By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



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Category — q. Reviews

Accommodations and Theming at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, see this.)

ACCOMMODATIONS AND THEMING AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS FRENCH QUARTER RESORT

Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Port Orleans French Quarter is one of 5 moderate resorts at Walt Disney World:

The moderates have much more room than the value resorts, more amenities, and (except for Fort Wilderness) much better landscaping. See this for what you get by Disney World price class.

disneys-port-orleans-french-quarter-resort-from-yourfirstvisit-net-2

Although the typical moderate rooms, at 314 square feet (the cabins have 508 square feet), look much smaller than the rooms available at the deluxe resorts, differences in hall/entry layout make the living space of the typical moderates much more comparable to many Walt Disney World deluxes than raw square footage would imply. See this for more on square footage and livability.

Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort is officially “inspired by the romance and pageantry of the historic French Quarter in New Orleans…” where you can “…stroll cobblestone walkways and gaze down ornate wrought-iron railings as you listen to the smooth jazz backdrop and breathe in the sweet smell of magnolia blossoms in the air.”

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Port Orleans French Quarter has 1008 rooms in seven buildings. These buildings are divided into a “North Quarter” and “South Quarter,” but, unlike other separately named sections of moderate resorts, have no difference in theming between them.

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Rather, all share the same graceful New Orleans theming, and lovely walkways, gardens  and intimate courtyards.

The three story buildings have vertical sections divided by color, ironwork patters, and roof lines to create a bit of a townhouse feel.

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This is successful in some treatments…

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…but is mostly too low-contrast to be of much notice.

Most of the landscaping of the North Quarter is more intimate and romantic, with more of a street-scape and private garden feel, while the South Quarter is more open with more of a park-like feel. But this will vary by your room location.

Most rooms sleep four two queen beds, but rooms  that sleep two on one king bed are also available. According to Andre Willey’s invaluable PortOrleans.org,

“French Quarter rooms come in five category options: Standard (mostly parking lot views), Garden View, Pool View, River View, and King Bed (which are all corner rooms and could have any of the previous view types).”

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The river view.

Connecting rooms and and accessible rooms are also available. To the room capacities of four and two you can add one additional child who will be younger than three at your visit and who will sleep in a crib.

Prices for these bed and view categories vary. Search “Mousesavers.com Port Orleans French Quarter Room Rates” for the latest.

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The floor plan of a standard two-queen room.

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…and a shot of it.

These two images come from a detailed photo tour of a two-queen room at Port Orleans French Quarter here.

Among the moderates, Port Orleans French Quarter’s strength for first time visitors is its compactness and ease of getting around. Its biggest negative is its lack of visual kid appeal.

Returning visitors often find Port Orleans French Quarter to be a favorite, particularly if they have stayed before in one of the enormous moderates and therefore appreciate its relatively compact area all the more, and/or fall in love with the romantic setting. It’s my personal favorite among the moderates, and also the most romantic of the moderates.

See this for more on distinctions among the moderates.

PHOTO TOUR OF A STANDARD ROOM AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS FRENCH QUARTER RESORT

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January 4, 2017   2 Comments

Dining at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, see this.)

DINING AT PORT ORLEANS FRENCH QUARTER

Port Orleans French Quarter has one main dining option, the refurbed-in-2016 Sassagoula Float Works food court, and two minor options–the inside and pool bars.

Scat Cat's Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Across from the main entry hall of Port Orleans Square you’ll find the bar, Scat Cat’s Club…

Scat Cats Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…with entertainment many evenings, and, more to the point, bar food–important as there is no sit-down restaurant here. (Mardi Gras Fritters are the specialty of the house.)

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The main food court, the Sassagoula Float Works and Food Factory, was refurbed in 2016 and lost much of its prior distinctive Mardi Gras decorations.

Food Court Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

Above is what it used to look like.

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And here’s what it looks like now…

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It looks better at night.

