Magic at every budget: These are the best hotels at Walt Disney World
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There were just a couple of resort hotels when Walt Disney World first opened 50 years ago, but now there are more than two dozen resort hotels to choose from.
These aren’t just your standard chain hotels where you’re getting basically the same product no matter what door you choose. The Walt Disney World resorts range from treehouse villas to rooms with views of live zebras and log cabins in the woods.
And that’s only counting official on-site Disney World hotels. There are hundreds of other properties in the Orlando area, some with pretty compelling Disney perks and benefits of their own.
But if you want a fully immersed experience in the “Disney Bubble,” you probably want to stay at a Disney resort hotel where you’ll have access to Disney themes, free transportation to and from the Orlando airport on the Magical Express Bus (though the end of 2021), access to early park admission and be as close as a short stroll or monorail ride to one of the theme parks.
Don’t worry your bedazzled Mickey ears over the threat of analysis paralysis in choosing the best Disney resort for you because we’ve considered the best (and not so best) features of nearly every Disney World resort hotel. Whether you’re looking to be treated like a fairy tale princess or a grown-up who just happens to be staying near a theme park, Disney World has you covered.
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To choose the best hotel at Disney World for your family, there are a couple of baseline facts you should know.
First, know that Disney World separates its resorts into three main categories: Deluxe, Moderate and Value, with nightly rates that generally correspond to those tiers. Since it isn’t fair to compare a Deluxe resort room costing upwards of $400 – $600 to a $125 per night Value resort, we’ve outlined the best choices in a few different categories.
- Best Deluxe Disney World resorts: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Best Moderate Disney World resort: Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- Best Value Disney World resort: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Best Disney World resort pools: Disney’s Yacht or Beach Club Resort and Art of Animation Resort
- Best Disney World resorts for large families: Disney’s Treehouse Villas, Art of Animation Resort family suites and Disney Vacation Club villas
- Best for easy access to the Magic Kingdom: The Contemporary Resort
- Best Disney World resorts for easy access to Epcot and Hollywood Studios: BoardWalk Inn, Beach and Yacht Club and Swan and Dolphin Resorts
- Best Disney World resort for an escape from Disney: Disney’s Riviera Resort and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Best Disney World Resorts using hotel points: Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort
- Best Disney Resort if you win the lottery: Copper Creek Cabins
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Best Deluxe Disney World resorts
Deluxe resorts are the most expensive. In some cases, they offer luxury amenities like spas and fancy dining, while others emphasize great themes and close proximity to the parks. In all cases, you’re unlikely to be disappointed by much at most of these properties (except maybe the sticker shock).
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
We almost warn against staying at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort because it’s going to set the bar pretty high for future Disney resort stays.
One of the original Disney World resort hotels inspired by Walt himself, Polynesian Village sits on the monorail only a few minutes from Magic Kingdom — yet it feels like you’ve been transported to a lush Pacific island as soon as you enter.
The proximity to Magic Kingdom is great, but it’s not the only reason Polynesian Village is at the top of our list.
These resort hotel rooms just underwent a Moana-theming renovation and now have a fresh, modern look and feel. Also at the Poly are a couple of our favorite Disney restaurants. There’s ‘Ohana, located within the main building of the Polynesian which recently reopened after a long pandemic closure. The noodles and ‘Ohana Bread Pudding are standouts on the menu!
There are plenty of activities on the grounds, including free movies outside at night. If you’re just looking to relax, head outside to watch the fireworks from the nearby Magic Kingdom and the Electrical Water Pageant that floats by on the water. We also recommend that you make time to grab a drink at Trader Sam’s, where it rains, volcanoes erupt and kids are welcome until 8 p.m.
The Polynesian is also where you’ll find the Polynesian Villas and overwater bungalows. You can rent these (and some other studio rooms) for a bit less with rented Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points, but it’s still going to be a splurge for the limited overwater options.
