Our most recent trip in August marked our third stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Our first stay was during the holiday season, years before Lil’ Man joined the family, and our last two stays have been with Lil’ Man at ages 3 and 5. Nothing is more magical than waking up in the morning, pulling back your curtains, walking out onto your balcony and finding a giraffe staring right at you as it eats its breakfast. With three resort stays, I figure it is time we share some of our thoughts in a review of Animal Kingdom Lodge.
While the Polynesian Village Resort may be our home now that we are Disney Vacation Club members, our hearts will always belong to AKL. With that said, the resort is not perfect, but I assure you that the pros far outweigh the cons.
Why our Family Loves AKL!
- Family-Friendly: Despite the grandiose decor of the large lobby at Jambo House, the resort is a great choice if you are traveling with younger children. Upon your arrival, you’ll be given a schedule of current activities which include animal enrichment, stories by the campfire, animal viewing with night vision goggles, movies under the stars and so much more! With so much to do there is no way the kids will have time to get bored.
- Dining: Jiko, Boma, Sanna and even The Mara quick service are all fantastic places to eat, especially if your taste buds are up for an adventure. We have eaten at every restaurant and have always been surprised at the variety of foods that are available. We will be dining at Sanaa (in Kidnai Village) for a third time during our upcoming trip this spring (look for my review this April/May). If you’re a fan of naan bread and hummus, then you will definitely want to partake in Sanaa’s bread service. They even serve an allergy-friendly naan!
- Educational Opportunities: You’ll find cultural representatives throughout the resort ready to share their knowledge with you. Make sure you stop and talk with them. On our last trip, Lil’ Man learned about the birds on the African savanna at one of the stations in Jambo House’s lobby.
- The Animals: At no other resort will you be able to experience the view you have in the Savanna View rooms. We have stayed three times on the third floor of Jambo House (once on Zebra Trail and twice on Kudu). The lower floor gives you an up close view of the animals. Lil’ Man just loves sitting out on the balcony with his snack so he can eat with the animals!
- Beautiful Decor/Theme: Jambo House’s lobby is stunning and you will find African Art throughout the resort. As always, Disney likes to add little touches to the guest rooms. Be sure to take a close look at the lace curtains. Who do you see?
- Unique Experiences: During our first stay, back in December of 2010, my husband and I went on the Wanyama Safari (followed by dinner at Jiko). The safari takes you on a backstage tour of AKL’s savannas for an up-close view of the animals. Once reserved to only guests of AKL, it is now open to everyone.
- Affordability: Of the deluxe resorts, AKL is one of the least expensive along with Wilderness Lodge. We save 40% on our room under the Military Salute discount.
- Less Traffic: In comparison to the other deluxe resorts, we have found AKL to be far less crowded. This makes it quick and easy to partake in the resort’s (many) educational activities.
What we Don’t Love About AKL
- Location: The resort is isolated from the others and far from Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Depending on transportation availability, it can take up to an hour to get to and from the parks. This is especially problematic when you have a dining reservation, or are trying to get back to your room after a long day.
- Limited Transportation Options: Unless you are driving, the only way to get to AKL is via bus. In comparison, all of the other deluxe resorts have at least one other option (e.g., monorail, boat, trail).
- Rooms: The rooms are starting to show some age. During our last visit, we had a cracked sink and a stopper that would not close all the way. The rooms are not as bright as those at other resorts like Beach Club and Grand Floridian. They are also smaller in comparison to those at other deluxe resorts in which we have stayed.
What Lil’ Man Wants Your Kids to Know
If you stay in a Savanna View room then sit out on the balcony and enjoy your snack, but don’t throw food out to the animals because it can make them sick. I like to stay there because I get to see all types of animals that don’t live where I do. I think your kids will like the swimming pool. The water was comfortable (heated pool). Don’t bring pool floaties because they have them there. I like the activities that are sometimes found in the lobby. Last time I got to learn about different types of birds that live on the African savanna. You will find penny machines in The Mara and near the swimming pool if you like to collect them like I do.
I’m Staying in a Savanna View Room at Jambo House. Where is the best location?
It depends! Some would argue that the view from the upper floor is best while our family prefers the third floor for an up-close experience. What trail is best? If you want to be close to the pool, Boma, Jiko, and The Mara then Zebra Trail is your answer. We’ve stayed on the Kudu Trail twice now and have had no problem making the trek to the pool and The Mara. Watch our video below to see what to expect from a third floor view on the Kudu Trail.
If you choose to stay at AKL, make sure you take time away from the parks to enjoy all the resort has to offer! If you normally rush off to the parks for the rope drop, take a morning off and have a cup of coffee out on the balcony. It’s my favorite way to relax while at AKL.
Have you stayed at AKL? Let others know what you think by leaving an Animal Kingdom Lodge review in the comments below! We’ve got big plans for our YouTube channel. Stay tuned for a video tour of AKL as well as our new home resort, Polynesian Village. As always, thanks for stopping by!
Jambo House Map
Wildlife Field Guide