Archive for May, 2012

Country Bear Jamboree To Go Down For Refurbishment

by on May 26, 2012

The Bear Band at The Country Bear Jamboree found in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom will be on a hiatus for about a month and a half. According to Disney, this refurbishment is expected to take place September 1 to October 17, 2012.

Then, once again, you’ll be able to sing and clap along with Henry, Big Al, Liver Lips, Teddi Barra, Wendall, Trixie, and The Five Bear Rugs, in the good old key of G.

Summer Edition of The Magic, The Memories, and You Debuted

by on May 26, 2012


Last night, Disney unveiled the summer edition of the fabulous Magic Kingdom castle show, The Magic, The Memories and You!

For those who are unaware about what this incredible show entails, it’s a castle projection experience, where photos and videos of theme park guests are projected on the castle with a visually stunning background with tremendous special effects and a symphony of sound.

There have been previous themed versions of this show before, with both a Christmas portion and a Romance section added in the past. Now that the unofficial start of summer is here, Disney unveiled the Summer Edition of the show.

This new version features snippets of clips from Phineas and Ferb, a beach scene featuring Goofy, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid. There are even little Toy Story and Finding Nemo nods included.

For those who don’t want to miss this experience (and we at TouringPlans certainly rate this as not to be missed!), the show usually takes place twice a night, once 15 minutes before Wishes and once about 15 minutes after Wishes. Make sure to check a Times Guide or our Lines mobile app for specific showtimes during your trip.

For those of you on the West Coast, don’t despair! This new Summer Edition of the show has headed your way too, but can be seen on it’s a small world.


New Brave Experience At Epcot

by on May 26, 2012

Excitement is ramping up for the new Disney-Pixar movie Brave, which comes to theaters June 22, 2012.  In addition to being able to meet Princess Merida at the Magic Kingdom, now guests will be able to experience some more Brave fun, but at Epcot.

Debuting June 1 and lasting until July 8, guests will have the opportunity to participate in something called the Highland Games Tournament. This tournament will take place in the Epcot’s Rose Walk area, which is between Future World and World Showcase.

These events will be geared towards kids and will feature things like the Haggis Flip, the Cake Toss, and archery.  In addition, according to Disney, there will also be a playground that features free, enhanced wireless Internet access for parents to be able to share photos through social media.

The Brave-Highland Games Tournament is to take place daily from 11 am to 7 pm. Get ready to put your game face on!

10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your DVC Membership at Disneyland

by on May 25, 2012

Are you a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) member? Have you ever considered joining DVC? Do you even know what DVC is? Well, the purpose of this blog is not to convince you to join DVC (because DVC is not right for everyone). But, since many Disney-addicts are DVC members (myself included), let’s look at how you can use your DVC membership at Disneyland!

For those of you who may not be familiar with DVC, it is Disney’s timeshare company. Basically, for a significant upfront investment (plus annual dues), you can “own” a piece of the magic by purchasing an “ownership interest” in one of the DVC resorts. You buy points at your “home” DVC resort, which could, for example, be Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas or another awesome DVC resort! You then use these points to book rooms at your home resort, or at any of the other DVC resorts. You can also use the points for Disney cruises, Adventures By Disney, or at select non-Disney resorts around the world using a trade feature. Needless to say, there are lots of options, but there are also lots of rules, exceptions, nuances, and fine print that I won’t even try to cover at this point.

That’s a lot of words to say that Disneyland is a great place to use your DVC membership, even if you normally think of Disney World when you think DVC. And here are 10 things to know about Disney’s West Coast location to get the most out of your DVC membership.

1. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa (or VGC as DVCers call it) – VGC is simply incredible, and it’s the only DVC resort at Disneyland Resort! As you may have read in my previous blog on the Grand Californian Hotel, it is my favorite Disney hotel anywhere in the United States (although I still have to try Aulani!). You simply can’t beat its luxury, location, and livability. Now, imagine the best rooms (from studios to 3-bedroom Grand Villas) in the Grand Californian, and that’s VGC! If you haven’t stayed there, do it! The combination of my favorite Disney hotel along with all the conveniences that DVC packs into its suites is not to be missed!