Standard rooms at the Poly are expensive and right now are often starting about $500 per night, with the overwater options costing several times that amount. And while you don’t have as many points-friendly ways to reduce the price at Disney as you would at a Marriott or Hilton, you can use fixed-value points from a card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to help offset the expense. Right now, that card has a bonus of 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, which can be used towards Disney hotel charges.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
A true safari involves incredibly long flights and the possibility of malaria pills. Animal Kingdom Lodge offers an unforgettable wildlife experience without either. Away from the bustle of most of the rest of the Disney World complex, Animal Kingdom Lodge is its own ecosystem.
The soaring ceilings at Jambo House are adorned with traditional decor, and just past the lobby, you’ll see expansive windows beyond which are giraffes, zebras, ostriches and a whole host of other animals.
Again, dining at this Deluxe resort will be a highlight of your stay. Boma and Jiko are both excellent choices if you want to experience an authentic African meal. Sanaa is preferable if you want views of the savanna while you eat.
The pools are great, but they’re one of the few spots on the property where you’ll lose sight of the wildlife.
Many activities here involve intimate experiences with the animals, including semiprivate tours such as day and night safaris. Complete with night vision devices, you might be surprised that the Starlight Safari won’t completely break your bank.
Animal Kingdom Lodge has standard hotel rooms as well as a concierge club level during normal operations. It’s another excellent use of rented DVC points if your family wants more space while saving money. The only downside is you may have a bit of a walk to your room, but in exchange, you’ll typically enjoy excellent savanna views. Standard rooms typically cost $300 to $500 per night.
Related: Is Disney Club Level worth it?
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Another original Disney World resort from 1971, Disney’s Contemporary Resort is about as close you can get to Magic Kingdom without pitching a tent inside the gates (and getting kicked out by security). In fact, this is our top pick if you want to be easy, walkable distance to the Magic Kingdom. It may have been built more than give decades ago, but the amenities inside have been updated and the rooms just got an incredible new look.
And, what isn’t cool about the monorail track going through the middle of the hotel?
The Contemporary Resort is a short walk or monorail stop away from Magic Kingdom — if you don’t mind the steps, walking can actually be faster. Normally, you can also continue on the monorail for an easy one-stop connection to Epcot.
The Contemporary Resort has a large pool but not a ton of additional outdoor activities, as it’s surrounded by water and theme parks. In normal times, you can fish or rent a boat to tour Bay Lake. Rooms here also boast some of the best fireworks views in all of Walt Disney World.
A few of our favorite Disney World restaurants are on-site here. For a meal with characters (think: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto), Chef Mickey’s is a top choice.
This isn’t a cheap meal, but this is a sure-fire place to be able to see characters from a safe distance as one of the reopened character meals.
For something a bit more upscale, California Grill at the Contemporary has a diverse menu ranging from sushi to grilled bison, plus wine, craft beer and sake.
This hotel is also home to the brand new Steakhouse 71 which features menu items with a story that harkens back to the days of Walt Disney himself.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Yacht Club Resort
The biggest reason to stay at Disney’s Beach Club Resort is in the name. The Beach and Yacht Club‘s shared 3-acre waterpark, Stormalong Bay, is a favorite among families.
With that amazing pool complex, you really don’t even have to leave your hotel for a day of water fun. A ticket to one of Disney’s awesome water parks normally starts around $70 (without a Park Hopper Plus ticket), but visiting Stormalong Bay instead can help justify the room rates here.
Older kids can climb the shipwreck and slide 230 feet into the plunge pool, while younger kids will have no problem navigating the zero-entry pool from the “beach” just outside the hotel. And, there are three other pools scattered across the grounds, too. Disney’s Yacht Club shares these amenities with Beach Club.
Related: Review of Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
The Beach Club and Yacht Club are centrally located in Disney World and have a ton of transportation options. Boats and walking trails connect the properties with Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
The Grand Floridian is probably the most “traditional” high-end hotel at Disney World.
You won’t find a ton of character themes, but you will find some of the most upscale amenities, including a spa and the fanciest (and priciest) restaurant at Disney. It’s one of Disney World’s most expensive resorts, thanks to its proximity to Magic Kingdom and amenities, with rates often starting at $500 per night or more, even for standard rooms, with rates going above $700 for pretty standard rooms at peak times.
