Deciding what Disney World hotel to stay in is one of the toughest choices when planning a vacation. There are different price points, types of rooms and locations to consider. On top of that, do you stay at the same hotel all trip or move around throughout? Unfortunately, I can’t decide all of that for you. Well, I could but it might not match what you actually want. What I can do is rank all of the Disney World resorts that I have stayed in so far.
Before we get to that, a few caveats. I’ve only stayed in approximately half of the on-site Disney World resorts. While I’ve visited all of them, I’m going to leave the resorts I haven’t stayed in off of this list. My favorite ones to walk around that I haven’t stayed in are the Polynesian Village Resort, Grand Floridian, and the Boardwalk Resorts (Boardwalk and Beach Club). Not surprisingly, the reason I like these more than others I’ve walked around is also the reason I haven’t stayed at them – they are very expensive. All four of those resorts are beautiful and have prime location. Because of that, they are four of the most expensive hotels in Disney World.
A quick tangent – just because you’re staying at one hotel doesn’t mean you can’t walk the grounds (and eat at the restaurants) of another. In fact, I encourage people to do that. Not only will you get to see some beautiful areas Disney has created, you might come up with a better idea of where you want to stay next trip.
Back on track, when ranking these resorts I tried to consider all factors – price, rooms, location, amenities. I was hopeful that considering all of these would even out my rankings and put some value resorts (or at least moderates) near the top of the list. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. While there is some parity among the values and moderates, all the deluxe resorts or villas ended up at the top of the list. I do think there is a pretty big jump from moderate to deluxe. That doesn’t mean the other resorts are bad, on the contrary as some are quite nice, it’s just hard to ignore all the positives the deluxe resorts offer.
With all of that out-of-the-way, it’s time to get to the rankings. If you’re interested in reading more about each resort, click on the name to see our full review (no reviews for Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, or Bay Lake Tower at this time).
For all the flack that the All Star Resorts catch, I don’t think there’s a huge gap in between the 8-11 spots on this list. Most of that comes down to value. All Star Music Resort does have the worst rooms on this list and the amenities aren’t as enjoyable as others. Having said that, I don’t think they are so bad that it makes up for the difference in cost. If you can find a standard room right around $100 or a family suite for $200 then All Star Music Resort holds some value. I also think this resort has a more prevalent and well executed theme than Pop Century and Art of Animation, if that’s important to you. I’m in the minority when it comes to thinking that All Star Music is not far below the next few on the list but if you find the right price and time then staying here is not a bad option.
Pop Century certainly has its place among the Disney World Resorts. But when compared to the other resorts on this list, Pop Century doesn’t excel in many categories. The rooms are slightly nicer than the All Star Resorts, the pools and food court are decent but nothing spectacular. The proximity to Epcot and Art of Animation is nice but no better than anywhere else on the list. Theming is somewhat lacking throughout the resort or is so broad that anything can fit. Cost is far less, and that’s great, but not enough to overcome the other resorts we’ve stayed in.
9. Caribbean Beach Resort
This isn’t exactly fair. Caribbean Beach is in the midst of a major renovation that began several years ago with rooms being remodeled and continues now with upgraded dining and transportation offerings. When we stayed here I liked the resort pretty well. The grounds are very pretty and the proximity to Epcot is a definite plus. On top of that, the main pool is very fun. Still, the resort showed its age and was so large that the it became inconvenient at times. I’m excited to see what the future holds for Caribbean Beach, I could see it moving up this list a long ways, but for now it stays near the bottom.
Art of Animation is like Pop Century’s younger cousin. While the prices are a little higher, everything about the resort feels more fresh. The pool is similar but with a few more interesting quirks. The food court has a similar layout but slightly better food. Where Art of Animation really excels is the variety of rooms offered, whether it be family suites or standard hotel rooms. I also think the grounds and themes are far more interesting than its neighbor (Pop Century) across the pond. I’m not sure I’d pay $40 a night more for Art of Animation over Pop Century but if the gap is smaller than that I’d probably splurge.
