We just returned from a vacation to Disney World staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and I was very pleased with the overall experience. Both my wife and I had previously been on safaris in Africa, and while we want to go again, bringing a two year old all the way to Africa would be very challenging. In it's place we choose to stay at this resort and were both impressed by the authentic experience. Disney is the master of the details, and they get them right here. The Animal Kingdom Lodge is like a attraction onto itself and thrilled my two year old, while making my wife and I nostalgic about our past safari experiences.
The hotel: The facility is gorgeous with an impressive main lobby area. Every facet of the design and architecture seems to echo the African safari theme (even the smallest details). The rooms are pleasant (not opulent, but the right mix of modern Disney while giving the subtle impression of a classic safari). We received a Savannah view room, and it was so enjoyable to sit on our balcony deck and watch animals roam throughout the day. If you do not choose a Savannah view room, there are still multiple areas with public decks with seating to watch the animals, or several outside areas to walk out and get close to the Savannah areas. In addition, they had multiple fire pits to sit and enjoy stories at night with other guests.
Pool: I was also extremely impressed with the heated pool (great size, design, and layout). They constantly seem to have employees encouraging poolside games for the kids, and there was a pool bar with drinks for the adults.
Restaurants: We only experienced 2, but the hotel offers 4 (3 at the Jambo House, and 1 at the Kitani House). The Mara is the quick service restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the classics (burgers, chicken fingers, salads), but also offers some of the unique but simpler African dishes. Dining is either inside or outside on a patio. Boma is a full buffet experience that offers breakfast or dinner. We tried the dinner and found the food to be both authentic and delicious. I'm seldom a fan of buffets, but this impressed with its offerings range from African dishes to Indian cuisine to more Americanized classics. The other two restaurants are more formal sit-down experiences (not a good option with a 2-year old).
Service: Disney is probably the best at high quality consistent service, and this hotel did not disappoint. From the moment we arrived, everyone working greeted us with the saying "Welcome home" and went out of their way to talk to us. Check-in was a rather long experience to run through everything about the resort, but I was impressed that Joan our attendant ran through our room view options and even gave us a better room. Throughout the resort, Disney appears to hire people only with the job of smiling, giving children attention, and making sure they are enhancing your experience. For example, every time we walked down the hallways we ran into employees that gave our 2 year old Disney stickers, or while we were outside in one of the animal viewing areas, a employee from South Africa came over to tell us all about the animals we were looking at.
Overall, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is an attraction that we wished we had spent more time experiencing. The vibe is very laid back and relaxed and its a nice change from the rush of the Disney Parks. I'm also impressed with the re-creation of an African experience, and I feel like it gives a great preview to anyone that's always wanted to go, but never had the opportunity.
A few tips:
- The Animal Kingdom Lodge is the LAST stop on the Disney Magical Express Bus. It can take 1 to 1.5 hours once you get off your plane and onto the bus until you get to the resort (not a fun experience when you have a starving child).
- The Animal Kingdom Lodge is also the furthest Disney Resort from most of the Theme Parks (with the exception of the Animal Kingdom Park). The Disney bus transport system is fairly good, but it takes 20 minutes to get to the Magic Kingdom and the busy only comes every 20 minutes (so, if you just miss a bus, it could take 40 minutes for the total transport).
- Ask the front desk about the activities for the day. They offered an African drumming class/show one evening that my 2 year old absolutely loved. They also seem to have activities for all ages.
- Bring water bottles. The temp in Orlando is normally hot and everyone gets thirsty, so this shouldn't come as a smart tip. However, I found the water all around Disney to taste peculiar, so I would suggest bringing your own to keep in the room frig if that bothers you.
- The Magic Kingdom sells Pineapple Dole Whip Ice Cream (the 80's throw-back treat) in Adventureland. It's amazing.
- Extra Magic Hours are great, but keep in mind that everyone else is going to them. Try to avoid the park that is having the Extra Magic Hours and you will find the other parks less crowded.
- If you purchase a toy or item for your child at one of the parks and it breaks while you are staying at Disney, they will exchange it for a new one with no questions asked. Even if said child broke it by playing too rough with it.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.