Walt Disney World Hotels 2018: The Good, The Bad, and Which to Pick

This post provides a quick overview of each of the Disney hotel options at Walt Disney World. It does not include the Swan & Dolphin or other non-Disney properties. It also doesn't include Disney Vacation Club properties (which we'll discuss at a later time).

Once you've picked your hotel, be sure to find the best Walt Disney World hotel deals. If you're interested in booking these hotels with points, you should consider booking your Disney hotel with Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

We haven't stayed at every Walt Disney World hotel (yet). Our thoughts are based on a combination of experiences from stays, public information (like transportation options, locations, etc.), and our time spent visiting hotels we haven't stayed at.

Walt Disney World Deluxe Resorts

The deluxe resorts are the best Disney has to offer. You should know, though, that if you're a frequent "deluxe" traveler, these resorts won't compare to, say, Four Seasons or The Ritz Carlton. The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World is, for example, widely regarded as the best hotel at Walt Disney World.

Nonetheless, these resorts (almost) all have something awe-inspiring about them, and they are all fantastic hotels. Given their high prices, they also merit the most analysis. The big perk of most of the deluxe resorts is transportation. Most of them (all but Animal Kingdom Lodge) have access to the parks by some means other than bus, which makes it easier to get to and from the parks. They also fantastic for doing a Disney World resort day away from the parks. Not sold? We've got Six Reasons to Stay at a Disney Deluxe Resort.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

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Rates Start At: $574 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: Grand Floridian is the flagship hotel of and most expensive hotel at Walt Disney World. The Victorian theming is beautiful and conveys a luxurious feel. Located just a monorail stop away from Magic Kingdom, the Grand Floridian is home to some of the top restaurants at Walt Disney World

The Bad: Unlike the Contemporary (across the Seven Seas Lagoon), you cannot walk to Magic Kingdom. You'll occasionally have to share buses with other resorts (not very Deluxe, in our opinion). The resort has not aged well, and is generally regarded as falling short of the quality needed to justify its very high price.

Our Thoughts: Once the epitome of the deluxe Disney experience, the Grand Floridian has fallen a bit behind as of late. It's not that it isn't a nice hotel, it's that it's stuck in a position where it's theming is all about luxury but the hotel doesn't deliver when compared to, for example, the Four Seasons. One thing to tip the scale for this an all monorail resorts: if you have kids, nothing beats being a monorail ride away from Magic Kingdom.

Why to Pick It: Grand Floridian doesn't rank very high on our list of future resorts, but if you've tried the other major resorts, we'd understand wanting to splurge on this one.

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

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Rates Start At: $476 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: Polynesian's theming is on par with Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge (that is, excellent), in our opinion. Just two monorail stops from Magic Kingdom, families with children will have quick access to their top park. Restaurant options here are good, and Grand Floridian's excellent meal options are a short walk or monorail ride away. The pool consistently rates as one of the best at Walt Disney World. For adults (and kids, really) Trader Sam's Grog Grotto is a can't-miss cocktails and appetizers experience.

The Bad: You'll sometimes be sharing buses with other resorts. Unlike the Contemporary, you can't walk to Magic Kingdom. Prices tend to be some of the highest at Walt Disney World. Due to its proximity to Magic Kingdom, the resort is quite accessible if you want to enjoy it without paying the high prices.

Our Thoughts: If you plan a resort day you can easily kick back at the great pool, visit Trader Sam's, and get your fill of meals here or at other monorail resorts. In general, we think Polynesian is worth a visit if you can find an excuse, but we don't see it as being worth its high prices unless you need to be near Magic Kingdom.

Why to Pick It: You and the kids want a deluxe tropical getaway with Magic Kingdom right next door, and you don't mind paying for it!

Our Review of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort can be found here.

Disney's Contemporary Resort

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Rates Start At: $400 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: You can walk to Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary (it's also the first stop on the monorail from Magic Kingdom). California Grill is one of the best restaurants at Walt Disney World (the view alone could earn it this distinction).

The Bad: Low room rates run out quickly. The higher price is hard to justify, especially compared to the nearby Polynesian Resort. After California Grill, food and drink options sort of drop off.

Our Thoughts: Contemporary is a little polarizing. You'll notice that we didn't talk at all about theming as a "good" or "bad" points. Some people just really hate the aesthetic of the place and some people love it. Beyond that, there isn't much to complain about (besides price). It's the only resort you can walk to Magic Kingdom from, and it is a monorail ride away from the great restaurants and bars of the other Magic Kingdom resorts (in addition to housing California Grill itself). We'd skip it in favor of Polynesian (if you're looking for theming) or Grand Floridian (if you're looking for luxury).

