The best hotels at Walt Disney World: Magic for every type of traveler

The best hotels at Walt Disney World: Magic for every type of traveler

There are more than two dozen resort hotels at Walt Disney World in Florida, depending on how you count.

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 a Disney resort hotel where you’ll have access to Disney themes, free MagicBands, free transportation to and from the Orlando airport on the Magical Express Bus, access to Extra Magic Hours in the parks and the ability to book your FastPass+ reservations 60-days in advance — double the timeframe for non-resort guests.

If you want those perks, how do you even begin to choose the best hotel at Disney World?

Don’t worry your bedazzled Mickey ears over the threat of analysis paralysis, 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 at an amusement park, Disney World has you covered.

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(Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

To choose the best hotel at Disney World for your family, there are a couple of baseline facts you should know. First, 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 – $500 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 Beach Club Resort and Art of Animation Resort
  • Best Disney World resorts for large families: Disney’s Treehouse Villas, Art of Animation Resort and Disney Vacation Club
  • Best Disney World resorts for access to the parks: Monorail Resorts, BoardWalk Inn and Swan and Dolphin Resorts
  • Best Disney World resort for an escape from Disney: Riviera Resort
  • Best Disney World Resorts using hotel points: Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort

In This Post

Best Deluxe Disney World resorts

Deluxe resorts are the most expensive. In some cases, they offer luxury amenities, while others emphasize great themes and proximity to the parks. In all cases, you’re unlikely to be disappointed by much (except maybe the price).

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.

Disney’s Polynesian Village (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

Here, you’ll find some of our favorite Disney restaurants. There’s ‘Ohana, located within the main building of the Polynesian (you can even get the feast delivered to your room) and you might catch a glimpse of Mickey in a tropical shirt if you have a breakfast reservation. While he’s not around for dinner, you’ll probably enjoy the food more at night. For a luau under the stars, Disney’s Spirit of Aloha dinner show is a fan favorite.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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 — or grab a drink at Trader Sam’s where it rains, volcanoes erupt and kids are welcome until 8 p.m.

Have a drink at Trader Sam
Have a drink at Trader Sam’s (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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 typically cost $350 to $500 per night, with the overwater options costing several times that amount.

Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney
Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Resort (Photo by Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney World)

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.

Animal Kingdom Lodge (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Animal Kingdom Lodge (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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, though Sanaa is preferable if you want views of the savanna while you eat.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The pools are great, but they’re one of the few spots on property where you’ll lose sight of the wildlife.

Animal Kingdom Lodge pool (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Animal Kingdom Lodge pool (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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. 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?

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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). It may have been built decades ago, but the amenities inside have been updated. And, what isn’t cool about the monorail track going through the middle of the hotel?

Disney Contemporary Atrium
Disney Contemporary Atrium (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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. You can also continue on the monorail for an easy one-stop connection to Epcot.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The Contemporary Resort has a large pool, but not a ton of additional outdoor activities, as it’s surrounded by water and theme parks. You can fish or rent a boat to tour Bay Lake, and inside the hotel you’ll find a game room. Rooms here also boast some of the best fireworks views in all of Walt Disney World.

Two of our favorite Disney World restaurants are on site here. For a breakfast buffet with character meet-and-greets (think: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto) Chef Mickey is a top choice.

Dine with characters at Chef Mickey
Dine with characters at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Breakfast isn’t cheap, but the time you save in line meeting characters, combined with one of the better breakfast buffets at Disney World, makes this a top spot.

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. California Grill also has an evening event where you can snack, drink and enjoy the fireworks.

California Grill (Summer
California Grill (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is also one of the Deluxe properties that has a club lounge. With a club-level reservation, you’ll get a quick included breakfast here as well as daytime snacks and hot dinner items. There are also evening desserts and complimentary beverages. Expect club-level rooms to cost at least $150 to $300 more per night.

A club-level reservation can also be a good middle ground between a standard Disney vacation and a VIP experience. You’ll have the chance to buy extra FastPass+ opportunities (to the tune of $50 per day, per person) that come with virtually none of the regular restrictions. So, you can book all the top rides and hop between parks to your heart’s content.

