A Definitive Ranking of Disney World Resort Hotels

Friends, I have been stricken with a head cold in the days before my next Disney World trip; a situation where I need to surround myself with distractions, but can only do so if it fits into my vacation-addled brain. Among all the YouTube videos I’ve watched about the parks, there’s a common theme of discussing and ranking the Disney World resort hotels. It’s a rich source of conversation, and as I began to pull myself out of the mucusy fog of sickness, I wondered what my contribution would be. So — to procrastinate cleaning my apartment and packing my suitcase, in celebration of almost being able to breathe out of my nose — here it is.

What is a Disney World Resort Hotel?

Strictly speaking, a Disney World Resort Hotel (not to be confused with the Walt Disney World Resort, which is the official name for all of Walt Disney World, hotels included) is a hotel that was built and is owned and operated by the Walt Disney company, located on WDW property. They are called “resorts” because many have amenities that would be associated with resorts: fine dining, spas, recreation. However, this is not true for all, as we will see amenities will range in quantity and quality. Disney tiers its resorts into three categories — “Deluxe,” “Moderate,” and “Value,” with Deluxe being the more expensive and well appointed. All WDW resorts have direct transportation to Disney’s theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs shopping area. They also share smaller details such as housekeeping quality, toiletries, and even the same specialty cocktails on pool bar menus. They can all be booked through Disney’s website, though some also include Disney Vacation Club rooms that can be rented by DVC members or guests (DVC is Disney’s timeshare program). And, finally, each resort will have fans who are ride-or-die for it.

Methodology

With all these variables, how can we create a definitive ranking system? I opted for a system that was as objective as possible; creating a score for each resort that was based on amenities and value.

Amenities collects everything that a hotel has to offer. This includes different types of restaurants, activities such as a fitness center or water play area near its pool, spas, and shopping. It also incorporates transportation, which was scored based on the type of transportation available to Disney parks (walking, monorail, boat, skyliner, and bus), and how long each type of transportation would take. Driving one’s own car was not included in the transportation ranking, as it was solely meant for what the resort provides. Each type of transportation had a different value, with walking being the highest (only when walking was a reasonable option, i.e. a 5–15 minute walk), followed by unique options such as monorails and skyliners, with buses being the least valuable. The only subjective aspect of this ranking was when it came to theming, which was a combination score of what the theme was (unique or predictable) and how well it was executed. However, this particular score did not impact the ranking so significantly that a well-themed but poorly appointed resort was listed high, or vice-versa.

Value was assessed by comparing the total amenities score to the cost of staying at the resort itself. To find some equity, I used the price of an average night in March, which is considered neither a low or heavy season, and am only comparing similar types of rooms — typically, a single room that sleeps 2–4 adults with a standard view. This, admittedly, will do poorly for some resorts; DVC resorts are valuable for having larger rooms available, and the family suites at some of the value resorts are cost-effective for a family, but this only serves the most important point of any of these ranking lists: there is no way that I can capture the needs and desires of every guest that is looking for their perfect stay.

Ranking

22. Fort Wilderness Campsites

Amenity ranking: 21st
Value ranking: 20th
Total score: 26.59

Nestled on the far side of Bay Lake, Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is a massive complex, split between campsites and cabins. The campsites range from a site for a tent or pop-up trailer ($132) to premium sites with full hook-ups ($234). Though it’s enticing for anyone road tripping with an RV, especially since its just a boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom, the sheer lack of amenities — presumably because most guests will be bringing their own kitchens — and the massive site requiring multiple internal bus systems that add precious time to get to any other theme park. Aside from the ranking, this resort does have a steady following, especially during the holidays when campers decorate their sites with lights, giving it a homey, neighborhood feel, and the independence of being able to camp and pack up on one’s own time can be a strong draw.

21. Old Key West Resort

Amenity ranking: 13th
Value ranking: 22nd
Total score: 34.59

Old Key West is the oldest Disney Vacation Club resort, where every room is a timeshare, ranging in size from studios to massive 3-bedroom villas. Like the campsites, Old Key West is short on amenities — having only a few restaurants on site, a couple pools, and a fitness center — but like the campsites, the amenities don’t really seem to be the point. This is a home resort for a majority of DVC members, and truly feels like a “home away from home;” guests leave framed photos of themselves on the walls of the restaurant, and the site is structured more as a community than as a hotel. This also means that it’s a massive site, and can involve more walking than expected. It’s also relatively far from all the parks, being more suitable for guests who want to feel like they’re at home rather than on vacation. To be fair, this is also a resort that isn’t served by my ranking prices based on a typical hotel room; as the larger villas here are the best priced in WDW, and can be a great option for larger groups who want to stay together without needing to break the bank.