2. Book it Quick! – VGC is the smallest DVC resort anywhere—by far! For a rough comparison, VGC only has 48 rooms, while Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas has 458, Bay Lake Tower has 295, Beach Club Villas has 208, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa has 828, and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Villas has 136. What this means is that actually reserving a room at VGC can be a challenge! If VGC is your home resort, definitely be ready to make your reservation exactly at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time eleven months prior to the date you want to check in. If VGC is not your home resort, be ready at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time seven months out. Also be prepared to put your name on a wait list if a confirmed reservation is not immediately available.

3. Book other Disneyland Hotels – At Disneyland, you can use your DVC points to book rooms at any of the on-property hotels without paying a booking fee: the Grand Californian Hotel (I’m talking about the hotel portion now, not the VGC suites), the Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier. This is significantly different (and better) than how DVC works at Disney World. First, at Disney World you cannot use DVC points to book a stay in a non-DVC hotel if that hotel has a companion DVC resort. For example, if you wanted to use your DVC points to stay at Bay Lake Tower but found that it was full, you are not allowed to use your points to reserve a regular hotel room at the Contemporary Resort (of course, you could always just pay cash to stay at the Contemporary like anyone else!). At Disneyland, however, DVC allows you to use your points for regular hotel rooms at the Grand Californian. Yes, it costs a lot of DVC points to do this (and it’s definitely a much better deal to use your points at VGC), but it is an option you don’t enjoy at Disney World. Second, at Disney World you have to pay a non-refundable $95 booking fee when you use your DVC points at a non-DVC hotel regardless of the length of stay. At Disneyland, this fee doesn’t exist!

4. Theme Park Views – I’ve already mentioned the fantastic location of VGC, but it also has some awesome theme park views of Disney California Adventure. Additionally, VGC has an exclusive, covered patio where guests can watch DCA’s World of Color show (with music!) from the hotel. This patio definitely will not replace viewing World of Color from inside DCA, but it is a nice way to relive the show from a different perspective.

5. Shopping Discounts – DVC members receive shopping discounts at select Disneyland Resort stores! I have a hard time keeping track of which locations offer which discounts, and they do change, so I try to remember to ask everywhere just in case! But, here are some of the currently advertised DVC discounts (please check the small print online for each of these discounts): 10% off at ESPN Zone Sports Arena, Fossil, House of Blues Store, LEGO Imagination Center, Little Miss Matched, Rainforest Café, Ridemakerz, Something Silver, and Sunglass Icon—not to mention a 20% discount at Quiksilver! You can also get a 10% or 20% discount at Mandara Spa at the Grand Californian Hotel (depending on what day you visit).

6. Dining Discounts – DVC members also get dining discounts at Disneyland. Currently, you can get 10% off at a few dozen restaurants! Here are just a few to whet your appetite: Blue Bayou, Café Orleans, The Golden Horseshoe, Plaza Inn, Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port, Tomorrowland Terrace, Village House Restaurant, Ariel’s Grotto, Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, Taste Pilot’s Grille, Wine Country Trattoria at the Golden Vine Winery, La Brea Bakery & Café, Tortilla Jo’s, PCH Grill, and the list goes on!

7. Annual Pass Discounts – In addition to shopping and dining discounts, DVC members (and their immediate family members who live with them) also get a discount on Disneyland Annual Passes. Admittedly, the discounts at Disneyland are not as good as those at Disney World. Not to mention, all of the Disneyland ticket prices just went up, and the annual passes actually went up a lot. But a DVC discount is the only way to save money on some of these passes.

8. Tour Discounts – Don’t forget tour discounts! DVC members get 20% discounts on many Disneyland tours, including A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps, Discover the Magic, Welcome to the Disneyland Resort, Disney’s Happiest Haunts, and Holiday Time at Disneyland Park.

9. Side Trip Discounts – In addition to using DVC points to stay at VGC or one of the on-property Disney hotels, members can also use their points for side trips such as a Disney Cruise out of Los Angeles. For a cruise out of LA, you need to hurry since the Disney Wonder isn’t currently scheduled to be there much longer. Now, there is a lot of controversy in the DVC community on whether using your points for cruises is a smart thing to do—that’s a debate for another time and place, but I’m all about people using their points in ways that make them happy, even if it takes a huge amount of points!

10. Movie Discounts – Do those even exist anymore? They do! DVC members can get matinee prices all day long at the AMC theater in Downtown Disney. Some special showings may be excluded, but how awesome is it to save a few dollars on a movie? Maybe you can even spring for popcorn with your savings! A little tiny popcorn.

