Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge–A First Time Visitor’s Review

Will I return to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge?  Yes.  I will return to Animal Kingdom Lodge many times, I’m sure–to have dinner.  Will I stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge again?  Probably not.

Don’t get me wrong, Animal Kingdom Lodge (henceforth referred to as AKL) is a beautiful resort.  Stunning, even.  Check out these photos:

This photo was taken from the savannah itself, whilst on the Wanyama Safari Tour.

See?  Beautiful.  And while it does have many things going for it, I will save the good parts for the end.  First, I’ll list the reasons I likely will not return.

First and most importantly AKL is expensive.  This is to be expected–it is a disney Deluxe Resort.  But there are many other equally expensive properties that I enjoy more–Beach Club, I’m looking at you!

Second, AKL is HUGE!  I thought that hugeness was an attribute of the moderate resorts–I had no idea that the Deluxe resorts were also giant.  When I’m on a vacation that requires insane amounts of walking, I’d really rather not walk blocks from the lobby of the hotel to my room.  I’m not lazy–I swear–but I’m tired at the end of the day.  And I don’t like feeling as though going back to my room is a commitment to stay there.  I spent more time in the lobby of AKL than I did in my room because, well, it was closer to everything I needed (mainly the bus stop and the bar!)

Third, despite all of its hugeness, the rooms are really small.  Wait–no–strike that.  the rooms are a perfectly acceptable size.  But the furniture is huge.  The week before this trip I stayed in a Club Quarters in Midtown Manhattan–a city notorious for tiny hotel rooms.  And do you know what?  That room felt MUCH more spacious, due in no small part to smart furniture planning.  The hulking wooden pieces at AKL, while theme-y as heck, are just too big for a slightly smaller than standard hotel room.  I shared the room with my rather small mother and our two carry-on bags.  I cannot imagine a family of four in there, plus standard sized luggage.  You’d have to crawl over each other to get anywhere.  Here’s how much clearance there is between the bed and the table on the way out to the balcony:

Shoe added for perspective--women's size 6 1/2!

There were some things about our particular situation that may be coloring my opinion of AKL.  It is important to note that we were not in a Savannah View room.  I’d booked a pool view room because I read somewhere that they will typically only upgrade you one level, so I chose the level below Savannah view.  This was a really bad idea, and not just because we were not upgraded to Savannah view.  I’d honestly rather have a dumpster view room than a pool view room at AKL–or at any Disney property–because the pool is one thing:  loud!  So very, very loud, into the night.  We arrived in our room after 10 p.m. on the first night, and still could hear the screaming children through the glass.  In order to muffle the noise, we had to close the blackout curtains–and then what’s the point of having a balcony (or a window, even?)

If you are new to this blog, you may be thinking I’m just very picky about my hotels.  I beg you to check out some of my other reviews.  You will see that I’m actually typically quite pleased with wherever I stay…unless it is in Disney World.  I gave The Beach Club a glowing review, wrote a middle-of-the-road review for Coronado Springs Resort, and just spent three paragraphs pseudo-complaining about Animal Kingdom Lodge.  But please, trust me–I’m not a hotel snob.  I swear.  I just have some very general expectations.  A convenient location, working elevators. a layout that makes sense.  I think I just like traditional hotels more than I like Disney resorts.  Sorry Disney–I still love you!  Heck, I’ve even enjoyed hotels I’ve not picked out myself, as I quite frequently use an online bidding site to ‘win’ hotels at low low discount prices.  I’m not overly picky.  I promise.

Speaking of promises, I did promise you some good things about Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Did I mention how beautiful the resort is?  In case you forgot from a few paragraphs ago, here’s another photo:

The ceiling at Sanaa, in Kidani Village. In case you can't tell from the headers of all of my blogs, I like ceiling photos!

In addition to the beauty, there are several things unique to AKL that make me understand why people love it so much.  The first one is obviously the animals.  Where else can you sit out on a big rocking chair and watch as a giraffe strolls by?  And speaking of the animals, being able to partake in the Wanyama Safari Tour with the accompanying meal at Jiko more than makes up for any of the negatives I’ve listed.

I also very much enjoyed the public spaces.  In my opinion, that’s really what you are paying for when choosing a Deluxe resort; I feel I use the public spaces enough to make the expense worthwhile.  Just as I spent an entire night hanging out with a friend in the Solarium at the Beach Club, so too did I spend many evenings iPhone blogging and drinking wine in AKL’s stunning lobby.

And speaking of wine, Animal Kingdom Lodge has one of the best resort bars I’ve found.  It is somewhat open to the lobby and somewhat open to Boma and the area outside of Jiko, so it feels more ‘hopping’ than other deluxe resort bars.  I very much appreciated the lively atmosphere each night after my mom fell asleep around 8 p.m.!

I am glad we stayed there, but I very much look forward to my next Disney resort experience, which will likely be somewhere else.  Well, actually, my next Disney trip will be spent in a condo…but that’s a story for another post!


2 responses to “Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge–A First Time Visitor’s Review

  1. So glad your trip was awesome! My kids (8 &10) and I are going for two weeks June 25th to July 9th. We are definietly going budget, but I enjoy reading about your luxury adult trip and think…someday!!!

    • Yes–some day your kids will go back with you as adults, and it WILL be magical! My mom’s facebook page is FULL of Disney photos–she loved our adult trip!

      There’s also something to be said about budget. I talked to so many people in the parks about the two bedroom condos they were staying in for $85/night. We paid three times that and had a tiny, dark little room. I’ll be sure to do a comparison when I stay in a condo myself in September!

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