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Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom Lodge was on our list of resorts to try for the longest time. We were unsure about it, though. Was it too far from the parks? Too expensive? Was the savannah that great?
Well we took the plunge, and now we're here to tell you all about our experience at Animal Kingdom Lodge. (FYI: We have a separate review dealing specifically with Club Level at Animal Kingdom Lodge, in case you're considering that.)
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review - Booking and Cost
We stayed in a Savannah View Club Level room. The savannah was actually a huge part of why we stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge to begin with.
Cost at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the two lowest-price deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World, the other being Wilderness Lodge. We were staying over New Year's Eve in Club Level, though, so we still wound up with a huge bill.
Our four-night stay (with club level) totaled $2,778.77 with taxes and fees. Here are the nightly pre-tax rates:
December 31 - $715
January 1 - $733
January 2 - $511
January 3 - $511
We used the Citi Prestige 4th Night Free benefit so we were refunded the cost of that fourth night. (This is one of our favorite ways to get a deal at Walt Disney World hotels.)
Jambo House vs. Kidani Village
Animal Kingdom Lodge comprises two areas—Jambo House and Kidani Village. We stayed at Jambo House, which is what most people think of and are talking about when they say Animal Kingdom Lodge. Jambo House is both a deluxe resort and home to Disney Vacation Club Villas. Kidani Village is just Disney Vacation Club Villas.
You can book vacation club villas with cash, but you'll pay a huge markup. If you're interested in a Disney Vacation Club stay as a non-member, we suggest renting from David's Vacation Club.
Buses to and from Animal Kingdom Lodge make two stops (one at each area). Disney does little to clarify the confusion about the areas. From the website, you could think there are actually three areas.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review - Arrival and Lobby
As per our usual plans, we flew in on a morning flight (a great way to get the best deals on flights) and took Disney’s Magical Express, arriving at the hotel at about noon. Our room wasn’t ready (check-in was 3PM), so we gathered ourselves in the lobby.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby is one of the more beautiful ones in Disney World. We like the specious lobbies of the Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Animal Kingdom Lodge much more than the comparably cramped lobbies of the Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Boardwalk.
Besides beautiful design, the lobby has small displays of artifacts throughout. It was New Year’s Eve, and our plan was to spend the night at Epcot. Magic Kingdom had just hit the first phase closure, but we had no worries about Epcot, and Hollywood Studios had relatively short waits, so we headed over there first.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review - Room
We didn’t get to see our room until we got back from Epcot well past midnight, but it was great! Our only complaint is the size of the desk. There was not much room if you wanted to sit and work (another reason to spring for club level). Besides that, the room was perfectly kept.
This room was much nicer than the one we spent the second half of our trip in at Beach Club. Animal Kingdom Lodge reflects more of the Disney care we've seen in newer hotels like the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and Explorers Lodge at Hong Kong Disneyland. As Disney continues to refurbish hotels, this gap should narrow.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review - The Savannah View
Our view of the savannah was amazing. Our view was aligned pretty much with the savannah overlook behind the hotel, which meant we had a similar, but elevated, view as you'd get from the overlook. It was nice to be able to just hang out on the balcony and watch the animals. With views like this (and some other things we'll talk about in a bit), Animal Kingdom Lodge is a great resort to stay at if you're considering a Disney resort day away from the parks.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review - The Pool & Pool Bar
The pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House) is the Uzima Springs Pool. It is spacious, warm, and has a slide for kids. The pool bar is a little pop-up hut. Honestly, if you're into pools and pool bars more than savannah views, consider Wilderness Lodge, with a comparable pool and Geyser Point Bar & Grill, one of the best bars at Walt Disney World.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review - Club level
We have a full review of Club Level here. In short, it was amazing, and not a huge cost over the price of the Savannah view room.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review - Restaurants
Animal Kingdom Lodge has, arguably, three of the top five restaurants at Walt Disney World: Jiko, Boma, and Sanaa. Sanaa and Jiko are especially good for vegetarians. Jiko and Boma are located in Jambo House, while Sanaa is a 10-minute walk away in Kidani Village.
Quick Thoughts on Sanaa
Sanaa is our favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World. In fact, it converted us both into Indian food enthusiasts. Sanaa's most famous dish is their bread service, which is five breads and 9 dips (or pick three to save money, but don't do that).
For entrees, we had the Cilantro-Coconut Milk Seasonal Vegetables Potjie and the Paneer Tikka Potjie. Sanaa is now a fixture of every trip we take to Walt Disney World. Even when we don't stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge and it's a hassle to get to, it's worth it.
Quick Thoughts On Jiko
Jiko has been one of our favorites for years, and this year was no different. As much as we love the food and ambiance, though, the service is consistently incredibly slow.
If you have some place to be, plan to give your server as much of your order as you can when he or she is around. They have a full vegetarian (and vegan, I believe) menu, just ask the hostess when you’re seated.
Quick Thoughts on Boma
Boma was our least favorite of the restaurants, but we do seem to be in the minority on this front. We’re vegetarians, so the meat offerings (which looked awesome) didn’t appeal to us. The restaurant was also quite busy and loud.
We felt service was a bit lacking, but Boma's a buffet so the service demands on wait staff are different than other restaurants. We had a pretty nice stack of plates by the end, and at a small table. The food was good, but some of it was duplicative with things you could get other places (we noted the samosas were the same as those at Animal Kingdom, for example).
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review - Transportation
Animal Kingdom Lodge is the only deluxe resort without special transportation to a park. You have to take the bus. This is partly why Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the two cheapest deluxe options at Walt Disney World. (The other is Wilderness Lodge, which in our opinion has such awful boat service you're going to need to plan to Uber.)
You'd think the buses between Animal Kingdom Lodge and nearby Animal Kingdom would at least run like clockwork, but we've waited over 40 minutes for that ride before.
All that said, we had great transit this time. We only waited more than ten minutes once, and that bus arrived right at about Disney’s prescribed 20 minutes. We'd still suggest budgeting a little for Uber, especially if you have a lot to see in a short time.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review - Conclusion
We've stayed at all the deluxe resorts except one, Polynesian. Of these, Animal Kingdom Lodge was by far our favorite. The ambiance, savannah, and restaurant options are especially excellent. With its reasonable price point at the bottom of the deluxe resorts, Animal Kingdom Lodge is really worth consideration for your next stay at Walt Disney World.
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way. If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.
Don't forget to master your Disney World Fastpass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks!
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.