In addition to the monorail stop, there are water taxis that take you across Bay Lake to the park entrance. And, newly added is a walking path to the Magic Kingdom, so you don’t need to rely on any transportation at all. In short, getting to and from Magic Kingdom isn’t a problem from the Grand Floridian.
Dining is another highlight here. While it hasn’t reopened yet, Victoria & Albert’s is the finest dining you can find at Disney World. A true five-star experience with a dress code and no kids under 10, guests can choose between the dining room, a private chef’s table or Queen Victoria’s Room for a truly special occasion. With everything from caviar to fine wines, be prepared for a big bill.
1900 Park Fare is also excellent and a bit easier on the budget. The redesigned Enchanted Rose bar on the second level of the Grand Floridian’s lobby, inspired by “Beauty and the Beast,” is a (popular) upscale place to sip your evening cocktail.
Personally, with so many freshly renovated options, we are holding off on booking this deluxe hotel until it debuts renovated rooms and new DVC studios as shown below beginning in the summer of 2022.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Located a short drive or boat ride from the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is equal parts Great Wolf Lodge, Yellowstone National Park and Disney magic — and there are great attractions and restaurants on-site, including a water feature that starts in the lobby and becomes a creek that feeds into one of two outdoor pools.
For a fun, reasonably priced family dining experience, try Whispering Canyon Cafe (fair warning: during normal times, you better love ketchup if you ask for it). Or, once it returns, dine with the Evil Queen at one of our favorite dining experiences, Storybook Dining at Artist Point. If you want truly special accommodations and budget isn’t a problem, book the Copper Creek Cabins located in the woods adjacent to Wilderness Lodge or the truly spectacular two-bedroom Yosemite Suite.
Regardless of your exact room type, know that it’s different than Disney’s Fort Wilderness campground but just as special.
Rooms at this property just debuted a new look, too.
Best Moderate Disney World resorts
Moderate resorts at Disney World represent something of a challenge when it comes to vacation planning. Accommodations at some of these properties are certainly better than the Value resorts (and a notch below Deluxe resorts), but they tend not to have immersive themes like those priced both above and below this tier.
But, as always, there are standouts in every category. Prices at Disney Moderate resorts often cost between $200 and $400 per night.
The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
One of Disney World’s least-known resorts is also one of the most entertaining.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort has plenty of campsites and RV spots. If you’re not interested in either, the cabins at Fort Wilderness are an excellent choice. They’re almost too good in that you’ll want to enjoy all of the onsite activities when you may have already planned to spend all of your time at the theme parks.
The cabins sleep up to six people, with a queen bed, two bunk beds and a relatively comfortable pull-out sofa.
Just trust us on one essential expense when staying at Fort Wilderness: Golf carts. It’s about $60 per day, but you should definitely rent one if you stay here and reserve far in advance since they’re known to sell out.
Fort Wilderness is spread across 700 acres, so the golf cart will come in handy and is fun even if you have nowhere to go. Whether you’re heading to the Meadows Trading Post for snacks or venturing to the docks to head to Magic Kingdom, a golf cart makes Fort Wilderness an adventure.
Fort Wilderness has a nonstop list of activities you probably didn’t know you could do at Disney World, including pony rides, archery, fishing, wagon rides, horse-drawn carriages and evening campfire sing-a-longs. (Though the sing-a-longs are still on pause.) And, when the day winds down, we look forward to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue hopefully returning.
We have only one problem with Fort Wilderness, and that’s how impossible it is to choose between the excitement and charm of this property and the awesome theme parks. So, just set aside a day or two so you can do both.
Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Disney’s Coronado Springs was the definition of Moderate: an older resort with two-story buildings spread over a large property. The rooms are small, though they’ve recently been renovated. The main pool has an Aztec them and a little waterslide.
Coronado Springs is one of the few remaining Moderate resorts where the only complimentary transportation to the parks is the bus network and walking isn’t an option, given its distance to the parks. It’s a resort geared toward the convention crowd, with large restaurants focused on quick service. But, a funny thing changed recently that landed it on this best Disney resort hotels list.