20. All Star Sports

Amenity ranking: 22nd
Value ranking: 9th
Total score: 35.36

The All Star resorts are the least expensive on site, in the “Value” category. These are Disney’s version of, essentially, a Comfort Inn or a Howard Johnson — though that still means a relatively nice place to stay. Where the value resorts lack is in amenities; each only have a cafeteria-like restaurant and a nondescript pool bar. Sports ranked lowest for its boring, dusty theming — sports, represented by giant versions of sports things, as decoratively interesting as a grocery store birthday cake for a kid who likes footballs. This resort, perhaps because of its name, is a haven for traveling sports teams who come to Disney World for tournaments; so it can be a loud, hectic place full of tweens, depending on the time of year. If the lower-ranked resorts are there because they’re a little too spread out, All Star Sports is here because it’s a little too chaotic with hardly any charm. That said, its price matches its product in a way that makes up for a less than ideal ambiance.

19. Fort Wilderness Cabins

Amenity score: 16th
Value score: 19th
Final score: 35.43

The other half of Fort Wilderness is made of permanent cabins, which boast the ability to sleep up to 6 adults. This would be a tight fit, but for traveling on a budget it could seem ideal, especially as the cabins are appointed with a full kitchen, allowing families to cook for themselves. This is ideal, as Fort Wilderness has very few dining options, and what is there is basic American BBQ, which might get old quickly. If you take into account the issues with Fort Wilderness that were mentioned earlier — a sprawling internal bus system, access to all but one park by bus — the price of $500 per night starts to seem not worth it, especially as you could find an offsite hotel or rental with similar amenities for less, and not really miss the lack of Disney transportation. Of course, the ranking did not include a few unique offerings that this site has, such as the Hoop De Doo Musical Review dinner show, access to WDW’s horse ranch, archery, horseback riding, and bicycling. However, those amenities don’t seem to compensate for the lack of access to parks without driving — and are available to anyone on property, meaning that if going to Hoop De Doo was essential to your group, you could visit it from a better appointed hotel.

18. All Star Movies

Amenity score: 19th
Value score: 8th
Final score: 38.83

Slightly better themed than its Sports counterpart, the All Star Movies resort has the same issues as before. Here, the areas of the resort are themed after movies, though the movies selected are a bit baffling: Toy Story, The Mighty Ducks, Fantasia, 101 Dalmations, and The Love Bug. Buildings are dappled with gigantic statues of characters from these films (including an unsettling giant statue of a jack in the box from Fantasia 2000). The main issue with this location, though, is that it’s the most expensive of the All Star hotels, averaging $200/night, which could be based on its slightly more ideal proximity to nearby parks — but only slightly.

17. Port Orleans: French Quarter

Amenity score: 15th
Value score: 19th
Final score: 40.5

Half of a giant resort that was formally incorporated under the unfortunate name Dixie Landings, Port Orleans: French Quarter fills the space in Disney World that is bereft of Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, including a bakery with Mickey-shaped beignets. This resort and its sister resort (which we will see later) have a strong fan following for their value and laid-back atmosphere. Categorized as a Moderate resort, Port Orleans boasts larger rooms and a smaller overall footprint, with better options for food — though still limited to counter service and pool bars. Speaking of pools, French Quarter’s pool has an iconic water slide that ends by being spewed out of the mouth of a sea serpent. Overall the space is whimsical and relaxed, though the rooms themselves do not carry the theming of the resort in a way that could be considered well-appointed, and external hallways always leave something to be desired.

16. Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

Amenity score: 12th
Value score: 18th
Final score: 41.67

The largest DVC property in the world, Saratoga Springs spans a baffling 65 acres downriver from Disney Springs. Ostensibly themed to Saratoga, NY, the resort has an unfortunate stuffy feeling to it, likely due to its proximity to one of Disney World’s largest golf courses. Aside from one table service restaurant (the stodgy Turf Club), there’s not much here in terms of unique dining, and the shopping is only enhanced by the addition of a golf pro shop near the first hole. And, though it’s possible to take a relaxing boat ride to Disney Springs, the rest of WDW is accessible only by bus. That said, the site includes the unique and incredibly interesting Treehouse Villas, and share the same recreational options that can be found at any DVC site. Outside of Walt Disney World, it would be an interesting, all-inclusive place to stay, but within the entire resort, it offers much less for its value than locations we’ll see later down the list.