Disney Contemporary Club Lounge (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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 Club’s 3-acre waterpark, Stormalong Bay, is a favorite among families. With that amazing pool complex, you 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.

Disney Beach Club Resort (Photo courtesy of Disney)
Disney Beach Club Resort (Photo courtesy of Disney)

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.

The Beach Club and Yacht Club are centrally located in Disney World and have a ton of transportation options. On top of the bus network, boats and walking trails connect the properties with Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

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.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In addition to the monorail stop, there are water taxis that take you across Bay Lake to the park entrance. And, Disney World is adding a foot bridge across the lake to a path if you’d rather walk to the Magic Kingdom. In short, getting to and from Magic Kingdom isn’t a problem from the Grand Floridian.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Dining is another highlight here. 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 Supercalifragilistic Buffet is a great way to meet characters while you brunch. Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner Party is another popular experience. 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.

Related: 9 ways to enjoy Disney World without kids

Enchanted Rose at the Grand Floridian (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Enchanted Rose at the Grand Floridian (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

For a fun, reasonably priced family dining experience, try Whispering Canyon Cafe (fair warning: you better love ketchup if you ask for it). Or, dine with the Evil Queen at one of our newest favorite dining experiences, Storybook Dining at Artist Point. If you want truly special accommodations and budget isn’t a problem, book the Copper Creek Villas located in the woods adjacent to Wilderness Lodge.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Regardless of your exact room-type, know that it’s different than Disney’s Fort Wilderness campground, but just as special.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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. Prices at 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.

Related: How to enjoy Disney outside of the parks 

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The cabins sleep up to six people, with a queen bed, two bunk beds and a relatively comfortable pull-out sofa.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Melissa Ann Photography for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Melissa Ann Photography for The Points Guy)

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. And, when the day winds down, Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, one of Disney’s most popular and longest-running dinner shows, is a short golf cart ride away.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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 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.

Coronado Springs renovated bedroom (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Ed Pizzarello / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Edward Pizzarello/The Points Guy)

Gran Destino also has the distinction of being the only Moderate resort at Disney World with a club lounge option. It’s fantastic for adults, though the food may be a bit highbrow for kids.

(Photo by Ed Pizzarello / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Ed Pizzarello/The Points Guy)

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)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 such as Extra Magic Hours and the free Magical Express Bus to and from Orlando International Airport (MCO). They can also be a big disappointment. Your mileage will vary, but if you’re on a serious budget for you 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.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

Art of Animation (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Art of Animation (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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, like Extra Magic Hours and 60-day access to FastPass+ bookings, is much smaller.

Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin Resorts

Located 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, The Cove, will be a new addition. 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 a Marriott up to 50,000-point certificate available with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card.

Related: Choosing the best Marriott credit card for you

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

And, breakfast benefits are offered to top-tier elites, with a complimentary continental breakfast available in both hotels. You can pay a small fee to upgrade to the full breakfast buffet. It’s the only place we know where your Marriott Platinum breakfast benefit gets you a character breakfast with Chip, Dale and Pluto. As of recently, both the Swan and Dolphin hotels also have much improved grab-and-go options in the lobby.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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 Disney bus network, guests can walk or take a boat to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Keep in mind that, while these resorts get you access to the on-property Disney transportation system, Extra Magic Hours and 60-day FastPass bookings, staying here does not get you access to the Magical Express Bus.

Related: Best Disney character breakfasts you’ve never heard of

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Off-property “Official Disney World Hotels”

The only other hotels on Disney property that combine Disney benefits like Extra Magic Hours 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 year.

Related: Using Hilton points for a Disney World vacation

Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs (Photo by Dia Adams)
Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs (Photo by Dia Adams for The Points Guy)

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.

