Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a deluxe category resort.
Animal Kingdom Lodge, as you’d expect, is located within the Animal Kingdom area of Walt Disney World. This beautifully designed hotel transports its guests to the African Savannah. Showcasing African art and with live African animals, housed right outside the guest rooms, it’s a unique and immersive experience.
Disney is famous for its themed hotels, one of the original resorts constructed at Walt Disney World in 1971, the Polynesian, set the standard for this kind of resort. By the time Disney built Animal Kingdom Lodge in 2001, they had resort theming perfected and really went to town at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The entrance lobby is grand. A huge three storey window at the far end frames the jewel in this resorts’ crown, the menagerie of African animals. The Savannah area, which houses the animals, is enclosed by the hotel, circular in shape, it allows the majority of rooms to offer views of the animals and birds.
Savannah rooms cost extra but at this resort it’s going to be worth the surcharge. There aren’t many hotel rooms that offer the opportunity to look out on Giraffes, Zebras and Antelopes from your balcony. Like everything Disney does (ok there are a couple of turkey’s Disney has designed, Stitch’s great escape to name but one, but there aren’t many) Animal Kingdom delivers. Kids will love it, but it’s a special place for adults too. The food here, for more adventurous eaters is top-notch and the pool area is also good. Probably the only downside is its location, further out than other hotels and dependant on the Disney bus transport system. If you’re spending a full day at the parks this needn’t be an issue and the resort can more than make up for this small negative with its unique charm and beauty.
Guests enter Animal Kingdom Lodge to be greeted by a cathedral-like space, this is Jambo House. (A separate building houses the majority of the DVC villas, Kidani Village). Breathtaking and impressive, Jambo House has one of the most beautiful entrances of any resort on property. Guest check in can be found to the left side of the lobby.
The lobby itself has rich dark woods highlighted with gold and orange tones reflecting the native african art and culture which inspired the design. Most noteworthy is the huge picture window, which overlooks the savannah, this floods the lobby with natural light. In addition guests can access Arusha Rocks, the elevated viewing area, from the lobby to enjoy views of the roaming animals.
The hotel rooms, 972 rooms across 5 floors, are clustered around three separate savannahs with a variety of different animals visible at each one, with only giraffes common to all. Each room has a written savannah guide with information about the animals. At night the savannahs are lit with artificial moonlight.
The rooms themselves echo the African safari look with either king or twin queen bed options available. The rooms are slightly smaller than the deluxe options in the Magic Kingdom area but are still fine for a family of four.
Jambo House has a family pool, Uzima, located at the rear of the main building. The pool, featuring zero entry, also has a children’s shallow area and 2 whirlpool spa’s. There is a pool bar, Uzima Springs, serving cocktails, frozen drinks, African beers and also a range of food. The menu consists of burgers, sandwiches, pitta breads, African stews and salads.
Located behind the Uzima pool is a small playground for children.
Dining at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge is famous for its dining. Aimed at more adventurous diners, the menu is African themed, this resort offers a great range from quick service to signature dining.
The signature dining offer is Jiko:The Cooking Place, this restaurant always makes the top ten list of places to eat at Disney World. A beautiful restaurant with open cooking fires and inventive menu, featuring the best of African cuisine and accompanying wines, Jiko certainly should feature on your bucket list.
At Kidani village, Sanaa offers table service with a view onto the Savannah and the animals, request a window table at check in. It’s good not just for the view, food is great too and there is a broad choice to suit most people. The main event at Sanaa is the bread board, with a choice of different breads, it arrives warm and with range of different dips. It’s delicious! Save room for a dessert, they won’t disappoint.
Boma Flavours of Africa is the buffet restaurant, again African themed, with a great reputation for good food options it offers breakfast and dinner. The quick service restaurant, The Mara at Kidani, features burgers, flat bread, chicken, African stews and salads.
Top Tips for Animal Kingdom Lodge
This is one of the few hotels I would recommend upgrading on your room. A savannah view room is a very special treat at this hotel. Don’t worry though if you can’t upgrade, every floor has a balcony where you can relax to view the animals. These open air balconies even have rocking chairs to relax in.
Book a ‘Senses of Africa’ tour to see the animals even closer and learn about them from their keepers. This tour is an additional cost but worth building into your budget.
The animals are fed at 5pm therefore that’s the best time to view them.
Disney’s new Avatar themed world is opening at Animal Kingdom in summer 2017. The proximity to Animal Kingdom once Pandora and its accompanying attractions opens will be another big plus for this hotel.