Mother and Daughter viewing animals at Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge

Navigating Neurodiversity at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Planning a family vacation can be overwhelming, especially when you’re mindful of the needs of a neurodiverse child. Our stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offered a unique experience that catered perfectly to our daughter’s sensory and emotional needs. Even a few years later, this was our favorite hotel experience ever!

If you are the parent or caregiver of a child with autism spectrum disorder or ADHD, you know you need all the information in advance to make a vacation successful. In this article, we will share the favorite parts of our stay that made our trip memorable.

Christmas tree and Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby
Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby

Choosing Animal Kingdom Lodge for Our Stay

When choosing a place for our family trip with our neurodiverse daughter, the Animal Kingdom Lodge stood out for several reasons.

Exterior of Animal Kingdom Lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge Exterior

Sensory Considerations

The specific accessibility features at the Animal Kingdom Lodge played a crucial role in our decision-making process. The hotel’s attention to detail was evident. My photographs do not do justice to how tranquil and beautiful the hotel was. Many hotels in Orlando, Florida, are bustling with people and have bright colors. As soon as you walk into the Animal Kingdom lodge, you feel as though you are transported to Africa. All the natural elements provide an instant sense of calm. The cultural details were stunning, and when we visited, the hotel was decorated for the holidays, and the decor was exquisite.

African Art

Exploring the Wildlife and Activities

You can access an outdoor viewing space through the lobby to watch the animals roaming on the property. We stayed outside and watched the animals for hours. To see giraffes, zebras, and gazelles so close was a highlight of our trip, and Elizabeth loved observing them from all the various viewing locations throughout the hotel. The daily animal encounters at the lodge were captivating and incredibly educational. Watching the giraffes, zebras, and gazelles roam just outside our room was special for our daughter.

Viewing Animals from window at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Recreational Activities

Participating in the recreational activities available at the Animal Kingdom Lodge was an exciting part of our daughter’s experience. The beautiful pool with a huge waterslide and playground was perfect for our daughter, who needs frequent movement breaks due to her ADHD. Having so many safe places to explore helped her burn off some energy, which is usually hard to do when traveling. Overall, the combination of animal encounters and recreational activities at the lodge offered a well-rounded experience that entertained and enriched our daughter’s cognitive and emotional development.

exploring animal kingdom lodge
On our way to the playground

Dining Experiences

Our dining experience at the Animal Kingdom Lodge was exceptional. The restaurants offered a blend of delicious cuisine and warm hospitality that made every meal memorable. We enjoyed a variety of dining experiences when we stayed. We were lucky to get a dining reservation at Boma-Flavors of Africa, an all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet. This was an ideal option because Elizabeth was younger then and could share a plate with us. Then, we ordered room service for breakfast and grabbed some quick lunch items at The Mara quick-service restaurant.

Eating Dinner at Boma Restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Dinner at Boma

Room Accommodations

We loved our room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was spotless and spacious, which was great because Elizabeth likes lots of space to move around. Many hotel rooms seemed small, but we were very comfortable. She had lots of space to spread out and play with her toys. The decor was also soothing, making for a lovely retreat after a long day at the Animal Kingdom theme park.

In a hotel room at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Shopping at the Gift Shop

The gift shop at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of my favorite Disney Resort shops. The experience was very calm. The shop was stocked with various items, ranging from first-aid items to luxury goods and everything in between. Possibly one of our favorite things to look at and test was the African drums. Elizabeth had so much fun playing all the drums that we stayed in the gift shop for a long time until she was done.

Girl playing African Drum
Elizabeth Playing Drums

Benefits of Staying Near Disney World Parks

Staying on Disney World Resort property has many benefits, not just because it is more magical!

Transportation to the Parks

You will receive complimentary transportation to the parks when you stay on Disney property. A shuttle runs back and forth from the hotel to the parks. The bus is very convenient and drops you off at the entrance of the parks, which cuts down on a lot of walking! Reducing the amount of walking and transitions was helpful for us. There is also an option to take a Minnie Van to the parks, which is booked through the Lyft app. Going to Disney parks are very long days, and kids tire easily, so avoiding parking a car and taking a tram makes sense.

Tree of Life Animal Kingdom Park
Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom

Extra Magic Hours

Traveling to Disney World requires a lot of planning, so you want to maximize your time at the parks to ensure you get to experience all the fun! As a guest at a Disney hotel, you are eligible to spend more time at the parks. For a family with a neurodiverse child, we are less concerned about maximizing our time but rather using our time strategically. Extra magic hours are a great way to use your time wisely because you know your child best. If your child struggles with large crowds and lots of noise, it may be beneficial for you to go to the parks early so you can go on rides with minimal waiting.

Couple posing in front of Christmas tree

Would We Stay Again?

The simple answer is YES! We loved the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was one of our absolute favorite hotels ever. It checked all our boxes and was a lovely retreat for everyone in the family!

If you plan to take a Disney Cruise, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the hotels where you can take the shuttle to Port Canaveral. For more information, check out my other article, Disney Cruise Line: Making Magical Memories with a Neurodiverse Child.

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