I've been considering this post for a while, but honestly didn't know where to start. After all, there's just no way I could pick one single favorite Disney hotel. And surprisingly enough, I've had my fair share of mediocre stays at Disney--and even one really, really bad one. After all, I've stayed at the following Disney resorts:
- The Disney Inn, which is now Shades of Green
- The Polynesian
- The Grand Floridian
- The Boardwalk Resort
- Coronado Springs (x2)
- The Disney Institute, which is now Saratoga Springs
- Animal Kingdom Lodge
- All Star Music
- Port Orleans Riverside (x2)
- Pop Century (x2)
- Saratoga Springs
- All Star Sports
- Port Orleans French Quarter
- Fort Wilderness Cabins
- Caribbean Beach (x2)
I'll begin with the "Value" resorts. I put that in quotes because nowadays, you're still going to pay $100+ per night to stay at a "Value" resort...which to me doesn't seem like much of a value. But I'm a stickler for staying on Disney property--despite the fact that I've lived in Orlando and know my way around. So if you're scraping to afford a Disney vacation but still want the proximity to the parks, transportation options, and use of the Disney Dining Plan, the "Value" resorts are simply a better bet than something off-property. And if you can get into the Pop Century Resort, that's my pick for best "Value" resort!
I didn't have a horrible stay at the All Star Music. In fact, at the time I was very pleased with it. But my stay there was in 2004, and considering that a mere three and a half years later I had a horrible stay at the All Star Sports (I'll delve into that at a later date), I simply can't in all good conscience recommend the Music as best "Value" resort, either. On the other hand, with two stays at the Pop behind me and the knowledge that this resort is far younger than the All Stars, I can safely say that the Pop is the best value for your money at this Disney hotel level. Plus, I prefer the Pop's proximity to MGM, EPCOT, and Downtown Disney/Typhoon Lagoon over the All Star resorts' proximity to Animal Kingdom and Blizzard Beach.
The Moderate Resorts is where I'm seriously torn over my "best of" pick. Because I've never had a bad stay at a Moderate Resort--and I've experienced all four of them. I will admit that my stay at the Port Orleans French Quarter was mediocre (they closed the pool for a couple of months and didn't point this fact out to me when I booked my room there; plus, this hotel is seriously lacking in amenities and just not close enough to Port Orleans French Quarter to make up for that), and that Coronado Springs, while a great resort (amazing food options and pool!), is simply too far out of the way to make it into my top choices. Really, I have to say that if I had to choose between Caribbean Beach and Port Orleans Riverside...I wouldn't know which one to pick!
Caribbean Beach has the better lakeside beaches--love those hammocks! I also prefer CBR's food court over that of POR, and of course, CBR has a great pool. On top of that, they have been working on re-doing the rooms and the updated decor and bedding is far superior to that of POR. However...I cannot hide my love for the "fishin' hole" at POR, and I seriously believe that the poolside bar here is the best on property (and the pool itself isn't so bad, either). POR is also a lot quieter and has some great little photo opportunities--areas with fountains and landscaping that Disney obviously put a lot of time and detail into. If only they would clean up/update some of the room interiors...
The last category I am at all inclined to rate is the Deluxe Resort category. In addition to the Deluxe hotels I've actually stayed in, I've spent a lot of time at the Beach and Yacht Club resorts, including seeing a room at the Yacht Club. I have a feeling that if I were to stay at the Beach Club, I would rate that as my personal favorite...but I digress.
Since Disney started labeling the Polynesian, Contemporary, and Grand Floridian as "monorail resorts"--and giving them the requisite price hike that came along with this new category--I simply can't say that these three are worth the price. I absolutely love the Poly--the pool, the beach, the lobby, O'Hana and Kona are all amazing. But I prefer EPCOT to Magic Kingdom, and even if I didn't, being charged an extra $50+ per night to be on the monorail line just doesn't fly with me. Also, the Grand Floridian is simply overrated and blase.
Regarding Animal Kingdom Lodge--I wouldn't bother unless you can get a Savannah View room (which I did). While I love this resort as well, the Savannah View rooms are really the only thing that set it apart, and it's so far away from everything but Animal Kingdom that even if I could bring myself to shell out the cash for said room, I'm not sure I would choose to stay here again.
But The Boardwalk Inn...that's another story. Walking distance to EPCOT, great pool, great bars right there (Jelly Rolls and Big River Grille & Brewing Works, plus the ESPN club if you're a big sports nut)...not to mention beautiful understated decor everywhere you go. Add to that the fact that you can walk to the Yacht or Beach Clubs (mainly for their pool or to eat at Beaches and Cream, yum!) as well as the Swan and Dolphin (karaoke at Kimono's in the Swan is a blast!), and you have my solid pick for best deluxe resort at Disney.
In conclusion, I need to give an honorable mention to Disney's home-away-from-home resorts. The only one I've stayed at is Saratoga Springs, and even though the only thing it's close to is Downtown Disney, I have to say that I love this resort. If you're planning on going to Florida for a week or more and can afford the slightly high price tag of a home-away-from-home resort, I definitely recommend Saratoga. Good pool, for one, and the full kitchen in the rooms is such a nice option if you think you'll need more food that the Dining Plan offers (which, for a week or more stay, you might--if you're on the basic 1 snack/1 quick service meal/1 full service meal per person, per night plan). The spa is absolutely amazing and I fell in love with the flatbreads and sandwiches at the Artist's Palette.
Eventually I will elaborate on some of my not-so-amazing Disney resort stays...but for now, I rest my case on my favorite ones!