I had the pleasure of calling Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge home during the runDisney Princess Half Marathon last month. Still in shock that we had won the Happily Ever Excellent contest, I arrived wide-eyed and smiling. I had never been to this Walt Disney World property and was so very excited to be spending the entire race weekend here. Races that I would not have been able to run had it not been for the contest sponsored by runDisney, New Balance and Zappos. I am still very thankful and grateful to them!
Our accommodations were spectacular. The photos below (from the resort's website) provide an excellent 2-angle view of what the standard room looks like. Very spacious and very open with beautiful African-inspired decor. I particularly loved the light fixtures and draping behind the headboards. The room was well appointed with several outlets (much needed) AC, wifi, cable, fridge, coffee machine, etc.
I opened the shades and was instantly transported to a safari. The view from our room was nothing short of amazing. I spent so much time on my balcony, peacefully enjoying the animals. My only wish was that my daughter had been there to experience this with me, since she is an animal lover.
The resort is home to over 30 species of African wildlife, including zebras, giraffes, gazelles, kudu and flamingos. Rooms are equipped with a Wildlife Field Guide for guests to identify each species.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is all about the details. I enjoyed walking around the resort taking in the unique atmosphere. The hot tub, pool, common and surrounding areas are all themed so beautifully. With jogging trails, a playground, an arcade, a safari, campfires and Simba's Clubhouse - there is so much to experience at Animal Kingdom Lodge for adults, teens and children.
A little known fact me about me: I am obsessed with rocking chairs. When I traveled to Tennessee I spent a lot of time coveting homes with massive porches lined with rocking chairs. The rocking chairs at Animal Kingdom Lodge made me very, very happy.
I was worried about what the dining options would be like at this resort, but luckily The Mara kept me well fed! The quick-service restaurant was my daily breakfast go-to, and my nightly dinner go-to. I quickly learned from a chef that The Mara serves some type of salmon every night. So no matter what the dinner offerings might be, I always knew I could have a delicious salmon dinner. Every morning I had eggs, bacon, grapes and milk. Breakfast and dinner combined were about $15 per day. Not too bad for that much protein. Since I was there to run 3 races, I wanted to be sure I ate well, without breaking the bank. Post-race on a couple of occasions I enjoyed cupcakes from The Mara bakery and once I ordered the chicken salad which was huge and fresh.
I also enjoyed a wonderful créme brûlée dessert at Jiko with a fantastic glass of wine, while my friend enjoyed appetizers. Again, wonderful food.
At the Uzima Springs Pool Bar the bartender made me a special cocktail right up my alley - vodka with a splash of fresh lemon juice and secret pixie dust! Excellent service from a Disney resort CM is to be expected, but the special touches, attention to detail and purely enjoyable conversations are priceless.
From the moment I arrived, the hospitality at Animal Kingdom Lodge blew me away. I was greeted by so many different CMs and all were excited to hear about the runDisney race weekend. At one point during our stay, a gift was delivered to our room by our hosts, New Balance. The chocolate covered strawberries were delicious!
Our stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge was beyond my expectations. The amenities are fantastic and the Cast Members are outstanding. The only drawback for me was the location. I felt as though the resort was far removed from the rest of Walt Disney World, and at times - notably at night or during the afternoons - the bus ride(s) seemed too long. On several occasions, I wished I had a car. I spoke with a handful DVC guests who mentioned to me that Animal Kingdom Lodge is a favorite resort, but typically they do travel with a car so that they can have that flexibility available to them if needed. In fact, we did drive ourselves to the races each morning as one of my friends did have a car on-site. (Side note: parking at the resorts is free.) Remember, I am from California so I am used to Disneyland: no transportation needed. This could be why transportation in general at WDW seems overwhelming to me and to others is not an issue at all.
I would love to bring my daughter to this resort, and I highly recommend that you visit the resort for yourself the next time you are at Walt Disney World, even if only to see the animals! If you already love Animal Kingdom Lodge or know that's where you want to go - visit the lodge's page for more info.
For more information about this, or other Walt Disney World resorts, visit: disneyworld.disney.go.com