Disney World built a new tower at Coronado Springs called the Gran Destino. This hotel within a hotel has a stunning lobby and an equally snazzy lobby bar. If you’re looking for a completely different perspective, let an elevator whisk you up to the 16th floor, where the rooftop Dahlia Lounge awaits — along with an award-winning wine list.
Gran Destino also has the distinction of being the only Moderate resort at Disney World with a club lounge option. That amenity is still closed for now, but when it opens, it’s a great way to make a moderate stay feel deluxe.
The Spanish themes of the resort are evident here, with sumptuous Serrano ham and Spanish cavas. But don’t worry, you’ll find plenty of games and books to entertain the kids while you enjoy the lounge.
Gran Destino Club Lounge (Photo by Ed Pizzarello/The Points Guy)
Best Disney Value resorts
Value resorts can be — wait for it — a way to get exceptional value with Disney resort perks, close proximity to the parks and the free Magical Express Bus to and from Orlando International Airport (MCO) until the end of 2021. They can also be a big disappointment.
Your mileage will vary, but if you’re on a serious budget for your Disney World vacation, they should be a consideration. Prices start a little over $100 per night and go up to nearly $300 per night on peak dates. But, for most of the year, rooms typically sell for under $200 per night.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Disney’s Art of Animation is the king of Value resorts at Disney World. It’s the newest of the category and has a whole lot going for it. The experience isn’t exactly the same as at our favorite Moderate and Deluxe resorts, but Art of Animation can easy on your pocketbook while still offering a good amount of magic.
The Art of Animation resort is filled with bright colors, memorable Disney cartoon characters and it’s now very accessible to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios thanks to the new Disney Skyliner gondola system.
The Art of Animation resort really shines with its family suites, which offer a lot more room and have three beds in each suite (one traditional bed, one Murphy bed and a pull-out sofa). The family suites have “The Lion King,” “Cars” and “Finding Nemo” themes, while standard rooms are “Little Mermaid”-themed.
The Big Blue Pool at Art of Animation is actually the largest hotel pool at any Disney World resort. You’ll find your favorite Nemo characters hanging around and you can even enjoy underwater music as you swim. (Only Deluxe and Moderate resorts typically have any waterslides.)
The food here won’t blow you away, but Landscape of Flavors is a reliable cafeteria-style venue.
Outside of Art of Animation, our best advice, if you are booking a value resort, is to pick one that has been recently renovated. It still may not be your most exciting hotel stay ever, but a ‘new’ room is better than an old room. For example, TPG’s Katie Genter recently stayed in All-Star Movies, which is pretty fresh off a new room look.
Best Disney points hotels
There are hundreds of hotels in the Orlando area where you could redeem points and then head to Disney World. But the number of properties where you can redeem traditional hotel points and still access valuable Disney World perks is much smaller.
Walt Disney World’s Swan, Dolphin and Swan Reserve Resorts
Smack dab in the middle of the Disney World property are the Disney Swan and Dolphin resorts, both of which belong to the Marriott Bonvoy program. A third forthcoming hotel tower, Swan Reserve, will be opening very soon in 2021.
These Category 6 resorts range from a little over $100 to nearly $400 per night, depending on the season, or from 40,000 to 60,000 Marriott points per night.
On nights when the rate is 50,000 points per night or less, you can use an annual up to 50,000-point certificate available at hotels in the Marriott Bonvoy program and certain hotels have resort fees with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
You won’t find heavy Disney World theming here, but there are advantages beyond just saving money by using points since both hotels recognize elite benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy program. As long as there’s not a big conference in town, you probably even have a decent shot at a suite upgrade if you have Marriott Platinum status.
And breakfast benefits are offered to top-tier elites, with a complimentary continental breakfast available. You can pay a small fee to upgrade to the full breakfast buffet. During normal times, it’s the only place we know where your Marriott Platinum breakfast benefit gets you a character breakfast with Chip, Dale and Pluto.
