Waking up to a view of an Africangame preserve tops many people’s bucket lists. I certainly thought I would neversee 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 withcountless animals. Thechance to take awildlife 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 Worldmany times as a child and seven times as a parent did not prepare me and my kids, ages 11 and 12, for the awesomeAfricanadventure in the middle of our most recent Disney trip.Theremotesitegave us a feeling ofa trueescape away from the chaos oflines 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 andlarge glass windowskept my eyes constantly darting around the lobby area. In fact, theAnimal Kingdom Lodgeoffers one of the most beautiful properties at Walt Disney World.
Fully themed in African culture, this resortsprovides the feeling ofa sereneescape. The décor, food,and cultural representatives give this resort an authentic vibe. In addition, the educational opportunitiesand themingmakes this resort unique and original.
What I loved at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort
- Unique theming
- Several ethnicdiningoptionswith 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 hallleading 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 KidaniVillage. 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 Lodgeoffersapproximately43 acres of African savanna-themed,natural lookinglandforms. Theresort provides a home to 200 animals and 130 birds.
The deluxe resortfeatures four main restaurants, a lounge, and two large pools with waterslides. In addition, Animal Kingdom Lodge featuresa playground, fitness center, free learning opportunities,unique views andsafari-themed excursions.
My Room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort
Jambo House offers 972 rooms and 324 units inKidani 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 plentifuland the room was decorated with African carvings andfabric prints. Though some rooms come with kid-friendly bunk beds, like featured in the video.
The balconyfeatures a small table with two chairs that overlooks an activesavanna. The savanna provides scenesfull of wildlife, including ostriches, zebras, cranes,wildebeests, gazellesand ducks.
The amenities include free Wi-Fi, roomservice, 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 pack-n-play.
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, roomsprovideabout 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 limitedmenu and romantic ambiance.
Though beautifully decorated, the service was mediocre and the beef short ribs andlamb loin(considered the restaurant’s specialties) were both not available on the night we had reservations. Because Jiko-The Cooking Place is categorized assignature dining, we expected more. Consequently, it was our least favorite restaurant at this resort.
A bustling andpopular buffet restaurant, Boma-Flavors of Africaserves 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. Wethoroughly enjoyedSimba 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 ofbeauty”, is found in the Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village building. It showcases the most beautifulviews of Sunset Savanna. We enjoyed two table service meals at Sanaa and plan to return to try more items.
Presently, the foodfeatures 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 flavorsof 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 restaurantserving breakfast, lunch and dinner is called Mara.It opens to a patio that overlooks the Uzima Springs Pool and has outdoor and indoor tables.
Themenu includes familiar breakfast items such as cinnamon rolls, waffles, eggs and bacon. Lunch and dinner menus offer soups, flatbreads, burgers, and falafel pitas. Mara featuressalads, 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 withtwo whirlpool spas.
Near the Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village, Samawati Springs Pool surprisinglyholds 118,138 gallons of water. It featuresan 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 poolsfeature 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 foundmany public viewing areas, some with benches and fire pits. Once the sun goes down, night vision binoculars provide a chance toview animals on the dark landscape.
Also, my daughters and Imet 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 complimentarybuses 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 Disneybuses 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 self-parking for $24 a night and valet for $33 a night. Complimentary self-park lots provide spaces for dining-only guests. Kidani Village features a self-parking garage.
Looking for More Resorts and Information?
The writers at Carful of Kids have stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.
If looking for off-property resorts, see what we have to say about the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.
Click here to learn how to plan a Walt Disney World vacation like a pro.
This post was updated July 2018.
This post contains affiliate links. Consideration for brands mentioned.
Tips from a Disney Mom:
- The four main Animal Kingdom Lodgedining optionsaccept some Disney Dining Plans.
- Advanced dining reservations arebest 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 Iuse can be purchased here.
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