I'm often asked "What is your favorite resort?", which is actually a difficult question to answer -- much like "What is your favorite restaurant?" is a difficult to answer. My experience with just about anything Disney is that it's not just the resort or meal itself, but also the ambience, the cast members, the themeing, that intangible feeling.... With Disney, I've come to expect a complete package.
So I thought I'd begin a series on the Walt Disney World Resorts. These blogs will be a snapshot of my current personal thoughts and feelings. I can tell you my "favs" have changed over time, as I'm sure they will continue to...... Also, these come from an adult only perspective. I have no children and generally travel to WDW either alone or with another adult.
As I pondered where to start, my first thought went to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I was able to visit the lodge before it opened. There was a preview where we got to tour certain portions of the resort and see a couple of the rooms. I am quite surprised now, reading my thoughts from 6 years ago. Here's a few excerpts from that report:
-- " I walked through DAKL four times, and each time the place grew on me a little more. I was expecting a jaw-dropping, "WOW" feeling, similar to when I saw Animal Kingdom for the first time, but I didn't get that."
-- "The Savannah areas look awesome and the viewing areas put you much closer to the animals than I expected. I discovered, though, that not all savannahs will have animals all the time -- at least one area at a time will be closed for cleaning, maintenance, etc."
-- "If I had to name one major disappointment I had with DAKL, it is with the rooms. While intricately appointed in dark carved woods, ethnic decor, and kente-inspired fabrics, the rooms are very small. I had the same feeling I did when first entering the Wilderness Lodge Villas bedroom: These are Queen Beds? There is little room to move around in and anyone in a wheelchair in a regular room is going to have a tough time."
-- "There also seems to be a lack of recreational activities at the lodge. Other than swimming and animal viewing there is not much to occupy one."
Here's my original report from the preview in 2001.
I guess when I said the resort "grew on me" each visit, I wasn't kidding. It's now one of my favorite resorts. In fact, I give it my award for "Best Resort to Get Away from it All".
Anyone remember the exact date Animal Kingdom Lodge officially opened?
April 16, 2001, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge did officially open and I planned to be there. Prior to the trip, I had done the typical planning, sketched out theme park days, made dinner reservations and so on.
The entire resort buzzed with excitement and opportunities for discoveries. I recall waking up the first night about 2am and looking out the window. Oh My Gosh! There's a ZEBRA out here! WAKE UP!
The opening crew was amazing. There were cultural representatives from Africa who were around the inside and outside of the resort, just aching to share stories of their homelands. In fact, I still keep in touch with Thabo, a gentleman who was the cultural representative on the opening team. By the way, you can find Thabo over at the Swan and Dolphin concierge desks.
My Opening Week Report.
Much to all our surprise, each day we spent at the Lodge we fell more and more in love with it and began to cancel plans we had made at other restaurants. Indeed, we ended up dining multiple times at Boma and Jiko and spending a great deal of time at the lodge.
One of my best memories from that week was meeting Roy Disney! He too, was at the Lodge and I saw him walking along one of the hallways. He was as nice as he could be, even suggested the best place for us to stand for a photo. It was a real thrill for me!
I was hooked..... and still am. In fact, since 2001 I have stayed at the lodge numerous times in most of the room categories from Parking Lot view to Concierge Savannah View -- each has it's own uniqueness.
The Lodge currently has 3 savannahs - Sunset, Uzima and Arusha!
I say currently because there are big Disney Vacation Club plans for Animal Kingdom which will include a new savannah. Right now a new animal barn is being built to care for the additional animals. Once that is complete, work will begin on the new savannah and Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas building!
Remember when I said AKL is one of my favorite resorts? Well, as a Disney Vacation Club member, I was thrilled to learn of the new facilities planned for the Lodge and have already purchased DVC points! Yes, I think I'll be staying there for a long time to come.
More on Animal Kingdom Lodge to come....