So, my goal is to stay at every single Disney resort and having now stayed at 8 of the Disney resorts (with 2 more to come this December), I am well on my way! So, I thought I would share my favorite resorts so far in case you are trying to decide on a resort for your first Disney trip or maybe even wanting to change up your normal routine for your next trip. Here are my favorites in each category.
Value Resort: Art of Animation
If you haven’t heard the hype about the newest Disney Resort then you must be off in Never Never Land. This resort lives up to the hype. It is PERFECT for kids (though hubby and I stayed there before we had our sweet daughter and really enjoyed it then too). Themed rooms and themed resort areas immerse you into the magical animation of beloved movies including Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid. Standard Rooms and Family Suites are both available and the price point is perfect for many people looking to go to Disney on a reasonable vacation budget.
My favorite things:
· The theming-just walking around the grounds you feel like you are inside the movies. Larger than life props make the perfect photo ops and it just gets you in the Disney mood.
· Landscape of Flavors- this food court has lots of room, lots of drink stations, and some fabulous food. Try the Surf and Turf Burger or the Caprese Sandwich!
· The Big Blue Pool- this is the biggest pool on property AND there is music playing UNDERWATER. Fun for all ages (plus there are 2 other pools at the resort so plenty of swimming fun to be had by all!)
Art of Animation Tips:
· This is a large resort so expect A LOT of walking especially if you are in a Standard Room since the Little Mermaid section is at the back of the resort.
· If you are in a Standard Room, request Building 9, Rooms 49-72 for the quickest walk to the buses.
· Standard Rooms are double beds (with a few King Beds available for parties of 2). So, it might be worth an upgrade to a moderate resort for a better night’s sleep!
Moderate Resort: Port Orleans Riverside
I specifically love the Alligator Bayou area. This area of the resort is SO beautiful that I almost prefer a building further away so that I have to walk a bit longer each morning. The landscaping is so lush and beautiful and peaceful. I look forward to my quiet time at the resort as much as the parks when we stay here. Until recently, when Caribbean Beach Resort upgraded their rooms, Riverside was the only moderate standard room that could accommodate a family of 5. With a pulldown bed that doesn’t take up extra floor space, it’s a great option for families of 5. The Royal Guest Rooms are beautifully decorated and have some special affects as well. They are a fun option for girls who love princesses but they aren’t too cartoony so the rest of the family will love them too. Plus, the rooms have queen beds instead of doubles like the value resorts, so that in and of itself adds a whole other layer of comfort.
My Favorite Things:
· Gorgeous landscaping – perfect for peaceful morning or evening walks
· Situated right on the river with boat service to Disney Springs (Especially helpful while the construction is making parking a nightmare) plus lots of areas to relax and even some big comfy hammocks.
· Royal Guest Rooms – an affordable option for the princess lover in your family but tastefully decorated so you won’t feel like you are sleeping in a cartoon. (If you want to feel like you are sleeping in a cartoon, check out the Art of Animation Resort!)
Port Orleans Riverside Tips:
· If you want to be close to the main building, pay a little extra for a Preferred Room, these are located in buildings closest to the main building and will ensure that you are in a prime location.
· Spend an evening at the River Roost off the main lobby. Grab a drink and enjoy the incredibly entertaining Yeeha Bob Jackson, the recipient of the coveted Disney Legacy Award. You will be laughing and singing along and having more fun than you thought you could have in a hotel lobby lounge! Guests come from all over Disney World to hear him, you will be glad you stayed up late (or came in early from the parks)!
Deluxe Resort: Animal Kingdom Lodge
I am a bit biased since this was the first Disney Resort Hotel I ever experienced but I keep coming back to it (and even visit it when we stay at other resorts). There is SO much to love about this resort.
My Favorite Things:
· The Animals – I LOVE a trip to the zoo so being able to stay somewhere with the beautiful animals right outside your door is simply remarkable. Whether you have a Savanna View room or a Standard View, you can enjoy the animals with plenty of viewing areas and knowledgeable cast members to educate you on all your favorite animals.