15. Pop Century

Amenity score: 18th
Value score: 7th
Final score: 42.2

My personal favorite of the value resorts, Pop Century is themed after the latter half of the 20th century, with locations themed to the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Though there are still plenty of gigantic statues of varying degrees of cheese, the theme is less childishly simplistic than the All Star resorts, and thankfully the theme doesn’t leak into the newly renovated rooms, which are clean and spacious for the price of admission. Most importantly, Pop Century is served by a Skyliner station that provides quick, bus-free access to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Though it’s not a direct route, it’s much quicker and easier than taking a bus, and gives the resort a modern feel — despite its nostalgic theme.

14. All Star Music

Amenity score: 20th
Value score: 4th
Final score: 43.34

The most attractive and least expensive of the All Star resorts, All Star Music needs very little to be said about it — it has the same pros and cons as its two siblings, but edges them out in the cost value of the spaces themselves. I will note, though, that the choices of theme seem to be as diverse as with All Star Movies: the genres of music represented are Broadway, Calypso, Jazz, Country, and Rock ’n’ Roll.

13. Port Orleans: Riverside

Amenity score: 14th
Value score: 10th
Final score: 44.28

The more serene of the two Port Orleans locations, Riverside edges out French Quarter in its amenities (it includes a boat launch to Disney Springs and the more recreation), as well as the only Port Orleans table service restaurant. The vibe is generally calmer, opting for a southern country feel that wouldn’t be out of place in Savannah, Georgia, much less the wealthier parts of New Orleans. That said, these were once a single resort, and it’s easy enough to stay at Riverside and walk over to French Quarter for jazz and beignets, before coming back for Louisiana home cooking and riverside activities.

12. Riviera Resort

Amenity score: 10th
Value score: 21st
Final score: 47

The newest Disney World resort, the Riviera is extraordinarily appointed — based on the French and Italian rivieras, each room is delicately themed while still feeling lush and unique, the restaurants — including signature rooftop spot Topolino’s Terrace — are consistently perfect, the design is spectacular, the skyliner station — which will get you to Epcot in less than 5 minutes — features stunning mosaics. The Riviera is hindered by its staggering cost; as a DVC resort, the average cost of a deluxe studio is a whopping $900 per night, similar to the price of a resort within walking distance to the parks. Even the smallest rooms, the dainty tower studios that only sleep 2, will go for $600 a night, if they’re even available. For most guests, the sticker shock of the Riviera is enough to turn them away, but of all the DVC resorts on this list, I think it’s most worth the splurge.

11. Yacht Club

Amenity score: 7th
Value score: 17th
Final score: 52.97

One of the three resorts along Crescent Lake between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, the Yacht Club sets itself apart as the most austere — it has a signature steakhouse that serves some of the best cuts on property, it is almost entirely decorated in deep oak and navy blue. Distance-wise it’s a little far from the parks, but its still extremely walkable, and gives excellent access to the other resorts in that small, bustling area. However, this still comes with a $900 price tag, a shocking deviation from its sister resort, which we will discuss (along with the amazing amenities both hotels share) a little later.

10. Contemporary

Amenity score: 8th
Value score: 15th
Final score: 54.45

The most distinctively designed of all Disney resorts, the Contemporary’s A-Frame rises high above Bay Lake, spitting distance from the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, its design compliment in every way. One of the two resorts that opened with Disney World in 1971, the Contemporary is a place that any guest should try to stay at least once. This is the resort that the monorail runs directly through, connecting it to the Magic Kingdom and, via the TTC, to Epcot. Though the shape of the resort may seem brutalist, the interiors can be gorgeous, especially the towering Grand Canyon Concourse and the rooftop California Grill, where guests can watch Magic Kingdom fireworks nightly. The rooms here were recently refreshed with a new Incredibles theme, which might irritate some, though any update to 1971 should be appreciated. This is also the closest resort to the Magic Kingdom, being a 5–10 minute walk from the front gate. It’s a favorite resort for many, though its downsides — namely its hefty price tag, but also some of the more chaotic elements like the loud, crowded Chef Mickey’s buffet — are enough to keep folks at bay.

