Waking up to a view of an African game preserve tops many people’s bucket lists. I certainly thought I would never see such a place…until I checked into Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids in January of 2017.
Imagine exploring the African savanna, surrounded by blooming landscapes brimming with countless animals. The chance to take a wildlife safari sounds a bit out of reach, especially for Central Florida. But, I found this and so much more during our latest visit to Walt Disney World.
Traveling to Walt Disney World many times as a child and seven times as a parent did not prepare me and my kids, ages 11 and 12, for the awesome African adventure in the middle of our most recent Disney trip. The remote site gave us a feeling of a true escape away from the chaos of lines and theme park crowds.
When visiting the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids, I found myself transported to a faraway continent. The soaring ceiling and authentic African artwork are unique. The beautiful tribal prints, ornate carvings and large glass windows kept my eyes constantly darting around the lobby area. In fact, the Animal Kingdom Lodge offers one of the most beautiful properties at Walt Disney World.
Fully themed in African culture, this resorts provides the feeling of a serene escape. The décor, food, and cultural representatives give this resort an authentic vibe. In addition, the educational opportunities and theming makes this resort unique and original.
What I loved at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort
- Unique theming
- Several ethnic dining options with lots of vegetarian items
- Many educational programs
- Authentic African art and cultural pieces
- Two large swimming pools with waterslides
- Night vision binoculars for animal viewing
What I wanted at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort
- More buses to theme parks
- Less music (or quieter) poolside
- A larger, wider hall leading to the elevator
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort opened in 2001 and consists of two main buildings–Jambo House and Kidani Village. Separated by a flora-lined half-mile walking trail, the two buildings provide dining and entertainment options for all visitors. Guests can also choose to ride a van that travels between the two buildings every 15 minutes.
Also, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers approximately 43 acres of African savanna-themed, natural looking landforms. The resort provides a home to 200 animals and 130 birds.
The deluxe resort features four main restaurants, a lounge, and two large pools with waterslides. In addition, Animal Kingdom Lodge features a playground, fitness center, free learning opportunities, unique views and safari-themed excursions.
My room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort
Jambo House offers 972 rooms and 324 units in Kidani Village, part of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC). Resort rooms, designed in a semi-circle, resemble a Kraal African village.
During my stay, I reserved a standard room with a savanna view featuring two queen beds on the third floor of Jambo House. The beds were comfortable, linens plentiful and the room was decorated with African carvings and fabric prints. The balcony features a small table with two chairs that overlooks an active savanna. The savanna provides scenes full of wildlife, including ostriches, zebras, cranes, wildebeests, gazelles and ducks.
The amenities include free Wi-Fi, room service, mini-fridge, and a flat-panel TV. Rooms also feature a desk, two chairs, ceiling fan, coffee maker, and almost all rooms have full balconies. Standard rooms sleep four guests + one child under 3 in a crib.
The bathroom features a granite vanity outfitted with two sinks though it’s missing the doors that I find in moderate resorts that provide an additional dressing area. I found a iron and board and a hair dryer.
In a separate room, I found a standard tub with a shower head and toilet. The bathroom continues the African savanna theming.
Surprisingly, rooms provide about 344 sq. ft. which is the smallest of the deluxe resorts. Compared with the larger, yet more expensive Grand Floridian Resort and Spa that features 440 sq. ft.
Table Service Dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge features several restaurants with African and Indian-based cuisines, as well as traditional offerings. In Jambo House, Jiko-The Cooking Place, offers a fine dining experience with a limited menu and romantic ambiance.
Though beautifully decorated, the service was mediocre and the beef short ribs and lamb loin (considered the restaurant’s specialties) were both not available on the night we had reservations. Because Jiko-The Cooking Place is categorized as signature dining, we expected more. Consequently, it was our least favorite restaurant at this resort.
