Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge opened April 16, 2001. This African themed resort is located adjacent to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. One of its main attractions is the ability for guests to watch wildlife graze outside their rooms and public areas in the resort within proximity, conveying the feeling of being in an African savanna. This hotel was designed by architect Peter Dominick, who also designed Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa.
We had planned a trip to celebrate a family event and stayed at Jambo House over this past weekend. Although we checked in on the hotel’s anniversary, there was virtually no mention of the occasion to the guests. We did learn that the castmembers did have a private celebration, but I would have thought there would have been a bigger event for those staying in the hotel during this time.
The lobby of the hotel are wonderfully appointed and has a massive entry hall decorated to suit the theme of the hotel. From artifacts and carvings to views through the lobby into other areas the lobby is incredibly open and inviting; although it can be a bit noisy for some folks who might have issues with ambient noise.
Upon entering our room we were greeted with a happy Mickey Mouse sculpture. This delighted our girls and set the tone for a great stay. The rooms themselves are nothing outside of the ordinary. We had the view of the parking lot, which was very noisy, but made that trade so our girls could have a bunk bed.
There is a small refrigerator in the room, but we had to call the front desk upon arrival because it did not work. There were some other signs of age in the room and hallways, but the hotel is still one of Disney’s premier resorts for many justified reasons. Ultimately, however, the rooms and fixtures are showing there age and I hope that this hotel is slated for an upgrade soon.
A note to TV fans, there was a time when Disney ran a reel of cartoons designed to keep the little ones entertained while in the room; that is no longer the case. In Disney’s desire to keep you out of the room and in their parks spending your money, their is virtually no way to rent or watch those classics in your room any longer. After a long day of swimming our little ones were too tired to do anything, but there was nothing for them to watch on TV.
Luckily, I had some movies on my iPad to save the day, but plan ahead and bring your own if you and your family like to relax with some movies. Also, the TV did, however, have a breakout box to plug external video sources to the nice flat-screen tv, but you need to have your own cables.
Another item of contention I have with most resorts today, not just Disney, is the lack of internet access. You have to pay for daily access, and it is only via ethernet access. The cost to provide access is minimal and for hotels to charge a daily fee for access in this digital age is akin to charging for baggage on airlines; sure you can do it, but do you really want to nickel-and-dime your guests in this manner?
Any hotel worth its salt provides this free to its guests in room, or at the very least through an open wifi network accessible somewhere in the hotel. I heard the same lament from many other guests as I was checking email with my iPhone throughout the weekend.
On Friday evening we had reservations at Boma to celebrate out family’s event; Boma features African style cooking in a buffet setting. The selection features items from fifty different African countries. The restaurant is designed to resemble an open African marketplace and the food is prepared in open cooking areas in view of diners.
Like most buffets, the food is adequate, although there are a few shining stars in the menu. Our group, of 4 adults and 2 children, all agreed that the soups are one of the best thing in the menu. The variety and diversity of the soups was fantastic with the She Crab Soup being my favorite item in the whole evening.
The other area where the menu really shines is with desserts. There are a number of bite-sized choices ranging from traditional cookies to more extravagant pastries. Be forewarned, however, not all of these are for children since some do contain alcohol.
We spent the bulk of the day in the resort’s large pool. It is a great pool fit for everyone from the littlest explorers on up. There is a great slide that the kids enjoy and even a ceremony in the morning to wake the water spirits. It is all in good fun and all the kids have a blast.
One of the main reasons people come to this resort is the chance to see the animals from different public viewing locations as well as from many of the resort’s rooms. Although we did not have a safari view, we did spend quite a bit of time wandering the property and checking out the different animals.
There are two main public areas to view the animals, with several smaller spaces within.
A big treat, if you can withstand the onslaught of mosquitos is to view the animals through the night-vision goggle. As soon after sundown as possible, you can queue up for a glimpse of the animals through the night-vision goggles; if you have never had a chance to use them, it is a great treat. From our viewing location we had four giraffes coming by to gaze at the people as well as numerous other animals grazing and wandering the property.
I had tried to take a video through the lens with my iPhone, but could not get an acceptable view and I did not want to hold up the other people waiting their turn. Again, if you are out and about at the resort, this is freely available to anyone and I highly recommend it.
Wrapping it Up
The hotel is a great change from the more traditional Disney resort, offering some unique amenities to differentiate itself from the other resorts available to guests who wish to stay at a Disney resort while visiting the Walt Disney World Resort. Even though there are some obvious shortcomings in the resort, they would not keep me from returning again or recommending it to my friends. Honestly, where else can you watch giraffes feeding outside your window? If you are planning a stay, and can afford it, check out Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Sidenote, in keeping with a simple weekend, all the photos were taken with my iPhone; you can find more shots from the weekend at our flickr page. The panoramas were all created with Pano for the iPhone.