Saturday, November 15, 2014

Best Disney Resorts for Special Diets - Animal Kingdom Lodge

I was recently asked by one of my blog readers what are the best resorts at Disney World to stay at for gluten free dining.  I am teaming up with Dana Zificsak from Magical Moments Vacations to answer that question in my new series called Best Disney Resorts for Special Diets.  In our first post, we looked at Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter.  Today, we will focus on one of my personal favorites, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.  My commentary will be in blue.  

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Resort Type: Deluxe
Location: Animal Kingdom
Transportation: Busses to all theme parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney

Animal Kingdom Lodge is a destination in itself.  Disney has done a fantastic job transporting its guests to the world of an African safari through this resort. The biggest draw to the Animal Kingdom Lodge is the savanna, that houses a wide assortment of animals, including giraffes, zebra, gazelles, wildebeest, ostriches, and many more. The resort in itself is an attraction as well. The lobby of Jambo House is impressive, with replicas of African artifacts all around. Additionally, there are children's programs throughout the day, including arts and crafts. When you step out onto the savanna, there are animal experts ready to share information about the animals, and answer your questions.

There are two buildings that make up this resort: Jambo House and Kidani Village. While both buildings have a pool and a shop, there are things to consider when you are choosing which side to stay at.  There is a 10-minute walking path between the two buildings, and a van shuttle that departs every 20-30 minutes.

Jambo House is the original building, and the main building of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. The quick-service restaurant, The Mara, is here. If you feel your family would utilize the quick-service restaurant a lol, I would chose Jambo House, since it does take some time to get from one building to another. The resort’s big retail store is also on this side. Additionally, Jambo House is home to Boma and Jiko, which are both extremely gluten-free friendly restaurants.  Jambo House has standard rooms, club-level rooms, studios, and 1 and 2-bedroom villas.

Jambo House Room Descriptions:

Standard Room: These 344 square foot rooms are on the first four floors of the resort. They offer a number of bedding combinations: 2 queen beds, 1 queen bed and 2 bunk beds, and 1 king and a daybed. There are 3 types of views: Standard (parking lot or obstructed views of pool or savanna), Pool View, Savanna View, and Arusha View. The most expensive are the Arusha View rooms, which overlook the main savanna.

Club-level, Standard Room: This category has you in a standard room with an Arusha View, and access to a club on the top floor of the Lodge that offers a continental breakfast, snacks, and hot offerings in the evening. This club does offer gluten-free options all day long. You simply call the dining line, and let them know what you would like in the club.

Club-level Suites: These suites sleep either 6 or 8 people, but do not offer amenities like the villas do. These suites do have savanna views, and have access to the club-level lounge.

Villas: Jambo House offers villas similar to Kidani, except with two extra categories: value and concierge-level. The value villas are smaller than the typical villas, and a little less expensive, while the concierge villas have club-level access.

Kidani Village was built as a Disney Vacation Club resort, and houses studios, 1-and-2 bedroom units, and 3-bedroom Grand Villas. Kidani Village is also home to Sanaa, a table-service restaurant, and a great pool complex. There is a child’s water play area at the Kidani Pool. If you have a son or daughter who loves the water, and you don’t bother much with quick-service dining, Kidani is a great option.

Kidani Village Room Descriptions:

Studio: At 366-square feet, up to four people can sleep in a studio. This room has a queen-size bed, a full-size sleeper sofa, wet bar, small refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker. A private balcony offers either a standard view, or a savanna view at an extra cost.

One-bedroom Villa: At 807-square feet, this villa sleeps up to 5 people. The master bedroom has a king-size bed, and the bathroom features a Jacuzzi tub. There is a sleeper sofa and chair in the living area, and also an additional full bathroom off of the living room. You can cook meals in the kitchen, and there is also a washer/dryer in the unit. The full kitchen includes: coffee maker, pots and pans, microwave, toaster, stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, silverware, and plates, bowls, and glassware. There is a private balcony which can come with a standard view, or a savanna view, at an extra cost.

Two-bedroom Villa: At 1,173 square-feet, it sleeps up to 9 people, and includes all of the amenities of a one-bedroom villa, with an additional bedroom with two queen beds. Some of the two-bedroom villas are a lock-off, meaning they are a studio and a 1-bedroom combined.

Three-bedroom Grand Villa: This is a 2-level villa, and at 2,201 square feet, this unit sleeps 12 people. There is a master suite with a whirlpool tub, plus two more bedrooms with 2 queen-sized beds each. There are 4 bathrooms total, and 2 sleeper sofas in the unit. Grand villas have a balcony offering a savanna view.

Those staying on either side can utilize the facilities at both Kidani Village and Jambo House. I tend to recommend Jambo more than Kidani, mainly because more of the dining establishments are located on this side.

I would venture to say that Animal Kingdom Lodge has the most options for the gluten-free guest, compared to other resorts at Disney World.  

