Walt Disney World Resort has many resort hotels, and with all of the options, you might find yourself a little confused – especially if you’re not a Disney veteran.
First, you should understand that Disney World separates its hotels into three categories: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe.
Value resorts are the most affordable and the least fancy. They have basic amenities, but are still very nice. After all, it is Disney World. They are also set up like a motel where you enter your room from the exterior of the building.
Moderate resorts are in the medium price range and offer more amenities including better pools and restaurants. Some of these hotels have exterior entrances and some have interior doors.
Deluxe resorts are the most expensive resorts on property, and for good reason. They are elaborately themed, offer the best amenities, and usually have a little something extra.
Although these categories divide the hotels into price ranges, actual prices can vary wildly from resort to resort even in the same category.
There are also several perks that come with staying at a Disney World Resort Hotel including Disney’s Magical Express, which offers free transportation between Orlando International Airport and Disney World Resort, Extra Magic Hours, free transportation from your hotel to other locations on Disney World Property, and access to the Disney Dining Plan, among others.
Let’s take a look at the hotels individually.
Disney has three All-Star Resorts: Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, and Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort. Each resort is themed appropriately to its name, and they are quite fun.
The All-Star Resorts tend to be the least expensive value resorts on property, so they’re excellent for families who plan to spend most of their vacation in the parks and basically need a place to sleep at night. You can save a lot of money on lodging at these resorts, which is probably why they also tend to attract groups of high schoolers. All-Star Sports, specifically, hosts cheerleaders, football players, baseball players, and just about any other athletic group you can think of.
One really nice thing about these resorts is that you can easily walk between the three. This means there’s more to explore if you do spend time at your hotel, and there are more dining options! These resorts also tend to share a bus especially on off-peak hours, which might make your commute to or from the parks a bit longer.
Art of Animation
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is the newest and nicest value resort on Disney World property, and it’s also usually the most expensive. The suites are popular for families with more than one child who need a little more space than a regular room can offer. These larger rooms also mean higher prices though, and Disney often excludes Art of Animation rooms from special offers.
Families with children who have taken an interest in Disney’s animated movies will love this resort. From The Little Mermaid to Cars, Disney has included some of the best animated movies and their characters in this resort’s theming. Guests will also love the Blue Pool, which has a Finding Nemo theme and underwater speakers! It’s one of the best pools on property. The resort’s food court, Landscape of Flavors is also very popular with a ton of variety.
Disney’s Pop Century Resort pays tribute to the second half of the 20th century with themed buildings from the 1950s through the 1990s. Although this resort is just a little over a decade old, it can seem older because of the theming.
Because of this, Pop Century is best for the adult crowd. Since there isn’t much special here, you should plan to spend most of your time in the parks or doing other things. When you are at the resort, stop by the lobby to check out the decade shadow boxes. Pay special attention to the ’60s frame, which shows some early pictures of Disney World! You’ll also want to visit the Everything Pop Food Court and Gift Shop. Try the tie-dyed cheesecake, and don’t miss the throwback toys and snacks.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort provides the perfect backdrop for someone who secretly wanted a Caribbean vacation, but the family wanted to visit Disney World. There are beaches (to look at, not to swim in) and water making this a perfect resort for a relaxing stroll.
The moderate resorts tend to be more spread out than the other categories, which is why Caribbean Beach Resort has an internal bus system. Regardless, this is not a good resort for anyone who doesn’t like to or can’t walk a distance.
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort has a Colonial Mexican theme with three uniquely themed villages. It is a convention hotel, so it tends to be more upscale than the other moderate resorts. This also means that it has very little if any noticeable Disney theming. It is nonetheless very beautiful.
As such, this resort is perfect for couples who want a romantic vacation or adults who like a more sophisticated style. The Dig Site pool is one of the biggest attractions here. It’s set in Mayan ruins with a pyramid and a water slide. Other than that, the pool is pretty plain, but there is a large hot tub in the area.
Port Orleans Riverside
Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort has strong southern vibe with Louisiana-style mansions and winding stairs sitting waterfront. Port Orleans Riverside is great for families with children who like princesses. The theming is elaborate with fireworks on the headboard, gilded faucets in the bathrooms, and elaborately themed common areas. All of this makes the resort feel upscale, but it is actually very well-priced.
Port Orleans Riverside is a very difficult resort to navigate, and many people get lost here. There’s a lot of walking, but guests will enjoy the lush grounds, ferry rides, horse drawn carriages, and surrey bikes.
Port Orleans French Quarter
Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter is in very close proximity to Port Orleans Riverside, but the two are very different. The French Quarter puts guests right in the middle of Bourbon Street in a very city-like setting. It’s small, which makes getting to the parks easy.
Sassagoula Floatworks is the only place on property that you can get beignets, so you won’t want to miss these tasty little donuts!
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort has both cabins and campsites. The cabins offer such amenities as a grill and a patio making it feel more like a vacation home rental than a hotel.
