Asking us to choose our favorite Walt Disney World Resort is kind of like asking us to choose our favorite Walt Disney World ride—each and every one has something we love about it whether it be the backstory or that whimsical element that speaks to the wonder and magic of Disney. But there are those resorts—just like there are rides—that decidedly stand out from the rest, the ones that we would recommend to all of our friends and family time and time again, the ones that we implore, “If you can’t STAY there, you must at the very least stop by for a visit and explore the grounds!” Our list of Walt Disney World Resorts that we adore is long, but our top five true favorites are listed below!
5. Wilderness Lodge Resort
Get ready for your breath to be stolen away the moment you enter the grand lobby of this majestic resort modeled after Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. Towering pines and warm, woodsy interiors enhance the Pacific Northwest while incorporating Native American design elements like towering totem poles. Why do we love this resort? Besides the scattering of always-lit flickering fireplaces and the impossibly cozy chairs that surround them, the location of this resort is prime—tucked away in the “woods,” yet still in the middle of it all—and is a beautiful boat ride away from Magic Kingdom. Because the resort is situated on the pristine waters of Bay Lake, there are plenty of recreational boating activities as well as bike rentals that allow guests to explore the scenic pathways that wind throughout the resort and even into Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The main pool here is a family’s relaxation paradise, equipped with a kid’s splash pad, a nearby pool bar, and an awe-inducing geyser that erupts every so often to the sheer delight of kids and kids at heart. If you are a Walt Disney fan, you’ll be happy to know that two of the very train cars he used for his live steam train railroad in the backyard of his California home are on display in the Carolwood Pacific Room found nestled inside the Villas building. The food options at this resort are also worth mentioning, from the delicious and unique choices found at the quick service Roaring Fork, to the wacky and lively shenanigans surrounding your dinner table at Whispering Canyon, all the way to the quiet ambiance of the resort’s signature restaurant, Artist Point. If you want our advice, book this resort during Christmastime, as there is no other resort in our opinion that truly compares to the holiday essence found within these Lodgepole Pine walls. Another tip: If traveling with family, ask at the concierge desk to be the Wilderness Lodge Flag Family of the day. If the spot is available, you’ll get a chance to climb to the top of the lodge to assist in the daily raising of the flags!
4. The Boardwalk Inn
In true Disney form, every Disney resort has a story and Disney describes the Boardwalk Inn as follows, “Experience the charm and whimsy of turn-of-the-century Atlantic City at this waterfront Resort hotel… Discover carnival games, unique dining and exciting nightlife on the Coney Island-style boardwalk. Strung like saltwater taffy along the shimmering Crescent Lake, Disney’s Boardwalk Inn is located within walking distance to both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.” These are the very reasons why this resort has stolen our hearts. The exciting boardwalk with nightly performers, tantalizing eats, and dynamic nightlife found at the Atlantic Dance Hall and Jellyrolls (a highly entertaining dueling piano bar) are just some of the reasons why we make a point in visiting this resort each time we head over to Walt Disney World. And as mentioned above, if you are a guest here you are within walking distance of Epcot and Hollywood Studios and can take a short boat ride to either Park if you so choose. The Boardwalk Bakery not only features mouthwatering pastries made fresh daily, but offers a glimpse through large windows of the bakers who create sugary-based masterpieces in real time. The Flying Fish Café is located on the boardwalk and is one of the most highly rated restaurants in all of Disney World, and if a more casual meal is what you seek you have two other options—the always-fun ESPN Club and Big River Grille and Brewing Works. If you have children, they’ll love running around the grassy hub that separates the lobby from the boardwalk while you sit and enjoy a coffee, and the carnival-themed pool is another huge draw for families. Another bonus—the nightly Epcot fireworks can be viewed from the boardwalk as well as some of the upper level rooms. Overall, this resort with its central location, it’s nostalgic circa 1940s feel, and the endless ways to make memories on the boardwalk are why we keep coming back for more.