What about you? Have you found other ways to use your DVC membership at Disneyland?



Foto Friday: Star Wars Weekends 2012 Photos

by on May 25, 2012

We had the chance to visit Walt Disney World for Star Wars Weekends last weekend, and it was a great event. It was also incredibly crowded (so crowded, in fact, that Disney’s Hollywood Studios ran out of parking!) and lines were quite long for many Star Wars character photos, celebrities, and seminars. Similarly, people started gathering for the the Star Wars Legends of the Force Motorcade and Hyperspace Hoopla hours before the events took place (we showed up to the stage in front of the Sorcerer’s Hat 45 minutes before Hyperspace Hoopla and had an awful view).

If you’re heading to Star Wars Weekends in 2012 for Star Wars Weekends events, you definitely want to follow a Star Wars Weekends Touring Plan and use Ryan’s Tips for Star Wars Weekends, Parts I and II. Wait times for attractions didn’t seem too bad, at least relative to the crowd density, but experiencing everything Star Wars Weekends has to offer in a single day will be hard to accomplish without a Touring Plan–even if you don’t do a single attraction!

Here are some of my favorite photos that I took during Star Wars Weekends 2012 on May 19, 2012. If you aren’t heading to the event this year hopefully these photos can tide you over until you get a chance to attend. Or, if you are attending, maybe they’ll give you an idea of what to expect and provide inspiration for your own photos!

Star Wars Weekends 2012

Star Wars Weekends 2012

Star Wars Weekends 2012

Star Wars Weekends 2012

Star Wars Weekends 2012

Star Wars Weekends 2012

Star Wars Weekends 2012

Star Wars Weekends 2012

Star Wars Weekends 2012

Star Wars Weekends 2012

Star Wars Weekends 2012

Star Wars Weekends 2012

If you can’t get enough Star Wars Weekends photos, check out my hundreds of other Star Wars Weekends 2012 photos, too. Star Wars Weekends is rife with photo ops, so make sure you take your camera, and get good spots for the parade and Hyperspace Hoopla! It’s the one time of year that I think Disney’s Hollywood Studios is actually more than a one day park, and if you’re visiting during Star Wars Weekends, I’d actually recommend focusing solely on Star Wars activities and saving attractions for another day (or hitting the headliners first thing when the park opens). Even if you’re not a huge Star Wars fan (admittedly, I’m not), you will likely have a lot of fun during Star Wars Weekends!

Have you been to a Star Wars Weekend? Planning on going? Share your thoughts in the comments!

American Idol Experience To Have Short Refurb

by on May 24, 2012

For those of you who want to audition to become the  Next American Idol (who doesn’t want to be the next Phillip Phillips?), there are a couple of days in June where you will not be able to receive the Dream Ticket.

The American Idol Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will have a brief refurbishment from June 14th – 15th, reopening again on June 16th.


Reminder: Snow White’s Scary Adventure To Close May 31

by on May 24, 2012

As a final reminder, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, which can be found in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, is set to close in one week on May 31, 2012.

This opening day attraction is set to make way for Princess Fairytale Hall. This new addition to Fantasyland is going to be the new home for visiting the Disney Princesses in the Magic Kingdom. According to the Disney Parks BlogThe castle-like entrance will feature walls of stone and stained glass windows. The entrance will open into a large gallery – an airy space with a high ceiling and portraits of Disney Princesses. When it’s time for their audience with a princess, guests will proceed to an elegantly finished room to meet her. Disney expects the new meet and greet area to open in late 2013.

As a reminder, Disney is currently building a new attraction based on Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs in the New Fantasyland. This roller coaster, called the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, will take place in the diamond mines as the cars swing back and forth along the way and is expected to open in 2014. So those of you who love this adorable princess, have no fear! You’ll see an attraction based off of this movie in the near future.

If you do have the opportunity to in the next week, make sure to stop and say goodbye to a dear friend. Even though this attraction and I haven’t always been the best of friends (I was terrified of it as a child), I am certainly going to miss it.

Inexpensive Eats Outside Disneyland (Part 1)

by on May 24, 2012

From the fine dining of the Blue Bayou and Napa Rose down to the ubiquitous churro cart, the Disneyland Resort has more food options than any visitor could possibly sample in several visits (trust me, I’ve tried). The parks feature almost every variety of American cuisine, and an increasing number of ethnic choices, in both counter-service and sit-down venues. Add in Downtown Disney’s restaurants, and you have more than enough to occupy your appetite for weeks on end.

