A Stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Perspective from a Value Gal

by | May 23, 2022 | Animal Kingdom, WDW Blog, WDW Food, WDW News, WDW Resorts

Use code BOGO2023 to buy one, get one calendar

Is a stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge worth the cost? Here’s what our loyal Value Resort queen and WDW Magazine CEO, Stephanie Shuster had to say…

I’m a loud and proud, self-proclaimed Value Gal—a huge fan of the Value Resorts at Walt Disney World. But In March 2022, I fulfilled a buck-list wish of mine with a three-night stay in a Savanna View 1 bedroom villa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House.

This is the deluxe resort at Walt Disney World I visit most often, as there’s always a reason to pop by—an amazing meal, a backstage tour, or even a little wine tasting. 

Since this was a very big splurge, we spent most of our time at the resort with only a little bit of time in the parks, which was a totally different way to do Disney World for me.

But was it worth the price?

Checking In to Animal Kingdom Lodge

A look at the lobby in Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Photo by Danny Shuster

We arrived at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House by rideshare, and it was just as seamless as arriving at any other Walt Disney World resort hotel. Bell services is just to the left inside the entrance and since our room wasn’t yet ready, we simply checked our bags and spent a few hours exploring the beautiful resort. 

We used Disney’s Direct-to-Room service so there was no need to check in at the front desk—I got an email when our room was ready.

Stepping into the towering lobby at Jambo House absolutely transports you to another world. I was in vacation mode and relaxation mode the moment we walked through the door.

One thing to be really clear about is which lobby you’re going to—Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge actually has two separate hotels: Jambo House and Kidani Village. They’re right beside each other and are easily accessible by walking or a resort shuttle if you want to dine or swim at the other location. 

But we overheard a few other guests who ended up in the wrong lobby for check-in, and our driver was careful to clarify which side we were going to. If you know where you’re heading, your experience should be seamless.

Checking out was easy too – we simply left our room, checked our bags with bell services so we could have one last lunch and dip in the pool before our flight, and when we were ready to leave it only took a few minutes to get our bags and order a Lyft. The hardest part of checking out was leaving behind the beautiful lobby and all those sweet little animals.

How did the experience rate out of 10?

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – 9
  • Value Resorts – 7

For the easy arrival and departure experience (plus the WOW factor of the lobby!), Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is worth the cost.

Transportation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

interior of disney bus

Photo by Judd Helms

Unlike some of the deluxe resorts, there is no boat, Monorail, or Skyliner service at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Busses are the only option here (unless you drive your own car or use taxis/rideshare), but they are located right off the lobby at either Jambo House or Kidani Village, making them pretty convenient. 

The bus areas are shaded and have seating. Busses are shared between the two sides of the resort, so you’ll be making a stop at both when you depart and return, ensure that everyone in your party knows which stop to get off at.

Since I love rope-dropping Animal Kingdom and this resort is so close, I loved being able to get there quickly in the morning, though all the other parks are a longer drive time since the resort is on the far eastern edge of WDW property.

How did the experience rate out of 10?

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – 7
  • Value Resorts – 9

Transportation to the parks isn’t a “miss” here – it’s convenient enough, but because of a smaller hotel capacity, the busses don’t come as frequently and sometimes things get complicated with the loading/offloading of scooters and wheelchairs because of the two stops. 

For a pricier hotel, having only bus transportation is too bad when you consider that 3 Moderate Resorts and 2 Value Resorts also have additional transportation options.

If you are prioritizing super convenient transportation to the parks, Animal Kingdom Lodge may not be worth the cost for you. Consider something on the monorail loop or on the Skyliner route instead.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Extras

The Marrakesh Falafel Platter served at The Mara at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Marrakesh Falafel Platter from the Mara. Photo by Stephanie Shuster

As I mentioned above, I’m a frequent visitor to Animal Kingdom Lodge even when I’m not staying there. A meal at signature dining location Jiko, buffet Boma, or even quick-service spot The Mara (get the Marrakesh Falafel Platter and a side of zebra domes!) never disappoints and is some of my favorite food anywhere at WDW. 

