In the midst of this winter weather, this post might seem a bit cruel, but yes, for the last two weeks I have been hanging out in sunny Florida.
Don’t worry, we didn’t miss out on any of the excitement here in Connecticut, we returned home last Friday, just in time to enjoy both snowstorms (and for my kids to
drive me crazy hang out with me at home for a few more days!)
Pretty much every year since we moved to Connecticut, my husband and I have made a winter trip to Florida — his family lives there and my southern bones just need a little break this time of year. Then, once our kids made their entrance into the world, our annual trip turned into both a time to visit with family and a time to vacation at nearby Walt Disney World. My husband actually works for a Disney company, so the significant discounts he receives as an employee make it almost silly for us not to plan to spend some time at the “happiest place on earth” for a few days each year.
With so many Connecticut families also planning trips to Disney World, I decided a few years ago to start sharing a little bit about my experience on the blog.
For both our first and second trips to Disney we stayed at a great hotel, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, and I wrote about our stay in 2013 and then did a quick update on our trip and the hotel in 2014. I also shared our experience at the character breakfast at Disney’s Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom (if any of you are looking for a little more Disney information).
For our 2015 trip, we decided to try out a different Disney property for our stay and booked a room at The Animal Kingdom Lodge. We once again had a wonderful time at this Disney property and I attempted to include the highlights of our stay in the Top 10 list below.
So here it goes . . . the Top 10 Reasons We Enjoyed Our Stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge:
1. The Beautiful Interiors
We arrived at the hotel from the airport via Disney’s Magical Express and immediately noticed the beauty of this African-themed property. Animal Kingdom Lodge is part of Disney’s Deluxe Resort Hotels so I assumed it would be nice, but wow was it more than I expected. They were doing a small amount of construction during our stay (refinishing the lobby floors) so I don’t think I was able to experience its full level of beauty, but from the lobby, to the rooms, to the dining areas, to the outdoor recreation areas, the decor was very impressive.
2. Bunk Beds!
My kids have been asking for bunk beds in their room for the past year, so when we walked into our hotel room and they saw that it included bunk beds, you would have thought we could end our trip there — forget Magic Kingdom, our room had BUNK BEDS! Now I was a little bit nervous about how the sleeping arrangements would work. Could I feel comfortable letting a four year old sleep on the top bunk? The good news was that the beds had a railing on the top bunk so I felt comfortable that they would be safe sleeping there and we ended up not having one problem with the sleeping arrangement (besides the nightly argument about who got the top bunk!).
So our sleeping arrangements were Bruiser and Sparkles in the bunk beds, my husband and I in the queen bed, and Sweetheart in one of the hotel’s pack n’ plays.
It is important to note that not all rooms have bunk beds, so if you think your kids would enjoy this sleeping option as much as ours did, be sure to request it when you reserve your room!
3. Animal Sightings from our Room
Over 900 of the 1,200 rooms on Animal Kingdom Lodge’s property offer a view of one of the savannahs containing the hotel’s exotic animal residents. We were lucky to be staying in a room with one such view and after we checked out our sleeping arrangements, we headed to the balcony to see if there were any animals to discover. We didn’t see too many animals when we first checked in, but when we returned to our room after dinner that evening, we were amazed to find 4 giraffes just hanging out. The balcony and the views of the animals were so much fun that after my husband and I put the kids to bed each night, we would hang out on the balcony, see what animals we could spot and pretend we were on an exotic date 🙂
4. Animal Viewing Options throughout the Hotel
Not only did we get to see the exotic African animals from our room, but there were viewing opportunities located throughout the hotel. Over 30 species of animals including giraffes and zebras are located on the three savannahs at the resort and they can be seen 24 hours a day. At night, at the viewing area near Uzima pool, they even have night vision goggles available for guests to try (and since trying them Bruiser now says he has a new item for next year’s Christmas list!)
I think the thing that amazed me the most about the animal viewing areas throughout the property is that it didn’t smell at all like there were hundreds of animals living there. I’ve never been to a zoo that didn’t have an animal smell and I have no idea how Animal Kingdom Lodge doesn’t smell like one giant zoo, but it doesn’t. Through Disney magic (and I’m sure a lot of hard work by property employees) you can see many beautiful animals here, but you really can’t smell any! How nice is that?
Throughout the viewing areas, guides were available to answer questions about the animals and the hotel provided an animal checklist which was fun for the whole family.
One of the amenities located on property was the Hakuna Matata Playground. We spent many pre-dinner evenings at this play area to give the kids a chance to burn off a little energy before we asked them to try and sit still for a meal (which is always a challenge in my house). There were also some fun flamingos located right next to the play area which my kids found very entertaining.
6. Delicious Buffet Dinner at the Boma
I’m not a huge fan of buffets, but the family-friendly buffet at Boma located near the hotel’s main lobby offered a fun atmosphere for the kids and some yummy food options for us adults. We made reservations in advance for this popular restaurant and then dined on plate after plate of African inspired deliciousness. I’m still dreaming about the pistacio – crusted salmon I tried, the soup, sides, and all the hip-widening desserts. The restaurant offers both breakfast and dinner and is a must-try when you visit the hotel! If you want more details on the restaurant, check out this review by DisneyTouristBlog.com.
