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Is experiencing the magic of Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge worth the price tag? World SheBuysTravel and her family stayed at Disney’s African safari themed hotel for three days this summer. Now she’s returned with a full review. Here’s what you need to know to decide whether Disney’s Animal Kingdom Hotel is a good fit for your family.
My husband and two college-aged kids spent three nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Hotel. Here’s our take on whether it’s worth the money.
Is Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge like a safari hotel?
Yes, it is! The hotel is set on a 40+ acre wildlife preserve. In Jambo House, where we stayed in June, most rooms have balconies. Our balcony faced a grassy savanna where giraffes, zebras, ostriches, and other African animals freely wander. So right from our own room’s balcony, we saw zebras grazing, ostriches wandering, and giraffes elegantly nibbling at the treetops.
My favorite quiet morning: still in pajamas, my husband and I watched animals from our balcony, while we sipped coffee. And our kids slept in. While we didn’t see all of them, the savannas have 200 hoofed animals and almost as many birds.
SheBuysTravel tip: We stayed in Jambo House in June. And the experience really did remind me of an African safari we took last spring. We did not visit Kidani Village, nearby villas that are a separate party of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Hotel.
The Lobby of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Hotel
I loved the huge, airy, and dramatic lobby of Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge. A wall of picture windows faces the savanna. And we appreciated that the lobby had plenty of comfy chairs and sofas for meeting up. Plus, the lobby had nooks and crannies off the sides. Like terraces with rocking chairs overlooking the wildlife savanna, or a cozy area with sofas and African artifacts. So it was easy to find a quiet spot for downtime.
Is Animal Kingdom Lodge worth the money? Well, in a fun, noisy place like Disney World, it’s nice to come home to a quiet place to chill out and relax.
African artifacts at Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge
Some rain at Disney in June was my chance to check out the lobby displays. I saw authentic carvings, jewelry, and masks from a variety of African countries. And in a quiet nook with comfy sofas, we saw African safari photographs taken in the 1920’s and 30’s by Americans.
Wow, it’s truly like a museum.
In fact, a colorful 16-foot sculpture dominates the lobby of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Hotel. Despite the sculpture’s 240 pound weight, the artist designed it as a dancer’s headdress!
Activities for kids at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Hotel
In addition to the splashy fun of the huge pool area, the Hotel offers specific activities for kids. Activities like cookie decorating and face painting. And also fun educational activities, like a drum circle lesson. Or learning about the animals who wander the savanna outside the hotel.
The big list of activities posted in the lobby was all good news for families looking for indoor fun on a rainy day — and makes Animal Kingdom Lodge well worth the money. Or a quieter afternoon following a morning in the parks. (And for bigger kids like mine, visiting the gym was a good way to work off some Disney treats.)
Convenient transportation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
During our 3 night, 4-day stay in June, we relied entirely on Disney transportation. First, Disney Express drove us from the airport and back again. Second, during our stay, we relied on buses to the parks. Those stopped directly in front of the hotel. While we always left extra time in case we needed to wait 10 or 15 minutes for the bus, we never needed a car during our entire Disney stay. Bonus: when it came time to leave, we learned of an extra convenience. Right in the lobby, we checked our luggage with TSA, to be loaded directly onto the plane.
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Casual and Fine Dining
My family tried all 3 restaurants at Jambo House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. When we first arrived, we grabbed salads and sandwiches for lunch from Mara, the informal cafeteria beneath the lobby.
I usually skip breakfast. But my husband and kids so enjoyed the elaborate breakfast buffet at Boma, I joined them one morning. Boma has an open kitchen specializing in delicious grilled meats, meat carving stations, yogurt & fixings, and dishes from dozens of African countries. But we also ate more traditional American breakfast food, like pastries, pancakes, and the omelet bar. And it was fun to watch cooks and pastry chefs working.
We splurged one night on Jiko, the more formal upscale restaurant in Jambo House. It serves foods from both African and European countries. My favorite was the extensive South African wine list. Since portions were huge, I had an appetizer as my main course.
