This seems like a straightforward question but it can be very subjective. There are a lot of factors that come into play. This will hopefully help with picking a resort for your next trip. I’ve broken down the categories and try to provide a good overview to help making your plans.
Choosing a resort to stay at can be difficult as there are pros and cons with every resort. On Disney property, there are 24 resorts; choosing which one can take time and research to pick. The hotels are broken up into 3 categories: value, moderate, and deluxe. The prices can vary by resort and has a resort for almost any budget or preference. This does not include hotels at Disney Springs or the Disney VIllas.
The value resorts prices can be as low as $97 – $530 per night depending on the time of the years. Moderate resorts will run you about $170 – $1300+ and Deluxe resorts are $450-$2200 varying during the day. The prices vary drastically based on the resort or what time of year you decide to go. In the sections below, I will break down the benefits of each of the categories and the hotels to choose from.
The short answer for which resort I recommend, then I would say for a family on a small budget but want the most bang for the buck, I would recommend Pop Century as a value resort. This is usually our go-to for a value resort. For a family that wants an upgrade without going over the top, Caribbean Beach resort is our choice for a moderate resort, especially if they have boys because who wants to stay in a Pirate room. And for a Deluxe resort, our choice would be the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Now let’s dive more in-depth
Value resorts are the cheapest option on Disney Property but that isn’t a bad thing. These resorts vary in the theme of the resorts – which will be explained below. So what makes the Value a value resort – Bed size, pool, room size. For a standard room, the bed size is 2 double beds or 1 king bed. The suites are a little bigger. Every resort has a pool which will be themed but smaller than pools at moderate. Room size is the smallest of the Disney resorts, at an average of 260 sq ft, with the exception of family suites.
These are a few of the things to note before making a decision. One thing to consider is how much time will you be spending in your room. If you don’t spend a lot of time in the room, it may be worth saving the money and staying at a value resort. Value resort themes also tend to be more “Disneyish” than some of the moderate or deluxe resorts. If you are looking for a resort on property and on a budget, these are the options.
All – Star Movies
This is a great resort for those that are looking for a truly Disney-ish at a cheaper rate than Art of Animation. The room size is a little smaller but the decor is great. Looking around the resort is half the fun. You can choose between 101 Dalmatians, Fantasia, Love Bug, Mighty Ducks, and Toy Story. The best part of this resort is a 35 ft Perdita and 40 ft Pongo statue. There is also a . must see toy story area; even if you are not staying at Movies, it would be worth taking a bus there to look around. Fantasia is the main pool and located between the Fantasia and Cinema Hall. There is also a smaller pool, Duck Pond pool, over by the Mighty Duck buildings.
All – Star Music
Any music buffs in
All – Star Sports
This was the first value resort constructed on Disney property. The theme is exactly as it sounds sports with some Disney thrown in. Each area has its own designated sport – Basketball, baseball, tennis, football, and surfing. There are a couple of pools on the grounds and an arcade. Even the food court is sports-themed – End Zone Food Court. If you have any sports fans in the family, this is a great resort to stay at! It is impressive seeing a 50+ foot football helmet in person! Sports has a couple of pools including the Surfboard Bay Pool. All-star sports is located first in line of the All-star resorts, which means they are the first to be picked up on the bus and the first to be dropped off when coming back from the parks. This can be a great asset at the end of a long day.
Are you ready to be transported back in time? Pop century is the resort for you! It immerses resort guests into the past decades including the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s. Each area has the fads of that time; from Lady and the Tramp of the 1950’s to the cellular phone of the 1980s. The theme of the resort extends in the Hippy Dippy Pool. The Hippy Dippy Pool is the central pool that is themed around the 1960s with flower-shaped water jets.
The shopping area and the dining area follow the same type of decor. The food court here is one of the best that I have been to. If you have a chance to get the tie-dyed cheesecake, you need to try this! Plus, Pop Century has its own bus, so it improves travel time between park and resort; which is a huge benefit.
Art of Animation (AOA)
This one is the most Disneyish themed resort but also the most expensive. The biggest thing when looking at AOA is that its price is more comparable with Moderate resorts than value. AOA takes you through Newer Disney movies compared to All-star Movies overall. The rooms usher you straight into the movies on which they are based, including Cars, Finding Nemo, Lion King, and Little Mermaid. The decor around the resort is outstanding and well worth strolling around the resort to take it all in. Even the lobby, has posters of artwork that looks like hand-drawn sketches. Where the other resorts provide great themes, AOA is a lot more immersive in the surroundings.
