A Disney vacation is a treasured family event. Staying at a Walt Disney World hotel while you’re visiting is the icing on the cake as kids will be immersed in Disney magic 24 hours a day.
A spectacular view from our balcony of the giraffes having breakfast
Before leaving for our recent Disney Fantasy Cruise, I spent two nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, a deluxe category Disney hotel with unique amenities. The African-themed resort has several savannas filled with African animals but it never feels like a zoo. While you’re guaranteed to see animals, it’s always a surprise when and where you’ll encounter them.
We loved the viewing platforms with rocking chairs that are scattered throughout the resort and the large windows lining the hall corridors where you might get a glimpse of an animal. While I knew that I was nowhere near Africa, the Animal Kingdom Lodge does transport you to another place. The animals and the African décor throughout the resort feel authentic.
The pool is a refreshing break after a day at the Disney Parks
Take Time to Enjoy the Amenities
A Disney World vacation can be hectic as families try to pack in as much time at the parks as they can, often leaving little time to spend at the hotel. If you stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, it’s worth carving out time to relax at the resort and enjoy the long list of onsite amenities.
The pool area is fantastic for kids and adults alike. The pool has a slide and gradual entry for little ones. At night the area is hopping with marshmallow roasting, outdoor movies and nighttime animal viewing with night vision goggles. These activities are all complimentary. There is also a good sized playground with shade near the pool.
The animals are the true stars at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. There are viewing areas, some with binocular scopes, set up around the resort and helpful wildlife guides are available to answer questions. It’s so relaxing to just sit and watch the animals and exciting to observe whatever animal might amble into view.
Book a Room with a Savanna View
While I don’t always think a view is worth the additional charge, this is an exception. Waking up to giraffes and zebras and gazelles grazing in front of your room is spectacular. Get up early to see the most animals as they tend to be less active during midday.
We stayed in a standard room with two beds on the Arusha savanna. Our room was almost a ten minute walk from the lobby — no exaggeration — at the very end of the savanna near the gates.
The main lobby decor sets the mood for your African adventure
Pick your Favorite Family Dining Option
It’s a Disney hotel and even the upscale restaurants are kid-friendly. If dining is a priority, Animal Kingdom Lodge has a variety of choices for families ranging from counter service to fine dining.
The hotel has three restaurants: the upscale Jiko, buffet-style Boma, and The Mara, a self- service option that is open all day. There is another very popular fine dining restaurant, Sanaa, that is located in the villas which are next door to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Jiko and Sanaa are often fully booked for the prime dining times so call ahead if you want to be assured you can eat at a time that’s convenient. We tried both Jiko and The Mara. Jiko has good service and high quality food that is tasty without being too complicated, and of course there is always the kids’ menu if needed. The Mara is reasonably priced and has portions that are large enough to split.
It’s easy to find healthy food options and I was surprised at how reasonably we could eat at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I’m not a fan of buffets so we skipped Boma, although it was always packed.
Tranquil nooks and animal viewing areas give the resort a calm and relaxing feel
Families Should Know: The Location
The one complaint that the Animal Kingdom Lodge receives is that it’s too far from the other parks. Animal Kingdom is only a ten minute bus ride away from the hotel, but depending on your luck with the buses, it can take 30-90 minutes to reach the rest of the parks so you could spend up to three hours in transit, a sizeable chunk of time. On the flip side, the hotel is completely relaxing and takes you away from the crowds.
As mentioned above, our room was almost a ten minute walk from the reception. This was fine for us but if you have a family member that is not able to walk so far, this could be an issue. The upside of this location is the plethora of animal viewing areas en route to the lobby.
Rates for a family of four start at $265 including self-parking.
Editorial Note: Kristi received one complimentary night during her two night stay as part of the Disney Fantasy media cruise. As always, all of the opinions expressed on Ciao Bambino are our own. Photos by Kristi Marcelle
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