7. Meals at the Mara
For our quick-service meals on property, we ate many a breakfast and a few dinners at the Mara. It was a fairly small eating venue, but the food was great and the service was quick and convenient. The Mickey Mouse waffles were a popular breakfast option and I really enjoyed their chicken wrap with couscous for dinner.
8. The Pool, Water Slide, Spas, and Poolside Bar
One of the other highlights of the hotel was their Uzima pool and surrounding amenities. The heated pool allowed us New Englanders to enjoy an afternoon swim despite the 70 degree weather. The pool included a water slide and a zero entry area that my kids took full advantage of. I was able to put the supplied life jackets on my kiddos to allow for some stress-free swim time with my family and even got a chance to grab a drink and a snack at the nearby Uzima Springs Pool Bar. The pool area also included a children’s wading pool and two whirpool spas.
9. More Fun at Kidani Village
Located on the Animal Kingdom Lodge property is a separate resort area called the Kidani Village which also has its own dining areas and pool amenities. Guests of the Animal Kingdom Lodge can use this pool area as well and getting there is either a quick shuttle ride or 10 minute walk. The pool space at Kidani Village was smaller in size but had even more amenities for the kids including a large water playground complete with spray features.
10. Opportunity to Learn about Africa
And probably one of the best things about this property was that it was filled with opportunities to learn about the African region. Many of the employees working on the property and providing guidance to visitors were actually African natives working at Disney as part of a one year program and throughout the day, guests of the resort have a chance to interact with these individuals and talk to them about their native country, animals located throughout region, local food and more. The retail shop located on property, the Zawadi Marketplace, had the typical Disney merchandise, but was also overflowing with native African products including art pieces and musical instruments. We had an opportunity to participate in a few of the educational offerings at the hotel but I know there was even more that I would want to try in the future!
It was challenging to wrap up our experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge into this Top 10 list, as there was so much to see, discover, and utilize at this property. But I did my best to highlight what stood out during our stay. I hope to get a chance to visit the Animal Kingdom Lodge again in the future, but I have a feeling our 2016 trip will be an opportunity for us to discover another one of the wonderful Disney properties.
Have you stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge? What were your highlights? Share with me by leaving a comment below!
Phone: (407) 938-3000
Room Options and Rates:
- General Description
- The property is considered a Deluxe Resort Hotel
- Rooms seem to start around $350 per night
- Room view options include (room count estimates provided by AllEars.net):
- Standard view (rooftop or parking area view) ~135 available
- Pool view ~ 136 available
- Deluxe pool view ~ 33 available
- Savannah view ~ 724 available
- Deluxe savannah view ~191 available
- Upgrades for Club level access are also available ~55 available
- Room sleeping options include:
- King beds
- Queen beds
- Day beds
- Bunk beds
Transportation and Parking Options:
- As a guest of the hotel, self-parking is free.
- To get to and from the Orlando Airport, utilize Disney’s Magical Express bus service. There is no charge for this service, but you do need to book it in advance.
- To get to and from the hotel and other Disney property destinations (e.g. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, etc.), utilize the complimentary busing service.
- As a Disney Resort guest, you will also receive a parking pass which will allow you to park for free at any of the theme parks.
- There is one large pool,theUzima Pool, located on the hotel property.
- The pool includes both a small water slide and a zero entry area.
- Nearby is a children’s waiting pool and two whirlpool spas.
- Life vests and towels are available for use by the guests.
- Life guards are on duty.
- Family-friendly activities are held each day at the pool.
- A second pool,theSamawati Springs Pool, is located right next door to the main hotel at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge-Kidani Village.
- The pool area includes a water slide, 2 whirlpool spas, along with a water playground for the kids.
- Life vests and towels are available for use by the guests.
- Life guards are on duty.
- There is a playground located right near the Uzima Pool.
- Family-friendly activities are held throughout the day.
- An arcade and workout facility area also available on property.
- Fine Dining
- Themed Dining
- Quick Service Dining
- If you are utilizing Disney’s Magical Express to get to and from the airport, make sure you affix the correct stickers to your luggage so that they will magically be taken from the airport to your hotel and vice versa.
- If you are traveling with children who still sleep in a crib, the hotel has pack n’ plays available.
- The entire property is very stroller friendly.
- An abundance of high chairs are available the Mara and Boma restaurants (didn’t check the others).
- The restrooms in the lobby have baby changing stations.
- If you need a break from the kids one evening, a variety of childcare options are available on property.
- Some of the Disney parks open early or stay open late for resort guests. Make sure to find out the details when you check into your room.
- Check-out time for the resort is 11:00 am. If you want a later check-out time, make sure your ask right after you check-in as they only have limited availability.
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