One of Disney’s Deluxe Resort Hotels, with incredible African inspired decor
Hotel is surrounded by four savannas, home to 30 species of African wildlife
Safari lodge-inspired rooms with carved furniture and mosquito net-canopies
Most rooms have balconies that overlook one of the savannas
Large zero-entry pool with a waterslide and a tiny kiddy pool
Two restaurants, a quick-service dining hall, and two bars
Arcade style game room, kids club, and an outdoor playground
Disney perks like Extra Magic Hours and express luggage transport
Large gift shop with Disney souvenirs and sundries
Small gym and massage center
24-hour self-service laundry room
Free parking and Wi-Fi
Far from most Disney attractions
No monorail or water taxi service -- Disney shuttle busses only
Dining on-site without reservations is nearly impossible
Front desk lines can be long (common at Disney hotels)
Only one pool (most Deluxe Resort Hotels have multiple)
Modeled after a traditional "kraal" (village), Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge brings a slice of Africa to Orlando. Surrounded by four massive savannas, this 972-room upscale hotel offers guests a hands-on safari experience. Balconies overlook zebra watering holes, safari guides are on-hand to explain the differences between gazelle species, and custom trucks give guests special access to giraffes, impalas, and wildebeest. Rooms are infused with authentic African decor and artwork, and the hotel’s top-notch amenities like a pool, multiple restaurants, and a fitness center, make it one of Disney’s best Deluxe properties. However, it’s at least a 10-minute drive from most Disney attractions, and there’s no monorail or water taxi service (only shuttle buses). The Grand Floridian offers more convenient transportation options, but it doesn’t have AKL’s intriguing African theme.
A singular Disney property that feels equally adult and kid-friendly
One of Disney’s most majestic hotel lobbies, the entryway at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a sight to behold. Enormous lotus-shaped canvas chandeliers hang from a vaulted thatched ceiling, where skylights flood the room with natural light. Tribal relics hang from the walls, and a giant suspension bridge connects the upper floors. Cozy seating areas are arranged around kilim rugs, and carved armoires display glass-encased artwork. At the far end of the room, a floor-to-ceiling window offers sweeping views of the savannas.
Animal Kingdom Lodge’s thematic elements are immediately impressive (perhaps some of Disney’s best), but some travelers may find the theme over the top or gimmicky (those that do will probably feel out of step with any properties on Disney grounds). However, sticklers for authenticity will be happy to know that Disney infuses the property with plenty of African cultural elements. Guests will find illustrated Fante proverbs in their rooms, South African pap and bobotie at the breakfast buffet, and a stunning Igbo Ijele at the center of the lobby. A 16 foot tall Nigerian tribal mask, the Igbo Ijele is only one of 380 museum quality art pieces found throughout the hotel -- the Animal Kingdom Lodge houses the largest collection of African art outside of the continent.
Obviously, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a family-friendly resort. Besides a large swimming pool and cool safari features, the hotel has a kids club, an arcade, and regularly scheduled kids activities, like campfire s’mores making or African instrument lessons. But the hotel also appeals to adults -- especially animal lovers -- more than other Disney properties.
Across from Animal Kingdom, but at least 10-minutes from other Disney attractions
Built in 2001, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is actually Disney’s newest property. Because of this, the hotel is located farther from Disney attractions than most of the other resorts on the Disney compound. However, it’s just across the street from Animal Kingdom (the park). AKL doesn’t offer monorail or water taxi service, so guests relying on Disney transportation will have to use the shuttle buses (the slowest Disney transportation method). Though Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios are all within a 10-minute drive, it can take much longer to reach these parks via bus. Blizzard Beach is a quick four-minute drive from the property, while Typhoon Lagoon and Disney Springs are farther afield, at 12 and 14-minutes, respectively. Outside of Disney, Sea World is a 16-minute drive, Universal Studios is a 17-minute drive, and Orlando International Airport is a 27-minute drive.
Safari themed decor and standard Disney amenities; most with balconies overlooking the savannas
Like the lobby, guest rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge have an African safari theme. Intricate wooden headboards feature symbolic tribal carvings and mosquito nets mimic the bed coverings of Southern Africa’s tented camps. Ghanaian woven baskets hang on the walls, along with illustrated Fante proverbs and wrought-iron sconces. Flat-screen TVs are housed in clawfoot armoires, and additional amenities include mini-fridges and single-cup coffeemakers. Closets are stocked with ironing equipment and key-operated safes. Bathrooms feature the classic Disney layout -- sinks and vanities in one room, shower/tub combos and toilets in another -- and decor is impressive. Custom wallpaper here depicts some of Africa’s most important sights, like Mt. Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls, and Ngorongoro Crater. Beige granite and double sinks are nice touches, but we wish the provided toiletries were a little nicer than the standard Disney products. All of AKL’s rooms have balconies, many of which overlook one of the property’s four savannas (though some have views of the parking lot).
The majority of rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge are Standard Rooms with one king or two queen size beds, although families with young children can also request a room with one queen bed and one bunk bed. Standard Rooms are subdivided by their views. Standard View Rooms comprise the entry-level category, and overlook the parking lot. Pool View Rooms (you guessed it) overlook the pool, but do not have savanna views. Savanna View Rooms are the hotel’s most expensive and most popular option. From the Savanna View Rooms, guests can spot wildlife roaming the grounds at all hours. For some travelers, this is a priceless feature, for others it’s a pointless upgrade, considering the hotel has dozens of communal wildlife viewing decks across the property.
