(This article may or may not contain affiliate links. What does that mean?)
Every Walt Disney World Resort is unique and special but one resort offers the chance to share your morning coffee with a giraffe! Read on to learn which one and a bit of something about our favorites.
The Walt Disney World Resort is enormous. To accompany its four main theme parks, 2 water parks, shopping district, and sports complex, it offers more than two dozen different resorts. That’s a total of over 30,000 rooms! As a Disney-obsessed family, we’re here to share our vast experience to make this important decision easy for you!
We love staying on Disney property whenever we make a trip to Walt Disney World. Sure, there are a lot of off-site options, and none of the Disney resorts are all-inclusive. But when it comes to comfort, amenities, and that extra sprinkle of Disney magic, Disney resort hotels can’t be beaten!
For this list, we wanted to run down our favorite resorts at Disney World for families. Now, in reality, there’s nothing wrong with any of the Disney hotels. But, these are the hotels we think have the most fun activities for kids and great options for grown-ups, too.
To make it easy for guests, Disney separates their resorts into three price categories: Value (least expensive), Moderate, and Deluxe (most expensive). This is a good place to start the decision-making process. What can you afford and where are you willing to splurge a bit for the most memorable experiences?
We’ll share our three favorite resorts in each price tier. Plus, we’ll throw in a “bonus” resort at the end. Here we go!
NO TIME TO ENJOY THIS ARTICLE NOW? PIN IT OR BOOKMARK IT FOR LATER!
Disney Value Resorts
There are six Value Resorts at Walt Disney — All-Star Movies Resort, All-Star Sports Resort, All-Star Music Resort, Pop Century Resort, Art of Animation Resort, and the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. The nightly rate for a standard room in the Value Resorts is $95 to $367, depending on when you go. Here are our three favs.
Disney’s All-Star Resort
OK, I’m cheating here because there isn’t really an actual Disney All-Star Resort. There are THREE different All-Star resorts located right next to each other: Disney All-Star Sports Resort, Disney All-Star Music Resort, and Disney All-Star Movies Resort. But I won’t tell if you don’t mind!
Each resort is themed after its namesake and divided into five thematically appropriate areas. All-Star Sports has areas themed with football, tennis, baseball, basketball, and surfing. All-Star Music’s themed areas are rock, jazz, country, Broadway, and Calypso. The themed areas at All-Star Movies are Toy Story, 101 Dalmatians, Fantasia, The Mighty Ducks, and The Love Bug.
Food at the All-Star Resorts
Identical pool and food options can be found at all three All-Star Resorts. Each resort has its own food court. All-Star Sports has “The Endzone Food Court.” All-Star Music has “The Intermission Food Court.” And All-Star Movies has “The World Premiere Food Court.” All food courts have similar menu options of pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and more. Each resort has two pools; the main pool and a smaller “quiet” pool.
Let’s be real, for a moment. Because they are the cheapest on-site resorts, all of the All-Star resorts are usually pretty packed. Other than in the room, guests might find it hard to have a quiet moment staying at one of these resorts. Of the three, All-Star Music is my favorite simply because I enjoy the theming.
Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Disney’s Pop Century Resort is divided into five different sections with their own buildings and parking lots, each dedicated to a different decade: 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. It’ll be really easy to tell which section is which with just a look around, as the decades are decorated with time period details (a giant 8-track tape is right next to the ’70s buildings, the stairwells are inside Rubik’s Cubes in the ’80s section, a huge floppy disk is next to the pool in the ’90s section, etc.).
Pool and Food Options at Pop Century Resort
Pop Century Resort has three pools, the largest is located in the 1960s section and is appropriately called the “Hippy Dippy” pool. There are two “quiet pools,” one located in the 1990s section (“Computer” pool) and the other in the 1950s section (“Bowling” pool). The “Everything Pop” food court is the only food option available at this resort. It offers sandwiches, flatbreads, snacks, and other quick-service-style foods.
