Friday

Orlando Family Travel Guide 2015 - Day 3 Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge Activities, Restaurants, etc.

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Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge in a Nutshell

Disney World has quite a few on-site resorts, but our favorite has been Animal Kingdom Lodge for a couple years now. It's one of the more expensive resorts, but the amenities, activities, rooms, etc. are amazing and worth in the money for our family. As the name suggests, Animal Kingdom Lodge is all about the animals--animals indigenous to Africa that is! We've previously discussed Animal Kingdom Lodge in depth and we highly recommend reading that post if you want to know everything from A-Z about this resort as this post will focus primarily on experience returning to this resort this year.


Unlike our trip in 2014, during which we also stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge, we decided to dedicate an entire day to staying in our resort and making use of its amenities and activities. After all, it has so much to offer and it was one of our only little regrets from our trip in 2014 as we spent every day out and about with only short spurts (minus sleeping) at our resort.

I'd also like to note that our little ADHDers love this resort! No matter what other hotels we stay at they always compare them to this one. Sorry guys, not every hotel can have giraffe and wildebeest grazing right outside your balcony!

If you're still in the process of trying to decide I highly recommend checking out our How to Choose a Disney World Resort post. While Animal Kingdom Lodge is our favorite, there are many others with plenty of other amenities and price points to choose from!


Animal Kingdom Lodge Tips
  • Take advantage of the complimentary kid's activities (you can get a schedule for all of them from the front desk)
  • Take advantage of the complimentary movie nights - these alternate between Animal Kingdom Lodge and Kidani Village for this resort
  • Make reservations in advance for Boma as it can fill up fast. If you forget, sometimes you can get a last minute reservation if someone cancels. Check a minimum of 1 hour prior to the time you wish to go for cancellations as people tend to cancel to avoid having to pay the full amount.
  • If you're on a wheat-free diet request to get extra potatoes or eggs in lieu of toast, pancakes, etc. at The Mara
  • Purchase water in gallons from Zawadi Marketplace and bring refillable water bottles for the resort and parks


Animal Kingdom Lodge Restaurants

We've previously discussed all of the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but for our stay-in day we ate at both The Mara and Boma. These currently tend to be the 2 restaurants we eat at the most in-resort. The Mara, as we've discussed before, is the budget-friendly restaurant located in Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is quick service and the menu is moderate in variety, but it's great if you want something fast, are on a budget or you're hungry late at night and just want a little snack.

We ate at The Mara for breakfast and found that it had good options for both our little guys and for us! The best part was they were really good about allowing me (Mom) to get a wheat-free breakfast. While I'm not Celiac, I am allergic to wheat and don't eat grains.

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For breakfast our little guys tend to get the kid's breakfast that includes the famous Mickey waffles! Our guys eat these every change they get when they're at Disney.

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This was the adult breakfast that they modified so that it was wheat-free. Rather than getting toast or waffles, they added extra potatoes. This meal comes with egg, sausage, bacon and potatoes (normally a bread-type product is included).

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For Dinner we went to Boma for their fantastic African-inspired buffet. This buffet is quite large and has everything from meats to African-inspired side dishes; soups to desserts. It's fairly average price-wise for a Disney resort restaurant buffet (the 4 of us cost a little over $100), but it's a great experience that we always make sure we set aside for a relaxing evening. I tried to get additional pics, but it got busy so quick and the lighting made it difficult to get clear shots. Sorry, guys!

Overall, we think Animal Kingdom Lodge has some of the most unique restaurants of any of the resorts. We've eaten at other resorts and while there are definitely some other great ones, Boma is super unique and delicious! If you have a picky eater (like our youngest) we've found we could request the kitchen make him something within reason. While you still pay the dinner buffet price, it's a great option if you have a child with a very limited list of things he/she will eat to keep them from going hungry. Keep in mind, technically you are not supposed to take away leftovers in to-go containers, we've found that if we order something from the kitchen for our youngest and he doesn't finish (which is always the case since he barely eats) they find a way to get inventive and allow us to bring back his leftovers for later.