The Mara is Animal Kingdom Lodge’s quick-service restaurant. They have plenty of gluten-free options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  For breakfast, you can order the Bounty Platter with gluten free Mickey waffles, the African Breakfast Platter, Bobotie Platter, or Mickey waffles with bacon or sausage.  We especially love their gluten free Mickey waffles, which are some of the best on Disney property.  

For lunch, gluten free options include, but are not limited to, the amazing African Stew, gluten free flatbreads, allergy friendly chicken tenders, several salads, and the Angus cheeseburger.  Gluten free dessert options include Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC mini brownie cupcakes, gluten free zebra domes, and allergy-friendly brownies and chocolate chip cookies. You can read my reviews of The Mara, and view their allergy-friendly menus here.  

Boma is Jambo House’s 1-credit table service restaurant. I had never eaten here until this past year, and I am so happy we finally decided to try it. Boma is a buffet-style restaurant with many naturally gluten-free items. My favorites are the beef striploin and the African pap, which is a cornmeal-based side. Most of the time all of the soups are gluten free, or at least three out of the four. I really enjoyed the sausage & lentil soup. 

Even the bobotie at Boma is now gluten free, because they have removed the bread!  Before I was diagnosed with celiac, one of my favorite dishes at Boma was the bobotie, so I was so excited to try their new gluten free version a couple of weeks ago.  It was just as good as I remembered!  You can read my dinner review of Boma here.  Boma has been one of my family's favorite restaurants at Disney for dinner since we first tried it over 10 years ago.  

The best part of a gluten-free meal at Boma is dessert. Many of their desserts are naturally gluten free and the chef will make gluten-free Zebra domes as well, and present it all on a beautiful, cross-contamination-free platter.

This past summer, I went to Boma for breakfast for the first time since my celiac diagnosis.  Their gluten free Mickey waffles served with bananas foster are absolutely amazing, and they also have a delicious pecan praline sauce as well.  You can read my breakfast review of Boma here.  

Jiko is Animal Kingdom Lodge’s signature dining restaurant, and it is located across the hall from Boma. If you are using the Disney Dining Plan, Jiko is two table-service credits.  The food is rich, and the service phenomenal. They have a gluten-free menu which changes seasonally, featuring gluten-free appetizers, entrees and desserts. I have always enjoyed the Taste of Africa sampler appetizer, which is a selection of dips and lentil pappadam.  Every time I have visited Jiko, I have always had the oak-grilled filet mignon as my entrée. It comes with a red-wine reduction, potatoes and vegetables. Other entrees include prawns, lamb loin, duck breast, guinea hen, and braised beef short ribs. For dessert, the usual offerings are a flourless chocolate cake, crème brulee, and panna cotta. I have always indulged in the crème brulee.  You can read my review of Jiko here.  

Sanaa is the one table-service credit African-Indian fusion restaurant at Kidani Village. One of the best things for a gluten-free diner here is the Indian-style bread service, which comes with gluten-free naan or falafel chips.  It can be ordered with three or nine accompaniments, with different flavors and spices. It’s a great way to try new flavor profiles. Gluten-free soups and salads are available as well.  For entrees, there are Tandoori-style offerings, slow-cooked meats and seafood served with rice, a vegetarian sampler, and fish. There are usually three gluten-free dessert offerings: sorbet, tapioca pudding, and kulfi, an Indian-style ice cream.   

Sanaa is one of our favorite restaurants at Disney for lunch and dinner.  We always order the Indian-style bread service with their amazing gluten free naan.  My daughters love the butter chicken, which we usually order with basmati rice, and the slow-cooked short ribs.  For dessert, we never pass up the seasonal kulfi, which is a light and refreshing dessert after a big meal.  I have both lunch and dinner reviews of Sanaa on my blog, where you can view their allergy-friendly menus.    

Staying and dining at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for the gluten-free guest is a fun adventure, and with all of the dining options available, you will certainly not go hungry, nor will you get bored having to eat the same type of meal every day.

Boma, Sanaa, and The Mara are featured in My Favorite Table Service Restaurants and My Disney Top 10 Quick Service blog posts.  They are some of my favorite restaurants on Disney property, and if we didn't live in Orlando, the Animal Kingdom Lodge would be one of my top picks for a Disney resort.    

Dana is a Disney fan with Celiac disease. She is also a travel agent for Magical Moments Vacations, Authorized Disney Vacation Planners. She specializes in gluten-free travel, and can help you book a perfect gluten-free Disney vacation. Her services are 100% free to you - you pay the same price you would if you booked directly with Disney, but when you book with Dana, you get one-on-one help from a frequent Disney visitor who knows the ins and outs of gluten-free dining at Disney World. To learn more about Dana and stay up-to-date on Disney specials, like her Facebook page, or you can request a free, no-obligation quote here.  

Dana Zificsak, Agent
Magical Moments Vacations
(484) 886-9225


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