Showing posts with label AKL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AKL. Show all posts

Signature South African Dining at Jiko

Located inside of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge at the Walt Disney World Resort is a restaurant that is home to delicious South African flavors, Jiko - The Cooking Place.  I love trying each of the signature dining experiences within Walt Disney World as each offers a combination of service, atmosphere, food, and drink that is second-to-none.  Jiko has been on my wish list for a while and on our most recent trip we were able to join friends of ours from the Orlando area for a date night out while the kids stayed back at the hotel with grandma and grandpa.

Jiko is situated on the lower level of Jambo House at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge; directly across from Boma.  The decor could best be described as "elegant casual" in my opinion.  The dining room was a comfortable mix of tables and booths featuring bright colors and beautiful art that is meant to symbolize the natural beauty of Africa.  Our dinner was after dark, but during the day, there are large windows that have a view of one of the savannas.  There is a small bar area near the hostess station where we were able to relax and have a pre-dinner cocktail before being seated.  The restaurant does have a dress code which requests "resort casual" attire.

Food and Drink
We found the menu to feature a lot of variety and delicious flavors.  The dinner service began with bread and we ordered a chicken flatbread appetizer.  During the appetizers, my husband ordered one of the South African wine flights to taste a variety of what the restaurant had to offer.  The pairing was reasonably priced and was smooth and delicious.  For our entrees, everyone sampled something different.  I opted to follow one of our waiter's recommendations and try the Oak-grilled Filet Mignon while Dan went with the Maize-crusted Halibut.  The filet was cooked perfectly, but I have to say that I enjoyed the flavors of the halibut a bit better.  For dessert, we once again took the waiter's recommendation and went with the Malva Pudding.  It was the perfect end to the evening!  Everything was wonderful and we can't wait to go back again!

Overall Impressions
I was really impressed with Jiko.  It definitely ranks above Artist Point in both food and atmosphere in my opinion.  When I compare it to California Grill, I think it's right on par with food, but California Grill does hold an edge with the breathtaking views overlooking Cinderella Castle in Disney's Magic Kingdom.  I would look forward to returning to Jiko in the future and trying more of their diverse and delicious menu!

Understanding Disney Resort Categories

Recently, I've been chatting with my cousin about an upcoming trip that he is planning with his family to Walt Disney World.  In our conversations, I was reminded how overwhelming the seemingly simple task of choosing a hotel for your Disney vacation can be for those who aren't familiar with all of the options and categories.

(Note: I've updated this post as of April 2019 to reflect my most recent stays! Enjoy!!)

The pool at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
Value Resorts - All-Star Music, All-Star Movies, All-Star Sports, Pop Century, and Art of Animation - These provide the most basic accommodations on Disney property.  Rooms will vary a bit from resort to resort as the All Stars provide relatively small rooms while the Art of Animation resort offers family suites with multiple sleeping areas and 2 bathrooms.  Dining options are limited here as well with typically only a quick service restaurant.  Theming and pool areas are generally well done and kids will be impressed with the larger than life Disney characters at each of these resorts.  Out of this category, I've stayed at the All-Star Music Resort (back in 2003) as well as All-Star Movies Resort.  I'm excited to check out Art of Animation and hope to stay there on our next vacation with the kids.  I think the over-the-top theming and the inclusion of some recent Disney/Pixar films make this a perfect place for families with young kids.

Moderate Resort - Port Orleans Riverside
Stately mansions and a fun pool (where I enjoyed being a big kid!) 

Moderate Resorts - Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside, and Port Orleans French Quarter - These resorts feature more "subtle" Disney theming while transporting you to another place.  The grounds of each of these are beautiful and spread out over the greatest distance - something that may sound wonderfully relaxing to some of you or incredible inconvenient to others.  Recently, Disney has updated some rooms in these resorts to make a more magical and themed experience including Pirate themed rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort.  I've stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort back in 1994 and Port Orleans Riverside in 2008. More recently, I visit Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in 2017 for Princess Half Marathon Weekend. Dan and I really enjoyed our time at Port Orleans Riverside and I would say it's my recommendation out of this category.  It seems to be universally well liked on all of the Disney Social Media groups that I follow and the laid back theming of an old Mississippi River plantation allows you to truly feel relaxed on your vacation.

Beautiful, modern, and close to the Magic Kingdom!
Deluxe Resort - The Contemporary
Deluxe Resorts - Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk, Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Animal Kingdom Lodge - The deluxe resort category offers convenient access  to the parks, spacious rooms, luxurious accommodations, exceptional theming, and fantastic dining. . .all for a pretty high price.  There isn't a deluxe resort that you'd be disappointed in - they are fabulous.  If you will be staying at a deluxe resort, the biggest thing to consider is which park you would like easiest access to or if there is a particular theme that you love.  My personal favorite in this category is the Contemporary because with two young kids, you can walk to Magic Kingdom and are just a monorail ride away from Epcot.  You are also int the same resort as Chef Mickey's and again just a monorail ride away from great dining at the Polynesian and Grand Floridan too.