Animal Kingdom Lodge Kids Activities

Another thing we didn't do much of during our last visit that we wanted to make sure we did this time around was to let our kids take advantage of some of the fabulous children's activities! In 2014, our kids participated in a cultural parade that ended with circle time where they learned a bit about the continent of Africa, the presenter's home, etc. This time around we tried to do as many of the kids' activities we could! And the best part, they were complimentary for guests of the resort and kids received beads they could collection for each activity they completed.

The activities averaged 15-30 minutes depending on which activity it was. These are not the types of activities you can do drop-off for. Little kids may need some assistance. Those orchestrating the activities are not there to make sure kids don't wander off or that they get to their parents after. We never tend to leave our kids anyway, but it's something to note for those considering these activities as there are other activities at the kid's clubhouse where you do drop kids off.

While the majority of activities took place at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a few took place over at Kidani Village. We didn't go over to the other side of the resort for them.

Animal Tracking

Our oldest helped to feed the flamingos early in the morning, but our youngest was still asleep and Dad accompanied him and wasn't able to get any great pictures. The first activity our little guys did together was an Animal Tracking activity. The guides explained to us that in Africa they often track the animals to study them, make sure they aren't being poached, etc. They put a tracker on a stuffed Simba, hid it and let the kids track it down using special equipment. It was super kid and the kids were pretty into it. It's probably not something anyone over 9 would be too interested in, but I think that's probably true of most of the children's activities we did.

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First, the guide explained why and how they track different animals. The boys loved that they often use "skat" to learn more about the animals, but were surprised to hear they actually taste it sometimes in addition to smelling it and seeing what's inside. Very cool though!

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The guides explained how the equipment they use for tracking worked. Our oldest was super excited to be offered the opportunity to hold the antenna for the tracker during their activity!

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As you probably guessed, they successfully tracked down Simba as a team!

The entire activity took probably around 20 minutes from the time we got there until they completed their tracking activity. It was very cute and getting to use real equipment really excited the kids!



Making Animal Snacks
The kids had the opportunity to make real snacks for the animals and then watch some of them eat them! They were really great about explaining everything to the kids from why they had to sanitize their hands to why they chose the ingredients they used.

Note: If you have sensory kiddos this is a GREAT activity. Our youngest was super excited to learn they provided gloves so that he wouldn't have to touch anything with his hands directly--match made in SPD heaven!

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Feeding the animals was super exciting to our guys! We were impressed that they made real snacks that we actually got to witness them putting out for the animals.

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Of all the activities we did, this was one of the ones with the biggest turnouts. We noticed that people tended not to get up for the earliest ones, which started around breakfast time, but began showing up for the midday and early afternoon ones.

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This was a really neat part of the activity. They had special snack feeders that they had the kids fill with certain leaves and ingredients. They explained that they reason they used these was to make it a little more tricky for the animals to get their snacks to help stimulate their brains and prevent them from getting bored. 
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Everyone got to work in groups of a couple kids.

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The second half of the activity included using pine cones, honey, seeds and sweet potatoes to create more snacks for the animals! The kids had a lot of fun and our boys worked one one together.

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Once they finished, the guides told the kids where to go so they could watch them put out some of the snacks. While the snacks were placed in multiple areas throughout the resort, we had a great view behind the pools of one area of the Savannah.

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It was actually really neat, as soon as the guides put the snacks out the animals began eating them! This guy was so darn cute.

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The kids loved watching him eat his snacks that they'd made. It was a super rewarding experience!

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And when he was done with his snacks at one tree he moved on to sample the snacks at the next one!

When they finished the boys received another bead. Overall, the activity probably took close to half an hour from start to finish--including watching the animals sample our snacks on the Savannah.


Kids Bingo Activity
Another activity the kids participated in was animal bingo!

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The animal bingo activity was the last one we participated in for the day. Like most activities, it was located near the pool courtyard area, which is quite large.

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Each kid got their own bingo card with animals on it. This lovely lady helped our youngest so he was able to keep up! 
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Quite a few kids turned up for this activity!

