This past February I had the opportunity to stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for the second time.
That first time was impressive. It was wonderful and beautiful, but it was brief as we only stayed one night. That’s hardly enough time to get comfortable in your room much less take advantage of all the resort has to offer.
I knew I needed to make a longer trip to appreciate this Walt Disney World Resort gem.
This 4-day trip happened during the Princess Half weekend so I can also review this resort for all you runners out there.
Is this a good place to park your sore and tired feet during a racecation? Read on and I’ll let you know.
Jambo House or Kidani Village
You have lots of options at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. There are two sections of the resort and as luck would have it each stay I’ve had was in a different one.
Jambo House is the primary location. The lobby is grand, and the pool area is huge. If being close to dining and being on the first race buses are important to you, then Jambo is your pick.
Kidani Village is a smidge further away. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion. It was quiet and peaceful and felt removed from the hustle and bustle of the larger Jambo House.
The rooms we stayed in both times were large, well appointed, and exceedingly comfortable and quiet.
From the moment you check in until the moment you leave, you are treated with courtesy, respect, and happiness. I am convinced that the Cast Members working at the Animal Kingdom Lodge are the most satisfied employees at the World because not a single one was cross during either stay.
The Animals and Savanna Views
This is a deluxe resort.
What sets this resort apart is the access to animals. There are viewing areas for everyone who visits the Lodge, so you do not have to book a Savanna view room to see the wildlife.
The Lodge even provides night vision goggles for your use after dark so the animal watching can continue.
I’m sure every room is fantastic and meets the high expectations that come with the price tag. But if you can swing it, spring for that Savanna view. Especially if you have young kids who are animal fanatics. Or even old kids like my husband.
So worth it.
It’s pretty sweet to wake up, take your morning coffee out to the balcony and watch the giraffes and zebras graze.
And also pretty swell to take a cocktail out on the same balcony later that day to enjoy one the best perks of a Savanna room: watching the sun set.
You can’t paint a more perfect picture than this.
Are you relaxed yet? Good. I thought you might be.
Okay then, let’s talk dining.
The food at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is fantastic.
From the quick service option at The Mara and pool areas to the fine dining of Jiko, there is something everyone can enjoy.
We experienced an excellent meal at Sanaa, home of the Malawi Mango Margarita and the Indian-style bread service.
I highly recommend this experience. The restaurant windows open up onto a section of the savanna as well so you can animal watch during your meal.
The Lodge also offers room service which I took advantage of during this trip. My food was delivered quickly, and my steak, salad, and bread were perfect. If you are a room service fan, you should be happy with the offerings at this resort.
You know I’m a commando park hopper, right? I choose my resorts on location, location, location! Whatever gets me to the parks the fastest usually wins out (which is why I’m a huge fan of both the Polynesian and Grand Floridian).
I’ve turned my nose up at the Animal Kingdom Lodge before because it felt too far away from most of the action.
When I’m wrong, I’ll admit I’m wrong! And I was wrong about this hotel option.
In my view, it provides a double dip Walt Disney World vacation. You have the parks and the attractions during the day, and a relaxing and peaceful place to unwind at night. You get the best of both vacation worlds when you stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Is this a good location for to stay during a runDisney event?
If you like to relax and have some peace before and after your big race: this location is ideal.
If you like to stay out of the parks but still have entertainment options at your resort: this location is ideal.
If you want to see wild animals roaming the hallways: this location is ideal.
Ha- ok, there are not wild animals inside the Lodge. Unless you count 9 Fantasia Ostriches heading out for a morning 10K race.
My biggest caveat on why this may not be an ideal location for you on a race weekend goes back to the initial concerns I had about distance. Since this resort was farther away from the Epcot race start area, it took longer for a bus to make a round trip. We were left waiting longer than normal for our ride to the races. It happened both mornings for us.
The ride back from the race was also eventful. My driver got lost. Twice. The runners finally gave him directions and got him back on track.
These small issues could happen with any runDisney bus driver, and the transportation situation has not been ideal with runDisney host hotels of late (more on that with the Star Wars Dark Side recap!). I don’t think it should be a deal breaker if the other aspects of the Animal Kingdom Lodge appeal to you.
My other negative was the lack of dining options when staying at Kidani Village. As runners, we get the rungries pretty quickly. You needed to either walk or take the internal van transportation to Jambo House to get any quick service meals. That’s why I ended up trying out the room service option. I was too tired to head over to the main Lodge for my pre-half marathon meal.
My biggest positives as a runcation location?
The pools at both areas are simply delightful.
I particularly enjoyed the hot tub located at the Kidani area pool. It was tucked up away from all the main action and provided a quiet area to soak your legs, enjoy a drink, and rehash the races we just ran.
Complete and total relaxation well deserved after 19.3 magical miles.
Have you ever stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for a race? What is your favorite part of the resort?
If this looks like the perfect resort for your next runDisney or Walt Disney World stay, let me help you plan your vacation. You can email me at Patty@GoMagicalMiles.com
Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed wife, and mother of four. She’s a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)