Have you ever dreamed of staying at a grand wilderness lodge? What about a Polynesian paradise? An East Coast beachside boardwalk perhaps? If you're planning a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, all of those options — plus many other dreamy destinations — await! With so many different choices, it may be hard for you to choose where to stay. Never fear: We've got all of the details to help you pick the very best Disney deluxe resort hotel for your family. When you find your favorite, hop over and book your discounted Disney hotel stay with us!
Overview of Disney World Deluxe Resorts
Disney World Deluxe Resorts are the highest tier of on-site Disney hotels, and understandably so. All of Disney's hotels offer excellent quality, cleanliness and on-site benefits. But the deluxe locations are a notch above the rest, with excellent theming and even more amenities and convenience than the moderate or value resorts, including valet service, health clubs and extra spacious rooms. There are eight Disney World Deluxe Resorts (we'll go over the Deluxe Villa Resorts later on):
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney's Beach Club Resort
- Disney's BoardWalk Inn
- Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney's Polynesian Resort
- Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Disney's Yacht Club Resort
Deciding which one to choose for your next family vacation is a little harder. Each of the deluxe resorts has plenty of "pros." In fact, we created a handy-dandy comparison tool that can help you get a big-picture view of all the Disney World hotels. In this post, we're exploring even more of the special touches that make each Disney deluxe resort toadally magical.
In the same way that we tackled Disney's value and moderate resort hotels, we think it's important to cover what each of the resorts offers before getting into what sets them apart from one another. Remember that booking a room at any Disney World hotel lets you experience Early Theme Park Entry and early access to individual Lightning Lane selections via Disney Genie. Deluxe Resort hotel guests also have access to Extended Evening Hours at the theme parks on select nights. You can review all of the benefits of staying on-site at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel in our separate blog post.
Disney World Deluxe Resort Amenities and Benefits
All Walt Disney World Resort Hotels offer unique theming, but the Deluxe Resorts really take it up to high class. With gorgeous architecture and beautiful grounds, deluxe resorts are a delight to explore. From the African savannah to a beach destination, the deluxe resorts have a little of everything! The theming really adds value and immersion to staying on-site.
The intricate details and theming continue into the rooms at the deluxe resorts. For instance, rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge have African accents and nods to "The Lion King." Make way, make way to the "Moana" themed rooms at the Polynesian Resort. Or feel like Cinderella herself with the elegant rooms of the Grand Floridian.
Most rooms will sleep up to four guests, while some will offer accommodations for up to five adults (offering two queen beds and one daybed).
Location and Transportation
Aside from the luxury of the resorts themselves, distance to parks and ease of transportation are huge benefits of the Disney deluxe resorts. A majority of them are significantly closer to one or more of the Disney parks than value or moderate resort hotels. Also, there's a variety of transportation options, including boats, monorails and the Disney Skyliner.
Disney's Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian Resorts are all just a monorail ride away from Magic Kingdom. The Contemporary offers a short walking path to Magic Kingdom and the Grand Floridian has a new walking bridge, as well. The Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Disney's Wilderness Lodge also offer boat access to Magic Kingdom.
Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts and Disney's BoardWalk Inn are within walking distance (or a boat ride) to EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios. Guests staying on the BoardWalk can also make the quick walk to the EPCOT Skyliner transportation hub for a magical flight to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is the closest deluxe hotel to Disney's Animal Kingdom. All Walt Disney World Resort hotels offer bus service around the property. Keep in mind that your favorite park may play a part in which resort you pick!
Pools and Recreation
The Disney deluxe resort hotels offer the most recreation options (note that some options may be unavailable right now). They offer all of the basic options at the other resort hotels, such as an arcade and movies under the stars, along with extra amenities such as a fitness center.
At the Magic Kingdom and BoardWalk hotels, boat rentals are a fun option for a relaxing day around the resort. Depending on which you choose, you'll have basketball, volleyball or tennis courts to play on — or a combination of the three! If you have extra energy to burn, try renting bikes for some bonus family fun.
We'll get into the details of the pools below, but each of the deluxe hotels has multiple, gorgeous pools with waterslides and a hot tub for you to enjoy. These are fully equipped with daily children's activities to keep the tadpoles busy while you sunbathe!
