Many first-time visitors to Walt Disney World are amazed at its enormity. Twice the size of Manhattan, the resort features four huge theme parks, two water parks, over two dozen themed resorts, a large dining-and-entertainment district, and many other attractions, such as golf courses and sports venues.
While every Disney World resort hotel offers its own appeal, it's important to take travel time into account when choosing a place to stay. If you know you will be spending a lot of time in one particular theme park, consider selecting a hotel that is reasonably close. Keep in mind that it can take 25 minutes to get from a hotel to a theme park that is on the opposite side of Walt Disney World.
For many families, the Magic Kingdom theme park is a highlight, with classic Disney attractions, terrific parades, and nightly fireworks. Magic Kingdom tends to be the favorite park for families with younger children due to its many wonderful attractions geared for small kids.
Five official Disney World resort hotels and one non-Disney resort are located near the Magic Kingdom, so consider staying at one of them if you're planning to spend a lot of time at Magic Kingdom. Note that all official Disney resort hotels (Value, Moderate, Deluxe) offer the same perks, including complimentary use of the Disney transportation system.
Reasons to Stay Near Magic Kingdom
- Transportation by monorail. Guests at these resorts can reach the Magic Kingdom quickly by monorail. The Grand Floridian, Disney's Contemporary Resort, and Polynesian Resort are all on the monorail route (which continues from Magic Kingdom to the Epcot theme park.)
- Transportation by boat or bus. Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney's Polynesian Resort, Disney's Wilderness Lodge, and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground all offer a free boat shuttle to the Magic Kingdom. In addition, the bus system is available between every hotel and every theme park.
- Convenient lagoon location. The Grand Floridian, Disney's Contemporary Resort, and Disney's Polynesian resorts have great settings on the Seven Seas Lagoon, across from Magic Kingdom. The Grand Floridian and Polynesian resorts even have beaches. Guests are treated to no-hassle viewing of the Electrical Water Pageant, a nightly parade of illuminated floats with music that makes a circuit around the lagoon and adjacent Bay Lake.
- Afternoon Break. Families at these nearby properties can easily take a break in the afternoon. Kids can nap or cool down in a swimming pool, and then the family can return to the theme park(s) for evening fun and fireworks.
- Fireworks views: The nightly fireworks at the Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom are hugely popular, and the park closes right afterward. Crowds rush to the Disney buses, but guests staying at the nearby Disney resort hotels simply board a bus or monorail. (Or they can even watch the fireworks from their resort.)
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
The flagship Grand Floridian, designed in the style of classic Victorian beach resorts, commands a prime spot on Seven Seas Lagoon near Magic Kingdom. To get to the Magic Kingdom, guests simply jump on the monorail from a station at the hotel, or stroll to the dock and catch a shuttle boat.
Because of its location, Guests are treated to great views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant. The hotel also has a Mouseketeer Clubhouse kids club, for ages four to 12, available in the evenings, as well as Pirate Adventure, Wonderland Tea Party, and other children's activities.
The zero-depth entry beach pool on site has a waterslide, a waterfall, and a splash pad. There is a marina and dock area with boat rentals available for guests.
Disney's Polynesian Resort
Like the Grand Floridian, the deluxe Polynesian Village Resort on Seven Seas Lagoon has access to the Magic Kingdom by monorail, boat, and bus, and it also offers great views of Magic Kingdom fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant. The theme is South Pacific, with beaches, tropical landscaping, waterfalls, and a torch-lighting ceremony at night.
This deluxe resort offers many room categories, including a concierge-level category and over-the-water bungalows. They have suites and rooms for families of five, and the Never Land kids club has evening hours for kids ages four to 12.
The volcano Pool has a volcano, waterfall, and waterslide, and there is also a water play area and children's activities. And at the marina, you can rent sailboats.
Ohana restaurant has a Character Breakfast buffet and an all-you-can-eat Polynesian feast dinner. You'll also want to catch the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show staged at Luau Cove.
Disney's Contemporary Resort
Like Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Polynesian Resort, the Comtemporary Resort is located on Seven Seas Lagoon facing the Magic Kingdom and has access to that theme park by boat or monorail. The Contemporary Resort has additional Bay Lake waterfront on its other side.
This deluxe resort hotel offers suites, and concierge rooms and suites. Rooms are large—some standard rooms can sleep five plus a child under the age of three.