A big bonus while staying at Pop Century Resort is the Disney Skyliner. The Disney Skyliner is a cable-powered aerial gondola system that glides over treetops to conveniently transport guests from the resorts to the theme parks and back. The Pop Century Resort shares a Skyliner station with the Art of Animation Resort, and the station serves as one end of the whole Skyliner system. Upon boarding a gondola and leaving the station, guests soar to the Caribbean Beach Resort, which serves as the main “hub” of the Skyliner. From that station, guests can choose to go either directly to the Hollywood Studios theme park or to Disney’s Riviera Resort, which then connects to the Epcot theme park.
I cannot say enough great things about Disney’s Skyliner. It’s fast and convenient. It’s the most environmentally-friendly mode of transportation around the resort. Don’t worry about the fact that the gondolas aren’t air-conditioned — once moving, the breeze blows right through and keeps everyone aboard comfy. Guests afraid of heights, however, might want to pass. Otherwise, hop on a Skyliner, relax, and enjoy the sights as they whizz right by!
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
If we stay at a Value Resort, we usually go for Disney’s Art of Animation. It has the benefit of the previously-mentioned Skyliner transportation. But the theming at Art of Animation has way more of that Disney magic! The resort has decorations paying tribute to Disney’s animated classics: The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars, with sections of the hotel divided by each film. Buildings one through three are Cars, four and five are Finding Nemo, six and ten are Lion King, and seven through nine are The Little Mermaid. Each building is detailed from top to bottom to fit its cartoon – from giant statues of favorite characters, like Ariel and Sebastian from The Little Mermaid, to traffic cone lampshades in the Cars suites! The main lobby of the Art of Animation resort has an impressive mosaic of concept art and storyboards from the films.
Pool and Food Options at the Art of Animation Resort
The resort is definitely the most family-friendly of the Value tier, and the recreational facilities reflect that. The Art of Animation Resort has the largest pool of any Disney resort – the Finding Nemo-themed pool (appropriately named “Big Blue”) is almost 12,000 square feet, with giant jellyfish statues, and a coral-reef themed kids splash area. There are also two “quiet” pools located in the Cars and Lion King sections of the resort.
The Landscape of Flavors food court serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast options include omelets and, of course, Mickey-shaped waffles. For lunch and dinner, guests can choose from pizza, pasta, burgers, chicken, and more! Next to the “Big Blue” pool is the Drop Off Pool Bar. They serve small nibbles, such as pretzels, cheese curls, and a ham and cheese sandwich. There are also non-alcoholic specialty drinks and featured cocktails, beers, and wine.
Disney’s Moderate Resorts
There are five Moderate Resorts at Walt Disney World: Caribbean Beach Resort, Coronado Springs Resort, Port Orleans — French Quarter Resort, Port Orleans — Riverside Resort and the Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. The price range for a standard room at Disney’s Moderate Resorts is $245 to $400+ per night.
Coronado Springs Resort
Coronado Springs Resort is another one of my all-time favorite resorts to stay in at Walt Disney World. The resort has an incredible amount of great things to enjoy. The views from Gran Destino Tower’s rooftop Dahlia Lounge are stunning; guests can see the entirety of Hollywood Studios theme park and glimpses of Epcot and Animal Kingdom theme parks.
Pool and Food Options at Coronado Springs Resort
The Dig Site pool also has one of the coolest waterslides of any Disney resort; it goes right through a replica Mayan pyramid! My daughter loves the Dig Site pool. She will spend hours just going up and down that waterslide! There is also a kiddie pool nearby. Right next to the pool is a poolside bar, a sand volleyball court, a giant hot tub, and a playground. It’s easy to spend so much time here and forget about those amazing Disney theme parks!
Another thing that makes Coronado Springs Resort great for families is its plentiful food options. There is a market-style food court (El Mercado), two full-service restaurants (Maya Grill and Toledo Tapas, Steak & Seafood), and two “bar & grill” restaurants (Rix Sports Bar & Grill and Three Bridges Bar & Grill).
I go to Three Bridges even if I’m not staying at Coronado Springs! It’s situated right in the middle of the central lake at Coronado Springs Resort. The menu isn’t limited to ordinary bar food, either. Diners will recognize some bar and grill standards, but the dishes have a Latin-American twist, like the Fried Shrimp Corn Dogs (like a corn dog, but with shrimp in the middle) and the signature burger, with manchego cheese and lemon-garlic aioli.