Fort Wilderness is excellent for larger families or groups of friends who want to stay together and have privacy in a relaxing environment. Fort Wilderness has a lot of recreational activities including everything from archery and horseback riding to boating and fishing. They also recently started an in-house grocery service meaning your refrigerator and freezer can be stocked just the way you like it upon your arrival! This is also home to The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, which is among the oldest entertainment on property. Despite all that this resort has to offer, if you don’t like the idea of “roughing it” even a little bit, you should avoid this resort.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has a Pacific Northwest theme with waterfalls, rock structures, and chalets. The rustic charm that this resort offers provides a relaxing and serene atmosphere to explore.
This resort is smaller when compared to the other resorts, but it’s a short walk to everything. There aren’t a ton of activities, but the Fire Rock Geyser, which erupts every 30 minutes, is a big attraction. With the laid-back environment, it’s a great place for adults who just want to relax.
Old Key West
Disney’s Old Key West Resort was the first Disney Vacation Club Property. The Florida Keys theme is beautiful, but it’s best for older guests since the kids might get bored here. There is, however, a waterslide amidst a huge sandcastle that old and young alike would love. With a ferry to and from Disney Springs, shopping and dining is just a quick ride away.
Saratoga Springs Resort has a New York Victorian Age theme. It’s close to Disney Springs and golfing. There is also a spa on-site, a hard-to-find amenity among Disney resort hotels.
Saratoga Springs also has DVC locations. There are condos and treehouse villas that are like vacation homes and can sleep up to nine adults comfortably. Families will enjoy this resort for the fun and unique atmosphere, but young children might be bored here.
Disney’s Boardwalk Inn feels like a turn-of-the-century Atlantic Boardwalk complete with amusements. It’s also a DVC location, so there are a ton of options making it a great family resort. It’s also close to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which are both within walking distance. The pool here has an awesome wooden rollercoaster waterslide, but the clown might creep some people out.
One of the best parts of this resort is the Boardwalk itself. With dining, shopping, and fun snacks, you can’t go wrong. For the over 21 crowd, Jellyrolls Dueling Piano Bar offers great nightlife.
Disney’s Yacht Club has a nautical theme in Old New England style. It is a short walk to Epcot, particularly World Showcase’s International Gateway, and to Hollywood Studios. It’s also home to the best pool on Disney property: Stormalong Bay. This water park area is complete with water slides, a lazy river, and a sand-bottom pool- the only one on property. It’s a good resort for families, but very young children may not be able to get the full enjoyment out of Stormalong Bay.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort is the Yacht Club’s sister resort meaning that it also has access to Stormalong Bay. It’s a bit closer to Epcot, so if that’s important choose this resort.
The Beach Club is also home to Beaches and Cream, which serves up the famous Kitchen Sink dessert. This is a must do for ice cream lovers, but make sure there’s at least a few people eating because this thing is massive!
Disney’s Contemporary Resort was one of the first resorts on property, and it’s built in a modern A-frame architectural style. The theming here is fabulous complete with a Mary Blair, the artist who created It’s a Small World, mural in the lobby. California Grill is one of the best restaurants on property, and it’s a great place to view the fireworks.
This resort is very close to Magic Kingdom– it’s literally across the street- so you can easily walk to and from, totally bypassing the buses. If you choose not to walk or you spent the day at Epcot, the monorail, which runs right through the middle of the resort, will get you back to your resort. Bay Lake Tower DVC location is also here. Because of all of this hustle and bustle, this is not a good resort for people who want a quiet, relaxing vacation. With dining, gift shops, and an arcade in the lobby, this resort is often lively long into the evening making it perfect for night owls.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is set in the middle of a wildlife preserve that is themed like an African Safari. This is an excellent hotel for anyone who enjoys wildlife regardless of their age. Because it’s like a park in itself, you need to reserve ample time to enjoy the intricacies of this resort including the up-close animal encounters and the amazing dining at Boma, Jiko, and Sanna, which are all world-class restaurants.
This resort is also very close to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which is now open into the evening hours and promises even more nighttime entertainment to come. If you plan to spend a lot of time in Animal Kingdom, this is the resort for you.
Disney’s Polynesian Resort has a South Pacific vibe. Although it is one of the original Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, it has recently been rehabbed with new DVC over-the-water bungalows added and the décor updated. Ohana, home to tonga toast, is a delicious restaurant, and you won’t want to miss the Dole Whip. This is the only place outside of the parks that you can find it. Spirit of Aloha is also a fun dinner show that the whole family can enjoy.
In close proximity to Magic Kingdom, this is one of my favorite places to watch the fireworks beachfront. Because of its location, it’s not as laid back as a Hawaiian vacation might be, but it’s great for people who want easy access to Magic Kingdom and Epcot via the monorail.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is the most expensive Disney Resort Hotel, but it is also Disney’s flagship resort. Amenities include the monorail, DVC rooms, poolside cabanas, and the wedding pavilion.
This resort is great for guests of any age because it offers everything from a princess tea party to one of the most exclusive restaurants on property: Victoria and Albert’s. For a middle-of-the-road experience here, try 1900 Park Fare, which is a character dining experience.