Dining and Shopping
Another great perk of the Disney deluxe resorts is that they offer both quick-service and table-service dining options. No matter if you want to splurge or keep it low-key, you don't need to venture far to get a great meal. All of the on-site restaurants are frog-approved! Many of the Disney World deluxe resorts even have character dining! What could be better than rolling out of bed to breakfast with Mickey and company?
Each of the Disney deluxe resorts has a little market that allows you to purchase essentials, from toothpaste to a pint of ice cream. (Ice cream is a necessity, right?) These small stores are a great place to stock up on snacks.
For shopaholics, the Disney deluxe resorts are a little bit of paradise. Each hotel has at least one gift shop with a wide array of souvenirs — including higher-end items such as Dooney & Bourke purses (my favorite — feel free to remind Leap)! The Grand Floridian even has its own Basin store, so you can stock up on your favorite delectable soaps without taking the trip to Disney Springs. (Granted, visiting Disney Springs is always on my must-do list!)
Leap over here to see all of the Disney resort hotel amenities and benefits.
How to Pick the Best Disney World Deluxe Resort for You
Which Disney deluxe resort is right depends on what is most important to you and your family. Rooms, dining, theming, amenities and convenience are a big factor, but sometimes it's all about the vibe.
Magic Kingdom Area
For the island lover — Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
Are tropical island vacations usually your cup of tiki? Look no further than Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. This beautiful hotel soaks you into the Seven Seas, which we find to be the perfect combination of fancy and fun.
The on-site Dole Whips alone would put the Polynesian Village Resort on our list of Frog Family Favorites. Luckily, the Polynesian has even more than that to offer! The Polynesian is also home to two Walt Disney World dining faves — Kona Café (the Tonga Toast is a must-try, yum!) and 'Ohana Breakfast (characters currently unavailable). When you're ready for full Tiki Mode, make your way down to Trader Sam's Grog Grotto — a magical tiki bar with luscious libations.
There are two sparkling pools on the property — one recently renovated and the other with a volcano theme. The Polynesian's rooms are some of the largest on property, making it a favorite for those who sleep more than four. Make way, make way — new "Moana"-themed rooms were recently added to the Polynesian!
Thanks to its beautiful aesthetic and convenient location, Disney's Polynesian is a solid choice for those who like to kick back, as well as more adventurous wayfinders. There are plenty of on-site restaurants, shops and beautiful pools to keep you occupied … and seeing Cinderella Castle and Space Mountain from the resort doesn't hurt either! Check out our Polynesian guide for more information.
For those who enjoy the finer things — Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is by far the most elegant hotel on Disney property. The whole place is incredibly pristine and will make you feel like you've walked into a tea party hosted by Mary Poppins herself. (Speaking of tea parties — be sure to check out the "Alice in Wonderland"-themed pool play area. Your tadpoles will LOVE it.)
The lobby of the Grand Floridian (and overall décor throughout the hotel) is breathtaking. The beautiful flower arrangements and chandeliers will captivate you, and the tranquility will make you want to spend all day lounging in one of the cushy chairs. The resort is home to the ultimate in fine dining (and award-winning) Victoria & Albert's restaurant, for which you absolutely must make advance dining reservations.
When Leap and I go on our Disney trips sans tadpoles, Grand Floridian is our number one pick because of the calm, peaceful ambiance and the on-site, state-of-the-art spa. It is heavenly and offers every relaxing service you could ever imagine. Plus, if you get a chance, visiting during the holidays makes for extra magic with the larger-than-life Christmas tree in the lobby. Learn more about the Grand Floridian in our hoppin' guide.
For those who love all things modern — Disney's Contemporary Resort
When I was a young tadpole, I thought monorails were the most amazing things on Earth. (Still do, to be honest.) What's even more mind-blowing to me than a monorail traveling through a hotel is how convenient this is for traveling to our favorite park: Magic Kingdom.
This iconic hotel's decorations include multiple Mary Blair pieces (an Imagineer whose name you may recognize from "The Imagineering Story," and whose style you may recognize in "it's a small world"). Rooms are chic with a spacious layout; many standard rooms can sleep up to five. Rooms have recently been refurbished to include "The Incredibles" theming. The Contemporary is a great option if you're planning for a big group (family reunions, business trips) and want to appeal to a wide variety of tastes.