In recent years, both the Swan and Dolphin hotels also have much-improved grab-and-go options in the lobby.
Also at the Swan and Dolphin, you’ll find large pools, a kid’s club and plenty of outdoor space to play. The properties are centrally located on Disney property, which means a bus ride to the parks isn’t too long. On top of the bus network, guests can walk or take a boat to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Keep in mind that staying here does not get you access to the Magical Express Bus to or from the airport.
Off-property “Official Disney World Hotels”
The only other hotels on Disney property that combine Disney benefits and the ability to redeem points are referred to as “Official Disney World Hotels,” even though they aren’t true Disney resort hotels. These properties are either adjacent to Disney Springs or in the Bonnet Creek area. (Not these do not have access to the Disney Magical Express Bus.)
The Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace and Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista are solid choices in the Disney Springs area. While either will cost a significant stash of Hilton Honors points (from a bit over 40,000 points per night), the hotels can still represent reasonable value at certain times of the year.
If saving money is your primary goal, there are other ways to use hotel points for off-property “Official” hotels in the Disney Springs area, including those from Best Western, Wyndham and IHG.
The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek (starting around 50,000 points per night), which has a great waterpark and is on a 482-acre nature preserve, and the high-end Waldorf Astoria Orlando (starting at 80,000 Hilton points per night) are other good nearby options.
If you’re paying with cash at the Waldorf, that property is eligible for American Express Fine Hotel and Resort perks such as free breakfast for two and a space-available upgrade if you have a Platinum- or Centurion-branded card such as The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Your family can also stock up on Hilton Honors points with cards such as the Hilton Honors American Express Card, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. (Here’s why the Hilton Amex Aspire is the actually the best premium card for families.)
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The newest addition to the Bonnet Creek area where you can make your Marriott points work for you is the J.W. Marriott Bonnet Creek.
This hotel opened in 2020, costs 40,000 – 60,000 Marriott points per night, has lots of great amenities for kids and has a bus that will take you to the Disney theme parks.
Best Disney World resort pools
If you just want to know which Disney resort hotels have the best pools, there are two clear winners for the best pools at Disney World.
Disney’s Beach and Yacht Club Resorts offer five-star poolside fun.
These sister properties have the distinct feel of a beach in an otherwise landlocked resort, as this is where you will find sand-bottomed pools with a lazy river, pirate ship and a wicked waterslide that will keep young swimmers entertained.
For younger kids, the winner might be the Art of Animation, which also has the largest, more traditional pool, known as the Big Blue Pool. It has a zero-entry area and also a separate water play space for smaller children. There’s no waterslide, but the resort also has two other pools, the Cozy Cone’s pool and Flippin’ Fins pool.
An honorable mention goes to the Lava Pool at Polynesian Village, which has a volcano waterslide in the middle, along with a separate toddler slide area. Getting a poolside view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks and easily accessible Dole Whip doesn’t hurt either.
Best Disney World resort hotels for large families
Large families can really rack up a bill on a Disney World vacation since most Disney resort rooms are designed for a maximum of four or five people. If you need room for a fifth or sixth family member, your choices narrow. (And sneaking in that third kid doesn’t really work since you need to register everyone to access the Disney perks such as Magical Express, etc.) These resorts, however, have space for larger families.
Located in the woods behind Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, the Treehouse Villas sleep up to nine people. With three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen, an extended family can maximize their money by packing into an elevated treehouse 10 feet off the ground.
Just be aware that the Treehouse Villas aren’t in the most convenient location. A bus comes through periodically to take you to Saratoga Springs, where you can catch other buses to the theme parks. There’s also a boat launch that connects Treehouse Villas to Disney Springs. But, unless you rent a car, there’s no direct connection to the parks.
Treehouse Villas have one small pool, but all the fun pools are a long walk or a ride away at Saratoga Springs.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Art of Animation has already come up a few times, and while it isn’t the nicest hotel of them all, it’s really great for families.