Port Orleans – Riverside Resort
Another one of my personal favorites, Port Orleans – Riverside Resort, is one of two Port Orleans resorts, the other being the French Quarter Resort. While French Quarter Resort is designed more with New Orleans city streets in mind, Port Orleans – Riverside Resort is themed after the bayous and swamplands, with certain buildings made to look like old southern plantations!
Every once in a while, Disney cast members like to surprise guests with a little Disney “magic.” We were once those lucky guests when staying at Port Orleans – Riverside. The family and I checked in, and unbeknownst to us, the cast member had upgraded our room to the “Royal Guest” room. Just imagine our surprise as we walked into the room.
And “magical” is the only way I can describe that room. Royal purple and golds accent the room all around. Each bed has Princess and the Frog artwork above, and with the press of a secret button, fiber-optic fireworks light up the sky in the art. The room has more than just Princess and the Frog decorations, as well. There are also a ton of small easter eggs nodding to other Disney royalty, including a certain “magic” carpet on the floor.
Pool and Food Options at Port Orleans – Riverside Resort
As far as the rest of the resort goes, there are 6 pools. The main pool can be found on Ol’ Man Island and has a 95-foot-long waterslide! There are a lot of poolside activities that take place at the main pool, including a dance party and Disney trivia. The resort has two dining options. The quick-service Riverside Mill offers similar food-court options like burgers, sandwiches, and pizza. There is also a table service restaurant called Boatwrights, which offers Cajun-style dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and blackened fish.
Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
Hidden away in a cypress and pine forest across from Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground combines the great outdoors with the magic of Disney. It’s mostly a campground with spaces available for campers, RVs, and tents. However, there are a limited number of special cabins to rent. The air-conditioned cabins are spacious at 504 square feet. A Queen sized bed and bunk beds are in a separate bedroom, and there is an additional “pull-out” sleeper sofa. The cabins also have a full-size kitchen with a full-size refrigerator, two-burner electric stovetop, microwave oven, sink, and dishwasher!
Food and Special Events at Fort Wilderness Campground
Staying at one of the cabins allows guests to enjoy all the amenities, entertainment, and dining that Fort Wilderness has available. Grab a quick service meal to take back to the cabin at P&J’s Takeout, or enjoy a southern-style BBQ buffet at Trail’s End. Go swimming in one of the two pools at the resort, or rent a kayak to take out on the water. At the end of the day, roast a s’more over the campfire and sing along to favorite Disney songs at Chip & Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-Long.
Also, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue holds a very special place in my Disney-loving heart. I’m not even a big country music fan, but that doesn’t stop me from stomping my feet and clapping along to every part of this show. There’s nothing else like it anywhere in Walt Disney World. And the food is mighty tasty, too. Can’t go wrong with the crispy fried chicken for dinner and strawberry shortcake for dessert!
Disney’s Deluxe Resorts
There are nine Deluxe Resorts at Walt Disney World. Grand Floridian Resort, Polynesian Village Resort, Contemporary Resort, BoardWalk Inn Resort, Beach Club Resort, Yacht Club Resort, Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort. The price range for standard rooms in the Deluxe Resorts category is $439 to $1000+ Here’s our pick of the top three.
There are also 12 Ultra Deluxe Villas and Lodges. These are the more expensive versions of the Deluxe Resorts.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, located just west of Animal Kingdom, shares its area with a 33-acre wildlife preserve populated with giraffes, zebras, kudu, flamingos, and other wild animals! This is where you’d see that giraffe trying to see what you’re up to.
Food and Pool Options at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers very special dining experiences unlike any other Disney resort.
The signature restaurant is Jiko – The Cooking Place, offering an exotic menu with such delights as wild boar tenderloin, lamb tagine, and seafood curry. Also at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is Boma – Flavors of Africa. Boma is a buffet-style restaurant with African and Mediterranean delicacies, a meat-carving station, and various soups, salads, and desserts.
Kids will also love the ginormous 11,000-square-foot pool. It’s designed to mimic a natural body of water, with several “zero-entry” slopes leading into it. Surrounding the pool is a variety of lounges, a playground, and a poolside bar.
