Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

We laid our heads at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge on our December visit and found it just as immensely enjoyable as our previous stays!  It has been a number of years since my last in depth review of this resort so it is time for an update.

The grand lobby at Jambo House is even more spectacular at Christmas time with its towering tree and garlands.  There is a photopass photographer set up in front of the tree as well – it was our experience that they took tons of time getting a lot of fun photos!  

Overlooking four savannas with loads of animals, it is nothing short of magnificent.

Unlike any of the other Disney resorts we’ve visited, Animal Kingdom Lodge is a complete immersion for the senses. The architecture wows you, the scents of African cuisine overwhelm you, the sound of bongo drums playing cannot be ignored. It’s just incredible!!

Resort Activities

There is no shortage of things to do around the resort, from cultural activities to games to movies to animals to the pool.  We enjoyed tic tac toe in the lobby.  

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We have roasted many a marshmallow over the years at the nightly camp fires overlooking the savannas on arusha rock.

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Uzima Springs Pool

We’ve logged many hours at the pool, being sure to have time in our schedule to do everything we could at the resort.  It is lushly landscaped and a wonderful retreat from the parks. There is a zero entry at one end a fun slide at the other.

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The pool bar serves cocktails and food, but we like going right inside to Mara for a better selection.  You can get it “to-go” for dining by the pool.  We often bring a cooler and stock our own little fridge in the room with beverages as well.  You can bring your own snacks and drinks down to the pool, just no glass is allowed.  

Since two of our foursome like to sleep in, most of my Disney days do not start in a mad rush to the parks. Instead, I bring Whit down to swim, grab breakfast at the quick serve and enjoy a breakfast at a quiet pool just like this!

There are multiple hot tubs tucked around the pool.  Always a favorite activity for our family after a long day in the parks!

Each afternoon there are organized activities like bingo, trivia and even water games.

The boys also really enjoy pool side activities like corn hole and ping pong!  

There is a savanna right off of the pool deck that is a great spot for seeing the animals.  Each night they bring out night vision goggles, which is a really neat experience as well!

Also on the pool deck is the flamingo pool.  Be sure to look up times for the feeding session as it is really neat.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Rooms

Of the room types at Animal Kingdom Lodge, I’ve stayed in all of them over the years. The most desirable are the rooms with a savanna view of the animals. This can booked in club level or as a regular room. The rooms are in the middle of a refurb and are significantly brighter and nicer, not to mention they got ride of the carpet. Yay!

On each of these stays we loved checking off the wildlife as we saw them!

I have such sweet memories of this little one being the first one up and sneaking out to visit with the animals every morning!

Note how he has his “Friends” lined up on the railing for a good view of the animals.  Sweet baby.

The other way we use the balcony is by winding down after an afternoon in the parks with a glass of wine and a snack.  The Mara (quick serve) has a wonderful couscous and house made chips that we enjoy, as well as zebra domes for a sweet treat.  We bring our own wine (usually) but they also sell bottles in the shop.

Even when you come back late at night, there is always something to be seen.  I caught this pic one evening.

Sanaa

Our of our favorite restaurants at Disney is Sanaa at Kidani Village. Every single thing about it is memorable… the window seat overlooking the savanna at sunset, the food, the bread service, the atmosphere and the company. It is really hard to get to, so I don’t usually recommend it unless you are staying over here.

 Sanaa overlook:

The lounge is a favorite to visit without a reservation or full meal. We love to pop in for a glass of wine and the full bread service.

If dining in the main room, ask to wait on a window seat.  It’s great to go at an off time:

Boma Flavors of Africa

Back at Jambo House, another fan favorite is the buffet at Boma. It is quite good and has a great mix of African foods. Again, I don’t advise traveling all the way to Animal Kingdom Lodge just to eat here.

Jiko The Cooking Place

Jiko is a marvelous signature dining experience. They have a wonderful selection of wines and the food is fantastic.

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Victoria Falls Lounge

A few other favorite haunts around Animal Kingdom Lodge are the Victoria Falls Lounge and the giant fire in the lobby.  Honey loves that the lounge carries African beer.  You can also bring food up here from the Mara, if you want something heavier, but we love the cheese plate.

The Mara

The Mara quick serve restaurant is one of my favorites.  It is yummy and has a good mix of American and African foods. I particularly love their salad, falafel, couscous, zebra domes and chicken pita.  Oh, and their breakfast platter is my fave on property.  You will find bags and plastic lids for all of the plates, which makes getting food to take out to the pool deck really easy.  We have done that every single time we ate here!

Kilimanjaro Club at Animal Kingdom Lodge

We have stayed twice in the Kilimanjaro Club at Animal Kingdom Lodge and it is wonderful! It is one of the most affordable ways to stay concierge at Disney and the offerings are unique and fantastic.

On arrival, you are escorted to the lounge overlooking the grand lobby. While the cast member checks you in, you will enjoy champagne, African beer or a jungle juice cocktail (my recommendation!)

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We stayed once for Honey’s birthday and again for Whit’s. Both were treated grandly!

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Up in the lounge you will find various seating arrangements – tables + chairs, sofas, etc., a large TV with news, sports, movies playing, and a smaller area for kids with cartoons and coloring. I did note that there are high chairs available, which I thought was nice. The huge benefit of the Kilimanjaro Club are the food offerings:

  • Continental breakfast – includes yogurt, pastries, fruit, oatmeal, cereal, coffee, juices and coke beverages
  • Snacks – throughout the day you will find kettle chips, spiced nuts, trail mix, yogurt covered pretzels, cookies and the likes. Water, tea, jungle juice and soft drinks are self serve. Beer and wine are on request.
  • Evening appetizers – They provide a wonderful selection of hot and cold appetizers. You perhaps could make a light meal out of them but that is not the intent.
  • Evening desserts – You will find cordials and little dessert offerings.

As you would expect, the service up here is top notch.

Here are my overall thoughts:

  • The Kilimanjaro Club was a wonderful addition to our stay. I would love to do it again, should the right opportunity present itself.
  • If you do the club, I would pay close attention to the times of the day that food is available and plan my day accordingly. ie. Make your dinner reservations for 8-9ish so you could enjoy appetizers and cocktails in the club before hand.
  • It is fine to get a drink / coke / beer / snack and take it back to your room or with you to the park.
  • It was nice to use this as an extension of the room. So, when Honey was sleeping in, I threw on some clothes, put my hair in a pony tail and brought my book up here to eat, have coffee and read. This would be especially nice when there are four of us crammed in a room.

As far as the resort overall, we have stayed many times and have loved every second of every stay.  There is no other resort that can rival the theming here and we have always found the great variety of activities to be perfect.  If you choose to stay here, you really do need to make time in your visit to just enjoy being here.  It is like being a world away from the parks!  The only con of Animal Kingdom Lodge is that it is far from everything else.  You do have to take a bus or drive to everything on the rest of the resort property and it can easily be a 20-30 minute ride.  We usually lyft or uber to the parks anyway, so bus service has become a non-issue!

As Premier Level Gold Key Advisor with Glass Slipper Concierge, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, I offer concierge travel planning for Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise LineDisneyland® Resort, Disney Aulani Hawaii, Universal, Sea World and to 35 countries on 6 continents through Adventures by Disney®.

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