As we mentioned earlier, standard rooms are nothing special (and capped at four people per room). But the family suites at Art of Animation can accommodate six guests and often go for $250 to $450, which is still usually cheaper than two separate rooms.
Even more important for families, the rooms feature two full bathrooms and three total beds in two separate rooms.
Disney Vacation Club
Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s version of a timeshare. There are excellent opportunities to rent Disney Vacation Club points and save a ton of money at Disney properties, even if you’d never consider owning a timeshare. As a general rule, you’ll pay the approximate cost to stay at a Moderate resort but get the benefits of a Deluxe resort, along with the chance to book much larger rooms.
Disney Vacation Club rooms at most properties stretch all the way to three-bedroom options, though those can get pricey. The one-bedroom units that usually come with a kitchen and, sometimes, an extra half-bathroom are a great value for families that need more than a standard room.
In many cases, Disney Vacation Club properties are attached to existing Disney World Resorts, such as Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
The only real downside is that changing or canceling a reservation can be much trickier if you’re renting points from an owner. So, be sure your dates are fixed.
Best Disney World resorts for easy access to the parks
Some hotels at Disney World are just built for access to the parks. When your kids are younger, proximity to the parks can be crucial for midday naps (for adults as well — no judgment). These properties are especially easy to access from the parks.
These are all connected to the monorail, which means they’re only a few minutes away from the Magic Kingdom (and a quick switch to get to Epcot):
Walking distance resorts
These resorts are all within a 10-minute walk of parks:
- Swan and Dolphin (Epcot and Hollywood Studios)
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn (Epcot and Hollywood Studios)
- Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts (Epcot and Hollywood Studios)
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort (Magic Kingdom)
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort (Magic Kingdom)
Disney Skyliner resorts
These resorts are close to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios via the new gondola Skyliner system.
- Disney’s Art of Animation
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
Best Disney World resort for a break from Disney
We love Disney, but we’ll admit that sometimes it’s nice to have a brief break from its intensity.
Disney World’s newest hotel is also its best for travelers who want to stay near the magic without living with Mickey and friends 24/7.
To put it another way, this may be the best hotel for adults who need to balance a Disney trip with the real world.
Disney’s Riviera Resort is on the Disney Skyliner, making it easy to access Hollywood Studios and Epcot. But you’ll almost feel like you’re vacationing on the Mediterranean thanks to the decor, music and culinary program.
At this Deluxe resort, you’ll find all the usual Disney amenities, including a character breakfast, but it’s just a touch more refined and grown-up — without being stuffy. With “Tangled”- and “Peter Pan”-inspired mosaics to marble bathrooms that might be the nicest in Disney, we’re serious Riviera fans.
Don’t worry if you want to bring the kids. There’s plenty for them to enjoy, too, including poolside gelato, a tower slide and our favorite toddler splash area at Disney World.
This is also where you’ll find one of our absolute favorite Disney character meals — brunch at Topolino’s Terrace.
Another great option to feel a million miles away from the theme parks is Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, which is a wooded, peaceful retreat that feels like a national park but is really just a boat ride from the Magic Kingdom.
Best Disney hotel if you win the lottery
If you come across a stash of money that you are willing to spend on your Disney World accommodations, you’ll want to consider Copper Creek Cabins. These cabins are located at the Wilderness Lodge, but thinking of them as cabins is really selling them short. More accurately, these are akin to little high-end homes you can rent on Disney property.
Expect to spend a couple of grand per night on Copper Creek cabins, but in return you get two bedrooms, an epic living room with fireplace, full kitchen and an epic screened-in outdoor living area with a private hot tub and piped in fireworks music each evening.
Our least-favorite Disney World resort hotels
You can’t love every single Disney resort hotel the same, so if we’re going to play favorites, we’re also going to mention resorts that miss the mark. Generally, the hotels on this list are simply so large they become a logistical challenge, or they lack immersive themes. Some need a refresh or simply pale when compared to others.
But these are still Disney World resorts: They aren’t bad, in most cases, so don’t worry if your top choice is at the bottom of our list. It may still be the perfect hotel for you.