Like other hotels in Disney’s Deluxe category, Animal Kingdom Lodge has a private club level. The club level rooms offer access to a private lounge that serves continental breakfast, snacks, and drinks throughout the day. Club-level guests also receive personal check-in and concierge service, which can be a particularly nice perk, considering the hotel’s typically long front desk lines. Besides Standard Rooms, the club level also offers one-, and two-bedroom suites.
Tons of great amenities, including four savannas with 30 species of wildlife
Many guests choose to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge because of its unique setting in the middle of four diverse savannas. More than 30 species of African wildlife live on the property, including zebras, giraffes, gazelles, and flamingos. The hotel has dozens of viewing areas across the grounds, many of which are staffed by in-house wildlife experts who can explain the animals’ behavioral patterns, eating habits, and idiosyncrasies. Guests can also book private safaris along the hotel’s grounds.
Animal Kingdom Lodge also has a handful of nice amenities, including a huge souvenir shop with Disney paraphernalia and sundries, a 24-hour self-service laundry room, and a signature Disney arcade-style game room. Wi-Fi and standard parking are free, and guests are entitled to Disney hotel benefits, like Extra Magic Hours and the Magical Express luggage transportation service. As mentioned, Animal Kingdom Lodge does not have monorail or water taxi service, only Disney shuttle busses.
A freeform pool with a waterslide -- though there's only one on-site
Unlike other Deluxe Resort Hotels, Animal Kingdom Lodge only has one pool, Uzima Springs. Guests can access the Samawati Springs pool at the neighboring Kidani Village (AKL’s separate villas property), but it’s a long walk from the hotel. Uzima Springs is an 11,000 square foot freeform pool with both zero-entry and traditional stepped entrances. The pool is surrounded by tons of lounge chairs, and always feels crowded. Kids typically dominate the pool scene, thanks to the 67-foot-long water slide. There’s a tiny wading pool for toddlers, but AKL doesn’t have a kiddie splash zone like other Disney properties. Next to the pool there are several whirlpools, an outdoor playground, and an open-air bar that serves snacks and drinks throughout the day.
An excellent introduction to African food, along with typical American dishes
Dining at Animal Kingdom Lodge offers a brief introduction to African culinary traditions. Jiko, the hotel’s signature a la carte restaurant, skillfully infuses African flavors into familiar dishes. Guests can expect exotic ingredients like fenugreek, piri piri, cassava, and chermoula to be paired with the likes of roasted chicken, halibut, and filet mignon. Guests can also choose wines from an extensive South African wine list. At dinnertime, the restaurant’s wood fired ovens fill the dining room with aromas of freshly baked bread and roasted meats. Dark woods and vibrant colors give Jiko a quintessential African feel. Reservations are strongly recommended. It’s nearly impossible to be accommodated as a walk-in, no matter the time of year.
Boma, the hotel’s buffet restaurant, is open for breakfast and dinner. Reservations are strongly recommended for dinner time. Reservations aren’t accepted for breakfast, but breakfast goers will undoubtedly have to wait to be seated. During our visit, when we arrived for breakfast at the restaurant’s early opening time, there was already a line at the host stand. Boma’s buffet is a force to be reckoned with -- it’s huge and offers tons of food. American breakfast favorites like eggs, omelets, pancakes, and waffles sit alongside African specialities like pap, bobotie, and chakalaka. For dinner, the buffet introduces more African flavors with Ghanian oxtail stew, Nigerian fufu, Tunisian couscous, and South African geelrys.
The Mara, named for the river that flows through Kenya and Tanzania, is Animal Kingdom Lodge’s quick-service restaurant. The quick-service concept is incredibly popular across the Disney brand and is known for its varied options, tasty food, and unbelievable cleanliness. In the mornings guests can swing by for coffee, bacon and eggs, and Mickey waffles, while lunch and dinner hours feature American favorites like burgers, grilled cheese, and flatbreads. It also sells snacks and desserts like chips, doughnuts, and ice cream bars. Both indoor and outdoor seating are on hand.
Victoria Falls Lounge is a few steps down from the lobby and overlooks Boma’s dining room. This is the property's only bar apart from the poolside one. The full bar menu covers sandwiches and appetizers, and serves a variety of specialty cocktails, African beers, and South African wines.
On-site kids' club and lots of family-centric activities
Simba’s Clubhouse is the on-site kids' club where children ages 3 to 12 can participate in regularly scheduled activities throughout the course of the day. Kids can play with Disney toys, watch movies, create arts and crafts, and eat kid-friendly snacks. The kids club isn’t free, but parents dining at Boma or Jiko receive one free hour with a valid dinner receipt. Besides the kids' club, the hotel regularly hosts family-friendly activities across the property. Families can make s’mores on an outdoor fire pit, learn to play African instruments, or participate in group storytelling sessions.
Most Disney hotels do not have fitness centers. If they do, their gyms are typically small. Animal Kingdom Lodge falls into the latter category -- its gym is nicely equipped with modern cardio and weight-lifting machines, but the room is tiny for a resort of this size. AKL doesn’t have a full service spa, but it has a massage center, where guests can book massages and facials.
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