beautiful African-inspired costumes introducing themselves to the audience. A few audience members are brought forward for fun animal-themed activities, including offering up their best imitations of lion and hyena calls. After the audience participation segment has ended, more dancers join the hosts onstage, dressed in inventive wildlife themed costumes.
The lights drop, and The Circle of Life begins. The singing is live, and it is absolutely gorgeous. This song segues into I Just Can’t Wait to Be King, and the stage fills further with Lion King themed floats and circus-style dancers and acrobats on stilts. The floats are magnificent; featuring animatronic versions of characters from the film, including Pumbaa and Simba, they are the main features of the show. The audience is invited to cheer on Simba, and Simba interacts with the dancers, hosts, and the audience.
This is inventive Disney Imagineering at its finest: the show does not simply re-tell the story of The Lion King, instead engaging the audience in a celebration of the story’s highest points. Timon is a live costumed character rather than an animatronic feature; he goes back and forth joking with Pumbaa and asking the audience to join in singing Hakuna Matata. From this song, the show moves on to a lively acrobatic segment starring “monkeys,” or human acrobats in bright orange costumes. They swing from the ceiling, perform tumbling and bar routines, and generally monkey around. It is a bit reminiscent of a Cirque du Soleil production.
The celebratory theme stops momentarily here: you can’t have a Lion King show without Be Prepared. Rather than featuring Simba’s evil uncle, Scar’s vocal line is sung by one of the human hosts, and this guy definitely has pipes! This number features blacklight-illuminated dancing complete with real flame twirling. (This might be my favorite bit of the show.) The dark mood ends here, though: an absolutely gorgeous soprano brings us to Can You Feel the Love Tonight, a duet accompanied by serene ballet-inspired modern dance and acrobatics.
Can You Feel the Love Tonight completes the show’s message of being part of the greater whole: it segues back into a reprise of The Circle of Life, which heralds the show’s finale. The finale features an audience sing-along of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, more dancing, and more singing from the animatronic and costumed Lion King characters and awesome hosts. The show ends with one more brief, exciting, original medley of all the Lion King songs. Check out this link for more information on the show.
Perhaps one of the most impressive elements of this dining package is the private safari. The dining package makes this a very good deal; other tours of this type can cost up to $167, so if you’re worried about getting a great deal at Disney World, this will be your selling point. Depending on how many people have purchased the dining package for the showtime that you pick, you may wind up on this tour with as few as one other party.
The tour guides are wildlife experts and they know all the ins and outs of the safari park, and you’re free to ask as many questions as you’d like. You are escorted directly from The Festival of the Lion King to your tour, so if you want to get the best tour experience make sure you choose a later showing if possible; the animals are most active (and most interesting!) at sunrise and sunset, or after sundown.
This isn’t a walking tour; you do get to ride around in the tour transports, and depending on how the animals are feeling, you may have some very close encounters indeed! (The giraffes are particularly engaging; they have extremely vibrant personalities.) According to some reviews, the tour guides make sure to tell you interesting facts you won’t get on regular tours (I certainly found this to be the case, and because there are so few other guests on the tour, you get an extremely customized experience.
Who Will Enjoy The Festival of the Lion King?
This dining package is great for anyone who wants to experience the best dining in Disney World, one of the best shows at Disney World, and has a love of nature and wildlife. The show will be engaging for audiences of all ages, and the audience participation elements will be especially appealing for younger viewers.
Viewers younger than age 3 or 4 are probably a bit young to get the full experience here; in fact, these dining packages are probably best appreciated by older audiences. As far as accessibility goes, The Festival of the Lion King has everything you need: wheelchair seating, assistive listening, handheld captioning, and sign-language; just let your Disney World cast member know of any accommodations you need at the time of booking.
The Tiffins menu might be a bit exotic for some guests (you can’t really order a pizza or any equivalent of burgers and fries at this particular restaurant), so if you’re a picky eater, check out the menu before deciding on this package. Please note also that many of the offerings at Tiffins contain allergens, so if you have food sensitivities let your waitstaff know. (I’m very allergic to tree nuts, but I had absolutely no problem with my order at all.)
The really outstanding element of this dining package is the VIP wildlife tour; make sure you come with a notebook stocked full of your questions, because these guides are super knowledgeable! If you are someone that isn’t particularly interested in wildlife or who will be sorely disappointed that the wild animals in the park aren’t performing tricks for you, you might not have as much fun on this tour as you would a zoo visit or the equivalent. The great thing about the Animal Kingdom is that these animals generally roam free: they live a near-natural life, so don’t be disappointed if they aren’t out and about at a particular time. The guides are full of amazing facts and fun anecdotes about the animals they work with. Go in with an open mind and a thirst for knowledge and you will love this safari tour.
Reservations for the Dining Packages
The dining package is only available from August 13th, 2018 through November 1st, 2018. You have to book reservations for both tiers of the dining package in advance. While you are able to book online through your Disney World account, I wouldn’t recommend it; for some reason choosing your show time is finicky, and you want to make sure that you get a time that suits your needs (I.e. experiencing the safari at peak viewing times when the animals are active or aren’t being swapped out). I’ve found the best way to book is over the phone…Disney World cast members can accommodate any of your needs immediately, and there is no worry that you won’t get exactly what you want. Simply ask for reservations for The Festival of the Lion King Dining Package Tier 1 or Tier 2, and let the cast member know which meal time and show time you’d prefer.
You can check daily showtimes for The Festival of the Lion King here.
- For reservations, call (407) 939-3463 Monday through Friday 8:00 AM Eastern Standard Time to 9:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
You can also check showtime availability online before you call here:
If you’re already at the park and you want to try to book a dining package last-minute, it is sometimes possible, but I really wouldn’t recommend it. The dining packages at Disney World have a very strict cancellation policy. All reservations have to be cancelled AT LEAST 48 hours in advance, or else you won’t get any of your money back.
Very rarely Disney World shows can be cancelled, so on the day of your reservation be sure to check showtimes on the Disney World website, ask a Disney cast member if the shows are on schedule, or check your show schedule on apps like My Disney Experience.
Dining on the Day
When the day of your reservation arrives, first head over to Tiffins on Discovery Island at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. Let the staff know you are there for your dining package reservations, give them your name, and you’re good to go! Make sure to arrive for your reservations at least fifteen minutes early (this is recommended on the website, and I have to say from personal experience that it’s a not just a good idea; it’s necessary), and definitely leave ample time between the end of your meal and the beginning of your showing of The Festival of the Lion King to get from Tiffins to the theater.
You will arrive at the theater’s exit, and you will be shown to your VIP seating from there. If you have the Tier 1 dining package and accompanying VIP safari tour, your tour guide will meet you at the show! After the show your guide will escort you to where the tour begins, and off you go on your wildlife adventure. This process is super simple and super organized.
The Bottom Line
If you love wildlife, fantastic shows, and delicious gourmet food, The Festival of the Lion King Dining Packages will be worth your time and money. Tier 1 is definitely among the best dining packages at Disney World by far! Don’t hesitate to book before the package ends November 1st. You’ll love it as much as I did for sure.
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