Animal Kingdom Lodge
Is a stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge worth it? YES. Animal Kingdom Lodge is the best Disney Resort. Let me tell you why! I just came back from a 4 day trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and I gotta share everything with you. This post is your complete guide to the entire resort and all the things I wish I knew before visiting. It is more than just a place to sleep. This is a very beautiful and exciting hotel. It is also one of the most relaxing and luxurious Disney hotels you will ever have the privilege of experiencing.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is a 5 star Disney Resort that perfectly captures the essence of Africa. It is a blend of culture and nature through the genius architecture, entertainment and food. The resort is surrounded by a “savanna” that is filled with REAL zebras, giraffes, antelopes, elks, kudus, gazelles, wildebeest’s and exotic birds. They roam freely beside your balcony (if you have a savanna view) and around the lobby borders. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of wandering the hotel, looking over and seeing a giraffe peaking through the window! This is a Disney Deluxe Resort and offers Valet parking, room service, bell staff and a concierge desk.
The Jambo house is the main building where the lobby is located. As you enter the lobby an African native cast member will greet you warmly, “Jambo! Welcome Home.” The lobby itself generates the complete awe and magic that Disney is famous for. There are couches and comfy seats all around and a large traditional mud fireplace. There are also a few TVs playing Disney cartoons – which is perfect for the little ones while you check in and get your bags together. As you proceed to the room, the magic continues.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Rooms
Aside from the standard hotel room layout, the details are not what you would expect. The details are amazing. The furniture is hand carved, marble vanity counter tops, LCD HDTVs, modern fixtures and a balcony with a view that will transport you straight to Africa! Each room has a private balcony and if you book a “savana view” you will see the 33 acre area where the animals (zebras, giraffes, antelopes, elks, kudus, gazelles, wildebeest’s and exotic birds) roam. Sipping your morning coffee on your balcony while giraffes reach towards you and zebras gallop past you is priceless!
Room amenities include a Makeup Mirror, Hairdryer, Coffeemaker, Iron/Ironing board, In-room safe, Ceiling fan, Free Wireless Internet, and Newspaper delivery.
The Kilimanjaro Club rooms are the ones that overlook the lobby from the top floor. These are premium and will cost you a little more. All club level rooms offer savannah views. Club level offers an extensive continental breakfast, afternoon snacks, evening hors d’oeuvres, cordials and desserts. Everyone I spoke to said it was worth the upgrade and access to exclusive areas.
Disney Vacation Club Villas as Animal Kingdom Lodge
There are beautiful Disney Vacation Club rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge. There are all located in a separate building called the Kidani Village. The building is connected via a pathway through the parking lots. The Villas here have their own pool area. The feel and style of the building is very similar to the others – you transition seamlessly from one area of the Animal Kingdom Lodge to another!
Animal Kingdom Lodge Restaurants
From fast food to fine dining, Animal Kingdom Lodge has it all – and there are many options to choose from without having to leave the resort!
Boca is a buffet-style restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner. It is a fixed price, $35.99 per adult. There is a wide variety of soups, salads, pastas, rice, desserts, carving stations and traditional African dishes to try. I encourage you to be adventurous and try a little bit of everything. The food was good and worth the higher price ticket per person. Definitely arrive hungry! I do recommend making reservations as this is a popular food spot.
Sanaa is a sit down restaurant that offers unique African dishes with an Indian-inspired flare. There are also the usual american favorites like a burger and fries. But I enjoyed the more exotic dishes like the Lamb Kefta and the Shrimp with Green Curry. Although I hear a popular favorite here is the New York Strip Steak! Prices range from around $12 an entree for lunch to $29 for that famous steak! The ambience is very quiet and relaxing. My little ones seemed to like this meal experience the most.
Jiko is the” filet mignon” of the dining options at Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is a more formal restaurant. The menu is extensive but still has those exotic dishes you want while experiencing the African vibe at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The favorites at our table included: all the flatbreads, the wild boar tenderloin, beef short ribs, mac & cheese (which is not on the menu but you can ask for it!), and the seared duck breast. My personal favorite was the West African Koki Corn Entree: Mushrooms, Avocado, Poblano-Tomatillo Purée, Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. The blend of spices was right up my alley! The prices were not as outrageous as they could be. (The food and ambiance is spectacular!) For example, the filet mignon is $49 and it is the most expensive thing on the menu. Again, this is a popular spot so I highly recommend you make reservations ahead of time.
Mara is the Animal Kingdom Lodge quick-service food court. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is conveniently located next to the pool area. This is where you can jump in quickly for a burger, sandwiches, chicken nuggets, salads, fruit bowls and some yummy surprises! At the Mara you can eat inside or take your food outside to one of the tables near the pool. This is a great spot if you are looking for a quick or inexpensive option.
But don’t let the phrase “quick service” fool you. There are some delicious quality dishes that you can eat at Mara. There is a delicious African Potjie which is a huge bowl of hearty stew. After 5pm the typical favorite here at Mara is the Oak-fired Rotisserie Chicken Dinner served with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables. (Yeah, that’s Disney’s version of fast food? Yum!)
Please don’t visit the Animal Kingdom Lodge without tasting the world famous Zebra Dome dessert at the Mara. A Zebra Dome is a thin layer of white cake with a coating of white chocolate ganache coated with Amarula Liquor mousse and then a drizzle of dark chocolate ganache. *Tip: They are also available at the Boma buffet!