Waldorf Astoria (Photo by Richard Kerr/The Poimts Guy)
Waldorf Astoria Orlando (Photo by Richard Kerr/The Points Guy)

In 2019, two nearby Hilton properties also became eligible for exclusive Disney World perks including 60-day FastPass+ bookings and Extra Magic Hours: 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).

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.)

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 best pools at Disney World.

Disney’s Beach Club Resort is five-star poolside fun. It has the distinct feel of a beach in an otherwise landlocked resort. There are sand-bottomed pools, pirate ships and a wicked waterslide that will keep young swimmers entertained.

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks
(Photo courtesy of Disney Parks)

For younger kids, the winner might be the Art of Animation, which also has the largest 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 has two other pools, the Cozy Cone’s pool and Flippin’ Fins pool.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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 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, 60-day FastPass+, etc.) These resorts, however, have space for larger families.

Treehouse Villas

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.

Disney Treehouse Villas (Image courtesy of Disney Parks)
Disney Treehouse Villas (Image courtesy of Disney Parks)

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 or rely on Minnie Vans, 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 isn’t the nicest hotel of them all, it’s really great for families.

Cars themed suite (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Cars themed suite (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

Related: How to save money by renting Disney Vacation Club points

Disney’s Polynesian Village studios (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In many cases, Disney Vacation Club properties are attached to existing Disney World Resorts, such as Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Bay Lake Tower (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Bay Lake Tower (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

Related: Using DVC points to stay walking distance to the Magic Kingdom

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.

Monorail resorts

(Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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 Contemporary Resort (Magic Kingdom)
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort (Magic Kingdom, when the new pedestrian bridge opens)

Disney Skyliner resorts

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

These resorts are close to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios via the new gondola Skyliner system.

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.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

To put it another way, this may be the best hotel for adults who need to balance a Disney trip with the real world.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Our least-favorite Disney World resort hotels

You can’t love every single Disney resort hotel, 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.

Related: How much a trip to Disney World costs

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 struggles to meet our standards of a Deluxe resort.

Disney’s Boardwalk pool area (Photo courtesy of Disney)

If you spent time on the Jersey Shore or Coney Island as a kid, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn may bring back memories. The pool area is styled after a 1920s amusement park with a wooden roller coaster-inspired slide and a creepy clown feature. There’s a large splash area for smaller kids, as well as a couple of quieter pools adults may prefer. 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 Old Port Royale complex has been reimagined as a new port of entry for Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. It’s a centralized and convenient location for services, amenities and three new dining options. Guests arrive at Old Port Royale via an all-new porte-cochere, where they are welcomed into a colorfully reappointed lobby under an open-trussed roof and a colonnade with floor-to-ceiling drapes. Friendly cast members are waiting in this open and communal environment to help guests check in to their rooms, answer questions, offer advice to help them better enjoy their stays and more.
(Photo courtesy of Disney Parks)

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.

(Photo courtesy of Edward Pizzarello/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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 Caribbean Beach pool (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-French Quarter and Riverside

This resort sits squarely in the Moderate category. It’s big and spread out, with more than 3,000 rooms combined across the French Quarter and Riverside areas. The French Quarter theme will remind folks of New Orlean, and fans of “The Princess and the Frog” will enjoy seeing Tiana in some guest rooms.

These resorts originally opened in the early 1990s, and though they’ve been updated since, the rooms are still on the smaller side. Port Orleans has pools on both sides of the resort and you’ll also find horse-drawn carriages along the river. But neither have the sorts of activities that can keep kids occupied when you’re not in the parks. The restaurants here are also focused on quick service.

Some folks love the charm of Port Orleans. But for the price, we’d choose a Value resort over this Moderate resort.

Related: TPG guide to visiting Walt Disney World 

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.

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 after the room refreshes. 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.

Disney’s Pop Century (Photo by Dia Adams)

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 new 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.

Bottom line

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? 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 Animal Kingdom Lodge and Polynesian Village Resort. These resorts offer a special experience that goes well beyond a place to bed down. Other standouts in the Moderate and Value categories are the cabins at Fort Wilderness, the family suites at the Art of Animation and the new 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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