Why Animal Kingdom Lodge is the BEST Disney Resort

by | May 29, 2020 | WDW Blog, WDW Resorts

It’s hard to play favorites with Walt Disney World Resort Hotels because let’s face it—everyone has different tastes … perfectly preppy, colorfully casual, southern relaxation, or rustic wilderness, just for example.

Plus there are so many factors in picking your vacation accommodations (who’s going, for how long, what’s your travel style, what’s the budget, will you use the pool…). So when people ask me which hotels are the best at WDW, there are a lot of answers I could give. But, for me, there is only one answer. Animal Kingdom Lodge is BEST Disney Resort, and here’s why!

Unique Activities

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge goes far beyond the usual resort amenities of pools, waterslides, campfires, playgrounds, arcades, and movies under the stars.

The Animal Programs and Cultural Immersion activities on offer are reason enough to choose a stay here—and maybe enough to skip the parks for a day or two… they’re that amazing!

Activities change all the time, but include things like animal tracking, learning about animal enrichment tactics, hearing African folktales, getting some African face painting done, using night-vision goggles to see what happens on the savanna after dark, medallion rubbing, drumming, and even painting classes. Sign me up!

cultural ambassador at animal kingdom lodge

Take time to talk with a Cultural Ambassador and learn about the art and design of Animal Kingdom Lodge! Photo by Danny Shuster

Art and Culture

As soon as you walk through the doors of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, you’re standing not only in a deluxe hotel lobby but a  gallery that displays beautiful pieces—and is in and of itself a work of art!

Take the time to wander around and look at the glass-encased sculptures, textiles, and trinkets which are not merely for display but actually carry a lot of cultural meaning (and are made by true artists!). 

Don’t miss the enormous colorful installation at the far end of the lobby—it’s actually a costume for one person to wear during a seasonal celebration! Cultural ambassadors are often on hand and happy to show you their favorite items on display.

While you’re there, take the time to look up, and around.

This is Walt Disney World’s most thoughtfully designed and curated resort. The textiles, carvings (in the lobby, did you notice the animals in the woodwork are running towards the open savanna?), and structure were all selected with a special purpose.

The shields on guest room doors are each uniquely created. The walls at Boma represent the stacked plaster made from mud, dung, and other materials that are common in housing throughout certain parts of Africa.

The list goes on, and on, and on. There’s a story everywhere you turn, each more fascinating than the next.

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Home Away from Home

If you’re a DVC member, you can truly say that you’re being welcomed home each time you stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

But even regular hotel guests or visitors stopping by for a meal get the immediate sense of being welcomed warmly into a home when they arrive. The feeling of safety, closeness, and calm is palpable at this resort. It’s somewhere you can truly take time to breathe and relax.

Pull up a cozy chair by the fire. Snuggle up on the deep couches in the lobby or the rocking chairs in viewing nooks for a nice long stay.

Allow yourself to choose the comfort of sleeping in on that plushy bed, or waking up at sunrise to watch the animals’ early morning activities. Talk with Cast Members who become more like friends and neighbors.

Doesn’t that sound like the perfect juxtaposition to your day in the parks?

Botswana Style Beef Short Rib at jiko

Botswana Style Beef Short Rib with Hominy, Sea Peas, Butternut Squash and Mushrooms at Jiko. Photo by Danny Shuster

Food—and Wine!

If you’re an avid foodie like my husband and I are (you might know him as the restaurant columnist in our magazine!), you’ll be in heaven at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

There are certainly items for picky eaters and many indulgent treats available, but healthy, fresh dishes and lots of exotic flavors and ingredients dominate the menu.

Over at Kidani Village, Sanaa offers a casual table service option (and an excellent lounge) with many tables situation for savanna viewing. The signature bread service here is a thing of legend, and if you like things extra spicy, ask for the “secret” extra dip.

At Jambo House, enjoy a romantic cocktail at Victoria Falls, or head to The Mara for Quick Service eats with a twist toward some more adventurous items (and the only place to get Zebra Domes outside of Boma!).

Boma is easily Walt Disney World’s best buffet—both breakfast and dinner offer many unique dishes (and the largest variety I’ve ever seen) that are bursting with flavor. Don’t miss the decadent soups, exotic salads, wood-fired meats, Boerewors sausage, or pap and chakalaka (cornmeal and a spicy tomato sauce), and the Kenyan Coffee press pot.

wine at jiko

African Wine Collection at Jiko. Photo by Danny Shuster

For something more sophisticated, head to Jiko for a signature dining experience to remember—the decor, art, and lighting set the scene for a remarkable meal of flavors unlike those you’d imagine in a theme park.

Try the mushroom flatbread (I never would have ordered this and it wasn’t what I expected but it totally blew me away!), and anything else your server recommends.

The meal concludes with a guava jelly for the perfect sweet ending.

Did I mention that Jiko (and Animal Kingdom Lodge in general) has an incredible wine list? They boast the largest collection of African wine outside the continent of Africa itself! And they are INCREDIBLE.

giraffe at animal kingdom lodge

During Sense of Africa, you may have a hopeful encounter with a giraffe! Photo courtesy of Danny Shuster

Behind the Scenes

Since we are talking about wine, let’s start our behind the scenes discussion there—you can attend a wine tasting class on Wednesdays at Jiko where a sommelier will guide you through their choices for the day, answer questions you have about those wines or the Lodge’s collection of wines, and educate you on African varietals and terroir.

There are also many other special opportunities to get a look behind the scenes: a daily (free!) culinary tour at Jiko and Boma or at Sanaa, a complimentary tour of the art and design of Kidani Village, the incredible and extensive Sense of Africa tour, and the Starlight Safari.

Most of these come with an added cost and a 180-day advance booking window, but they are worth it!

zebra at animal kingdom lodge

A zebra roams the savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge! Photo by Danny Shuster

A Safari Outside Your Window

If all of that wasn’t enough, any animal lover will be thrilled to know that you’re only a window away from being able to take in breathtaking views of savannas where animals like zebras, antelope, giraffes, red river hogs, ostriches, okapis, and more wander through the day and night.

A Savanna View room here gives you a glimpse from the comfort of your own room, but any guest can use the lookouts in hallways throughout the resort to see the animals. Or better yet, head out to the overlooks on the savannas to get a closer look!

I could go on and on and on about why Animal Kingdom Lodge is Disney’s BEST Resort… but wouldn’t you rather see and experience the magic for yourself?

Book your dream getaway today—just fill out this form to get a quote on your stay from our partners at Destinations to Travel!

Thanks to Disney for hosting us on a 3-night Resort Showcase where we got to tour and experience many of Walt Disney World’s resorts and restaurants, including Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Jiko. #wdwresorts #deliciousdisney

Written by 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.