Take a look at the best kid-friendly hotels in Disney World.
The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is a luxury showstopper within Walt Disney World Resort. The 443-room Spanish revival stunner outshines the local competition, with the most impressive rooms, amenities, and restaurants in Orlando. The sophisticated decor isn’t overtly Disney oriented -- though fans of Mickey will notice subtle details that allude to the famous locality. The hotel is equally adult- and kid-friendly. The Tranquilo Golf Club, luxe spa, and exquisite dining options attract couples and business travelers, while the free kids' and teens' clubs, lazy river and waterslides, and on-site Disney Planning Center are great for families. Everything about the Four Seasons is expensive (though there's no resort fee or hidden charges), and nightly rates are usually sky high. Travelers looking for more affordable luxury might prefer the nearby Waldorf Astoria Orlando.
The Grande Dame of Disney, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, is a Victorian stunner that pays homage to the Atlantic coast’s golden era. With gorgeous architecture, meticulously kept grounds, and a multi-story lobby with turn-of-the-century grandeur, this luxury property is a destination all its own. The resort's two pools, on-site monorail and boat transportation, and firework-view rooms are great for families, but the hotel also appeals to adults with its Senses Spa and high-end on-site dining. The 867 guest rooms are elegantly decorated, but they don’t feel incredibly luxurious, especially when considering the hotel’s exorbitant nightly rates. For a comparable price, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is a truly luxurious experience, though it’s farther from the Magic Kingdom.
The magic of Disney and the beauty of the Great American West come together at the Wilderness Lodge, a stunning four-pearl property near the Magic Kingdom. Its 727 rooms have tasteful cabin-inspired decor with lots of Native American-inspired design elements throughout. Two beautiful pools (one with a kids' splash zone), four restaurants, and boat-transportation to the Magic Kingdom are top-notch amenities that appeal to families, but adults and romantics may find the place a bit too kid-centric. The JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes might appeal more to couples, but it’s a 25-minute drive from most Disney attractions.
In a town known for kitschy family-oriented resorts, the Waldorf stands out as one of the only true luxury hotels in Orlando (with the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grand Lakes as perhaps its only real competition). The building is new as of 2009, but great pains were taken to make the design posh and classic, if perhaps with a Florida twist. Everything is top notch: The staff is extremely gracious, there's a beautiful 18-hole golf course just steps from the front door (one of the hotel's main draws), and the breakfast buffet at Oscar's is not to be missed -- to name just a few impressive details. Although families abound and the hotel is just minutes from Epcot, you won't find any traces of Mickey or Minnie here, so those seeking more Disney-centric luxury should consider Walt Disney World's Swan and Dolphin hotels.
Made to look like Atlantic City in the 1940s, the more subdued Boardwalk Villas rests beside a glittering stretch of great restaurants, bars, and carnival games on Crescent Lake, within walking distance of Epcot and Hollywood Studios. In addition to its pools, waterslide, and great gym, all of its large suites have washer-dryers and (in most units) full kitchens.
Modeled after a traditional "kraal" (village), Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge brings a slice of Africa to Orlando. Surrounded by four massive savannas, this 972-room upscale hotel offers guests a hands-on safari experience. Balconies overlook zebra watering holes, safari guides are on-hand to explain the differences between gazelle species, and custom trucks give guests special access to giraffes, impalas, and wildebeest. Rooms are infused with authentic African decor and artwork, and the hotel’s top-notch amenities like a pool, multiple restaurants, and a fitness center, make it one of Disney’s best Deluxe properties. However, it’s at least a 10-minute drive from most Disney attractions, and there’s no monorail or water taxi service (only shuttle buses). The Grand Floridian offers more convenient transportation options, but it doesn’t have AKL’s intriguing African theme.
Strolling around Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter, it’s easy to forget you’re in central Florida. Pastel hued buildings with wrought-iron lattice work line the brick-paved walkways of this 1,008-room upper-middle-range property, where manicured gardens and trickling fountains evoke the breezy atmosphere of New Orleans. In true Disney fashion, the theme is meticulously carried out across the property. The pool alludes to the mystical quality of the Louisiana bayou with a giant sea serpent that criss-crosses the water, while the quick-service restaurant serves jambalaya, po’boys, and etouffee. Steamboat style water taxis can transport guests to Disney Springs and the neighboring Port Orleans Riverside. Another one of Disney’s Moderate Resort Hotels, Riverside can be a good alternative with similar rooms, but it offers more amenities, like multiple pools, a full-service restaurant, and a pet-friendly policy.