But one thing that the Disneyland Resort’s vast array of comestibles have in common is their higher-than-average cost. Sure, there are good values to be found on the Mouse’s menus, and you’ll be gouged even worse for snacks at most sports stadiums and airports. Still, when eating on Disney property you have to expect to spend nearly twice what you’d pay for a similar meal elsewhere.

Most of the time when touring the parks, atmosphere and convenience outweighs containing costs, keeping hungry guests inside the grounds. However, sometimes both you and your wallet can use a break from Disney dining. At Walt Disney World, going off the ranch to wrangle some grub is generally a headache. Luckly, the layout in Anaheim is more conductive to leaving for leisurely lunch. There are a couple prime eating options within walking distance of Disneyland that will help you fill your belly without going broke. And with a car, you have access to nirvana for hungry cheapskates (like myself).

While I’d never recommend refusing to dine at Disney’s table, consider some of my favorite off-property penny-pinchers before budgeting your next vacation. By taking advantage of them for a meal or three, you just may save enough dough to let you justify splurging on soup and salad at that new Carthay Circle Theatre restaurant.

McCormick & Schmick’s Happy Hour

The Anaheim GardenWalk has hit hard times recently (the bankrupt owners were recently foreclosed on) but that shouldn’t stop you from hitting up their bargain bites. The Downtown Disney-like strip of shops and restaurants sits only a couple blocks east of Disneyland, so taking a short sidetrip is viable without a vehicle. The complex contains several notable places to nosh, including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and P.F. Chang’s, that offer daily happy hour discounts.

My pick of the litter is McCormick and Schmick’s, a high-end seafood chain normally known as place to stretch your expense account, not save a sawbuck. But the bar area offers a cut-price mid-afternoon menu on Mondays through Fridays from 3pm to 6pm that eases the pain considerably. A minimum drink purchase is required to dine at the bar, which will be easily fulfilled by a well drink or draft beer ($5 or under).

The star of the happy hour menu is a half-pound hamburger for under $4; throw on some bacon or blue cheese for another buck. Even less expensive items like fish tacos and tater tots are available, or for a dollar or two more you can order steamed mussels, sushi rolls, or spicy wings. Big spenders can buy a trio of sliders made from ultra-premium Kobe beef for $10. The selections rotate from time to time, but everything I’ve tried on the discount menu has been at least acceptable, and usually excellent. If you like what you taste, there’s a frequent diner club you can join; the bartender will happily provide details.

Panda Kitchen

The strip mall at the corner of South Harbor Boulevard and West Katella Ave is Just a short walk from the GardenWalk’s McCormick & Schmick’s, but several steep steps down the retail food change. This is the kind of unlovely arrangement of discount storefronts that you’ll find in any second-rate suburban shopping center. And the selection of quick-service eateries operating here (a pizza parlor, an off-brand burger joint, a 24-hour Subway sandwich shop) are certainly nothing to Yelp about.

But if you are staying in a hotel near this corner (I frequently flop at the Super 8 down the block) this location can be a godsend when hungrily trudging to your room after an exhausting adventure in the parks. My go-to option at the end of a long Disneyland day is Panda Kitchen, which is conveniently open late (usually until after the park closes) seven days a week, servicing dirt-cheap Asian edibles to tired tourists.

Make no mistake, this is no gourmet palace of classic Cantonese cookery; we’re talking Americanized pseudo-Chinese fast food, served quick and and cheap with a healthy helping of grease and sodium. This isn’t the place to go if you’ve been studying haute cuisine in Shanghai for the past decade, but as a guiltly-pleasure devotee of “New York Style” stir-fry I’ve always been perfectly satisfied with my $7 combo meals.

The menu is short and straightforward, with a dozen-odd standards like orange chicken and sweet & sour pork. A few dishes have amusing variations on their usual names (“eggflower soup” instead of “egg drop”) but they still taste as expected. Be aware that (at last check) credit cards are not accepted, and they don’t deliver.