9. Art of Animation

Amenity score: 17
Value score: 3rd
Final score: 55.01

The final (and newest) value resort, Art of Animation boasts the same amenities as most, with a little extra finesse that makes its value score so high. First, it shares a Skyliner station with Pop Century, setting it far ahead of the All Star resorts. Along with that, its choice of animated Disney films to highlight — The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, and Cars — accurately reflects the films that most families will be familiar with and excited to interact with during their stay. The Big Blue Pool, in the Finding Nemo area, is the biggest pool on property, and is lined with charming statues of characters from the Pixar film that fit effortlessly into the area. Finally, and most enticingly, this resort features Family Suites and internal hallways, huge benefits for traveling families with smaller kids.

8. Wilderness Lodge

Amenity score: 9th
Value score: 11th
Final score: 55.75

My family’s favorite resort, Wilderness Lodge is gorgeously themed and appointed, as relaxing and secluded as a DVC resort without the sprawl and distance. Themed to the Pacific Northwest (which, in this context, is more of a general National Parks look), the lodge has one of the grandest lobbies on property, including a seven-story fireplace and nine-story totem poles made by indigenous artists for the space. Though it is a Magic Kingdom area resort, the Wilderness Lodge does not have a monorail station, rather, it is a 5-minute boat ride from the Magic Kingdom, and accessible to the other parks by bus. Certain rooms — such as the one I was recently lucky enough to stay in — even provide a view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks each night, and though the rooms are cozy, they are newly renovated. The hotel also has DVC properties, which include a set of expensive and gorgeous lakeside cabins.

7. Caribbean Beach

Amenity score: 11th
Value score: 5th
Final score: 55.93

Had I written this list a few years ago, Caribbean Beach would be ranked much lower. That was before it became the hub for the Disney Skyliner, the gondola system connecting Epcot and Hollywood Studios to the Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation/Pop Century, and Riviera. Caribbean Beach is the only station where no transfers are needed; where travelers will be about 5–10 minutes from the gate of either park. The downsides to the resort is that it has been needing a refurbishment lately (especially of the gaudy “pirate” themed rooms) and that its buildings are spread out across a large lagoon, making internal transportation time-consuming. One extra benefit, though? It’s steps away from the Riviera resort and all the amazing food it has to offer.

6. Polynesian Village

Amenity score: 6th
Value score: 13th
Final score: 59.8

Were you to poll 100 regular visitors to Walt Disney World, it’s almost guaranteed that the Polynesian Village Resort would be ranked as the favorite. It’s one of the most charming places on property: across the Seven Seas lagoon from Magic Kingdom (which you can access by walking, monorail, or boat) with views of Cinderella Castle, evoking a 1960s island getaway, complete with a white sand beach and picturesque (and pricey) bungalows over the water. The Poly has some of the best food on site, including fan-favorite O’Hana, the Dole Whip walk-up window, and the notoriously hard to get into Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. It was also the other resort to open with Magic Kingdom along with the Contemporary, and though the 70s vibes are apparent, the recently remodeled rooms are clean and well-appointed. This is a constantly booked and expensive resort, but if a room every pops up, take it. You won’t regret it.

5. Grand Floridian

Amenity score: 2nd
Value score: 16th
Final score: 61.84

Let’s get it out of the way: this is the most expensive resort on WDW property. The nightly rate for the most basic room during the slower season hovers around $1000. So why would it rank so high, above other deluxe resorts that cost almost half as much per night? In short, the Grand Floridian is absolutely stacked with things to do; from a wedding pavilion to boat rentals to multiple signature and award-winning restaurants, the resorts overflows with opulence and rich detail. It’s also one monorail stop — or a 15 minute walk — from the Magic Kingdom. Its impressive glass-domed lobby features live music and sumptuous design. Going here feels like a gilded-age fantasy, a no-holds-barred moneyed experience. Granted, this might feel inaccessible for some; I’ve heard parents say they’re afraid to take their children here because they’ll “break everything,” but at the end of the day, it earns a spot in the top 5 for being so extravagant in a way that feels completely earned.

4. Beach Club

Amenity score: 4th
Value score: 11th
Final score: 62.75

This is the Yacht Club’s sister resort, surpassing it in a few ways: first, its design is more family-friendly, evoking a taffy-colored turn of the century New England resort. Second, its proximity to Epcot is unmatched; being as close to the park as you can be without sleeping in World Showcase. And, finally: it somehow costs, on average, 2/3 as much as a Yacht Club stay. The resorts share a few amenities, most spectacularly they share Stormalong Bay, a giant pool complex with sand-bottom pools, a waterslide, a lazy river, and multiple whirlpool hot tubs. Beach Club also has DVC rental suites, which have their own building and smaller, private pool, providing multiple options to stay and enjoy the laid-back but well appointed energy of the hotel.

