Best Disney Hotels
By Sarah Sekula
The magical world created by the Disney Imagineers is known world-wide. The moment you step foot into any of the four theme parks in Orlando you are immediately transported into another world - Animal Kingdom allows visitors to experience an African safari, Epcot shuttles visitors through the world showcase, Hollywood Studios offers a behind-the-scenes glimpses of Hollywood-style action and the Magic Kingdom is full of fantasy and imagination. Walt Disney World has been loved by kids and adults alike since its opening in 1971. And the uniquely-themed resorts on property are just as spectacular. For instance, who knew it would be possible to watch a giraffe nibble the leaves off a tree out of their hotel window without flying to Africa? The Animal Kingdom Lodge made that dream a reality, and not only do they offer wildlife galore but their 2 restaurants allow us to taste the flavors of Africa. Or if you prefer to relax and experience “Island Time,” book a room at the Caribbean Beach Resort where hammocks, white-sand beaches and tropical drinks await. Looking for a feast, reserve your spot at the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian Resort. The beautiful hula costumes, thrilling fire dancers and scrumptious buffet will surely make all of your friends jealous. Maybe souvenirs is what you are after, then check out the Boardwalk area with over 90,000 square feet of shops, restaurants and nightclubs. Every Disney resort is special and provides a one-of-a-kind experience. No matter which one you choose, you cant go wrong.
10 Disney's Yacht Club Resort
Disney's Yacht Club Resort is a lakeside beauty designed by famed architect Robert A.M. Stern who is known for his East Coast beach house style. You'll find wicker furniture, simulated captains wheels and portholes carrying the theme throughout the public areas. Enjoy the scrumptious menu items of the Yachtsman Steakhouse including steaks, seafood, chicken and lamb dishes.
9 Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
Feel the spirit of the Caribbean with swaying palm trees, island foods, relaxing days at the pool and a snooze in the hammock. Resort guest rooms are arranged into 6 villages -- Trinidad North, Trinidad South, Martinique, Barbados, Aruba and Jamaica. Each village is filled with pastel-colored buildings, it's own swimming pool and a white-sand beach.
8 Disney's Contemporary Resort
If you have ever hopped aboard the Disney monorail to the Magic Kingdom then you have zoomed through Disney's Contemporary Resort. Boasting views of Space Mountain and Cinderella Castle, this resort is nestled up next to the Magic Kingdom park. The massive grounds include a marina, pools restaurants, recreational facilities, a health club, tennis courts and convention rooms.
7 Disney's Boardwalk Inn
Tucked away among the many beautiful resorts and hotels Disney has to offer, the Boardwalk Inn's charm and tribute to 1940s Atlantic City, puts it leaps and bounds above the rest. The sights and sounds alone from the boardwalk make it a whimsical experience. Romantic cottages, bikes taking trips along the walkway overlooking Crescent Lake and the carnival atmosphere create an allure only a Disney hotel could. While the ESPN Club, Jellyrolls (a dueling piano club) and Big River Brewery all cater to the adults, there are plenty of accommodations for the kids. Two pools, including a 200-foot Keister Coaster water slide at one, a sandy beach and kids activities all around make for the perfect mix of adult and family entertainment. TIP: The resort is within walking distance of Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
6 Disney's Beach Club Resort
What do you get when you combine resplendent theming, on-site Walt Disney World convenience and one of the most spectacular pools your kids will ever lay their eyes on? It's Disney's Beach Club Resort, a whimsical New England-style property where the pool complex -- and really, that's the only word suitable -- has its own name: Stormalong Bay. It's a three-acre paradise wherein kids (and most adults willing to admit it) may forget the Magic Kingdom is only a stone's throw away. A 230-foot waterslide, sand-bottom pool, pirate ship replica and more await those needing a break from Orlando's formidable heat. Fear not, however, for there are adult pools at which to cool your heels, as well. Babysitting services, shuttles to all the Walt Disney World parks and attractions and other amenities abound.
5 Disney's Polynesian Resort
Kick back and relax in a tropical paradise, featuring lush vegetation, koi ponds and rich tropical architecture. Numerous dining options are scattered around the property but if you have the time sign up for the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. The food is incredible and the entertainment is not to be missed. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the torch-lighting ceremony, a Polynesian welcoming of the night that includes a fire-knife dance, drumming and chants.
4 Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Lake Buena Vista
So you want to go on safari, but aren't that enthused about long flights and mandatory vaccinations. Also, you've always wanted to ride Space Mountain. Behold Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, easily one of the Walt Disney World Resort's most beautiful properties and one where you can enjoy coffee while watching giraffes and zebras meandering the "savannah" just off your well appointed balcony. Indeed, DAK Lodge is so lovely, many Disney visitors choose to come for a quick lookie-loo and enjoy the cozy fire pits, the beautiful African animals and the food at its excellent restaurants. Boma, its on-site buffet, in fact, is a favorite with locals, as well. And the best tables at Sanaa have views of the animals -- cranes, kudu, gazelles and more -- to enjoy alongside your delicious meal.
3 Disney's Coronado Springs Resort Lake Buena Vista
This Southwest-themed Resort has the essence of Spanish-colonial Mexico with a hidden treasures of the Mayan-ruin theme at the pool, brightly colored guest rooms with terra cotta tile and the Siestas Cantina poolside bar. There are a variety of dining options including stations for quick snacks and Panchitos (the store) is on-site for those last minute essentials. The kids can splash around on the water slide, romp through the playground or hit up the arcade while the adults enjoy the hammocks, 22-person hot tub and white sandy beach.
2 Disney's Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter
With all the visual cues of the French Quarter, wrought-iron balconies and cobbled lanes -- the Port Orleans is one of the Walt Disney World Resorts gems for Southern-inspired romance, without the less relaxing brouhaha for which Bourbon Street is also well known. Sip on a hurricane cocktail as you enjoy the cheery strains of a jazz band, enjoy the grand architecture and the colorful Mardi Gras-themed play areas. Hop a water taxi to nearby Downtown Disney for all the shopping, dining and entertainment your magic-seeking heart desires. This property shares amenities with the Port Orleans Riverside -- you may want to do some hotel hopping!
1 Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
TOh, the Grand Floridian. Even the most casual Disney visitor knows this dazzling Victorian-style crowd-pleaser by name (just watch them point it out from the monorail on the way into the Magic Kingdom!). A five-story Grand Lobby is among the first clues that this resort -- while most certainly a Disney property -- isn't what most think of when it comes to an Orlando vacation. Two beautiful pools and six restaurants -- including the lauded and lovely Narcoossee's and scrumptious, elegant and one-of-a-kind dining experience that is the world-famous Victoria & Albert's (leave the kids home for this posh, seven-course culinary experience) -- are just a few of the facets that make this property a top option for Disney aficionados who don't want to leave stars behind for a theme park vacation.
About Sarah Sekula
When Sarah's not zigzagging around the planet — swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, scaling glaciers in Iceland or roaming through remote jungles in India — she's writing about her adventures, the environment, fitness, health/wellness, extraordinary people and social injustice issues.
Sarah's written for USA Today, ISLANDS, Sherman’s Travel, Caribbean Travel & Life, Cayman Airways Skies, American Eagle Latitudes, Orlando Sentinel, abcnews.com, Where Orlando, Where First Coast, nileguide.com, tripatlas.com, Upscale and Wild Blue Yonder.
She's also an editor and photographer, and has a strong background in public relations. She has a real knack for rounding up facts, making deadlines, project-juggling, storytelling, and wiggling her ears (which she claims hasn’t come in handy yet).
Read more about Sarah Sekula here.