The Walt Disney World Resort combines theme park experience with immersive luxury nearly impossible to find elsewhere. When deciding on where to stay on property, you really can’t go wrong! Each resort hotel offers something a bit different, but there are a few that are a cut above the rest. Here are the best places to stay based on overall atmosphere and extras that are hard to beat.
8. Art of Animation – This is the newest value resort and the best one for those on an economic budget. Whereas the other All-Star value resorts have the look and feel of cost-efficient lodging, the fun atmosphere in and around this resort completely tie to the Disney experience. The standard rooms sleep four and are themed around the Little Mermaid. For larger parties, you can choose between three themed family suites: Cars, Finding Nemo or the Lion King. These will sleep six. The Art of Animation also boasts the largest pool in Disney World inspired by Finding Nemo, complete with underwater speakers and a separate interactive area for the kiddos.
7. Campsites at Fort Wilderness – This is unmistakably the cheapest way to spend the night at Disney World, allowing up to ten guests per site. Sure, you’re ‘roughing it’ but with all the amenities of Disney at your disposal! The campsites can accommodate RVs or traditional tent campers and are equipped with water, cable/electrical hookups, a charcoal grill, and a picnic table. Comfort Stations (Wash rooms) aren’t far and Fort Wilderness is a world unto itself! With a great pool, fabulous eating options, convenient boat transportation to Magic Kingdom and many other options for entertainment (all explained in more detail below), this is an exciting way to experience Disney while sleeping under the stars.
6. Cabins at Fort Wilderness – Yes, this place is listed twice and for good reason. The cabins available at Fort Wilderness are perfect for the less outdoorsy at heart (ie, those who require indoor plumbing and a bed to sleep in). Each cabin sleeps up to six and boasts a bedroom with a double bed and two bunks, a living room area with a Murphy bed (that folds out from the wall), a kitchen area (with stove, microwave and full size fridge), dining table, bathroom, outdoor charcoal grill and picnic table.
Explore the resort on the many wooded trails on foot, bike, horseback, or even segway! Visit the Tri-Circle D Ranch for horseback, wagon, pony or carriage rides. Get out on the water with canoe, kayak, or motorized boat rental. Options to fish or water ski are also available. Feast on southern fixin’s at either Trails End, the character dining at Mickey’s Backyard BBQ or combine dinner with a show at the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue. At night, you can enjoy an outdoor movie and campfire sing-along. These recreation activities (and more) are all found within this rustic resort, making it one of the very best!
5. Coronado Springs – What sets this moderate resort hotel from the rest is the absolute immersive quality of the atmosphere. With a southwestern flair, rooms are positioned in three Mexican type villages – Ranchos, Casitas (suites are located here) and Cabanas – around a refreshing 22-acre lake. Being spread out maintains a general level of peace and quiet that I don’t often find in the other moderates. The pool is well themed with a waterslide attached to a Mayan pyramid, a relaxing hot tub section, volleyball court and playground area for the little ones. Take advantage of the beachfront hammocks and relax the day away. I haven’t personally had amazing experiences at their signature restaurant, the Mayan Grill, but I love the Pepper Market food court and count it as the best one at Disney World. Except for the price and the fact that the rooms are motel style (you enter from the outside instead of an indoor hall), everything else feels deluxe about this resort!
4. Polynesian Village Resort – Before the name change, this was my all-time favorite place to stay and it wasn’t close. Because of the ensuing lobby debacle that has been well documented, this resort is now on par with the other Bay Lake resorts in terms of luxury and charm. Still, this tropical paradise still feels like a world away with its lush outdoor foliage and fire-lit walkways at night. Renovations are once again being made to many areas (the pool included) and Trader Sam’s is certainly a welcome addition. This resort also boasts great views of the Magic Kingdom from many rooms (the beachfront is great for watching fireworks or the Electrical Water Pageant), not to mention great transportation options. The TTC is a simple walking path away where you can board a monorail to Epcot or take the Steam Paddle Boat to the Magic Kingdom. You also have the option of taking a boat shuttle to the Magic Kingdom or hopping on a monorail at the upstairs station in the Great Ceremonial House. My favorite thing about the Polynesian will always be ‘Ohana, the best dining experience at Walt Disney World. Enjoy an all-you-can-eat Hawaiian themed feast but save room at the end for the banana bread pudding dessert. Make sure you reserve a table in advance, but the Kona Cafe is certainly a worthy option if you happen to miss out.
3. Beach and Yacht Club – I count these resorts as basically one since they are each connected to each other (the Boardwalk is also connected by proximity, but certainly separate). The greatest characteristics here are the pools. Yes, pools plural. Stormalong Bay is 3 acres of water amusement, with connecting pools featuring special elements in many of them. There is a lazy river current in one section, a swirling current in another, cascading waterfalls, and even a sand floor. The 230-foot shipwrecked waterslide might be the best that a Disney hotel has to offer and zips you down the from the mast to the main pool below. On the Beach Club side, Beaches and Cream is a great place for ice cream or a burger with a 50’s diner theme. Cape May is a delicious buffet and is the place to go for all-you-can-eat crab legs. The rooms are well-themed and you are within walking distance to the side entrance of Epcot, with boat transportation (or a lengthier walkway) to the Hollywood Studios available here as well.
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2. Wilderness Lodge – I must confess that I haven’t stayed at all the Disney Villas yet (as some are pretty new and Disney is expanding this area). But, as of now, I’m partial to the Wilderness Lodge. The expansive lobby area is filled with National Park ambiance while maintaining a warm coziness. The bedroom suites are perfect for an extended stay featuring spacious living room area, fully equipped kitchen and private sleeping quarters. The convenience of boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom is a bonus and a serene trail connects you to all the amenities at Fort Wilderness as well. The pool is refreshing and the restaurants are diverse. For a less formal dinner, take part in the rowdy and ironically named Whispering Canyon Cafe (plenty of ketchup is available). For a finer dining experience Artist Point boasts great waterfront views and exquisite fare. You probably can’t go wrong at any of the Disney Villas, however there is one that offers a little different experience…
1. Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs – As a kid, could you ever want anything else? To stay on Disney property in something called a Treehouse is really a dream coming true. Saratoga Springs has many great features including two fun pools (which means two different slides!), convenience of the Lake Buena Vista Golf course, and the ability to visit Downtown Disney without parking there via water taxi. But the secluded 3-bedroom Treehouse Villas will be the lasting memory. Each Villa is separate and elevated 10 feet off the ground where you’ll be nestled amongst the pine forest with plenty of space and an immersive rustic theme. You’ll be tempted to spend all your time there, so make sure you get out and enjoy the other opportunities of Disney magic!
We’d love to know your favorite Disney World Resort… share it with us in the comments below.
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