Victoria Falls Lounge
This hidden gem is a little known romantic spot. It is the most intimate lounge you’ll find at any Disney resort. It opens at 4:00pm and features specialty coffees and teas in addition to being a full service bar. Cheers to the fancier side of Disney!
Of course Animal Kingdom Lodge also has quality in-room dining service available 24hrs a day. For those of us who crave their famous Garden Vegetable Sandwich (or cheeseburger for the hubby) at 2am! Mmmmm.
The next best thing to order to your room at 2am is the African Brownie Sundae & Madagascar Vanilla Bean Creme Brûlée. I can’t even explain how delicious these two are, you gotta try them for yourself! It’s a sweet way to end the day!
Activities & Entertainment
What is there to do at the lodge? ALOT! You can honestly spend an entire week at this resort and never leave. This was the biggest draw for me to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (besides the giraffe outside my window). I loved all the activities happening at the resort. There is a huge pool, a flamingo pond, a playground, an arcade, spa, gym, safari, so much more. Alright let’s get started.
There is an 11,000 square foot pool that appears like an oasis in the midst of warm earth tone decor and thatched roofs. There are two-eighteen person hot tubs located on either side of the pool. There is small alcove that overlooks the Flamingo area. If you walk by this area at sunset or later, you might catch a glimpse of the gazelle and zebras that often drink from this watering hole. The animals drinking beside the bright pink flamingos makes for a gorgeous photo op. Don’t forget that along with the multiple lounge areas around the pool, there is also a fabulous Pool Bar!
Walk a little bit farther and there is a big shaded Hakuna Matata playground beside the pool. This was quite a big treat for my little ones. They wanted to come here everyday after breakfast. So we did.
The Zahanati Spa offers versatile services. They offer everything from massages, to skin care treatments and body treatments. Their skin care services are perfect for moms and dads! Leave the Kids in the Simba Playhouse (keep scrolling to learn more) and book a European Aromatherapy Facial for mom and a Gentlemen’s Facial for dad!
The Animal Kingdom Lodge Gym is located next to Samawati Springs Pool in Kidani Village building. Cleverly named “Survival of the Fittest Fitness Center”, this gym is open 24 hours a day. There are treadmills, bicycles (regular and recumbent), ellipticals, stair climbers as well as free weights. Located across from the exercise rooms are lockers and showers.
The video game area is playfully called “Pumbaa’s Fun and Games Arcade”. In this arcade there are the old classic arcade games (Pac Man and more), along with some cool new video games little kids and big kids will enjoy. The Animal Kingdom arcade is located near The Mara café. This is a fun option on a rainy day!
Childcare is always an issue for us when we travel without family. What if my husband and I want to go on a date? Or just get some quiet time to have a conversation? Disney has you covered! There is a real cool childcare feature called the Simba Playhouse. From 4:30p-Midnight, cast members will babysit your kids (ages 4-12) so you can have a date night. This concept is so thoughtful! Inside the playhouse, they have many trained cast members who will provide a safe interactive “babysitting” session for your little ones.
Free Daily Activities with prizes!
What’s amazing is that all of these activities are FREE and open to the public. You don’t even have to stay at the resort to participate.
- Cookie decorating at Boma.
- Traditional face painting outside of Mara Cafe.
- Medallion rubbing in the lobby floor.
- African drumming classes.
- Stuffing the hanging Giraffe snack pods.
The String of Memories is a favorite for families.
To create the String of Memories, one must complete a series of activities that teaches guests about African culture and wildlife conservation in a fun and memorable way. There are 8 activities a day that are geared toward teaching kids about the country and culture of Africa. If you participate, you received a special bead. You can collect all 8 of the beads and a bonus bead for completing the activities, they also give you a special string to tie them to. This was SO fun for my daughter and we got a souvenir to take home!
By far the biggest reason people stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is to take the Sunrise Safari tour. Sundays and Thursdays, guests with concierge access have the option of taking this unique tour through Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safari ride. The experience costs $65 for guests ages 10 and up, $32.50 for ages 3-10 and must be booked in advance. Guests are treated to an hour-long ride with one of the animal trainers as he or she tells stories about their experiences and how they train the animals.
Night times Activities
When the sun sets over the Animal Kingdom Lodge, there is still plenty to do!
- The Firepit. It is located just outside the back of the Lobby. Walk out onto the paved Savana area, and look to the right. You will see a giant fire pit surrounded by beautifully homemade rocking chairs. Come to the firepit after the sun goes down for some old-fashioned family fun as you roast marshmallows. Here at the Animal Kingdom Lodge we discovered that they also tell African folktales by the fire pit. These were much more interesting than our usual bedtime story sessions. What a treat!
- Night Safari. The woman who check us in at the Animal Kingdom Lodge said, “As the Sun Sets, the Savanna Awakens” She recommnded the after dark safari tour of the african savannas complete with night vision goggles! Disney thinks of everything!
- Movie Under the Stars. Nightly, staff set up pool deck chairs to face a giant projector screen. Around 8pm, just after dinner, you can lay by the pool and watch a movie in the most relaxed environment possible.
*TIP: One of my favorite little details was how stroller friendly the whole place is. All the doors are automatic to you don’t have to hold them open. The elevators were big enough for my double stroller. There were ramps leading to every inch of the hotel. If you have a wheelchair or a stroller, don’t worry, you can access all the activities and views of this magnificent resort.
You can honestly spend an entire week at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. During our visit we spent a lot of time with animals native to Africa, ate some delicious African food, and learned a lot about African culture. I am so glad we chose Animal Kingdom Lodge and you will be too.
Check out some of my other guides to Disney World!
A Complete Guide to Disney Cruises