Saturday

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Review - Planning a Disney World Vacation with an ADHD Family Part 3

Our view from our room at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
If you haven't already, I highly suggest checking out the other Disney related reviews and tips in our Travel Reviews & Shares tab above.


Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is a deluxe resort on the far western side of the Disney property. The main structures for the resort were inspired by actual African building designs. We were told when we were there that actual artisans and builders from Africa were brought over to help during its construction--which we thought was pretty fantastic!

I took several SD cards worth of pictures during our stay and unfortunately some of the pictures were lost on one of the cards, so if I'm able to recover them I'll be sure to add them. 


Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge vs Jambo House vs Kidani Village

The resort is broken up into 3 sub-sections-- Animal Kingdom Lodge, Jambo House (which is in the Animal Kingdom Lodge structure) and Kidani Village. We were initially really confused by this as you can go between the two major complexes to use the amenities, but it's a little bit of a walk or very short shuttle ride to travel from one to the other. After some research, we discovered that it looks as though Animal Kingdom Lodge is the "standard" hotel portion of the complex, Jambo House is in the original Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge structure, but those rooms were converted into villas and Kidani Village was built later on to house only villas (I believe many or all of these are for Disney Vacation Club members only). 

Both Animal Kingdom Lodge (which houses Jambo House) and Kidani village house their own restaurants, pools, gift shops, front desks, etc. Guests of one can easily travel to the other if they like to visit the pools, shop, eat and take part in activities. We actually didn't go to Kidani Village during our last stay because everything we wanted to do at our resort was at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but during this next trip we play to explore a bit more!

As we are not Disney Vacation Club members (though we have considered it), we stayed in a standard 2-bed in Animal Kingdom Lodge. We will be staying in Animal Kingdom Lodge again in March, so we'll see how our room and view compare to last time!


Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby Review

disney's animal kingdom lodge resort review
View from front desk
The lobby in Animal Kingdom Lodge is beautiful and open with dark wood and authentic African decor everywhere. It is very, very large. There are multiple items on display (well worth a peek), which you can easily kill a little time looking at if there's a line at the desks (there are quite a few). If you have super touch-y ADHD'ers, you definitely want to keep a close eye as the displays sit behind large glass containers, which could be dangerous if you have a child that gets a bit impulsive. 

There are many areas to sit including an area with a TV that plays kids' films. Thankfully the resort was smart and placed it near enough to the front desks that you can easily see each other if one of you heads to the front desk while the other stays with the kids. 

The lobby, like much of the rest of the hotel, is beautiful and interesting. The seamless theme throughout the resort was definitely a big plus for us and one of the many reasons we're returning to the same resort again this year!

Overall Score: 10/10 (scored based on general appeal & setup)



Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Front Desk Review 

Being a deluxe resort and a Disney property, we had high expectations, especially in terms of service by the hotel staff. We checked in very late at night (I believe it was around 1:30 am) because our flight was delayed and a late flight to begin with. 

The night auditor at the front desk was perfection--exactly who you'd want to be greeted by after a long, super late flight with kids. He was kind, inviting and very helpful. He explained our Magic Bands to us (this was the first time we'd used them; something I'll discuss in another post) and told us how to use them for both the hotel, parks and purchasing. We asked a few questions regarding the shuttle and also what we could do to celebrate both our kids' birthdays while there (we visit right around both their birthdays) and he was quick to oblige us. 

Our experiences with the daytime front desk staff weren't quite as impressive, but not negative either. We found one man in particular to be a little bristly (ironically the one we tended to get most), but he did help us with a few things from not getting shampoo/conditioner/soap one day in our room to a glitch with linking our tickets to our Magic Bands in the system due to the way my name was input.

I wouldn't say the daytime staff we experienced were bad, just not as impressive as the night auditor.

Overall Score: 8.5/10 (scored based on overall service)


Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Standard 2-Bed Room Review

As I mentioned above, we chose to stay in a Standard 2-bed. Unless you choose a room with a specific view, we've noticed it's similar to playing roulette as to whether or not you'll have a breathtaking view or not. We rolled the dice and thankfully--we won!
disney's animal kingdom lodge resort review
Standard 2-bed (from Disney's site)

Size/Setup

Our room was a decent size--similar to what we've experienced at mid- to high-end hotels. There wasn't a ton of extra space, but more than enough to maneuver around with the 4 of us. Our room included 2 decent-sized queens, a nightstand between the beds (I wish there had been 2), a small table and chairs, large entertainment center with built-in bureau below and a fridge. There was a decent-sized closet and I remember there being a safe for valuables as well. 