A giraffe on the savanna at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Photo by Danny Shuster

In 2017 I also did their Sense of Africa tour which was truly incredible, and starts at the crack of dawn at Jambo House!  Sometimes, we’ll even stop by just to have a chill hour out of the parks by watching animals from the Arusha Rock Savanna overlook.

Activities list board at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

A list of activities offered at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by Stephanie Shuster

But I discovered so much when staying here as a guest – outdoor and indoor fire pits perfect for quiet contemplation or cozy conversation, a roster of activities for different ages and interests, and many other animal-viewing vantage points I hadn’t previously discovered (like at the pool and off of the DVC lounge). 

The fire pit at Jambo House at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The fire pit at Jambo House. Photo by Danny Shuster

Everywhere you look there’s something interesting to explore – you can cross the bridge high above the lobby for a unique vantage point, take in the beauty of African art on display, and watch Cast Members whittle handicrafts near the gift shop.

Jambo House is structured with the lobby at its center, and then 4 “branches” of rooms coming off of those. Most rooms have a savanna view, but not all, and there are several different savannas you might find yourself facing out towards. Depending on where your room is located, you might be in for a long walk to the lobby, but at least it’s all indoors so you’re shielded from the Florida sun and rain (my biggest problem with most WDW resort hotels). 

Cape Town Slap Chips served at Victoria Falls Lounge at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Cape Town Slap Chips from Victoria Falls Lounge. Photo by Stephanie Shuster

The gift shop here features some really unique items created by African artisans, and Victoria Falls Lounge has an excellent small menu (please try the Cape Town Slap Chips!), interesting cocktails, and African wine flights.

Uzima Springs Pool at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Uzima Springs Pool at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by Danny Shuster

The Uzima Springs Pool is tranquil, with a bar and a nice changeroom facility close by. The main pool features a zero-entry area, and on the far side, you’ll find the fitness center, playground, a nicely shaded hot tub, and a flock of flamingos! I found this to be one of the quieter and shadier poolside experiences at WDW and I really enjoyed our time there.

Since I stayed at Jambo House, and it has more amenities than Kidani Villiage, I focused my time there, which is reflected in this review. But, we did easily walk to Kidani in about 10 minutes and were able to enjoy a drink on their savanna overlook while waiting for our to-go order from Sanaa. 

The pool at Kidani was closed, but I’m told it’s a favorite for families with kids so even if you’re staying at Jambo House in the future, a walk over to their pool might be worth it!

During our stay, we were lucky to take part in Extended Evening Theme Park Hours, which happen on select nights at select parks for guests at Deluxe Hotels. It’s a huge perk, so if you can, time your stay here to line up with a night when it’s offered in order to maximize the value of your stay.

How did the experience rate out of 10?

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – 10
  • Value Resorts – 7

For the amenities, dining, and entertainment around the resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is worth the cost.

Video Tour of the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Check out our short video tour of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge below for a more in-depth dive into this resort!

Inside an Animal Kingdom Lodge Room

The bedroom of a villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Photo by Danny Shuster

This was only the second time that I have stayed in a DVC room (the first was also a 1 bedroom villa, at Disney’s Riviera Resort!). Truth be told, the only reason we splurged on a 1 bedroom villa instead of a regular Savanna view room was because we had credit left over from a trip to Aulani that we had to cancel during the pandemic, and the villa was all that was available for our dates. 

A hidden Mickey found in the one bedroom villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

A hidden Mickey carving. Photo by Danny Shuster

The rooms at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House are really nicely themed to match the feel of the resort. Lots of wood, hidden Mickey carvings, African artwork on the walls, and mixed textures and textiles in earth tones make these cozy rooms feel like an extension of the lobby – and when you have a Savanna view, being able to look out onto the animal habitats is truly special.

A look at the living room in a one bedroom villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Photo by Danny Shuster

I’ve seen complaints about the rooms being dark, but I didn’t feel that way – they were a bit dim compares to the bright, modern layout at Pop Century, but for me, this added to the atmosphere without impeding what I wanted to do in the room. 

