Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has always been one of my favorite resort stays. The experience there is just so unique from what you will get at any other Disney resort, or really any resort in the United States. From the cultural displays to the breathtaking animal views, staying here is a one-of-a-kind event. During the phased reopening because of COVID, only the villas section of the resort is available for guests. Luckily, you can book stays at these Studio, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom accommodations without being a Disney Vacation Club Member. Having stayed here in December 2020, I can definitely say Animal Kingdom Lodge villas should be a contender on your list of places to stay. Here are my tips for enjoying a resort day here.
1. Enjoy the Animals with a Savanna View
When you book your stay you will have a choice of size of villa and view. I think having a savanna view here is worth the splurge. You can enjoy the animals from various public viewing spaces around the resort, but there is nothing like waking up and walking out on your balcony to see a giraffe grazing. Studios include a queen bed, a sleeper sofa and a kitchenette. The one-bedroom villas and larger include a living area, full kitchen with dining area, washer and dryer, and multiple bathrooms.
2. Sleep In & Have Breakfast on Your Balcony
Since you will have a kitchen of some sort regardless of your room category, I recommend sleeping in on your resort day. Disney vacations are hard work, and you can use some extra rest to catch up after a few days in the parks. Hopefully, you’ve stocked your kitchen with some snack foods, breakfast items, etc. either that you packed from home or had delivered (check out the Ear for Each Other group on Facebook for furloughed Cast Members offering grocery delivery services). The food service options at Animal Kingdom Lodge are a bit limited right now with the standard rooms not being occupied. One of my favorite parts about a stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge is a nice leisurely breakfast out on my balcony watching the animals enjoy their breakfast.
3. Go Exploring
After breakfast I am going to go exploring. Although the standard rooms are not open, Jambo House lobby and outdoor areas are open. Throughout the hallways and lobbies at both sections of the resort: Jambo House and Kidani Village, you will find African artwork, artifacts, and cultural information. The architecture of the resorts themselves is pretty amazing too. You can check at the front desk to see if there are any self-guided activities you might be able to do as you look around, maybe a Hidden Mickey hunt. If there is not anything official available during your stay you can check the Hidden Mickey app, or google for clues as to where Hidden Mickeys may be hidden in the two sections of the Lodge. In Jambo House’s Sunset Lounge you’ll find an exhibit related to Martin and Osa Johnson (20th century explorers and filmmakers, Osa Johnson wrote “I Married Adventure”). The Johnsons’ films helped inspire the architects and designers of Animal Kingdom Lodge, and a few of their films were licensed by Disney for use. To get to Jambo House there is an internal shuttle, or you can walk. Just be sure to mindful of social distancing as you explore.
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4. Lunch at Maji Pool Bar
By now we’ve probably worked up an appetite from all of our exploring. For lunch I would recommend the Maji Pool Bar at Kidani Village. With limited options this is a great choice. Maji Pool Bar menu has a great Kenya Coffee Barbecue Sandwich, and a few other options including a kids meal and a hot dog for pickier eaters. Don’t forget to enjoy one of their specialty beverages too. There is outdoor dining and tables around the bar, and not far away is a glimpse of the savanna as well.
5. Pool Time!
Now it is time to play! Both pool areas are open: Kidani Village’s Samawati Springs and Uzima Springs at Jambo House. You can visit either one (or both!). Samawati Springs has the fun splash pad play area in addition to the pool and slide (my 9-year-old says this is the better of the two pool slides). Jambo House’s Uzima Springs is a little quieter since there are fewer rooms available in that area. When we were there in December it was almost empty. Both pools were offering pool games while we were there which my son loved to play. Since you have the whole afternoon you might as well pool hop to both to fully experience the resort.
6. Spend Dusk Overlooking the Savanna
After spending a full afternoon playing, relaxing, swimming, and having fun I think it is time to explore again. This time we are looking for animals. I think dusk is a great time to visit the animal overlooks at Kidani Village and Jambo House. Even if you have a savanna view from your room you will want to walk around and find some of the other viewing spots because the different savannas have different animals. I love the flamingos over by the Uzima Springs Pool at Jambo House.
7. Dinner at Sanaa
Dinner time for the humans! Sanaa in Kidani Village is a favorite restaurant for my family. We enjoy the unique flavors, especially the bread service. During the phased reopening Sanaa is offering socially distanced dining in the restaurant, but you also have the option to order take out. The dining room is beautiful and overlooks the savanna, so if you are comfortable eating in the restaurant this would be a great choice. If you are not comfortable dining inside you can still enjoy the delicious food on the menu (including that bread service). Using the My Disney Experience app you should click on order food and scroll down to the Animal Kingdom Villas. There you will find the takeout order option for Sanaa. Choose your desired pick-up time window and place your order. You will receive a message when it is ready to pick up. Each type of villa has a table and chairs for you to enjoy your meal, or you can always eat out on your balcony again.
I hope you enjoyed our relaxing resort day at Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas. Even with the new policies under the phased reopening there is still a lot of fun to be had here, things to learn, and animals to see. You should be ready for your next busy park day!