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Beginners Guide to Walt Disney World Resorts

Beginners Guide to Walt Disney World Resorts – Grand Floridian

If you are visiting Walt Disney World nothing beats being in the heart of the action by staying in a Disney World Resort. In addition guests staying at Disney owned resorts get a number of perks including:

  • Free transportation around Walt Disney World
  • Free transport from Orlando International Airport
  • Extra Magic Hours in a selected park each day.
  • Earlier booking of Fastpass and Advanced Dining Reservations.
  • Free MagicBand.
  • Being able to book the Disney Dining Plan as part of your reservation.

However; there are cheaper options by staying in some of the many hotels & villas located throughout the Orlando area. Although they do cater for a range of budgets it is usually possible to do Disney cheaper by not staying in a Walt Disney Resort. However the closeness and the added extras make Disney World Resorts a popular option for many guests.

Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside Mansions
Riverside Mansions At Port Orleans – Riverside

Resort Classification

Disney Resorts are split into 3 classifications:-

Value: Food courts, pizza delivery, large lively swimming pools, bus transportation, basic furnishings & no elevators.

Moderate: Full-service restaurants (not at French Quarter), food courts, room service, luggage service, swimming pools with a slide, on-site activities, bus and some boat transportation, better furnished rooms.

Deluxe: Full-service restaurants, food courts, room service, luggage service, valet parking, a selection of swimming pools including kid activities, on-site activities, on-site childcare, monorail, boat or bus transportation, luxury furnishings, better staffing levels, elevators, luxury furnished rooms, club level, suites.

Kilimanjaro Club Animal Kingdom Lodge
Kilimanjaro Club Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney Vacation Club

Disney Vacation Club Villas are timeshare locations that are rented out for vacant weeks. Villas are often good options to consider when larger family groups are going to Walt Disney World. All Disney Vacation Club properties are deluxe resorts.

This article forms part of our expanding Beginners Guide to Walt Disney World and will be expanded further in coming months.

Disney World Resorts in Magic Kingdom Area

Disney World Resorts in the Magic Kingdom Area give you quick access to the number 1 theme park in the world. Resorts in this area are some of the most luxurious in Walt Disney World.

Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Disney World Resorts
Disney’s Contemporary Resort

The Contemporary Resort is one of two resorts on property when Walt Disney World opened in 1971. There are 655 rooms and suites in this 14-story deluxe resort. Some rooms are located in the adjacent Garden Wing.

Contemporary Resort

Disney’s Contemporary Resort has two separate club levels The Atrium Club & The Tower Club. Club level guests get access to a  special concierge lounge and complimentary food offerings served throughout the day.

Contemporary Resort

Dining options include:

  • California Grill
  • The Wave…of American Flavors
  • Contempo Café
  • Chef Mickey’s.
California Grill
California Grill

Recreational amenities include water skiing, boat rentals, jogging, volleyball, parasailing, playground and two swimming pools. There are a selection of specialty shops in the resort. The Contemporary tower has a 90-foot-tall mural by Disney Legend Mary Blair celebrates the Grand Canyon and the American Southwest.

View from California Grill Balcony Disney Contemporary resort
View from California Grill Balcony

Monorail, motor coaches and watercraft provide easy access to the theme parks. It is just a short walk to Magic Kingdom.

Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

In 2005, Disney began an extensive renovation of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and it was completed in 2009. Bay Lake Tower was built on the site of the former North Wing.

This Disney Vacation Club resort features 295 units (2-bedroom equivalents) including studio, one- and two-bedroom villas. Its fifth floor is connected by a skyway from the main tower’s fourth floor.

Beach at Contemporary Resort

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Read our extended review of the Grand Floridian

Opened in 1988 this Victorian themed hotel is the most luxurious resort at Walt Disney World. The hotel’s main building features an impressive five-story lobby, stained glass domes and Italian marble floors.

