Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

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Disney's Animal Kingdom LodgeWhen I think of Florida, I think of Walt Disney World and of course, Mickey Mouse.  We’ve enjoyed more than one vacation at the theme parks.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge-2During our Disney vacations we’ve stayed at numerous resorts.  Always staying on resort at one of the Disney hotels.  One of the resorts that have become our favorites is the Animal Kingdom Lodge in Kidani Village.  Of the deluxe resorts, AKL is one of the least expensive, the other being Wilderness Lodge, also least expensive among deluxe resorts.

Map of AKL

Left is Animal Kingdom Resort, Right Disney Vacation Club Villas

Animal Kingdom resort is designed in the shape of two giant horseshoes side-by-side connected by the enormous, multi-level atrium.  The horseshoes are the guest rooms and other amenities. The entire structure is designed in African motif, it’s amazing.

We chose to be picked up by Disney’s magical express at Orlando International Airport ( MCO ) and be transported to AK lodge.  Upon arriving at the deluxe resort, a porter handled our luggage.

disney-s-animal-kingdom

The entrance is spectacular, open-air wooden vestibule, with African design. Colorful and interesting native artifacts decorate the area to read and photograph as we walk inside.

The gigantic atrium will astound you; it is so enormous and fantastic.  It looks even better than on the internet. Complete African design with art, gods, paintings, statues…  Multi stories high with ample sofas for lounging. Also included, a lookout area for observing safari animals in the savanna.

AKL Atrium

Atrium

Guest services in the atrium, everyone is fast and friendly.  The uniforms are colorful and African.  Soon, we were on our way to our room.  A porter would bring our luggage to our room.

Disney Animal Kingdom Savannah BalconySavanna View, for just a little extra, we like the close-up view of the African safari and animals.  Sitting on the large patio deck while watching and photographing the different animals makes for a fun time.

Our room was spacious with African furniture, floor coverings, mirrors, and wall hangings—a deluxe room to be sure, delightful.

Also incredible at AKL are the dining options.  Our choice that we seem to flock back to like migratory birds is Boma, the African themed buffet with of course, African decor.  The meal is multiple chefs prepared with a wide variety of delights to choose from including, numerous meats, many vegetables, salad choices, soups, breads, pastries, and deserts.  Don’t miss the Zebra domes, yummy!  Beverages are served at the table.

BomaFrom my perspective, while staying at AKL, Boma for dinner is a do not miss.  It’s delicious and memorial.

Disney TransportThe next morning, we boarded Disney transportation to Animal Kingdom.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, we scanned our wristbands and entered the park designed like walking along an African village.

The thrilling rides include, Expedition Everest-Legion of the Forbidden Mountain and Kilimanjaro Safaris.

The shows are, Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo-the musical, and It’s tough to be a bug.

Disney's Tree of LifeThe Tree of Life, a spectacle all to itself, a unique exhibit, an enormous artificial tree carved with 300 animal sculptures on Discovery River.  Don’t worry, you can’t miss it.  It’s gigantic.  Don’t miss; It’s tough to be a bug.  A 3D show in the stump.  If you don’t mind bugs and spiders, the show is awesome.  The theater is even damp and moldy like a stump.

Festival of the Lion King

Legend of the Lion King is a spectacular, Broadway worthy musical complete with its own theatre, professional singers, acrobats, costumes, lighting, props, theatrical smoke, etc.  An amazing show, not to be missed.  It’s so good, when at AK, we see it twice.

Kilimanjaro SafarisKilimanjaro Safaris, Animal Kingdom’s premier zoological attraction, offers an exceptionally realistic, albeit brief, imitation of an actual African photo safari.  Thirty-two guests at a time board tall, open safari vehicles and are dispatched into a simulated African veldt habitat.  Animals such as zebras, wildebeests, impalas, Thomson’s gazelles, giraffes, and even rhinos roam apparently free, while predators such as lions, as well as potentially dangerous large animals like hippos, are separated from both prey and guests by all-but-invisible, natural-appearing barriers.  Although the animals have more than 100 acres of savanna, woodland, streams, and rocky hills to call home, careful placement of water holes, forage, and salt licks ensures that the critters are hanging out by the road when safari vehicles roll by. We’ve been very lucky each time we’ve ridden in the safari vehicles and seen lots of animals, many times the animals block the roads for minutes at a time—great photo opportunities.  The drivers stop and wait for the animals to move, it’s their home not ours.

Finding NemoFinding Nemo-the musical, gave us the chance to be literally immersed in the story of Marlin and Nemo through the combination of acrobats, dancers, puppets, and animated backdrops. A beautiful and heartwarming performance.

There are numerous other events and small attractions throughout the enormous park plus a lot of African animals in their natural habitat.

Rainforest CafeFor our meal on this wonderful day of fun we walked back to the entrance to Rainforest Café.  The minute we entered the property, it was like being in an African jungle.  Vines with monkeys and parrots and other jungle birds filled the room, all very good imitations.  Snakes hung from the vines, also animated but very fun.  Accompanied by jungle sounds, all enclosing a gift shop.