Again, the quality here doesn’t compare with the high-end dining described above. But when it’s almost midnight, and you’ve spent the last 12 hours riding seashells, spaceships, and submarines, the last thing you want is white table cloths. With fast, friendly service, serviceable restrooms, and ridiculously reasonable prices, this is a perfect oasis to pause in for takeout while walking back from the resort. And after a tiring day, there are few things sweeter than watching the late show in your hotel room with a bowl of wonton soup and some steamed veggies.

What’s your favorite place for cheap eats in the Anaheim attraction area? Leave your picks in the comments below, and tune in soon for the rest of my selections.

(Photo copyright McCormick & Schmick’s, Panda Kitchen)


Animal Kingdom Games of Chance

by on May 23, 2012

Despite Walt Disney’s insistence that his parks be free of charlatans, there is one area of Walt Disney World that does have a whiff of old-timey hucksterism: the Fossil Fun Games of chance at Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama at the Animal Kingdom. Games of chance that, if you’re not careful, will end up costing you as much as a signature dinner for a plush-ish frog.

Other areas of Walt Disney World do have in-park experiences that are not included in your admission price. Most of these are either low cost (Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade), somewhat hidden (the arcades at Toy Story Pizza Planet and the Space Mountain exit), or both. Or if they are high cost (tours), they are all but invisible to the average guest and not available to or made enticing to children. The Animal Kingdom Dino-Rama is the inverse of this, potentially high-cost, extremely visible, aggressively marketed (barkers shouting “step right up”), and alluring to children.

On the plus side, what you see is what you get.

The Dino-Rama area is themed like a carnival, with a back story that Chester and Hester were local merchants trying to capitalize on the influx of the research and tourist dollars of the folks coming to visit the nearby Dinosaur Institute. Bit by bit, C&H created a South-of-the-Border-esque agglomeration of rides, souvenir stands, fun house mirrors, and midway games. Chester and Hester, as the story goes, wanted to cash in on the unsuspecting tourists. Um, well, I guess there’s something to be said for transparency.

Rather than rail against the machine, I’m here to inform so that, when the time comes and little Jimmy is begging for you to win him a bright blue stuffed reptile, you’ll be prepared.

Here are possible approaches to the situation:

  1. Avoid the area altogether. This is challenging because DinoLand is home to two of the most preschool-friendly attractions at the Animal Kingdom, the Boneyard and TriceraTop Spin.
  2. Just say no. Explain the cost of the games and their place in the family souvenir budget. Be prepared for tears.
  3. Cave into a game or two and win your kid a prize.
  4. Let your kids try their hand at the games to win their own prize (the most expensive option).

If you decide to go with option three or option four (what the heck, you’re on vacation), here’s what you need to know:

  • The games are dino-themed versions of classic carnival games of skill and chance: toss a basketball, squirt water into a tiny hole, whack-a-mole, horse race, etc. For best results, you may want to do a little Google research in advance on how to best approach these games.
  • Prices vary slightly from game to game. You can expect to pay between $2-3 per person, per game.
  • Be aware that the games of chance last a very short time, often less than 30 seconds.
  • There are some games that have multiple chances for one price, two or three basketball shots, for example. If you have more than one child, ask the barker if they can each take one of the shots. This may cut down on your total cash outlay.
  • If you have more than one child, you should plan in advance the ramifications of winning only one prize.
  • The games of chance are sparsely populated until at least noon. Some booths have a “winner every game” policy. If your goal is to get Junior a prize, these are the ones to hit. Fill the game with members of your own family. Play a few successive games until you have the number of prizes that will appease your clan.
  • If your child is going to play, make sure he/she understands the rules of the game in advance. If possible, have them watch several rounds before they play to get the hang of it.
  • Make sure your child understands which prizes are available. There are large items displayed that may only be available if you win multiple games.
  • The Fossil Fueler game has two sides of seating. You may be competing against people you can’t see.
  • If your child is going to play, make sure he/she understands the possibility of not winning a prize.
  • If you do win prizes, consider what your plan will be for toting them around all day. Using a boa as a boa can be uncomfortable when it’s 95 degrees out.
  • Don’t assume that your child will let you get away with the Fossil Fun prize being his souvenir for the day/week/trip. These items are not Disney-themed.

So fellow tourists, what are your strategies for coping with Fossil Fun? Do you have any tips on how to avoid breaking the bank on Whack-A-Dino? Do you have a secret trick for staying strong against the siren song of the carny? Let us know in the comments below.

My Stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

by on May 23, 2012

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!