Happy Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

Though I think this may become the new tradition. A quick backstory: my daughter is getting divorced. That’s all I’ll say about it, because I stay the hell out of my adult children’s marriages. This is a recent development, and the first year we are regrouping and reshaping the holidays.

This year I didn’t have to figure out what I’d do for Thanksgiving, because I was never invited to her in-laws. Thanksgiving at Nana’s was a command performance of sorts, so I’d figure out my own Thanksgiving and really didn’t mind. This year The Dancer went with her dad to Nana’s for Thanksgiving, and my daughter managed to score dinner reservations at our favorite special place, Boma, at Animal Kingdom Lodge. As far as I’m concerned we had the far better experience.

We got there a bit early so we could visit the animals before dark. When you stay in a savanna view room you can sit on your balcony and watch zebras, wildebeast, giraffes, ostriches and various types of antelope hanging out under your balcony, and it is truly very, very cool. (There are viewing areas on every floor where you can take your morning coffee and spend some time animal watching if you don’t have a savanna view room.)

Pro Tip: There are some rooms that are designated as “obstructed view” because there’s a tree or something partially obstructing the view of the savanna. We stayed in “obstructed view” rooms on the top floor and the view was perfectly lovely, but it was cheaper because of the view. Ask what sort of obstruction it is, though. A couple of skinny trees won’t really spoil the view, but an extended shed roof would.

We took these pictures from the outdoor area outside Jambo House.

Pelicans.
Dinner for wildebeasts and a lone zebra.
Giraffe dinner.

Those skinny wires in the foreground are a mildly electrified fence to keep the animals, who are wild, away from the outdoor viewing area where we stood, because humans cannot be trusted not to try to hand feed a zebra.

While we were there we spent some time chatting with a delightful and funny young CM named Bea, who had tons of stories about the animals: The giraffes are a mother daughter pair. The zebras will randomly get the zoomies and create a stampede where none of the animals knows why they’re running, but they all join in until someone finally pauses to wonder why they’re running, and eventually everybody stops in confusion. Until the next time.

Her funniest story was about the ostriches and that wire fence. They’ll get determined to eat whatever’s on the other side, and accidentally touch the fence. Munchmunchmunch, OW! What was that?? Shakes it off, does it again, OW?? And repeat.

It is designed as a deterrent and can’t hurt them, but ostriches aren’t overly blessed with brains. (Fun fact: their brain is smaller than their eyes.) The ostriches have concluded an occasional owie is the price for eating those awesome random weeds on the other side of those weird sticks, which is so much better than the specially prepared healthy food they are served.

It got dark and we went inside.

I know the tree appears to be floating, but it actually is four stories tall and standing on a very highly polished floor. As you can see from the random stranger at the lower left, masks are required indoors unless you’re at your table eating in the restaurant (or when you’re in your room, obviously) and everybody complied without bitching. I saw kids at dinner reminding each other about masking on their way to the buffet. It was a very safe and sane experience, and a reminder that most people are not assholes.

Closeups of my favorite ornaments. Seriously, I covet that giraffe mask.

This peaceful space is off the main lobby.

I’m not sure what the room above is called, but they do kids’ crafts and learning experiences in that space. It’s worth exploring, because the historic photos of luxurious safaris of 100 years ago are priceless! Rich white people have always been a bit ridiculous, hauling tea sets and sterling silver toiletry bottles around Africa, and staying in tents the size of small apartments.

I did not take pictures of the food, but the menu was much more extensive than the version posted on the website. Picky eaters had pasta and plainer meat and veggies. Thanksgiving traditionalists could get turkey breast at the carving station, with herbed potatoes, gravies and sauces, green beans, an amazing corn pudding/casserole, etc. They had everybody covered.

We ate ourselves sick, almost literally – we hit nearly everything on the menu, unless it was something ordinary we could find at the supermarket (hummus and pita bread, etc.) We could barely walk by the time we declared ourselves done.

For dessert I found my beloved bread pudding with warm vanilla sauce (theirs is the best), and the other tiny desserts were equally amazing, especially a tiny dark chocolate coffee tart with the creamiest, richest mousse filling. Utterly decadent. No pumpkin pie in sight, which pleased me. We lurched to the car very satisfied.

If this is the new Thanksgiving tradition, I am good with this. We’re already figuring out how we can swing a two night stay here next June.

4 thoughts on “Happy Non-Traditional Thanksgiving”

  1. Much belated happy thanksgiving! Am also sending all best wishes to Daughter and Dancer as they navigate the new normal. And please keep Africa on your radar. If you’re willing to book your safari when you get there, it is actually affordable. Mom & I (in the 90s) flew into Nairobi, booked our safari from there and I’m not saying the whole thing was cheap but it was within reach.
    Anyway, glad you had such a lovely time and the photos are terrific!

  2. Personally, I am all in favor of non-traditional thanksgivings– and what you did this year sounds like it would be a great tradition to continue… Wishing the best possible outcome for your daughter and grand-daughter.

  3. Sounds like a fantastic T-day! It would be great to see all the animals. I have every intention of going to Africa to see the elephants and any other animal that wanders by (that may be on hold a little longer given the new variant). Sorry about your daughter, divorce is hard. Stay well and keep writing.

    1. I have always wanted to visit Africa, but unless I win the lottery it’s not gonna happen. I think that’s why I want to work at Disney, and specifically at Animal Kingdom. Last time we were there, one of the CMs in the gorilla area was a woman around my age, and she was chatting with the guests about the family group and the bachelors, and damn, that right there is my retirement goal. I’ll always have to work at something, but I’d like it to be something far from spreadsheets and project meetings.

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