Tuesday, April 28, 2015

5 Places to Relax at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge | Jambo House

I'm about to tell you a Disney Snob secret, so listen up everybody...

You don't have to be staying at Disney Resort to really enjoy it.

The Disney World resort hotels are basically like mini theme parks, and day guests are welcome to visit and explore the lobby, grounds, shops, and restaurants.  Today we're looking at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, which has savanna overlooks with animal guides to answer any questions, fun activities like cookie decorating and and animal viewing with night vision goggles, beautiful displays of African art, delicious dining (BOMA), zebras, zebra domes - there's plenty to do here.  But my favorite way to do a resort day is to just relax.

We're taking a tour of this gorgeous resort by looking at five gorgeous places to take it easy AKL-style - for resort guests or day guests!

These spots are all at Jambo House, the original Animal Kingdom Lodge building - although there are lots of beautiful spaces over in the DVC building, Kidani Village, too.

Ready to explore?


Stepping into the soaring Jambo House lobby is always an "OOOOooohh!" kind-of moment.  You'll make your way beneath the shield chandeliers across the lobby towards the giant windows - beyond them is Arusha Rock, where the animals are.


There's an impressive firepit out here, but that's not the first relaxation space on our list.  Look just above the firepit - when you're out on Arusha Rock, you may notice the balconies with rocking chairs on either side of the big windows, just beneath the thatch overhang...

You access these areas from the main lobby (third floor) - go out the door to get to the staircases (which, incidentally, are some of the coolest staircases ever), but go just beyond them to find this...

The rocking chairs out here are no ordinary rocking chairs...

They're carved with animal heads and intricate designs!  You can hear the African music as you rock the afternoon gently away, admiring the Arusha Rock landscape before you.  This area is out of the sun and nicely shaded - and just steps away from the air conditioning the heat gets to be too much!


On hot Florida afternoons, it can be nicer to relax indoors - so our next spot is in the AC but still close the savanna...

When most guests head down these stairs, they're intent on getting out to Arusha Rock.  But if you pause and turn around, you'll find some cozy pairings of comfy chairs.


I just love this sunny spot.  You're still in the lobby (it's just up the stairs above you), but you're also a little removed from it.  Before you, outside the enormous windows, is the lush landscaping of Arusha Rock, and above you is this...

The bridge, the ostriches, the soaring ceiling - Disney knows how to do dramatic design.


Our next spot is more secluded but will lead you to more AKL goodness.  Just head down any of the "trail" hallways leading to the rooms.  Keep walking and eventually you'll find yourself in a round lobby/elevator lounge area with all sorts of African artifacts...


There are many of these elevator lounge exhibits throughout the resort, and each explores a different theme in African culture - music, masks, and more.  It's like a mini museum!  If you're looking to while away a Jambo House afternoon, see if you can visit them all.  Most of the lounges are split-level, with a balcony on the upper level so you can look down on the exhibits below.  The upper level has a nice bench...

...it's even got a savanna view!  On the lower level of the elevator lounge, there's a door leading to an outdoor patio...

...with more rocking chairs and binoculars for Ankoli Cattle spotting.


The outside of the buildings are painted with unique designs, and you almost always have these areas to yourself.  It's a lovely place to watch the sunset, but then again, so is our next space...


The Sunset Lounge is a room off the main lobby, just beyond the check-in desks...

This space can sometimes be sectioned off for special events (like when they first started testing MagicBands!), and various resort activities (talks, kids' trivia, etc.) often take place in the Sunset Lounge (you may see 27 ostrich eggs roll through).  But if you go at the right time of day, you can have it all to yourself!


I love the furniture and details - find the dragonfly (he's only on one of the lamps!) and look for the time capsule put together by cast members when the resort first opened.

These low chairs by the window are perfect for sinking into after a day of running around the parks.  Just outside those doors is another opportunity for even more animal watching.

Make sure you look at the photos and mementos in the Sunset Lounge - they're about real-life adventurers Martin and Osa Johnson.  There's one photo of Osa with perfect lipstick and her arms full of tiger cubs.  Love it!


Our final place to relax at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is by the fireside...

The incredible chimney structure reaching up one side of the lobby belongs to Ogun's firepit...

You'll always find some flames flickering here - the tile base and ironwork on the grill are just beautiful.

It's even more magical after dusk with the flickering light and the sound of the drums.  You can hear the guests at their meal or having at drink at Victoria Falls below, but sitting around Ogun's Firepit you're in your own world.

The Victoria Falls Overlook gets honorable mention on the list - I love the dramatic pillars, and it's fun to look down at all the activity going on at Boma.

I didn't mention the seating areas in the main lobby, but they can be wonderfully relaxing too.

I will leave you with one last photo and some advice...never put your face too close to the public pillows because you never know whose feet have just been touching them.  When relaxing at Disney resorts, I think your shoes should stay on your feet and your feet should stay off the furniture, but that's just me. ;)

Be sure to share your favorite AKL corners in the comments!


  1. I don't know if I clicked "Publish" on the comment so I'm sorry if this shows up twice!

    I loved this! Since we honeymooned at AKL, I have actually seen all those places before though we didn't actually enjoy them since we were either in the parks, at a restaurant, or being lazy in the room, haha. I'd love to see another installment like this at a different resort! I went to visit the monorail resorts during this past trip since Howard wasn't with me. My mom tagged along because she had never seen ANY resort before. Though I went with photography in mind, I would have definitely done some more relaxing had my mom not been with me. I'd love to see all the nooks and crannies of other resorts if you know of them!

    1. Thanks Rachel! :) I definitely have some favorite nooks and crannies at the other resorts I'm planning to share. Hope you had a fun trip with your mom!

  2. These are fantastic AKL spots- and you did a great job of highlighting each one! I'll be relaxing in at least a few of these spots in TWO DAYS! I can't wait :)

    1. JEALOUS! Hope you have an amazing trip, KJ. :)

  3. Jambo~Hello Emma,
    Thank you for including Martin and Osa Johnson in your post about the DAK Lodge!
    In addition to the photos, there's a first edition of Osa's zebra-striped autobiography "I Married Adventure" in the center display case in the Sunset Lounge.
    FYI - At one time Johnson film was also used at the DAK Park Conservation Center.
    Best safari wishes,
    Conrad Froehlich
    Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum

  4. I've never stayed at the AKL but we've visited it twice as day guests. You are so right - you do not have to stay at a resort to enjoy the lovely atmosphere and exotic ambience!