Craving Dole Whip

Disney & museum obsessed, homeschooling mom of 3, parenting to focus on experiences, not possessions. Sharing Disney tips, educational adventures and a few reviews. Constantly craving Dole Whip.


A Review of Disney’s Be Our Guest Restaurant

The most sought-after dining reservation at Disney’s Magic Kingdom is hidden from the chaos of the crowds and nestled within the boulders and crevasses of a mammoth mountain.

It’s location, deeply tucked inside the whimsy of Fantasyland, is veiled to remain secretive and secluded from the meddling townspeople. The only clue to it’s existence is a castle, high above the bustle of the pathways and far enough in the distance to be unreachable.



Be Our Guest from the Fantasyland pathway

Protected by gatekeepers and check points, guard-like statues and a large, commanding stone wall with a black iron gate, guests with reservations are the only people invited inside.

And, millions of Walt Disney World visitors seek a table at this coveted location in hopes of entering the magnificent and enchanted restaurant.


Welcome to Be Our Guest.



If attendants make it through the first guard station, parties are directed to walk down the cobblestone bridge.  The arched structure connects the private mountain entrance to Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland and traverses a flowing channel of crystal-clear water that divides it from the crowds.



To the left is a magnificent waterfall, cascading over rocks and pebbles.


To the right is an evergreen forest, masking the location in intrigue and seclusion.




Several horned, stoic but friendly statues line the edges of the massive bridge, upholding tall lampposts and keeping a watchful eye on those who wish to pass.



The cobblestone bridge







Once guests arrive at the securing iron gates, the second guardsman will tell visitors to halt on the bridge or take a seat on boulder benches until their party is invited inside.




The cavernous pass with rocky boulder benches

The doors to the Beast’s enchanted castle remain closed until an escort appears with the names of those allowed to feast.






If dining during breakfast or lunch, parties will be directed through the castle’s foyer to an armor clad, statue-lined hallway that leads to ordering stations on the right.  If the meal has been pre-ordered online, a stop might be made at the pay station on the left.



The arch on the right leads to the ordering stations and the arch on the left leads to the Grand Ballroom.



Dinner banquet guests are chaperoned through the magnificent and breathtaking Grand Ballroom.  A massive 12 foot tall chandelier brimming with 84 candles and 100 jewels, flanked by two other equally beautiful light fixtures is the room’s crowning centerpiece.


The ornately carved ceiling displays an enormous and gorgeous mural of soft pastels, clouds and playful cherubs.  Elegant cobalt blue fabrics drape across arch insets above the marble columns.


The Grand Ballroom is pure elegance, filled with opulent round and rectangular tables, set with delightfully padded, comfortable chairs.  At the back of the room, arched, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook a snow dusted garden, while tiny white flurries trickle from the evening sky and gracefully blanket the ground.



The Grand Ballroom is one of three dining rooms available inside the Be Our Guest (BOG) Restaurant.  During breakfast and lunch, guests are typically allowed to choose a dining room, but dinner seating is chosen by The Master.



Some guests are given an ornate candlestick to carry to the table.

The secretive and alluring West Wing is to the left of the Grand Ballroom. Dark and mysterious, with tattered cloths draped from the rafters, ornately carved wooden chairs, and royal printed wallpaper, this room protects and displays the beautiful red rose.

Occasionally, a flash of lightening from a clamorous thunderstorm will illuminate a hidden and concealed secret in the ragged artwork.

The very dark and remarkably dim lighting creates a feeling of imminent and mysterious events, but it does not create good pictures with my phone.  LOL

BOG1 - Copy


Momma Note:  The West Wing is my favorite dining room inside Be Our Guest, but it scares my 11 year old.  If your child is sensitive to simulated thunder and lightening or if dark rooms are an issue, you might consider avoiding the West Wing.



A table with Lumiere in the West Wing


The Rose Gallery is the third available dining room inside Be Our Guest and it is much smaller than the Grand Ballroom. With soothing and relaxing lighting, it is the most peaceful option and my husband’s favorite space.


Inside the Rose Gallery

A warm hue bathes the cream colored wallpaper and large tapestries adorn open spaces between dark wood molding.  Tufted benches and simple cushioned chairs sit alongside rectangular wooden tables.  Small, brass chandeliers dangle from the interesting ceiling and create a calming ambiance and beautiful setting.


Detailed and interesting tapestry

The show-stopping centerpiece is a spectacular rotating statue of Belle and the Beast dancing underneath a crimson rose.


This enormous statue rotates.

The menu at Be Our Guest is a delightful fusion of American and French cuisine, a mix of casual, familiar dishes with a French twist and traditional French meals with an American influence.

Be Our Guest serves all three meals, with breakfast and lunch as quick service and dinner offered as table service.

Breakfast is served from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Breakfast is considered a quick service meal, but requires advanced dining reservations (ADR). At the time of this post, it is the only quick-serving Disney restaurant that accepts reservations.

The Feast A La Gaston is a plate of scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, apple smoked bacon, sausage, fresh fruit and a selection of pastries.

Assorted cured meats and cheeses are available, as well as vegetable quiche, steel cut oatmeal and a bacon and egg sandwich.

We recommend the unique Croque Madame, an open-faced ham sandwich topped with a fried egg, Gruyere and Béchamel served with fresh fruit and a selection of pastries.

My daughters love the croissant doughnut, which is fried and topped with banana caramel sauce, pastry cream and chocolate ganache.  It is also served with fruit and pastries.

I usually order the vegetarian option of warm, steal cut oatmeal with golden raisins, brown sugar and assorted pastries.  Delicious and filling!


For a healthier option, choose the freshly scrambled egg whites, roasted tomatoes and chicken apple sausage.