A bustling and popular buffet restaurant, Boma-Flavors of Africa serves breakfast and dinner. My daughters and I ate both breakfast and dinner at Boma and greatly enjoyed the experience. The buffet offers unique African dishes as well as familiar dishes for those less adventurous. We thoroughly enjoyed Simba waffles and jungle juice for breakfast and delicious vegetarian options for dinner. Click here for a full review of Boma-Flavors of Africa.
Sanaa, which is Swahili for “art” or “work of beauty”, is found in the Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village building. It showcases the most beautiful views of Sunset Savanna. We enjoyed two table service meals at Sanaa and plan to return to try more items.
Presently, the food features unique, flavorful and fresh offerings. Menu items include butter chicken, lentil dhal, seafood curry and African-inspired Biryani with seasonal vegetables. Check out the Indian-style bread service, which comes with five flavors of naan and nine accompaniments. Click here for a full review of Sanaa.
Quick Service Dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Also, a large, quick service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner is called Mara. It opens to a patio that overlooks the Uzima Springs Pool and has outdoor and indoor tables.
The menu includes familiar breakfast items such as cinnamon rolls, waffles, eggs and bacon. Lunch and dinner menus offer soups, flatbreads, burgers, and falafel pitas. Mara features salads, fruit cups, and grab-and-go items, too.
Pools at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
The Animal Kingdom Lodge features two main pool areas. Uzima Springs Pool is an 11,000 square foot oasis that faces Uzima Savanna and closest to the guest rooms in Jambo House. With a zero-entry point, a 67-foot waterslide and a lounge and bar connecting to the pool’s deck, this pool gives guests a wonderful place to relax after a long day inside the Disney theme parks. Other features include a children’s wading pool, coupled with two whirlpool spas.
Near the Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village, Samawati Springs Pool surprisingly holds 118,138 gallons of water. It features an 128-foot waterslide and zero entry. Uwanja Camp features a children’s water playground with three zones for varying ages.
Poolside huts provide complimentary towels. Both pools feature lifeguard stations, but check the posted signs near each pool for hours of operation.
Activities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with Kids
The Hakuna Matata Playground, located between Jambo House and savanna viewing areas, gives children a chance to climb and play.
The most exciting activity at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids is watching the African savanna wildlife in a large habitat. I found many public viewing areas, some with benches and fire pits. Once the sun goes down, night vision binoculars provide a chance to view animals on the dark landscape.
Also, my daughters and I met eager African cast members that shared their knowledge and answered questions about their homeland. We found cultural lectures, storytelling and native games available for free, among other things. My daughters chose to decorate cookies and small cakes.
Beyond typical expectations, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge features an exciting dining experience with an animal specialist for as many as 12 guests. Click here for a review of this exclusive experience.
In fact, to enjoy every event at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids, ask for a calendar of resort activities at the front desk of Jambo House and Kidani Village.
Getting to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is located at 2901 Osceola Parkway, Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
About one mile from Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a short drive southwest from the theme park. Disney transportation provides guests with shuttle buses approximately every 30 minutes.
Twenty-four miles from the Orlando International Airport, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a 30 minute drive from the airport. Click here for driving directions.
Disney provides complimentary buses for resort guests to and from the Orlando International Airport via Disney’s Magical Express motor-coach vehicles. Reserve Magical Express transportation when booking online through the Disney website or by calling (407) 939-1936.
If traveling to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge from another Disney resort, take Disney buses to the Animal Kingdom theme park and board the bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
From a Disney theme park, just board the bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge provides valet parking for $20-$25 a night. Complimentary self-park lots provide spaces for Jambo House guests. Kidani Village features a self-parking garage. Presently, vehicle parking is for resort guests and those with dining reservations.
Looking for More Resorts and Information?
Click here to learn how to plan a Walt Disney World vacation like a pro.
Tips from a Disney Mom:
- The four main Animal Kingdom Lodge dining options accept some Disney Dining Plans.
- Advanced dining reservations are best for all table service restaurants.
- Because this resort is slightly remote, buses are the only forms of transportation to Disney theme parks. Consequently, consider driving your own vehicle.
- Check this resort out, even if you don’t plan to book a room.
- The Disney planning book I use can be purchased here.