This December has been a busy one at Walt Disney World, not only because of the record crowd levels, but also because there are a ton of new attraction openings around the resort. From the four new attractions just opened just last week at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to the recent plussing of the Grand Fiesta Tour at Epcot, it’s been a great month so far for guests looking to do something new at the resort. However, even with all these new attractions and features, there’s even more on the Walt Disney World docket as the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival is set to open at Epcot in just a few days, and the Star Wars: Symphony in the Sky fireworks show will begin lighting the night at Disney's Hollywood Studios just before Christmas. 

However, even though Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are going through some big changes this holiday season, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is quietly going through its own metamorphosis during the month of December as well. Here are some changes going on at Disney’s Animal Kingdom you might not have noticed the last time you visited:

1. The Riverside Depot welcomes first guests

Earlier this week a brand new store at Disney’s Animal Kingdom quietly opened its doors at the front of Discovery Island. The Riverside Depot is a massive 4000 square foot extension of the Disney Outfitters building and contains a wide assortment of Disney parks merchandise. Items for sale include apparel, MagicBands, toys, housewares and more.  Essentially, it’s like MouseGears or the Main Street Emporium, but at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and with more park-specific items. 

It actually looks like this large new merchandise location is opening just in time, as the nearby Disney Outfitters store will be closing for refurbishment early next month. Some of the merchandise from this location will be moving over to the Riverside Depot while the refurbishments are ongoing, and then after a few weeks the two locations will be separated again. 

2. Tarzan moves to a new meet and greet space 

You might not immediately associate Disney’s Animal Kingdom with character meet and greets, but this park is actually home to more than a dozen characters, including Chip and Dale, Baloo, King Louie, Pocahontas, Flik, and more fabulous characters that meet guests from Discovery Island all the way to Rafiki's Planet Watch. 

One of the most unique meet and greets at this park, Tarzan, has now been confirmed to be on the move, thanks to upcoming work on the pathways around the Tree of Life (where this character used to meet with guests). However, character fans don't need to despair, as Tarzan is now very conveniently located at the front of the park in between Pizzafari and Island Mercantile on Discovery Island. Tarzan's daily schedule still appears in the times guide, so guests who want to make sure they are able to catch a glimpse of this wild character will be able to give Tarzan a fist bump, talk about modern conveniences or even just get a hug in this temporary location. 



Hey friends! Safari driver here. Wanted to let you all know that we're all still in the middle of receiving our painted dogs training, so that's why you might not hear a lot about them when we go by. We aren't supposed to stop for any new animals on the deserve for the first week or so that they're out, but we should be able to stop sometime fairly soon. There are six male dogs and they're very young, very active, and a lot of fun! If you DO ever happen to spot a hyena though, know that you're really in luck. I have personally only seen them around 5 times in the past month that they've been out on the reserve.

Add new comment

About Theme Park Tourist

Theme Park Tourist is one of the web’s leading sources of essential information and entertaining articles about theme parks in Orlando and beyond.

We are one of the world’s largest theme park guide sites, hosting detailed guides to more than 80 theme parks around the globe.

Find Out More About Us...

Plan Your Trip

Our theme park guides contain reviews and ratings of rides, restaurants and hotels at more than 80 theme parks worldwide.

You can even print them.

Start Planning Now...