Kid’s meals include crepes stuffed with yogurt and fresh berries, French toast, scrambled eggs and cereal.

The Master’s Cupcakes is available for $4.99 during breakfast and is a decadent chocolate sponge cake topped with Lumiere’s delicious special grey stuff.



Lunch is served from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

It is considered a quick service meal, but requires advanced dining reservations (ADR).

We love the French onion soup, which is a vegetarian option.  A delicious and creamy potato leek soup is also vegetarian.

My husband’s favorite dish is the flavorful braised port (Coq Au Vin Style) and my girls enjoy the grilled carved ham and Gruyere cheese sandwich with pommes frites.

Quinoa salad with green beans, potatoes, olives, bell pepper, tomatoes and golden beets is another favorite.


For lunch, kid’s meals like meatloaf, carved turkey sandwiches, grilled shrimp, whole grain macaroni, and grilled cheese with turkey noodle soup are all available.

The desserts at Be Our Guest are fantastic and vary slightly during lunch and dinner.  Try the Master’s Cupcake, strawberry cream cheese cupcake, chocolate cream puff and the Éclair a l’Orange.



Dinner is served from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 pm.

Dinner at Be Our Guest is considered table service and requires advanced dining reservations.  It is our favorite meal inside Magic Kingdom.

Bread served with salted butter is brought to all dinner tables.  Assorted meat and sausages, soups, garden salads, salad trio and Marseilles-style mussels are listed as appetizers.



Scarlet napkins are shaped into red roses.


Again, we love the French onion and potato leek soups.

Try the grilled strip steak with garlic butter and pommes frites, the roasted lamb chop or the sautéed shrimp with scallops in a creamy lobster sauce.

My son greatly enjoyed the pork chop and my daughter liked the layered ratatouille, which includes oven baked zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions, sliced and layered on quinoa and served with a bell pepper sauce.

A seasonal sustainable catch of the day is also available.

Kid’s meals include garden salads, fruit cup, chicken brochette, grilled steak and beast casserole.

Sparkling, white, red and dessert French wines and Belgian ales are on the menu, too.

Awe-inspiring carts, brimming with yummy desserts, are brought around the dining rooms at the end of the meal.


Try the lemon meringue cupcakes, triple chocolate cupcake and The Grey Stuff, of course!



Try the Grey Stuff, it really is delicious!



After dinner, guests are invited to meet The Beast in the library for a Photo Pass opportunity.  (The Master does not speak, but he will pose for pictures.)



Guests can pose for a Photo Pass picture and the photographers are happy to take a pic with your camera, too.



The service at Be Our Guest is fantastic.  Each server has been personable, friendly, helpful, timely and attentive.  We always enjoy our dining experience.

Quick Family Review For Be Our Guest:

Be Our Guest is our family’s must-do Magic Kingdom restaurant.  Since it’s opening in 2012, we make sure to dine there at least once during our Disney vacations–sometimes as many as 4 times!   We love everything about it!

Final Family Be Our Guest Suggestion:

Make advanced reservations as soon as possible for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Dinner is our favorite, but we love breakfast and lunch, too!  The restaurant is a relaxing escape from the chaos of the theme park crowds and is a great opportunity to rest and recharge in a beautiful setting with delicious and delightful food.

Dress is casual for all meals. (theme park attire)

Getting reservations at Be Our Guest can be very challenging.  It is imperative that you book dining at Be Our Guest as soon as you can, preferably at the 180 day opening.


If you don’t get the reservations that you need, be tenacious, continue to check daily for cancellations, especially 48-24 hours before your desired time because guests tend to cancel existing reservations at the last minute.

There are 550 seats–one of them must be for you!

Guests are always welcome to walk up and ask for available openings, but do not bet on something happening.  The best way to ensure a seat at Be Our Guest is to book an ADR at 180 days and continue to check your MDE app each day for cancellations.  To make reservations via telephone, please call 407-939-5277.


When dining at Be Our Guest for breakfast or lunch, I highly recommend pre-ordering your meal from the My Disney Experience (MDE) app, which is available 30 days in advance.

Our pre-ordered food (breakfast and lunch) always arrives crazy fast.



The commanding Beast will pose for pictures AFTER guests finish dinner.  Guests must exit the restaurant after the photo session.

A theme park ticket is required because Be Our Guest is inside the gates of Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

Breakfast and lunch both count as 1 quick service meal on the Disney Dining Plan.

Dinner counts a 1 table service credit on the Disney Dining Plan.

Find out if the Disney meal plan is right for you–Click here.



A colorful and beautiful mosaic inside the restaurant

Extra Hint:  The selection of pastries that is served with most breakfast items adds a lot of food to already large dishes.  Consider splitting a meal between people in your party to save a little money.  Everyone at the table is not required to order a separate meal at quick service restaurants.  The only time each person at the table is charged for dining is at a buffet restaurant or a prix fixe meal.



For transportation to Be Our Guest, just travel to the Magic Kingdom.  Disney resorts provide complimentary transportation via the monorail, ferry boats or buses.  Ask your concierge or front desk for the quickest way to travel to the Magic Kingdom Theme Park. If you are a Disney resort guest, you can park your personal vehicle for free at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) and ride the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom Theme Park.  Parking is $20 for non-resort guests.

Restaurant menus at Walt Disney World are seasonal and change often, so for current menu listings, check the Disney website or the My Disney Experience app.  All menus are listed for every Disney restaurant, as well as hours of operation and prices.

If you only learn one thing from my blog posts, I hope it is the fact that Disney changes every day.  That is exactly why Disney is so popular–there is ALWAYS something new for junkies like me to experience!  It is also why I always say everything is subject to change.

For a list of all character meals offered at Walt Disney World, click here.