Why to Pick It: You want to be as close to Magic Kingdom as possible and you found dates with prices lower than the Polynesian.

Disney's Wilderness Lodge

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Rates Start At: $325 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: Wilderness Lodge is a fan favorite for a reason. It's got great theming, one of the best lobbies at Walt Disney World, deluxe quality, and the lowest price among the deluxe resorts.

The Bad: Despite being a Magic Kingdom resort, it is tough to call location anything like a perk here. We hated, hated getting around from Wilderness Lodge, eventually resorting to our first Uber ride at Walt Disney World. You'll have to take (slow) boats to Magic Kingdom or share buses to other parks. Dining options and the pool aren't as great as some other deluxe options. 

Our Thoughts: It's price makes Disney's Wilderness Lodge arguably the top property at Walt Disney World if you're looking for the most bang for your buck. Getting around from it is awful, but if you use Uber you'll still spend less than you would at other Deluxe properties and you'll be getting everywhere faster than everyone else. If you're not comfortable with Uber and don't want to pay for Minnie Vans, you need to seriously consider how much of a rush you'll be in and whether you'll need to return to the hotel midday before committing to Wilderness Lodge.

Why to Pick It: You're comfortable with Uber and want a taste of the deluxe experience.

Our review of Disney's Wilderness Lodge can be found here.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

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Rates Start At: $336 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of Disney's most immersive hotels. No other hotel offers anything like the opportunity to view roaming giraffes from your balcony. The restaurants of Animal Kingdom Lodge are arguably three of the five best at Walt Disney World. Finally, a club level upgrade makes more sense here than at other resorts, where an upgrade from Savannah View to Club Level can start at as low at $70 per night.

The Bad: You're stuck relying on bus transportation to everything on site (unless you Uber or use Minnie Vans). Buses are shared with Kidani Village, the Animal Kingdom Lodge's Disney Vacation Club property.

Our Thoughts: Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of our favorite Walt Disney World hotels. It's particularly great for a resort day, one of our favorite ways to save on our stay. Bus transportation can be annoying, so if you're planning to be in a hurry, or you'll need a midday break, you'll want to consider using Uber.

Why to Pick It: You love animals and good eats, and you don't need to cram every bit of the parks into your days.

Our review of Animal Kingdom Lodge can be found here.

Our review of Club Level at Animal Kingdom Lodge can be found here.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort / Disney's Beach Club Resort

Note: We're discussing Yacht Club and Beach Club together.

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Rates Start At: $392 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: Stormalong Bay, the pool shared by Yacht Club and Beach Club, is the best pool at Walt Disney World. Together with the nearby Boardwalk (and a bit farther, the Fantasia Gardens Mini-Golf Course), Yacht and Beach Clubs are great for resort days. On park days, you'll be able to walk (or take a boat) to both Hollywood Studios and (the shorter walk) Epcot. While the Magic Kingdom resorts may have a better collection of restaurants, there's something for everybody around the Boardwalk, with Yacht Club's Yachtsman Steakhouse being a top restaurant at Walt Disney World, and Beaches & Cream (now a hybrid Table Service / Quick Service stop) offering its legendary Kitchen Sink dessert. Both hotels were recently refurbished, with Yacht Club just having finished. Consensus is that Yacht Club is now a step above Beach Club.

The Bad: Along with the BoardWalk Inn, these hotels are a step back from the grandiosity of the Magic Kingdom hotels. There's still beauty in the details, but they just don't overwhelm in the same way. Families will maybe be disappointed to have to bus to Magic Kingdom.

Our Thoughts: In a few years, the Boardwalk resorts (BoardWalk Inn, Yacht Club, Beach Club) will easily be the best places to stay on property because of their unbeatable location. You can walk to Epcot and Hollywood Studios from these three hotels, which will make them prime location when the construction at these two parks is completed. Similarly, while events like Food & Wine are going on at Epcot, these hotels are stellar options.

Until work at Hollywood Studios and Epcot is done, it's a bit of a tougher call. You might just decide that being close to Magic Kingdom is what matters most. Or that you'll take the grandiose lobby and impressive theming of Animal Kingdom Lodge. The again, Stormalong Bay is hands down the best pool on property, and even with Hollywood Studios and Epcot still far from perfect, the location is quite good.

Why to Pick It: You're big fans of Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and you're ready to take a day to relax poolside.

Disney's BoardWalk Inn

Rates Start At: $429 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: BoardWalk Inn is the third Boardwalk property, closer to Hollywood Studios (by about 5 minutes) than Yacht and Beach Clubs. As we discussed above, the location along the Boardwalk is great for lovers of Epcot or Hollywood Studios, and the food and drink options along the Boardwalk are great.