Guests can take the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, or get there by bus, boat, or on foot. Plus, you can view the Magic Kingdom fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant from areas of this resort.
The marina rents different kinds of boats, and water skiing, tubing, and wake-boarding are all available. There is also beach area on Bay Lake, but swimming is not permitted. However, if you want to cool off in the water, there is a large free-form pool with a small slide and a quiet pool as well.
There is no children's program, but the monorail connects to the Polynesian and Grand Floridian resorts, which do have evening kids' programs.
Disney's Wilderness Lodge
The deluxe Wilderness Lodge is located on Bay Lake. The Lodge is modeled after the iconic Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park, with its rustic exterior, seven-story lobby made of lodge-pole pine, and 82-foot stone fireplace. The theme harkens back to the 1900s, with elements of Native American culture and pioneer days. In keeping with the Yellowstone theme, a 120' Fire Rock Geyser spouts every hour.
Guests can take a boat to the Magic Kingdom, or ride the Disney bus system. The boat also goes to Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, which has lots of recreation on-site and two dinner shows.
This deluxe resort offers suites, a spa, a health club, and concierge category rooms. Junior Suites have a living room and kitchen, large bedroom, and access to the Old Faithful Club concierge lounge.
It's got a sandy beach with wading on Bay Lake, plus boat rentals and cruises. Guests can view the Electrical Water Pageant on Bay Lake. For more water fun, the pool has a waterfall and water slide. (There is a separate kids pool, too.) You can also rent bikes on site, take the "Wonders Of the Lodge" tour, and take horse-drawn carriage rides.
Cubs Den kids club has evening hours, for ages four to 12. And every day, a "Flag Family" helps raise the flags.
Another lodging option is the adjacent Villas at Wilderness Lodge, with studios and one- and two-bedroom suites complete with kitchenettes; some units can sleep eight. The Villas are Part of the Disney Vacation Club, but you don't need to be a member to stay. Front desk and other services are shared with the Wilderness Lodge.
Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground
Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is located on Bay Lake; guests can take a boat to the Magic Kingdom, or use the Disney bus system. Guests can view the Electrical Water Pageant from the beach and marina.
Fort Wilderness is the only place to camp at Disney World, and campers get all the perks of staying at a Disney World Resort. Cabins at Fort Wilderness are a great option for families, too; they sleep six and feature a fully equipped kitchen.
Fort Wilderness has huge grounds with lots of recreation, dinner shows, evening outdoor movies.
Bikes and golf carts are for rent to get around the giant property, tennis courts are complimentary, and there's a volleyball court too. Bay Lake nearby has a beach and water skiing, wakeboarding, and watercrafts that can be rented at the marina. Fort Wilderness has two outdoor heated pools and a kiddie pool. One pool has a water slide and waterplay area. Other activities include fishing, wagon rides, archery, pony rides, Segway tours, and guided horseback rides.
As for entertainment, a free campfire is open at night to all guests at Disney World, with a sing-along, marshmallow roast, Chip and Dale appearances, and movie on an outdoor screen. Fort Wilderness also offers a dinner show, The Hoop Dee Musical Revue, at Pioneer Hall, and Mickey's Backyard BBQ is an an all-you-can-eat buffet with a live country band, line-dance instructor, and Disney Characters.
Fort Wilderness is the only dog-friendly resort at Disney World. Pets are permitted at a limited number of Preferred Hook-Up and Premium campsites. Guests with pet privileges can take their dogs to an off-leash dog park. Disney World also has a kennel for daycare or overnight stays.
Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World
The Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World offers 444 rooms and suites, many of which deliver spectacular views of the Magic Kingdom's nightly fireworks displays. The lakeside resort is located inside the gates of Disney World in a residential setting minutes from the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
Onsite, you'll find a spectacular five-acre playground with a family pool, a lazy river winding around a “ruined” mansion, a climbing wall, water slides, a complimentary kids club for children ages five to 12, beach volleyball, basketball, video-gaming center, outdoor movie nights, and more.
There's also a championship golf course, three tennis courts, and five dining options, including casual choices and character breakfasts several times per week.
You can also take advantage of the large spa that comprises 18 treatment rooms, including two bungalows for private retreats, men’s and women’s private outdoor lounges, and a whirlpool. There's also an adults-only pool surrounded by private cabanas
Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher