It is 1973 and the Contemporary garden wing room is only $42.50 a night. That was my first visit to Walt Disney World. I wonder if Disney would still give me that rate, in honor of their 40th anniversary. The resorts meant so much to me back then that I kept the resort confirmation. What kid, or adult, doesn’t want to stay in a hotel that has a monorail going right through it? By the time I turned 10, it was my goal to stay at every resort on property. I used to anxiously await the new issue of The Disney Magazine’s arrival at our house to see if there was information on a new resort being planned or built. In this article, I’ll describe each category of resort WDW offers and pick a few of my favorites to add my memories and great “dad” benefits.
Let’s start with the different resort categories. There are currently five resort categories and the hotels in each category are located throughout the WDW property. The categories are Deluxe resorts, Deluxe Villas, Moderate resorts, Value resorts, and the Campgrounds. There will be a chart with the location of each resort by category its opening year.
The first category is the Value resorts, which feature fun and whimsical architecture, a themed main pool, and food court dining. My favorite resort in this category is the All-Star Sports. I know, go figure, a resort themed on sports and a “dad” pick. This resort is nicely themed from the giant baseball scoreboard at the quiet pool, to the huge soda cans that make up the stairwells. The Team Spirits Pool Bar is a great location to catch a game and enjoy a beverage with fellow “dads” that have taken their kids to the pool. Also, a fun game I have played with the kids is to have them try to find our favorite university and pro baseball teams pennants. Whoever finds them first gets a special gift the next day at the parks.
The second category is the Moderate resorts, which include full service and food court dining, feature pools with water slides, larger rooms, and unique themed environments at affordable prices. My favorite resort in this category is a tie between the Port Orleans Riverside Magnolia Bend buildings and the Coronado Springs cabana buildings. The Port Orleans Riverside has an incredible piano player, Bob, which keeps the River Roost Lounge entertaining until close. The rooms are spacious and remind you of a time long past in the Deep South, think Gone with the Wind. The pool, Ol’ Man Island, is very nice and features a “fishing hole” that you can rent poles to fish right beside the pool bar. Now Coronado Springs is reminiscent of the Southwest. The food court, Pepper Market, is a must! The food is excellent and they have, hands down, the best nachos on property. The full service restaurant, Maya Grill, is an excellent choice for Mexican dishes. The pool, The Dig Site, is arguably one of the largest and best pools of all the resorts. Coronado Springs was recently refurbished and the rooms are stunningly colorful.
The third category is the Deluxe resorts, which offer the highest quality, convenience, and personalized service, with spacious rooms and suites, fine dining, on-site recreation, excellent pools with water slides, concierge services, and beach access (but no swimming allowed). This category has my top four resorts. Here is a little about each as I “love” all the resorts. #1 – My all time favorite is the Polynesian Resort. The Polynesian is home to the best drink on property (the Lapu Lapu) at one of the top three restaurants on property…’Ohana. The restaurant is located in the main building called the Great Ceremonial House. The resort offers a great view of the castle from the Nanea Volcano Pool and there is a spot behind the Polynesian that is very dear to my heart, it is Sunset Point. That is where my lovely wife and I got married. It is a point that extends out into Seven Seas Lagoon and is surrounded by palm trees with an amazing view of the castle. A key staying point for me and the kids is you can ride our favorite ride…the monorail!
#2 – My wife’s favorite is the Wilderness Lodge. The Wilderness Lodge, along with its sister resort Animal Kingdom Lodge, have the most breathtaking lobbies on property. I can honestly say that when I walk into the lobby at Wilderness Lodge, I get an instant feeling of home and relaxation. It is welcoming, gives you that sense of outdoors and as you walk into the entrance you look out into a massive lobby with a picturesque view. The resort has two incredible, but totally different restaurants. The Whispering Canyon Café is entertaining and you can eat all you desire in manly barbeque food, while the Artist Point restaurant menu can include exotic game. And where else can you have a picture taken of the family in front of a geyser, a stream, and an incredible waterfall with a beautiful resort in the background.