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When bingo was done the kids received another bead for participating. My guys tend to hang back in a crowd and let others go first so they were the last to get their beads. They still haven't mastered confidence in crowds yet. :)


Hanging Out in Animal Kingdom Lodge's Lobby


One of the things we love about Animal Kingdom Lodge's lobby is that, not only is it huge, but it has a wealth of displays with pieces of art, clothing and artifacts from Africa. It also has a huge number of little seating areas including a little tv nook for kids while they wait.

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Animal Kingdom Lodge's lobby is absolutely gorgeous and modeled after architecture seen in actual African villages. There are so many little areas to sit and relax, it's really wonderful.

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The front desk area is huge and during the day, fully staffed. At night there tends to be less staff, but there are fewer people that require their services. Check-in and check-out are very busy if you leave during the day, but very quite if you leave or get in super late at night. 
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How beautiful is this?

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The lights and ceiling are absolutely stunning.

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Around the lobby on the floor you'll find these neat giant medallions with cool images. If memory serves me correctly, I believe some of them say things while others are just images.

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Artwork, clothing and artifacts from Africa are scattered throughout the lobby and the rest of the resort. There were a number of new pieces this year that had been swapped out for ones we saw the year prior.

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If you have a fact-addict, they will absolutely love these displays! Our oldest goes to every single one and reads the plaques. This piece was really neat and is actually worn on the head.

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The little tv area for kids is cute. There are several mini rocking chairs and they tend to air Disney movies and shows 24/7. Our boys liked sitting here while Dad had to do stuff at the front desk and while we waited between activities.


Animal Kingdom Lodge Zawadi Marketplace - Souvenirs, Snacks & Necessities! 

Each resort has their own market (or more than one). Animal Kingdom Lodge has Zawadi and Kidani Village has its own, though I've heard it's smaller than Zawadi.

Zawadi is fairly large and has everything from themed souvenirs to food (including some frozen and refrigerated) and necessities (like sunscreen, deodorant, etc.). 

Tip 1: We mention this in past posts, but if you stay in a resort make sure you buy gallons of water from the markets to bring to your rooms! You can buy individual sized bottles in vending machines, but if you're like us and drink a lot of water it will save you tons both in your resort and in the parks. We bring refillable water bottles that we fill using gallons we buy in the market and bring to the parks with us. Really, it's worth it!

Also, you can have the marketplace bring your stuff to your room for you. I can't remember if we did it this time, but I believe it takes a little bit of time for it to get to your room, though not too long.

We always let the boys pick something out from Zawadi for souvenirs. There is a lot of crossover between all the markets in the resorts and even between those and some of the stores in the parks! However, inventory is not always the same, so if you see something you simply have to have grab it. I visited a dozen stores looking for Big Hero 6 stuff and only 2 had anything! Also, each resort tends to have some stuff that is specific to their themes so that's always fun. Since Animal Kingdom Lodge is all about Africa a lot of the stuff in Zawadi is safari-themed or from Africa.

Tip 2: While it is easy to find larger, pricier items to bring home, if you're looking for little things to bring home for family or you want to keep your little guys on a budget there are plenty of items for under $20 and even under $10! Keep your eyes peeled and you'll find them.

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Animal Kingdom Lodge's Zawadi Marketplace boasts quite a few products made in Africa and by African artisans. They actually had one artisan crafting items right in the middle of the floor at night!

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Oh, Baymax! I had to go to quite a few stores to find this pin. Ironically, Big Hero 6 stuff was phased out right before we got there (so sad for us since we love it so much), so I had to really scramble to find stuff.

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The Tsum Tsums were newer this year to the Orlando parks. Originally from Tokyo Disney, they are extremely cute and come in 3 sizes. Our oldest fell in love with them and got several while we were there including these 3. We noticed that all of the Downtown Disney toy stores carried them, but they hadn't made their way to all the resort stores yet (as of March when we were there).

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If your kids like Gravity Falls you've got to get some of the mystery vinyl figurine boxes. They're super fun and were under $20 each. I want to say closer to $10 than $20.


