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Earlier this year, we tried something that we have never done before. We stayed at a DISNEY property during our trip to the Disney Parks. We were fresh off of a 3-night cruise on the Disney Magic and planned to hit the Parks for a few days before heading home. We made our reservations fairly late (3 months prior) by Disney standards so our choices were extremely limited. In fact, for our dates the only availability was for 2 of the Downtown Disney Resorts and for Animal Kingdom Lodge. Even though it wasn’t our first choice we ultimately chose Animal Kingdom Lodge and reserved a room at Kidani Village (your other choice at AKL is Jambo House). I would have loved to stay at a monorail resort, especially since we were traveling with a baby, but there weren’t any openings. We did end up saving a LOT of money by renting DVC points. For the price that we would have paid for a standard/no-view room at a moderate resort, we were able to grab a deluxe studio villa WITH Savanna view at AKL (a deluxe resort).
We left the cruise ship and drove straight to Magic Kingdom. We planned to spend they day at the park since we couldn’t check in until late afternoon (4 pm). Animal Kingdom Lodge is about a 15-20 minute drive from the parking lot at Magic Kingdom. We found it easily and made our way to the short-term parking area in front of the building’s entrance. A hotel cast member helped Bob to unload our mountains upon mountains of luggage and baby gear. He secured them all to a cart and gave us the number to call when we were ready to have it brought to the room.
From there a friendly lady at the front door greeted us with the warmest welcome. She was expecting us as the security checkpoint at the entrance lets concierge know when new arrivals are on their way into the resort. She struck up a conversation with Lily right away and the two chattered like old friends as we made our way to the check-in desk.
The lobby area of Kidani Village, while not as grandiose and spectacular as Jambo House, is well-appointed and inviting. You will find traditional African art everywhere (there is actually a free tour given by the hotel if you’d like to learn more!). There is a spacious seating area in the lounge, a kids’ area with a tv that plays Disney Junior 24/7 and a small store with souvenirs, food and other necessities.
Just off the lobby we found several areas worth noting. Kidani has a community room, an arcade room and (AND!!!) a laundry room where the machines are FREE. We tend to do laundry during trips anyway, and especially needed to do some on this trip thanks to Landon and his burp cloths, bibs, etc that just tend to pile up. There is a really nice enclosed room that has tall windows, couches, tables and a fireplace – that just happens to look out onto the Savanna. There is outside access from several areas to the Savanna as well. We saw a big bonfire going every night and learned that there are night vision goggles that you can use to see animals after sundown. There were frequently cast members on hand to teach anyone who was interested about a range of topics including African music and the Savanna wildlife.
Our check-in process was entirely seamless. We had checked in online prior to arrival, so we just needed to put our credit card on file, etc. We had MagicBands so they served as our room keys. We stayed in room 7676. Now let me tell you: the first walk to our room was THE WORST. We were tired. It was late. We were lugging cranky tired kids. We were dragging various pieces of luggage that we hadn’t wanted to leave on the bellhop cart. It was dark so there was no stopping at any of the windows to enjoy the wildlife fun. Our room was at almost the very very dead end of that wing of Kidani. It was a hike. The next day, I timed the walk from our room to the hotel lobby.
Close to a 7 minute walk! But, there is a benefit to that marathon walk that we did several times every day – we ate every treat imaginable and didn’t gain a single pound! :D
Upon finally (FINALLY) arriving at our room, we were able to use our MagicBands to open the door. That was a really great perk. Lily LOVED using her band to open the door – which came in super handy as Bob and I were frequently mired down by Landon, baby gear, souvenirs, etc.
We stayed in a Deluxe Studio Villa with a view of the Savanna. We took our first peek into our room and were pleasantly surprised with the size.
Directly to our right was a kitchenette that offered a coffee maker with a starter set of coffee. We got a toaster, a small refrigerator and a sink. The cupboards were well stocked with plenty of paper plates, cups and cutlery. There was a small dish soap and some other starter amenities.
