Many features set Walt Disney World resorts apart from other hotels, such as elaborate theming, impeccable guest service, and extensive daily resort activities.
And while every resort at Disney World offers activities, I’d argue that Animal Kingdom Lodge offers the widest array of resort activities and the best options for kids.
This fall my family stayed five nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge and only went to the theme parks one day, so we had lots of time to explore the resort and try out the many offerings.
You can view a sample calendar of resorts activities from September 2017 here, but keep in mind the options and times can change from month to month. The best part of these activities (to a cheapskate like me, at least) is that they are all free!
I’ll describe the activities we participated in below, and you can decide if you think the offerings at Animal Kingdom Lodge are the best on property or not!
Culinary Tour of Jiko & Boma
Every day at 4:15, Cultural Representatives from Africa lead a tour of Jiko and Boma, the two incredible table service restaurants at Jambo House.
The cast members who led our tour explained the how the design elements in the restaurants symbolically represent African culture and nature. For example, in Jiko you’ll find the shape of wheat stalks in the flooring which represent an abundant harvest in Africa. I was once again bowled over by the thought that goes into every detail at Walt Disney World.
Aletta from Namibia led our tour of Boma, and here she is explaining how people from her country use the pots that inspired the columns in the restaurant. It was such a pleasure to learn about life in Africa from these talented young people and to be able to ask them questions about their home.
In addition to learning about the design of the restaurants, you’ll get to learn about their culinary offerings – and even taste some!
At Jiko, we were offered a sample of the bread and dips from the Taste of Africa appetizer. At Boma, we got to sample some soup (ours was an African peanut soup that was out of this world) and their signature dessert, the Zebra Dome.
The tour lasts 45 minutes and there’s need to register ahead of time – just arrive in the Jiko bar area by 4:15. The restaurant tour is open to any Walt Disney World guest, so you don’t even need to be staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge to participate.
African Face Painting
Every day from 2:00 – 3:00 pm kids can get their face painted in a traditional African design by a Cultural Representative. This takes place in the patio area outside of the Mara, the quick service restaurant at Jambo House, or inside the Mara if the weather isn’t great.
Phumalane decorated my daughter’s face in the style of an African princess on her wedding day. Can you tell she loves to have her picture taken?
Considering that face painting in the theme parks costs at least $15, this activity offers great value. We were the only ones there so we got to talk to Phumalane for a while, which was a bonus on top of the lovely face painting.
Cookie Decorating at Boma
The activity my little one was most excited about was cookie decorating, of course. Every day from 1:30 to 2:00 pm kids and their grown-ups can decorate African wildlife-shaped cookies at tables inside of Boma.
There’s no need to register for this activity and you don’t have to be a guest at Animal Kingdom Lodge to participate. I have read on other sites that you do need a kiddo with you, but I couldn’t confirm that because I went with my daughter.
Here is her adorable lion with a gummy bear collar. I decorated a cookie, too, but I ate mine before I could get a picture. Oops!
Another girl made this giraffe scene and she was kind enough to let me take a picture.
The best part of this activity was chatting with the two Cultural Representatives who led it while we decorated. I learned so much about life in Africa and how they came to be working at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
We spend lots of time at the pool during our stays at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Our little one loves the water, and she is finally getting old enough to participate in some of the fun poolside recreation activities!
Every day from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Cast Members lead games and activities at both Animal Kingdom Lodge pools. They change daily and include everything from hula hooping contests to Name That Disney Tune.
The kids can win prizes (usually beach balls and other water toys) when they participate. My four-year-old daughter played water balloon games and a critter roundup, and we played Bingo together. You can see more examples of the poolside activities on the sample September Recreation Calendar here.
Mini Cake Decorating
Every day at 3:30 in front of Sanaa (Kidani Village) kids can decorate their own animal-shaped mini cake with help from Cultural Representatives. This was another high priority for my daughter – are you noticing a theme here?
We were the only people decorating cakes that day so we had our choice of cakes and toppings! Those little candy rocks were incredibly good. We enjoyed talking with Kefilwe from Botswana who helped us with our cakes, and learning that she is scared of chickens! (Note: we keep chickens at home and she said she would run away from them, which my daughter thought was hysterical.)
Last but not least is the activity that makes Animal Kingdom Lodge such a unique place – viewing the animals that make the savanna their home.
Here are some pictures I have taken on various trips to the Lodge over the years. All of them were taken from the public viewing areas (we always stay in Standard View rooms).
I personally think the wildlife viewing and photography opportunities are better at Kidani Village than Jambo House. The animals seem to be closer and more active there in my experience.
For a few hours after sundown, you can view the animals with night vision goggles at either overlook. I’ve never tried this but it sounds like something older kids would really get a kick out of!
The activities I highlighted in this post are just a small sampling of what’s offered at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Most activities are free, and there are plenty geared towards adults if you are visiting without little ones in tow.
For me, the highlight of participating in these activities was the connection we made with Cultural Representatives. The activities gave us a chance to spend some time chatting and getting to know these incredible people who traveled halfway around the world to share their experiences with us. Cast Members really are what makes Walt Disney World so special.
I encourage you to schedule a day (or more!) to experience the resort activities at your resort during your next stay at Walt Disney World. Do you agree that Animal Kingdom Lodge offers the best activities of any resort? Or are there better options elsewhere? Join the discussion over at the ResalesDVC Facebook page!