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Where Should We Stay? Breaking Down the Walt Disney World Deluxe Resorts

When we travel to Walt Disney World, we often choose a moderate resort for the portion of the trip that we plan to spend most of our time in the parks, and hop to a deluxe resort for some more relaxing down time. In general, Deluxe Resorts have the benefits of interior room entry, private patios, and upgraded dining and recreation amenities. It’s hard for me to choose a favorite; each has its own unique theming and ambiance.

Stay Close to the Magic (Kingdom)

Grand Floridian Resort

Contemporary Resort

Polynesian Village Resort

Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World

Monorail Resorts:
Grand Floridian

Monorail Deluxe Resort Pros: easy access to Magic Kingdom by foot or to Epcot on the monorail via the transportation center, classic Disney theming at resorts (especially during the winter holidays), views of the fireworks and Electrical Water Pageant from your resort.

Monorail Deluxe Resort Cons: Bus transportation only to Hollywood Studios and a lengthy bus ride to Animal Kingdom, some resort rooms haven’t been remodeled and may feel a little more dated than other options.

Contemporary Resort Theme Park View, Walt Disney World, Florida

Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World
September 2017

Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World, December 2018

Contemporary Resort, Walt Disney World, Florida

Wilderness Lodge

Pros: easy (and unique) access to Magic Kingdom by boat, grounds and lobby have a “National Park” feel that makes for a relaxing escape from the Disney Parks, a quick boat ride to dining and activities at Wilderness Campground

Cons: Magic Kingdom boats are subject to inclement weather; Bus only transportation only to all other resorts, the pool is a bit smaller than many other Deluxe resorts

Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World

Storybook Dining at Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge

Fort Wilderness Campground & Resort, Walt Disney World, 2022

Walk or Boat to Epcot & Hollywood Studios:
Boardwalk Resorts

Yacht & Beach Club Resorts

Yacht Club & Beach Club share the largest pool on property, making it the best choice for a summer vacation. The aquatic area includes a long waterslide, lazy river, and sandy beach. These properties strictly enforce entry to the pool area by requiring proof of your stay when entering the gate. There are multiple options for table service dining. The seafood dinner buffet at Cape May Cafe is hard to miss, as the smell of crab legs permeates the hallways between Yacht and Beach Club. Yachtsman is the more upscale option for dining, while Ale & Compass is a better option for a table service meal for families with young children. One of the hardest-to-get reservations on property is at Beaches and Cream soda shop for a classic grill dinner and the famously shareable Kitchen Sink sundae. Without reservations, you can still get smaller ice cream treats from the poolside take-out window.

Boardwalk Inn Resort

On the opposite side of the lake from Yacht Club is the Boardwalk Inn Resort, similar in size to Yacht Club but without as large a pool complex. It’s the most convenient resort to choose if you want to walk to Hollywood Studios. A stay at Boardwalk gives direct access to the dining and shopping in this area, and we often saw “Carnival-style” entertainment on the Boardwalk. One of my favorite breakfast meals on Disney Property was at the Trattoria al Forno. The Bon Voyage Character Dining is still on hold as of August 2022. However, now families have an opportunity to have the unique breakfast meal without as hefty a price tag.

Swan & Dolphin Resorts

Staying at Swan and Dolphin resorts does not come with most of the same benefits of a Disney property; you can’t use magic bands, gain early entry into the park or charge to your room. However, it is possible to book a package that includes tickets through the Walt Disney World reservation system, and they do provide bus transportation directly to Magic Kingdom instead of the Transportation Center, buses to Animal Kingdom, and they have a boat stop for Hollywood Studios and Epcot. We chose Dolphin Resort for short stays during the holiday season when we planned to spend the day hopping between Hollywood Studios and Epcot.

Top Tips for Staying at the Boardwalk Area Resorts:

Choose Yacht or Beach Club when you plan to spend a lot of time at the pool during warm weather.

Choose Boardwalk Resort if you are trying to rope drop Hollywood Studios and want to walk instead of waiting for transportation.

Choose Swan and Dolphin resorts for if Disney Properties aren’t an option due to availability or affordability.

Yacht Club Resort, Walt Disney World, FL

Yacht Club Resort

Boardwalk Resort

Yacht Club Resort Pool, Walt Disney World, FL

Boardwalk Resort area at Walt Disney World is ideal for families who want to be close to the more “grown-up” attractions at Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Use of the monorail, the boats, or a 15-30 minute walk gets you to the gates with minimal waiting. Early entry into Epcot is more convenient if you plan to head straight to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure or Frozen Ever After, as you enter on the World Showcase side of the park between France and the UK.

Skyliner & Boat Transportation at Epcot, Walt Disney World, FL
Walt Disney World Skyliner, 2023

Animal Kingdom Lodge & Kidani Village

For more information about Animal Kingdom Lodge Read my Blog.

Animal Kingdom Pros: Easy access to Animal Kingdom by bus and not too far from Epcot and Hollywood Studios, Savanna views are easy to find from both resorts with a wide variety of animals, Cultural Ambassadors are available for tours and activities, guests have access to two spacious pools, restaurant options are plentiful.

Animal Kingdom Cons: Bus transportation only to all of the Parks and Disney Springs, and it’s a long ride to Magic Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village. Walt Disney World, 2022

Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village, 2022

Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby

Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World
Animal Kingdom Lodge

Additional Deluxe Resort Options

Disney Springs Resorts: Old Key West and Saratoga Springs are both primarily Disney Vacation Club resorts, but can be booked as normal packages also. They are good options for large families looking for suite accommodations. One con is that, although you can walk to Disney Springs, bus transportation to the parks often takes awhile.

Riviera Resort: This new DVC resort can also sometimes be booked as a package, and offers convenient access to the skyliner.

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