To read a review of our favorite buffet at Walt Disney World, click here.




The Best Breakfast, Lunch, Snack & Dinner At Disney’s Magic Kingdom


My favorite theme park at Walt Disney World is the Magic Kingdom.  We spend at least half of our entire vacation inside that one park and I always leave wanting more!  Over the years, dining options inside Magic Kingdom have changed and evolved and my family and I have tried every single restaurant.

As I am working on writing full reviews for every table service restaurant (and some quick service ones, too!), I thought it might be helpful to create a quick list of the best meals we regularly enjoy inside the fabulous Magic Kingdom theme park.

Confused about the Disney Dining Plan?  Click here to learn everything you need to become a dining plan master!

Let me know what you think!

Favorite Breakfast:

Be Our Guest: Quick service, requires advanced dining reservations (ADR), order the Croque Madame, which is an open-faced ham sandwich topped with a fried egg, gruyere, and Béchamel or try the croissant doughnut.

Read a full review of Be Our guest here.



Favorite Lunch:

Be Our Guest: Quick service, requires advanced dining reservations, order the French onion soup, braised pork Coq Au Vin Style and the Master’s cupcake.

Columbia Harbour House:  Quick service, try the lobster roll, vegetarian lighthouse sandwich or the fried fish plate.

The Friar’s Nook:  Quick service, order the pot roast mac-n-cheese

Favorite Snack:

Aloha Isle:  Pineapple Dole Whip cup (DUH)



Food Kiosk Carts (Frozen Treats):  Mickey Ice Cream Bars



Sleepy Hollow:  fresh fruit waffle sandwich with chocolate hazelnut spread and funnel cake

Favorite Dinner:

Be Our Guest:  Table service/character meal, requires ADR, order the roasted lamb chop, sautéed shrimp and scallops and The Grey Stuff



Cinderella’s Royal Table: Table service (2 credits for dining plan), requires ADR, The menu changes, but this is one of our favorite dinners because of the experience.


Favorite Buffet:

Crystal Palace:  Table service/character meal, requires ADR, large buffet, lots of options

To read a full review of The Crystal Palace, click here.


Favorite Character Meal:

Cinderella’s Royal Table:  Princess character meal and it’s located inside Cinderella’s castle



For a complete list of all character meals at Walt Disney World, click here.

Click here to read about our new favorite Disney Resort!


Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge-A Review Of My New Favorite Resort



Do you dream of studying the fascinating wildlife found on an African savanna?  Is a late night safari, exploring a private animal preserve on your bucket list?  Would you (and your children) jump at the chance to see hundreds of animals and birds in a 43 acre habitat?

Surprise!  Guess what?!?  You don’t have to travel to Africa to experience all of these things!  Believe it!  These adventures and so much more are available at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Who knew?!?


Quite honestly, for so many years this resort totally flew under my radar.  My family LOVES the Polynesian Village Resort and historically, we have spent most of our vacations enjoying the tropical setting and easy access to the monorail system.

I never considered Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) mostly because of the lack of transportation options. (Buses only)  But, I made reservations for my two daughters to have lunch with an animal specialist, which is hosted at AKL. (Read a review of that awesome experience here!)

I booked one night at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort to avoid driving home after the lunch experience. (Laziness CAN pay off sometimes!)



Walking from the parking lot to the resort lobby at Jambo House


So, our “accidental” visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge was in January of 2017.  Upon entering the breathtaking lobby, I was immediately transported to a far away continent.

The Lobby:

The soaring ceiling, authentic African artwork, beautiful tribal prints, ornate wood carvings and enormous glass windows kept my eyes darting around the lobby area.  My daughters and I were completely mesmerized!

I instantly wondered, “Why haven’t we visited this place before today?!?”



Lots of comfortable seating, African prints and authentic artifacts


A cozy indoor fireplace with large rocking chairs



The soaring thatched-roof ceiling and enormous, unique light fixtures


The Check-In:

We arrived early, around 10:00 A.M., because we checked out of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort that morning.  It took about 15 minutes for me to drive to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in my car.

Under the assumption that our room at AKL would not be ready at 10:00 a.m., I packed a “day” bag and checked our other luggage in with the concierge.  But, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that our room was in fact available!  The front desk cast members were friendly and very helpful.

I returned to the bag check area, got our luggage and headed up to our room.

The only hallway leading to the elevators was pretty tight for guests checking in or checking out and everyone was wrangling bags, suitcases and children.  I noticed guest rooms along that hallway and instantly reminded myself to never stay on the main floor.

We found these awesome African artifacts displayed near the elevator and spent a few minutes admiring them.



Look at the awesome animal print carpet!  Can you find a hidden Mickey?

The Rooms:

Our resort room had a savanna view on the 3rd floor of Jambo House.  As soon as I opened the door, my girls made a bee-line to the balcony, where there was a small table, 2 chairs and an animal identification guide.  They immediately got to work, identifying each species and making note of the animals’ habits.



Small balcony overlooking the savanna



I thought my 11-year-old was never going to come back inside!  I took this picture and sent it to my husband.  He immediately knew I had stumbled upon a magical, new resort!



The view to our left


The view to our right


The room was beautifully decorated in full African theme motifs, complete with faux mosquito nets and tribal wood carvings.  Standard rooms sleep 4 guests plus 1 child under the age of 3 in a crib.  Though a typical room at AKL is only 344 sq. ft. and among some of the smallest in the deluxe resort category, we never noticed.

My daughters would love this room even if it only had canvas tents for sleeping!  Luckily for my back, that was not the case.



The view of our room from the door.  Bathroom on the left, closet on the right.  Beds on left, television on right and balcony straight ahead.



