Staying at Animal Kindom Lodge (AKL) and participating in the many Animal Kingdom Lodge Activities creates an entirely different type of Walt Disney World resort vacation. Think of Animal Kingdom Lodge as more than just a hotel. It’s like waking up in an African safari every morning. With wild animals right outside your window and the whole place buzzing with the vibe of African culture, it’s a total game-changer for family trips.
My kids love the Animal Kingdom Lodge resort. If you ask them their favorite place to stay when we visit Disney World, both of them will say without hesitation, Animal Kingdom Lodge. Yes, we love the other Walt Disney World resorts like Riviera Resort for its easy skyliner access, and the monorail resorts for their proximity to the Magic Kingdom, but when we stay at AKL, it’s not just a place to crash, it’s a whole experience. It’s got everything from rooms with views of zebras and giraffes to awesome activities that aren’t just fun but also super educational.
If you ever get the chance to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, I want you to get the best out of it, just like we do. Whether it’s your first visit or you’re practically part of the furniture like us, I’ve got some insider tips and personal stories to share. After years of trips staying there, I know all the secrets to making your Disney World vacation at Animal Kingdom Lodge even more special.
🦒 Book your stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge HERE!
Animal Kingdom Lodge Activities Overview
A big part of what makes Animal Kingdom Lodge so special is the animals that live there. Outside of both properties (Jambo House and Kidani Village) are large viewing areas with animals such as giraffes, zebras, and ostriches roaming the grounds. It’s not unusual to wake up in the morning, look out your balcony, and see a few giraffes enjoying breakfast just below your room.
The resort takes advantage of this with plenty of ways to learn about and view the animals living on the property. A few favorites include:
1. Animal Spotting
The resort has several areas perfect for spotting animals and they provide helpful guides to help you learn a little bit more (and identify) about what you see. If you are lucky enough to have a Savannah view room, you can also spot the animals from your balcony.
I love waking up in the morning, making a cup of coffee (Joffrey’s of course), and watching the animals while I sit and wait for everyone else to get ready for the day. It’s both relaxing and entertaining, and it never gets old!
2. Animal Programs
When my kids were younger, this was their favorite part of their stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We would make sure we had at least one resort day just so they could participate in the activities.
The programs may vary a bit, but include things like learning about the Flamingos that live on the property, Animal Enrichment – they’d help prepare food to feed the animals, Animal Tracking, and even spotting the animals at night using night vision goggles.
The best part of these activities is that they are FREE! The value of all the Animal Kingdom Lodge activities is really mind-boggling to me. Your kids can easily have a fun stay without ever setting foot in a park (I know mine have!).
One of the things that differentiate Animal Kingdom Lodge from the rest of the Disney Deluxe resorts and their resort activities are the many cultural activities and cultural representatives. They really make a stay at AKL unique and super special.
3. African Drumming
Every afternoon you’ll start to hear the drums in the Jambo House lobby – that’s when you know the African drumming session is happening. A cultural guide will gather up anyone interested and let you have the opportunity to make some music (noise) with the drums. It’s actually a lot of fun and we always participate if we are free. The kids got such a kick out of the drums that we purchased a pair as a souvenir years ago and every once in a while I hear the drums beating at home and think of Disney!
4. Culinary Tours
If you like good food and food tours (and my family sure does), you’ll want to make a point to sign up for one of the restaurant tours. They are typically once a week, scheduled for times when the restaurants aren’t open (or at least not busy). There is one in Jambo House that takes you through the buffet, Boma, and the fine-dining restaurant Jiko. The other tour is of Sanaa (our all-time favorite Disney restaurant) in Kidani Village.
Both tours will walk you through what the restaurants have to offer, what makes them special and unique, and share some of the Disney touches. In Sanaa, the tour guide points out some of the special art which is quite interesting. At the end of the tours you’ll get to try a few dishes – I believe in Boma we tried a soup and a zebra dome, and at both Jiko and Sanaa we got to try a sample of the bread service.
These tours are free of charge and well worth your time, but you will want to sign up ahead of time as they have been known to fill up. It’s a fun way to learn something as well as try something new while you are on vacation.
5. Animal Kingdom Art Tour
Another fun (and free) activity is to take a tour of the Jambo House Lobby (and there is also one of Kidani Village). The guide will walk you through the gorgeous lobby and point out some of the special details along with describing the art that you’ll see, and why it was chosen for the resort. You’ll probably also get a chance to find a few hidden Mickey’s!
🦁 Check rates for your dates at Animal Kingdom Lodge HERE
Recreational Activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge
If you just want to have a little fun at Animal Kingdom Lodge there are plenty of opportunities.
6. Simba’s Playhouse
All of the Deluxe Disney resorts have a clubhouse for the kiddos and it’s a fun place to sign up for art projects, play games, or just hang out if it’s a rainy day. Animal Kingdom Lodge’s clubhouse is called Simba’s Playhouse.
If we are spending a day enjoying the resort (instead of heading into the parks) we’ll usually stop in and see what crafts are available. This is also a fun thing to do on a check-in or check-out day. We’ve painted and colored pictures, made necklaces, and even painted our own jewelry boxes in the past. There are always a few choices, some paid and some free, so definitely check it out.