SheBuysTravel tip: Boma’s buffet breakfast was $27 per adult in June, slightly less off-season. For kids aged 3-9, the seasonal range is about $14-19. In addition, there were restaurants at the nearby Kidani Village section of the Hotel that we did not explore.
Savanna view room
Our savanna view room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge cost $500 in June. To save money, we squeezed all 4 of us into the 2 Queen-sized beds in one room. And depending on your family, that might also work for you. Other alternatives include rooms with 2 king-sized beds, one Quee, and twin-sized bunk beds.
Is Animal Kingdom Lodge worth the money?
Since most of our time was spent at the Parks, and lingering over dinner, the 4 of us were fine squeezing into a single room. And all 4 of us enjoyed a peaceful time on our private balcony, watching the animals wander by.
But rooms without savanna views are less expensive. And since private balconies are only one way to watch the savanna, a room without a savanna view might work. For example, we also enjoyed watching the animals from the public stone walkway that juts into the savanna, and from rocking chairs on the staircase terraces that overlook the savanna.
Lisa Norstrom says
Loved our stay at AKL – but we were EXTREMELY disappointed that we were talked into paying a little more for an “Arusha” view because every morning we awoke to a beautiful setting with NO animals! When we checked in there were lots of animals and it really is a breathtaking sight to see! But I was looking forward to waking up and sipping coffee with the same type of view. As we left the room we saw all of them on the Savanna view side. I guess they take there time getting over to the side we were on. So if you are going to hang around in the room all day or you don’t mind taking your coffee to go and leave the comfort of your pricey room to locate the view you expected… Then it will be okay – we honestly did not have the view we paid for in the morning, but we had it when we returned from the park until dark. Which if you are using Disney transportation – the only park you will want to visit will be Animal Kingdom because it takes a long time to get to the rest of the parks. The restaurants are incredible experiences – every one is fabulous – pool and play areas are nice and lots of opportunities to see animals. Lobby is magnificent!
We did it once and I am happy we did – but will not pay all of that money for a room with an uncertain / unguaranteed view! When we called the front desk we were told that the animals roam free and have a mind of there own… Well we also have a mind of our own and our mind will think long and hard before we stay again – and we will try to educate others of the facts so that they can make their own informed decision. It probably would not be bad if you plan on staying and not doing any parks because the time you have to actually enjoy the view that you are paying for is limited.
Sarah Ricks says
Lisa, I’m so glad that you had a good experience with the magnificent lobby & its exhibits, with the restaurants, and with the pool and play areas. Plus opportunities to see the animals, and even got to see animals from your own room in the evenings. It’s a shame you didn’t feel that the extra money for the particular view your room had was not worth it. I’m surprised you felt the Parks other than Animal Kingdom took a long time to reach. I felt like the Disney transportation was pretty efficient. But also, I enjoyed those rides to and from the parks. I guess partly because it was a chance to sit down – I needed a rest! – and partly because I enjoyed the views.
We just spent the weekend at the village side. It was the worst Disney experience I have ever had. We are premium plus pass holders and like to check out all the resorts. It was the worst Disney experience we have ever had. The lodge was awesome… but we stayed at the villas We won’t be back and won’t recommend it
Sarah Ricks says
I am so sorry you had an unhappy experience, and that you can’t recommend the villas. While I haven’t stayed at the villas, I agree with you that the Animal Kingdom Lodge was an exciting and fun place.
Graham Woodhouse says
So whats the answer… is it worth the money ?
Sarah Ricks, World SheBuysTravel says
Yes, if what I describe sounds fun and enjoyable to you and your kids. My college-aged kids and I had a blast, and there’s lots for kids of all ages.
Christine Tibbetts says
Yes, AKLodge appeals to me. I spend extra time in the lobby with the art and artifacts you mention. The quality calls for more than a cursory glance. Beware the walk from the lovely lobby to a room at the end of the hall can be very, very long, especially after a day in the parks.
Sarah Ricks, World SheBuysTravel says
Good points! Making time for the lobby, wandering the walkway that juts into the animal savanna were highlights for us too.