The beds were comfortable, with plenty of blankets and 4 fluffy pillows.



African-themed wood carving on the headboard and plenty of light placed near both sides of the beds.  A nightstand was in between the two beds.


Room amenities included a decent size mini-fridge, flat panel TV, desk, ceiling fan, small table and two chairs, coffee maker, hair dryer, complimentary Wi-Fi and room service is available.



The flat screen cabinet had 2 dresser drawers, a DVD player, and a large storage shelf on top.

The bathroom featured two sinks with plenty of counter space and ample storage underneath.  There were two drinking glasses, but I prefer new, unused and wrapped plastic cups.  Disney facial soaps and shampoos were available, as well as a hair dryer and trash can.



Two sinks with counter space and a large mirror



The water closet was separated from the sinks by a sliding pocket door.

The shower and water closet area was fresh and clean and decorated with the same African-styled prints.  The arched shower curtain bar made the space inside the shower appear larger.  There were enough towels for three people, but the room sleeps four and I expected a few more bath-sized towels.

The Resort:

The hotel is the most secluded of the Walt Disney World deluxe resorts and was built in 2001.  It is home to approximately 200 hooved animals and 130 birds, which roam freely among the 3 separated savannas.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort consists of two main buildings, Kidani Village and Jambo House.  Kidani Village is connected to Jambo House by a relaxing 1/2 mile walking trail lined with tall reeds, waving grasses and colorful, blooming bushes.  Guests can walk between the two buildings or ride in a shuttle van.



The walking path between Jambo House and Kidani Village.



Beautiful flowers



Bright and colorful bushes


There are 972 rooms available in Jambo House and 324 units in Kidani Village, which is part of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC).  Guests of either section have access to all amenities offered in both buildings, including restaurants, fitness center and swimming pools.

The Restaurants:

The Sanaa restaurant is located inside Kidani Village and offers an exotic African and Indian fusion menu.  The food is unique and wonderful and the view of the savanna is spectacular.  Sanaa serves lunch and dinner and is considered table service.  Order the Indian-style bread service with accompaniments.   Read a full review of the Sanaa restaurant here.

Boma–Flavors of Africa is an enormous buffet that serves breakfast and dinner.  Both meals feature traditional dishes as well as African-inspired offerings.  We enjoyed the Simba waffles, creamy grits, fire roasted tomatoes, charred asparagus, and the plentiful varieties of soups and salads.  This restaurant provides many vegan and vegetarian options and is considered table service.  It is located inside Jambo House, one floor down from the lobby.  Read a full review of Boma–Flavors of Africa here.



The delicious food of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Jiko–The Cooking Place is the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s signature table service restaurant located inside Jambo House.  Jiko only serves dinner.  It is a beautiful and romantic restaurant, but our experience was less than stellar.  The top two menu items (the beef short ribs and the lamb) were not available on the evening we visited and the service was painfully slow even though the restaurant was not full. The tiny portions of our dishes were bland and we left unsatisfied and disappointed. The menu was recently redesigned so we hope to give Jiko–The Cooking Place a second chance soon.

The Mara is the quick service restaurant on property and is located inside Jambo House.  It has indoor and relaxing outdoor seating that overlooks the pool area.  The Mara serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and even offers late night dining.  Dishes include traditional American and African favorites, like fried egg sandwiches, oatmeal, muffins, chicken nuggets, burgers, flatbreads, African stews and pitas.  It was clean, efficient, and is one of the best resort quick service restaurants for vegans and vegetarians on the Disney property.

Disney restaurant menus are seasonal and change often, so check for current menus on the Disney website.  All menus are available under the dining tab or choose “dining” through the My Disney Experience app.

The Pools:


The beautiful Uzima Springs Pool

The Animal Kingdom Lodge features two main pool areas–one surrounded by the rooms of the Jambo House configuration and one pool is close to Kidani Village.



Complimentary life jackets and towels are available, as well as lounge chairs, umbrellas and covered tables.

Uzima Springs Pool is an 11,000 square foot oasis that faces Uzima Savanna and is closest to the guest rooms in Jambo House.  It has a zero-entry point, a 67 foot waterslide and a lounge bar connecting to the pool’s deck.  There is also a children’s wading pool and two whirlpool spas nearby.


Samawati Springs Pool is near the Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village.  It holds 118,138 gallons of water and offers an 128 foot waterslide and zero depth entry.  Uwanja Camp is a children’s water playground with three different zones for varying ages.

Lifeguard stations are posted at both pools, but check for hours of operation.

All Disney resort pools are heated and can be used year-round.  We visited in early January and it was exceptionally cold, but my girls were still swimming!


The only person in the pool was my daughter.



Pic of me wearing several cozy layers and a thick jacket, while my girls enjoyed the hot tub



Walking around the pool area

The design of the resort pool area is breathtaking.  The pathways are lined with jungle foliage and tropical plants, creating a relaxing and peaceful environment away from the crowded theme parks.



View of some of the Jambo House rooms from the pool area

The Activities:

The Hakuna Matata Playground is near Jambo House and the Uzima Springs Pool.  There is a bench, a drinking fountain and lots of shade.


The Hakuna Matata Playground



Another view of the Hakuna Matata Playground

While walking around the pool, we discovered several savanna viewing areas, interesting boulders, beautiful water features and a flamingo habitat.





My daughters enjoyed a game of ping pong.


The most popular and featured activity at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is viewing the exquisite African savanna wildlife in a large, realistic-looking habitat.  There are multiple public viewing areas, some with benches and communal fire pits.

Once the sun goes down, you can use complimentary night-vision binoculars to find exotic animals on the dark landscape.


