It’s the most wonderful time of the year and what a way to get into the full holiday spirit than to take a trip with the guys to Walt Disney World. Embarking on a second adventure with the guys, myself, Justin, and Ryan set off on a trip to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge and take in some holiday festivities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.
We went into this trip trying to build off the momentum of our inaugural trip made back in February of this year. That trip seemed to set the standard for what we would try to make our trips be, memorable, first time experiences, done in a relaxing manner - and most importantly, together.
We started out setting off from Northeast Florida and headed straight to Animal Kingdom. There was a breeze in the air as we walked up to the gates of the park, greeted by a 70 ft tall Christmas tree decorated to capacity with some Disney characters, new and old. That same holiday theme showed itself even more as we walked further into the park, welcomed by some of the street performers dressed and operating some wintery, life-size artisan puppets. The roof stops and pathways were also lined with holiday-themed lanterns, and a classy style.
As we ventured further along from the branches of Discover Island and the Tree of Life park icon, we were after one thing - Nomad Lounge.
Nomad Lounge is one of those places at Disney that would be an incredibly sought after lounge and restaurant no matter where you put it in the world. Strategically placed on the river that divides Pandora - The World of Avatar and Discovery Island, Nomad Lounge is this tiny oasis. It is nestled directly next to Tiffins, signature restaurant that is very popular amongst guests. The theming of the lounge is fantastic, decorated with treasures of foreign travel. But what sets this lounge apart from most places at Disney (or a lot of dining establishments in general) is the porch. Like I said, Nomad Lounge is directly on the river, and the patio gives you direct access to views of the river while you succumb to the plush furniture that just begs you to relax and enjoy. The environment is worth the trip alone, but then throw in the food and drinks, and boy, this is why this is one of my favorite places at Disney.
We decided to start with a round of Tusker Lagers for the table, which is almost customary, and again lend to the relaxing nature. Once we got our food, the visit got even better. Justin went with a seasonal special Sausage Dog with Venison Chili. This was a surprise to see on the menu since you don’t see venison on a lot of menus. The chili dog had a great balance of heat and spice. Ryan had the Sweet Corn Soup with Citrus Poached Lobster. All I can say about this soup is, WOW! What an incredible flavor profile. If you have a chance to get this soup, do it! As for me, I had the Chicken Manchurian Nomad Bowl, which was a tangy, fried chicken dish with great spice. All-in-all, this visit to Nomad Lounge, Justin and Ryan’s first visit, was a success.
Once we left Nomad Lounge, we took a quick trip to grab a beer and crowd watch at Dawa Bar. Getting a chance to try another African beer, the Casa Beer. Great taste, but also distinctly different than the Tusker Lager. From there, we took a train ride out to the Conservation Center then decided to head to our next destination, Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jambo House.
So here we are now, sitting in the living room of a one-bedroom villa looking out from the balcony to the savannah. And let me just say, if you have never been able to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, especially with a savannah view room, put it on your list to do. And of course, it’s even more magical during the holidays. Sitting on the balcony, sipping on a hot cup of coffee, watching the animals graze - you just take in life. It’s an amazing experience that you don’t get anywhere else.
The resort itself is a good size with a breathtaking lobby. The African decor perfectly placed along the way, makes you feel like you could be in a lodge in the middle of Africa. A waterfall gently cascades to the side of the lobby while the giant glass view beckons you to the savannah overlook. If you venture a few flights of stairs down, the chefs preparing dinner at Boma hits you right in the face. And speaking of Boma, we got to have dinner there earlier, and as the theming goes with this trip, the food has not disappointed yet. The menu at Boma is so diverse, littered with classic African dishes and recipes and even features some family (kid) friendly staples too. It’s an all-you-care-to-enjoy affair too, so if you visit, be sure to bring your elastic pants. Walking away stuffed and delighted is how I walked away from the meal (and should be the only way you walk away from eating at Boma).
As I sit here now, just taking the day’s events in, I can’t help but think to myself, how did I get so lucky. To be able to sit here and enjoy this time, especially with my cousins. This is what life is all about - making opportunities happen. This doesn’t happen if we don’t pursue our wants. And I’m glad I have family behind me at home that allows me to do that everyday. So here’s to a memorable holiday trip and one that I will cherish for a very long time. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.