3. Polynesian Village Resort
When changes are made at Disney, it is never without controversy. No resort knows this more than the Polynesian Village Resort, which made a complete overhaul of their lobby, transforming it into a space that is a lot less tropical than the previous one and has us Disney fans scratching our heads. While they broke our hearts with their decision to take away the majestic tropical oasis that stood center stage with its lush plants and waterfalls, the lobby never has been and never will be the main reason why we adore this resort. The luxurious tropical feel truly makes staying at this resort a vacation within a vacation. Lush greenery and tropical plants are everywhere you turn, and you can’t help but sway your hips to the dreamy Hukilau music piped throughout the grounds and you walk the pathways. The Spirit of Aloha is a dinner stage show and luau located at this resort, and has always been an enchanting draw for many of the guests. The volcano pool will make your kids squeal with joy, and the beautiful beach area will encourage leisurely naps on the hammocks. Are you suddenly craving a Pineapple Dole Whip? You’re in luck—they’re found at the Pineapple Lanai located outside just beyond the resort’s lobby. And speaking of food, the Kona Café and Ohanas’ are two incredible, must-experience restaurants located on the second story of the lobby. The location of this resort is also incredible, a short monorail ride away from Magic Kingdom. And if you’re on the resort’s property at night, viewing the fireworks from the beach area is simply magical (especially with that Dole Whip in your hand). While I’ll dream about staying in one of their Bora Bora-esque bungalows that reside on the Seven Seas Lagoon, I will continue to enjoy staying inside their tropically-themed, cozy-yet-luxurious resort rooms.
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2. Animal Kingdom Lodge
There are probably a hundred reasons we could list why we love this African-themed resort brimming with exotic wildlife, unique food and rich culture, so we’ll try to be brief. Broken up into two locations—Jambo (the main hotel) and Kidani Village (the DVC wing)—this resort is located next to Animal Kingdom, a bit of a ways away from the rest of hustle and bustle of the Walt Disney World Resort. But don’t let that stop you from staying here—the Disney buses still make this location easily accessible and the “quiet, far away” appeal really tricks your mind into thinking you aren’t smack dab in the middle of one of the most tourist-rich places in the world. The multi-leveled dim and somewhat cavernous lobby of the Jambo House gives the resort a romantic and highly cozy appeal (the fireplaces and quiet nooks with rocking chairs also add to the warm ambiance). The exotic animals roaming the outdoor savannah (located at both Jambo and Kidani Village) are another fascinating aspect of this resort and can be viewed from the savannah side rooms and the outdoor viewing decks from dawn to dusk. The Cast Members working alongside the savannah are well-versed to answer any questions you may have about these animals too (or African culture in general, for that matter). We also must shine some light on the amazing restaurants located on these grounds. In our opinion, Boma, Sanaa (Kidani Village), and Jiko are some of the best restaurants Disney World has to offer, full of unique dishes and a bread service (featured at Sanaa) that is to die for! Don’t forget to check out the Zebra Domes at the all-you-care-to-eat Boma buffet as well as Jambo’s quick service stop, The Mara. These little sweet domes of deliciousness are legendary! There are also wonderful activities offered each and every day for the resort guests to enjoy. From “magic cookie hour,” to the free culinary tours (with FREE samplings of the bread service!), to the daily drum circle and parade there is never a dull moment! This resort is full of magical memory making to the nth degree!
1. The Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs
Yes, the Treehouse Villas are part of the Saratoga Springs Resort, but trust me, they are in a category all their own. These jaw-dropping 3-bedroom “treehouses” are perched 10-feet above the ground, and are tucked away within a pine tree forest that surrounds the Sassagoula River. The Treehouse Villas water taxi ferries guests back and forth between Saratoga Springs as well as Disney Springs. Each Treehouse Villa comes with a fully equipped kitchen, flat-screen TVs, private decks, driveways and charcoal grills. Beneath the Treehouse itself is an open, covered space perfect for additional guests to pitch a tent on (yes, Disney fully endorses this!). These Treehouse Villas encourage family gatherings, a single place where everyone can come together and enjoy an intimate, cozy hideaway in the midst of the hustle and bustle. Guests staying here can enjoy all the amenities of Saratoga Springs, as well as their very own quiet pool tucked among the lush forest. Call us crazy, but our favorite part of these Treehouses has to be the HUGE windows with the gorgeous views in the master suite and the modern, spa-like master bathroom. If you are lucky enough to stay in one of these upscale Treehouse Villas, don’t forget the ingredients to make cookies (or just get the slice n’ bake kind!) and s’mores so you can enjoy a delicious treat on your outdoor deck under the stars while the sweet smelling goodness fills the air. We treasure these treehouses, and we know you will too!
We know that each Disney Parks fan has their own list of favorite Disney World Resorts. If yours didn’t make the list, tell us which one you love and why in the comments below! Check out “8 Sensational Reasons Why You’ll Want to Stay at a Disney Resort.”
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