On several occasions, my daughters and I encountered African cast members stationed around the savannas.  The cast members were very knowledgeable and willing to share stories and answer any questions about their homeland.




Over 30 species of African wildlife occupy the Animal Kingdom Lodge savannas.


During the check-in process, I was given a calendar of the resorts upcoming activities.  Multiple cultural programs and nature based activities were available and my daughters chose to enjoy a free cookie decorating lesson and a free cake decorating class.


Decorating cakes near the entrance of Sanaa


A cookie from the cookie decorating lesson


A cookie from the cookie decorating lesson

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge also features several safari excursions for additional costs.  The Wanyama Safari is a private safari followed by dinner at Jiko–The Cooking Place and there is an one-hour long nighttime safari.

Call 407-939-8687 for additional information and to make reservations.

The Transportation:

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is secluded, which means transportation is limited.  The only Disney transportation available to travel to the theme parks from AKL are Disney busses.  There are two main bus stops, one at Jambo House and one for Kidani Village.  Digital screens are posted at the stops and display expected bus arrival and travel times.  We used our personal vehicle while onsite.

Self parking lots at Jambo House are slightly far from the lobby.  Valet parking is available for $20-25 a night.  Complimentary valet parking is available for those with a disability parking permit.

The parking lot at Kidani Village is a large, covered parking garage.

There is a shuttle van that runs between Jambo House and Kidani Village approximately every 20 minutes.

The Location:

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas is located at 2901 Osceola Parkway, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, 32830-8410.  It is closest to the Animal Kingdom theme park.  If you want to travel the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort from another Disney resort, just board a bus to the Animal Kingdom theme park and then board a second bus headed to the AKL resort.

For more resort information, call 407-938-3000.

What We Loved:

  • Both the breakfast and dinner buffets at Boma–Delicious!
  • Lunch at Sanaa
  • Lots of vegan and vegetarian options
  • Lunch with an animal specialist experience
  • The warm and inviting lobby
  • All of the educational opportunities and knowledgeable cast members
  • The beautiful Uzima Springs Pool and waterslide
  • The view from our savanna view room, watching the animals from our balcony

If I Had A Magic Wand, I Would Change:

  • The resort location and transportation options.  Because this is a deluxe hotel, I expected either additional modes of transportation or triple the amount of busses.
  • The volume of the music played at the Uzima Springs Pool.  We had to shout at each other while having a normal conversation.
  • The tiny corridor that leads to the elevators.
  • There are no character meals offered at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.


Why We Want To Go Back:

  • We hope improvements have been made at Jiko–The Cooking Place and we are looking forward to eating at the other restaurants again!
  • We are craving the bread service and dips from Sanaa!
  • I would like to enjoy the resort pool area during warmer weather.
  • There is nothing like waking up to a view of an African savanna!
  • We want to experience some of the safaris and night-time excursions.
  • Every cast member we encountered was friendly and helpful.
  • This is our new favorite Disney resort.

Must See:

  • Spend lots of time checking out the 3 different savannas because different animals inhabit each area.
  • The two waterslides

Must Do:

  • Free educational events
  • Look at the African art and crafts

Do Not Miss:

  • The bread service at Sanaa
  • The Simba waffles at Boma

Friend-to-Friend, I want you to know:

We enjoyed our night at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge so much that we booked a second night and delayed our plans of returning home!  My daughters (ages 11 and 12) loved this resort!  Through a series of unfortunate events, my husband was not with us during our 2 night stay at the awesome Animal Kingdom Lodge and my girls can not wait to show him around!

Dining reservations are open to everyone at the 3 impressive, table service Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurants. You do not need to be a resort guest to dine on property.  I highly recommend advanced dining reservations for all of the table service options, especially Boma–Flavors of Africa.

If you have dining reservations, you can park your personal vehicle in the self parking lots free of charge.  You can also use valet parking for $20-$25.

The AKL restaurants accept the Disney Dining Plan.

All resort guests enjoy complimentary parking at the Disney theme parks.  Resort guests can also have park purchases delivered to their resorts for free–restrictions apply, so ask for specifics at the gift shop.

The Zawadi Marketplace is a large gift shop located inside the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  It carries African themed statues and kitchen gear, swimsuits, toiletries, snacks and beverages, souvenirs, keychains, cough drops and many other items.

There are laundry facilities (pack quarters!), dry cleaning and valet laundry services available.

Victoria Falls is the bar and lounge area inside Jambo House.

A limited spa and fitness center is also on the Animal Kingdom Lodge property.


Top 10 FREE Things To Do At Disney (when you don’t have a theme park ticket)


I LOVE Walt Disney World!  And, HEY!  Guess what?!?

There are FREEEE things to do at Disney!

Below, you will find a list of super awesome things to do at your resort or on property–and they are all FREEEE!  You are welcome.


What can you do for FREEEEE?!?

Check out this list below of the top 10 super awesome and FREE things to do that do not require a theme park ticket. And, click here to see a list of 10 MORE super cool things that do not require a theme park ticket, but cost a little $$$.

  1. Pool Day At Your Resort!  Disney resorts have some pretty amazing pools and a day of swimming, lounging and relaxation just might be what the Mouse ordered.  2 tiny things you MUST know: (a.) All Disney pools are heated, so you can swim year-round. YIPPEEE! (b.) Disney resort pools are for the enjoyment of resort guests.  You can visit any resort, but you can only swim in the pool at your resort.  And yes, they scan your bands.  And, yes that is true.  Please follow the rules, my friends.


Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort


Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort


Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

2.  Take everyone to check out Disney Springs!  All Disney resorts have free transportation to Disney Springs (DS), which is an outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment marketplace.  The complex sits next to the peaceful Sassagoula River and has four main areas:  The Landing, Marketplace, Town Center and West Side.

