Farther from the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Downtown Disney than other Disney resorts
Up to two hours' wait for dinner (without a reservation) at some restaurants
No business center or services
Modeled after an East African safari lodge, with giraffes and gazelles that freely roam the grounds, the 762-room Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the Disney's most unique resorts. Its massive pool, free children's activities, knowledgeable staff, and excellent gym make it one of Disney's best, but it's farther from Epcot and the Magic Kingdom than other properties.
Good for families, though buses between the parks can be irregular
Like other Disney resorts, the lines during peak hours can sometimes wrap around the check-in desk and the restaurants can have upwards of two-hour wait times and snaking lines. But on the whole, the service at Animal Kingdom Lodge is exceptionally warm and friendly -- it's some of the best, most kid-attentive service of any of the Disney resorts. Service requests are answered within 20 minutes (not bad for such a huge resort) and staff members consistently engage children in conversation, often stopping to explain the origins of some of the animals walking around the grounds. (On the other hand, the "Have a magical day" at the end of every phone call can begin to feel a little contrived after a few days.)
Guides are stationed around the pool and the Arusha Rock to answer questions about animals, conservation, and African culture.
Free shuttle to and from Orlando International Airport; free delivery of one luggage item per person
Located on the far southwestern edge of Disney World, adjacent to the Animal Kingdom theme park, the Lodge's most significant downside is its distance from most other theme parks. While getting to the Animal Kingdom only takes a five-minute drive, other parks, like Magic Kingdom and Epcot, can be a 10- to 25-minute drive (depending on traffic). However, the Lodge's distinctive surroundings, enormous pool, and free transportation system (which can be sluggish) make up for some of this inconvenience. Like most Disney resorts, the Lodge is set back from the main roads, so traffic and noise aren't much of an issue. Like most resorts in Orlando, there's nothing within walking distance.
Free bus to Animal Kingdom from the Lodge, a five-minute drive away
Free shuttle bus to Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Downtown Disney (all within 10 to 25 minutes, depending on traffic); buses, however, often don't arrive on schedule.
25-minute drive to International Drive, a 14.5 mile road parallel to Interstate 4 that's full of hotels, strip malls, outlet shops, and restaurants.
20-minute drive to SeaWorld and Wet 'n Wild parks
35-minute drive to Downtown Orlando; Orange Avenue has a notable dining and nightlife scene, and non-theme-park attractions like the Orlando Science Center and Harry P. Leu Gardens draw some tourists, but otherwise there's not much to see.
1.5-hour drive to Kennedy Space Center
Free shuttle bus to Orlando International Airport, a 30-minute drive away
Free self-parking; valet parking is charged per day.
Fun, kitschy rooms; plenty of bed configurations (including bunk beds) and above-average amenities
Standard rooms aren't especially spacious, but the brightly patterned bedspreads, few pieces of hand-carved wooden furniture, and sheer draperies above the headboards made to look like mosquito netting help create a fun, safari spirit in the rooms. At 344-square-feet, rooms are smaller than those at the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian, but the unique African decor makes up for the more cramped space.
Most standard rooms are 344 square feet, smaller than other Deluxe-category Disney resorts like the Polynesian or the Grand Floridian.
Various bed options in standard rooms: two queen beds, bunk beds and a queen, or a king with a daybed.
Comfortable, but not exceptional, beds: 250-thread-count Wamsutta sheets; synthetic (not down) pillows; polyester-blend bedspreads
From the gazelles and giraffes grazing in the savannah to the enormous pool with a waterslide, the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge was made for kids. Plus, throughout the day, staff members lead educational activities for children like craft-making, African drumming, or mini-lessons about the where giraffes come from. The end result? Capitivated kids.
Standard rooms come with various bed combinations, like two queen beds, bunk beds and a queen, or a king with a daybed (maximum occupancy is four); Cribs are free, but an extra rollaway bed is charged per night.
Plenty of kid-friendly eats at the restaurants, like burgers and chicken nuggets
Simba's Cubhouse is a supervised kids' club for children ages four to 12, charged per hour. Includes videogames, dinner, snacks, and movies.
Concierge can arrange private, in-room babysitters through a separate company.
Free daily activities, including animal tracking and cookie decorating; most activities are free, but not all.
There are three full-service restaurants, Boma, Jiko, and Sanaa, plus a quick and easy grab-and-go called The Mara. Boma, Jiko, and Sanaa claim to offer African cuisine, but it's really more like American offerings with a few African dishes and flares of spice.
Boma, arguably the kid-friendliest and most economical of the restaurants, offers a buffet for breakfast and dinner.
Open for dinner only, Jiko is the most upscale restaurant, and has prices to match, but its twin wood-burning ovens are fun for kids to watch.
Sanaa serves African dishes with Indian flavors, and is open for lunch and dinner. It overlooks the resort's "savannah".
The Mara is a cross between a convenience store and a fast-food joint, but with slightly healthier options, like flatbread pizzas, salads and sandwiches, plus some grab-and-go alternatives like pre-made salads and hummus. It's great for grabbing a quick snack to eat by the pool.
There are also two bars on site, the Cape Town Lounge and Wine Bar and Victoria Falls.
Full room service menu available throughout the day.
Make reservations early -- wait times at Jiko and Boma can be up to two hours without one.
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