Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of our family’s favorite–if not thefavorite–DisneyWorld resort. When readers ask me, “Why pay to stay at a DisneyWorld resort?” I always cite Disney’s impeccible attention to detail, from the in-room touches to the grand lobbies to the on-site restaurants…always themed to perfection. No where is this attention to detail more evident than at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
From the moment you pull up outside Jambo House (the main lodge), you’re greeted by sweeping thatched rooftops, the vast lobby with its four-story high beams, tapestries, and woodwork, and more than one smiling Cast Member saying, “Welcome home!” Inside, Disney has paired their (let’s face it, sometimes romanticized) take on safari Africa with real artifacts depicting African tribal life and wildlife. Guests can take tours of the property to learn more, but just a wander around the lobby and hallways will yield an interesting cultural lesson.
And then there are the animals. Roaming three separate 30 acre expanses within the resort property, they can be viewed from the observation decks off the lobbies and hallways (a great way to see them if you’re simply touring the resort or enjoying a meal at one of the Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurants) and from ‘Savanna View’ room categories. Before staying in a Savanna View room (on average, $65 more expensive that a pool view room and $85 more expensive than a standard view room), I wondered whether the upcharge would be worth the money. Answer: yes. If you can budget for the extra expense, do so. Waking up to giraffes, wildebeests, or elephants outside our balcony never got old. (Though in full disclosure, I think I got a bigger kick out of it than the kids!) If a Savanna View room is not in your budget however, a stay at the lodge is still worth your consideration; the animals can be spotted throughout the resort, including adjacent to the pool!
Animal Kingdom Lodge room amenities:
Room amenities obviously vary by room type, but all will include split bathrooms and either two queen beds, one king, or a queen and a set of bunk beds. Our Savanna View room comprised of two queen beds, but it was the extra balcony space (and views) that made it worth it. (Other room categories also feature balconies…just without the animal views.) All rooms come with free daily coffee, a mini fridge, hairdryers, Disney’s signature H20 spa products, and available laundry service. (The standards you’d expect.) We especially loved the effort Animal Kingdom Lodge goes to in their recycling efforts. Separate recycling bins are located throughout the resort, and even within the rooms, so it’s easy to do your part even while on vacation.
What you get with the Disney ‘deluxe’ category:
Because Animal Kingdom Lodge falls within DisneyWorld’s ‘deluxe’ category of resorts, a childcare facility, Simba’s Clubhouse, is located on-site (for an extra hourly fee), and the resort hosts not only a cafeteria-style counter service restaurant, but a sit-down restaurant and one signature dining restaurant. It also features two fitness centers and a spa, two Animal Kingdom Lodge pools (one in the main Jambo House and one in the newer Kidani Village), both with hot tubs (important to my family). Room service is available, and there’s a full bar poolside (as well as a shaded playground). Activities are led every afternoon by a live DJ at the main pool (my kids loved playing Disney trivia and a Disney version of a ‘cake walk’ where small prizes could be won), and additional kid-oriented activities are scheduled daily in the lobby. During our visit, a Cast Member was leading crayon rubs of the African emblems and art on the lobby floor.
What cannot be measured in room rates or vacation value is how truly ‘apart’ Animal Kingdom Lodge feels. We’re Disney fans, but after we leave the parks for the day, we don’t like feeling like we’re still in one…Animal Kingdom Lodge has those small Disney touches, but doesn’t feel overly ‘Mickey-i-fied’. You really do feel away from it all, tucked into your own imaginary corner of a Disneyesque Africa.
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Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurants:
In addition to room service, Animal Kingdom Lodge features their counter-service cafeteria, The Mara, which is located adjacent to the main pool. We ate here for both breakfast and lunch during our stay, and never paid more than $7 per person for a well-made entree. The lodge also hosts one of DisneyWorld’s most touted signature dining restaurants, Jiko, The Cooking Place, and two moderately priced (by Disney standards) family restaurants: Sanaa (in Kidani Village) and our family’s favorite, Boma: Flavors of Africa. Everyone in our family, from the picky seven-year-old to the adults, love this African buffet. It’s not cheap, but worth the price to try so many unique and delicious dishes. (You have to try the coconut rice!) Tip: visit Boma on the dining plan to get the most value!
Date last visited:
Room rates at any Disney resort vary drastically by room type and season. Value season pricing for Animal Kingdom Lodge generally starts at $265 for a standard view room, but better deals can certainly be had by going through a Disney-specific travel agent (our recommendation is Dreams Unlimited).
No matter what DisneyWorld resort you stay in, you’ll enjoy certain perks, such as Disney Transportation (both to and from all parks and resorts during your stay), Disney’s Magical Express (which picks you up from and returns you to the airport, as well as handles all your bags…you can ‘check’ them right at the resort!), the option of the Disney Dining Plan (worth it!), and early and late entry into the parks during Extra Magic Hours. And since Animal Kingdom Lodge is a deluxe resort, you can take advantage of the on-site concierge, who can not only find you reservations for dining and other activities, but can print your boarding passes before you depart.
If you use Disney’s Magical Express, you don’t need to worry about directions, but if you’re driving, the resort address is 2901 Osceola Pkwy Lake Buena Vista. Signage is easy to follow (follow directions to Animal Kingdom and the Blizzard Beach water park).
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge hosted Pit Stops for Kids at no charge, as part of the Disney Fantasy media preview cruise. While we appreciate their hospitality, all opinions of the resort are our own. Photo credit: BestofWDW and Pit Stops for Kids.