This question comes from Kay, who asks “What resort do you think is the best for amenities and features?”
Kay, thanks for your question and for reading the blog. I think the answer depends on what you’re looking for and your own personal taste. If you want convenience, and particularly if you have young children who will be spending a lot of time at the Magic Kingdom, you can’t beat the monorail resorts with easy access to the entire property. If you’re going to the Food and Wine Festival, Yacht and Beach Club Resort and Villas and the Boardwalk Inn and Villas are ideal; you can walk or take a boat to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. If you’re looking for a lot of pool time, Yacht and Beach Club wins with Stormalong Bay, the most highly rated pool on property and the largest sand bottomed pool in the world. And if you’re looking for a resort with an exotic theme, Animal Kingdom Lodge is a great choice.
Here’s a quick glance at what we’re hearing are guest favorites:
Best for adults traveling without children: Boardwalk Inn: Just a short walk to the nightlife on the Boardwalk and to Epcot, this resort is a fun choice for adults, especially if you’re taking advantage of extra magic hours at Epcot.
Runner up: The Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Towers. For adults who want to be in the middle of everything, you can’t beat the Contemporary. The pace can be a little frenetic during certain times of times of the day, so if sleeping in is a priority, try not to get a room directly above Chec Mickey’s. Rent bikes, small watercraft, or play volleyball on the beach.
The best for families with young children: The Polynesian. Easy access to the Magic Kingdom, a kids club right at the resort, and a beautifully themed pool. Kids and adults alike love the “volcanic” stream which flows into the larger pool. There’s also great kid-friendly dining right at the resort and you’re only a couple of monorail stops away from some of the best dining on property, including California Grill, Citrocos, Narcooses, and Victoria and Albert’s. The conceierge level is the best in Disney World.
Runner up: Animal Kingdom Lodge. If it were in a more convenient location, it would be my first choice. I love the pool, which is beautifully landscaped and has (in Kidani Village) an incredible water playground area. I think it’s better than Stormalong Bay. Cast members conduct hourly activities for kids all day long. There’s also a three-hour program ($70 per kid) which features a character from the Lion King which teaches kids about African culture through food, games and crafts. Guests can also take a private safari from the lodge ($55 for adults). Plenty of public viewing areas for kids to see the animals on the savannah, so even if you’re not in a savannah view room, you can enjoy it.
Most Romantic: Grand Floridian. There’s a reason why there are so many weddings here and why it’s a prime honeymoon destination. The grounds are beautiful, the service is excellent, and even though it’s close to the Magic Kingdom, it tends to have fewer children, in my opinion, than the other monorail resorts. The spa, located right at the resort, is a favorite spot for some grown up pampering. Two pools, one in the middle of the property and one right on the Seven Seas Lagoon, are both beautifully landscaped. If you’ll be spending a full day at the pool, consider renting a cabana with a fridge, comfy lounge chairs, and an attendant.
Runner up: The Polynesian. Watch the fireworks and stroll along the beach. The exotic theme here makes it another favorite of honeymooners. You can rent bikes, small watercraft, or surry bikes.
Most well-executed theme: Animal Kingdom Lodge. The attention to detail in this resort is incredible, right down to the restaurants which keep the theme going with the food. AKL is worth a visit even if you don’t stay here. Don’t miss out on some of the unique artifacts on display here.
Runner up: The Polynesian. Great attention to detail. The lobby can seem a bit small if you’re used to the grand lobbies you find in newer Disney properties, but you really will feel like you’re in a tropical paradise staying here.
These are my top three personal favorties:
Number 3: Grand Floridian. It’s somewhat popular to bash the Grand on Disney message boards. It’s one of those resorts that everyone thinks they know. After all, you’re bound to pass it on your wat to the Magic Kingdom, so everyone has an opinion. There’s an assumption that it’s frilly and stuffy. And since it’s Disney’s flagship resort, people assume it’s snobby. I don’t think these assumptions could be farther from the truth. The Grand Floridan is a light, airy resort. I like it best during the warmer months when after a hot day in the parks the lobby, which is easily the prettiest on property, is so inviting you barely want to go to your room. You’ll find the same friendly cast members here as elsewhere on property. It’s just a lovely place to stay. There is a child care center and four kids, activities on site which you can register for even if you’re not a guest: The wonderland tea party, a cooking lesson, Perfectly Princess Tea Party (around $225 for one child and adult) and the Pirate Adventure.
Number 2: The Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Towers: I love the Contemporary and BLT. You can’t beat the location or the proximity to good restaurants: There are three here in the resort, including California Grill, one of the best in Central Florida. One of my favorite things to do on property is walk from the resort to the Magic Kingdom. Of course, you really can’t beat watching the fireworks from your balcony or one of the viewing areas.
Some criticize the lack of theming, but I actually think it’s the most Disney of all the resorts, with its modern architecture and the monorail running right through it. When you think about it, the theme of the Contemporary reflects the optimism and excitement that Walt himself (although he passed away several years before it opened) and the Imagineers felt when it was being built. It’s a little piece of Disney history frozen in time and to me, even if I’m not staying there, no trip is complete without at least a quick visit.
Number 1: Animal Kingdom Lodge. Okay, so I said this was all very subjective and I’m sure some readers will disagree with me, particularly since its considered a “lower” tier deluxe, but I love AKL, not just for the theming, but for the amenities and because it makes me feel like I’m cut off from the rest of Disney property in my own little oasis. Sometimes I like to be in the middle of things, especially on shorter trips. For those times, a resort like BLT is perfect. But when I’m taking a longer trip, especially if it’s with my children, I want peace and quiet at night. Coming back to the resort after a day in the parks is so relaxing. The lights in the lobby are a little low and there’s some quiet music playing in the background. It immediately slows you down from park commando mode to vacation mode. I don’t know of another resort that does such a good job of this.
So, what’s your favorite resort and why?
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