Walt Disney World has eight official Disney Deluxe resorts and much to Disney’s dismay, we include the Swan and Dolphin in this mix for while they are not Disney-operated, they are complete upscale resorts with Disney transportation and character meals.
Unlike most of the urban locations, WDW has so much real estate that these resorts are not high rise and all have lush grounds, feature pools and more, theme restaurants of all shapes and sizes, and an orientation to families. The Disney resorts are: Animal Kingdom Lodge (1293 rooms), Contemporary (1008), Grand Floridian (867), Polynesian (847), Wilderness Lodge (727), Yacht Club (621), and Broadwalk (372). The Swan-Dolphin complex has 2,265 rooms.
The Beach Club At Night: WDW on the waterfront
Best Value For Money: Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom, Swan-Dolphin, Contemporary (Garden Wings)
The Wilderness Lodge and the Animal Lodge are usually $100 or more less than the other Disney resorts, and both rank high in restaurants, pools, and atmosphere. Their weakness is their standard room combinations are good for just four adults and a baby in a crib rather than five people. While Wilderness Lodge has direct boat transportation to Magic Kingdom, it is cancelled in bad weather requiring bus transport. Animal Kingdom Lodge requires bus transport to all parks so this park is best for people with automobiles.
Wilderness Lodge: Welcome to the Rockies
Disney and Swan Resorts often have rooms close to half the price of the Disney resorts – particularly if there are no large conventions in the complex. If you get a room with a Bay Lake view, the cheaper Garden Wing sections of the Contemporary match up with the Bay Lake side of the main building at a much lower price-tag.
The Dolphin: Not Disney But At Disney
Best Rooms For Large Families: Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Beach Club
The Grand Floridians have some rooms at 440 square feet although the attic rooms are wonderfully romantic for couples, but not for small children. All Disney deluxe resorts (except Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness, and Boardwalk) have rooms that sleep five plus one baby under age 3. That means in WDW lingo two Queen beds and a day bed. The Beach Club has a lot of forest view rooms, but it is within walking distance of Epcot.
The Grand Floridian is Victorian Wonder In The Holidays
Best Restaurant Selections: Animal Kingdom Lodge, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge (tie), Contemporary (tie)
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is Exotic
All Disney (and Swan-Dolphin) deluxe hotels have at least one moderately priced table service restaurant, an upscale fine restaurant, a counter-service food option, lounge and pool bars, and decent room service. The Animal Kingdom has two incredible main restaurants and maybe the best buffet at WDW. The Grand Floridian has many upscale restaurants, including the super-fancy Albert and Victoria. If your kids are fussy go on the Disney website, AllEars, and Yelp for menus and the latest reviews.
Best Sports and Water Facilities: Contemporary, Yacht Club, Polynesian
The Contemporary Resort A-Frame with Monorail
Walt Disney World visitors have access to great golf courses and other recreational activities, but the resort needs a good lake for proper boating and parasailing activities. The pool may be big and bland at the Contemporary, but the boating and tennis choices are very good. Due to the alligator attack at the Grand Floridian, Disney has closed off its beach facilities to swimmers.
Best Pool Facilities: Beach and Yacht Club, Swan-Dolphin resorts, Wilderness Lodge
With the longest lazy river at WDW and a monster two resort complex, the Yacht and Beach resorts shared pool facilities is the best at Disney. Likewise the huge Dolphin and Swan complex has both an Olympic lap pool and two canyon pools with waterfalls, as well as Swan boat rentals. The Wilderness Lodge has a beautifully designed pool system which starts inside the resort as a mountain river with rocks.
Most Romantic Resorts: Animal Kingdom Lodge, Polynesian, Grand Floridian
The Polynesian Resort On Seven Seas Lagoon
The isolated nature of Animal Kingdom Lodge means its facilities are almost empty during the day and few daytime visitors come by except those with restaurant reservations. The Polynesian has beautiful gardens and the new huts built over the Seven Seas Lagoon are quite romantic although lacking underwater views and having a high price tag. The Grand Floridian is upscale in every way with a decent adults only pool, delightful lounges, and restaurants which overlook the lake.
WARNING: Go online and examine each resort and you will notice that almost 50% of the rooms even in these Deluxe Resorts face parking lots or court-yards or inner pool areas. The term “water view” does not mean “waterfront.” Advertised rates are usually of standard often poor view rooms.