As with the other value resorts, AOA has its own food court – named Landscape of Flavors. The Finding Nemo based pool, Big Blue, is a must-see, even if not staying at AOA. The detail is incredible with the backdrop to the detail that you will hear the voices of Crush, Dory, and Nemo underwater. The level of detail is seen in all aspects of the resort. If you are looking for a value resort but don’t mind paying a little more, AOA is a great option.
Caribbean Beach Resort
The Caribbean beach resort is the largest resort on Disney property, across the various categories. It is broken up into 5 different sections – Trinidad, Martinique, Barbados, Aruba, and Jamaica. The buildings are all very colorful with a very Jamaican feel. The rooms are a little smaller than the other Moderate resorts but not by much. With the increased size, also come increased cost for the results. If you have kids with a fascination with Pirates, the Caribbean Beach has you covered with a Pirate themed room.
Unlike the value resorts, the moderate resorts have restaurants rather than food courts. The Caribbean has Shutters and Spyglass Grill. Both are covered under the Disney Dining Plan.
It not only has a shuttle to and from the parks, but it also has an internal shuttle to get around the resort. Which will soon have the Disney Skyliner hub as well. Overall it has a laid-back feel.
This is a unique resort that is inspired by the American Southwest/ colonial Mexico. The decor is very rustic compared to the other resorts. It is made up of colorful fountains, plaza, and courtyards. The rooms are a little bigger than the Caribbean Beach. There is a variety of different suites that sleep from 4 (2 queen beds) up to Sleeps 6 (1 king bed and 2 double beds). A nice perk is that the room comes with a Keurig coffee pot. The resort is broken into three village areas of Cabanas, Casitas and Ranchos. The decor is suiting with the use of stucco buildings and Terracotta roofs.
The Pepper Market Food Court is in the main building (El Centro). There is also Rix Sports Bar and Grill along with Maya Grill. The Main Pool, named The Dig Site, has a massive pyramid in the middle that looks like something out of a Mayan jungle. There are also a few smaller pools that tend to be quieter if you want a slower change of pace.
Port Orleans French Quarter
The French Quarter brings the feel of Mardis Gras (or a tamer version) to Disney World. The resort is the smallest of the moderate resorts and resides near Port Orleans Riverside. Buildings at this resort are colorful without being over the top, providing a warm feel to space. The rooms tend to be simple yet rather elegant design and bring in the ambiance of New Orleans. Sassagoula Float Works is the food court at the French Quarter, providing both great food options as well as an engaging atmosphere with sculptures from Blaine Kern Studios. The pool at this resort is great for kids including a water-spouting alligator with a water slide at the main pool. The resort also has an aquatic play area for kids 48” and under. For the adults, there is Painting on De Bayou for a instructor-led painting class.
Port Orleans Riverside
Riverside is a Southern theme resort based on Antebellum south style. The resort is broken up into 2 areas the Magnolia Bend and Aligator Bayou. Magnolia Bend are plantation style mansions and Aligator Bayou are cajun based buildings. The rooms have a relaxing atmosphere with some of the rooms based on Princess and the Frog. Each room consists of 2 queen sized beds. Riverside has a couple of restaurants including River Roost Lounge, Boatwrights Dining Hall, Food court- Riverside Mill. There are plenty of options to satisfy the entire family. The nice thing with Riverside is that they have 6 pools with the Main pool having a 95-foot water slide!. The main pool is located on Ol’ Man Island. If you have someone in your party that loves fishing, this is the resort for them. They have a 2hr Fishing excursions along the Sassagoula River.
Fort Wilderness Cabins
The Cabins are a good break from the usual at any type of resort. These are individual cabins that are around 500 sq ft. The cabins can sleep six people and has a separate bedroom. Fort Wilderness Cabins has the tradition sleep away camp feel and don’t worry, they are air-conditioned. This is also a dog-friendly resort. Trail’s End is a restaurant at the resort – which is a buffet style cafeteria. The biggest draw to the Fort Wilderness is the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Review which is an incredibly popular DInner show with a hoe-down style theme and provides a family-style all you can eat dinner. There is also Mickey’s Backyard BBQ. From this resort, you can take the bus to the marina to get to the Magic Kingdom otherwise they have other busses to get to the other parks.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
This is one of the best resorts on Disney property! The theme captures the spirit of the African savanna lodge. Views from the lodge are easily the best on Disney World property with the wildlife – giraffes, zebras, and gazelles, etc. Animal Kingdom Lodge is broken up into 2 main areas: Jambo House and Kidani Village. Jambo House is for the main resort guests and the Kidani Village is the Villas for Disney Vacation Club.