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It retains only the lightest of Mardi Gras theming here…

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…and there.

Food Court Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

You order and pay for your food in a small area that not only did not get larger in the refurb (above is the old area)…

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…but actually lost some space due to a larger central shelving point.

The food quality–most of what matters–improved after the refurb. Josh really liked his catfish rice bowl.

Josh’s post also has images of the menus that were up the night we went there, and you can also see them online here.

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I marveled at the new drink dispensers. (Josh’s discussion of them noted that his dad would be confused…but his picture of a confused person trying them was actually of me–it was a kindness of his to not out my ineptness…but I eventually figured them out.)

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Peach Sprite, who knew it would be so good?

Port Orleans French Quarter is the only moderate without a table-service restaurant. It used to have one–Bonfamille’s Cafe–but it was shut down in at the turn of the century as a cost-saving move, and has never been re-opened (it’s now used as a test kitchen).

Even so despite the cramped size and long lines I do like the food court at Port Orleans French Quarter quite a bit–especially the beignets, made while you wait, and the barbecued ribs with sides of corn bread, collard greens and mashed potatoes! If I am staying at Riverside I’ll usually make my way here for beignets and greens.

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If you want a table service meal, Boatwrights at Port Orleans French Quarter is about a half mile walk or boat ride away. The increasingly great restaurants of Disney Springs are also accessible by boat.

Outside, the pool bar also offers a few snacks:

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The online pool bar menu is here.

And speaking of the pool…

THE POOL AT PORT ORLEANS FRENCH QUARTER

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January 4, 2017   No Comments

Review: Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas

OVERVIEW: KIDANI VILLAGE AT DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM VILLAS FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS

Review - Kidani Village from yourfirstvisit.net

Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas (a Disney Vacation Club resort) is a wonderful place for returning visitors to Walt Disney World to stay.

review-kidani-village-at-disneys-animal-kingdom-lodge-from-yourfirstvisit-netFor typical first-time visitors, I don’t recommend the Disney Vacation Club resorts.

That said, these “DVC” resorts can be a great choice for first time visitors with large families, needing extra sleeping spaces, or looking for a more comfortable place to stay.

Among the Disney Vacation Club resorts, Kidani Village ranks second or third, depending on room type.

THE DISNEY VACATION CLUB RESORTS

You can have a spectacular visit at any Walt Disney World resort. However, this site recommends that typical first time visitors to Walt Disney World avoid the Disney Vacation Club resorts, while noting that these resorts are wonderful for visits after the first. (You can find extensive detail on the DVC resorts here.)

This recommendation comes from the simple fact that the distinguishing feature of these resorts–extra space and full kitchens–will not be of much value to first-time visitors following one of the itineraries on this site, as they won’t be used much.

That said, the Disney Vacation Club resorts represent more than 10% of Walt Disney World’s total rooms, and are very appropriate for first time visitors with large families, needing extra sleeping spaces, or looking for a more comfortable place to stay.

Because of this, I’m providing a series of up-to-date reviews. I’ve stayed in six different villas and studios in Kidani Village, most recently in January 2017, and this review is based on those stays. It includes:

Note: Kidani is undergoing a mild refurb expected to end in early 2017.

ACCOMMODATIONS AT KIDANI VILLAGE

Kidani Village has four room types

  • Studios, which sleep four in a space similar to a regular hotel room
  • One Bedroom Villas, which sleep five in a two bay space, one bay a master suite with a king bed and the second bay offering another bath and living, dining and kitchen spaces, with fold-out beds for three
  • Two Bedroom Villas, which sleep nine and essentially combine a One Bedroom Villa and a Studio
  • Grand Villas, which sleep 12 in a two story space twice the size of a Two Bedroom Villa.

Resorts are ranked on this site for first time visitors based first on their kid appeal, and then on their convenience.

On this basis, Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas comes in third overall of the Disney Vacation Club resorts.

(See this for resort rankings.)