Disney’s Riviera Resort
For a taste of European elegance with a dash of Disney magic, check out Disney’s Riviera Resort. Inspired by the French and Italian Rivieras, where Walt and his wife, Lilian, would frequently vacation, touches of European artwork and architecture fill the entire resort. It’s also one of the newest resorts on Disney property, opening in 2019.
Food and Pool Options at Disney’s Riviera Resort
The big family draw at the Riviera Resort is Topolino’s Terrace, which features a character dining breakfast! No Disney trip is complete without character dining. Enjoy fresh-baked pastries, quiche gruyere, and sour cream waffles while hanging out with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto! The food is amazing, and the characters are such a joy to have around.
The main pool features a waterslide that wraps around a faux-stone turret. The resort provides umbrellas and lounge chairs. There’s also a kiddie splash pad right next to the main pool. For a more leisurely pool experience, stop by the “Beau Soleil” pool, surrounded by beautiful trees and gardens. Also near the main pool are two more dining options, Primo Piatto and Bar Riva.
Every Walt Disney World Resort is special but one lets you share a morning coffee with a giraffe! Learn all you need to plan your best trip!
The Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Contemporary Resort (or as my daughter calls it “The Triangle Hotel”) is likely the most recognizable resort on the property. It’s the massive A-frame building that the monorail goes through! We have made so many amazing memories at the Contemporary Resort alone. Of all the Disney resorts it might be one of the most expensive, but it’s also one of the best resorts for families.
For starters, the location can’t be beaten. A quick monorail ride will take guests directly to the front gates of the Magic Kingdom. If the weather’s nice, it’s just a short walk! Disney Resorts have recently refurbished the Contemporary Resort’s rooms. We haven’t been there since the new coat of paint, but the Incredibles-themed rooms look adorable!
Food and Pool Options at the Contemporary Resort
In the main Grand Canyon concourse, there are incredible shopping and dining experiences to enjoy, all with that glorious monorail coasting silently overhead. One of the most popular character dining restaurants is here, too – Chef Mickey’s. For a more upscale experience, head to the rooftop and enjoy sushi, steak, and wine at the California Grill. If guests time their dining reservation just right, they can watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from their table.
The main Feature Pool is heated year-round and has a 17-foot-high curved and open waterslide. Near the Feature Pool are cabanas that are available for rent, either by the hour or by the day. Tucked away from the main pool is the Bay Lake Pool, a smaller and more laid-back leisure pool. There are also two hot tubs and a kids’ splash and play area with fun fountains and splash pads.
BONUS Resorts: Disney’s Swan and Dolphin
Here’s the catch with these two… Although they are on Disney property, they are not owned nor operated by the Walt Disney Company. The Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin are owned by Tishman Realty & Construction Corporation and MetLife. The resorts are managed by Mariott International, Inc. Regardless, the Swan and Dolphin resorts are still two great options.
The resorts are right next to each other, and they are within walking distance of Epcot’s side entrance. Don’t feel like walking? Guests can also take a boat to Epcot. The same boat service transports to Hollywood Studios park, as well. To get to Animal Kingdom park or Magic Kingdom park, Disney’s complimentary bus service is available.
Because these resorts aren’t owned by the Walt Disney Company, guests can get great special offers. Marriott Bonvoy members can use their program benefits and collect points while staying at Swan and Dolphin. The resorts also offer special rates for Disney Annual Passholders, Florida residents, senior citizens, teachers, and first responders. It’s got all of the perks of a Disney resort and so much more!
Getting to Walt Disney World From LA
Flights with United, American Airlines, Delta and JetBlue are all non-stop from Los Angeles to Orlando International Airpot (MCO). Unfortunately, Disney no longer offers complimentary transportation from the airport to your resort. The Orlando International Airport website gives great guidance for different transportation options, such as ride-sharing, shuttle vans, and taxi cabs. You can also rent a car from this company that we use for the seriously best deals.
An excellent discount site for flights (and cars, hotels) is Expedia! This is where we start our research for the best deals!
If you’d like to be in the know for exclusive discounts to fly anywhere in the world, check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). Their website shows current deals, and they send emails when they find new deals. Try out their free 7-day membership to save BIG money on flights. I’m not kidding. They have the best deals out there and we’ve tried them all, or so it seems. There’s no need to buy a membership (you’ll still have access to great deals with their free trial).