Deluxe Villa Resort - Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village
Studio properties offer a larger room size and kitchenette matched with the luxury of a Deluxe Resort
Deluxe Villa Resorts (aka Disney Vacation Club properties) - Bay Lake Towers @ The Contemporary, Villas at Grand Floridian, Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk Villas, Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, Old Key West Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas, and Beach Club Villas - Most of these resorts are paired up with a deluxe resort so the perks of staying at a deluxe resort are the same, but the room quality is enhanced in this category.  Depending on the property you can find studios, one bedroom villas, two bedroom villas, or grand villas.  These rooms are great for traveling with larger parties or if you want more of a "condo" experience as opposed to a "hotel" experience on your trip.  This is the most expensive category to reserve directly through Disney.  Since these are also DVC properties, you can find third party websites and brokers that you can rent points from online.  We've used David's Vacation Rentals before for a stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas - Kidani Village.

Other Disney Options - Campsites and Cabins at Fort Wilderness - If you are looking for a "rustic" experience while visiting Disney, these are two options you may want to consider.  The campsites are available to rent if you are visiting with your camper while the cabins offer a woodland setting and accommodations for 6.  These are both over by Wilderness Lodge and offer boat transportation to Magic Kingdom (busses everywhere else), campfires in the evening, and easy access to the Hoop-Dee-Do Revue.  I can't give an honest review or recommendation here because I haven't experienced either of these.  Those who know me, know I'm not a big "camper."

Yeah.  This is me.
So that's it - a quick summary of Disney resort categories.  The magic of Disney is alive and well in each of them and the Disney service that is well known can be found everywhere.  The choice really comes down to your budget and family preferences.  You can visit the Walt Disney World website for a more detailed look at each of these categories and the resorts in each.

Saving money on food in Disney!

When traveling to Walt Disney World, one very large (and oftentimes underestimated) cost of the trip is buying food.  Even if you choose to purchase the Disney Dining Plan, you will probably still need some snacks and staples throughout the day.  So how can you save money on food?  Easy, buy groceries!

Now, you may be thinking I'm nuts.  Nobody wants to grocery shop on vacation and a lot of resort guests don't rent a car to easily get out.  Orlando though is home to numerous online grocery shopping services that are worth considering on your next trip.  On our most recent trip, we used Garden Grocer and couldn't have been happier with their service.

Here's how it works.  We visited their site about a month before our trip.  I knew that in our Studio at Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village we would have a fridge, sink, and some cabinet space.  I ordered easy breakfast items (milk, bananas, grapes, yogurt, bakery fresh muffins, cereal) and drinks (Capri Sun, soda, juice, case of water) as well as a few healthy snacks to pack for the park (granola bars, apples, pretzels, etc).    We don't know exactly how much money we saved by taking advantage of this service, but I know it was substantial.  Think about just water alone.  Water is one snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan or $2.50 a bottle when you buy it out in the parks.  From Garden Grocer, we received a case of water for $6.99 (or just $0.29 a bottle). The case was more than enough for what our family of 3 needed to last for the 5 days we were in Disney.  Between the online grocery order and some snacks we packed from home, we had a lot of options that saved us a great deal of money in the parks.  Once you place your order on their website, you select the delivery date, time frame, and resort destination.  They will deliver the groceries to bell services at your hotel where Disney staff will keep cold stuff refrigerated for you until you are back in your room to receive them.  When you arrive at your hotel, simply call bell services and they'll deliver your groceries to your room.  Voila!    

Having some breakfast food in the room allowed us to enjoy some leisurely mornings watching the animals from our balcony.
So how do you know if online groceries are right for your next trip?  The biggest suggestion I have is to check out what kind of refrigerator your room has.  All Walt Disney World Resort hotels now feature a refrigerator, but they do vary in size from mini-fridges in the value resorts to full size refrigerators and kitchens in most Disney Vacation Club property villas.  You'll want an idea of how much space you have for cold things before you place your order.  Many park visitors aren't aware that you can bring food into the park (including soft-sided coolers), but this little trick can add up to big savings!

What other tips or tricks do you have to save money on food when visiting Walt Disney World Resort?

Dinner at Sanaa

While staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL), we ate at 2 of the 4 restaurants available at the resort.  Today I'm going to share with you our preference of the 2 that we visited - Sanaa.  Sometimes getting to restaurants at resorts is not an easy task on your Disney vacation.  Sanaa is one that is worth the trip in my opinion.