However, there’s a little variability here depending on room type and family size.

Zebra Sunset Savanna Kidani Village from yourfirstvisit.net

That said, some unique room features make Kidani Village a better choice than Jambo House for some first time family visitors.

Kidani Village has a number of very strong positives.

  • It is one of only a few Disney Vacation Club resorts that can fit 5 people in a One-Bedroom villa, or 9 into a Two-Bedroom.
  • Along with Jambo House, it uniquely presents savanna views of animals roaming.
  • Changes it reflects to the older layouts of the typical Disney Vacation Club villas makes it among the most livable of DVC one bedroom villas.
    • The kitchen/dining/living room area has been both widened and deepened.
    • This extra space has been used to add both a second full bath to One-Bedroom Villas, and enough living space in the living room that it can be used even if the fold-out sleeper sofa is being used.
    • (These features carry over to two bedroom villas as well.)

Much more on accommodations at Kidani Village begins here, including photo tours of all the major accommodation spaces.

DINING AT KIDANI VILLAGE

Dining at Kidani is wonderful, but for a hotel that can sleep almost 3,000 people, it is quite limited.

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The principal venue is the wonderful Sanaa, with a quick service breakfast in the morning and table service lunch and dinner the rest of the day.

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There’s also a few lunch-style items at the pool bar, and a reasonable stock of food for the 300+ full kitchens here in the gift shop.

Sunset Savanna Kidani Village from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

There’s more options at Jambo House, but because of the architectural layout of Kidani–which is designed to maximize the number of rooms with savanna views–it can be more than a mile’s walk to the quick service eatery in the main Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House facility.

Besides walking, you can take one of the park buses–ask the driver if its next stop is Jambo–or the van shuttle available at the guest drop off outside the lobby.

For more on dining at Kidani Village, see the second half of this page.

THE POOL AT KIDANI VILLAGE

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The pool at Kidani, Samawati Springs pool, is among the more fully featured and delightful of the Disney World pools.

Kidani guests can also use the pool at Jambo House.

There’s a detailed overview of Kidani Village’s pool here.

KID APPEAL AND CONVENIENCE AT KIDANI VILLAGE

Kid Appeal. Both of the Disney Vacation Club resorts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge–Kidani Village and Jambo House–have stunning kid appeal based on the views of wild animals available from the balconies of rooms with savanna views, and from many public areas.

In addition, the Jambo House Villas have a jaw-dropping lobby.

Lobby Kidani Village from yourfirstvisit.net

Kidani Village has its own lobby.  While lovely and charming for adults, it simply does not compare to the kid impact of Jambo house. (The image is from one of my holiday visits; your Christmas decorations may vary…There’s a view of the lobby windows at the top right of this page.)

Convenience. Both of the Animal Kingdom Lodge DVC properties are incredibly convenient to the Animal Kingdom theme park.  (You cannot walk there, however–buses or driving are the only options.) They are distant from the other three Walt Disney World theme parks.

Just as Jambo House is more kid-appealing, it is more convenient for first-time visitors than Kidani Village. Kidani’s basic convenience problems are long walks and limited access to quick-service dining.

Kidani Village from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

Kidani Village is a separate set of buildings on the Animal Kingdom Lodge campus, and does not have within it a permanent regular quick service dining establishment.

Kidani Village also has some distinctive negatives, mostly already notedits distance from theme parks other than the Animal Kingdom, and its limited quick service dining.

BEST AND WORST ROOMS AT KIDANI VILLAGE

For those seeking an Animal Kingdom Lodge Disney Vacation Club experience, for most room types, Jambo House is a better choice than Kidani Village.