The villa I stayed in wasn’t showing much wear and tear but it hasn’t been updated with modern amenities like USB sockets, and in general, I would have liked more outlets around the suite, especially in the bedroom.

A jacuzzi tub in the bathroom of a one bedroom villa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Photo by Danny Shuster

The bathroom in our villa was HUGE and had my favorite feature of the room (apart from the view): a big, deep jacuzzi tub. I must have taken five baths in three days I loved it so much! There was a large vanity with double sinks and lots of storage too.

The villa also had a washer and dryer which was a great feature for a longer trip so we didn’t have to bring as much with us. There was also a full kitchen that was well-equipped with dishes, utensils, and cookware. 

A spread of Sanaa to-go meals on the balcony of an Animal Kingdom Lodge villa.

Enjoying dinner from the Sanaa To Go menu on the balcony. Photo by Danny Shuster

We didn’t cook anything ourselves but we reheated leftovers and ate many meals in the room (like a wonderful dinner from the Sanaa To Go menu including their famous bread service) thanks to the dishes and dining area.

The Savanna View

A view of the savanna from the balcony of an Animal Kingdom Lodge villa.

Photo by Stephanie Shuster

The showstopper of the villa was the double-width balcony giving us sweeping savanna views, day and night. We spent hours and hours out there from before sunrise until well after sunset. 

We observed a giraffe sitting down for a rest one night right outside our window, and zebra, kudu, wildebeest, and even some birds were scurrying past our balcony all day. For me, the balcony makes staying here worth it!

Personally, I would have been just as happy with a normal room here, as long as it had a view of the Savanna.

A giraffe spotted during a night spent at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Photo by Stephanie Shuster

How did the experience rate out of 10?

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – 10 (but 100 for the view!)
  • Value Resorts – 7

For the room amenities and the savanna-facing balcony, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is worth the cost… but ONLY if you’re going to spend time enjoying the view! If you’re going to only use the room to sleep, the best feature is wasted.

Did This Value Gal Become a Deluxe Resort Devotee?

The exterior of Jambo House at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Photo by Danny Shuster

Sure, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has its pros and cons like any hotel, but it offers something really unique that no other resort at Walt Disney World does with the proximity to so many exotic animals. 

If you’re a huge animal lover looking to splurge, or if you want a different kind of WDW experience less centered on the parks but with a whole lot of relaxation, this is a great choice.

Will I be back? Yes, and I cannot wait! Will it replace all my on-property stays? Not a chance, I’ll save this one for split stays or visits less focused on the parks. 

Maybe I’ll even come down for a few days without heading to the parks at all! I can’t justify the extra cost when I’m not actively using the resort amenities. If all I need is a bed and easy transportation to the parks, it’ll be Pop Century for me! After all, I am a Value Gal …

We’ve taken a look at six resorts so far in this series. I wonder which resort I should stay at next?

How did the OVERALL experience rate?

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – 38 out of 40
  • Value Resorts – 30 out of 40

Animal Kingdom blew the value resorts out of the water because I’m such a softie when it comes to the views of those adorable animals. Your mileage may vary!

Can’t wait to check out Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge? Or are you more of a Value Resort fan? Either way, book your dream getaway todayjust fill out this form to get a quote on your stay from our partners at Destinations to Travel.

Written by Stephanie Shuster

epcot-clothing_creations-shop_chiu
A lifelong Disney fan with a passion for globetrotting, I’m driven by a desire to build a community where people like me can let their Disney flag fly with pride. As CEO and Owner of WDW Magazine, I lead a team that connects thousands of Disney fans to the Most Magical Place on Earth from wherever they are.
Stephanie Shuster

Written by Stephanie Shuster

A lifelong Disney fan with a passion for globetrotting, I’m driven by a desire to build a community where people like me can let their Disney flag fly with pride. As CEO and Owner of WDW Magazine, I lead a team that connects thousands of Disney fans to the Most Magical Place on Earth from wherever they are.