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Disney’s lodge rivals its park for animal fun website animal kingdom lodge

Deseret News (Salt Lake City) June 1, 2003 | Heather Graulich Cox News Service BUENA VISTA, Fla. — We go to Disney World only about once a year, and one thing my husband and I have decided is it’s worth the splurge to stay on the Disney property.

Why? For one thing, schlepping. When you travel with kids, you schlep. Diaper bags, strollers, stuffed animals, water wings, etc. It’s a lot easier to park at your hotel, unload the car once, then hop on a Disney bus, boat or the monorail and be dropped off in front of whatever attraction you want.

Our previous favorite lodgings in the park were Fort Wilderness (great little cabins in the woods) and the Wilderness Lodge (beautiful, soaring lobby), but now we have a new fave: Animal Kingdom Lodge.

It, too, has a soaring and beautiful lobby, plus a unique thatched roof and African artifacts on display. But what sets this lodge apart is the savannah out the back door, where you can watch giraffes, zebras and other wildlife graze and wander.

The first morning, we were off to the Animal Kingdom theme park. Before our 6-month-old hit his limit, we hit as many of the highlights as we could, including “The Festival of the Lion King.” This live show, featuring singers, dancers, gymnasts (plus giant versions of Simba and Pumbaa from the movie) had both our baby and his 5-year-old brother mesmerized by the swirling colors and exotically detailed, African-inspired costumes.

One thing we all liked about this park: Shade! With so much foliage around to create a jungle atmosphere, it was easy to find cool spots, even while standing in line for the attractions.

That evening, some Orlando-area friends met us for dinner at Boma, the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s buffet-style restaurant. This turned out to be a highlight of the trip. see here animal kingdom lodge

My husband, who lived in Malaysia as a child and has traveled throughout India and Africa, was thrilled with Boma’s vast offerings, which were flavored with spices like curry and cinnamon.

The meats were cooked in a wood-fiber oven; the Durban-spiced chicken and pork loin with tamarind barbecue sauce were both delicious. An oddly addicting dish was the watermelon-rind salad. Add a glass of Cape Indaba chardonnay from Africa and dainty Kahlua mousse cakes for dessert, and we were hooked.

The next day, we decided to take it easy before checkout by just relaxing at the pool, a child-friendly oasis with a small water slide, and where the water never gets more than about 4 feet deep.

There’s more to the lodge, things we didn’t have time to experience, like the evening story time with native African storytellers. Or Simba’s Cubhouse, the lodge’s child-care facility that’s available in the evenings if mom and dad want a quiet dinner alone at Jiko, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant.

Still, we had a wonderful stay and, driving home, we decided that the lodge was almost as much fun as the Animal Kingdom itself.

Best bets “It’s Tough to be a Bug,” the 3-D movie shown in the base of the giant Tree of Life that is the centerpiece of Animal Kingdom. The movie, based on the characters from the movie “A Bug’s Life,” gets the whole audience laughing and screeching, with (fake) spiders that drop from the ceiling, “smoke” that fills the room and “bugs” that feel like they’re running under your seat.

The Mara: Animal Kingdom Lodge’s lowest-priced, cafeteria-styled eatery. This is a great place to get kids fed, and a breakfast platter of scrambled eggs, home-fried potatoes, bacon and a biscuit was less than $6. Also handy for grab-and-go fruit, yogurt, bagels and more. We ate outside, under market umbrellas, surrounded by greenery.

Watching the animals from the lodge’s lookout areas: It’s fascinating and free. Look for one of the lodge’s animal guides, usually posted at the lookout areas, to answer all your animal questions. The lodge is home only to grazing animals; there are no cheetahs, lions or other predators that might like to make lunch out of them.

Heather Graulich Cox News Service