Disney's Grand Floridian
Disney’s Grand Floridian Victorian Elegance

The Grand Floridian includes 867 rooms and suites at an average of 400 square feet. It is by far the most expensive resort at Walt Disney World.

There are two ‘club level’ lounges at the Grand Floridian. The Royal Palm Club is located in the main building & the Sugar Loaf Club is in the Sugar Loaf building. To learn more about club level read our review of the Kilimanjaro Club.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Grand Floridian Resort

Dining includes Cítricos, Victoria & Albert’s, Gasparilla Grill & Games, Grand Floridian Cafe, 1900 Park Fare and Narcoossee’s. The Victoria and Albert is considered as one of the top restaurants in the entire United States. It is a long-standing AAA Five Diamond Award-winning restaurant. Overall the Grand Floridian has some of the very best restaurants in Walt Disney World.

Disney's Grand Floridian Main Lobby
Disney’s Grand Floridian Main Lobby

Recreation includes boat rentals, swimming, playground and health club.

There is easy access to theme parks via watercraft, motor coach and monorail.

The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

This Disney Vacation Club resort opened in 2013 and includes 147 villas and studios.

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

The resort includes 484 traditional hotel rooms/suites in addition to 20 over-the-water bungalows and 360 deluxe studio villas as part of the Disney Vacation Club Resort. It was one of the original resorts that opened with the Magic Kingdom in 1971. The Disney Vacation Club expansion opened in 2015.

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

The resort is designed with South Pacific Island theming along the beach of Seven Seas Lagoon.

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Dining options include

  • ‘Ohana
  • Kona Café
  • Captain Cook’s
  • the “Spirit of Aloha” dinner show
  • Tambu Lounge.
Disney World Resorts Polynesian
Stitch at Ohana

Transportation is by monorail, watercraft and motor coach.

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
Relaxing in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Legend has it that John Lennon signed the paperwork that officially split up the Beatles at the Polynesian Resort in 1974.

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Read our extended review of Wilderness Lodge

Disney World Hotels
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge opened on May 28th, 1984 Wilderness Lodge is reminiscent of Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone Park. This is a deluxe resort but is usually slightly cheaper than the other Magic Kingdom resorts.

In total there are 727 guest rooms at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge plus Disney Vacation Club Properties. Located on the 6th floor are the resort’s Club Level Rooms . Club level guests have access to the club lounge, also known as the Old Faithful Club. To learn more about Disney Club/Concierge Clubs read our review of the Kilimanjaro Club at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Disney's Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Fireplace

An 82-foot-tall stone fireplace is the centre piece of the impressive 6 storey lobby. A bubbling hot spring in the lobby expands outside the building into a roaring waterfall flowing into the swimming area.

A geothermal “geyser” erupts hourly at the edge of Bay Lake. Wilderness lodge certainly has some of the most impressive theming across any Disney World Resort.

Wilderness Lodge Disney World
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Dining options include Artist Point, Whispering Canyon Café and Roaring Fork Snacks and Arcade. If you visit Whispering Canyon Café make sure you ask for the tomato sauce!

There is easy access to theme parks via watercraft and motor coach.

Disney World Resorts
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge Disney Vacation Club

There are 2 Disney Vacation Club properties at Wilderness Lodge. The properties are Boulder Ridge Villas & Copper Creek Villas. Copper Creek Villas is the newest property and opened in 2017.

Disney's Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground officially opened on November 19, 1971.

Fort Wilderness Disney World.
Fort Wilderness Walt Disney World Resort

There are 799 campsites & 409 Wilderness Cabins all set in a relaxed 700-acre wilderness setting. All campsites have close access to air-conditioned comfort stations with private showers, coin laundry facility, vending machines and telephones. This is the only camping accommodation at Walt Disney World.

Fort Wilderness Walt Disney World

Wilderness Cabins are air-conditioned cabins that sleep up to six guests and feature vaulted ceilings, fully equipped kitchens, full bathrooms, television, VCR, outdoor grills, picnic tables and a private patio deck.