  • Studio rooms: Prefer Jambo House, because of the stunning lobby and better access to quick service dining
  • One-bedroom Villas: Prefer Kidani Village, for a much more livable floor plan, with extra size and a bath for each sleeping space
  • Two-bedroom Villas:
    • Families that can fit into two beds in one bedroom, and a king in a second, should prefer Jambo House for its lobby and dining flexibility
    • Families that need to use the sleeper sofa and/or sleeper chair in the combined living/dining/kitchen space should prefer Kidani Village for its extra size and third bath
  • Grand Villas: Prefer Jambo House for more square footage, the kid appeal of the lobby, and more convenient dining

Kidani Village from yourfirstvisit.net (800x507)

If you do reserve Kidani Village, request a savanna view room on the third or fourth floor (these floors provides the best views).

  • If quick service dining at Jambo is also an issue for you, ask for a savanna view room near the Jambo House. Specifically, ask for a room near the Zazu elevator.  (The best of these are even numbered rooms 7338-7346 on the third floor, and 7438-7452 on the fourth floor.)
  • If quick service dining is not an issue, request a savanna view room between the lobby and the elevator most convenient to the pool–the Rafiki elevator.  Even numbered rooms 7614-7622 on the third floor, and 7814-7820 on the fourth floor, are the best of these.

Kidani Village Online Check-in from yourfirstvisit.net

The online check-in form will not let you get this specific, so you’ll need to call.

Map of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net
The map shows all of the Animal Kingdom Lodge complex–Kidani Village in on the left. Note how far the most distant Kidani rooms are from the center of Kidani. I get them as about a quarter mile away.

BEST FOR:

Larger families, families seeking a bit of extra privacy or more beds, families looking for a more comfortable place to stay, families looking for particularly kid-appealing space.

WORST FOR:

Families on a budget, families looking for a particularly convenient place to stay.

MORE ON THEMING AND ACCOMMODATIONS AT KIDANI VILLAGE

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Theming and Accommodations at Disney’s Kidani Village

(For the first page of this review of Kidani Village, see this.)

THEMING AND ACCOMMODATIONS AT KIDANI VILLAGE

Review Kidani Village from yourfirstvisit.net
There are currently ten official Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World.

Back of Lobby Kidani Village from yourfirstvisit.net

Because the two sets of options at the Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge and Saratoga Springs are so different, and the Polynesian offering is so distinctive, for review purposes I count a total of twelve resorts, but rank only eleven.

Their overall ranking for first time family visitors is as follows:

  1. Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (after 7/17)
  2. Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (after 7/17)
  3. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas–Jambo House
  4. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas–Kidani Village
  5. Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  6. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
  7. Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  8. Disney’s Boardwalk Villas
  9. Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  10. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, main resort
  11. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, Treehouse Villas area

My rankings exclude the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, as it does not offer one or two bedroom villas. If the ranking were based solely on studios, the Polynesian offering would be near the top.

These resorts are available to anyone to reserve through the regular Walt Disney World website or the resort reservations phone number at 407-939-7675.

They also are available to the general public at great discounts through renting points from a Disney Vacation Club member.

 THE THEMING OF KIDANI VILLAGE

Review Kidani Village from yourfirstvisit.net

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas are described on Walt Disney World’s Disney Vacation Club website as a place where you can

“immerse yourself in the wonders of the wild, surrounded by colorful creatures … Delight in African-inspired details while you relax in accommodations that capture the adventurous atmosphere of the wild. Feel at home in this village alive with the spirit of the savanna.”

The Art of Kidani Village from yourfirstvisit.net (8)

The two Disney Vacation Club areas here–Kidani Village and Jambo House Villas–share resources with Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The original Animal Kingdom Lodge opened in April, 2001, as the most unique resort hotel at Walt Disney World, and one of the more unique in the world.

Kidani Village Savanna ViewThis distinction came partly from its stunning lobby, partly from its glorious African art and theming, but mostly from the fact that more than half of the rooms overlook “savannas” filled with wild animals.

Sipping your morning coffee on your balcony with a giraffe 50 feet away needs to be experienced to be believed…

The original Animal Kingdom Lodge also included two table service restaurants, a quick-service dining area, a pool and an exercise area.

