Category Rank: 2
Park: Animal Kingdom
Park Rank: 1
This post will make a lot more sense if you have read the previous post on Mexico, since it is a bit odd of an entry. This one definitely fits into the "nostalgic-for-me, not-for-everyone-else" category.
Our first entry in the top ten is our top item from Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom as a park doesn't have much that screams "nostalgia!" in it, though it does have some thrilling attractions. In fact, you might have been surprised it didn't top out with the Kilimanjaro Safaris way back at #35.
The first thing to say about it is that it isn't the restaurant that makes this list. Flame Tree BBQ is a great counter-service restaurant. In fact, we have eaten at it every time we have visited the park, and being that we have never eaten at a table service restaurant there, that makes it the only restaurant in Animal Kingdom we have eaten at. This, in of itself, is fairly significant. The restaurant features a pretty good BBQ ribs and chicken platter, which is one of the best deals to get when on the dining plan. Plus, I'm a big fan of the key-lime-pie dessert.
If we were ranking the restaurant by itself, you might see it at around #40 on the list or so. But much like the Mexican Pavilion in Epcot, it gets so much higher because of the respite and the view.
While the restaurant itself is on one of the busy walkways within the park (there are not too many paths to walk within the park, given its relative few features and wide expanses of natural habitat), the eating area for it sits behind the restaurant in a heavily shaded area. There are many small pavilions here to choose from, each featuring their own condiment station. Every time we eat (which admittedly is usually between 2:00-3:00), the place has never been that busy. Which means, like in Mexico, we get a relaxing lunch to fill up on good food, away from all the other tourists.
You couple that with a truly Disney view. The Discovery River goes right by this viewing area, though it looks more like a lake from this view than anything else. Over on the left side of the view, you can see the Asia land within the park. And straight forward is a majestic view of Expedition Everest.
I can't emphasize how strangely tranquil this area is. It is truly a Disney experience. You get a peaceful scene to look at, with the only sounds the occasional far-off screams from the roller coaster. In addition to the shade and a nice breeze, you honestly could take a couple hours and rest to enjoy the view. Given how much a respite during the busy day is enjoyable and refreshing, it serves as no surprise that this then becomes one of my favorite locations to fondly reminisce about. Many a day at work I wish I was sitting at the pavilion looking out at the Discovery River.
As with the Mexico Pavilion, the area is frequented by many different birds, and even a squirrel or two. One of the unique things are the different paintings and carvings within the pavilions, which all feature animals eating other animals. Though none of them are gory, it is a bit odd to see within Disney (and it isn't exactly the most noticeable feature). This is meant to tie in with the circle-of-life theme. Not that this is the reason this appears in the top ten, but I thought it was unique enough to mention.
While we took a look at two park ambiences that have meaning more for me than others, serving as a relaxing place to eat lunch, we now will have two items that everyone will have on their list. They are two of the biggest symbols within all of WDW.