The Bad: BoardWalk Inn's pool is a step down from Stormalong Bay. Yacht Club has the newest rooms in this group. Like Yacht and Beach Clubs, the theming here doesn't compete with the Magic Kingdom resorts.

Out Thoughts: Mostly the same analysis as Yacht and Beach Clubs, but no access to Stormalong Bay. Hard to justify spending more to stay here than Yacht or Beach Club. If you're not into pools or not doing a resort day, a stay at BoardWalk Inn makes sense if it's cheaper than Yacht Club on your selected dates.

Why to Pick It: You love Epcot and Hollywood Studios and don't need a day poolside.

Walt Disney World Moderate Resorts

It's really hard to succinctly and meaningfully describe the moderate resorts as a class. The best way might be that they're like value resorts but with better theming. Some of them have significantly better dining options than the value resorts, as well. But overall, what distinguishes these resorts in our mind is mostly their theming.

A quick note about the moderate resorts -- you'll be relying on bus transportation to the parks from all these resorts. You can mentally put that under "The Bad" for each one and save us the space.

Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside

Rates Start At: $200 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: Good table service dining at Boatwright's Dining Hall. Brilliant theming that isn't as exhausting as French Quarter. 

The Bad: Large layout requires additional transportation to get around (or lots of walking). 

Our Thoughts: This was my (Ken's) first Disney hotel, back when it was still Dixie Landings. Obviously, much has changed since then. This is probably a better option than French Quarter, but it is much larger and thus can be a bit unwieldy when you're in a hurry. If you don't mind walking, choose between Riverside and French Quarter based on theme.

Why to Pick It: You're looking for an upgrade from value and Louisiana is your jam!

Disney's Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter

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Rates Start At: $200 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: French Quarter is a short walk from Riverside, which means you have access to that resort's excellent theming and good table service restaurant. French Quarter also has one of the better moderate resort pools. Finally, French Quarter is smaller than the other moderate resorts, making it a bit easier to get around.

The Bad: No table service restaurant (but a fine quick service option). Theming can hit you a bit over the head at times.

Our Thoughts: The theming here might be the most divisive of the moderate resorts. We felt it was was a tad over the top (but, then again, so is the real French Quarter). The pool is great, though, and you've got good dining options nearby at Port Orleans - Riverside.

Why to Pick It: You're looking for an upgrade from value, but you don't want to commit to too much walking (still some, though).

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort

Rates Start At: $178 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: Coronado Springs southwest theming presents itself in impressive, varied ways. This variety is a bit eclectic, maybe, but it works (especially at the pool). Two table service restaurants!

The Bad: There is ongoing construction here, but by esteemed accounts, this is no reason to avoid the hotel. Convention atmosphere may bring spirit down a bit. Large grounds require lots of walking.

Our Thoughts: Again, moderate resorts mostly about theming. Coronado Springs does this well. The biggest downside is the size of the resort. Your dining options here are a little better than the other moderate resorts, as you'll have two table service options. 

Why to Pick It: You're interested in an upgrade from value and the southwest is your jam!

Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort

Rates Start At: $166 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: Caribbean Beach rooms were recently (2015) remodeled, which gives them a fresh look. The grounds are well themed, and your kids could almost re-enact some of their favorite scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Bad: There is significant ongoing construction here, significant enough that esteemed persons advise against staying here. The dining options are limited (and temporary) due to this construction. The grounds are huge, which can add significantly to your travel times.

Our Thoughts: Caribbean Beach is in the running for best moderate hotel...once the construction finishes, that is. Until then, there is plenty to be seen at the other Walt Disney World resorts.

Why to Pick It: You've stayed everywhere else. (Don't pick it until construction finishes.)

The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort

Rates Start At: $323 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: Beautiful, recently-renovated cabins. Kitchens make this option great for saving on food. Lots of on-site amenities and activities.

The Bad: Very frustrating transportation (combination of internal buses along with bus and boat transportation to parks).

Our Thoughts: The Fort Wilderness Cabins are off the beaten Walt Disney World path. Honestly, we haven't stayed here or visited the campus here, so we can't say too much about it. We think the best resource on the cabins is Disney Tourist Blog, and we're happy to direct you to them.

Why to Pick It: You're into the wilderness and comfortable with a slower, more remote trip.

Walt Disney World Value Resorts

The value resorts are possibly the most under-appreciated resorts at Walt Disney World. Say what you will, but these are cool, fun, lively, almost trippy places. If the Grand Floridian is a wealthy older couple in a horse drawn carriage riding down Fifth Avenue, the value resorts are a family of five hanging off a motorbike zipping through the streets of Bangkok. This isn't Disney life at its most elegant, but it might be Disney life at its best.

