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Opened in 1971, Walt Disney World Resort is Orlando’s most famous attraction - and the most visited resort in the world. Known as the place where dreams come true, its theme parks combine the wonders of nature and science with the magic of Disney’s best-loved fairytales. Walt Disney World is home to more than 30 themed resorts and hotels, ranging from African safari lodges to luxury Victorian oases. In this article, we take a look at the best options for you - whether you’re planning a fantasy family holiday, a romantic getaway or a major corporate convention.
Best Overall: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Famous for its Victorian grandeur, the flagship Grand Floridian Resort & Spa offers full immersion in Disney’s special brand of magic. Its red-roofed façade is an iconic landmark on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon. You’re one stop on the monorail from the Magic Kingdom, and every evening you’ll have the perfect view of the Electrical Water Pageant and the fireworks over Cinderella Castle. All rooms and suites offer elegant decor, free Wi-Fi, a deep soaking tub and luxury beds. Rooms with Magic Kingdom views are amazing (but pricey).
The resort has an impressive choice of restaurants, including opulent fine-dining destination Victoria & Albert’s; and 1900 Park Fare, where your children can dine with their favorite Disney characters. There are two swimming pools (one with a 181-foot water slide), as well as a luxury Spa & Health Club. The resort’s lakeside location allows for boat rentals, cruises and fishing. After a busy day in the park, enjoy live music in the sumptuous hotel lobby or al fresco movie screenings beneath the stars.
Best Budget: Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
Although cheaper accommodation options are available off-site, the perks offered to guests at the Disney resorts make the extra cost worthwhile. These include free parking, free bus transport throughout the resort, free airport transfers and free Wi-Fi. Disney’s cheapest hotels are the All-Star Resorts, and of these, All-Star Music Resort is the best rated. The decor is inspired by iconic music genres ranging from Broadway to rock 'n’ roll. Expect music-themed sculptures and a signature guitar-shaped swimming pool.
Rooms and suites are basic (even outdated), but comfortable. Standard amenities include a mini-fridge, a telephone and an in-room safe, while room capacities ranging from four to six adults mean even lower costs for families or friends traveling together. When you’re not in the park, explore two swimming pools, a playground and an arcade. Intermission Food Court offers budget-friendly options such as burgers and pizza, while a deli market provides ingredients for self-catering.
Best Boutique: Disney’s Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter
“Boutique” is not really a concept that applies to Walt Disney’s vast playground, but if you’re looking for intimate, cozy Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter is the closest you’re going to get. Located on the banks of the Sassagoula River, it recreates the spirit of New Orleans with pastel-hued architecture, wrought-iron balconies and meandering streets adorned with gas lamps and bougainvillea. Book a horse-drawn carriage ride or cool off in Doubloon Lagoon.
The Creole theme continues in the guestrooms, where dark wood and rich colors create an atmospheric backdrop for useful amenities such as free Wi-Fi and a coffee maker. Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory offers Cajun-style fast food, while Scat’s Cat Club is your go-to for Southern-inspired appetizers, cocktails and live jazz. The resort has no sit-down restaurant, but it is conveniently connected to the Disney Springs dining and entertainment complex by water taxi.
Best for Families: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
All of Disney’s resorts welcome children with open arms. However, the Animal Kingdom Lodge makes for an extra special stay, thanks to the novelty of sleeping surrounded by African wildlife, including zebras and giraffes. The swimming pool resembles a waterhole (if waterholes came with a water slide), and the rooms and suites boast a magical safari theme. Free Wi-Fi and a TV keep your kids entertained no matter which room you choose.
Boma - Flavors of Africa buffet restaurant caters to picky eaters with American classics, as well as authentic African dishes. Kids will love Pumbaa’s Fun and Games Arcade - and the playground, which directly overlooks the Savanna. When you feel like a quiet moment in the spa or fitness center, book your kids into Simba’s Clubhouse, a supervised activity center packed with child-friendly games, crafts, snacks and Disney movies.
Best for Romance: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
The Wilderness Lodge is located near Magic Kingdom on the shores of Bay Lake, but feels more like a remote getaway to America’s pristine Northwest. Pine-forested grounds, bubbling waterfalls and romantic rustic interiors await. Snuggle up with your loved one beside the resort’s roaring fireplaces or create your own private sanctuary in a room complete with a plush bed and oversized TV.
Gourmet restaurant Artist Point is a highlight for couples. Celebrate a special occasion with fine cuisine and award-winning wines from the Pacific Northwest, then share a post-dinner drink at Territory Lounge. Nature trails offer an alternative to the bustle of the park, while Boulder Ridge Cove Pool has a serene whirlpool spa. In the evening, admire the Electrical Water Pageant from the lake shore.
Best Luxury: Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort
Although it isn’t owned by Disney, Four Seasons Resort Orlando offers five-star luxury within the park gates. Rooms and suites are spacious and lavishly furnished, with hypoallergenic bedding, thick terry bathrobes, LED TVs and Bose bluetooth speakers. For ultimate luxury, book a stay in the Presidential Suite, complete with separate dining and living rooms and a 16th-floor terrace overlooking Epcot Theme Park.
The resort has no fewer than six restaurants. Savor Cuban-American cuisine at lakeside restaurant Plancha or head to rooftop steakhouse Capa for signature cocktails and Spanish tapas. Amenities include Tranquilo Golf Club (designed by Tom Fazio) and a selection of family and adult-only pools. Book a session with the tennis pro, work out in the fitness center or indulge in a spa massage.
Best Hotel for Nightlife: Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
Situated at the heart of Disney’s Boardwalk entertainment complex on the shores of Crescent Lake, the Boardwalk Inn is your ticket to retro Atlantic City-style fun. Start your evening at carousel-themed bar Leaping Horse Libations before joining the raucous nightly sing-along sessions at Jellyrolls dueling piano bar. Atlantic Dance Hall nightclub stays open until late, playing the best tunes from the 80s, 90s and today. With countless bars, restaurants and carnival games within easy walking distance, this is the ultimate destination for Disney-loving partygoers. Rooms and suites include comfy beds, TVs and a deep soaking tub - perfect for quiet recuperation after a big night. Other amenities range from a choice of swimming pools to a mini golf course.
Best Business Hotel: Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Walt Disney World is a popular destination for corporate travel. The waterfront Yacht Club Resort offers access to a vast convention center with over 70,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. Host galas and conferences for up to 4,500 guests in the Grand Harbor ballroom or work in peace in the full-service business center. Nautical-themed guestrooms include free Wi-Fi and a coffee maker (perfect for early mornings), while a range of activities from fishing to tennis allow you to combine work with play. The resort has a choice of restaurants and bars, including New England-style Yachtsman Steakhouse.
Best Views: Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Many Disney resorts boast beautiful views, but it’s hard to top the 15th-floor panorama offered by the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill. This is the place for bird’s-eye views of Cinderella Castle and the Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks show. If you want to enjoy the same spectacle from the comfort of your hotel room, splash out on a stay in the Presidential Suite. As an added bonus, the Contemporary Resort boasts a unique perspective of the park’s monorail, which passes directly through the center of the hotel. Other amenities include volleyball and tennis courts, swimming pools and boat rentals.