Rainforest Cafe-2As we were escorted inside the enormous dining room to the back to our table, we delighted at the jungle atmosphere and sounds.  Wall-to-wall birds, elephants, gorillas, monkeys, snakes, and vines enhanced by the accompanying noises.  Even gods and miniature waterfalls were present, all very lifelike just like outside.

We enjoyed cob salads and exotic fruits; all while being amazed by the African jungle atmosphere.  After the lengthy meal, we walked back to the park for more fun.

After a thrilling day at AK, using Disney’s transportation, we went back to our resort.

 

For that evening’s meal, we enjoyed a quick service dinner at The Mara, an AK restaurant.  A variety of easy, burgers, salads, wraps, and beverages all fast.  Mara works with the Disney dining plan.

MARA-STORY

I found this interest, maybe you will too

After Mara, we spent the remainder of the evening, watching the 100 grazing animals and 130 birds from our savanna view balcony while drinking cold beverages in our Disney mugs, part of the Disney dining plan.  A fun and relaxing evening after a thrilling day at the park.

Savanna ViewThis was a fun-filled vacation full of magic and very good meals.  Animal Kingdom resort is a place we’ve stayed at numerous times.  We love it above the rest.  And what can I say about Disney World?  We’ll definitely be back.

Mickey Mouse

As Mickey Mouse says, “See ya real soon.” 🙂

May good fortune guide your path.

J.A. Ireland

 

 

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Key West; Florida’s Southernmost Gem

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14543588-Mallory-Square-Entrance-in-Key-West-in-the-Florida-Keys-in-the-State-of-Florida-USA-Stock-Photo

The sunshine state is full of wonderful attractions as most people know. Disney World in Orlando being perhaps the biggest and best known but certainly not the only one.

If an easy tropical island experience is your game, Key West, in the Florida Keys might be the answer. The keys stretch from Key Large to Key West along state highway 1 from Miami. Also accessible by cruise ship.

A party at Mallory Square

Sunset party at Mallory Square

We visited Key West on a cruise sailing from Miami, on Royal Carribbean’s, Majesty of the Seas. A 4-day cruise from Miami to Nassau, Key West, and back to Miami. We’ve found shorter cruises have their own unique advantages, they leave room for more adventures with the vacation, as this one did. More on that later.

Upon docking at Key West, we walked the boardwalk at Mallory Square, known for its evening sunset celebrations.The sunsets are spectacular from the southernmost point in the continental U.S. During the evening, locals perform their talents for the tourists and locals as well. It’s quite the festive evening.

Sunset at Mallory Square

Sunset at Mallory Square

If shopping is your thing, there’s plenty of booths for that perfect souvenir. Some items authentic and some, not so much, you can decide.

The sunset alone is worth a visit to Mallory Square, magical.

From the pier, it was an easy walk along tropical streets to many interesting downtown sites, Duvall Street, the Shipwreck Museum, and a Trolley stop.

Red Trolley Train at Key West

Red Conch Train, many seniors aboard

For our shore excursion, we chose this adorable red conch  train. The driver drove around the small island on the tropical streets, laden with palm trees and other equator-type vegetation, as our driver narrated the scenic trip. Beautiful, very picturesque.

We saw numerous large, perfectly maintained, older homes on the island. Many of the homes and business displayed flags on their porches and windows. No doubt each flag told its own unique story due to the interesting varieties and colors.

Being a writer, one of my personal joys on this tour was seeing the home of the now deceased Earnest Hemingway, who lived there from 1931-1939. Now a National Historical landmark open for tours, both home and museum. Disappointed, the day did not allow a  tour of the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author’s home.

Ernest Hemingway's house- Key West, FL

Ernest Hemingway’s house

The trolley tour driver drove us by the southernmost point buoy  of the continental U.S.  We saw numerous stores selling conch shells on Duvall Street and Jimmy Buffets, Margaritaville.

It would have been a crime to be in Key West and not delight in a slice of authentic, Key Lime Pie. After the Conch Train, we stopped at a small shop that advertised the real McCoy, Key Lime Pie Shop, home-made. Made with Key West limes. It was simply fantastic, tart, and sweet, to die for.

There are a variety of trolleys and buses ready for tours. Any of which are an excellent way for an overview of the island, then explore at your leisure, the highlights that peaked your interest.

Conch Shell

Conch Shell

For us, Key West is a tropical island getaway we will definitely visit again, given the opportunity. The friendly people, tropical vegetation, warm gulf breezes, and picturesque landscape and buildings made for a fun, memorable day in the tropics.

After our cruise ended in Miami, we had three days left on our vacation. After driving up the state to Orlando…

Walt Disney World Resort entrance

We enjoyed two fun-filled days at Walt Disney World.

Cinderalla's Castle, Magic kingdom

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse at Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom

On the first day we visited Magic Kingdom.

Epot Ball, Walt Disney World

Epcot ball and the monorail. Inside the ball, a spectacular ride called Spaceship Earth

On the second day of fun, we visited Epot.

This was a fun, memorable vacation we’ll never forget. Our cruise on the Majesty of the Seas, the day in Key West, followed by two magical days at Disney World. Amazing and unforgettable.

May good fortune guide your path.

J.A. Ireland