3. Boardwalk

Amenity score: 1st
Value score: 6th
Final score: 76.85

The Boardwalk might not have the best amenities, but it certainly has the most amenities, as one side of the resort replicates a beachside getaway and serves as a nighttime destination, complete with bars, midway games, and a dance hall. The Boardwalk takes up the other side of Crescent Lake across from the Yacht & Beach Club, meaning that it has the same proximity to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, being just over a short bridge from Epcot’s Skyliner station. Fittingly, it is priced somewhere in between the Yacht and Beach club, but it more than surpasses them with dining and shopping options, including my personal favorite bar on site: the magic-themed Abra-cada-bar.

2. Animal Kingdom Lodge

Amenity Score: 3rd
Value score: 2nd
Final score: 86.12

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is proof that a spectacular Deluxe resort does not need to have additional forms of transportation outside of buses, even as that would seem a detriment to its value. In fact, this resort is so spectacular that you might not want to leave. Made of unique buildings that curve around open savannah featuring wild African animals — including giraffes, wildebeest, zebra, and multiple species of birds — the lodge compliments Animal Kingdom’s flagship safari attraction. Within the resort are multiple restaurants that all deliver spectacularly: from the signature dining of Jiko to the family style of Boma and the small plates of Sanaa, the resort highlights African cuisine in an accessible and pleasurable way, including hosting the largest selection of South African wine outside of South Africa. For everything that the lodge provides, it’s amazing that safari view rooms can be at the same price level as Beach Club rooms, and rooms without a safari view are a relatively low $400. True, guests looking primarily for proximity to parks will be disappointed, but they’d be missing out on the coolest, most magically designed hotel experience in Disney World.

1. Coronado Springs

Amenity score: 5th
Value score: 1st
Final score: 89.89

Had I eschewed the “value” aspect of this list, it would have gone down in a way that reflected Disney’s own rankings of its hotels, from value through moderate to deluxe. Yet money, sadly, continues to be an object, and so we’ve seen the ranking change: deluxe resorts that are too pricey for what they offer, value resorts that aren’t worth the savings. Coronado Springs is a Moderate resort, mid-priced by Disney’s standards, similar to Caribbean Beach or the Port Orleans resorts. Coronado Springs, though, has recently had a refurbishment, and now offers amenities that should classify it as a deluxe resort — yet it still exists at a moderate price, with nightly rates around $300 and often available for less. At that price, what you get is staggering: multiple pools, two gyms, a spa, and ten food locations. The newest addition to the resort, the lovely Grand Destino Tower, features food and drink inspired by Spanish cuisine, including gin tonics and Spanish coffee, tapas and croquetas. The rest of the resort takes its theme from Mexico and Latin America, and though it is as sprawling as other Moderate resorts, an internal bus system and a series of bridges across the central lake make getting around surprisingly easy. Of course, it’s far from the parks and only accessible by bus, but as we’ve learned ease of transportation is only part of what makes a resort great. True, Coronado Springs is themed more for adults (and is a convention hotel, so it can have that crowd), but what it has to offer is spectacular, especially at the cost.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned earlier, there’s no way to create a list that will fully account for the needs of every person or group traveling to Walt Disney World. If you’re bringing your children for a once-in-a-lifetime trip and they only want to see the Magic Kingdom, you might want to splurge for one of the monorail resorts. If you’re traveling on a budget and don’t care about food as much as you do rides and attractions, go ahead and book one of the All Star resorts (preferably Music). For me, I want my stay to be as memorable as the days I spend hoofing around the parks, and usually plan for one day where I can enjoy my resort and non-park activities. Personally, my favorite places to stay — if money is no object — are the Wilderness Lodge and the Beach Club, though my trip this week will be my first to Coronado Springs and I’m stoked for it, and I’ll be excitedly returning to the Animal Kingdom Lodge this December for the first time in years. I’ve also had so-so experiences at the Grand Floridian and great stays at the Polynesian.

So yes, where you stay is based on your liking, but lists like this are meant to help provide some guidance and where these hotels shine, and where they falter. And, if nothing else, it’s a fun distraction from packing my suitcase for my next trip.

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Meg Brennan

Meg Brennan

I write thinkpieces about theme parks and lists of things that aren’t related to theme parks. You can find my older posts on my Substack here: https://parksandc