A friend of mine recently Facebook messaged me to say, “We are going to Orlando this weekend but not doing Disney. My husband’s company gave him 2 free nights at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I know they have a great pool and a playground. Any thoughts on non-theme park activities for a 4 and 10 year old??”
First, let’s get this out-of-the-way: How lucky is my friend that she got two free nights at the Animal Kingdom Lodge? It happens to be my favorite hotel that I have stayed at any Disney Property. Second, It got me thinking, do you really need to spend every day at the park when you are visiting Disney World? Is there enough to do to keep you entertained at your hotel and surrounding attractions?
The answer: Absolutely.
Here is my response to my friend (edited):
Specific to Animal Kingdom Lodge:
I don’t think you really need to leave Disney World to have 2 days worth of fun! You have two great pools on the Animal Kingdom properties at your fingertips. Your main pool, Uzima Springs has a small slide. The pool at Animal Kingdom’s Kidani Village (just next door) is one of the best at any of the hotels in the park, in my opinion. My daughter was just 2 when we stayed at Kidani Village but she loved the huge water slide at the Samawati Springs Pool. All the kids loved the water playground called Uwanja Camp. I honestly think you could have spent one full day at the pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village.
Other activities do at the Animal Kingdom Lodge are to join an Animal Specialist to learn more about the wildlife at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. If you would rather explore on your own, there are Wildlife Field Guides available in the guest rooms and in the lobby. At night, you can roast marshmallows at the Jamba House Camp Fire. The luxury resorts usually have a Clubhouse for kids with scheduled activities. At the Animal Kingdom Lodge, its called Simba’s Clubhouse. If your kids are up for it, they even serve dinner and you can sneak away for a romantic dinner at one of the restaurants.There is also the movies under the stars, nightly.
If you decide to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, I highly recommend making reservations at either Sanaa or Boma. If you can get a reservation before sundown, try to score a table by a window to watch the animals from your table. At Sanaa, split the dipping plate full of hummus and other great dips. The butter chicken is out if this world. Zebra domes are always listed as #1 dessert at Disney. Sanaa is at Kidani Village and Boma is the Buffet at The Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Outside of your hotel, there are quite a few options to fill up your day with fun that does not involve the theme parks. Here are my Top 5 Activities for Fun Outside the Parks:
1. Play a game of Putt-Putt Golf at one of the two miniature golf courses at Disney World. Winter Summerland is located near Blizzard Beach and Fantasia Gardens is on the Swan and Dolphin Hotel.
2. Take a boat ride over to the Boardwalk. From your hotel, ride the bus over to Hollywood Studios where you can grab the free boat with stops at the Swan and Dolphin, Boardwalk, and Beach and Yacht Club. It is a great way to see that part of Disney World properties.
3. While over that way, you can hit up Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course (see above), or rent a surrey bike and ride around the Boardwalk. If you have worked up a hunger, have ice cream at Beaches & Cream or enjoy character dining at Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club Resort.
4. Take a different bus to Disney Springs. Go bowling at Splitsville. Play at the Lego Store. Ride the Disney Hot Air Balloon, Characters in Flight. Splash in the splash pad outside of Earl of Sandwich. Or, go shopping at one of the many stores there. Dine at Disney Springs (and more to come with their huge overhaul), but my favorite restaurant is Raglan Road. The food is good and the Irish Dancing and singing is great entertainment for all.
5. Board the boat from the Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness. Your kids can climb on the playground, hoola-hoop, and play checkers outside of Trail’s End restaurant. If you are into more adventurous activities, go horse-back riding, sign-up for archery, or take a horse-drawn carriage around the property. Fort Wilderness offers two dinner shows, the Hoop-Dee Doo Review and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ. Definitely make reservations for any character dining, in advance. At night you can join Chip & Dale for making S’mores around the Campfire.
Do you have a Disney or Travel related question you would like answered? Email me at Casey@HuntingforRubies.com.