The bathroom included a small open area with double sinks (always a plus with kids!) and then a toilet and full shower/bath behind a door. The bathroom "room" was tight when opening/shutting the door, but the water pressure was good and everything else was decently spaced. I suggest going to Disney's site for additional room images (click the squares at the bottom left of the image at the top of the page). 

Balcony View

Our room had a balcony with a small table and 2 chairs on it. The first morning we were there we were so tired from the night before that we ordered room service and while the kids ate picnic-style on one bed while watching a show (with a towel beneath them to catch any crumbs/mess of course), we left the balcony slider open and ate at the small table together. The table was a little small to fit both plates and cups of coffee on, but with an opportunity to have a quiet "adult" meal ... we made do!
disney's animal kingdom lodge resort review

The view... Oh my gosh, easily one of the most amazing things we experienced on our last Disney vacation. Our room was almost at the end of one of the sides of the horseshoe-shaped complex, which gave us a very private-feeling from our balcony. And let me tell you, the first time the animals began walking past our view ... we all nearly died! 

ADHD parents, if your children are at all interested in animals this is the resort for you! Our boys spent almost as much time on our balcony as they did anywhere else. The resort is clever and puts a list of all the animals on the complex, which you can check off as you see them. Our guys made it their mission to check off them all. Seriously, the view and animals alone were worth staying here!

Distance from the Lobby

disney's animal kingdom lodge resort review
Giraffe through viewing binoculars
The only semi-negative thing we experienced was our distance from the lobby. 

On the one hand, it was great because we got to view so many other animal areas through large glass windows and viewing areas, but on the other hand ... it was a trek! 

We forgot meds one morning (major crisis!) when rushing to get to the shuttle pickup area and the Hubs had to rush back to get them. Because of the distance, we missed 1 or 2 shuttle pickups (which were slow that morning) and nearly missed a third. He wasn't walking either--he was booking it! 


disney's animal kingdom lodge resort review
View from one window on the way to the lobby
disney's animal kingdom lodge resort review
View of the Savannah from one viewing area
The distance also made dragging ourselves back to our room after a long day out extra tiring, but honestly, this one negative didn't affect our stay that much. If anything, it just tired out the boys a bit more and helped them sleep a bit harder.

Overall Score: 8/10 (scored based on the areas mentioned above)


Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Location Review

We did a lot of research ahead of time, so we knew that we had chosen a resort fairly far compared to other resorts from parks, Downtown Disney, other resorts, etc. This may or may not matter to you. Our shuttle pickups, because of the distance, were spaced out about every 20-30 minutes during the day. Our rides to and from Magic Kingdom took about 20/25 minutes, which wasn't too bad. 

Keep in mind, some resorts are adjacent to the other major parks and you could walk or take a short shuttle ride if you chose. Honestly we loved what Animal Kingdom Lodge had to offer and welcomed the calm serenity we experienced there due to its distance from everything else. I'd say, if you don't mind a bit and want to feel away from it all, Animal Kingdom is the place for you!

We scored this based on convenience in comparison to the most park-accessible resorts, as we found that's what most people take into consideration. Again, if you want peace and distance from the bustle, this is a great choice.

Overall Score: 7/10 (scored based on resort proximity to other areas of the Disney property compared to other Disney resorts)


Animal Kingdom Lodge Restaurants

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge has 3 restaurants, 1 poolside quick service bar and 2 lounges. Kidani Village's complex has 1 restaurant and 1 poolside quick service bar. As I mentioned above, we didn't go to Kidani village to eat or shop, so I can't comment on their restaurants, though I've heard Sanaa (their themed dining restaurant) is very good. 

Of Animal Kingdom Lodge's 3 main restaurants, there is Jiko (fine dining), Boma (buffet/family style/themed) and The Mora (quick service). There is also Uzima (poolside bar/quick service), Cape Town Lounge (lounge) and Victoria Falls Lounge (lounge). Kidani Village has Sanna (fine dining) and Majo Pool Bar (quick service/poolside bar). You can read more about each of these in-depth on Disney's site

We ate at both Boma and The Mara several times, so I'm happy to share our experiences with each. I wish I had taken pictures of our dinners and will be sure to try to on our next trip!

