Disney World Like a Local and A Nomad Lounge and Tiffins Review
It’s been a while since I’ve written about Walt Disney World. That’s a shame. Let’s change that, shall we? Because it has not been a while since I’ve been to Walt Disney World. In fact, I was there a couple of weeks ago, and it was one of my most enjoyable visits to date.
So today I’m writing about two Disney things–Tiffins, the new restaurant at Animal Kingdom–as well as how to experience Disney World like a local. Because sometimes one Disney-thing just isn’t enough.
How to Visit Disney World Like a Local
But wait, you cry. Disney World isn’t a real place! No one lives there, and so there are no locals. And I see your point. But–and I don’t like to tell my readers this very often because it sounds rude–you’re wrong.
There are lots of locals who live within a comfortable driving distance of Walt Disney World, and many of them are Disney fans. Further, many of them are Disney annual pass holders–and some are even Disney employees. And these locals visit the parks. These locals visit the parks often.
Visiting Disney World often is one of the keys to visiting Disney World like a local. However, fortunately for those of us who can’t get there as often as we may like, visiting often is not required. You, too, can visit the park like a local, whether it is your first trip or your fiftieth. Here’s how:
Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t try to fit all of it in. Slow down. Enjoy the small details. Linger. Stroll. Sit.
That’s really all there is to it.
If you’d like a more detailed account of what this looks like, here’s a minute-by-minute breakdown of how I spent (part of) two days in the parks last week.
Animal Kingdom Like a Local
Please note: creating a minute-by-minute breakdown of how you are going to spend your days in the park is THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what you should do if you are trying to experience Disney like a local. In case I didn’t make that clear. Anyway, here’s my breakdown:
2:30pm: Find yourself at one of the wildlife trails. Walk through wildlife trail. There are no gorillas out, but that’s ok.
3:00pm: Decide it is hot.
3:01pm: Head over to Nomad Lounge for a drink.
3:05pm-5:00pm: Have two drinks at Nomad Lounge. Enjoy the air conditioning. Talk to the cocktail server.
5:00pm: Decide to go on a ride.
5:15pm: Get in line for Everest. Note: having a Fastpass is helpful here. I did.
6:00pm: Saunter around the lake, checking out the details of the new theater for yet-to-be-premiered Rivers of Light.
6:15pm: Stroll some more. Find another trail. Walk down it.
8:00pm: Have dinner at Tiffins.
9:30pm: Ride Kilimanjaro Safari in the dark. Note: having a Fastpass is entirely unnecessary here.
10:00pm: Stare at The Tree of Life for a good long while.
10:15pm: Exit park.
Epcot Like a Local
See Animal Kingdom Like a Local, above, replacing ‘wildlife trails’ with ‘World Showcase Pavilions’, replacing Tiffins with a restaurant of your choice (I recommend Tokyo Dining for amazing sushi and an epic view), and replacing ‘stare at Tree of Life’ with ‘watch Illuminations’. Add in a brief stop at any form of entertainment–we watched an Eagles cover band at the American Pavilion–and replace drinks at Nomad Lounge with a margarita from La Cava de Tequila.
As you can see, visiting Disney World like a local involves a lot of strolling, dining, and drinking. Which brings me to…
Tiffins and Nomad Lounge: A Sort-of Review
To call this a review is almost unfair. A review has things like stars and specific menu descriptions and lots of photos. This doesn’t have any of those things. But for those of you dying to try out Animal Kingdom’s new (and first) signature dining restaurant, here’s a short story of my visit…
We arrive at Tiffins maybe ten minutes before our reservation and check in at the desk. The place seems kind of dead, but they give us a buzzer and tell us to wait. Ok. So we wander outside and find a sort of half wall thing to sit on. We sit on it…and the buzzer immediately goes off. So we go back inside. The whole exercise was rather comical.
There are three rooms in Tiffins, and we were seated in what I believe is the largest of the three, the Grand Gallery. The artwork features all animals which are protected by the Disney Conservation Fund. In addition, there are also several carved poles prominently displayed in the middle of the room; we were told that if they look familiar, it is because they are from the old Camp Minnie Mickey. I thought this act of ‘upcycling’ was a cool touch, and very much in keeping with the conservation theme of Animal Kingdom.
Ok. Let’s get to the food. I visited with my most favorite Disney friend and we do this thing when we dine together–we order a bunch of appetizers instead of two entrees. This way we get to try more things and, as an added bonus, we typically spend less money (which we make up for by ordering alcohol). Thus, on my first (and so far only) visit to Tiffins, I had the black-eyed pea fritters, the sustainable seasonal fish crudo, the marinated octopus, and the bread service. We also shared dessert–the South American chocolate ganache.
I’ll start with the meh parts–the bread service was only ok. It came with several kinds of bread–a pita-style bread, a thin chapati-style cracker bread, regular old bread, and I believe something naan-like, though I could be mistaken. The sauces were the real miss. There was oil, two yogurt-based dips one of which was good, and a rather uninspired hummus. For my money, the Snack of Ra at Disney Springs’ Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar is a far better choice–and only $2 more (though it’s not at Tiffins so I don’t know why I’m talking about it other than the fact that it, too, is a sort of bread service. But only kind of.) The black-eyed pea fritters were not bad, nor were they amazing. But hey, they are black-eyed pea fritters. We ordered poorly there. They were pretty much falafel.
The sea creatures on the table were another story. The crudo was fantastic. I do not recall what type of white sustainable fish it was (sorry*) but I do know that it was AMAZING. It came garnished with a citrus-y oil and corn, and as such was much more like a ceviche than a crudo; it reminded me of the ceviche I love at my favorite Peruvian place in NYC. And the octopus was everything I want octopus to be–nicely charred and featuring something brine-y, olives in this case. There was also some kind of oil and some kind of probably yogurt-based sauce. If you dine at Tiffins, expect oil and yogurt on your plate in more than one incarnation.
*EDIT: My most favorite Disney friend and dining companion has informed me that the sustainable white fish was hamachi.
Would I return to Tiffins? Probably. But what I’d be more likely to do is return to the attached bar, The Nomad Lounge. Why? Well first, because it’s easier to get in to The Nomad Lounge! You just show up and walk in (thus making it much easier to be laid back and carefree about your dining options–you know, like a local?) Second, because I really enjoyed the physical space. It was just really pretty, both inside and out. See?
Pretty, right? I was super bummed I didn’t take my real camera into the park that day. The Nomad Lounge is super photogenic.
And finally, while I did very much enjoy two of my appetizers at Tiffins, Nomad Lounge is a thriftier choice, offering a short selection of pub-food-style small plates; as of this writing they have four different great-sounding options on the pub menu for $10 or less. And The Nomad Lounge also makes killer cocktails. Get the Tempting Tigress. You won’t regret it.