Exploring Animal Kingdom Lodge 

Animal Kingdom Lodge's theme, like much of Disney, is seamless. It's one of our favorite things about this particular resort! Everywhere you look there's something beautiful or interesting to discover.

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There are so many views of the outdoor spaces at Animal Kingdom Lodge everywhere you turn! The entire resort is in a "U" shape and quite large, so you can walk quite far around the resort to see all the different views.
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The resort is also beautiful fro the inside out. This is actually the back of the resort! Isn't it pretty? Those vine-covered cylinders to either side are actually staircases. There are balconies to either side as well with rocking chairs.

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There's such a large variety of animals that roam around. We spend all of our time at the resort watching them. It's super peaceful and calming for our little ADHDers.

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If your kids like to learn, keep your eyes peeled for facts, stories, etc. They are everywhere!

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Animal Kingdom Lodge Hotel Room

The rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge are very nice. They're a decent size and come with mini fridges, which is great because usually we pay to have one. We can comfortably stay in a double queen, but there are rooms of all sizes. Some rooms face the Savannah while others face the pool or front area. We always request that we face the Savannah when we get there and since we travel during a time of the year when it's not super busy they're usually able to do it for us. 

We were a little bummed that this time around our view was a bit obscured by this weird structure in the middle, but we were still able to see quite a few animals. You can pay a fee for rooms with different views. We also found that our room this time around seemed to have no sound-proofing compared to our room last year. Last year it was super peaceful and quiet. This time around we could hear everything our upstairs neighbor did from washing their hands to walking across the floor. We requested a fan and the white noise helped with sleeping.

You can learn more specifics about the rooms in our past post, which goes into greater detail.

I didn't take pictures of our room because it was identical to our room last time around (see the link above), but I did get pictures of the view and cute towel animals! You can compare our view this year compared to last. The weather this year was much cloudier, rainier and (ironically) hotter, which you can tell in the pictures. We still had a great time!

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Our view from our balcony (to the left)

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Our view directly in front fro our balcony. Super bummed that that structure kept the animals from being able to wander closer, but at least we were still able to see them.

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This was to the left from our balcony--darn wooden structure. ;)

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Here's our little giraffe friends that came to see us each day!

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Plenty of wildlife to watch. Our kids are always enthralled by this!


Animal Kingdom Lodge 2015 Final Thoughts

Our time at Animal Kingdom Lodge this spring was great overall! While we were a bit bummed by our somewhat obstructed view and the lack of soundproofing in our room this year, everything else was pretty fantastic. There was a good deal of construction going on in one part of the lobby, which was a bit of a bummer, but Disney goes to great lengths to keep up the parks and resorts, so it's unavoidable sometimes. Last year there was a lot of construction going on at Magic Kingdom, so this year we had no construction at Magic Kingdom, but a decent amount at Downtown Disney. It's just part the course for visiting a constantly evolving park like Walt Disney World!

We're still debating where we're going to stay in 2016. We may stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge like usual or we may switch it up and stay at one of the other resorts we've eyed in the past. I think no matter what, Animal Kingdom Lodge will always feel like home and will probably remain the most fun for our little ADHDers.

Don't forget to check out all of our features from our 2015 Orlando Family Travel Guide:
Note: This trip was in no way sponsored. All opinions mentioned above are our own based on our experiences.

11 comments:

  1. The Animal Kingdom Lodge is my favorite!

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  2. I've never been but so want to go!

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    Replies
    1. You definitely should ;)

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  3. We've never been to Disney, but I have heard great things about Animal Kingdom. It's definitely on the list of possibilities for where we will stay when we head down!

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    Replies
    1. Yay! If you end up staying you'll love it there!

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  4. We've never been, but I think my boys would absolutely love to go there!! It looks amazing and so fun!

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    Replies
    1. It's such a great experience for families in my opinion!

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  5. You guys have so much fun! It looks like they learned a lot!

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  6. Looks like a lot of fun! We loved animal kingdom.

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