Fort Wilderness cabin
Fort Wilderness cabin
Dining options include Crockett’s Tavern, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, Trail’s End Restaurant and “Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue” nightly dinner show at Pioneer Hall.

Amenities include watercraft, beach, fishing, tennis courts, two heated swimming pools, arcade game room, laundry facilities and kennel. Groceries and camping supplies at Meadow and Settlement Trading Posts.

Sailing to Fort Wilderness

This is a massive resort and access to a car in our opinion is essential. Internal buses do run and many guests use golf carts to explore the resort.

Motor coach and boat transportation links the campground with all Walt Disney World Resort areas.

Disney World Resorts in Epcot Area

Disney World Resorts in the Epcot area give you good access to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Resorts are in a range of budgets.

Disney’s Pop Century Resort

Disney’s Pop Century Resort

This value-priced resort features lodge buildings and furnishings inspired by the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s pop culture. There are a massive 2880 rooms at the resort which initially opened in 2003.

Disney’s Pop Century Resort

Recreation includes three pools, a kiddie pool, the traditional Disney souvenir shop and the Pop Jet Playground.

Shopping at Disney’s Pop Century Resort

Everything Pop food court area provides on site counter service meals.

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

This Caribbean themed moderate resort originally opened in 1988. It is currently undergoing major renovations & several villages within the resort will not be available. Old Port Royale Food Court, Shutters at Old Port Royale, Cabana Pool Bar and Calypso Trading Post will be closed starting May 2017 through to fall 2018.

The Barbados and Martinique sections of the resort have now been demolished and will be part of the new DVC Disney Riviera Resort.

Transportation to theme parks available by motor coach & eventually the new Disney World Skyliner Transportation System.

Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Disney’s Yacht Club Resort is reminiscent of New England seashore hotels of the 1880s. There are 623 rooms & suites in this resort which opened in 1990.

Dining includes the Yachtsman Steakhouse & the new Ale & Compass plus two lounges.

Disney’s Yacht Club is located next to the Disney’s Beach Club Resort and across Crescent Lake from Disney’s BoardWalk Resort.

An expansive croquet lawn and marina lighthouse add to the resort’s ambience.

DisneyYacht1
Disney’s Yacht Club

Disney’s Beach Club Resort

Disney’s Beach Club Resort consists of 577 rooms and suites inspired by New England beach cottages of the 1860s. This Walt Disney World Resort opened in 1990.

Dining is available in Cape May Café including character breakfasts.

Centrally located between the Beach & Yacht Club is Stormalong Bay which features three lagoon areas and a thrilling water slide

Both the Beach Club & Yacht Club provide transportation via watercraft and motor coach.

DisneyBeachClub2
Disney’s Beach Club at Night

Disney’s Beach Club Villas

Part of Disney Vacation Club consisting of 576 units this luxury resort opened in 2002.

Disney’s BoardWalk

Disney's BoardWalk Inn
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn

The 372-room BoardWalk Inn is located alongside Crescent Lake and includes shopping, health club. A swimming pool  and a 20,000-square-foot conference center. The resort first opened in 1996.

Disney's BoardWalk Inn Lobby
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn Lobby

The BoardWalk entertainment district lies along a 0.25 miles long authentic boardwalk.

Disney’s BoardWalk restaurants include Flying Fish Café,  Big River Grille and Brewing Works, ESPN Club & Trattoria al Forno.

In addition there are a selection of bars, clubs and shops along the boardwalk.

Disney's BoardWalk
Disney’s BoardWalk

Disney’s BoardWalk Villas

There are 280-units which form part of Disney Vacation Club. Like all DVC properties the villas can be rented by non-DVC members when not in use by members. Accommodation is available in studios and one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas which offer kitchens, living areas and a variety of amenities.

Disney World Resorts in Disney Springs Area

There are a fantastic choice of resorts in the Disney Springs area. These resorts come in a range of budgets but do take longer to reach the theme parks.

