Despite being a New Englander, I hate winter. I hate snow. I hate cold. My personal list of great things to do in New England during the months of January and February is shortstay inside or get outta Dodge (Yeah, I know Dodge is out west, but you get the idea.)
This winterFlorida for a week of winter. With snow coming every weekend and the average temperature around two degrees, we kind of prefer to be where people think an overnight low of 40 is the next ice age.for the third time in the past four years my wife, daughter and I flew south to
My family and I are huge Disneyphiles and started our vacation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World. Like most of Disney’s deluxe resorts, the Animal Kingdom Lodge could be a vacation destination itself. It was built in 2001 as a companion resort to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. The six-story building was modeled on African architecture with a semi-circular design, thatched and woven ceilings, and large support beams. Inside, the lobby is huge and includes rich African colors, real African artifacts, and a large mud fireplace with hand-carved chairs surrounding it. We arrived on Christmas night and also saw a four-story Christmas tree. Another great attraction in all of Disney’s luxury resorts is a kids’ seating area with kid-sized chairs and tables around a TV showing classic Disney cartoons and each kids area is also specially designed to match the theme of the lodge.
As beautiful as the building is, the real attraction is the 33-acre wildlife preserve that the lodge is built on. Just outside of the lobby, rock formations lead to savannas and thousands of indigenous African grasses, shrubs and trees. On the savannas, about three dozen different types of animals roam freely. You’ll see ones we all knowlike zebras and giraffes. And there are some animals that are less common but that most people have heard of like impalas, gazelles and wildebeests. But many of the animals are things you’ve never known about (at least I never did) like Ankole cattle, blesboks, eland and kudu. There are birds too like cranes, flamingoes, ostriches and storks. Notably absent is the king of the beasts the lion for the obvious reason I suppose that it might eat the rest of the population of the savanna. That and there might be some complaints. (Look, kids! Simba is eating Timon and Pumba.)
One of the coolest features of the Animal Kingdom Lodge is that you don’t even have to go outside to see the animals. There are windowed hallways in the lodge that provide views, but there are also balconies in some rooms that look right over the savannas. Before we got there, I was kind of afraid of a giraffe or something sticking its head into our room and eating me during the night. (Closed windows and the fact that an animal is a plant-eater don’t play into my freakish imagination.) In reality, the animals can’t get that close anyway and probably wouldn’t want to. They do get close enough for some fantastic photos though.
Aside from animal-watching, there are a few other things to do at the lodge. Themed-activities for kids are scheduled throughout the day. Restaurants and lounges include the African-themed Jiko with a wood burning stove, the African buffet Boma, and Victoria Falls lounge. There’s also a quick-service restaurant with a mix of African-themed choices and the usual burgers, pizza and chicken nuggets on a Mickey plate for the kids. There’s a small health and fitness center, but I didn’t use it (hey, I was on vacation) and an arcade and child care center.
The hotel pool, I thought, was kind of small and boring for a luxury Disney resort, but I hear they’re adding another one plus another restaurant when they build Disney Vacation Club villas there. The distance is also a bit far to Disney parks other than Animal Kingdom, but the free transportation for staying at a Disney resort is a bonus. I won’t even attempt to list rates for staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge since Disney bases rates on charts and schedules that even Einstein might take a while to figure out.
Overall I thought Animal Kingdom Lodge was a pretty cool resort. I’d go back, but there are so many other great choices at Disney World that it might be a while before we stay at this one again. Still, we missed a lot of things to do at this resort because we only stayed two nights. Coming up next: where we went on day three of our winter vacation.