When booking accommodations for a Walt Disney World vacation, you typically have two main options to consider. You can either choose to stay at a Disney Resort, owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company, or you can find lodging within the Greater Orlando Area. Most folks understandably assume that all Resorts located on Disney property are also owned by Disney. But what if I were to tell you that there are actually quite a few that are not? Here’s a look at some non-Disney-owned and operated Resorts that just happen to be housed on the grounds of Walt Disney World.
The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels
These two sister hotels, along with the more recent addition of the Swan Reserve, are probably the best-known examples of Resorts that happen to be housed on Disney Property but are not officially Disney Resorts themselves. They are owned by Tishman Realty & Construction Corporation and MetLife and managed by Marriott International. All the same, they’re still counted along the Walt Disney World Collection of Resorts, and Guests staying at either get to enjoy many of the same benefits that those staying at an official Walt Disney World Resort get to utilize.
While the placement for these hotels may seem a bit odd, their establishment was necessary to accommodate convention groups throughout the early 1990s. At one time, the Swan and Dolphin boasted the largest hotel convention space in the Southeastern United States.
You will find the Swan and Dolphin located within the EPCOT Resort Area. Their design callout features are, of course, those large namesake sculptures representing each hotel’s titular animals. While the Swan features 758 Guest rooms and suites, the Dolphin presents 1,509. Both hotels are equated to being of a Disney Deluxe designation and feature wonderful onsite amenities and features, including distinguishable dining options.
Shades of Green
This somewhat secretive Resort, reserved exclusively for those who have served in the United States Armed Forces or are currently DOD-employed civilians, is literally sitting right in the heart of the Magic Kingdom Resort Area. But to say that it is not a Disney Resort would only be half true. It was, in fact, at first a Disney Resort when it was first built up as Disney’s Golf Resort back in 1973. Then, by 1986 it was reimagined into the Disney Inn. Throughout the 1990s, following Desert Storm, massive transformations took it from being a Disney Resort to a premier Armed Forces Recreation Center, later renamed Shades of Green. By 1996, the U.S. Army M.W.R. officially purchased Shades of Green from the Walt Disney Company.
Even though Shades of Green is no longer officially a Walt Disney World Resort, it remains a solid standout lodging on the grounds. It’s conveniently located between Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course and Disney’s Palm Golf Course and is even within walking distance of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
Accommodations at Shades of Green are stellar, to say the least. There are now 586 Guest rooms on location, including 11 that are spacious suites. The Resort grounds come with a vast array of amenities and services, including delightful dining venues and complimentary transportation to Disney Parks and surrounding venues.
Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort
Another surprising treasure waiting to be uncovered right on 26 acres of surrounding Disney World Property is this breathtaking AAA Five Diamond Resort. Just beyond Disney’s Golden Oak neighborhood, and just three miles from both Magic Kingdom Park and Disney Springs, this is one of the top-rated alternative accommodations to consider for a Disney Deluxe Resort.
Here you get to enjoy a compilation of Disney magic along with the stellar, refined quality that Four Seasons Resort hotels are typically known for. The overall design and motif with intricately woven in Disney touches is a testament enough to that. And because it too is counted among the Walt Disney World Hotel Collection, Guests staying here get to enjoy the same Disney-exclusive benefits and perks, including complimentary transportation.
As a luxury hotel, the Four Seasons delivers impeccably in the way of onsite amenities, including in-house dining, spa services, swimming, and other recreations. They’re also renowned for their stunning array of 443 rooms, 68 or which are spacious suites of varying distinctions.
The Bonnet Creek Resorts
Back when Walt Disney was actively purchasing land for his major Disney World project, there was apparently an existing tract east of EPCOT that he was unable to obtain. The tract of land in question had already been bought up in 1962 by a then-unknown landowner and remained in his possession until 1992 when he died. Following that, the Walt Disney Company began negotiations with the estate owner in order to obtain access and design rights for coexisting with that long-coveted tract of land.
Eventually, by 2000, a little resort area known as Bonnet Creek came into being. It was done under the Orlando-based Brooksville Development Corp. and called on the assistance of architect Guy Butler to bring the dream to life.
Bonnet Creek Resort comprises 70 acres of varying luxury hotels of grand distinction. While not actually on official Disney property, the land on which Bonnet Creek is situated on is boarded on three sides by Disney-owned land and shares in many of the same community management practices that are in place. And for all intents and purposes, these hotels are considered honorary Disney designations just the same.
Making up the list of hotels within Bonnet Creek are the following:
- Wyndham (Resort and Grand)
- Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
- Waldorf Astoria Orlando
- JW Marriott Hotels
If you are familiar with these acclaimed brands, then you know you’re looking at quality, elegance, and grace across the board. And each one boasts plenty of onsite amenities and phenomenal accommodations to boot.
Disney Springs Hotels
The Disney Springs Resort Area is not without its own long line of honorary Disney hotels. In fact, during Disney World’s earlier years, back when there weren’t very many Disney World hotels in existence, there was a very real desire to build up the Resort scene around this part of Disney property. Sadly, despite having previously partnered with various hotel chains in the past, things just didn’t take off according to plan. Lo and behold many years later and following the success of several “official” Disney World Resorts, there has emerged a nice collaboration of Disney Springs-based hotels of accreditation, status, and nature.
The current hotel lineup includes the following:
- B Resort & Spa
- DoubleTree Suites by Hilton
- Drury Plaza Hotel Orlando
- Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
- Holiday Inn Orlando
- Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista
Again, if you are familiar with any of these brands, then you know no introductions are needed for the stellar attributes and amenities each one is famed for the offering. And in following suit with many honorary “non-Disney” Disney hotels, Guests staying on location at any of these venues get to enjoy a vast range of Disney Resort benefits, including complimentary transportation services. Another exclusive benefit for any Guests staying at a Disney Springs Resort is a passport booklet loaded with savings you can utilize all throughout Disney Springs. And the fact that you are always in walking distance to Disney Springs is just extra icing on the cake!
While not every hotel at Walt Disney World is an official Disney Resort, every single one has its own varying callout features and attributes to boast about. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, each and every location packs in magical memory-making experiences for you and your party to rejoice in.