Category Rank: 5
Park: "Rest of the World"
Park Rank: 10
We discussed earlier why the resorts of WDW are an integral part of the magical experience, including the ones that you don't stay at. Actually, it most often isn't the ones you are staying at, unless you can afford the deluxe resorts. We can't. But we do like visiting our favorite resorts every time we visit.
Sometimes it is hard to remember that Disney's hotels are actually resorts much the same way you might have experienced regional resorts, where they have their own schedule of events and activities for guests. It isn't just a pool; its outdoor movies on their beach front, luaus, bicycle rides around the integrated waterways, children's activities, and more. With so much else to do in the World, time spent at the resort can seem like a waste, until you try it.
I think the best concept for a resort is the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We'll create a resort that sits adjacent to the wide lands of Animal Kingdom and allow animals to graze on the surrounding perimeter, affording guests breathtaking views from their balcony. Going back to those running themes that Disney employs, this lodge reinforces that "living in harmony with nature" theme that Animal Kingdom and places in Epcot promote. (And, if you are here to say, "in actuality, these practices are very cruel to animals and plants, etc", I'd say don't rain on my nostalgic parade).
We have never stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but we visit it every time. We enjoy the majestic interior of the main area at Jambo House, overlooking the Boma restaurant. Though the restaurant is not quite high enough to have a place on the list by itself, it is one of the top restaurants in the World and one that you should experience at least once (we are still strategizing to get our kids there, though). The other African restaurants at the lodge have high reviews as well.
The outside area is, of course, what it is known for. There are better times than others to be there, as animals tend to be more active around sunset and sunrise. But, there is a wide variety of animals, so there will always be some animals to see on one of their three savannas.
Though we felt much like a wedding crasher coming into these resorts we weren't staying at, we have since overcome our guilt and enjoy partaking in some of the activities. In the evening, they have a campfire out in the outside area, where you can have a Smores while watching the giraffes roam around. It provides one of the most beautiful and relaxing scenes within the whole World.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is probably my favorite or 2nd favorite resort in all Disney World (it has much in common with another favorite of mine, the Wilderness Lodge). For this list, however, its relative newness and the nostalgic charm that the other resorts provide push them up higher.
We move back to the interactives/memorabilia category, for what I think will be the most "controversial" item on this list. In fact, I would bet that only a person or two out of a thousand might put this item on their list. You will instantly argue that it isn't interactive, and it isn't great memorabilia. I will counter that, much like the Park Maps, this item is an under-appreciated item that you get now with each stay with the meal plan.