In 2008, Disney completed converting some of the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s rooms into Disney Vacation Club rooms, and in 2009 it opened Kidani Village, a separate Disney Vacation Club building with its own lobby and check in area.

Kidani Village Pool 2Kidani Village also has its own pool, workout area, and adds a third sit-down restaurant to the complex, Sanaa.

When Disney World opened Kidani Village, it renamed the original Animal Kingdom Lodge as Jambo House, to limit–or perhaps simply re-nominalize–confusion between it, its check-in area, and its DVC rooms, and those at Kidani Village.

Among the DVC resorts, Kidani Village’s strengths for first time visitors are its views of animals–especially if you reserve a savanna-view room–its spacious and very livable One and Two Bedroom Villa floor plans, and the fact the One Bedroom Villas can sleep 5 and Two-Bedroom Villas can sleep 9.

Kidani Village’s restaurant, Sanaa–with an Indian-influenced African menu–is also delightful for adults, but has limited options for kids.

ACCOMMODATIONS AT KIDANI VILLAGE

All Disney Vacation Club resorts except the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows have studio rooms, One-Bedroom Villas, and Two-Bedroom Villas.

Most have Grand Villas as well.

Kidani Village floor plans of all room types are on this page.

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At Kidani Village, Studios sleep four and have a mini kitchen that adds a microwave and toaster to the usual coffeemaker and mini fridge found in all deluxe rooms.

A photo tour of a Studio begins here.

One-Bedroom Villas have a master bedroom with a king and a private master bath.

They have as well a particularly livable full kitchen/dining/living space with a second bath, and sleep 5.

The three additional sleeping spots are on fold-out furniture in the living space.

Two-Bedroom Villas add a second bedroom with a queen and a sleeper sofa (two queens in some rooms) to the amenities of a One-Bedroom, and sleep 9.

Grand Villas at Kidani Village sleep 12 in a little less than twice the space of a Two-Bedroom Villa, in three bedrooms (one with a king, and two with two queens) plus sleeper sofas.

At Kidani Village, Grand Villas are two-story spaces.

The master bedroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen are on the first floor, and the two other bedrooms are on the second.

Also on the second floor is a smaller sitting area, lofted to the main living room.

(To each of the capacity figures above, you can add one more kid under 3 at time of check in who sleeps in a crib.)

PHOTO TOUR OF A STUDIO AT KIDANI VILLAGE

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Photo Tour of a Refurbed Studio at Kidani Village

(For the first page of this review of Kidani Village, see this.)

PHOTO TOUR OF A REFURBED STUDIO AT KIDANI VILLAGE

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Kidani Village has four room types–Studios, One Bedroom Villas, Two Bedroom Villas, and Grand Villas.

In some two Bedroom Villas, the Studio is the second bedroom. These are called “lock-offs.” In others, built from the start as Two Bedroom Villas, and called “dedicated,” the second bedroom is a little different than a Studio. In these,

  • The kitchenette is replaced with a second closet, and the wardrobe is replaced with a storage bench
  • There’s no entry to the outside hall from the second bedroom
  • Instead of a queen and a fold out couch, you get two queens

All Kidani rooms are seeing a minor refurb–this is expected to be completed in early 2017. I stayed in refurbed Studios twice in later 2016, and the images of this photo tour are from those visits.

You enter a Studio from the hall or, if in a lock-off, either from the hall or from a door near the connecting One Bedroom Villa’s kitchen.

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The entry from the hall.

One side of the entry has a mini-kitchen and a small closet.

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The mini kitchen has a coffee maker, toaster, microwave and mini-fridge.

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The supplies that come with it.

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The mini fridge.

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The small closet–there’s another clothes storage space in a wardrobe in the main part of the room.

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Across the hall you’ll find the divided bath, with the sink…

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…and tub/shower on one side…

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…and a toilet in its own space on the other. I think a better way to have divided this bath would have been to have put the tub and the toilet into their own private space, keeping only the sink in the other space.