Another overwhelming plus of the Contemporary Resort is that it is home to one of our favorite character dining experiences: Chef Mickey's. Breakfast with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto is a must-do on almost every Frog Family trip. While it's not a make-or-break for us to have this experience on-site, it is certainly a much-enjoyed perk when we do stay at the Contemporary. It makes it that much easier to hop on an early reservation and leap over to the parks! Learn more in our frog family guide.
For the nature lovers — Disney's Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is easily the most underrated of the Disney deluxe resorts. This may be because it is in the Magic Kingdom area but doesn’t fall into the monorail loop of the above three (though it's a quick boat ride away from Magic Kingdom). It captures all of the beauty of the outdoors with all the amenities of the indoors. This lodge-decorated hotel has beautiful pools, great dining and uniquely decorated rooms — some of the standard rooms even include bunk beds. It’s a peaceful, secluded hotel amid nature.
Outside of the fine-dining destination, Artist Point (which is also where you'll find the elegant-yet-fun Storybook Dining with Snow White), one of our favorite parts of Wilderness Lodge is Geyser Point Bar & Grill. While most Disney pools have a poolside bar with snack offerings, Geyser Point takes it to another level. This open-air restaurant offers a full bar and menu. We love that we can spend our entire day at the pool without heading back to our room or elsewhere for food. Not to mention, this is just a super cool spot to take in the geyser that erupts every so often.
In support of the camping feel of Wilderness Lodge, we’ve made it a tradition to attend at least one of the nighttime campfires for s’mores during our stay. This is a unique, home-style perk that we really enjoy.
For the kid at heart — Disney's BoardWalk Inn
Imagine all of your vintage carnival dreams come to life, and you'll find yourself at Disney's BoardWalk Inn. This hotel has a high-end, classic '40s vibe that will have you dreaming of carousels and roller coasters. The BoardWalk is home to a whimsical pool, where the slide is constructed to appear as though it is an old-fashioned wooden roller coaster (so don't froget to put your hands up when you slide down!). The accompanying in-pool bar is in the shape of a carousel, complete with elephant décor. What we love about this pool is that it is fun for the tadpoles, but still laid-back and quiet enough for adults to sneak in solid relaxation time.
The BoardWalk Inn has a classic yet playful theme, but it tends to draw more adults than the nearby Beach Club. We love its proximity to the BoardWalk itself. The nearby restaurants (especially BoardWalk Ice Cream) are some of our favorites for the whole family, while nighttime entertainment at Jellyrolls and Atlantic Dance Hall make for fun adult outings.
The BoardWalk Inn — along with the Beach and Yacht Club Resorts — are located on Disney's East Coast-style BoardWalk. While the location is no secret, I consider this a hidden gem of Walt Disney World. You can see the fireworks from both EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios. At night, you can take a stroll on the pier while enjoying an ice cream or margarita (or both) and just enjoy a few peaceful moments that allow you to absorb the magic of your vacation. (We're the first to admit that Disney trips can be a bit hectic!)
For the beach and water park lovers — Disney's Beach Club Resort
Disney's Beach Club Resort is another upscale — but fun — destination that is full of breezy, bright pastels. It has a clean, beachy feeling that I just love! Depending on the location of your room, there’s even a chance to view the EPCOT fireworks outside your window at night.
The Beach & Yacht Club’s shared pool area, Stormalong Bay, is almost a water park unto itself! There are three areas to enjoy: a sand-bottomed portion that will make you feel like you’re at the beach, a lazy river and a regular swim/play zone. There’s also an awesome pirate ship slide that will have your tiniest swashbucklers hoppin’. If one of your favorite parts of vacation is lounging by the pool, the Beach or Yacht Club should be one of the top contenders.
Thinking about staying at the Beach Club? Be sure to stop by one of our favorite casual food spots on property — Beaches & Cream. This cute diner serves classic dishes and delicious sundaes for a great price. Cape May Café has reopened for delicious New England-style meals (character dining remains unavailable).
