Animal Kingdom Lodge is classified as a deluxe resort and it may not fit into the budget of many families visiting Walt Disney World. However, it is a hidden gem because one doesn’t have to stay at the resort to enjoy many of the Lodge’s amenities. Spending a morning exploring the authentic Africa artifacts, vast collection of African art, and the savanna walkways is a perfect interlude for a family in need of downtime between park visits. Buses to the Animal Kingdom Lodge are available at any park in addition to Downtown Disney and the Ticket and Transportation Center. Before beginning your journey, it’s always wise to call ahead for the resort’s schedule of activities and confirm which are available for anyone to enjoy.
Your journey to the African continent begins as you enter through the gates and see the conical thatched roofs. Stepping off the bus rhythmic beats fill the ears and the Swahili "Jambo" greets each guest as they approach the lobby’s main entrance.
The grand lobby is the perfect example of Disney’s attention to detail. Walking through the doors transports visitors from central Florida to a safari lodge at the edge of an African savannah. From the large beams and thatched ceilings, constructed to showcase natural lighting, to the hand carved furniture, multiple artifacts and large mud fireplace, the Lodge is more than a fair representation of the real thing. The resort also includes one of the largest collections of African art in the country. Once you’ve had a chance to fully appreciate your surroundings, ask for a map of the facility and a Wildlife Field Guide.
For all the lobby’s majesty, the true lure of Animal Kingdom Lodge is the over 200 hoofed animals and birds wandering around 46 acres spread out over four savannas. Designed using the traditional African kraal, the horseshoe-curved layout of the buildings allows for open views from several vantage points throughout the resort, including the lobby. Many of the overlooks, especially those along the path to the Arusha Rock, are staffed with guides from the Lodge’s animal program team. They can be especially helpful to younger explorers eager to identify the animals on their Field Guide.
Throughout the day musicians and storytellers perform and host interactive events designed to entertain and educate. Visitors have the opportunity to take impromptu lessons on the variety of instruments used during a performance. Plus many of the resort’s employees, including the lobby and restaurant greeters, are Cultural Representatives from Africa available to share stories and answer questions about their homeland.
An appropriate end to your journey is lunch at Sanaa. Located in the adjacent Kidani Village, the casual family restaurant serves lunch from 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM and reservations are recommended. The cuisine is described as African cooking with Indian flavors with prices ranging from $15 to $35, and some dining plans are accepted. In addition to the unique meals served at Sanaa, the restaurant boasts views of the Sunset Savanna allowing diners to gaze upon the 30 species of animals that call the Animal Kingdom Lodge their home.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is a truly unique example of the magic of Disney and one every visitor to Walt Disney World should venture off the beaten path to experience and enjoy.