Check out the open-area splash pad (bring a towel!) and the Lego Imagination Center, an outdoor play spot with bins full of Legos–totally FREEEEEE!




3.  Head on over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort!  There are several public viewing areas that overlook the African-inspired savannas, full of interesting wildlife and birds.  Visit at night and use the complimentary night-vision binoculars to see what the animals are up to after the sun goes down!  Oh…and did I mention…it’s FREEEE!

At the time of this post, Disney does not offer direct transportation from resorts to other resorts.  However, you can still travel between resorts on Disney complimentary transportation.  To get to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, just ride a bus to the Animal Kingdom theme park, get off that bus and then board a bus going to the resort!  Easy and FREEEE!


Zebras on the savanna

4.  Go exploring at your own resort!  Disney resorts have some super awesome hidden treasures!  Find out if your resort has a playground, splash pad, arcade, ping pong tables, hammocks, volleyball courts, benches or walking trails.  Get outside and just go exploring!  You never know what you might find.







5.  Skip on over to the front desk or concierge at your resort and ask for a calendar of resort activities, which might include super awesome things–outdoor movies, cookie and cake decorating, educational lectures, game night, roasting marshmallows and pool parties–all for FREEEEEE!




6.  Exercise!  Many Disney resorts have fitness centers, walking paths and running trails.  Burn off some of those theme park calories (excessive intake of Dole Whips anyone?!?) and make your heart happy in the process.  I don’t have a picture for this suggestion because I have never done this.  LOL  It sounds like a good option, though, right?!?  No excuses!  Get out there and sweat!

7.  If exercising on vacation isn’t your cup of tea (or even if it is), I have just ONE word:  MONORAIL!  (See what I did there?  The prefix “mono” means “one”.  LOL  I am so clever.)  Anyway, all Disney resorts offer free transportation to the Magic Kingdom (MK).  Once you get to the Magic Kingdom theme park, walk to the monorail boarding station and hop on!  You can ride all day long if that makes you happy.  You can even get off at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) and transfer to the Epcot monorail and ride that one, too!  No ticket required and totally FREEEEEEE!




8.  Visit other Disney resorts!  At the time of this post, Disney does not offer direct resort-to-resort transportation.  However, that tiny challenge is quite easy to remedy. While you are jet setting around the Disney property on the super awesome monorail system, disembark and check out one of the deluxe hotels near the Magic Kingdom (MK).  You can also ride a Disney bus (or boat, if available) to a theme park and then transfer to a bus going to ANY resort you want to scope out.

Each resort has an unique theme and super cool things to see!  You do not have to be a resort guest to look around!  Just ask a cast member or concierge what is the quickest way to get where you want to go.

My recommendations, you ask?  I already mentioned the cool things to do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  But, I also recommend:  Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), Wilderness Lodge (WL), the Grand Floridian (GF) and the Polynesian Village Resort (Poly).  You can even walk from the Poly to the GF.








9.  Ride some ferry boats!  Disney resorts have multiple forms of transportation:  bus, monorail and/or boat.  There are boats that stop at multiple resorts, theme parks and even Disney Springs.  Hop aboard one of these and see where it takes you!  Some of the ferry boat routes to enjoy:  Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness to Magic Kingdom.  Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian to the Polynesian Village to Magic Kingdom.  Disney Springs to Saratoga Springs to Old Key West to Disney Springs.  Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Boardwalk Inn and Villas to Beach Club Resort, to Yacht Club to the Swan to Dolphin back to Hollywood Studios.

Disney transportation changes often, so ask a cast member or the concierge to share the best way to get to a boat dock.  Feel free get on and get off at your leisure–the ferries run approximately every 45 min-1 hour, depending on route, crowd level and weather, of course.



10.  Fireworks!  Fireworks!  Fireworks!  You don’t have to be inside the Magic Kingdom theme park to enjoy a spectacular nighttime fireworks show.  Head on over to any of the resorts serviced by the monorail (Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower, Polynesian Village and the Grand Floridian).

I recommend the Polynesian because it is directly across Seven Seas Lagoon from the Magic Kingdom.  Find a cozy bench and wait for the magic to happen!  This is also a great option for people who want to enjoy the show without the loud noises, explosions and booms.

Extra Hint:  You might get the added bonus of experiencing the Electrical Water Pageant, which appears on Seven Seas Lagoon at varying show times throughout the year.

All. For.  Free.





11.  Eat a Pineapple Dole Whip!  (Or 2 or 3–no one is counting)  Ok…so, this isn’t actually free…unless you can get someone else to pay for it.  But, it is my favorite thing to do.  So, to make this a money-free splurge, I suggest you make a friend and celebrate that new friendship by allowing said friend to purchase you a tasty treat!  Or Plan B–Eat someone else’s Dole Whip when they are distracted by a camera!

***There is only one place outside of the theme parks to find Dole Whip and that Heaven-on-Earth location is Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.  Make a friend.  Be a friend.


I hope you enjoy some FREEEE fun at Disney!

Click here to read about 10 Not Free Things to do at Disney that don’t require a theme park ticket !

Click here to read a complete list of every character and princess meal at Disney World!

Click here to read 12 reasons you need to pack garbage bags for your next Disney vacation!

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Disney Character Dining (No Princesses)– A Quick List


Character dining at Walt Disney World is a must for most families traveling with children.  It is also a great opportunity for people of all ages to meet and interact with favorite characters without standing in long lines.

Character dining can also be overwhelming and knowing which meals to book is confusing and daunting at first.




My quick disclaimer:  If you only learn one thing from my blog posts, I hope it is the fact that Disney changes every day.  That is exactly why Disney is so popular–there is ALWAYS something new for junkies like me to experience!  It is also why I always say everything is subject to change.