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Deeper in the room you’ll find on one side a queen and a fold-out sofa.

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A closer view of the queen.

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This side from the back.

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Between the bed and sofa is this small bedside table, with a bit of storage and also added power points.

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The sofa folds out into a bed which I measured as 60 inches wide by 79 inches long.  The cushion is only around three inches deep, so I would not plan to sleep adults or larger kids on it.

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The coffee table is split, making its parts easier to move when you need to unfold the bed, and I suppose also more flexible.

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The other side of the room has a wardrobe, TV/dresser combo, and table and chairs.

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This side from the back.

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The wardrobe, when combined with the small entry closet, creates plenty of hanging room.

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A closer look at the dresser/TV combo.

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The dresser has plenty of storage for the four people this space fits…

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…and also has two sets of added power points, left and right.

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The last furnishing on this side is a table and chairs.

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Each bay at Kidani Village has access to a balcony–given how much fun it is to watch the animals in the savannas from the balconies, this is a great feature.

THE LIVING/DINING/KITCHEN SPACE AT KIDANI VILLAGE

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Living/Kitchen/Dining Space at Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas

(For the first page of this review of Kidani Village, see this.)

THE LIVING/DINING/KITCHEN SPACE AT KIDANI VILLAGE

The living/dining/kitchen area at Kidani Village is identical in both One and Two Bedroom Villas. Unlike other DVC villas except those at Bay Lake Tower, the living/kitchen/dining space has its own bath.

These spaces completed a refurb, with wall colors lightened, fabrics simplified, and more power points added, in 2017. This photo tour is of a refurbed villa.

Also like Bay Lake Tower, these villas are more livable than the group that immediately preceded them (Saratoga Springs, Beach Club Villas, Villas at the Wilderness Lodge, and the BoardWalk Villas) not only because of the extra bath, but also because of  the larger kitchen and a dining table and living room that each are larger and seat more.

You enter into a hall with a closet on one side and a bath on the other.

The hall closet has a bit of a clothes rod and the washer-dryer unit.

There’s a small full bath on the other side (there’s another bath in the master bedroom space).

Further in you’ll find the galley kitchen, larger and with more counter space than those in the four offerings noted above.

Outside the kitchen proper is this breakfast bar.

Inside the kitchen on one side is the fridge, range, and microwave…

…and on the other side the sink and some other small appliances.

As in all DVC kitchens, you’ll find this one stocked with all the basics you need to prep, cook and serve meals.

The refrigerator.

In the rest of the room, on one side you’ll find the dining area and part of the living space.

This side from the back.

The dining table, while bigger than most in DVC rooms, is still not large enough for the nine people a Two bedroom Villa can hold.

The living area includes a couch and a large easy chair, and seats four to five–more with chairs brought in from other areas of the villa.

The couch…

…converts into a bed that I measured as 60 inches wide by 75 inches long, on a four inch cushion. It was more comfortable than many other DVC couch beds.

The easy chair…

…converts into a bed that I measured as 30 inches by 75 inches, also with a four inch cushion–it’s more comfortable than the couch.

The presence of both these means that unlike many DVC villas, One Bedroom Villas at Kidani Village can sleep five, and Two bedroom Villas nine.

The design of the various connecting doors means that no one needs to walk through this area while it is  in use for sleeping to get to another room–not true of all DVC villas, and another feature making the design of this space more livable.

The final elements of this space are the balcony–which you can see between the beds above–and the dresser, with large TV above.

Four storage drawers in the dresser, when combined with the closet at the entry, provides plenty of storage for the three people this room will sleep.

As part of the refurb, the dresser got added power points at both sides. Each has two plugs and two USB chargers, for a total of eight power points.

THE MASTER BEDROOM AND BATH AT KIDANI VILLAGE

This review continues here!

The 2017 easy Guide

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December 18, 2016   No Comments