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

This Disney Vacation Club resort features 924 villas & studios that recall the late 1800s heyday of America’s first vacation destination. This is the largest Disney Vacation Club property and opened in several phases starting in 2004. There is now a massive 1260 rooms on property.

Bus transportation is provided to all four Walt Disney World theme parks.

The resort is located across the lake from Disney Springs and guest can get a water taxi.

Saratoga Springs Resort
Disney’s Saratoga Springs
There are also 60 three-bedroom Treehouse Villas which opened in 2009.

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-French Quarter

Port Orleans French Quarter
Port Orleans French Quarter

This moderately priced resorts is located in 325 acres of woodland. There are 1008 French Quarter-style rooms. The resort is next to Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-Riverside & guest can share facilities.

Port Orleans French Quarter
Port Orleans French Quarter

Located on a 325-acre woodland site between Epcot and Disney Springs. Sassagoula Floatworks food court and pizza delivery. Themed pool, boat rentals, lounges, game room and retail shops. There is no table service restaurant at the resort.

Port Orleans French Quarter pool
Pool French Quarter

There is a Riverboat to Disney Springs & a motor coach to all theme parks.

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-Riverside

Read our extended review of Port Orleans Resort – Riverside

Port Orleans Riverside
Port Orleans Riverside

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside is a Moderate Resort at Walt Disney World. Riverside consists of 2,048 rooms in three-story southern-style mansions and two-story rustic bayou dwellings. It is divided into Alligator Bayou (bayou) and Magnolia Bend (mansions).

The resort originally opened February 2, 1992 as Disney’s Dixie Landings Resort. It was renamed in 2001. It now forms part of a larger resort combined with Disney’s’ Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter.

Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside review
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside

Recreation includes Ol’ Man Island a 3 ½-acre old-fashioned swimming hole with slides. In addition there are playgrounds, quiet pools, boat rentals, game room, The River Roost Lounge Bar and gift shop.

Playing at the River Roost Lounge on Wednesday to Saturday from 8:30pm is Bob Jackson. Bob performs a very popular piano sing-along comedy show and has developed a cult following.

Pool Port Orleans Riverside
Swimming Pool Riverside

Dining includes Riverside Mill food court and Boatwright’s Dining Hall.

Transportation is via motor coach to other Walt Disney World attractions. There is a riverboat to Disney Springs.

Disney’s Old Key West Resort

There are 761 rooms in a Key West setting. This is the original Disney Vacation Club property opening in 1991.

Accommodations include deluxe studios, one- and two-bedroom homes and two-story, three-bedroom Grand Villas that sleep up to 12. Rooms are larger than at other DVC properties.

Dining includes Olivia’s Café, poolside fare at the Gurgling Suitcase and Good’s Food to Go quick-service restaurant.

There is a health club, tennis courts, several swimming pools, sauna and bar among recreation activities on site.

The resort is linked by motor coach to all other Walt Disney World parks. There is a water-taxi to Disney Springs.

Disney World Resorts in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Area

Disney World Resorts in the Animal Kingdom Area do take longer to get to all the theme parks except Animal Kingdom. Although there is a fantastic choice of resorts if you intend to spend the majority of your time in Magic Kingdom travelling will take longer.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Read our extended review of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Disney World Resorts
Savannah Animal Kingdom Lodge

This Deluxe resort with 972-rooms opened in 2001. The resort has an African village design featuring hand-carved furnishings, African art and a giant fireplace in a soaring lobby.

Savannah Animal Kingdom Lodge
Savannah Animal Kingdom Lodge

The resort is known as Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House whilst the nearby 100% Disney Vacation Club property is known as Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village.

Disney World Resorts
Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House

Jambo House features 24-hour views to its own 46-acre savanna of free-roaming mammals and tropical birds.  The savanna is a highlight for many guests of their vacation.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

There are two



This post first appeared on Modern Life Is Good (Family Travel, Disney Cruise), please read the originial post: here

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Beginners Guide to Walt Disney World Resorts

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