Boma

Boma offers a large buffet or family-style dining. We chose the buffet every time as did our kids. The buffet has everything from meat to African-inspired dishes and side dishes. Our oldest has a very mature palette and tried pretty much everything. Our youngest is a super difficult eater and mainly ate mac-n-cheese, salad and desserts. I think between the Hubs and I, we tried just about everything else between our 2 visits. Everything was good, yet clearly curbed to appeal towards American palettes. The Hubs and I both grew up in Asian influenced households, so we're used to more spice and seasoning than many people we come across and don't mind some heat in our food. Regardless, we found the food at Boma tasty and worth the money (kids are $30, adults were $59.99 for dinner; breakfast is about half of that). 

I recommend making reservations if you wish to eat here as it got very busy around dinner time. If you want to have a fun, non-character dining experience this is worth it in our opinions.

Overall Score (Boma): 8/10 (scored based on price and quality with the understanding it's a mid-range restaurant)

The Mara

The Mara is a quick service dining restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It offers very common American dishes and foods from sandwiches to pizza; chicken nuggets to cold items like yogurt. You can either order hot food or purchase premade foods from the wall of refrigerated items. We ate here two or three times and found the food neither impressive nor awful. If you just need to grab some food and want to stay on a lower budget, this is a decent option. I wouldn't suggest eating here if you're looking for something unique, however. They do offer some of the same desserts offered in other areas of the resort in the refrigerated section. Prices are what you'd expect from a budget-friendly resort restaurant.

This got very busy, very quickly during meal times. The lines moved somewhat quickly, but finding room to eat at a table was a little more challenging at peak times. We actually ate once in The Mara and brought our food up to our room the next time.

Overall Score (The Mara): 7/10 (scored based on price and quality with the understanding its a budget-friendly option)

Room Services

disney's animal kingdom lodge resort review
Child's Breakfast - these Mickey waffles are EVERYWHERE!
The first morning we were in Disney we ordered room service for breakfast because we were so beat (again, that late night flight is good and bad). The prices were comparable to what we found at the mid-range restaurants (not budget-friendly, but not fine dining either) and portions were on the smaller side. The menu offered a reasonable variety of standard breakfast foods. Time to receive our food from when we ordered it was average.

If you don't want to leave your room, this is a reasonable option. However, if you like a hearty breakfast I suggest looking into the breakfast buffet at Boma (located in Animal Kingdom Lodge).

Overall Score (Room Service): 6/10 (scored based on price, portions and service time)


Animal Kingdom Lodge Recreational Activities Review

Like most of the resorts we looked into, Animal Kingdom Lodge offers pools, an arcade, a supervised kids' program (not complimentary) and scheduled events such as movies and campfires. 

During our first trip, we used the primary pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge and the arcade. We did not go to any of the movie nights or campfires as we were rarely in during those times. We do plan to try to go to at least 1 if we can during our next trip, time permitting. 

Animal Kingdom Lodge Pool

The primarily pool in the Animal Kingdom Lodge complex is very nice. It isn't too deep and we found our boys (5 and 7 at the time) could enjoy it easily. Our oldest has taken swim lessons and our youngest has some fears when it comes to swimming. They do provide foam life vests for kids, which we found perfect for our youngest. There is a nice little water slide that goes into this pool and our boys went down it almost the entire time we were in the pool. If your ADHD'er s are impulsive and have trouble taking turns, I believe this water slide had a neat stoplight system to tell you when it was okay to go down to avoid bashing into anyone else. 

There is a kiddie pool, however, our kids were too old to make use of it so I can't provide much insight there.

Tip: Go to the pool in the evening! It's less crowded, heated and perfect for keeping your ADHD'ers calm and safe. 

Overall Score (Animal Kingdom Lodge Pool): 10/10 (scored based on safety due to depth, size and general family appeal)


Animal Kingdom Lodge Pumbaa's Fun & Games Arcade

There is a small arcade in Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge near The Mara and the pool. We took the kids one night because they'd passed it while heading to dinner and begged to go. We used it as a reward for good behavior--gotta work with what you've got! The games are priced around what you'd expect at most arcades and it's easy to blow through the money you load on their game cards fairly fast (you put credit on a game card rather than feeding each game cash, which is what we've found most arcades are doing now). The kids had fun and we were there for about 1/2 hour. 