Location - Sanaa is located in the Kidani Village section of AKL and is the only restaurant in that part of the resort.  As this is where are room was located, this made Sanaa very convenient for us.  It's on the first floor and does feature some Safari viewing if you're lucky enough to score a table next to the window.  If you're coming from a park to have a meal here, you need to take the bus to AKL and then exit at the first bus stop which will be Kidani Village.  If you are coming from another resort, you'll need to go to a park to catch a bus to AKL.

Atmosphere - Sanaa is a perfect, family friendly table service meal without being too fancy.  I feel like some of the table service restaurants in Disney are so nice I'm afraid to take a toddler.  Here it was no problem.  I also have decided on this trip that if I'm going to pay for a table service meal or use table service credits from my dining plan, I'd prefer it to be actual table service and not a buffet.  The service was great and I much prefer being waited on during dinner than standing in a long line waiting for my food at a buffet.  The interior of the restaurant had many African touches that made the room inviting and comfortable.

Food - Delicious!  A nice change of pace from your usual park food.  I had the Tandori Chicken and it was wonderful.  The food is a nice mix of African and Indian flair and was prepared perfectly.  These flavors are a bit outside of our comfort zone, but Sanaa left us wanting more.  Our server was also great with Brody. We shared early on that he was a picky eater so probably wouldn't be interested in much of anything on the menu.  He brought Brody fruit to go with the yogurt we had packed and also brought out juice in a cool Toy Story cup that Brody loved!

Overall, Sanaa was a great choice on our vacation.  We would definitely recommend it to others and would eat there again on future visits!

Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village

We just returned Sunday night from our most recent Disney trip where we enjoyed a wonderful stay in a savannah view room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge-Kidani Village.  AKL is a deluxe resort and DVC property.  We rented a DVC studio using David's Disney Vacation Club Rentals.  I'll review them in a later post, but overall we were very pleased with the resort and our whole experience.

Location - If there is one criticism I read about AKL prior to our trip, this was it.  AKL is made up of Jambo House and Kidani Village.  The lodge is spread out to maximize space along the safari.  Since this resort is located adjacent to Animal Kingdom, it is at the far end of Disney property.  You have to take WDW bus transportation to all theme parks and Downtown Disney.  The bus ride to Magic Kingdom is the farthest at about 20 minutes, plus whatever wait time you have for the bus to get there.  We did find that busses ran pretty regular and we never waited more than 15 minutes for a bus at a park or the resort.  Busses were very crowded, but a plus side to staying in Kidani was that the busses came to that part of the resort first so we were able to get seats without a problem.  The people at Jambo House were not always so lucky.

Dining - AKL has some nice choices for restaurants.  Again, it's important to note what part of the resort you're staying in when considering dining options.  Boma (buffet), Jiko (signature / fine dining), and Mara (quick service) are all located in Jambo House.  Sanaa (table service) is located at Kidani Village.  We did not eat at Jiko on this trip because of having Brody with us and we also passed on Mara, mainly because it didn't seem to be the bus/shuttle ride over to Jambo house just to have a counter service meal.  We did eat at Boma and Sanaa (both will be reviewed in another post in more detail).  While I think Boma is overpriced, the food was good and a nice mix of Amerian and African flair on the buffet.  Sanaa was wonderful!  I would definitely recommend that to anyone traveling to AKL.

Theming - Bonus points here!  Where else can you see a safari out your window??  This resort is perfect for families with kids (young and old) who will love watching animals and learning about them.  It's also a very quiet and peaceful resort which was perfect for mom to enjoy some quiet balcony time while Brody and Dan napped in the afternoon.  You feel a bit removed from the Disney hustle and bustle here which can be a nice retreat in the middle of the day or at night when you return.  The lobby was a delight to see and the African artwork throughout the resort provided a wonderful touch.

Loved seeing so many giraffes each day!

More animals just passing by our room!

Lobby at Kidani Village

Rooms - We had a studio with a savannah view and loved our room.  We were located near the Rafiki elevators so not too far off the lobby (Room 7730) which was nice because some rooms have a very loooong walk at the end of each day.  The furniture and accents in the room were very well connected to the theme and everything was comfortable.  In the studio room, we had a bed and a pullout sleep sofa.  While the studios can sleep up to 4, we would probably go with a one bedroom villa once our family adds our new addition simply because the extra space with 2 kids would be greatly appreciated.  There are a few different savannah views that your room may end up overlooking.  I would recommend requesting the Sunset Savannah as this has zebras and giraffes as well as some other large animals that will be easily recognizable for any kids that may be traveling with you.

Sleep sofa in our studio.  

Overall Grade - A-

Dan and I both agree that we would stay here again in a heartbeat.  Sure the bus rides were a bit longer and the lack of a quick service restaurant at Kidani is somewhat of a drawback, but neither of these dampened our experience in the least and they were easily overshadowed by the relaxing views of the safari and watching Brody's face light up when he saw the animals from our balcony.  I think Disney travelers of every age will find something to love about AKL!