The villas offer trash and towel service on your 4th day and a room cleaning on the 7th. However, you can request additional “mousekeeping” if you’d like, for a charge. You can also purchase extra items like soap, coffee, etc.
Check out our room! It was fairly spacious for a studio – plenty of room for Bob, myself and the two kiddies. The sofa pulled out into a double bed and that is where Lily slept. Landon was 5 months old at the time of our trip. We brought along our Arm’s Reach CoSleeper and he slept in that.
The bathroom was nice and big. We had a full bathtub and shower, huge sink area with plenty of counter space and, in typical Disney fashion, a separate room for the toilet.
We got a nice set of soaps and actually ended up with a 2nd set with our towel/trash service on our 4th day.
The room had a decent sized closet with a safe and an ironing board. This storage was in addition to the dresser and the armoire. Oh! We also found a Pack ‘n Play under the entertainment center.
Early the next morning, I was the first one to wake up. I wanted to get a jump on Mama Cheaps posts anyway, so I quietly brewed a cup of coffee and as soon as the first sunlight made an appearance, I took a look at our view. IT ROCKED!
Zebras in the morning fog – SO awesome! I was really surprised at just how many different animals we ended up seeing. The variety was so neat – it was like watching a big ‘ol live nature show 24/7. The animals wander here and there. The gamekeepers are constantly dropping off food into the many feeders, hay into big piles, etc.
Lily was immediately drawn to the handy reference chart that we found in our room. We ended up referring to it several times to identify the animals.
Yes, she also loved all of the “DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT FEEDING THE ANIMALS OR OUR LASER BEAMS AND CAMERAS WILL FIND YOU AND BANISH YOU!!!!” signs. :D Look – she made her own! Don’t feed the animals!
At one moment you’d be watching a herd of wildebeests…
Then the giraffes would appear…
Then the zebra family would wander over!
Here is a video that I took of the view from our balcony:
We learned pretty quickly that the animals come out all throughout the day (and night) and also in any kind of weather. On our last full day in the parks it started to POUR while we at Hollywood Studios. Since we had already seen everything we had hoped to see at HS, we decided to cut our losses and spend the afternoon back in our room. We put Landon down for a nap, brewed some coffee and were entertained by all sorts of animals who clearly didn’t care about the monsoon.
It’s rare for us to make it to our hotel pool during a vacation because we’re usually out pounding the pavement from sunup to sundown. We made a point to check out the pool at Kidani though, after hearing from several friends that it was not to be missed. They were right! The pool itself was pretty big and was SO pretty! Bob and Lily had a blast while Landon snoozed and I got a few minutes to kick back and relax.
AKL offers several forms of restaurant and food service. You can pick up a quick and simple danish/pastry/piece of fruit in the gift shop near the lobby. There are also a couple of quick-eat options at the pools. We tried room service twice – once for breakfast and another time for dinner (just for Bob and I that time – the kids were already in bed!). Both times the food was really really good.
As far as sit down meals with table service, Kidani has Sanaa (which we tried to eat at but the wait was too long). Jambo House has a fine dining restaurant, Jiko, and a quick service buffet restaurant, Boma. We ate at Boma on our final night in Florida. It was incredible!
Animal Kingdom Lodge (as well as the perks that come with staying ON Disney property) easily exceeded our expectations. I truly think that our only complaint was the long walk to our room… but honestly, I think that’s just par for the course when you’re staying at a huge resort like that. They have a billion rooms, and sometimes, you have to walk past a ton of them to get to yours.
We used the bus transportation to and from the parks all week and found it to be easy and pretty convenient. It was a pain to have to fold up the stroller every time we got on a bus, but we got pretty darn quick at the whole procedure. Since AKL is the farthest hotel from the parks, we always got on an empty bus and had first dibs on seats when heading out. The return trip got a little more crowded and we found ourselves having to stand a couple of times. That was a big pain, but the tradeoff was saving all of the money that we would have spent on parking each day. We really want to try a monorail resort next time, but we would most definitely come back to Animal Kingdom Lodge for another stay!
Be sure to check out the other DISNEY POSTS I have written!