Deciding which 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. I probably don’t even know you (hi mom!) 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. We haven’t stayed in all of the Disney World resorts although we’re getting close. While I’ve visited all of them, I’m going to leave the resorts I haven’t stayed in off of this list. Not surprisingly, the reason I haven’t stayed at all of them is simple – they are very expensive. The Grand Floridian remains the most expensive hotel at Disney World and the Contemporary is only slightly below that. We look forward to staying there one day but for now they are left off the list.
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, pools, food, etc.. 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 isn’t exactly the case. While there is some parity among the values and moderates, most of the deluxe resorts or villas ended up near the top of the list. I do think there is a pretty big jump from moderate to deluxe, spare a few deluxe resorts. 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.
As the title says, this post is just sticking to all of the on-site Disney resorts. There are several Disney Springs resorts that we like, as well as the Swan & Dolphin on Disney’s Boardwalk If we were to add the Swan & Dolphin into these rankings it would likely be somewhere in the 8-11 range, as it’s hard to beat that price and location. Check out our full review of that resort here.
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.
For all the flack that the All Star Resorts catch, they are starting to gain some grounds with recent room remodels. Most of that comes down to value. All Star Music Resort does have the worst rooms on this list (although they’re getting an update 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 $120 or a family suite for $230 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.
Art of Animation and Pop Century will always be linked. Unfortunately, Art of Animation falls behind Pop Century due to the higher price tag. The hotel does have better amenities than the one directly across the lake. The pool is similar but with a few more interesting quirks. The food court has a similar layout but slightly better food. Unfortunately, the rooms aren’t as nice as Pop Century’s updated rooms and they come at a higher cost. All things being even, I’d probably pick Art of Animation over Pop Century but the resort is always more expensive than Pop Century, hence the lower ranking. The exception would be is if you were looking into the family suites. The Disney Skyliner is a huge bonus to both of these resorts though.
Coronado Springs is another resort that has been plussed with new restaurants and rooms, including a giant new tower. We’re lukewarm on the renovation and the hotel largely stays in the same place in our rankings as before. 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 counter-service dining is the best of any moderate resort and near the top of any counter-service at WDW. I find the rooms here to be bland and the theming lacking continuity. Still, I could understand those that move Coronado up on the list and finding the hotel under $180/night is a steal.
Pop Century certainly has its place among the Disney World Resorts and it keeps moving up our list. In recent years, the rooms have been redone at Pop Century and I do like them a decent amount, even if they’re a little bland. The cost is also far less than Art of Animation next door. The addition of the Disney Skyliner is the biggest draw here as the transportation is at least at a moderate level now while the prices are still low. If you’re looking for the best value then Pop Century is the place to go. The resort can often be found on Hotwire or Priceline.
The lowest ranked deluxe resort is still a solid option if you can find the right deal. Saratoga Springs caters to those who want more of a laid back vacation with lots of time at Disney Springs. Themed to upstate New York, we don’t find the resort to be enveloping in terms of theme but it is beautiful. Saratoga’s other detraction is how spread out the resort is, making the bus times a bit frustrating. There is a chance to find Saratoga Springs Resort under $250/night and then we’d recommend it (or if you’re looking for a room to accommodate a big group), otherwise there are moderate resorts we like more.
Port Orleans – Riverside ranks above 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 others 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 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.
Caribbean Beach has gained the most ground in these rankings thanks to the resort’s massive renovation and the Disney Skyliner opening. The grounds are very pretty and the proximity to Epcot and Hollywood Studios is a definite plus. On top of that, the main pool is very fun. Caribbean Beach has a large footprint and takes a while to walk around, which can be a negative after a long day in the parks. That can be negated thanks to the options on the Skyliner stations and multiple bus stops.
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 in the top five, 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 5 offer.
This resort was the hardest to rank, mainly because there’s a big jump from 10 to 9. All of the top 9 have a stake at being number 1 for me. For now, Boardwalk Inn falls in this slot mainly because I think the rooms lack character. That said, the resort has our favorite location of any at Disney World. The pool is fun and the surrounding Boardwalk area is really enjoyable to walk around. While a deluxe resort, there are times when you can find a decent rate (under $300/night). It’s also a good value for DVC owners or those renting points.
French Quarter can’t boast the incredible location that the the rest of the top 9 offer, it does have a distinct theme at much lower prices. The resort is nestled right up against the river and offers an idealized New Orleans for guests to enjoy. There is boat transportation offered to Disney Springs and the resort is close to Epcot. While French Quarter doesn’t offer everything that a deluxe resort does, being able to walk to Port Orleans Riverside makes for a quasi-deluxe with a laid back atmosphere and beautiful theme.
Walt Disney World’s newest resort narrowly edges out French Quarter thanks to the amenities, nicer rooms and location. All of those qualities are incredibly strong as the resort has one of the best dining scenes of anywhere on property. There are a few thematic issues and the price, for now, is sky high. For being a compact hotel sitting next to a moderate resort, the Riviera definitely makes good use of their space. The grounds are wonderful to walk around and the seating areas are charming and relaxing. All in all, this is a lovely hotel if you find it at the right price.
I’ve questioned whether the two different wings of Animal Kingdom Lodge should be split up in these rankings and ultimately decided to. That said, you can access everything at the lodge regardless of if you’re staying at Kidani or Jambo. So, if it’s cheaper to stay at Kidani then I’d consider it at the very least. We like Jambo House slightly more thanks to more dining variety and the grand lobby. Kidani Village has perks though as I like the pool better there and it’s a quieter resort as a whole. You can’t go wrong with either one!
Wilderness Lodge is a resort with incredible character and beauty. 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 4 is no fault of its own. The top 4 just provide a little extra something to put them over the top that Wilderness Lodge doesn’t quite have for me.
If you take away the extremely high price point then the Polynesian probably takes over the top spot on this list. The resort has some of our favorite rooms in Walt Disney World. On top of that, the Polynesian has a well executed theme, incredible location, an amazing pool and one of the best dining scenes of any resort at Walt Disney World. The downside is that guests will definitely be paying for all of that. If we’re picking nits, the Poly might not have the same type of charm that Wilderness Lodge or French Quarter has but it makes up for it in plenty of other ways. If you have the means then stay here, even though it isn’t a good value.
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 – Jambo House unique but 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 and the pool 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 theme the Yacht Club would probably be in the 4-6 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. The table-service dining is spectacular, as well. If you can swing it even for a night or two, Yacht (and Beach) Club is an incredible place to stay.
Honestly, we could probably put the Yacht & Beach Club together. The rooms are similar and the one slight downside. They’ve very nice, just lacking some theme. After that, Yacht & Beach both share an incredible array of amenities. Those include dining, the best pool at WDW and an incredible location. The reason why Beach Club comes in first place? Because it’s just a few steps closer to Epcot. I actually prefer Yacht Club’s lobby slightly more but not enough to offset the tiny bit better location.
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 you have down below in the comments! Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Check out our planning guide here! If you enjoy what you’re reading on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook page. You can find both of those on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!
Categories: Hotel Reviews