Let's be clear before proceeding. Value resorts have food courts, not restaurants. You're sticking to bus transportation (or Uber). The theming is not subtle. And the details, the amenities, everything else, well...you'll get what you paid for. Need more? We've got Six Reasons to Stay at a Disney Value Resort.

Disney's Art of Animation Resort

Rates Start At: $131 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: Art of Animation and Pop Century are a notch above the All-Star Resorts. They're not to the quality of moderate, though. Art of Animation is even more distinguished from the other value resorts, though, by its focus on suites. The "Landscape of Flavors" food court is top-notch. Art of Animation's design is, like the other values, way over the top. We think this plays great for families, though. Dedicated bus, plus you can ride to Pop Century and walk if you want.

The Bad: As with other values, you'll be relying on bus transportation. Lower rates and deals often sell out quickly.

Our Thoughts: Art of Animation is the best value resort, no doubt. If it's priced below Pop Century on your dates, then definitely grab it. But if it's more expensive, strongly consider Pop if you haven't stayed there before. It's not that Art of Animation isn't one of the best values (that is, bang for buck, not "value resorts") on property, it's just that we'd probably place it behind Pop Century on that list.

One More Thing: Art of Animation rooms can be divided into the standard Little Mermaid Rooms and the Family Suites. The prices for the Family Suites are more in line with moderate or even deluxe resorts. For example, here are some sample average nightly rates for a seven-night stay:

  • Beach Club: $451
  • Art of Animation (Suite): $418
  • Port Orleans: $274
  • Art of Animation (Standard): $198
  • All Star Music: $150

The Family Suites are worth looking into if you've got the money and are looking for something a little different. But don't confuse them with a deluxe stay. You'll still have bad location and a lack of high-quality dining options.

Why to Pick It: You've stayed moderate or deluxe before and want a taste of the value life.

Disney's Pop Century Resort

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Rates Start At: $125 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: Great price point. Food court stocked with essentials (pizza, burgers). Open, fun pool. Some rooms have recently been refurbished. Dedicated bus, plus you can ride to Art of Animation and walk if you want.

The Bad: None, besides the downsides of the value resorts in general. 

Our Thoughts: If you stay at Pop Century, you'll develop a soft spot for it. We can almost promise that. Art of Animation is the superior hotel, mostly on account of its being newer. But while Art of Animation may do some things slightly better than Pop Century (better theming, slightly better pool, slightly better food court), Pop does these things about as well for a lower price. Plus if you're really into Art of Animation, you can walk there from Pop.

Why to Pick It: You're in the value bracket and Pop Century is within reach.

Our review of Disney's Pop Century Resort can be found here.

Disney's All-Star Sports Resort / Disney's All-Star Movies Resort / Disney's All-Star Music Resort

Note: We discuss the All-Star Resorts together, noting the differences briefly.

Rates Start At: $97 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: They're cheap. You get all the perks of staying at a Walt Disney World resort. Theming can be fun.

The Bad: Shared buses. Worst food options at Walt Disney World. Large campuses can add to travel time.

Our Thoughts: The All-Star Resorts are the "true" value resorts at Walt Disney World. They are the lowest cost accommodations on property besides the campsites. If you can afford an upgrade to Pop Century or Art of Animation, then yes, it is worth it (probably for the dedicated bus alone). If you can't, don't worry! These are still fun hotels with fun theming.

Differences Between the Resorts: There are three notable differences between these resorts:

  1. The theming at these are different (duh) according to their names.
  2. All-Star Sports typically sees more large groups of kids visiting for athletic events at ESPN's Wide World of Sports.
  3. The shared buses stop at Sports, Music, then Movies.

Why to Pick It: You're in the value bracket and want to stay at a Disney property.

Campgrounds

Disney (on the Walt Disney World website, at least) considers the campgrounds a separate category of "hotel," though only the Fort Wilderness campsites are included in this category.

The Campsites at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort

Rates Start At: $53 per night (pre-tax)

The Good: Lowest-cost accommodations on Disney property. Combine camping with Disney! Lots of on-site activities and amenities.

The Bad: Very frustrating transportation (combination of internal buses along with bus and boat transportation to parks).

Our Thoughts: Like the cabins, The Fort Wilderness Campsites are off the beaten Walt Disney World path. Honestly, we haven't stayed here or visited the campus here, so we can't say too much about it. We think the best resource on the campsites is Disney Tourist Blog, and we're happy to direct you to them.

Why to Pick It: You're into camping.

All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered

Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way. If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.

When it comes time to book, we've got you covered with posts on how to book cheap flights, how to get the best deal on your Disney hotel, and where to find discount Disney World tickets.

Don't forget to master your Disney World Fastpass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks!

Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.

What did we get right? Wrong? What did we miss? Let us know in the comments!

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