We arrived in Orlando, Florida for half term. Hooray! Grabbing the convenient Disney Express from the airport we headed straight to our Walt Disney World Hotel called Animal Kingdom Lodge. It didn’t take long before the kid’s jetlag was put aside and the excitement of going to Disney World hit them with a ton of bricks. They were giddy from the moment we landed. I have admit so was Mommy and Daddy.
It’s our very first family trip to Disney World together so we weren’t sure what to expect. I had been as a child but that was absolutely years ago and everything has changed. I tried to research as much as I could before I went as we didn’t have the two weeks we originally wanted to stay and had to pack in a lot in only seven days including travel from the UK to Orlando and back.
I thought it would be easiest for those looking for advice, tips and information if I split it up. That way you can pick and choose the posts and information you really need out of it and leave the rest for others that are looking for those answers. Today, I will share with you all about the Animal Kingdom Lodge Hotel. What we loved, what we didn’t and some advice along the way. So if you are looking to book this WDW hotel than keep reading. Either way, we would love you to keep reading and see our family adventures anyway.
Later in the week and next week, over a two week period I will share with you videos of and advice and tips on each theme park individually. That way you can pick the ones you are visiting and get the information directly. It will include how to plan the ultimate week in Walt Disney World, along with how to use the app efficiently to get the most out of your holiday and a lot less stress too. We went while I was in my third trimester of my third pregnancy and it was 85 degrees out with smart planning, time management and organization I would say it wasn’t overwhelming and we made the most of every day there.
Let’s get back to that amazing WDW Hotel I mentioned above, Animal Kingdom Lodge.
What a lobby entrance, eh?
They really pulled all the stops out at this hotel. The decor is a masterpiece in itself and nothing was left unthought of to fit the theme. From impressive decor to super friendly staff, we were impressed right away.
They had one area you can see in photo above (right bottom corner) that they had Disney Junior playing on a big screen tv for the kids. It was great while we sorted things out at reception or with concierge the kids could stay here and be entertained. We had a few nights where we came down and they watched a show or two and to the left just out of the photo is a big fireplace with cozy chairs. The hubby got drinks from the bar and we sat around the fireplace while they sat next to us watching PJ Mask for some relaxing down time. The hotel really thought of everything the way it’s layout.
But the most fascinating and anticipated part of the hotel was the animals. The kids ran through the lobby to the big glass window you see above and immediately starting pointing out all the various safari animals right outside. It was surreal looking out and feeling like you are in the jungle right along with the animals too.
We made sure to book the magic wristbands and at check in we sorted them out. They are the best invention ever. They are your hotel room key, your theme park passes, your wallet for food, drinks, gift shops not just in your hotel but at every theme park. You can use them to buy anything, anywhere on Disney property. It was such a time savor and allowed me to leave my handbag in the room instead of carrying it all day. Bonus. You can get decorative and colored themed ones for a price but we stuck with the grey ones that were given at check in.
FUN HOTEL ACTIVITIES:
The hotel had so many corners and various areas that we felt like we could have toured around all day for a few days just there. From playgrounds in the high grass surrounded by animals (fence around it, of course) to hot tubs over looking the giraffes, the pool was set centerstage, and there were various cozy sitting areas outdoor with fire pits to have drinks at and night scout for animals too. Honestly, it was just breath taking to be in Orlando, Florida and yet surrounded by a safari jungle and animals. I can’t rave about it more for views and setting.
When you are exploring the animals and outdoors you find fun things to do as a family like the ping pong table tucked in a lovely jungle corner. The kids each had a go at beating Daddy the ultimate ping pong player. They were getting the hang of it at the end but it was time to catch the Disney bus for the day.
WALKING THE GROUNDS
We had a little fun with the kids in the jungle and talking about our newest addition to the family coming soon. The kids kept saying how much baby brother would love the animals or the swimming pool. We wish he could have been there already with us and can’t wait to take him back on our next visit. We have the Disney bug already that’s for sure.
The landscapes were gorgeous. We only wish we had more time each day at the hotel as we were up early and back usually late on most nights. But I can imagine you could spend a day exploring, a day swimming (which we did in the end) and more days around at your leisure in between park hopping if you are more time than we did.