Click here to learn how to plan a Disney vacation like a pro!

Click here for the most important Disney information!

Click here to become a Disney Dining Plan master!

More character dining information is at the bottom of the post, so read it all my friends.



***Here is a complete list of all Walt Disney World character meals (minus princesses)–for those who want to skip interactions with royalty.

I am going to make this as quick and painless as possible.  You are welcome.

{Restaurant name, location, the meals that offer characters, known characters that visit}

Character Dining, the quick list:

1900 Park Fare.  The Grand Floridian Resort.  Breakfast/Brunch:  Mary Poppins, Pooh, Tigger, Alice and the Mad Hatter.   Read a full review of this character meal here.

Be Our Guest.  Magic Kingdom.  Dinner:  The Beast.  Visit him inside the library on your way out after dinner.  Read a full review of this character meal here.

Cape May Café.  Disney’s Beach Club Resort.  Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast:  Minnie and friends.

Chef Mickey’s.  Contemporary Resort.  Breakfast, brunch and dinner:  Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto.  Read a full review of this character meal here.

Crystal Palace.  Magic Kingdom.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner:  Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet.  Read a full review of this character meal here.

Garden Grill.  Epcot, Future World.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner:  Chip-n-Dale, other characters. (Mickey and Pluto usually)

Garden Grove.  Walt Disney World Swan Hotel.  Dinner:  Any combination of Pluto, Goofy and Chip-n-Dale.  Good Morning Breakfast Events on Saturday and Sundays:  same characters.  Call for dates.

Ravello Restaurant.  Four Seasons Resort Orlando.  Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy and Pals. Breakfast on Thursdays, Saturdays and some Tuesdays:  Goofy and Pals.

Hollywood & Vine.  Hollywood Studios.  Breakfast and Lunch:  Disney Junior characters, possibly Doc McStuffins, Sofia The First, Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Handy Manny.  Seasonal Dinner Dining:  Minnie and friends, Daisy, Donald and Goofy.

‘Ohana.  Polynesian Village Resort.  Breakfast:  Lilo and Stitch and possibly other friends.

Tusker House Restaurant.  Animal Kingdom.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner:  Safari Donald Duck and friends.


Character shows and special events:

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ.  Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.  Dinner Show:  Mickey, Minnie, and friends (Usually Goofy and Chip-n-Dale).

***Characters are always subject to change.  It is Disney’s prerogative.


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***Call Disney to verify any information.  To book advanced dining reservations, visit the Disney website, download the My Disney Experience (MDE) app or call 407-939-3463.

I HIGHLY recommend advanced dining reservations (ADR) for all of these character meals and experiences.

Remember:  Character meals ALWAYS cost more than regular table service meals.  You are paying for the time and interactions with the characters.  If you have children or if you love Disney like we do, book character dining!  It is soooooo much better than waiting in lines at the theme parks to meet your favorite movie figures and the character interactions aren’t as rushed.


Extra hint:  While dining at character meals, the characters COME TO YOU.  There is a pattern all characters follow, visiting tables in a certain order.  Your party is free to enjoy the meal, as the characters make their way around the restaurant.  Every character will eventually get to your table.

If you have a concern, ask the wait-staff for assistance.  It is very much so frowned upon if you send your child over to a character during a character’s interaction with another table.  Wait your turn, my friend.  That is just good character dining etiquette. ***Be Our Guest is a little different.  The Beast is available after dinner on the way out of the restaurant.


A theme park ticket is required for any character meals that take place inside a theme park.  If the restaurant is inside of a Disney resort hotel, you do not have to be a guest at that resort to make dining reservations and you do not need a theme park ticket.

If you have advanced dining reservations (which you most certainly should), and your character meal is at a restaurant inside of a resort, you can park your vehicle in complimentary self parking lots or use valet parking for $20-$25.

Character dining takes time.  Schedule at least 1 hour for travel to a character meal and at least 1.5-2 hours for dining.  If you are in a hurry to get to the theme parks or to catch an airplane, I do not recommend a character meal.

Click here to check out a super fun list of FREEEEEE things to do at Disney!

Click here to read about my obsession with rain ponchos!

Click here for a list of all princess dining available at Walt Disney World!



12 Reasons To Take Garbage Bags To Disney

We are Disney junkies.  And through the years, I have developed and put in place a strong plan for if/when it rains while we are enjoying the Walt Disney theme parks.


Rain ponchos are the #1 item on my Disney packing list.  It rains every time we travel to Orlando and I am NOT going to let a little rain dampen our Disney fun!


Click here to read about my obsession with rain ponchos.

Even though rain ponchos are my #1 Disney item, something odd comes in a very close second place.  So…what is the #2 item on my Disney packing list???

Garbage Bags.  Yep.  Garbage Bags.

Classy choice, I know.

Garbage bags are sooooooo perfect for vacations, I could almost give them the #1 slot on my Walt Disney World packing list.

WHY garbage bags?

They are very cheap, fold up easily, exceptionally light weight, difficult to break and super water proof.  Garbage bags are the perfect theme park backpack stowaway.

Throw 7 or 8 garbage bags in your suitcase and put 3-4 in your theme park bag.  You won’t regret it.

12 SUPER AWESOME uses for this odd item on your Disney packing list:

1. Water ride protection.  Sit on trash bags to protect your bottom from puddles.  Cut a hole for your head and wear the trash bag to protect your clothing.  Cover your bag, purse or shoes, too!  Throw it away once you exit the ride or save it for when you ride again!