While other Disney resorts feel either too small and crowded or too grand and difficult to navigate, Old Key West's size feels just right -- 761 studios and large, kitchen-equipped condos, a great gym, and numerous pools (including a waterslide) all set in a beautiful, riverside setting, near Epcot and Downtown Disney.
Opened in 2012, the mid-range Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is situated in the Disney Resort complex and features fun, colorful decor inspired by four beloved Disney and Pixar movies -- Cars, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and the Little Mermaid. Each of the four wings of the property represent one of the movies, and guest rooms are decked out in Disney paraphernalia. The standard (Little Mermaid wing) rooms are small, but include mini-fridges and coffeemakers, while the rest are spacious suites with kitchenettes and two bathrooms. The hotel has three pools, a huge game room, and a nice food court with plenty of choices, plus it offers free shuttles to Disney parks and the airport. Budget-conscious families should find the convenient location and reasonable rates attractive, but the nearby, lower-middle-range Disney’s Pop Century Resort typically has even lower rates -- though rooms are small and tired.
Part Neverland (totem poles and a Peter Pan kids' club) and part Hawaiian resort (nightly luaus and a Volcano Pool), the crowded, 853-room Polynesian remains one of Disney's most popular Deluxe-category resorts for families, thanks to its especially large rooms that sleep five and ideal location on both the Monorail and the beaches of the Seven Seas Lagoon.
A non-Disney time-share resort on the Disney World property with enormous one- and two-bedroom condos, five elaborate pools, free Internet and parking, and a quieter, relaxed atmosphere just five minutes from Epcot makes the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort a good alternative for those who want a respite from Disney's pervasive theme-driven atmosphere. Service can be middling at this upper-mid-range property and lines can get long, but with several on-site restaurants and activities for little ones, some families have reported skipping a day at Disney in favor of the lazy river and pizza here.
Designed like an old town on the Mississippi Delta, the huge, 2,048-room Riverside is one of Disney's best Moderate-category hotels. Its guest rooms aren't as new as those at Coronado, but its more central location, fun pool complex, large rooms that sleep five, and beautiful (even romantic) setting makes it a great pick for the price.
Disney's Pop Century Resort is an enormous, 2,880-room budget hotel that was built as an homage to 20th-century pop culture. The property is brimming with giant colorful installations, and three outdoor pools paying tribute to different decades. There are a big indoor arcade and a self-serve food court, but few other facilities. The small rooms have mini-fridges and flat-screen TVs, but the worn furnishings and lack of coffeemakers are a letdown. It's still worth considering this resort as a value option given its convenient location near Epcot and free shuttle access to the theme parks, but budget travelers should note that the mediocre self-serve cafeteria has captive audience prices, much higher than similar cheap eats along International Drive. It's worth comparing rates at the nearby Disney's Art of Animation Resort, which has more amenities.
An affordable lower-middle-range option, Disney’s All-Star Music Resort is one of three All-Star themed resorts at the southern end of the Disney complex. The disney-going families that stay here are willing to tolerate longer shuttle rides and (some) small rooms for cheaper rates. There are food court dining, a guitar-shaped pool, and free shuttles to the parks and Orlando's airport. Its 1,604 guest rooms are generally clean and well maintained and come with mini-fridges (and microwaves in some). Family Suites sleep up to six people. For another affordable option, travelers could consider Disney's Pop Century Resort, which is even closer to the parks.
The 1,920-room Disney's All-Star Sports Resort is one of three themed Disney budget properties within the resort. It offers the convenience of being within the park, though rooms are basic, dated, and lack many frills. Perks include free bus service and expanded park hours. The kid-ready sports theme carries throughout the hotel, with oversized balls, bats, helmets, and rackets all over. One of the outdoor pools is shaped like a baseball diamond, and the other features huge surfboards. Indoor and outdoor games keep guests entertained, and food court dining is child friendly. For the adults, there's a bar by the pool. Budget-conscious travelers who aren't into sports could check out the other two Disney budget properties, the All-Star Movie Resort or the All-Star Music Resort.