The pool was definitely the main focus for my two kids at age 4 and 6 years old. The Animal Kingdom Lodge was smart enough to put a slide in and my kids did not want to stop going down it, over and over. I mean over and over. I think for two hours straight our first night that is all they did. Needless to say we didn’t have to venture to the waterpark right away they were completely content with their hotel slide. As you can see, even Daddy couldn’t get enough of it either. Sadly, third trimester kept me from attempting the slide myself. But I had fun sun bathing and listening to each one of them squeal down it.
I loved that the pool had various areas so you didn’t feel like you were on top of everyone. It had deep ends and more shallow ends with a gradual decline on the other side. It was also long enough to do lap swimming for those that wanted to. It spread out various areas for loungers by the pool edge and just outside the pool so those that wanted to sunbath but didn’t want to swim had their own areas. I love how much plants and foliage was surrounding us right up to the pool, it was a little oasis spot. One day we even had a vibrant parrot fly over us and land on the tree above. I have never seen something so beautiful right out in the open.
Each day, we would try to get back from the theme park that we were visiting to catch a few hours at the pool, (unless we were watching a late show or fireworks). After a long day, a hot long day, it was so refreshing. I think it was the best way to unwind with our aching muscles from walking so much. We swam long into the evening as it was so warm out still after dinner. I was surprised that even when the sun goes down it stayed warm out enough for us to keep playing in the water.
There was an amazing kids club available too. We didn’t stay long enough to try it out but we walked around it and I know my kids would have had a blast in it. Definitely one if you are staying long to try out and the kids get some parent free time and you can go have a fancy meal or drinks in the lobby next to the big fire pit that is so relaxing child-free. Your choices are endless.
We used the laundry facilities which is located conveniently right next to the pool. It was only $8 for a wash/dry load which is worth it. They are huge washers and dryers so I washed our entire family of four dirty laundry, the day before we left and it only took two loads. It’s just a walk in so you can put your clothes in as many washers you need go swimming, or eat and come back put them in the dryer and have all clean laundry when you go home or if you are staying for more than a week, your laundry is done. They do have a laundry service to do it for you but it’s a lot cheaper to do it yourself here.
HOTEL DINING OPTIONS:
There are a few restaurants choices at the hotel. Since we were either attempting prearranged character breakfast or lunch experiences at each theme park each day, we waited to have a late super at the hotel. A few days we ate at The Mara which is a buffet style dining hall/cafeteria located poolside. It makes it easy to grab a quick breakfast if you are rushed to catch the Disney Bus or a late super if you just want a lighter bite after swimming.
We were both disappointed with some food and worked out after a few times how to best utilized it. The hot food in our opinion wasn’t great and you had to wait long lines for it. The buffet style of grab and go food were better and healthier options.
For breakfast each morning we would have fruit and oatmeal or cereal which they had endless options and milk. Coffee in the rooms taste better and are free so we would make a cup before we went down to the dining hall. Some days we would have fresh fruit bowls with yogurt and granola too. Otherwise the hot food even just eggs were a bit slimy and gross. They obviously had waffles, bacon and sausage etc if you choose this type of breakfast.
We had lunch on our last day, our swim day in the Mara as well. They have tasty, and delicious wraps, sandwiches and salads in the fridge, premade to grab and eat by the pool or outdoors if you wish. I wish we had figure out this earlier as I would have had these for dinner a few nights too. They are tucked back behind desserts in the fridge so we didn’t spot them until day five which was our first mistake having thought we were stuck with just pizza, burger or other fast food for dinner.
The biggest positive about The Mara though for us and it was a HUGE deal is that they have a special allergy menu and an allergy chef that will only prepare your meal separate from all other chefs and food and deliver separate from the rest of your order. This was so helpful and made feeding our son at Disney the whole time stress free and more relaxing. I am always super worried when we eat in restaurants about contamination and them getting it wrong and I was impressed how accommodating they were for all his meals. Not just at The Mara but everywhere at Disney.
JIKO – The Cooking Place
We had late night dinner one night at Jiko in the hotel too. We love trying new foods and this meal was my favorite the entire trip. The kids got to have food they have never even heard of and loved every bite. I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s fine dining but worth every penny and they were so amazing at making the kids feel welcome. It was family friendly but with class. I thought it was the perfect balance. We just wanted one fancier meal as a family instead of just grabbing something quick at The Mara or eating at the theme parks. Highly recommend trying this one.
