Spotlight on: Animal Kingdom Lodge

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What’s so special about the Animal Kingdom Lodge?

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of my very favorite resorts. Those of you who know me may attribute this to my love for giraffes, but it goes very far beyond that. When I step into the Animal Kingdom Lodge for the first time during my vacation I feel a sense of escape into a whole new reality for a week. There is a beautiful mixture of serenity and adventure when you walk into the lobby knowing just beyond the next wall there is an entire Savannah full of animals to observe and experience up closer than you would have in any other setting.

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For the Kids

The theming at the Animal Kingdom lodge is done just so there is a mixture of fantasy and reality presented. There is the of fantasy of being on an African safari where you can wake up in the morning, step out on a balcony, and watch giraffes grazing from trees and zebras chasing each other across a savannah. It’s not something they ever imagined was possible. However, there’s a sense of concrete reality here. The animals are REAL and are animals they can connect back to experiences they’ve had in zoos or on television. Despite being at the same hotel, every day is a novel experience. Each time you look out at the outpost or on your balcony there’s a different scene with different animals.

There are also many different engaging activities for kids to enjoy while staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. If your kids are able to stay up past dusk, they can borrow night vision goggles at the outpost and look at the animals roaming around in the darkness (for free). It’s a completely different experience than

observing animals during the day. Kids can learn from employees who act as cultural ambassadors of their home countries in Africa about the animals and everyday life on a completely different continent. There are drum circles, campfires, and craft sessions all available without stepping foot outside your hotel.

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For Adults

For adults, the Animal Kingdom Lodge also provides a tranquil setting for your vacation. Personally, I can feel myself letting go of the tension and stress built up in my shoulders as I step into the lodge and take in the beautiful surroundings and ambiance. The rooms are cozy and rustic in the best possible way and if you are lucky enough to have a savannah view balcony, there’s nothing more romantic than sharing a glass of wine on your balcony while you watch the sunset over the savannah.

The Food

Onto the food. It’s delicious. Boma is a buffet style restaurant that has something to offer for everyone from the adventurous to the pickiest eaters. It’s a mixture of African flavor, carved meats, and a kids section with American staples. Don’t foget the zebra domes for dessert, you’ll find them here! Jiko is a signature dining experience with steaks (among other choices) that simply melts in your mouth. I don’t know much about the kids offerings here, but if you are lucky enough to have an adults only trip or night it’s a great choice! Sanaa is more for an adventurous eater but has the right amount of spice and flavor to excite your palate but allow you to feel comfortable in trying new things. It also has a view of the Savannah, which makes it a perfect choice for a sunset meal. What I like best about the food at Animal Kingdom Lodge is that even as a New Yorker it offers options I can’t easily find at home. Another form of escape from the day to day.

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How “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” May Just Ruin the Other 3D Shows for your Kids

The 3D shows at Walt Disney World are amazing. Mickey’s Philarmagic is actually one of my favorite attractions because I just feel a rush of magic as I’m taken through the various movies of my childhood via the songs I felt such connections to. Top it off with being able to watch young children reaching for Ariel’s hands during “Part of Your World” and I just melt. Muppet Vision 3D is also a classic for me. Sure, the show never changes and sure, the technology is a bit outdated but it’s still good in my book. The problem is, working at Disney, I talked to many parents whose children would not even set foot in those two attractions because they were so traumatized by It’s Tough to Be a Bug. It’s really too bad they had seen that one before the other two.

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So…. Here’s my public service announcement.

It’s Tough to Be a Bug shouldn’t be taken lightly with young children. Obviously, you know your children better than anyone else and know what may bother them and what won’t. Only you or your child can decide whether they will enjoy the ride or not, but for those who may not be familiar with the ride here are some things you may want to consider:

1. It’s Dark: I know what you’re thinking…. obviously it’s dark it’s a 3d show! But I emphasize this because this theater feels MUCH darker than Philharmagic and the Muppets.

2. Spiders Come Down from the Ceiling: Let me rephrase that, VERY LARGE spiders come down from the ceiling. They don’t touch you, but for a child still in that fantasy versus reality phase who is not yet able to think logically and concretely they may not really be able to comprehend that the spiders can’t touch them at that moment. Also, when they do come down from the ceiling the smoke and light effects make it even more daunting.

3. Stingers in your Back: If you sit all the way back in the bench there is a point where they simulate stingers and you get poked in the back. Of course it’s not sharp or painful but it can be startling even for adults!

4. Hopper: He’s a bad guy, we all know. But in my opinion, he’s down right creepy in this show. The way the light hits his face, what he says to the crowd, the smoke effects, it’s definitely enough to give the right (or wrong, really) kid nightmares.

5. Bugs Exiting: Just before you leave the theater, the benches ripple a bit under you as if bugs are crawling under your bottom. For kids who have been fine up to this point, it shouldn’t be a problem.It will probably be funny for them. However, for kids who have been having a hard time with the show, this could be that icing on the cake that sets them over.

Again, only you and your child can decide if this ride is right for you. This is definitely one of those rides that if you aren’t sure how your child will react, you should prepare them for what to expect. If they don’t want to go, just skip it and don’t think twice. This isn’t a must-do by any means.

The way kids brains work at the preschool and toddler age, they can make associations between bad experiences and similar situations. In the same way that they may freak out when they come into the hospital after a bad IV experience. After being traumatized by “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” they may have similar adverse reactions when you bring them to the other 3D shows or even a movie theater. The settings are just so close that they may not be able to rationalize it as a completely different experience.

Again, just something to think about. And remember, it’s always okay for a child to be afraid. Validating those feelings for them by letting them know you think it’s okay will help them develop the self efficacy to overcome those fears in the future at their own pace. If this one is questionable, try Mickey’s Philarmagic or Muppet Vision 3D first to test the waters. Though not every child will be okay with those either, they are definitely less threatening than “It’s Tough to Be a Bug!”