Animal Kingdom Lodge Tips

animal kingdom lobby from above
We walked around the upper levels as well. There is artwork and a fun bridge.

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Walt Disney World and its resorts are all about transporting you to another place or time, and few do it as well as Animal Kingdom Lodge. With a lot of space between Animal Kingdom Lodge and the rest of Walt Disney World, this resort has invested heavily in fun activities and theming to make it worth staying a little further away from the other parks. Following these tips for staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge can make your “resort time” as fun as your “park time!”

Enjoy The Savannah at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Whether you snag a Savannah View at Animal Kingdom Lodge or just enjoy the lookouts, the time spent gazing at the giraffe or zebras will undoubtedly be one of your favorite experiences. The central lobby of Animal Kingdom Lodge is set up with numerous overlooks with the Sunset Overlook being most prominent. We found ourselves pausing in between buildings as we headed to our room each day to see what was wandering along the savannah.

You can find over 30 different species on the Savannah. From our experience, the ones you will spot the most often are Zebra, Giraffe, Wildebeest, and kudu. If you aren’t sure exactly what animal you are spotting, there is a Wilderness Field Guide in the main lobby that loves to help you identify the animals.

Giraffe on Arusha Savannah at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Our favorite sitings were the giraffe!

After leaving the main lobby, make sure to visit the Arusha Rock Savannah Overlook on the ground floor. We were able to watch the animals being fed and hear facts from the keepers about specific species.

Arusha Rock Savannah at Animal Kingdom Lodge

The Arusha Rock Savannah is a great place to spot one of the 30 species roaming around Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Rent an Animal Kingdom DVC Room

Finally, if you can find it in your budget, the Savannah view room is definitely worth it. Relaxing on your own balcony and enjoying the animals is hard to beat.

savannah view animal kingdom lodge room

The View! This is what staying at Animal Kingdom is all about! Sit on your balcony and enjoy the animals.

If you want to get the best shots of the savannah, try a GoPro on your balcony! We set it up during the day and had fun checking it out when we got back to the room at night. You will be amazed at the animals that come visit while you are playing in the parks! Just to get you started, here is a full setup on Amazon:


Animal Kingdom Lodge has a fairly large amount of Disney Vacation Club (DVC) rooms that you can rent for a much cheaper price than booking directly. Animal Kingdom DVC is also fairly easy to come by I have found. One of my big tips for staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge is to use a DVC rental to reduce the price enough to snag one of those Savannah View rooms. If you want to see some other DVC options that you can rent at a fraction of the Deluxe price, check out Polynesian Villas and Grand Floridian Villas.

You can also stock up on a few Lion King inspired toys if you decide to spend some room time and watch the Savannah.


Schedule Time at the Pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Uzima Pool

Again, you’ll find that Walt Disney World has put a lot of effort into making Animal Kingdom Lodge a true retreat. Since the travel to the parks is longer than other resorts, you tend to want to stay “home” once you have headed back from the parks. During our stay we literally went to the pool every single day.

The pool is one of the largest of all Walt Disney World Resorts and features a water slide. There are a few special features that make this an all-day visit:

  • Uzima Springs Pool Bar:

Allows you to order food from Mara, the quick service restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge. You an choose from a wide variety of food and have it delivered.

  • Natural Shade:

Several of the lounge chair areas fall under the natural shade of palm trees and umbrellas are available as well. These spots are fairly coveted, so you do need to be on the lookout if you don’t snag one as soon as you sit down.

  • Pool Games:

We stayed through several pool games, including Disney Trivia and Bingo. As a duo, my son and I placed 2nd in Disney Trivia and walked away with a free beach ball. First Place could have been ours if I had remembered Flynn Riders real name (drop me a comment if you know it without googling!).

waterslide at the pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Take a ride down the waterslide at the pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Stock up on plenty of sunscreen and maybe even some fun pool toys. The pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge has plenty of areas deep enough for diving toys. The zero entry area is also great for splashing around with smaller children. My favorite sunscreen that lasted an entire day at the pool is Babyganics. It’s mineral oil based as well, so it doesn’t hurt little eyes if it gets rubbed in.

Hakuna Matata Playground

Located next to the Uzima Pool, the Hakuna Matata playground offers the kiddos with a fun time and an opportunity to play with each other. We made a pit stop after the pool to run around on the jungle gym several times during our stay.

Explore the Animal Kingdom Lobby with the Kids

If you are worried about what to do at Animal Kingdom Lodge with the kids, rest assured! We happened upon a kids’ activity every day during our stay. One day, when returning from the parks, we walked into the lobby to find kids coloring and doing rubbings on the floor. My son joined in immediately while I enjoyed a little time reading in the lobby.

Kids activity - rubbings on Animal Kingdom Lodge floor

Even the floors at Animal Kingdom were a work of art! Kids had fun doing rubbing of the animals on the floor.

