Resort Review – Animal Kingdom Lodge

Imagine waking up to the African savannah right outside your window. Sip on coffee as you watch giraffes and zebras roam outside your balcony. Listen to the beat of the drums as you walk through the gorgeous lobby. This, and more, is exactly what Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers!

Animal Kingdom Lodge Review

Located near Animal Kingdom theme park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is away from the hustle and bustle of the parks. Bus transportation is provided to all theme parks and Downtown Disney. While this means a little more time on the buses, this deluxe resort includes an experience that your family is sure to remember!

Animal Kingdom Lodge

The resort is shaped like a horseshoe, with the lobby being the center. There are two “trails”, each offering the same room layouts and views. Room options include standard view, pool view, savannah view and arusha view, however, it is HIGHLY suggested that you get a savannah or arusha view room to enjoy the animals outside of your balcony! Each room includes 2 queen beds, 1 king bed or 1 queen bed with bunk beds. For those wanting the added benefits of the concierge lounge and service, those rooms include views of the savannah as well as 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom suites. Villas are also available at both the Jambo House, or the villa-exclusive Kidani Village.

If you are looking to stay active during your stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, there is a lot to do! There are two pools to explore, the Uzima Pool which includes a water slide, as well as the Samawati Springs Pool which includes a water playground. Take a jog around the Jambo House and Kidani Village along the running path or head to the health and fitness center. Need an adults’ night out? Kids up to age 9 can head to Simba’s Cubhouse for fun activities! There is even an exclusive Sunrise Safari available only to concierge guests of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

The restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge will not disappoint! Boma – Flavors of Africa offers a buffet for both breakfast and dinner, including an African flare. Sanaa (at Kidani Village) includes slow roasted meats, salads and fantastic vegetarian options. If you would like a fine dining experience, head to Jiko – The Cooking Place. There is also a counter service restaurant, The Mara along with two pool bars.

For a runDisney race weekend, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is often a host resort. While it isn’t near any of the race courses, it is a great way to get away from the parks for a little peace and quiet – which is a great perk before an early morning race.

 

 

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Most Unique Counter Service Meals

Many runners only have a few days in Walt Disney World when they visit for a runDisney race weekend. This usually means that a few meals are on the go! The counter service restaurants throughout the theme parks and resorts offer a quick meal. However, they go beyond your normal hamburger and fries. Here are a few of the most unique counter service meals at Walt Disney World!

Unique Counter Service Meals

World Showcase

Travel from country to country in just steps when you go to World Showcase in Epcot! Almost every country has its own counter service restaurant, allowing you to enjoy international cuisine. Head to the Lotus Blossom Cafe in the China Pavilion. Enjoy Sommerfest at the Germany Pavilion. Try the Tangierine Cafe at the Morocco Pavilion. There are many options to experience!

Be Our Guest

The newest restaurant in Magic Kingdom is truly unique in that it is a counter service option for lunch and table service option for dinner! This is definitely a popular location, so there will most likely be a wait (and most likely, a long one) for lunch. However, the experience is truly spectacular! Dine in the West Wing or grand ballroom as you enjoy braised pork, various sandwiches or a tuna nicoise salad. And don’t forget dessert! Various cupcakes and cream puffs are available.

Landscape of Flavors

If you are traveling with your family or a group of your fellow runners, a food court option allows for everyone to choose the food of their choice. One of the best food courts in Walt Disney World is Landscape of Flavors at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort! Salads, stir fry, pizzas and sandwiches are the normal fare, however the options are very unique!

Be Our Guest Restaurant

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Top 5 Tips for runDisney Spectators

While running through the Walt Disney World theme parks during a runDisney event is magical, spectating is fun too! Cheering on your runner will bring a smile to their face, giving them the extra boost they need.

runDisney Spectator Tips

So how do you prepare for a runDisney race as a spectator? Here are our top 5 tips to make your chEAR experience a magical one!

1. Have a plan (and backup plan). Before race day, sit down with your runner and create a plan. This includes where you plan on spectating (so both of you can be on the lookout), how you will communicate during the race, where to meet after the race, etc. When it comes to communication during the race, there are a few options. Runner tracking is available for 10K races and longer. Sign up around a week before the race and text messages will be sent to your phone when your runner crosses certain marks along the race course. You can also have your runner text or call you when they are close to your spectating location. (Runners – step off the race course when calling or texting!) Do note that the large usage of cell phones may delay or even not allow service during the race.

