For wildlife lovers looking for a truly unique experience at Disney World, it's hard to think of a resort more outstanding than Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, an upscale property with exquisite African theming and a location near Animal Kingdom theme park.
This property is uniquely stunning for its fabulous African-inspired architecture and incredible attention to detail, along with on-site savannas with African animals roaming right outside the hotel. Guests get to enjoy all the perks of staying at any Disney World Resort, including access to the free Magical Express airport shuttle, free Disney transportation to theme parks, Extra Magic Hours, and the ability to plan your visit up to 60 days in advance of your stay using the My Disney Experience app and MagicBands.
Keep in mind that Walt Disney World is roughly the size of San Francisco, so families should consider location and consider in which theme parks they will likely spend the most time. This property is very near Animal Kingdom Lodge theme park, which can be reached in several minutes by shuttle bus.
On the other hand, this lodge is relatively far from the Magic Kingdom, which requires a longer jaunt of 20 minutes or so. The other theme parks can also be reached by using the free Disney bus system available at all Disney World resorts.
Inspired by the traditional African kraal, the hotel's horseshoe-shaped design provides spectacular views of four lush savannas where over 200 hoofed animals and birds call home. The grounds are vast and the property feels much more isolated than most Disney resorts, which can be a good think if you like the idea of escaping the theme park energy at the end of the day. This hotel houses one of the largest collections of African art in the United States.
Without even leaving the hotel grounds, guests can discover over 30 species of African wildlife, including zebras, giraffes, gazelles, kudu and flamingos. You can easily identify each species with a Wildlife Field Guide (found in your guest room), and learn more about African animals during fun programs led by animal specialists.
Along with animal-education programs and animal-viewing activities, guests can enjoy exotic restaurants and fun activities such as swimming and night-time outdoor movies and campfire sing-a-longs. There are several playgrounds at the resort, jogging trails, and an arcade.
There also are several amazing pools: 11,000-square-foot Uzima pool with a water slide and zero-depth entry point similar to that of a natural watering hole, children’s wading pool, and two hot tubs; and Samawati Springs Pool, with a water slide, two hot tubs and Uwanja Camp—an animal-themed water playground with squirting Venus flytraps, a rope bridge, water cannons and more.
- Simba's Clubhouse kids' club for ages 3 to 12
- daily schedule of animal-related activities, from viewings to lectures
- animal viewing from the hotel (and even from your guest room), as well as several outdoor viewing areas
- fitness room and spa
- restaurants include fine dining at Jiko, impressive buffet at Boma: Flavors of Africa, and casual fare at The Mara.
Room options include traditional guest rooms (some with bunk beds for kids), suites, and villa-style units with kitchens and laundry machines.
Keep in mind:
- This resort is the farthest from Magic Kingdom, with a bus ride that takes 20 minutes. Families with small kids might prefer to stay near Magic Kingdom. The only nearby theme park, for this resort, is Animal Kingdom, but transportation is provided to all theme parks and water parks, Disney Springs, and other Disney attractions.
- On same grounds, Disney's Kidani Village Villas offers additional options along with its own pool and kids' water playground.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy
- Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher