My recent trip to Disney World was spent at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I had never stayed there before so I was really excited to to give it a try. This resort has been expanded in recent years so it now has two sections: Jambo House and Kidani Village. I stayed in Jambo House so that’s what I’ll be discussing this week. If I ever get the chance to stay at Kidani I’ll be sure to write a separate review for it. How did it stack up against some of my favorite Disney resorts? Read on to find out!
Guests can see the thatched roof of this resort from the road as they make their way to this beautiful resort. The building is meant to represent the lodges found in national parks in Africa with heavy influence from tribal architecture and design. The lobby here is worth a visit no matter where you are staying. I had been to this resort many times before without sleeping there and always marveled at the beauty of this space. The three storied space has a huge glass wall at the rear allowing guests to get a view of the gorgeous savanna and hopefully some of its inhabitants. In addition to the savanna there are rich woods, the inside of the thatched roof, amazing chandeliers made from tribal shields, and a fireplace with plenty of seating around it. If it is too warm to sit by the fire, there are plenty of other seating areas throughout the lobby including one just for kids. I could wander around the lobby for a while just taking in all of the sights and artifacts imported from Africa which are displayed throughout this vast area.
Although I love the design of both the interior and exterior spaces here, the main draw is obviously the animals. There are over 43 acres of land designated as savanna space where over 30 species of animals roam around for guests to enjoy. You can get a glimpse of the animals from many common areas throughout the resort, but the main viewing area off of the lobby is the largest and it also will have safari guides to answer any questions you may have about the animals. About half of the rooms also have a view of one of the three savannas as well. It is pretty awesome to sit out on your balcony and watch a zebra wander by.
My friends and I were lucky enough to book one of these savanna view rooms for our stay. We stayed in one of the DVC studio villas, so I haven’t had the chance to experience a standard room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge yet. Not only did we have a view of a savanna, but we also could see Expedition Everest from our balcony! Not too shabby. The number of animals on our savanna was not always what I had hoped for, so I think I’ll request a room on the main savanna next time. Otherwise the room couldn’t have been better! The dark woods and tribal patterned bedding make for a cozy and warm environment. Since it was a DVC studio it came furnished with a queen sized bed and a pull out sofa as well as a table with chairs, a chest of drawers, and a flat screen TV. It wasn’t huge, but three adults did just fine inside it.
It should be noted there are some special rules at this resort for rooms overlooking the savanna. The cast member who checks you in will go over them with you, but the basic idea is to not do anything to hurt the animals from your balcony. Please, please don’t feed them. The giraffe does not want your left over popcorn from Main Street. The cast member will also let you know balloons are not allowed at the resort at all because of the risk they pose to the animals. It is best to know that little tidbit before buying your kids balloons in one of the parks.
We tended to linger a bit more in our room than we usually do so we could enjoy the view from our balcony. If sitting on your balcony isn’t your thing (although it should be at this resort), there are tons of other things to do at this resort as well. I could fill an entire blog post with activities for kids of all ages to take advantage of at this resort. For example there are animal programs throughout the day, games by the pool, a gym, a spa, culinary programs, a museum exhibit, restaurants, and a wonderful pool facility. You could spend your whole vacation at this resort, actually take some time to relax for a change, and be completely satisfied with your Disney experience.
Speaking of the pool, this area is huge and includes a slide, plenty of seating areas, hot tubs, a playground, and a view of flamingos and whatever other animals might wander by. The landscaping surrounding this watering hole is lush and just as beautiful as the rest of the hotel. It was a treat to find animal habitats close by. Of course, there is also a pool bar available for anyone who might want to have a cocktail while they relax by the water.
There are three restaurants here to suit the needs of any guest. Boma: Flavors of Africa is a buffet which serves breakfast and dinner. For a fine dining experience check out Jiko: The Cooking Place which is always a hit among Disney World regulars. For quick service The Mara offers your standard theme park fare for less adventurous eaters, but also features African influenced dishes which are quite tasty. Why not visit The Animal Kingdom Lodge one day even if you aren’t staying there to take in the beauty of the building, the animals, and have a meal? Even if you just do this at the quick service facility, you’ll have a wonderful time. If you finished your evening at the resort’s lounge called Victoria Falls you’d really be in for a treat. I ate at all three of these restaurants during my stay so I’ll be sure to write more about my dining experiences in later blog posts.
I’d be be overlooking one of my favorite stores on Disney World property if I didn’t mention the Zawadi Marketplace. This shop can be found off of the main lobby and boasts some of the most unique items anywhere at Disney World. I rarely buy anything since a wood giraffe wouldn’t really go with the decor of my house, but I love to look around and admire the artistry of many of there items. Wood carvings are just the tip of the iceberg at this shop although it also offers typical gift shop souvenirs as well.
Transportation to the Animal Kingdom Lodge is all via bus. The bus system is shared with Kidani Village so be prepared to make more than one stop. I used the bus to get to the Magic Kingdom during my stay since it is often quicker to take the bus than your own car to that park. I didn’t wait long and things seemed to run smoothly so I was pleased. We did opt to rent a car though which I recommend no matter where you stay, but at this resort in particular. It is a bit far from everything except the Animal Kingdom Park so it will usually be faster to get around with your own car.
I absolutely loved my stay at this resort! The decor, the animals, and the amenities all make it worth returning for me and I hope to do so soon. Since I have not stayed in a standard view room I can’t say for sure, but I feel like I wouldn’t want to stay here without a view of the savanna. Maybe I can be proven wrong since this deluxe resort doesn’t come cheaply and I’ll want to give myself a bit of a discount by staying in a standard view on a future stay.
Apparently readers of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World agree with my assessment since 94% of those surveyed said they would stay here again! What do you think of the Animal Kingdom Lodge? Did you love your stay there or maybe you much prefer another location? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!