· BOMA- This is one of my favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World. The service is ALWAYS wonderful and the food is just the best. Plenty of exotic flavors but also favorites that even picky eaters will enjoy. Brunch is just as good as dinner.
· The atmosphere- I always feel like I really am out in an African Savannah, there is a relaxing laid back feel and I always just REALLY feel like I am on vacation (the relaxing kind) here.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Tips:
· One of the complaints I often hear about this resort is that it is so far away from everything else. Yes, it is. It has to be because of the animals. So, just understand that you will be on a bus for a while longer than most resorts although I really only notice a big difference on the trip to the Magic Kingdom. I always kind of like the longer bus ride back to the resort because, again, it really makes me feel like I am staying out in the wild somewhere. So, just know that ahead of time, or, if proximity to the parks is most important, check out Bay Lake Tower (info below).
· If you book a Standard Room, request the Giraffe Trail for the closest rooms to the bus stops and lobby.
· TRY THE ZEBRA DOMES. Served nightly at Boma or grab a pack of 4 from the Mara, Animal Kingdom’s Quick Service Restaurant, any time of day.
· Speaking of the Mara, they often serve the same soups as Boma! And they are ALL SOOOO good!
· If you are staying at Jambo House, take a quick walk over to Kidani Village and swim in the pool there, the slide is better (in my opinion) and it’s usually less crowded
· Snag a lunchtime dining reservation at Sanaa. Floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Savanna offer an amazing view of the animals.
Deluxe Villa Resort: Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
This is the closest you can get to Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Take the monorail or a quick walk to the Magic Kingdom entrance. Breathtaking views of the Magic Kingdom abound and the rooms are SO comfortable.
My Favorite Things:
· Close to the monorail without the noise and busyness of the Main Tower of the Contemporary Resort. There is a walkway from Bay Lake Tower to Contemporary (that has amazing views itself) so it’s easy to walk over to the monorail or any of the Contemporary restaurants. You don’t even feel like you are in a separate resort or building (but you are).
· Bay Lake- beautiful views plus water recreation available right at the resort at Sammy Duvall’s Watersport Centre including parasailing, waterskiing, and tubing
· Boat Access to Fort Wilderness and Magic Kingdom, monorail access to Magic Kingdom and the other monorail Resorts or transfer monorails and ride to EPCOT.
Bay Lake Tower Tips:
· Take the elevator to the terrace at the top floor and have fun seeing the Magic Kingdom like you’ve never seen it before (also a great fireworks viewing spot).
· Spring for the Theme Park view. It’s the most unique resort view you will find (except maybe Savanna View at Animal Kingdom Lodge) and if you book the lake view, due to the shape of the tower, chances are you will have a great view of the lake but also right into rooms across the resort from you. We felt like privacy was an issue in the lake view since you can see straight into other rooms and balconies across the way from many of the lake view rooms. So, unless you like to keep all the drapes drawn all the time, go ahead and upgrade to the theme park view and enjoy the fireworks from your balcony!
· Since this is a Disney Vacation Club property all of the rooms have at least a small kitchenette. Save some money and enjoy a few meals in your room. We like to do breakfast in the room to save time so we can make it to the parks at opening.
· If you are looking for a Resort hotel with the best activities and amenities for the whole family, this may not be it. Animal Kingdom Lodge, Polynesian, Beach and Yacht Clubs, all have resort activities that you just won’t find anywhere else. BUT….if LOCATION and CONVENIENCE is what you want, plus a comfortable room with great views, this is THE resort you want to book.
I am sure as I add to my Disney Resort Experiences I will have changes to my list, but for now, these are MY personal favorites. I hope it gave you some things to think about while choosing where to stay. I would love to help you discover YOUR favorite Disney Resort!
Aleshia Sokoloski, Travel Planner affiliated with Travel with the Magic
Specializing in Universal Resorts and Disney Vacations including Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Adventures by Disney, and Disney Cruise Line.