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
BoardWalk Inn isn’t bad, but other than a great location (an easy walk to Epcot and Hollywood Studios), this resort has historically struggled to meet our standards of what we want from a Deluxe resort. However, in all fairness, we hear things have improved some and the creepy clown slide is gone, so it may be worth a try for you.
If you spent time on the Jersey Shore or Coney Island as a kid, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn might bring back memories. The boardwalk in front of the hotel is a great place to let your kids play and grab favorites like funnel cake and ice cream.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Caribbean Beach Resort is the oldest hotel in the Moderate collection (Fort Wilderness dates back to park opening, but just as a campsite and cabins). And while Caribbean Beach has received upgrades, its hotel rooms are spread far around the property in two-story buildings. A central dining area called Old Port Royale is more grab-and-go than gourmet.
The main pool area has a pirate theme that young ones may find entertaining, but it’s also a bit small for a resort that large.
If you still decide Caribbean Beach is the resort for you, avoid the pirate rooms unless you’re OK with smaller-than-normal beds and really want the theme since it costs extra.
While recent renovations and the addition of the Skyliner have improved Caribbean Beach, it’s still not our favorite. The internal resort bus loop isn’t great and there’s not a lot of charm for the price.
Disney’s All-Star Movies, Music and Sports
Technically, these are three separate properties, but we’re considering them as one. The biggest lure is Disney characters in the themes of — you guessed it — movies, music and sports. But rooms here are pretty basic, and until recent renovations, were also some of the oldest and most worn-out rooms on Disney World property. However, in all fairness, they have been undergoing renovations that does help the situation.
For meals, you’ll dine at food courts and order pizza. The pools are, well, just pools without much in the way of slides or themes. Many of the guest rooms are a significant walk from the main building, where you can catch buses to the parks, and you won’t find a connection to the Disney Skyliner, a boat or the monorail.
There are two bright spots: Prices here are often very low — though they may increase some after the room refreshes are all complete. All-Star Music also has a small number of family suites that sleep six and have two bathrooms. If you don’t need the space, Movies is the only one with queen-sized beds instead of doubles.
Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Giant yo-yos, floppy discs and mood rings adorn the buildings and will bring back a wave of nostalgia for parents — and a deluge of questions from kids like, “What’s an 8-track, Mommy?”
The layout of Disney’s Pop Century is very similar to the property just across the lake, Art of Animation. There’s a central building with check-in, bus stops, shopping and a cafeteria-style food court. The main pool, the Hippy Dippy Pool, is just outside. Unlike the Moderate and Deluxe resorts, you won’t find slides or heavy theming in the pool areas.
The low-rise buildings spread across the complex are themed for different decades. The guest rooms are small but make efficient use of space with a fold-up Murphy bed that converts into a desk when not in use. All the rooms have been refreshed, so you won’t have to worry about really old carpeting and funky smells. One highlight is the newer connection to the parks via the Disney Skyliner.
Still, your primary reason for choosing Pop Century probably isn’t the 20-foot tall 8-track tapes: It’s the price. If the bottom dollar is what you’re after, Pop Century is likely one of your top picks. And in that case, enjoy. The Skyliner really does elevate things a notch or two.
Choosing the best resort hotel at Disney World gets easier once you identify your budget and priorities.
Do you want a great pool? More space? Proximity to the parks? Or perhaps an immersive theme matters most for your trip to Disney World.
No matter your priorities, you’ll probably find a match among the nearly two dozen resort hotels at Disney World.
In our book, the overall best hotels at Disney World are the Polynesian Village Resort and Animal Kingdom Lodge — for different reasons. These resorts offer a special experience that goes well beyond a place to bed down. If you will make use of the Stormalong Bay pool complex, the Disney Yacht or Beach Club Resorts are also spectacular choices. And if you want an iconic monorail experience, the freshly renovated Contemporary is a fun choice.
Other standouts in the Moderate and Value categories are the cabins at Fort Wilderness, the family suites at the Art of Animation and the Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs, which afford a deluxe experience at a moderate price.
Featured image courtesy of Summer Hull/The Points Guy
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