2. Find a great spectating location. When making your plan, you’ll want to pick out the locations where you will be spectating. For the shorter races (5K, 10K and 10-miler), you most likely will only be able to spot your runner once near the finish line. For the half marathon races, usually two locations are possible. Great options for the morning half marathons are the Ticket & Transportation Center, inside Magic Kingdom, behind the Grand Floridian or Polynesian resorts and near the finish line. For the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, options include the start line at ESPN Wide World of Sports, around the Boardwalk/Yacht & Beach Club and the finish line. When it comes to the marathon, depending on traffic, you may be able to see them three times. Options for this race include the same as the morning half marathons, Animal Kingdom, the Boardwalk/Yacht & Beach Club area, Epcot and the finish line. When determining where you will spectate from, give a general area. There may be crowds, so you may need to move a little farther from where you originally planned.

3. Allow plenty of transportation time. runDisney races are unique in that you are able to run through the parks and around Walt Disney World property! That also means that many roads are closed due to the races, making transportation quite slow. If you will be driving or using bus transportation as a spectator, allow yourself ample time to get from location to location. This is even more important during the morning races as there is only one entrance into Epcot, backing up traffic significantly. If possible, use the transportation prior to the race start. (Always allow runners priority when it comes to event transportation!)

4. Bring a supply bag. Spectating is a sport too! It is very possible there will be quite a bit of time between when you arrive at your location and when you actually see your runner. Bring along a small bag with food, extra clothes, sunscreen or even activities for the kids. (Your bag will be checked at security prior to entering a park or the family reunion area.) It also never hurts to have a little something for the runners – a fun sign, clappers or even candy!

5. Know your runner and make yourself known. runDisney races include upwards of 25,000 runners. Trying to spot your runner in a sea of bright colors isn’t always so easy! Prior to the race, be sure to get a look at what your runner will be wearing. Also have an idea of their pace, so you know when to start looking for them a little more carefully. (The runner tracking will allow you to know their actual pace on race day.) Having made a plan in advance, your runner will also know what side of the course you will be on!

Not only are you looking for your runner, they are looking for you too! A bright colored shirt, balloon or sign is a great way to help yourself stand out from the crowd. That way, even if you have to move a little farther away from your original plan from earlier, your runner may still be able to spot you. Finding each other in the sea of runners and spectators takes both of you being on the lookout!

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Spectators bring an extra round of magic to runDisney races! Cheer loud, smile big and give those runners the boost they need. Your efforts are not unnoticed!

 

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One of the unique aspects to the Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend and Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend is that they are during holiday seasons! There is a lot of fun holiday spirit to enjoy and experience, making your runDisney race weekend even more magical!

runDisney Holiday Magic

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party*

During select nights in September and October, Mickey invites everyone to join a party in Magic Kingdom! Put on your costume and trick or treat your way through the park. Watch the Boo to You parade and special fireworks appropriately called, HalloWishes! It’s a great way to begin, or end, your Tower of Terror 10-Miler weekend fun!

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

One of the most spectacular displays of Christmas spirit is in Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Watch as millions of LED lights dance a choreographed routine to your favorite holiday songs. This fun light display begins the weekend of the Wine & Dine Half Marathon and is from dusk until park closing. You won’t want to miss it!

Holidays at Walt Disney World

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party*

Join Mickey, his friends, the toy soldiers and many more of your holiday favorites select nights in November and December at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in Magic Kingdom! Enjoy the Christmas Parade, dance with your favorite characters, watch a holiday edition of Wishes and even enjoy some hot cocoa and cookies. It is a great addition to your Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend!

Touring the Resorts & Parks

When it comes to holiday magic, even the parks and resorts get in on the fun! Take a little tour and see how they have transformed overnight. From pumpkins to Christmas trees stories high, you are sure to get into the holiday spirit!

Holidays at Walt Disney World

*Separate party tickets are required. Be sure to purchase them in advance since the parties will most likely sell out during race weekend.

The holiday magic is alive throughout Walt Disney World, so be sure to experience it during your fall runDisney race!

 

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Resort Review – Wilderness Lodge

Be transported to the serenity of America’s Great Northwest at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge!

Wilderness Lodge Review

Surrounded by pine trees, this deluxe resort is hidden from the hustle and bustle of the parks. Located on Bay Lake, the views are full of nature’s beauty! The lobby alone is worth visiting as it towers multiple floors, showcasing hand-carved totem poles! While considered a Magic Kingdom resort, transportation is primarily via bus, with boat transportation available to Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Campground.

The resort is quite compact which is nice after a race or long day on your feet in the parks. Room options include standard, woods or courtyard views. Each room has 2 queen beds, 1 king bed or a queen bed with bunk beds. Keep in mind these rooms are small, especially for a deluxe resort. If you would like the added benefit of concierge level, choose from a standard room, deluxe room (which offers much more space!) or the Yosemite or Yellowstone suites. (Concierge level includes access to the Old Faithful Club lounge for food and beverages throughout the day, as well as personalized services throughout your stay.)

