As I continue to work through each pile of laundry, I’m reliving the days we recently spent in Walt Disney World. Days filled with Mickey and Minnie, meeting new friends (um, Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates), and so much pixie dust….beyond amazing!
It’s Disney…..and I should have expected just how amazing it would be, especially since I had the privilege to attend the 2010 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. But if anyone knows how to make things bigger and better and “out-do” themselves, it’s Disney!
We headed to Orlando (via Southwest Airlines) for the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration…..with stroller, backpacks, suitcases, and a whole lot of excitement from a certain 3-year old (and a couple of adults too)! We always make sure to get a photo at the Orlando International Airport (above) – that wall inside the terminal is always our 1st vacation photo! Isn’t it adorable? It’s not painted – Mickey can actually be hugged!
We had arrived a day early to enjoy some extra family time, and planned to spend the day & night somewhere we had always dreamed of staying, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. We had visited the resort briefly once before to enjoy dinner at Boma, and ever since then had wanted to experience it more! What an experience it was – even for just 24 hours!
As soon as you arrive at the Lodge, you’ll see the thatched ceilings and large beams – it’s beautiful. You might even hear some African drums playing in the background. The setting is so completely different than anything I’d experienced – the feel is distinctly African, and it’s authentic. For someone (like me) who has always wanted to take that dream trip to Africa, this was such a treat.
We headed to the Giraffe Trail, where our room was located – marked by distinct Giraffe patterned carpet. This was especially fun, as our daughter could always lead us to our hallway. While not as large as other deluxe resort rooms we’d stayed in, it was absolutely charming. Disney always has perfect theming, and the rooms are no exception. From the light fixtures and table that resembled an African drum, to the netting above the beds (almost like mosquito netting you’d expect in Africa).
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of Disney’s Deluxe resorts, and as such, had special amenities like my favorite H2O body products, especially the body lotion.
Mousekeeping (aka housekeeping) always throws in a little magic when staying on Disney property, but this was actually our first set of “Mickey” towels. Our daughter was quite happy that she spotted this “not so hidden” Mickey.
At check-in we received a Disney World folder of information, which included a detailed map of the resort – important since there are two completely separate parts – Jambo House (the main area where we stayed) and the newer Kidani Village (AK Villas). We also received a notice of March Activities……deluxe resorts not only have extra amenities, but extra activities, many of which are free of charge. They are too numerous to list, but some of the complimentary events included:
- Animal Programs and Wildlife Encounters
- Night Vision Animal Viewing
- Cookie Decorating at the restaurant Boma
- African Face Painting
- Medallion Rubbing artwork
- Arusha Rock Fire Pit – African Folktales
- Movie under the stars
In our room we found a Wildlife Field Guide for our use……..it had identification pointers and a list of all the animals on site. What a souvenir to bring home, and a fun activity for both adults and children. Those are just a few of the many unique cultural opportunities available while staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. You really need to take at least one or two days to completely enjoy your surroundings at Animal Kingdom Lodge, without even leaving for the parks.
After a quick bite to eat at Mara, the quick service restaurant, we toured the grounds. FYI……you don’t need to eat at Boma’s to find the irresistible Zebra Domes dessert….you can buy it a la carte at Mara! The grounds were unbelievable……fire pit, rocking chairs, and huge glass windows in the lobby. We didn’t splurge on a Savannah view room, but I can imagine the views.
We visited Arusha Rock Savanna Overlook, which is easily accessible from the lobby, for an up close look at the animals and their habitat. From morning to night, you’ll find a Savanna Guide, and we had the great fortune to meet Tracy from Botswana, Africa. She spent so much time talking to our daughter, who happens to be a walking animal encyclopedia. We asked her questions about the animals we were viewing and about life in Africa. She also told us there was a hidden Mickey in the giraffe carving…..and yes, my daughter found it. What an amazing experience for all of us.
We spent time spotting animals and birds like the Reticulated Giraffe, Zebra, and Pink Back Pelican, before it was time to eat again.
We certainly didn’t want to leave the resort, and decided to take a quick shuttle to the Animal Kingdom Villas, Kidani Village, where we would eat for the first time at Sanaa, which means “work of art” in Swahili. It certainly was. The atmosphere was exciting. The view…..unbelievable. Yes, we had a window seat right next to the Savannah, and enjoyed watching the Roan Antelope eat dinner no more than 20 feet away from us.
Eating at Sanaa wasn’t a buffet, so I was a bit leery. At least at Boma, I could always get something different if I didn’t like something. I heavily relied on their recommendations, and ordered the African Spiced Chicken Breast with Turnips and Cherries. Oh. My. Goodness. It was all in a butternut squash puree…..I ate the entire dish! We had to try dessert…..so we opted to share the Dessert Sampler – 3 small items consisting of Chocolate Cake, Tropical Fruit Kulfi, and Chai Cream. One of the best meals I’ve had at Disney World…..ever.
A quick trip outside to enjoy the Uzima Overlook at Kidani Rock, and we ended up chatting with a wonderful family while we rocked in rocking chairs by the fire pit. Another Savannah Guide brought us Night Vision goggles (totally cool), and we were able to spot White-Bearded Wildebeest. Then it was off to bed, for the next day would bring a transfer to another resort and the excitement of the Disney’s Social Media Moms Celebration.
It already felt magical.
(While the stay at Animal Kingdom lodge was completely paid for by our family, I paid a modest fee to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Conference, which included a room at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, park tickets and extraordinary events, parties, and perks. There was no requirement to blog about Disney, the conference or the events. All opinions are my own!)