Entering the vast atrium lobby of this stunning lodge is like entering a cathedral with a roof of thatch rather than stone. A massive clay chimney structure dominates the four-story lobby, and giraffes, zebras, and other wildlife roam three 11-acre savannas separated by the encircling arms of the hotel, designed to resemble a kraal, or animal enclosure, in Africa. Cultural ambassadors give talks about their African homelands, the animals, and the often museum-quality artwork on display; evenings include storytelling sessions around the fire circle on the Arusha Rock terrace. Meals in the spectacular restaurants are African themed. Nearby Kitani Village, part of the Animal Kingdom Villas, has separate pool, another beautiful, if smaller, lobby and restaurants.
While there is plenty to amuse you at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, if you choose to visit any of the other Disney parks, transportation, particularly by bus, can eat a hole in your daily schedule.
Lots of dark, carved wood and African inspired fabrics decorate the rooms at both the Lodge and the Villas. Rooms contain a variety of sleeping configurations, including two queen beds, a queen and a set of bunk beds, or a king and a day bed; a flat-screen TV sits on a bureau with storage drawers beneath; a small table and chairs; a coffee maker and a mini fridge.
YOU SHOULD KNOW If you and your family are staying for more than a few days, the storage space is quite limited.
African maps dominate the wallpaper in the bathrooms, and beige granite surrounds the two sinks in the vanity, giving you lots of room for toiletries. The toilet and bath (with grab bar) area are separated by a door, allowing at least two people to utilize the bathroom area in the mornings and evenings. Lots of towels, and Disney H2O Spa toiletries.
Resembling a vast, thatched cathedral, the lobby is a spectacular place to sit and contemplate the surrounding beauty, whether the space itself, the views of the animals in the savanna just outside the vast window, or the priceless collection of African art and artifacts throughout the lobby. Numerous seating areas encourage socialization, and the huge fireplace offers a cozy spot to sit and contemplate the flames. Two lounges and two excellent restaurants open off the lobby, along with a gift shop.
Uzima Springs Pool, in the middle of a lush palm tree and greenery filled area next to the main lobby, has a zero-depth entry point and a 67-foot-long water slide. At nearby Kidani Village, part of the Animal Kingdom Villas, Samawati Springs Pool features an even longer water slide, at 120 feet. This pool also features Uwanja Camp, an expansive explorer-inspired water playground where kids of different ages can clamber on cargo crates, play in a bubbling geyser, get squirted by a leaky water tower or take aim with water cannons. Both pools are heated and have snack bars. Towels are provided and lifeguards are on duty.
Zahanati Massage and Fitness Center offers a limited menu of massages and facials.
Zahanati Fitness Center offers a wide range of equipment, from cardio machines to rree weights and weight machines.
The Lodge has two full-service restaurants, Boma and Jiko, and three smaller quick-serve snack bars. Boma offers an all you can eat buffet of African-inspired food, along with American classics for those with less adventuresome palates. The servers, from countries all over Africa, delight in sharing cultural and dining information from their homes. Jiko is a fine-dining restaurant with a central stone fireplace-grill where steak, seafood, chicken, and vegetarian dishes are cooked using African, Indian and Mediterranean spices. At the Animal Kingdom Villas, Sanaa offers a mixture of Indian and African dishes with a view out over the savanna. It's not unusual to see a giraffe wandering by the windows while you dine.
The breakfast buffet at Boma offers an extensive, all-you-can eat menu for a surprisingly reasonable price.
In the Lodge, Capetown Lounge and Wine Bar, and Victoria Falls Lounge offer the chance to sample South African wines, along with a wide range of spirits, beer and wine. At the Villa, Sanaa Lounge has a full bar, and places to sit where you can see the animals in the savanna.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is the most distant spot on Disney property from the Magic Kingdom or from any of the other parks. While the transportation system is free for on-property guests, it can take a long time for buses to arrive, and then to travel the seven or eight miles to the Magic Kingdom. A car, or ride-sharing service, would make your travel time more efficient, particularly if you plan to visit Universal or SeaWorld or farther afield.
If you get weary of African-inspired flavors, the closest dining options to Animal Kingdom Lodge, in the far southwest corner of Walt Disney World, is the chain-restaurant haven of West Irlo Bronson Highway, (5-minute drive). There you'll find Cracker Barrel, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Golden Corral and McDonalds, just to name a few. If you are looking for something more upscale, and prefer to remain on Disney property, Disney Springs, (20-minute drive), offers about 50 restaurants, varying from celebrity chef-driven eateries to burger chains and everything in between.
Disney Springs (20-minute drive) is home to dozens of drinking and dining establishments, where you can sample a wide range of libations, including sake at Morimoto's Asia, Guinness and beers at Raglan Road, tequila drinks galore at Frontera Cocina, locally made sippin' whiskey at Art Smith's Homecomin', and wines from around the world at Wine Bar George.
WHY WE LIKE IT
This stunning Africa-inspired lodge amazes us every time we visit. The lobby is truly stirring, with its four-story high cathedral roof made of thatch; its unique collection of ancient African art; the proximity of wild animals; and the staff, many from different countries in Africa, so eager to share their cultures with you, all add delight to the experience, whether you are young or old. The lodge is not cheap, but you get every penny of your money's worth in staying here.