If you have some time to kill or your kids simply have to go, I suggest telling them they're only getting a set amount and helping them determine which games will stretch their dollars best. I did notice there were a lot of tweens unattended in there whose parents I'm assuming were somewhere in the resort, though not in the arcade. If your kids are small like mine, I definitely suggest keeping a close eye.

Overall Score (Pumbaa's Fun & Games Arcade): 6/10 (scored based on the cost to play, size of the space, number of kids without parents and variety of games)


Presentation on Africa

During our last night there our kids were invited, while we were heading out of the gift shop in the lobby, to join in a parade and presentation on Africa. This was actually delivered by a woman who was native to a country in Africa. The kids had so much fun banging their drums in the parade and sat very attentively while the presenter spoke and asked questions. Both kids remained very engaged and our older guy even raised his hand and participated. This was such a great moment for us as a family! You know how thrilling it is when your kids practice perfect self-regulation and fit in beautifully with their peers--which in this family is not the majority of the time. 

The facts on Africa and the presenter's specific country were interesting and overall it was short enough that all the kids there seemed happy to sit through it. It's not a long activity, but fun nevertheless. Kids in our group ranged in age from less than 2 to a young teen, though the majority were kids under 8. In the end, the kids received a little certificate for attending, which was super cute and very exciting to them. Definitely a great little perk!

Overall Score: 10/10 (scored based on level to which kids were able to participate, remain engaged and interest factor)


Animal Kingdom Lodge Shuttle Review

Disney's resorts offer shuttle services to and from other resorts and parks. This is incredibly convenient for those who fly in like we did as well as those who simply want to avoid having to find parking. Because of the distance of our resort from other areas, our shuttles ran a bit slower than other resorts. As a result, sometimes we had to wait for several shuttles to come and go before we could get on one as crowds were very busy at the beginning of the day around the time most people left to get to the parks. Shuttles were also very crowded during the most highly trafficked parts of the day--so crowded the Hubs and I couldn't always sit. Not every shuttle ride was like this, just those during the busiest times, which tended to be an hour or so before Magic Kingdom opened as well as at the end of the day when the parks closed.
disney's animal kingdom lodge resort disney shuttle review
During one of our non-peak rides on the shuttle

The shuttles are great for what they are, but if you have a lot of stuff with you it can be a bit of a hassle to squeeze onto the shuttles. Also, if you have kids that have a hard time waiting, this can be another downside. Our kids were good about it overall, but after seeing the 2nd shuttle leave without us on it for lack of space (and some very rude people pushing past those of us who had been waiting), they started to get a little worried. 

I think the shuttles have their pros and cons, but overall, they beat renting a car if you're just heading to other areas on the Disney property!

Overall Score: 7/10 (scored based on availability, frequency of shuttle departures/arrivals, ability to sit and general efficiency)


Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Final Score

Averaging all of the scores above, we gave Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge the following scores. Keep in mind, it is based on our experience as an ADHD family and the specific events we experienced during the season we visited. 

Final Score: 7.95/10 (all factors above considered)

This final score was brought down primarily by characteristics that may be considered less important by some such as the resort location (in comparison to how close other resorts are to parks), room service, the arcade and the shuttle. 

If we factored out those potentially less-essential aspects, the final score would be...

Final Score: 8.79/10 (not including resort location, room service, arcade and shuttle)

As you can see, the score would be far higher if we only looked at some of the major characteristics of the resort and left out the somewhat minor details that brought the score down. Regardless, even at 7.95/10 it's a very solid score when looking this closely at a resort from an ADHD family perspective. 

Our overall experience was fantastic and we've recommended this resort to quite a few people since our last trip. It gave us just enough calm in the fun, over-stimulation storm that is Disney World. We will be returning to this resort for round 2 in early spring. We'll be sure to do an update once we get back. Ultimately, I think it's a great option for any ADHD family if your interests and priorities are similar to ours!


Note: We paid entirely for our Disney vacation in 2014 and this post is in no way sponsored. Ratings above were based on our personal experience, which varies from person to person and should be taken under conideration.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments that include rude, unrelated or SPAM-like comments will be deleted and their posters will likely be banned.