You can also interact with Wildlife Field Engineers in the lobby to learn more about the animals on the Savannah. While waiting for Disney’s Magical Express to arrive, we actually ran into a kids’ activity in which cast members were teaching the importance of sustainability and about the different countries in Africa.

We also had a fun time just enjoying the artwork in the lobby itself.

Finally, while waiting for dinner at Boma, we watched a cast member lead kids around the main lodge dancing to drums and singing. We’ve stayed in many other Disney Resorts but never encountered so many kids’ activities just by walking around the lobby!

Eat at All Restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Taking advantage of the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the top tips for staying at this resort. All Deluxe Resorts offer at least one Table Service restaurant, but Animal Kingdom Lodge offers 3 along with a quick service. Since Animal Kingdom Lodge is a fair distance from the rest of Walt Disney World, these restaurants typically have availability a few days out. I struggle to find another resort where we want to stay and eat every single night:

Boma

Start with one of our favorites! Boma is far and away the best buffet at Walt Disney World. The variety and the quality of food here earns our highest marks. It is so good and so diverse that we can easily eat here twice during our stay and not feel bored. It also earns the “best dessert bar” from my son which is a very coveted title in our house!

Dessert photo from Harshlight on Flikr.

Jiko

Signature Dining at Jiko, requiring 2 Table Service credits on the dining plan, is all about exquisite ingredients and dishes that you can’t find anywhere else.  The beef short rib was one of the most delicious meals I have had at Disney. The only drawback for us are the dress code as we tend to be very causal when on vacation and the price. For  full review of Jiko, check out : Jiko – The Cooking Place Dining Review

The Mara

Mara is the quick service option at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We enjoyed a meal there as well as delivery while we were at the pool. The food is good quality, but I can’t imagine choosing it over Boma or Sanaa. I’d save it for your pool days or a quick lunch and make sure to schedule dinner at one of the delicious table service restaurants.

Sanaa

This is a hidden gem at Disney World. Due to its location, Sanaa is rarely booked completely and a reservation is usually possible after you have arrived at Walt Disney World. The quality of food however, would lead Sanaa to be booked all the time if it was closer to other Resorts in my opinion. If you visit, the bread service is a MUST. The butter chicken is also so good that it inspired me to start making butter chicken when we returned home. Rarely can I say a meal inspired me to start cooking at home! Another huge bonus for Sanaa is that it is located with a view of the Savannah. You can enjoy your mail while gazing on the giraffe and zebra as they walk by.

  1. Sanaa is located in Kidani Village, a separate section from the main Animal Kingdom Lodge. The main section is known as Jambo House, which Kidani Village being exclusively Disney Vacation Club (DVC) rooms. To get to Kidani Village, you hop on the Disney Springs bus and it’s the very next stop. The trip takes less than 5 minutes. To get back, hop on any of the Park buses.

Leave Time For Transportation

It’s not just the bus ride to Animal Kingdom that takes a long time. For us, the walk from our room to the bus stop was also a solid 12-15 minutes. We were located in the second to last section of Jambo House, and the curve around the Savannah means that the walk from the room to lobby can be quite a trek. You can request rooms closer to the Lobby, but it isn’t always promised.

You are isolated to bus transportation for all of the parks, and we found the bus times from Animal Kingdom Lodge to be around:

  • Magic Kingdom – 20-30 minutes
  • Hollywood Studios – 15-20 minutes
  • Disney Springs – 25-30 minutes
  • Epcot – 25-30 minutes

As a note, all of the buses drop off at Kidani Village first and then return to Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House. This does add time onto your trip back from the parks. A nice perk is that you don’t share the bus with any other resort other than Kidani Village.

Take Advantage of Proximity to Animal Kingdom

If you are staying in any other resort, you plan your Animal Kingdom days carefully because you know the bus ride is longer.I timed the trip door-to-door several times. It was 7 minutes or less every single time. The only Resort-to-Park time that even came close was the monorail from Grand Floridian to Magic Kingdom. This means that you can go to Animal Kingdom on a whim one night. No worries about whether the wait times are going to sky-rocket while you are on the bus. It also makes those Early Magic Hours look a little bit better too!

Summary

Finding things to do at Animal Kingdom Lodge is actually pretty easy when you know the right tips and tricks! I know I’ve said it before, but I really believe Disney has put extra effort into making Animal Kingdom Lodge a completely self-sustaining experience as compared to other resorts. To get the most out of your time at Jambo House:

  1. Enjoy the Savannah from the many outlooks across the property
  2. Spring for a Savannah View Room, and use renting DVC points to save some money.
  3. Schedule time at the Uzima Pool.
  4. Take advantage of the many kids activities, including the sustainability talks.
  5. Eat at every restaurant from Boma to Sanaa.
  6. Plan for the time between Animal Kingdom Lodge and the parks
  7. Use the short commute to Animal Kingdom park to make multiple trips.
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