For the nautical lover looking to relax — Disney's Yacht Club Resort
The Beach and Yacht Club are “sister” resorts. Not only are they right next door to one another, but they also share amenities. That means you have double the options when it comes to dining and fun! The Yacht Club is known to have a quieter, more “adult” feel with dark wood and brass décor. There are also full balconies in each room.
Along with its more refined feel, Yacht Club has superb dining options to match. Yachtsman Steakhouse offers premium steak, fresh seafood and more. It's family-friendly while being sophisticated enough for a special meal.
Stormalong Bay will be sure to help you unwind and get the most out of your vacation. Yacht Club is closer to the boat dock that takes you to Disney's Hollywood Studios, while Beach Club is a shorter walk to EPCOT (and the Skyliner station).
Disney's Animal Kingdom Area
For the animal lover — Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
You don’t have to go on a safari in Africa to get the ultimate, wild experience. If your tadpoles are aspiring zoologists, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is a must-stay. With a savanna-view room, you can wake up to a scene straight out of "The Lion King" with zebras and giraffes right outside of your window.
With three table-service and three quick-service dining options, you’ll never be at a loss for food. While everything is great, we highly recommend Sanaa. Guests travel to Kidani Village to indulge in the bread service here alone — your choice of unique naan and delicious spreads. The restaurant serves delicious platters that will be sure to satisfy your adventurous taste buds.
Out of all of the Disney Resort hotels, Animal Kingdom Lodge offers guests one unique in-hotel experience others just can't match: stunning views of wild animals on the savannas. This amenity is the hotel's most defining feature. While there are plenty of viewing spots around the hotel, we think it's worth upgrading to a savanna-view room, especially if you like to sip your morning coffee or evening cocktail on a beautiful balcony with stunning views! To learn more about Animal Kingdom Lodge, check out our wild guide.
Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts
If you need the extra room or want additional just-like-home amenities, consider staying at a Disney Deluxe Villa Resort. Deluxe Villa Resorts have the same benefits offered at the deluxe resorts with larger accommodations. A villa, cabin or bungalow typically features a full kitchen, living and dining areas, separate private bedrooms and a washer and dryer set. There's also a Deluxe Studio option, which includes a kitchenette and a queen-size sleeper sofa.
Many of the deluxe resorts have villa options that share the same location, but there are a few standalone Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts:
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas - Jambo House
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Standalone Deluxe Villa Resorts
For the art aficionado — Disney's Riviera Resort
Disney World's newest hotel, Disney's Riviera Resort, celebrates the art and style of the European Riviera. With its grand architecture, classical music and colorful artwork, it feels like you've been transported to the Mediterranean seaside. The resort boasts over 40 original works of art from Disney and Pixar artists! Even the rooftop restaurant, Topolino's Terrace, is inspired by the cliffside restaurants found along the European coast. (It also offers a character breakfast, which features Mickey Mouse and friends in their most creative outfits yet!)
The resort offers plenty of recreational activities, including two pools, a kiddie pool, bocce ball court, chess lawn and fitness center. Lush landscaping and bubbling fountains make for a tranquil walk around the grounds. It also has a Disney Skyliner station for easy access to EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios.
The real Saratoga Springs and Key West are two toadally different places, but a history fanatic will love going back in time to see the 19th-century versions of each respective place at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and Disney's Old Key West Resort. Saratoga Springs is known for its mineral springs and horse racing, which heavily influences the Victorian-style theming of the resort. Meanwhile, Disney's Old Key West recreates a turn-of-the-century Key West community.
Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa features Senses — A Disney Spa, where you can get pampered (you'll surely appreciate it much more after a few long days at the parks!). They each offer a variety of recreational activities and dining options, and both are just a boat ride away from Disney Springs.
So. Many. Options. How do you choose? Who says you have to? If you plan properly, you could do a split stay — sampling two Disney World Deluxe Resort hotels during one visit. Yes, please!
Have questions about the Disney deluxe resorts? Drop us a line in the comments below! Don't froget you can see key hotel features at a glance using our Disney Hotel Comparison Tool and then save on booking your vacation through your favorite frogs!
Related: The Very Best Disney World Pools