Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Review
So we finally made it to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge! Gosh, and to think this is where we originally planned to stay back in 2010 – it only took us 5 and a half years!
This hotel most resembles Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, only it’s much more beautiful (IMO). Rather than Wilderness Lodge’s dark, rustic, forest feel, guests are transported to Africa – with none other than a stunning large picture window just off the lobby, showcasing one of the savannah’s (complete with animals!).
You don’t have to stay here in order to see the animals, and, while far, it’s worth the trip just to eat at some of the wonderful onsite restaurants (Jiko, Boma, Sanaa). But before I get to the food, let’s talk about the animals, because that’s WHY you stay here! Just off the lobby, visitors can spot giraffe’s, and other animals, in a large public viewing area. There are guides to answer questions about the animals, and I love the fun facts they offer!
The real pull in staying here is to see all this from the privacy of your own balcony. The above savannah (which the public can view) is Animal Kingdom Lodge’s main savannah, the Arusha savannah. A lot of people request to overlook this one. I say don’t. See the above photo of other guests balconies? It’s not very private.
We didn’t request our room to be located anywhere specific, and we ended up with a FABULOUS view on the SUNSET savannah. If we ever stay here again, we’d be sure to request this one. There were just as many animals as on the Arusha savannah (all the savannah’s connect), but it was a more enjoyable experience. Unlike the Arusha savannah, this one is a lot more private and serene – a true slice of African heaven in the heart of Disney World! The only downside to our fabulous room? It was FAR from the lobby.
Because this hotel is so spread out, you won’t find a main elevator bank here. Instead, single elevators are placed down long hallways throughout the hotel. Also, for those looking to be near the lobby, it’s on the second level! We have legs, we can walk, and I preferred the quietness of being far away from the main hustle and bustle.
We were on the top floor (5), and pretty much alllllll the way down the hall. We LOVED our room.
The theming was ON POINT, and it made me long to go on a real African safari!
My favorite amenity is the Wildlife Spotting Guide located in all the rooms! We had SO MUCH FUN sitting on our balcony and “checking off” which animals we saw!
This isn’t a hotel that’s FULL of Disney, despite being a Disney World hotel. Disney’s here, subtly, but it’s by no means “in your face,” like some of the other hotels. Think more of a classy safari than kids characters. We really loved it! But don’t fret if you still want the mouse. If you look real hard, you’ll always find him!
Now onto our wonderful, wonderful view.
TIP: Rent points and stay DVC here. The DVC “villas” are located right in Jambo, on the top floor, and are not only cheaper than a regular room (even when you add in housekeeping), but offer the BEST views. We LUCKED OUT. We booked a “standard” view, and received one of the “reclassified” rooms. These are rooms that were once considered a savannah view, but people complained it wasn’t “unobstructed,” and for the price, Disney reclassified them, leaving the now Savannah booking category for the “pristine” views. I can’t even imagine what those look like because I thought our view was spectacular, even with the “obstructions.” The “obstructions” come in the form of pathways, small dirt roads, and fire pens. The fire pens are fenced off areas within the savannah’s that, in case of fire, guests are placed into until the animals can be cleared. Yes, we could see this area from our room, off to the side, but to be honest, it in no way obstructed the view of the savannah, or took away our enjoyment of it, and I think my pictures will speak for themselves.
Here’s a shot, looking to the right, from sitting down on our balcony (the zebra’s loved the rain!). The fire pen is below, further to the right (which you can’t see in this picture, or while sitting down at all), and, as you can see, there are pathways, which for some reason “obstructs” the view. People, I tell you!
This is standing up (on a different day), looking straight ahead. Again, there’s a pathway in the back, but it’s still a pretty spectacular view. The building in the very back is Kidani, more Disney Vacation Club villas. These are a different bus stop from the main Jambo house (where we stayed), and honestly, we wouldn’t consider NOT staying Jambo, as it’s just so convenient.
One of our favorite moments was coming back from a water park at the end of the day, and it started to pour. The rain, for some reason, made all the animals come out! See the zebra in the back rolling around in the dirt?
The rain only lasted for about 15 minutes, and I don’t know what it was about the Sunset savannah, but towards the end of the downpour and afterwards, a TON of animals wandered over. We ended up being late to dinner, because neither of us wanted to get ready. Instead, we watched them.
There wasn’t much to see at night, still a few zebra’s, but mostly birds.
So the biggest draw to this resort is obviously being able to see the animals from your balcony (if you book a savannah room category, or luck out with a “reclassified” room). The biggest drawback are the buses, which is what has us not returning any time soon (although we definitely WOULD return!).
This is the ONLY Disney deluxe hotel (and is priced as such!), in which you can’t boat, walk, or monorail to anything. The ONLY Disney transportation option here is bus. Of course, this makes it one of the least expensive Disney deluxe hotels, but at what cost?
The buses to/from Animal Kingdom park are a breeze, and very quick. But, for example, the bus to Magic Kingdom? 40 minutes. It took 40 minutes! Hell. No. Especially when the buses are cramped! No thank you!
I also thought the pool was a bit of a let down. It looks SO BIG and great in pictures (even in mine!), but honestly, it’s really not that large. Maybe it’s because we came from Stormalong Bay, which is huge, or are used to other Orlando pools, which are a lot nicer, but this one was… eh.
We had originally set aside time to swim here, because we heard such amazing things about it (in fact, the main reason we switched hotels in 2010 was because they were renovating this “fantastic” pool and we didn’t want to miss out), but after seeing it, we weren’t impressed. So instead, we sat on our balcony and animal watched – again – and I tell you, it never got old.
There are a ton of wonderful restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge, so whether you stay here or not, don’t miss out on my personal favorite, Jiko. We never ate here before this trip, because we didn’t want to take a bus all the way here, however, I think from now on we may. It’s worth it.
Let’s forget about the theming (even in the bathrooms!)…
…or the pretty garden views…
… or the restaurant itself – where the sun literally sets WHILE you eat (the walls change color that reflect this!). I want to talk talk about the food – because it’s unbelievable!
We started out with the Wild Boar appetizer. For dinner, Josh got the chicken and I got the Filet (with hands down THE MOST AMAZING mac and cheese I have ever experienced).
Yes, I will certainly be making the trek to Animal Kingdom Lodge just for a repeat of this meal.
The bottom line? I think staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge is worth a try for anyone. You be the judge if your fabulous savannah view outweighs the transportation and remote issues!