The deluxe Walt Disney World resorts are the most expensive places to stay on the property—some significantly more so than others. If you have room in your budget for them, the experience is worth it.
Granted, there are folks who view their lodging as “just a place to sleep.” To me, that is a depressing notion, since I enjoy the Disney World resort atmosphere just as much as the parks. But I respect other perspectives.
For those interested in a deluxe resort, here is my guide for choosing one.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
As far as the resort itself goes, I think Animal Kingdom Lodge one of the best. The theming is breathtaking, the rooms are the most beautiful you will find, the pool area is jungle-like with hidden hot tubs all around—oh, and there are live giraffes outside your window! It’s pretty hard to beat all that.
The problem is that the resort is so far away from everything. And it really feels like you are far removed from all the action. When staying there, the long bus rides and less frequent pickup times can become tedious. One strategy for this is to do a split stay where you are at Animal Kingdom Lodge for the first half of your vacation, during which you can visit Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. Then you can stay in an Epcot resort for the second half and be within walking distance of both Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
(Animal Kingdom Lodge best rate: $359 per night, including tax)
Yacht Club and Beach Club
I’m listing these two together because they are physically connected and have a lot of similarities. The pool area that they share is massive, with its own water slide. If you have kids that like to spend a lot of time in the pool, this is a huge plus.
Both of these resorts start to get into the higher cost range of deluxe resorts, their rates being almost exactly the same between the two. Yacht Club has more of a classy, prestigious feel to it, while Beach Club is more casual and bustling.
They are two of the resorts I like to call “Epcot resorts,” as you can easily walk to the back entrance of Epcot from your room. The little lake they border, Crescent Lake, has a beautiful path all the way around. You can also walk to Hollywood Studios from the resorts, though it is a much longer trek.
One negative I should mention is that many of the rooms in these resorts look worn and aged, especially compared to other fresher looking resorts. Disney has been in the process of updating them, so that might not be an issue in the near future.
I highly recommend either of these resorts if you want to be near Epcot and have a great pool area.
(Yacht Club or Beach Club best rate: $421 per night, including tax.)
This is another resort on Crescent Lake near Epcot. Its boardwalk area has a festive vibe, with performers at night and a wonderful bakery that smells amazing in the morning.
The only drawback to this resort is the pool. I found the clown slide to be tacky and the rest of the pool is mediocre. Some of the rooms may also show their age, though they will soon be upgraded. Also, I have been surprised to learn that BoardWalk is now more expensive than Beach Club and Yacht Club, as I don’t think that has always been the case.
For my trips in the future, I plan to spend half of the time in an Epcot resort, simply choosing whichever of the three (Yacht Club, Beach Club, or Boardwalk) currently offers the best rate.
(BoardWalk best rate: $483 per night, including tax)
This is the big kahuna! If money is no object for you, The Grand Floridian is likely where you’ll stay. It is a monument to extravagance. From the grand piano player in the massive lobby, to the wide marble staircases, this is pure luxury. If you visit to look around, which I do recommend, you might feel like you should be wearing a cocktail dress or tuxedo instead of a t-shirt and vacation shorts. But that is how Disney World is anyhow; everything around you is dressed up and detailed to Disney perfection, while all of us customers look like we just got off a bus that was heading for the beach.
In all seriousness, if you have even the slightest concern for how much money you are spending, I cannot recommend The Grand Floridan. You can stay at one of the other monorail resorts, within view of Magic Kingdom, for significantly less.
(Disney’s Grand Floridian best rate: $646 per night, including tax)
The Contemporary is the most reasonably priced of the monorail resorts, though it is still on the expensive side. The monorail actually goes right through the building, which gives it a spaceport feel. You can see the castle fireworks from the resort, and it is the only resort from which you can walk to Magic Kingdom. For many folks, however, the style of the Contemporary resort is not desirable. It has a cold, hard aesthetic that can be off putting. A lot of people love it though, and its convenient access to Magic Kingdom is unmatched.
(Contemporary best rate: $450 per night, including tax)
If you have a large budget for lodging, and want to be on the monorail, this would be my recommendation. The theming is beautiful, with a lot of similarities to Animal Kingdom Lodge. The pool area is very impressive; though not as big as the Beach Club/Yacht Club pool, it is spectacular in detail and variety.
One warning I would give about the Polynesian is that it always seems very busy. The lobby is a popular hub for people coming and going, either to eat at the great restaurants or simply wander around.
(Polynesian best rate: $536 per night, including tax)
This resort is on the more affordable end of the deluxe resorts. It has a huge, beautiful lobby, with a very cozy, deep forest feel to it. The stream that starts inside the lobby and flows out into the pool area is a nice touch. As a Minnesota resident, Wilderness Lodge reminds me of some of the north woods resorts in my state, only on a much grander scale. If you don’t mind being a little off the beaten path, compared to the other deluxe resorts around Magic Kingdom, Wilderness Lodge is a viable option.
(Wilderness Lodge best rate: $366 per night, including tax)
So, which one?
I would say Yacht Club and Animal Kingdom Lodge are the best choices as far was what you get for your money. Beach Club and The BoardWalk are good options if you can’t get a good deal on Yacht Club. If you aren’t concerned about money, I would go for the Polynesian. I hope that helps!