7. Coronado Springs Resort
Coronado Springs is another resort that is about to be plussed with another restaurant and rooms. This isn’t as substantial but will be a nice upgrade to Coronado. I think this hotel is fairly interesting with distinct southwest architecture and a beautiful lake to walk around. Coronado Springs also offers one of the best pools in all of Walt Disney World. The rooms are solid and the counter-service dining is the best of any moderate resort. Melissa ranked Art of Animation above Coronado Springs but I think the pool put it over the top for me.
Port Orleans – Riverside moves above of Coronado because of two factors. One, the grounds are absolutely stunning with beautiful buildings, paths and architecture all around. Two, the theme is wonderful and executed to perfection. Acting as a town outside of New Orleans, I find Riverside a quiet escape to the chaos of the parks. The pool isn’t great but being near French Quarter is a plus, as is the boat ride transportation to Disney Springs.
Old Key West’s pros and cons are more extreme than most other on the list. We’ll start with the pros. Old Key West’s location and transportation are strong, offering easy (boat) access to Disney Springs. The room size is also advantageous, with a bigger footprint than any other Disney resort. I also find the pool area to be quite nice and the walking to be beautiful. Unfortunately, the resort looks a little older (and it is). The theme is executed but might not have been the best idea as I find it quite boring. There are times when you can find Old Key West at a significant discount and booking then is a solid choice. Also, if you want a larger room then I’d absolutely recommend Old Key West.
4. Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary Resort
Maybe my most controversial pick on this list as I imagine it would be very high on some lists. If this was actually the Contemporary Resort and staying inside the A-frame then I’d have a hard time not putting it at number one I’m guessing. But Bay Lake Tower isn’t much of a consideration for the number one spot as the resort has no theme and the rooms were nice but not exciting. The location can’t be beat, steps away from Magic Kingdom and a monorail ride away from Epcot. Still, Bay Lake Tower can’t overcome being one of the dullest resorts at Disney – especially compared to what the top 3 offer.
From dull to a resort with incredible character, Wilderness Lodge’s beauty is jaw-dropping. The lobby, pool, room, restaurants, and location are all top-notch. Every aspect is as solid as it gets and the price point is on the lower end of the deluxe resorts. That Wilderness Lodge isn’t in the top 2 is no fault of its own. The top 2 just extra something over the top that Wilderness Lodge doesn’t quite have.
While Wilderness Lodge beats Animal Kingdom Lodge in location, AKL wins out in every other aspect. There are beautiful, original rooms that fit the theme perfectly. The pools are very nice, if not spectacular. Food is a spot where this resort excels with three of the best table-service restaurants in Walt Disney World. Oh, and there are animals right outside of the room. This distinction alone would make Animal Kingdom Lodge incredible, thankfully they didn’t stop there. The resort offers more extras than others as well, with free tours of their dining locations, open fire-pits and much more. Melissa and I both agreed that if just looking at the resort alone, Animal Kingdom Lodge would be number one. Factoring in location changed the top spot though. Fortunately, you can find pretty decent values at Animal Kingdom Lodge with rooms sometimes around $250/night. If you can’t stay there though then go visit the hotel, it’s worth your time.
Frankly, if just considering the room, lobby and them the Yacht Club would probably be in the 3-5 range on this list. Where the resort excels is the outstanding pool (Stormalong Bay) and location. Walking to and from Epcot and Hollywood Studios is my favorite location of any resort, even more than the Magic Kingdom resorts. And that pool is like a miniature water park, except more relaxing. If you can swing it even for a night or two, Yacht (and Beach) Club is an incredible place to stay.
That does it for my resort rankings so far. I’ll update the list as we stay at other resorts over the years. Let me know any questions or thoughts down below in the comments!
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Categories: Hotel Reviews