Part of the magic of a trip to Walt Disney World is staying at a Walt Disney World Hotel. It’s the first place you visit when you arrive at the resort and it’s where you recount your adventures at the end of the day. The thing that makes a Walt Disney World hotel so special is that it has all of the beautifully thought out and designed elements that the parks do. Each one has its own unique story to tell as it transports you to a magical destination. As we continue to poll our Disney Insider staff about their personal Disney top five lists, we have shifted focus from restaurants to hotels. Take a look at what one of our writers calls her definitive five favorite Walt Disney World hotels:
On my very first trip to Walt Disney World when I was just a girl, my family and I stayed at the Wilderness Lodge. Ever since, Wilderness Lodge has held a special place in my heart. There are so many little details that make this location great, like the geyser named Fire Rock Geyser that erupts every hour outside near the pool or the Mickey and Friends totem pole that greets new guests. For me, there’s nothing better than pulling up a rocking chair next to the big fireplace in the lobby or taking a leisurely stroll around the grounds. My favorite part of Wilderness Lodge is the Club Level. All the Deluxe Resorts offer this service, but at Wilderness Lodge, it’s top notch to me. The cast members are always the most helpful and the food served throughout the day is some of the best on property. Whether I’m staying club level or not though, Wilderness Lodge always feels like home to me.
While they are two separate places, I decided to put Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts together. (How could I choose??) True, they have a number of unique factors that separate the two destinations, but they also share a lot of the same great qualities. I love the nautical elements of the Yacht Club, with its dark wood and rich reds and blues. On the Beach Club side, I love the whimsical elements of seashells throughout the decorations and the Victorian-style chairs in the lobby. They both share the best pool ever, Stormalong Bay, where you can climb an old ship to slide down into a sand bottom reservoir. The location of these two hotels cannot be beat, because you can easily walk to EPCOT or take the boat over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. During my favorite time of year at Walt Disney World, the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival, it’s a must to be close to EPCOT, making the Disney Yacht Club and Beach Club Resorts a perfect fit.
Any place where there are giraffes and zebras outside your room’s window has to be a top pick. I love the authenticity of the Animal Kingdom Lodge and every time I stay there, I feel like I learn something new about Africa’s culture and native fauna. The food served around the resort is rooted in African cuisine and restaurants Jiko, Boma, Sanaa and The Mara are always must-visits for me. I like to challenge myself each visit to try a new type of food, but always save room for my favorite treat: Zebra Domes! There’s lots of activities that takes place around the resort, too. At night, there’s usually s’more making out near the observatory area and they also offer the chance to use night vision goggles to see the animals who are harder to spot in the light of day. For me, it’s the little things that make Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge really special and unlike any resort on property.
A stay at Port Orleans Riverside is a step back in time to the waterfronts of the bayou. The property feels enormous and you can easily stroll around for an afternoon, marveling at the unique houses that host the guest rooms. There is a boat that will take you to Downtown Disney, which is a great convenience and also a fun way to see more of Walt Disney World. The best part of Port Orleans Riverside, though, has to be the Royal Guest Rooms. All around the room, you’ll find magical touches left by Tiana and her princess pals, like a magic carpet beneath your feet and a fireworks display in the headboards. For someone who never quite grew out of her princess-loving stage, this room and resort is truly a dream come true.
If you’re a superfan of all things animation like I am, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is the ultimate hotel. Whether you stay in a section dedicated to The Little Mermaid, Cars, The Lion King, or Finding Nemo, you are surrounded by larger-than-life characters and rooms that transport you right into the scenes of your favorite film. The Family Suites are ideal for those traveling with large groups and it gives everyone the space to stretch out their legs after a long day of theme parking. I also love Landscape of Flavors, the quick-service location at Disney’s Art of Animation, which features a yummy tandoori station, build-your-own burger bar, and gelato! No matter which room you stay in, everyone can enjoy the Big Blue Pool. It’s great for kids and big kids at heart who want to pretend they can speak whale and find P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.
Have you ever had the pleasure of staying at a Walt Disney World hotel? Do you consider yourself an expert, with Five Favorites of your very own? Sound off in the comments and let us know where you prefer to stay when you visit Walt Disney World.