The Animal Kingdom Lodge has long been on my list of top Disney World resorts. I fell in love with it the first time I walked into the lobby and I’d been wanting to stay there for almost twenty years before I finally had the chance. You see, I’m more of a Value resort budget girl so I tend to stick to the cheaper hotels on property. But, at long last, I decided to splurge on a room there and it was everything I hoped it would be. We stayed in an Animal Kingdom Lodge Savannah View room and absolutely loved it. It’ll be hard to go back to go back to my usual Value resorts after my little taste of the Deluxe resort life. This was not a sponsored stay, so all opinions are definitely my own.
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What makes Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge so special?
For starters, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is beautifully designed. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly authentic, but its thick grass roof is definitely reminiscent of places I saw in South Africa when I visited years ago. When Disney does theming, it goes all out and the lodge’s Jambo House lobby is no exception.
By far the best part of staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (and our reason for stopping by so many times over the years even when we didn’t have reservations) is the up-close views of the animals exploring the savanna right outside. You can see giraffes (my favorite) and various types of antelope from viewing areas right outside of the back of the main lobby or even from your room’s balcony. It’s an experience that can’t be matched at any other Disney resorts, and it’s a great place to visit if you have a day off from the parks but still want to experience a little bit of Disney magic.
Disney World brings in interns from around the world, and you can usually find guides from various places in Africa out on the back porch pointing out animals and talking about their homes. You can typically spot giraffes and other antelope in the main viewing area, and there’s a group of flamingos that are housed near the pool. Who doesn’t love flamingos? On the day we visited, there was a young giraffe with its mother very close to the railing and it was fascinating to watch them eating and interacting with each other.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House restaurants
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is home to two of the top-rated restaurants on property – Jiko and Boma. Jiko is a table-service restaurant that is only open for dinner. It serves fine cuisine with African-inspired flavors. It’s not exactly budget-friendly, but the restaurant is beautiful and the food is worth a splurge. Boma is a buffet-style restaurant that’s open for both breakfast and dinner. At breakfast you can get classic American foods, including a made-to-order omelet bar alongside African dishes. They also serve up some unreasonably good chocolate glazed donuts. The dinner menu features a similar mix of American staples with African-inspired dishes. I can’t comment on their authenticity, but they’re delicious anyway.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge quick service restaurant, The Mara, is one of my favorite fast spots at the hotels. Their menu has your basics, but also some unique options that you can’t get at most other places. Alongside your usual cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets, you can also try African-style stews and other dishes. It’s a great spot for breakfast before hitting the parks – don’t miss out on the classic Mickey waffles.
Animal Kingdom Lodge rooms
Our Animal Kingdom Lodge Savannah View room came with two double beds and a balcony overlooking an animal area. Even though I’d been to the hotel many times before, I hadn’t really explored the wings where the actual rooms are, and since we bypassed the front desk when we arrived, it took us a minute to figure out how to get to our room. Once we were on the right track, we wheeled our luggage down a seemingly endless hallway (though my assessment is probably overdramatic because we’d just spent the whole day exploring two different parks and had already walked more than 10 miles).
I was immediately enthralled with our room. I absolutely loved the gauzy drapes over the headboards of the two beds and the custom wallpaper was beautiful. All of the furniture is on-theme and even the shower curtain in the bathroom was made out of a matching print fabric. The rooms come with your standard Disney H2O+ brand toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotion. They do a good job, but their perfume-y scent was so strong that I was afraid it was going to trigger a migraine and I switched to some of my own shampoo after the first time I used it. The rooms also include a mini-fridge and a coffee maker with some coffee packets, a few tea bags, and assorted sugars.
We arrived after dark, so we had to wait until the next morning to really enjoy the view, but it was worth the wait. We skipped the parks that morning and instead I enjoyed a cool, relaxing cup of tea on the balcony watching some animals roam. It was one of the coolest Disney experiences I’ve ever had and for a moment, I really did feel like I was back at a hotel I’d stayed at in South Africa fifteen years before. By the time we got back from our breakfast reservations, there were several more animals roaming around and we wasted most of our pool time watching them.
Jambo House pool
In my mind, the animals are the biggest draw for the Animal Kingdom Lodge, so to me, the pool is kind of an afterthought. I’ve heard that Kidani Village has a fantastic pool, but I haven’t had a chance to check that one out yet. I was excited to check the pool out though, so even though the March weather wasn’t super hot, we put our swimsuits on and headed out. One great thing about being from the North: when people from warmer climates are scared away by the temperatures, you can enjoy the way less crowded pool without them. There has to be a silver lining for endless winter, right? It was barely 70 degrees that day, so there weren’t a lot of people interested in going for a dip in the water.
The pool is pretty generic. It’s a nice size, but there isn’t really any special theming or decor like you get at a hotel like the Polynesian (they have a volcano pool!). One of my complaints about Disney hotel pools is that many of them are very shallow, even for me at 5’3″. The Jambo House pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge was a little bit deeper, which was great for adults. I was looking forward to the waterslide, but it was pretty short and boring. If waterslides are your thing, I’d look into a different Deluxe hotel – Yacht and Beach Club have a great one. There is a pool bar right there and the quick service restaurant is very close as well if you need a snack. If you’re looking for a break, the flamingo enclosure is right around the corner.
Booking the Animal Kingdom Lodge
You have several options when making reservations at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House. The official Disney World website is the most obvious choice. They occasionally run room sales where you can save big bucks or qualify for free dining. Undercover Tourist, an authorized Disney partner, frequently has discounted rooms available and you can save up to 28% depending on the hotel and dates you pick (You can also get discounted park tickets there!). Their selection varies, so check to see if there are any Jambo House rooms available before making up your mind. Your third option is to book using rented DVC points. Availability isn’t great, but if you can snag a room, you can get huge savings over paying out of pocket. Find out more about renting points and other money-saving tips here.
Animal Kingdom Lodge tips
- When checking in, request a room close to the lobby if you have the opportunity. The type of room you reserve will impact your options, but it can be quite a walk to get from the lobby aka where all of the food, transportation options, and pool are located to your room if you get one that’s further away.
- Plan a day off from the parks to hang out at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and enjoy the pool and its unique amenities.
- The Animal Kingdom Lodge is super close to Animal Kingdom (shocking, right?) but transportation times to the other parks – especially the Magic Kingdom – can be pretty long. This might be a factor if you intend to spend a lot of time at the Magic Kingdom and/or have younger kids that you want to take back to the room for naps in the afternoon.
- Plan on having at least one meal at the hotel. The dining here is great and you won’t want to miss out.
- Bring a good camera with a zoom for your trip. Your phone camera probably doesn’t have a good enough zoom to capture all of them.
Check out these other posts for Disney World planning tips!
- How to Save Time at Disney World Using Your Smartphone
- The Most Important FastPass+ at Every Disney World Park
- The Grown-Up’s Guide to Disney World
- The Grown-up’s Guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- How to Save Money at Disney World
- What to Pack for a Disney World Vacation