There are countless advantages to staying on property while visiting Disney. However, the greatest part about staying at a Walt Disney World resort is that it keeps you in the midst of the magic. The following tips will help you determine which resort is right for your family.
1. Value, Moderate, or Deluxe
Walt Disney World is currently home to more than 20 different resorts, many of which also include villas that lie adjacent to the main hotel. These resorts are divided into three separate tiers; value, moderate, and deluxe. As you can imagine, cost is the major determining factor in these designations. For example, as of this writing a room at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort (value) during non-peak season can average around $125/night, while a room at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (deluxe) during the same time period can run just shy of $700/night. It’s a significant disparity, but one that is also dependent upon your expectations.
With a higher price tag come more amenities; bigger rooms, more elaborate décor, larger pools, etc. For guests who aren’t looking for much more than a clean, comfortable room, a value resort might make sense. Others may look forward to having the opportunity to unwind and settle into their surroundings, making a deluxe resort a more appealing option. Many people fall somewhere in the middle, which is where moderate resorts like Caribbean Beach and Port Orleans come into play.
The previously mentioned villas encompass another separate category, which can range from studio accommodations to one, two, and even three-bedroom units. Cost will vary depending upon resort, but guests can expect nightly rates to be even pricier than deluxe resort rooms. Studio villas come with a kitchenette, while the bedroom units feature a full kitchen, which can help save on some of your dining costs if you opt to cook your own meals. One option that combines the best of both worlds are the cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. These dressed-up trailers can accommodate up to six guests, include a separate bedroom and full kitchen, and are available at a fraction of the price of the villas.
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2. Dining Options
NOTE: Currently, several character dining experiences and dinner shows are on hold with Disney’s phased reopening. Please check the Walt Disney World website to ensure select experiences are available during your visit.
Not all Disney resorts are created equally when it comes to dining options. Many of the properties include multiple eateries, though the quality of food and menu options vary from one resort to another. The more secluded the hotel, the less diverse your dining options will be. For instance, Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground features a restaurant/bar, pool snack shack, and an “all-you-care-to-enjoy” dinner show in the form of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. Beyond that, the grounds are more isolated than that of, say, the Epcot-area resorts, which are mostly within walking distance of one another and provide for a plethora of dining options that include everything from the restaurants on the BoardWalk to fine dining at the Yacht Club’s Yachtsman Steakhouse.
Character meals are also another consideration, with interactive offerings such as Beach Club’s Cape May Café, Polynesian’s ‘Ohana, and Contemporary’s Chef Mickey’s Family Feast. Each of these buffets afford guests photo ops with some of their favorite Disney characters. If you’re planning on indulging in one of these experiences, it might be more convenient to consider staying at one of these hotels.
3. Amenities & Activities
NOTE: Some amenities, such as arcades and spa services, are currently unavailable with Disney’s phased reopening. Please check the Walt Disney World website to ensure select experiences are available during your visit.
Many of the activities offered at Disney resorts are fairly universal, from afternoon poolside games such as trivia contests and dance parties to nighttime movies under the stars. However, there are also amenities and experiences that remain exclusive to certain resorts. Senses, a Disney Spa & Salon offers a full slate of relaxing services at the Grand Floridian, while Old Key West is one of the few properties to offer an exercise room where guests can keep up with their workout routines while on holiday.
The Magic Kingdom-area resorts located on Bay Lake also feature boat rentals, fishing excursions, and a nightly electrical water pageant featuring a parade of colorfully-illuminated sea creatures with musical accompaniment.
Many other resorts feature sand volleyball courts, arcades, jogging trails and playgrounds. And if you plan on bringing Fido with you, the only place to do that is at the campsites at Fort Wilderness, where you can let your dog loose in the Waggin’ Trails Dog Park.
4. Location, Location, Location
While the added perks of staying at a WDW resort may be nice, the main reason to stay on property is the proximity to the parks. Being closer to the attractions makes it easier to spend more time on activities than commuting. If you know you’ll be visiting a certain park more than once, or if you choose to skip another park altogether, it could help influence your decision on where to stay.
Several resorts are situated within walking distance of the attractions. For instance, the Contemporary is located just across the street from Magic Kingdom, while the Swan and Dolphin hotels, BoardWalk Inn, and Yacht & Beach Club resorts are all situated between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. On the other hand, rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge or Saratoga Springs might get you closer to Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs, respectively, but will increase commute time to the other parks.
Another benefit of staying in the shadow of one of the parks is that many of the nightly fireworks shows can be viewed from these locations, particularly the Epcot and Magic Kingdom-area resorts. NOTE: At this time, fireworks are suspended with Disney’s phased reopening.
While complimentary transportation is offered at each resort in the form of bus service to all parks (as well as Disney Springs), many resorts also afford additional options, including boats, the monorail, and the recently introduced Skyliner. And having options is never a bad thing when you want to get back to your room at the end of a long day. These alternatives to the standard bus route also provide a different perspective of the parks and their surrounding areas.
Boats allow guests to cruise Bay Lake in comfort as they putter past resorts such as the Polynesian and Wilderness Lodge, while the monorail provides for an elevated experience that loops around the lake and through the lobby of the Contemporary on its journey toward the Magic Kingdom. Meanwhile, Disney’s Skyliner – which debuted in the fall of 2019 and consists of a gondola lift system – can accommodate up to 10 guests per cabin, with routes that link Epcot and Hollywood Studios to Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and the Riviera Resort – one of Disney’s newest hotel experiences.
It’s also worth noting that Disney’s bus system does not run directly from one resort to another, so you’ll have to plan accordingly if you’ve scheduled activities at another hotel.