The choices for places to stay seem endless when it comes to visiting Disney World in Orlando, Florida. There are hotels surrounding the entertainment complex and hotels within the park itself. The hotels within the park all have themes, some are sports related, while others try to put you into a certain time in history. Only one give you the feeling of being in the middle of the African plains, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
The hotel, located within Disney, is surrounded by a 43 acre wildlife preserve, which doesn’t become apparent until you actually arrive inside the beautiful structure. The lobby is modeled after an Afican hut only on a much grander scale. The centerpiece is a vast mud fireplace, where you will often see guests sitting around just gazing at the flames. There are also countless African artifacts placed throughout. African music fills the air and the staff give you the impression that you have in fact just arrived at a hotel in Africa, not Orlando, Florida.
Once you have checked in the experience really begins. As you walk to your room, the hallways are filled with observation spots where you can look out onto the preserve. Some are merely large windows, while others have areas where you can sit on large wooden rocking chairs outside only feet from some of the wildlife that populates the preserve. The grounds are not only filled with animals, but also many plants and shrubs that are indigenous to Africa.
The hotel is built so you can look out onto the preserve from many different areas and that continues when you reach your room. Pulling back the curtains and stepping out on the balcony gives you that magical feel that it seems only Disney can give you. You truly feel like you are in Africa, surrounded by numerous wild animals only feet from you, yet the comfort and convenience of your room is only a few steps away. The animals roam the grounds constantly so the view outside your room is always changing. In fact one of the most exciting parts of the day especially for the children is waking up and checking which animals are outside the room that day. You might see a zebra, antelope, gazelle, or even ankoke cattle with their extremely large horns.
Before you think the hotel is all about the animals, their is also an amazing pool area. The pool is 11,000 square feet with a zero depth entry giving you the impression of walking into a lake or ocean from the beach. It also features a 67 foot long slide which is a favorite of not only the kids but the adults. The smaller children can wade in the shallow water at the entrance to the main pool or go in their own smaller wading pool. A small hot tub is located a short way from the pool and a bar, small restaurant, and bathrooms are all located close by for convenience.
The African theme is continued in two of the hotel’s restaurants. The award winning Jiko-The Cooking Place and Borna-Flavors of Africa both serve authentic African cuisine. However, if you or your children aren’t that adventurous when it comes to food there are several other restaurants that cater more to the American favorites, especially those of the children. The hotel also provides bus transportation to other Disney hotels and their cuisine choices.
Animals are not the only attraction for children at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. There is a 24 hour high tech game room and playground. The hotel also has many both fun and educational activities for children throughout the day. Check with the front desk for a list of dates and times so your children don’t miss out. They can even march through the lobby playing African instruments. Simbas Clubhouse gives your children something to do while the parents have some adult time. It is a supervised activity center for children from 3 to 12.
A trip to Disney will be fun no matter whether you stay at the park or at one of the many hotels surrounding the park. However, staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge makes the experience seem never ending. You wake up to any number of animals outside your room. Experience one or more of the parks Disney has to offer. Then return to your very own African experience in the lobby or balcony of your room. The hotel has so much to offer, you may just find yourself wanting to spend a day of your vacation there rather than at one of the attractions itself. If that isn’t testament to how great a hotel the Animal Kingdom Lodge is cosidering all Disney has to offer, I don’t know what is.