Weekend at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

There’s a backstory here, I debated about sharing it. Four-ish? years ago, we did a family weekend there with my daughter and her now soon to be ex-husband and The Dancer. I fell in love with Animal Kingdom Lodge that weekend, and also got the first clues that my daughter’s marriage was not going to last. Things were…awkward.

Oh, and I broke my toe early on the first morning last time, and was in pain for the rest of the stay, so yeah, it wasn’t the best experience. I adored the resort but was hobbling around, I still loved it. I have wanted a do-over ever since, and as we emerged from the covid lockdown I snagged a passholder discounted Savanna view room months ago, just in case we could make it happen.

We did. Animal Kingdom Lodge is my happy place, and it was a truly fun and fulfilling experience.

As with Animal Kingdom the theme park, it is a mild stretch beyond the comfort level of some people. The restaurants are mildly exotic, the hallways have exhibits of African art, there are giraffes and antelope outside, and in normal times, much of the staff is legit from Africa. They’re truly cultural ambassadors and are happy to chat with kids (or adults) about their countries. There are crafts and music and dancing and animal education experiences. It is an incredible experience, and this weekend reminded me of how wonderful it can be.

One of my favorite things about staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge (henceforth to be called AKL) is staying in a room with a view of one of the savannas. We were on the Sunset Savanna on the second floor, and this was my morning coffee on the balcony view:

At one point there were four giraffes under my balcony. We were on the 2nd floor, so close we could hear them chewing.
Ancole cattle on the move, waiting for breakfast. The spotted one was quite vocal.
The giraffes chased the food truck like kids after the ice cream man.
The ostriches were watching the people watching them from our balconies. I think we were there for their entertainment.

Sadly, the lovely drumming and singing ladies and the charming cultural ambassadors have not returned yet. The Dancer was a tad too young on our previous visit to fully appreciate all the educational offerings, and when we stayed there this weekend those elements had not returned. So, we’ll just have to do it again when they do, because it was fabulous.

It was a lovely, relaxing weekend. We arrived on Friday around noon, left our bags with Bell Services and grabbed lunch while we had a short wait until our room was ready, earlier than 3 p.m. check-in. We headed to the pool.

The weather forecast was dire with high rain chances every day of our visit, but as I keep telling people in the Disney groups on FB, the storm forecasts are not set in stone, or even in whipped cream (which melts instantly in this heat). In summer, Florida rain is a crapshoot. The day before, the forecast was dire, like 70% chance of rain every day.

The reality was one actual, brief but heavy thunderstorm on Friday, after we’d had an hour or so at the pool. We retreated to our room at Jambo House to watch animals and eat snacks brought from home and get cleaned up for dinner at Boma.

The Dancer is ten and is therefore an adult diner by Disney standards. Up until a few months ago this would have worried me, because those buffets are damn pricey. Fortunately this summer she eats like a football player and isn’t afraid of unfamiliar foods, so she did enough damage at the buffet to justify the cost. (She had a lot of opinions, but loved the food and wants to do it again.)

Disney food is notoriously expensive. Disney is expensive, and the truly vast array of dining options from elegant sit-down to buffets to fancy quick-service to your basic burger or a slice of pizza is dizzying. Your opinion about this will depend on your foodie-ness, your appetite, your excitement about the menus, whatever. There’s definitely something for everyone.

My daughter and I love Boma so much we did it last Thanksgiving, so we were totally going to do it at least once this trip. We did it twice, once for dinner on Friday, and then again for breakfast the next day, because my daughter is the Reservations Ninja and snagged one at the perfect time. We did a last minute schedule change and it was all perfect.

When I’d originally planned it, I’d scheduled one sit down buffet a day – Boma dinner on our arrival day, Crystal Palace on our Magic Kingdom late afternoon/evening, then Boma breakfast (which I actually think is superior to dinner) on our departure day.

We rearranged at the last minute to do Boma dinner, then Boma breakfast the next morning, then quick serve meals at The Mara and Columbia Harbor House for lunch/dinner on Saturday, because last year we introduced The Dancer to the glories of the lobster roll. We also indulged in the brownie sundaes at Magic Kingdom:

I took this picture about two minutes after getting the sundae. It was already on its way to being soup. Still delicious.

Even with two adult foodies and a ten year old dancer/swimmer who eats like a linebacker, three buffets felt like too much food. Sunday morning we did online ordering at The Mara and took it back to the room to eat while we packed. I was full until dinner at home, and also exhausted. But damn, this was a fab weekend! Expensive, yes, but I’d planned and saved for it, and it was worth every penny to get quality girl time in such a uniquely wonderful place.

I want to go back. I miss my giraffes.

2 thoughts on “Weekend at Animal Kingdom Lodge.”

  1. It is expensive, I cannot lie – even with the passholder discount it was uber pricey, which is why we did two nights and not longer – but to me it’s worth it. I love the immersive experience, it really makes you feel like you’re in an exotic place. I do want to do it again when it’s fully back to normal, with the lovely young cultural ambassadors doing educational experiences in the Jambo House lobby, and the dance and drumming and crafts. I like other Disney resorts, but AKL will always be my true love.

  2. What a fabulous experience! I stayed at AKL in a Savanna room once with my parents and.it.was.awesome. Expensive, but so so amazing.

    100% on the CHH lobster roll!

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