8. Nightly campfire fun
Our favorite Disney resort (Vero Beach) has a really engaging campfire with songs and s’mores, so although the nightly campfires at Animal Kingdom Lodge don’t quite compare (and yes, we’ve tried to unsuccessfully start songs before), it is still fun to check them out. Both Kidani Village and Jambo have one, and they will pass out free marshmallows to roast. I believe you can purchase a s’mores kit, but you could also just bring your own.
10. Enjoy the poolside fun
One of the things that Disney resorts do incredibly well is engage the kids while they are at the pool. We have participated in numerous poolside parties and they are always a blast. From hula-hoop contests (my kids ended up tying the last time we were at AKL), to bingo or trivia, there is fun to be had by all.
And even if you don’t want to participate, you can still enjoy the music and atmosphere while you relax by the pool (or careen down the waterslide!). Just grab an activities schedule when you check in to see when and what is being offered during your stay.
11. Cookie or cake decorating
This is a tasty activity that you can participate in if you happen to be around when it’s happening. More than once this is an activity that we just happened upon versus one we planned for. The cast member will give you a cookie and some icing and toppings and you can decorate your own cookie or cake. Then you get to take it home!
We always have fun seeing how creative we can be, and it’s a delicious snack late at night after a full park day. You will see this on the activities schedule, so look for it, or you might just stumble upon it like we did.
12. Watch an evening movie under the stars
All of the Deluxe Disney resorts have some sort of outdoor movie shown nightly (weather allowing), and so Animal Kingdom Lodge is no exception. Honestly, we rarely watch them anymore, just because the kids are older and prefer to be out and about at night, but when they were younger, we’d often end a fun Disney day at the park or the resort with a Disney movie.
Special Events at Animal Kingdom Lodge
There are plenty of special events happening at Animal Kingdom Lodge throughout the year.
13. Gingerbread sculptures and Christmas trees
During the Christmas holiday season, Animal Kingdom Lodge puts up an enormous Christmas Tree in the Jambo House lobby. It is completely decorated with a bit of a “Disney-African” theme and is quite stunning.
The resort also comes up with a gingerbread display (along with the rest of the Deluxe resorts) which is always incredible. We’ve seen several years of displays that were almost full-sized animals made out of gingerbread. They also sell hot chocolate (with or without a kick) and gingerbread goodies in the lobby during the Christmas season.
14. Special holiday events
For most of the larger US holidays, Animal Kingdom Lodge will do a little something special. Whether it’s a holiday-related craft or special decoration, definitely ask at the front desk or check the activity guide to see what’s happening when you visit around the holidays.
AKL Activities Planning Tips
When it comes to diving into the activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a little planning goes a long way. First things first – prioritize. Check out the activity list ahead of time and pick what resonates most with your family’s interests and the ages of your kids. Got little adventurers? They might love the pool parties or animal encounters. Older kids or teens might be into cultural experiences or nighttime wildlife viewing.
Time management is key too. You’ll want to balance your park time with lodge activities without feeling rushed. Some activities are extra magical at certain times. For instance, early morning is great for animal watching when they’re most active. Evenings can be perfect for watching movies or just star gazing. By aligning activities with the best times, you’ll ensure each moment at the lodge is as enjoyable as it can be.
Why Animal Kingdom Lodge?
The unique atmosphere of Animal Kingdom Lodge is something out of an African dream. Imagine waking up to the sight of giraffes and zebras roaming just beyond your balcony. The lodge’s design, inspired by African kraals, offers panoramic views of four lush savannas, home to over 200 animals and birds. It’s like having a piece of the African safari in Orlando!
Animal Kingdom Lodge Dining Options
There are plenty of choices for dining at Animal Kingdom Lodge. From the upscale Jiko to the expansive Boma buffet there is something for everyone. My absolute favorite Disney restaurant, Sanaa is located at Kidani Village. If you get a chance to eat there, do it – and order the bread service and a Painted Lemur. Yum! There is even a super cool bar overlooking Boma (Victoria Falls Lounge) – a great spot for a cocktail and appetizer.
Finally, you can also enjoy a quick service meal at Mara, or even grab snacks from the two gift shops (including zebra domes). We like to get a package of zebra domes and take them along with a cup of coffee over to the balcony overlooking the savanna for a wonderful little snack.
🦓 Find rates and dates for Animal Kingdom Lodge HERE!
Conclusion: Animal Kingdom Lodge Activities
If you’re planning a stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, I want you to love it as much as we do. From my countless stays, I’ve gathered all the tips and tricks to make your Disney vacation here extra special. It’s not just about a comfortable stay; it’s about creating those magical family moments that last a lifetime.
Animal Kingdom Lodge’s blend of wildlife and cultural activities offers an immersive experience. Whether it’s drumming to the beat of African rhythms, exploring art, or learning about the majestic animals right outside your room, there’s always something to excite and educate. And with thoughtful planning, you can make the most of these activities, creating a vacation that’s as enjoyable as it is enriching.
In a nutshell, staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge isn’t just a decision for convenience; it’s choosing an adventure. It’s an opportunity to blend the thrill of a safari with the magic of Disney, creating unforgettable memories for your family. So, when you next visit Disney World, consider making AKL your home base, and dive into a world where every day brings a new adventure, right at your doorstep.