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I’m here to help you discover your Disney resort DNA. With almost 30 hotel properties at Walt Disney World, it can be a challenge knowing the right fit for your family.
Thankfully, I was recently invited to explore the Disney Resorts Collection thanks to Disney Parks. Even as a Disney vacation veteran, I learned so much! And with the help of Jenn Brunner, we explain how to pick the perfect resort for your next Disney World vacation.
How to Find Your Disney Resort DNA
I have my personal favorites among the Disney hotels. But the truth is, your Disney resort choice starts based on the priorities of what you want to do on your Disney World vacation.
The Disney Resort Collection includes everything from the entry level All Star Resorts all the way up to the Grand Floridian, which is considered a flagship resort.
I recently interviewed Jenn Bruner, Senior Manager Marketing Strategy at Walt Disney World Resort, on “The Sami Cone Show” to get the inside scoop. We covered some of the following questions:
- What are the benefits of staying on Disney property?
- What is the added value of staying at a deluxe resort?
- Where would you recommend someone start looking that hasn’t stayed on property in a few years?
- What resort options do you recommend for larger families or multiple generations traveling together?
- What do Disney resorts offer beyond accommodations?
Watch my full interview:
Here are some of the highlights of both the interview and my hosted trip to learn more about all the Disney World resorts…
“Best of” the Disney Resorts
I’ve created some quick categories so you can start your Disney vacation planning depending on what you’re looking for in a Disney resort.
Best Unexpected Value: Coronado Springs
Disney’s Coronado Springs has everything you could want in one resort. It’s the only resort on property with deluxe amenities but still features moderate resort pricing.
You’ll find 5-star dining inside of the new Gran Torino tower (not to mention one of the most unique elevator symptoms I’ve ever seen). It also boasts the biggest convention space for the Walt Disney property.
Best Splurge: Polynesian Bungalows
The bungalows resemble the private, over-the-water residences you’d find in exotic locations like Boar Bora. These accommodations sleep up to 8, include a private plunge pool and feature the best view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks outside of the theme park.
Oh, and did I mention the Polynesian Resort is the only resort where you can also find the delicious and iconic Dole Whip? (In a variety of flavors, might I add.)
Newest Resort Property: Swan Reserve
Located adjacent to the Swan & Dolphin, if you’re looking for a brand new resort, this is it. This Marriott property located within walking distance of Hollywood Studios is designed to provide guests with a “refined yet tranquil oasis near the attractions and theme parks”.
Most Animated Theme: Art of Animation
If you want to feel like you’ve been transported into the middle of your favorite Disney animated film, book a room at Disney’s Art of Animation resort immediately.
The Art of Animation is the first resort where they developed family suites. A family suite contains two rooms with three different sleeping areas. This means families of five or six no longer have to split up,
This resort also features:
- Big Blue pool, the largest on property
- Landscape of flavors, the biggest food court on property
- Themes from 4 of our favorite Disney & Pixar movies: Cars, Finding Nemo, Little Mermaid and The Lion King
The Cars buildings make up the largest area of the resort and is all family suites. The Lion King and Finding Nemo themed buildings are also made up of all family suites. All of these feature interior corridor entrances.
The Little Mermaid buildings are all standard rooms, which means they sleep up to 4. Be mindful, these rooms have exterior corridor entrances.
Most Convenient/the Original: Contemporary
When one thinks of Disney World resorts, often the Contemporary is what comes to mind. Not only is the design iconic, it’s truly the most conveniently-located resort on property. (The monorail runs right through the expansive lobby!)
Guests can also walk to the Magic Kingdom. Or they might opt to take a boat to the Fort Wilderness campground (where you’ll find Trail’s End, one of my favorite all-you-care-to-eat restaurants on property).
I especially love the new theming: The Incredibles! Not to mention it’s worth a trip alone to eat at the new Steakhouse 71.
Best Resort Pool: Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club
There is no question that the 750,000 gallon Stormalong Bay is the best pool on Walt Disney World property. You’ll enjoy sand-covered bottoms and even a waterslide inside of a shipwreck. And the only way to enjoy this aquatic wonderland to stay at either Disney’s Yacht Club or Disney’s Beach Club resorts.
Best for School Groups: All-Star
If your school band or dance group is planning a trip to Disney World, Disney’s All Star resorts are the perfect accommodations. There are three different All Star resorts: Music, Movies & Sports.
Keep in mind, that the All-Star Music resort is the only of the three with family suites.
Most Transformative: Animal Kingdom Lodge
If you want to be transported out of Florida, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is for you. After all, where else can you wake up with wild animals outside your window?
While this may be the least convenient of the deluxe Disney accommodations in terms of proximity to the theme parks, it’s OK because you won’t ever want to leave!
Benefits of Staying at a Disney Resort
There are so many reasons to stay on Disney property during your Walt Disney World vacation. One of the biggest benefits of staying at a Disney Resort during their 50th anniversary celebration is extended theme park hours for resort guests.
Extended Park Hours
Every Disney resort guest can enter the theme parks early. And two nights a week, Disney Deluxe resort & DVC property guests can enjoy extra time in either the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT.
Free Disney Resort Activities
Guests staying on Disney property can enjoy a wide variety of free Disney-themed activities, including:
- free pool activities
- free Disney movies
- free storytimes
One of my biggest money-saving tips is to make sure to schedule days during your vacation to simply stay and enjoy the free Disney activities at your resort. This helps make your vacation more relaxing too!
Free Transportation within Walt Disney World Resort
Guests staying on Walt Disney World Resort property can enjoy three types of free transportation between the theme parks, resorts, and other amenities:
- Disney’s Skyliner
I personally recommend staying within the EPCOT neighborhood of properties to enjoy all of these options. You can also walk to both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios from these resorts. You’ll also enjoy amazing fireworks views from around the lagoon.
Unfortunately, the Magical Express service to and from the Orlando airport is no longer complimentary.
Disney Resort Running Trails
All the resorts have running trails with mile markers so runners can still train while on vacation. Get Disney running trail maps online or stop by the concierge at your Disney resort.
Pet Friendly Disney Resorts
4 Walt Disney World resorts are pet-friendly:
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort
Best Friends Pet Care is a kennel available to resort guests as well. Keep in mind, only service animals are permitted in the theme parks.
2022 Disney Character Dining Options
Character Dining at Disney World has always been on our must-do list. The food never fails to impress us and it’s a stress-free way to see some of the most popular Disney characters.
As of January 2022, only a few Disney character dining options have returned to the Disney resorts. They are:
- Chef Mickey’s at Contemporary Resort
- Storybook Dining at Artist’s Point with Snow White at Wilderness Lodge
- Topolono’s Terrace at Riviera Resort
3 character dining options can be found within the Disney Parks:
- Tustker House (Animal Kingdom Park)
- Garden Grille (EPCOT)
- Hollywood & Vine (Hollywood Studios)
You do not have to stay in a Disney resort to attend character dining there. However, you do need a park ticket for character dining in the theme parks.
Free Disney Vacation Planner
I also recommend using a free Disney vacation planner to help you book your next Disney vacation. They don’t charge you anything when you book with them and they save you an IMMENSE amount of time when it comes to planning. (They’ll be the ones on the phone and online helping you book your dining and ride reservations). This is invaluable!
Remember to keep an eye on my Disney World Deals page. While some things have changed with the 50th anniversary and new health guidelines, you’ll always find great deals and tips for all things Disney!