#3 & 4 – The next deluxe resort I love is the Yacht and Beach Club which are sister hotels next to each other. It reminds me of our family trips to the Outer Banks every summer and the thought of knowing the resort is walking distance to EPCOT is very appealing to this “dad”. The resort has so much to offer from the largest resort pool on property to Beaches & Cream. As “guys” we are always looking for challenges and Beaches & Cream has the ultimate challenge…the Kitchen Sink. (Eight scoops of Ice Cream, toppings and a full can of whipped cream!) This is a challenge we guys think about, dream about, but don’t actually ever try. I have added it to my bucket list. The sister resorts have great dining, an incredible pool, direct access to EPCOT, and it doesn’t hurt that right across Crescent Lake is the ESPN Club. This screams “dads” resort. Another “dads” pick is the Yachtsman Steakhouse where you can pick out a 24 ounce Porterhouse from the Butcher’s room. After your meal, enjoy an after dinner drink from the Crew’s Cup Lounge where you can step outside and take pleasure in a cigar. What a great “guys” night!
The fourth resort category is the Deluxe Villas, which offer multi-room, flexible room arrangements, fully equipped kitchens or kitchenettes, and are located near shopping and dining. My favorite in this category is the newest resort, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The design of the building fits into its location with a modern look and in close proximity to Space Mountain. There is a walkway over to the Contemporary that puts you right onto the Grand Concourse on the 4th floor. So not only do you get the “comforts of home,” but all the restaurants, shops, and monorail access of the Contemporary. This is one resort where I love to hear… “Welcome home.”
The fifth category is the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds, where you can throw up a tent or pull up an RV and enjoy the comforts that only Disney offers. The campsites offer electricity, water, sewer, cable, and Internet hookups. The campgrounds were the first public campgrounds in North America to achieve Trailer Life Campground Directory’s 10-10-10 rating. They are host to the best dinner show around, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, which takes place at Pioneer Hall. It is so amazing to go to the campgrounds and get away from the rush of vacation and into the relaxing setting of a camp out. This is an excellent example of Disney making you feel miles away from the parks, but still being in the Heart of the Magic.
So once again we deal with the difficult decision of which resort to chose for upcoming Disney trip. I can say that after two weeks of debate, we have chosen…drum roll please….Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. My children’s quest to stay at every resort continues!
As promised, below is a chart with the location of each resort by category, along with its opening year.
All-Star Sports – Animal Kingdom resort area (1994)
All-Star Music – Animal Kingdom resort area (1994)
All-Star Movies – Animal Kingdom resort area (1999)
Pop-Century – Wide World of Sports resort area (2003)
Art of Animation – Wide World of Sports resort area (summer 2012)
Caribbean Beach – EPCOT resort area (1988)
Coronado Springs – Animal Kingdom resort area (1997)
Port Orleans – Downtown Disney resort area (1991)
The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Campgrounds – Magic Kingdom resort area (1971)
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Animal Kingdom resort area (2001)
Beach Club – EPCOT resort area (1990)
BoardWalk Inn – EPCOT resort area (1996)
Contemporary – Magic Kingdom resort area, Monorail resort (1971)
Grand Floridian – Magic Kingdom resort area, Monorail resort (1988)
Polynesian – Magic Kingdom resort area, Monorail resort (1971)
Wilderness Lodge – Magic Kingdom resort area (1994)
Yacht Club – EPCOT resort area (1990)
Animal Kingdom Villas & Kidani Village – Animal Kingdom resort area (2008 & 2009)
Bay Lake Tower – Magic Kingdom resort area, Monorail resort (2009)
Beach Club – EPCOT resort area (2002)
BoardWalk – EPCOT resort area (1996)
Old Key West – Downtown Disney resort area (1991)
Saratoga Springs – Downtown Disney resort area (2004)
Villas at Wilderness Lodge – Magic Kingdom resort area (2000)
Fort Wilderness – Magic Kingdom resort area (1971)