There are various recreational options available at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge! Take a swim in the Silver Creek Springs pool or relax in one of the nearby whirlpool spas. Rent a bike and take a spin around the trails. Rent a boat for a relaxing trip around Bay Lake or even try your hand at fishing! The kids can enjoy the Cub’s Den (ages 3-12) while the adults have a date night. There is even a campfire at night to enjoy!

Wilderness Lodge Review

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge offers various restaurants to keep the hunger at bay. Enjoy a hootin’ and hollerin’ time at Whispering Canyon Cafe. For a quick meal, head to Roaring Forks Cafe. If you are looking for a fine dining experience, be sure to make a reservation at Artist Point.

When it comes to a race weekend, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a great way to experience a deluxe resort at a lower cost! Runners and spectators will need to take race transportation to the race start, as no other transportation options are available.

For a resort that allows you to relax surrounded by nature when you are not in the parks or running a race, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a great experience!

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ChEAR Squad for a Disneyland runDisney Race

When it comes to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, there are similarities – but there are also many differences. While runDisney races are no exception, there are quite a few major differences when it comes to ChEAR Squad!

Disneyland ChEAR Squad

If you are planning on running a race in Disneyland, you may be wondering how your spectators will cheer you on. While the parks and start/finish lines are within walking distance, the spectator locations can be quite crowded. If you are familiar with the Anaheim area, you may be able to find other locations along the course (specifically the half marathon) to cheer on your runner.

However, there is one MAJOR difference when it comes to races at Disneyland, spectators CANNOT go inside the park unless they are part of specific ChEAR Squad packages. (For the runners, this means that Main Street USA in Disneyland is not full of the overwhelming cheers like it is in Walt Disney World.)

So is ChEAR Squad worth it at Disneyland? Let’s take a look!

Bronze Package

Like the Walt Disney World ChEAR Squad, the bronze package is no cost and includes a newsletter. Since there is no cost, there is no harm in signing up for information regarding race weekend!

 

Silver Package

This package is between $39 and $45 per spectator. Along with the newsletter, you will also receive a waterproof stadium blanket, Mickey clappers and a cotton ChEAR Squad t-shirt. (These are the same as what you would receive at Walt Disney World events.) The main addition is that you will be given access to enter Disneyland theme park to watch your runner along Main Street USA! You will be able to see your runner as they enter the park, as well as when they come through Sleeping Beauty castle.

Disneyland ChEAR Squad

Gold Package

This package is between $59 and $69 per spectator. Along with all the amenities of the Silver package (including entrance into Disneyland park), you will also receive grandstand seating at the finish line. Since the finisher’s chute is along the road next to Disneyland Hotel, it can be quite difficult to find a good viewing location near the finish line. This aspect of ChEAR Squad guarantees a nice view as your runner finishes their race! (Note: Seating is first-come, first-served.)

Disneyland ChEAR Squad

Platinum Package

This package is $99 per spectator. Along with all the amenities of the Gold package (including entrance to Disneyland park), you will be treated to a VIP experience near the finish line! Enjoy more comfortable seating, a continental breakfast, executive style restrooms, live course feed of the finish line and complimentary parking at the Disneyland Hotel.

  Disneyland ChEAR Squad

So is ChEAR Squad worth the money? It ultimately depends on your plan to watch your runner. If you would like the ease and access of watching your runner at not quite as crowded locations, we recommend at least the Gold package. The ability to watch your runner in Disneyland park as well as at the finish line is a nice amenity.

As for the Platinum package, it really depends on if you would like a continental breakfast. The courses tend to have the runners go through the parks within the first few miles, giving you time to walk back to the finish line and enjoy a little meal before your runner finishes. (Keep in mind – this ultimately depends on how fast your runner is!) Of course, you can always bring your own snacks and breakfast if you would like. Also, note that your runner CANNOT come in for breakfast with you, unlike Race Retreat at Walt Disney World!

The nice thing about the Disneyland races is that there are plenty of areas to watch your runner, from Downtown Disney to along the streets of Anaheim. However, if you are unfamiliar with the area, your spectator spots are limited to near the parks and start/finish. This is absolutely doable without ChEAR Squad, just as it is in Walt Disney World.

Here are a few questions to consider when it comes to ChEAR Squad:

  • Would you like to watch your runner inside Disneyland park? If so, purchase Silver or higher.
  • Will you be spectating with children? If so, think of the extra cost involved. (Note: Children under 3 are no cost.)
  • Would you like to watch your runner at the finish line? If so, purchase Gold or higher.
  • Will your runner finish quickly? Determine if Platinum would be worth the extra cost.
  • Are you familiar with the Anaheim area? If so, you may be able to find other places to spectate.

Be sure to check out our review of the ChEAR Squad for runDisney races at Walt Disney World too!

 

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