The decor and feel of the resort are absolutely breathtaking. The main pool of the resort is massive at 11,000 sq ft. The pool sits next to Uzima Savanna. There are several restaurant options including Jiko – the Cooking Place, The Mara, Boma: Flavors of Africa and Sanaa. Each room has a private Balcony and has either 2 queen beds or king bed with a daybed. The only downfall of the resort is the distance from the other parks, it is about 20-minute bus ride.
Beach Club Resort
The Beach Club has a very light but elegant feel to the resort. Using stick-style architecture that was popular for summer cottages. The rooms have aquatic based colors with dark accents. The standard rooms area about 380sq ft. and Club level is 400+sq ft depending on the rooms. The club level also has the Stone Harbor Club which is a concierge lounge. Beaches & Cream soda shop is located at the Beach Club and is a must stop at for all!
Even if just going at Disney World, you should stop in for the “Kitchen Sink”; which feeds an entire table. Other dining options include Cape May Cafe, Martha’s Vineyard and Hurricane Hanna’s Waterside bar and grill. Both Beach Club and the Yacht Club share a primary pool, Stormalong Bay; which is a mini-water park. There is also a smaller quiet pool as well. Beach club has both an impressive spa and gym.
BoardWalk Inn Resort
Boardwalk Inn is in between Epcot and Hollywood Studios. It has a vintage, traditional feel from the lobby to the rooms. They are paler colors combined with stark contrast dark wood to give the rooms an elegant feel. Here there are both standard and Club level rooms. Standard rooms will hold about 5 people and are around 434 sq ft. You can get rooms with either 2 queen beds and a day bed or king size bed. The club level rooms can hold 2 people (garden room) to 8 people (2 bedroom suite). The Club level also has access to Innkeeper’s Club, a concierge service with complimentary breakfast.
BoardWalk Inn has a few dining options including AbracadaBAR (Magician themed cocktail lounge), Boardwalk Bakery, Big River Grille, and Brewing Works, Flying Fish to name a few. Your family will have no problem finding a place to get a bite to eat. At the resort, there is a massive pool called Luna Park which has Keister Coaster, a 200ft waterslide. There are also 2 other quiet pool areas.
There is a lot of great reasons to stay here but the 2 biggest reasons to stay at the Contemporary, the distance to the Magic Kingdom and views. The hotel has a clean modern look from the lobby to the rooms. The resort is within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom with a 5-minute walk to the park. Other transportation options include buses or the monorail which passes through the resort. The views from the resort are the best of the deluxe. You are able to see the Happily Ever After Fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant which is a nightly show in the Bay Lake.
The contemporary rooms are the biggest rooms on Disney property at 422 sq feet. Each has 2 queen size beds or 1 king size bed. They also have a concierge for certain suites including continental breakfast and cheese bar. Several restaurants are located within the contemporary including Chef Mickeys, California Grill, The Wave. The pools at the contemporary are simply curved pool along with a children’s wading pool. There is a water slide at the large pool at the resort. A bonus of this resort is that they have a marina boat rental on site.
Grand Floridian Resort
Next in line for the deluxe hotels is the Grand Floridian. This is probably one of the best known Disney Resorts for its Victorian style appearance. This is evident in the architecture along with the color screen of white and red gabled roofs. It has an impressive atrium that is 5 stories high with stained glass domes. The sophistication flows into the rooms as well with the use of gold and taupe along with terracotta thrown in. The rooms typically sleep around 5 guests but there are exceptions with concierge Deluxe rooms along with Lodge Tower rooms. The smaller of the rooms are about 574 square feet with the larger Club rooms coming in at around 1300 square feet. This is a great Resort if you’re looking for more of a sophisticated feel.
There are a lot of dining options at the Grand Floridian Resort. These include 1900 Park Fare, Citricos, Garden View Tea Room, Grand Floridian Cafe and the always popular Victoria and Albert’s. Along with the great dining options, one of the best features of this Resort is that you can take the monorail right to Magic Kingdom. when leaving the resort Magic Kingdom is the very next stop and can take less than 10 minutes to get to the gate. For the kids, there are several pool options including the heavy favorite with an interactive water area that features an Alice in Wonderland theme. Along with this, there are to swimming areas including the primary Grotto themed pool and a smaller Courtyard pool. For the adults, there is a spa on site along with a marina where you can rent boats along with fishing excursions.