There are other restaurant choices but in only seven days we didn’t get a chance to try them sadly. We will be back though.
I wish had had more time just to walk the grounds and take photos of all the beautiful flowers. It is February half term so back in England it was snowy, freezing and winter still. It felt great to see blooms, colorful flowers and smell the florals as you want the grounds with the sun on your back.
I would definitely recommend if you are staying here to stay more than a week to fully get the benefits of everything.
HOLIDAYS + CELEBRATIONS:
We happened to also be at in Disney on Valentine’s Day. They were great getting families and the kids together to make Valentine’s Day cupcakes. The kids really enjoyed getting the chance to decorate them and them devour them poolside for a special treat. I have to say, the theme parks did nothing special for Valentine’s Day which really surprised me so it was nice to come back and the hotel make up for it. Way to go, Animal Kingdom Lodge.
We even made a Mickey Mouse inspired one below!
It was super easy every day going out front and waiting for the bus to take you to which ever theme park or location you wanted. There are screens for each bus with time tables listed so it’s easy to navigate where you are going and what time you need to be there. Each bus has it’s own line with a sign above it saying which location. Just don’t do what my husband did the first day and upon trying to return back to our hotel got the Animal Kingdom Theme Park bus instead of the Animal Kingdom Lodge bus! Lucky for us, I caught it before they shut the door on us. haha
The kids absolutely loved the bus rides they come every twenty minutes or so both departing hotels and returning back to hotel. You can use them to park hop as well if you have passes that allow this. Make sure your passes allow multiple parks on the same day. As its nice to catch a few more things in the morning and then maybe after go to the fireworks show or fantasmic show if you aren’t already at those locations. We did this as the fireworks were cancelled on the day we were at Magic Kingdom so we park hopped the next night back to MK to see the fireworks after a day at AK.
It was better than having to rent a car and drive in and park, I thought, especially with two kids in tow it was all part of the adventure each day. The buses don’t take long to get to the theme parks and back either. We gave an hour in total from when we were staying in line waiting for bus to arrive and the time on the bus to get to the hotel or park.
OUR ROOM + A VIEW:
I saved the best for last for this hotel. Our hotel room with a safari view. Our hotel room had these lovely giraffe greeting us each morning when we woke up. We watched them long into the night lay down for a few minutes and rest than get back up and start eating again. They only sleep for 30 mins a day we were told in total. This is literally a photo I took off our balcony. There were other animals of course too, on various days. Zebras usually were out the lobby windows. We also had Gazellas, some kind of buffalo and smaller animals outside our balcony. Sadly we had fog most mornings before we left and came home it was dusk so I didn’t get a lot of clear photos to showcase just how magical it was. But we saw them and you can see in our video below a lot more out our window. We really were spoiled listening and watching them as we got ready for the day or ready for the bed each day.
We had bunk beds for the kids and a king size bed for us. As you can see the kiddos snuggled up a few times for a power nap or completely passed out together if it was a late one on the bottom bunk. They were so cute sleeping here when we came in one day to change for swimming and both ended up taking a 30 minute nap with the curtains open and the animals making all kinds of noise outside. The husband and I were laughing so hard, they didn’t budge. Bless them, it’s a lot of park walking for their little legs.
OTHER HOTEL AMENITIES:
This is brilliant if you buy anything at the Disney stores at the parks they will get it to your hotel so you don’t have to carry bigger items all day at the park and rest a sure it will be waiting for you the next day at your hotel.
SPA + FITNESS
I didn’t have time to try out the Zahanati Massage & Fitness Center but my husband worked out a few nights and said it was brilliant facilities. I am keen next time to try the Spa too. I bet it’s oasis waiting for me.
Until next time WDW hotel, we would definitely book Animal Kingdom Lodge again. We booked last minute and got a great deal for it. I would highly recommend it for families with young kids.
Coming up next our first theme park and some more tips and advice for each one. I hope you will take a few minutes (just four minute to be exact) watch our little family video below. It will bring all that I shared and the hotel to life for you.