2. Make-shift rain poncho.  If you don’t want to purchase rain ponchos, garbage bags make great rain protection in a pinch.  Just tear a hole in the sealed bottom for your head (and arms on the sides, if you want)


3. Stroller protection.  Garbage bags can be used to cover your stroller during a downpour, keeping fabric nice and dry.  Garbage bags can also protect your stroller from getting too hot in the summer heat, shading the hard plastic and metal pieces from direct sunlight.  Garbage bags can easily be used to quickly cover bags, purchases and personal items in the stroller basket when you leave the stroller to ride something fun.

4. Purchase protection.  Wrap and cushion breakable purchases with several garbage bags, while in the parks and in your luggage when returning home.



Keep your souvenirs safe and dry!


5. Dirty laundry.  Garbage bags are great receptacles for dirty clothes.  Hang one in your resort room to catch previously worn clothing and keep the dirty separated from the clean.  Then, take the bag to do some laundry or pack it for the return home.

6. Wet swimsuits.  Or shoes or socks or undies or clothes.  Whatever gets wet!  To keep wet items from ruining other things, keep it separated by placing in a protective garbage bag, either in your theme park bag or your luggage for the return home.



Swimming at the Polynesian Village Resort


7. Mat for parades.  Most theme park guests sit on the concrete to view parades and fireworks shows at Disney.  Sit on a garbage bag instead of sitting directly on the concrete, especially if it rained earlier in the day.

8. Table cloth.  If it’s been raining, use a garbage bag to cover wet outdoor tables or benches.

9. Cast protection.  If someone has a cast or brace or walking boot, wrap it in garbage bag to protect from rain and splashes from water rides.



Yep–She broke her ankle 3 days before our Disney vacation.


10. Electronics safekeeping.  Protect cell phones, tablets, cameras and games from rain, sun and theft by storing inside a garbage bag for safe keeping.

11. Stuffed animal conservation.  It is impossible for me to count how many very loved and very important stuffed animals have enjoyed Disney in the arms of my children.  Use garbage bags to protect these important family members from rain, water rides and spilled drinks.

12. Sickness bag.  I put this one last because hopefully you never have to use garbage bags for this reason. But, you never know.  Motion sickness from spinning rides, stomachaches from too many treats and crazy viruses are all real possibilities, unfortunately.  Better to be prepared, just in case.



Too many treats at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall?  You decide…


To see my not-so-obvious Disney packing list, click here.

For a list of every character meal at Disney, click here.



Disney Princess Dining– A Quick List




Princess dining at Walt Disney World is a big deal.  It is a must-do, no-way-are-we-skipping-this event for most families traveling with children.  It is also a great opportunity for people of all ages to meet and interact with famous royalty without standing in long lines.

Princess dining can be soooooooo overwhelming for parents and knowing which meals to book is confusing and daunting at first.




I am here and happy to help.

More princess dining information is at the bottom of the post, so read it all my friends.




I am going to make this as quick and painless as possible.  You are welcome.



{Restaurant name, location, the meals that offer princess dining, known royalty that visit}

Princess Dining, the quick list:

1900 Park Fare.  The Grand Floridian Resort.  Dinner:  Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine and the wicked step-sisters.  Read a full review of this character meal here.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.  Epcot, World Showcase, Norway.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner:  Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Ariel (These princesses are on a rotation. Not all guaranteed).

Cinderella’s Royal Table.  Magic Kingdom.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner:  Cinderella and other princesses.

Trattoria al Forno.  Disney’s Boardwalk.  Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast:  Ariel, Prince Eric, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider.



Princess special events:

Perfectly Princess Tea.  Grand Floridian Resort.  Garden View Tea Room.  Princess Aurora.

Tiana’s Riverboat Party.  Magic Kingdom.  Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen.

***Characters are always subject to change.  It is Disney’s prerogative.





My quick disclaimer:  If you only learn one thing from my blog posts, I hope it is the fact that Disney changes every day.  That is exactly why Disney is so popular–there is ALWAYS something new for junkies like me to experience!  It is also why I always say everything is subject to change.  Just so you know, princess dining changes often, which is really quite awesome! (Just in case you need a reason to go to Disney again!)

***Call Disney to verify any information.  To book advanced dining reservations, visit the Disney website, download the My Disney Experience (MDE) app or call 407-939-3463.

I HIGHLY recommend advanced dining reservations (ADR) for all of these princess meals and experiences.

Remember:  Princess meals ALWAYS cost more than regular table service meals.  You are paying for time and interactions with royalty, my friends!  If you have children or if you love Disney like we do, book princess dining!  It is soooooo much better than waiting in lines at the theme parks to meet your favorite movie figures and the princess interactions aren’t as rushed.


Extra hint:  While dining at princess meals, the princesses COME TO YOU.  There is a pattern all royalty follows, visiting tables in a certain order.  Your party is free to enjoy the meal, as the princesses make their way around the restaurant.  Every princess will eventually get to your table.

If you have a concern, ask the wait-staff for assistance.  It is very much so frowned upon if you send your child over to a princess during an interaction with another table.  Wait your turn, my friend.  That is just good princess dining etiquette.


***The two princess meals that do not require a theme park ticket are 1900 Park Fare and Trattoria al Forno.  A theme park ticket is required for any princess meals that take place inside a theme park.

If you have advanced dining reservations (which you most certainly should), and your princess meal is at a restaurant inside of a resort, you can park your vehicle in complimentary self parking lots or use valet parking for $20-$25.

Princess dining takes time.  Schedule at least 1 hour for travel to a princess meal and at least 1.5-2 hours for dining.  If you are in a hurry to get to the theme parks, use a fast pass or to catch an airplane, I do not recommend a princess meal.

Click here to check out a super fun list of FREEEEEE things to do at Disney!

Click here to read about my obsession with rain ponchos!

Click here for a full list of all Disney character meals!