Polynesian was one of the original hotels that were opened around the Magic Kingdom. This is probably one of the most impressive themes of any of the Disney Resorts, featuring a tropical backsplash South Pacific theme. the theme is evident from The Atrium that stands three stories high to the rooms and across the grounds. Disney uses dark woods along with tropical plants to highlight the South Pacific feel. the resort features several big dining options that include Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, Tambu Lounge, Ohana, Spirit of Aloha and Kona Cafe. all of which are great options.
the Polynesian Resort is stationed on the monorail track as well, making it a quick trip to the Magic Kingdom. Buses are available to the other parts as well. The rooms also incorporate the South Pacific theme with the use of 10 and Sage colors while mixing it in with dark wood tones throughout the rooms. the rooms here are slightly smaller than the Grand Floridian but are still an impressive 404 square feet. With some of the suites being as large as over 1800 square feet. while staying at the resort it is a must to go to the large pool. The lava pool area features a waterslide in the volcano along with a large infinity hot tub. If you’re looking for a resort with a very immersive theme, the Polynesian Resort is probably the best choice.
Ah, Wilderness Lodge, this is a rustic-looking resort that is reminiscent of the American Southwest. The decor is inspired by Native American design from the lobby to the rooms. There are 2 Totem poles that stand an impressive 55 feet! The resort uses various shades of deeper colors such as reds, browns, and greens. The resort is a stunning 8 Story Split-log lodge near Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The rooms here are a good size with standard rooms being around 340sq ft. and the presidential suite up to an astounding 1000 sq ft. Like other Deluxe resorts, there is a lounge for club level guests. The rooms and beds continue with the rustic feel, even down to carved headboards that immerse you in the feel of the Southwest.
There are a few dining options at Wilderness Lodge including Roaring Fork, Geyser Point Bar & Grill, and Artist Point. All are great options right on site. Roaring Fork is a quick service option for both breakfast and Lunch/dinner with anything from waffles to burgers. Geyser Point has burgers and salads, along with a full drink menu. The biggest name restaurant on site has to be Artist Point, hands down. This is a unique experience where guests will wander into the Enchanted Forest setting, or so it feels. The Evil Queen may even make an appearance. *Queue eerie music* Artist Point has great options for the whole family. Overall if you are looking for a unique Deluxe resort that the entire family will love, this is another great option.
Swan and Dolphin Hotel
One of the often overlooked resorts on the list is the Swan and Dolphin Hotel. They are located between the entrances of Epcot and Hollywood Studios. If you don’t feel like waiting for the bus, both parks are within walking distance. The hotel has a distinct look with Brown/tan and teal facade. The Dolphin is decorated with two 56 foot dolphins. Both of the hotels are actually owned by Starwood Resorts. This allows them to utilize some Disney perks but also provide the guests with extra discounts. The spa on site will help you to relax during your stay. Pools at Swan and Dolphin have white sand beaches along with waterslides for the kids. Even though not your typical Disney resort, it is a good option.
Yacht Club Resort
The last on the list is the Yacht Club Resort. This has more of a traditional feel to it with a Seaside style. The inside of the resort hosts a nautical theme with dark hardwood in the lobby with brass fixtures. The resort increase the level of sophistication with leather couches and chandeliers. THe resort itself is similar to the Beach Club Resort. There are docks that guests can walk with a lighthouse at the end. The rooms continue the nautical/seaside theme. This includes light colored walls with deep colored carpet. The details continue through the room , even to the headboards with ship’s wheel design. Rooms vary from 380 sq ft in the standard room to upto a staggering 2374 sq ft with the Captain’s Deck Suite. THere are a variety of different sized rooms to meet every parties needs.
For dining options, there is Hurricane Hanna’s Waterside Bar and Grill, Ale and Compass restaurant, and Yachtsman steakhouse along with a few others. Hurricane Hanna’s provides more grilled type foods along with snacks. Ale and Compass Restaurant provides pub style food from burgers to lobster rolls. There
There are many great options when staying onsite at Walt Disney World. This is only a quick breakdown of highlights of each resort to help you choose one that fits your needs. Some of the resorts stick out as must stay at but there are no bad resorts. IF you have made it this far, I applaud you and thank you for your dedication! We are working on updating the pictures during our next trip as well.
What are your criteria for resorts? Let us know below.